Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘separation anxiety


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Just before Cubby started preschool, I mused about if we were ready for this next step.  Here is how it went…

The first day, he’d been as excited as can be.  He happily carried in his backpack, and ran to get to his class.  Pudding and I stayed with him for a few minutes as he discovered new toys.  Then he cried when we left.  And when I say, I mean CRY.  I could hear his screams as I put Pudding back in the car to get to her school. I collected him early, and he was still crying when I turned up.  He’d spent the whole morning in either the teacher’s or assistants’ arms. His dummy (pacifier) never left his mouth.  He didn’t speak to anyone.  He didn’t interact with anybody else.   He wouldn’t eat or drink.  He didn’t focus on a single thing apart from the gate, waiting for me to collect him. I felt awful.

On Tuesday, he woke up in a state.  He knew what was coming, and he didn’t want any part of it.  When we arrived at school, his teacher had to pry his arms away from around my neck.  I skulked away with the promise that I’d return in 2 hours.
The following day, he attached himself to a particular assistant.  As long as he was with her, he was okay.  He wasn’t crying as I collected him.
The day after, he cried as usual when we got to school, but he sobbed that he wanted his dummy and I left, still feeling guilty. When I collected him, he was happy.  He’d stayed by the assistant all day, and he’d made a racecar in baking.
Still crying on the fifth day, he entered the classroom and asked where his favourite assistant was.  I waited until noon to collect him.  It was circle time, and he was the only child not in the circle, sitting by himself on a bench.  He couldn’t wait to tell me about the book they’d read together.

Then came a busy weekend, complete with dislocated elbow, a friend’s birthday party at the fire station, and giant slide.

The next day was Monday again, and the tears were back.  But when I collected him he was playing in the ball pit near the other kids.

On Tuesday there were more tears.  But  when I collected him, he told me the name of the boy he was playing with.

Wednesday, there would have been no tears, but then I dropped his cup on his head as I got him out of the car, and it was just.too.much.  He needed the dummy and his assistant to get over it.  By the time I returned, he was eager to tell me about his painting.

Today.  No tears.  No dummy (though he did stash one in his pocket).  No guilt.  Just a preschooler going to preschool, and a Mummy finally convinced she is doing the right thing by her boy.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 29, 2011 at 10:13 am

Ikea and Quaaky

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Logo of Ikea. Drawn by Mysid on a PNG original...

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When Pudding was about 6 or 7 months old, and making quite typical sounds in her language development, we asked her what she wanted to do that day.  And with Spectrummy Daddy as my witness, she said “Ikea.”

We went, because in August in Luxembourg there wasn’t a whole lot else to do, and popping over the border to Belgium seemed just as good an idea as anything else.  Plus, we liked the waffles there, and Pudding seemed strangely at home in the chaos and over-stimulation of the place.

We kept going, and as Pudding got older, she became more interested in the kids play area they had there, though only kids aged three and older were allowed to enter.

Some time later, we found a place called “Quaaky”*, and I quickly fell in love.  Quaaky was a creche/play area hybrid for kids two and up.  You had to sign all kinds of indemnity agreements, but then you could leave your child fully supervised with qualified workers, as long as you stayed in the shopping centre, and responded quickly to the pager.  Because most kids were already in some kind of child care, it was usually pretty quiet, and there were more attendants than kids.  They had a huge soft play area, reading nook, and craft corner, as well as the regular kid toys.  Pudding loved it, and I loved the hour or so I got to myself.  I’d sit in a cafe with my big belly and a hot chocolate.  Yes, and a pastry too- why deny it?

Because I was pregnant with Cubby and pretty worn out from my hyperactive toddler, I began going once a week.  She always had a good time, and would tell me that she “had a good time with boys and girls.”  I didn’t realize back then that is was a script, nor did I think too much about the fact that she didn’t play with the others.  I was just impressed at my two year-old speaking in sentences.  The other kids typically spoke French, German, or Luxembourgish, so that explained why she never spoke to the other kids.  Of course, we know differently now.

Then one time I was beeped.  She’d tried to open the gate, and was redirected by the staff.  So she tried again, and again, until she had a meltdown, and they paged me to get her. Once she realized she didn’t have control, she never wanted to go again.

Back to present day, and back to Ikea.  We’ve gone there a couple of times over the last couple of years.  Pudding always wants to go to the play area, and against my better judgement I allow her.  Every single time I’m beeped a few minutes later when she gets overwhelmed.  The first couple of times I’d explained to the staff that she had autism, but I soon found there was no need.  The second she showed any discomfort, they’d page me.  One time only three minutes had passed before she wanted me to come back.

It isn’t worth it to me, for Pudding to become so upset when it is so much easier to keep her with me .We have to walk past the play area to enter, and even though I try to dissuade her, she wants to go every time.  Saturday was no exception.  I reluctantly agreed to her request, knowing that I’d be traipsing back through the maze that is Ikea before I knew it.

