Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘meltdown

Honeymoon

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Though it pains me to write it, the honeymoon is over.

Yesterday Pudding had her first day of evaluation at an early intervention/ school for children with autism.  To say she didn’t want to go is putting it mildly.  Her big eyes filled up with tears as she begged to stay at home with me.  It was hard to ignore, particularly as I’ve seen such growth in her by staying home with me.  Like a new bride, I was focusing only on the good, and turning a blind eye to anything that interfered with what I wanted to see.  I’d been awake since 4 am, dreading the end of our sheltered time away from the outside world.

When it came time to drop her off, she was clinging to me, alternately screaming and pleading to go home with me.  I felt a weight in my chest as I struggled not to cry myself.  In the short term, the easiest thing would have been to carry her out of there like I was Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman.”  But life is not like Hollywood, and a child with autism needs therapies.  I can’t give her everything she needs, though I wish every day that I could.  Nope, this isn’t the movies, although Pudding would have looked very cute in the sailor hat.

I collected her, and she rushed to get her backpack and then led me away impatiently as I tried to get a feel from the therapists about how her day had gone.  At home, she was a bundle of anxiety and hyperactivity.  We saw a return of old behaviours that I felt were left behind- mouthing inedible objects, picking at her skin, and climbing on the furniture.  Although I caught her in the act with the latter, right before dinner time she climbed again, and a nasty fall left a gash and bump on her forehead.

Once upon a time Pudding was quite oblivious to pain, and she still recovers well from little bumps and scratches, but this one was bad.  She was crying in pain, her little heart was racing and everything was just too much.  I cleaned her up and dressed the wound.  After a few cuddles, she was ready to venture downstairs for dinner (with the understanding that there would be a cupcake for dessert).

No sooner had we made it downstairs, than she started screaming and ran upstairs.  When she finally managed to speak, we learned that her distress was brought about by the arrival of a new vacuum cleaner for the house.  I was incredulous.  We’ve dealt with her fear of hoovers.  I’ve been able to vaccuum with her in the same room for a long time.  This was still new in the packaging- it had never been switched on.  We were hurtling down a backwards slope.

I hid the offending item, and after much reassurance that it was gone from the house and would never be used in her presence, she eventually came back downstairs and we got through dinner.  I’d felt sick all day, physically upset at the change in Pudding.  My sunny little girl once again plagued by anxiety.  I didn’t want to go back to real life, but it was already over.  There is more work to be done, and the gown and veil would just get in the way.

Then this morning she woke up….fine.  After a brief attempt to let me know she wasn’t going to school today, she nonetheless got ready, and helped pack her lunch bag.  She said nothing on the journey there, but when we arrived she went straight to her cubbyhole, left her backpack, and went to join her class.  No fuss, no drama, no tears.  There was even the tiniest smile as she began her day.

The honeymoon might be over, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a happy marriage, even with ups and downs.  We’ll enjoy the good, and support one another through the bad, and when this tour is over, we’ll be stronger and closer than ever.  You never know, sooner or later we might even get a second honeymoon.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 25, 2011 at 4:11 am

Community

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Community. It is a word I’ve used a lot in the last two years. I’ve written about the autism community. In spite of the divides and differences, it is a place I’ve considered my virtual home for the last year. But apart from an all too brief day in May to meet my friend Alysia, my community has been distinctly virtual. I’ve felt the loneliness of being the only family like ours, and loneliness might just be the opposite of community.

Loneliness is what compelled me to write my first blog post. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends, it was that I struggled to communicate my experiences. Spectrummy apples don’t fall far from spectrummy trees. Many of my friends did read, and began to understand our version of autism. They became part of my community too, just as the other parents of children on the spectrum, and adults with autism who read and commented, and shared their stories were my community.

I didn’t feel lonely any more.

And then we moved. Not just a little move, but to another continent, far away from my community. I wasn’t just cut off from my friends and family, everyone I’d ever known, but no Internet connection meant I was absent from my virtual family too.

But not without community.

In the State Department, each officer and their family are assigned a sponsor to meet them at the airport, buy some essential groceries, and answer questions about life in the new post. Our sponsor also had a foreign-born spouse, and two children aged 2 and 4. They were kind enough to take us along with them to some of their favourite places. They also threw a party to welcome us to the rest of the consulate community on our first weekend.

We were welcomed. Several times I felt compelled to explain or apologize for Pudding’s behavior- after all, strangers and the intense social experience of a party was overwhelming, particularly for a child with Asperger’s who had just moved to a new country. But every time, I was told there was no need. We were all accepted there. And just like any community, the consulate is full of different kinds of people, our own particular brand of diversity just as acceptable as any other kind.

A few days after the party we went out to an elaborately family-friendly garden centre with some of the other consulate families. After spending the morning at a huge playground, we went for lunch at a restaurant where Pudding made her own pizza. The sensory experience was just what my little seeker was craving, and she was in heaven pressing out the dough, rolling it out, smearing the sauce, and sprinkling on the other ingredients.

Then the chef took it away to cook, and the trouble began. Pudding had been enjoying herself, and saw no reason why her creation was taken away. We carried her back to our table kicking and screaming. I held her thrashing body as Spectrummy Daddy helped ease her into the comfort of her weighted vest.

I began to explain to her that she would have the pizza to eat soon, but as always during a meltdown, I was unclear as to how much she heard, or understood. As I gestured over to the brick oven where we could see her pizza, I noticed a table of three women with a baby and toddler. Staring. Talking to each other and staring at us. We were the car crash from which they couldn’t avert their eyes.

I hate those eyes and the challenge they represent for Pudding, and for my parenting skills. I don’t discipline during a meltdown, and I know that is what is expected by those who don’t understand. Sometimes I’m understanding of their lack of understanding. After all, I was once blissfully ignorant too. But sometimes I don’t have that composure, and in the company of my new community, we were in the midst of our greatest challenge.

As Spectrummy Daddy explained to our new friends about a meltdown, and why Pudding needed to wear her weighted vest, I glared back at the table of witnesses. Though they quickly averted their eyes, they whispered to one another, and looked back. In anger I mentioned my frustration about the stares to the rest of the table.

One of the other mothers gently touched me on the arm, and told me to turn around to face the rest of the group. “You’re with us now, we don’t care what they think.”

Community. Instant and accepting community. I smiled, and did exactly as she suggested. Pudding calmed down a few minutes later, just in time to devour her creation. By the time I turned around again, the table was empty, no more eyes upon us. We went on to enjoy the kiddie rides. Though there were some emotional moments, I no longer felt tense about anybody’s judgement.

I’ve mused since then about how different it would be for families like us if we had a sponsor from the beginning. One who met us at diagnosis when we were so overwhelmed and disoriented that we we felt jet-lagged. Someone to pick up the therapeutic supports we needed and helped us to shop for services. Then held our hands for those first few days, weeks, and months as we navigated a whole new landscape. How different things would be.

We’re in this together. We may be diverse and divided as a community, but you need never feel lonely again. You’re with us now.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 14, 2011 at 8:43 am

Wordless Wednesday 02 Mar 11

with 3 comments

Meltdown

 

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

March 2, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Man in comfy shoes disturbs mama bear

with 15 comments

Out to dinner the other night with my mother, we had a conversation where I claimed that the general public crticizes my parenting on occasion, and she refuted this, saying it was mainly in my mind.  She does make a valid point, for the most part other people have more to concern themselves with than how I raise my children.  Also, for the most part, my kids reserve their most challenging behaviors for at home, and are generally well-behaved while outdoors.  Very occasionally though, we have an almighty meltdown with gawping witnesses, and I maintain that their snide looks and hushed comments are not imaginary on my part.  Sadly, I only had to wait until the next day to be proven correct.

On Friday we went to the Magic Kingdom.  Some of you may gasp in horror at the thought of taking spectrummy children there, but it provides just the right level of stimulation for my sensory-seeking girl.  Throw in princesses galore, and no fewer than eight places where she can eat, and I declare it Pudding Heaven.  On a good day.  She started out fine, but as the day wore on, it became too much for her.  She is in a strange environment, with unfamiliar social demands, and a ruptured schedule.  Throw in constipation, and all the fronts converge.

At Disney they have a playground which I hoped might offer a little respite from potential sensory overload. It looked just like one of those soft play areas at the mall, so Pudding dutifully took her shoes off.  I made her put them back on, because the outdoor surface would have hurt her feet, and the crying began.  She ran away (my major don’t at a theme park) and began kicking at me when I tried to get near the shoes.  Daddy had no luck either, and she began screaming and spitting in protest.   By this point she was beyond words, and beyond reason.  We took her to the safety of the stroller to get calmed down.