We sprinted over to find the Smörgfaast we needed, and we actually managed to find them and had time to decide they weren’t for us.  I checked my beeper- nothing.  We found some Mjerkling and Djarrbörg instead, and went to pay for them.  We made it through the checkout- still no beeps.  There is a 30 minute time limit anyway, so I made my way over to find her happy and holding hands with one of the members of staff.  She’d even made a craft during her time there.  Of course, she only gets comfortable when we are about to leave the country!  She told me she had “fun with the boys and girls”, but this time I let myself believe she meant it.

On Wednesday we were in the car and she found the craft she’d made on Saturday.  I asked her about it and she said she’d made it at “Ikea- like Quaaky.”  It is still incredible to me that she remembers things from over two years ago.  But that memory of hers is one of the things that gives me hope.  So many times she had wanted, and tried to have this experience, but she just wasn’t ready.  Now she did it, and I hope that accomplishment makes a permanent impression.

So instead of looking at it as over two years of failed attempts for just one successful visit, I know this was as many times as my girl needed to get comfortable and keep challenging herself.  And I know that with a little time, and a lot of patience, she’ll do anything that she sets her mind to, including having fun with boys and girls.  If I’m very lucky there’ll even be a hot chocolate or a waffle in it for me too!

*Apparently the sound a Luxembourgish frog makes, which is weird, but then so is “ribbit.”

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 21, 2011 at 9:16 am


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I’m roused from my sleep suddenly, viciously, by Pudding’s scream.  My husband rushes out of bed before I can even move.  He doesn’t come back, choosing to sleep in the chair by her bed instead.  Melatnonin doesn’t help, the weighted blanket is working, or the white noise, or anything else.  She just needs her sleep, just like the rest of us.  This is the second time he has gone to her, and I know he is too tired to do it again.  He has to work in the morning.  It is 4 am, and my heart pounds.  I try to breathe, I’m suffocating.  Amongst the noise of thoughts pushing for attention in my head, one is louder.  This is anxiety, it shouts.  I listen.  I try to breathe in and out, slowly, quickly, through my nose or mouth, anything to calm myself.

Sleep evades me.  Though I’m in a fog from headache tablets, I can’t find the peace I need.  Eventually I get up.  I’m not supposed to have anxiety.  My husband has struggled on and off all his life.  For my girl, it is the shackle of her autism.  My boy doesn’t escape it either, but this is new to me.  Now I’m in anxiety’s grip too.

I come downstairs and start to type, hoping that I can write out these thoughts that are looping around my head.  This has been building up for a couple of weeks, not just for me, but for Pudding too.  She has been struggling with sleeping alone.  Stressed and exhausting, I allowed her to sleep with me.  I know it isn’t the right approach, and by taking the path of least resistance, I’m exacerbating the problem, but I’ve just been too stressed.

Wait.  The path of least resistance has led to this stress.  These things are not happening independently.  I’m stressed, so I slack, and that exacerbates the problem which makes me….you’ve guessed it- more stressed.  And Pudding doesn’t so well surrounded by stress.  She absorbs and then reflects all the emotions around her.  It makes her anxious.  Seeing her struggle makes me more stressed, and round and round, and down and down we go.

So I must stop.  I have to be the one to stop the spiral, because she can’t.

I need to focus on calming her by providing what she needs, not what is easiest to give her.  First she needs patience, a resource that is in incredibly short supply when we don’t get sleep.  She needs positive reinforcement.  She needs her senses soothed even if she doesn’t feel like doing the things that will help her.  She needs consistency and she needs social stories to explain what is going on.  In short, she needs all the supports that I readily provide when I’m feeling at my best, but which have somehow dropped away as my anxiety took its hold.

It is not to say that I’m not allowed to feel stressed, or anxious, or just plain miserable.  I just need to make sure that when I’m feeling this way, I don’t take away all the things that she needs to prevent her from these very same feelings.  It was a revelation: I can be the beginning of the anxiety, but that also means I can end it.  It will take more effort at a time when making an effort is the last thing I feel like doing, but the results are already promising.  And she has slept through the night by herself before, so she will do it again, as always, in her own time, and with the supports she needs.

As for me, I feel better already.  Maybe this is the beginning of the end of anxiety.


This post was submitted for the S-O-S Best of the Best series on Anxiety, which will be published on May 15th, 2011.  You find more information and read other submissions here.

Taking part in the Mental Health Blog Party:


May 18th, 2011

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 29, 2011 at 7:28 am

Sweet Reward (at Hopeful Parents)

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Hopeful Parents

This post was orginally published at  Hopeful Parents.