I sat down in front of her, meeting her flying fists and kicking legs with soothing words.  It takes all I have to remain calm in such situations, but past experience dictates it is the only way to deal with these outbursts when she gets too far.  She eventually stopped, and began asking to go back to the play area again.  I whispered that she would have to wear her shoes, and she began screaming.  When Pudding was first born, the midwife at the hospital in Luxembourg told me she had never in her 32 years as a midwife heard a child scream as loud as Pudding.  She continues to get louder with age.  Perhaps she has a future as a warbler of the Mariah Carey/Celine Dion variety, but right now it is just ear-piercing shrieks.  It is unpleasant, painful even for those with sound sensitivities (sorry Cubby) and I never feel more conspicuous than at such times.

I sat on the kerb in front of her, waiting for the storm to pass.  Next to me was a girl, with her father on the other side.  He gave a sideways look, and then told his daughter that this was not how she was to behave on time out, and she would be punished for behaving like this, with another glance at me.  Now, I’m okay with you using my kid as a cautionary tale, but he wasn’t saying it to educate his daughter, he was talking deliberately loud enough to let me know what he thought of my techniques.  He was talking loud enough for others to hear several feet away.  He was challenging me, and like most animals under assault, I was primed to fight back.

Had there not been my ever-observant daughter and this man’s own child to watch, I might have unleashed my fury at the man.  But I can’t require my overwhelmed child to gather herself together, and then display the same reaction myself.  And I’m not going to criticize somebody else’s parenting in front of their child, unless that child is being threatened or hurt.

Man in the street: I’m not asking for your compassion, I’m not even asking you to stop judging, I’m just asking that you keep it to yourself when I’m in the middle of dealing with something.  Even if you think I’m dealing with it very badly.  It is my kid, my parenting, my problem.    She needs my focus, you don’t deserve it.

As it was, I concentrated on what my kid needed, and a couple of minutes later she felt better.  We had a fantastic time the rest of the day.  It probably deserves a whole other post.

You don’t have to walk in my shoes.  I’m very glad about that, you aren’t cut out for it.  The compassion, understanding and sensitivity would be beyond you.  Besides, your feet wouldn’t look as pretty as mine in sandals.

But man, you disturbed a mama bear.  Your lucky I was in cub protection mode, because if you’d got me on attack, there wouldn’t be anything left of you now.  Or your comfortable shoes that you are so fortunate to be wearing, but aren’t half as awesome as mine.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 5, 2010 at 9:14 am

A day in the life.

with 4 comments

Wake up, 4.45.  No Pudding, don’t be awake.  Go back to sleep, please go back to sleep.  I’m too tired. She comes into our room, gets into bed.  The day has begun. Don’t be snappy, rouse yourself, wake up! Daddy goes to work.  Cubby wakes up.  I take a shower.  Are they playing?  It is too quiet, what are they doing? They are playing together.  I get dressed, go downstairs taking the kids with me.  Today Pudding starts her trial back on rice.  I make Cream of Rice cereal.  She must be so excited, she has had the same couple of things for breakfast over and over these last few months. She doesn’t like it.  I add blueberries, vanilla, more honey.  She eats most of it.  Cubby loves it.  Get the kids washed and dressed.  Bus comes, Pudding leaves for school.

Clean up after breakfast.  Load dishwasher.  Play time with Cubby, but first must do laundry.  So much laundry, when did I last do it?  Two days ago, three?  Why is there always so much?  Oh no, no detergent! Grab Cubby and go to the store.  Outside is hot, and humid already.  85F reads the car’s temperature gauge.  I’m going to get bitten by mosquitoes. I should have put repellent on.  They love my exotic English blood and my suck-me skin. Do shopping, get detergent, time to check-out.  Cubby is missing a shoe.  He does this every time. 20 minutes later find shoe  Yes, it was under the trolley the whole time, why do you make me say it? We leave.  Temp up to 87F.  Good, we’ll be home in time for him to take a proper nap in his bed. Cubby falls asleep in the car, wakes up when we return home.