Pudding’s reward chart had been working wonders, but there were still some activities which required extra motivation on her part. At the end of the week, she had completed 3 out of her 5 goals. Had we overwhelmed her with too many chores?  Or was this her way of testing to see if she would get the prize anyway?  The reward chart is so new that it is impossible to tell, we’re still in beta testing mode.

We decided that she would have a reward, but not the toy she would have acquired had she carried out all of the tasks every day. Our local ice cream shop has a sorbet that is gluten, dairy, and egg-free that we pass off as ice cream to her.  We knew she’d be happy with that sweet treat, as long as it was pink and had sprinkles on it.  Ice cream always has to be pink with sprinkles.

As Cubby took his nap, I suggested she accompany her Daddy (who is in charge of religion and frozen desserts) to get ice cream. She refused. Perhaps I wasn’t clear that she would get some too, so I let her know that she would, as a reward for her tokens. She declined once again. I explained that it was pink, that there would be sprinkles. Still she declined.

Maybe it was because of her separation anxiety monster. After a long stretch without the beast, it has once again taken hold of our girl. It seems that just as it loosened its clutches on her brother to enable him to sleep through the night, the monster returned to attacking her. Now she can’t sleep without me by her side. She flinches if I reach for my coat or shoes, and requires constant reassurance that I’m not going anywhere without her.

I suggested that Daddy could stay home and she could go with me. She rejected this idea too. By now she was upset, frustrated that we couldn’t understand what she was trying to communicate. Could it be that she no longer liked ice cream? I found it hard to believe, so I checked with her. Yes! She likes ice cream and yes, she wanted to go for some! Okay. Spectrummy Daddy and I were at a loss. Finally she let us in on the source of her sorrow.

“Cubby wants to get ice cream.”


Her brother.

She was thinking about her brother.

She was thinking about her brother!

My girl who has for so long lived in her own world, and refused to let her brother be a part of it, was upset that we weren’t including him on this treat. All the times I had tried, and failed, to get her to allow him to be part of her life.  Before he was rejected and ignored, now she wanted to share her enjoyment with him.  She was upset that he wasn’t included.  Here was my reward, and there is nothing sweeter.

We waited until he woke up, then the four of us went to get ice cream. We asked for two spoons for the strawberry sorbet, but it quickly became clear that she wasn’t prepared to let Cubby have any. A second serving was swiftly ordered for her brother, before the magic of the moment was lost.

Sharing each other’s world is enough to ask, they don’t need to share ice cream too.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 19, 2011 at 7:06 am

The Mama Bear

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Cubby enjoying a mama bear hug

Remember a while ago when I had a sleep-related epiphany?  You don’t?  Well then go back here and catch up.  My challenge was to tame the monster of sleep with my very own pheromones.  So how did I succeed?

Well, I began by finding a nice soft cotton blanket to sleep on, and kept it in my bed for a week..  I then transferred it to Cubby’s bed and…..it kind of worked.  It worked for a couple of days, but it soon hit a few snags.  It would get crumpled up and lost in the bed.  Or worse, it got crumpled up and was uncomfortable underneath him.  Then somebody told me that I needed to sleep on it for 3 weeks anyway, so that was that.  Back to the beginning.

Next I slept on it for 3 weeks, and it worked better.  He napped and slept for longer.  Then, disaster.  When I washed his sheets his blanket got caught up in the laundry and washed away all trace of me.  We still had the problem of the blanket scuttling out of place anyway.  We still had to deal with putting him back to sleep when he woke up.  It needed a rethink.

One day he was playing in Pudding’s room (he is such a little brother) when he appeared to take a shine to one of her bears.  He carried it into his room, and I let him keep it because the bear isn’t Ernie, Upsy-Daisy, or Sleeping Beauty, so who cares?  Not Pudding.  It was a comical sight watching him carry the bear, which is slightly bigger than he is.  That is when it occurred to me that the bear would be big enough to wear, say, my nightgown.  Oh yes.  So we dressed her up, and called her Mama Bear.

Mama Bear doesn’t wiggle around or get lost in bed.  This Mama Bear is just right.  And if her scent starts to run out, I can switch with more night wear.  Easy-peasy.  It works for Cubby.  We are seeing bountiful nights of sleep and unprecedented 2 hour naps.  He napped so long when I was ill that I managed to take one too.  Rest my body was craving.  It is a no-tech, no-cost, no-hassle solution.  Hopefully it will be useful to somebody else out there.

You must be thinking that I would be all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after all the sleep I’m getting, but sadly no.  We’re still fine tuning Pudding’s nighttime needs.  In her case, we can’t use the Mama Bear approach as she will only sleep with Ernie, and he has his own clothes.  I think she has outgrown the weight of her weighted blanket, which might be part of it, and there might be a behavioral component too.  She came into our bed when she was sick at the weekend, and has tried to every night since.  Now she no longer gets out of bed in the night, but we hear her talking, and we’re back to VERY early rising.

I’ll let you when we work out a solution for her.  I’m sure that sooner or later we will.  After all, necessity is the mother of invention, and sleep is definitely a necessity.  Particularly for this Mama Bear.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 7, 2011 at 7:53 am


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I’m joining in the Special Needs Blog Hop, and this week we’re talking about goals for the year.  The very word “resolution” brings out my rebellious side, so I’m hoping that I can stick to goals instead.

1.  The biggest thing is that in the summer we will move to a different continent.  Things still aren’t official yet, but hopefully they will be soon.  It will definitely be a change for us.  It will also be the first time we global nomads have braved this since Pudding’s diagnosis.  I’ve got a few months to research schools and therapists and put together a program we’re happy with.  No mean feat from thousands of miles away.  Ensuring that everybody is happy with that move is going to be the real challenge!

2. Take care of myself.  I’ve been very run down this winter.  Every other week I’ve had a bad cold, and when I feel unwell, I comfort myself with things that don’t help me out.  On days when I exercise, I do much better, so I’m going to try to do a work out every day, which is easier said than done with two little ones.  I need to be on top of my game for all the other things to come together this year.

3. Work on Cubby’s separation anxiety.  It would be nice to go to the bathroom alone, and to go one night where he doesn’t end up in our bed.  We did it with his sister, so I’ve just got to get him to the same point.  If I’m successful, it will lead me to my next goal….

4. Return to work.  We’re a family who desperately needs a second income.  I’ve really enjoyed the last few years being at home with the kids, so this last one will be hard for me.  We’ll see what happens after we move.

5. Blogging!  I’ve really enjoyed the last six months, and I know it is going to be a challenge to keep it going when things get crazy this year.  There are also a couple of other fellow bloggers I plan to meet up with before we leave.  That all should keep me pretty busy, I think!

How about you?  What are your goals for the coming year?

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 7, 2011 at 7:23 am


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Now, some of you may have noticed that there is another little person in my life who doesn’t get as much of a mention as his big sister. There is a Cubby-sized hole in this blog. It isn’t right. He deserves his own write-up.

I’ve been putting off talking about him, because I don’t exactly know what to say. Every time I write a post on WordPress, there is a place for me to ‘tag’ my posts and this puts them in a category. I don’t know how I’d tag my boy, and I don’t know what category I’d put him in. I used to think Aspergers was a binary thing, you have it or you don’t, but Cubby is pint-sized proof that this isn’t the case.

When Pudding was diagnosed, Cubby was only five months old. At the time I was angry with myself (and the world) that I’d missed things in Pudding that were suddenly so obvious. I was determined not to miss anything second time around. But Cubby, like his big sister, hit all the developmental milestones. Just like her, he was born liking fans and lights, and tactile sensory-seeking. Just like her, he developed separation anxiety at a very early age, and seemed over-attached to me. And just like her, when I mentioned these things to the doctors, they told me this was normal.

Even Dr. P, Pudding’s excellent, perceptive, developmental pediatrician has yet to see the signs in him, but referred us to a sibling study to monitor his development.

We’ve had two sessions of the sibling study at the Kennedy Kreiger Institute. Each one is a grueling seven hour assessment, and both times we’ve had to split the session over two visits. The first evaluation found him to be developmentally on target, but with joint attention problems. Joint attention is where a caregiver shows something to the child, and he or she acknowledges this and responds accordingly. Joint attention deficits are considered to be the first indicator of autism. Cubby had some joint attention, but hadn’t mastered it. We went to work on this, and by the time his second evaluation had taken place, he had age appropriate joint attention.

We aren’t allowed to breathe a sigh of relief though, because this time around they found problems with his social communication, something that had been one of his strengths at the first visit. At age 16 months he knows and uses many words, he is developmentally ahead, even putting words together, but there is something about his use of words that is slightly off, or atypical, to use the word which frequently describes our children.  I’m working on his pragmatic skills, and teaching him some basic sign language, which enables both sides of the brain to be engaged in communication.  Perhaps we can get him back on track with this too.  Or maybe there will inevitably be another sign emerge, and then another.

Only time will tell.

For the moment, he makes great eye contact, shares his interests and imitates in play. Our local Early Intervention services will only provide therapy if he has a significant developmental delay, or has a formal diagnosis. Saying that I think he could be spectrummy just isn’t going to do it!

The A-word isn’t so scary the second time around, but that doesn’t stop me worrying about my baby boy. This time we know what challenges may be ahead, and how hard it is going to be to meet them, with our increasingly limited resources.

In January we’ve got our appointments for his assessments, perhaps by then things will be more evident. Until then, he just doesn’t fit into a cubbyhole, he can’t be categorized. He just is who he is, and we love him for it.