Make lunch for us both and eat.  No time to clean up.  Drive 25 minutes to school for Pudding.  91F.  Head straight to speech therapy session, driving another 25 minutes through ritziest neighbourhoods.  I want to live in a mansion like this.  I want to be stinking rich.  What do they do, these people, to get so rich? Arrive 20 minutes early.  Wait in car with a/c on.  Temperature gauge now reads 95F.  Cubby is asleep.  Try to entertain Pudding, but she just asks to get out the entire time.  Can’t get out without waking him up.  He needs his sleep, never gets a proper nap, my fault.  Oh, hello Guilt, my old friend, how are you?  Why must she keep asking to get out after I said no?  She doesn’t understand, so I have to be Understanding.  Be Patient.

Time to go in.  Leave her there and return to car.  Cubby wakes up.  It is hot, temperature gauge up to 97F.  Drive to get a drink.  Cubby enjoys being free of the car seat.  After 10 minutes, time to collect her.  He screams at being out back in the car, now 97F.  Guilt, Guilt, Guilt. Pudding has had a good session, lots of talking, great social interaction. Thank goodness, it makes this drive in the heat worth it.  She tries so hard, it must be hard after a morning at school.  Must be Empathetic, remember to be Patient. Get back in the car, 98F.

Driving on highway, Pudding speaks: “I want to go potty”.  Still 15 minutes from home, she can’t hold it.  Cubby whining.  Come off highway, drive to a strip mall.  “I want to go potty.  I want to go potty.” Over and over.  I know, I get it, I’m trying!  Why are there so few parking spaces?  This is America, everybody drives everywhere, make more parking spaces! Find parking space.  Enter fast food restaurant, head to bathroom.  There is a queue, 3 women in front of us.  There is a hand dryer.  The low-frequency sound drives Pudding insane.  Cubby is squirming to get down.

Pudding: I want to go potty, I want a hug.  Want mummy to hug.

Me: I know honey, I’m sorry- we have to wait, these ladies are in front of us.  Please, for the love of God, women, let us go in front of you.

Nobody lets us go in front.  Someone comes out, washes their hands, uses hand dryer.  Pudding squeals, women turn and look disapprovingly.

Me: I know sweetheart, that sound really hurts your ears, I know, I’m sorry. 

Can one of you please have a little empathy?  I know she looks like she is older than she is, like she should be able to hold it.  I know you don’t get that a hand dryer and flickering florescent lights drive her crazy.  You don’t have to get it, you don’t have to live it, just let us go ahead of you and my screaming kids will be out of your way.

We wait our turn.  The next two ladies use the hand dryer too.  A plague on both your houses.  No, be Understanding.  They can’t tell just by looking at her, I should be brave and tell them she has autism.  Yeah, well, I would if  I wasn’t trying to control a wailing girl, and a toddler hell-bent on touching every filthy surface in here.  Today isn’t about raising awareness, it is about just getting through an ordinary day.

We leave.  A big, black SUV is stalking our parking space.  I shake my head at the driver, he doesn’t move.  There is no way we’ll be out of here quickly dude, just move on. Put Cubby in first, he screams.    I don’t want to put you in either baby, I know.  Just lets get home, please. Black SUV still waiting.  Look at the Autism Awareness magnet.  Look at the exhausted mother with the two little kids, look and be Patient, and Understanding, I implore you. I try to soothe Cubby, while keeping a grip on Pudding’s hand lest she runs off.  Black SUV beeps his horn, Pudding screams and falls to the ground.  She was already on the brink, but the too loud noise from the too close car sends her over.  She is shaking, her heart pounding.  I want to hit you.  I want to hurt you like you just hurt my baby.  I want to smash the windows on your car.  I want to scream and swear, and I can’t make a sound apart from to comfort her, anything else would just make it worse. Cubby is crying, Pudding is crying.  I pull her into the front seat and rock her.  I’m going to sit here as long as it takes, this car isn’t going anywhere.  Black SUV rolls down his window to yell ‘Bitch’ at me before driving off.  Pudding calms down.  I put her in the car and we drive home.  Temperature gauge hits 100F.  I’m done.

I can’t change Pudding.  She has a neurological difference that can’t be altered.  I wouldn’t change her if I could, I’d just make this world easier on her.  I need other people to change instead.  I need the women in the bathroom to change, I need the man in the black SUV to change.  I need them to be Patient and Understanding and Empathetic.  I don’t need you to feel Guilt, I’ve got that covered. You’re here, you’re doing your bit.  But can you just tell those people for me?  Because I’m done, for today.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 11, 2010 at 1:00 am