Of Epic Proportions

Little Man had his last soccer game of the season last night, a playoff game. He was doing as well as he does out there, running and attempting to be a help to his team. But then a ball glanced off his hand and the side of his face towards the end of the first half, and it went to total hell from there.

He dropped like a rock. The ball didn’t hit him that hard. I wasn’t worried at all about concussion or anything. It really had been more of a shave of the ball across the upper side of his head. But he went down, and wouldn’t get back up. I was about ten yards away from him on the sideline. I could see he was starting to cry. Spouse ended up hauling him off the field.

Little Man was crying. I’m sure he was angry and embarrassed, the actual pain minimal. He flopped to the ground when he reached the sideline.  I made him move as he was in the way of the sideline ref. He was pissed. A meltdown of epic proportions ensued.

It’s been a long time since he’s been that bad, in a public place. He screamed at me to not ask him stupid questions like where did the ball hit him and if he was okay. Oh yeah, I got mad right back. He didn’t stop there, moving on to yelling about being useless and worthless (speaking of himself). I just wanted it to stop. The parents around us were trying to not hear, were looking anywhere but at us. It sucked. It was mortifying. I needed him to stop yelling. I could feel my heart racing.

I felt bad for him, but I felt bad for us and everyone around us. If they didn’t know he was different before, they definitely realized it last night. I managed to keep my voice low and calm, but I did tell him he needed to just stop talking right now. It was awful. The yelling mostly stopped, but the tears continued, loudly. While I wanted to take him in my arms and hold him close to help soothe him, I also wanted to run away, wanted to be anywhere but there in that moment.

It felt like forever until he stopped. It was probably five minutes long in total, but time slows in those moments. He did end up going back into the game in the second half, and was laughing and talking with his teammates by games’ end (they lost so playoffs are done for them). I was a little bruised and it took me a bit longer to recover, aided by some wine when we got home.

In times like last night, I really hate what autism and all its accompanying diagnoses, does to my little boy. It sucks to see him hurt so much. It sucks to see the stares, or the attempts of others to avoid staring, like we’re a car accident they’re driving by. I hate how it wraps through his brain, making him think and say the worst things about himself. It makes me fearful, sad, and so angry.

The First Boy

It feels appropriate to re-post this, as it seems that first boy might be imminent…

To the boy who will love my daughter first:

Young man –  you will be her first love.  Make it good. She will remember you her entire life, sometimes fondly, sometimes with hurt or anger. Give her more reasons to recall you with kindness and nostalgia. In other words, don’t screw it up. Don’t screw it up for every other boy who will follow you, for while you will be her first, you very likely won’t be her last.

Take your time, and give her time. She is just figuring out who she is, her place in the world. That’s a scary thing, but more terrifying is someone trying to define that for her, or take it away from her. Don’t try to command her friendships, do support her time with her friends. She will be a better, more whole person for it. Don’t try to be her everything – that’s not what she’s looking for.  The harder you chase, the more quickly she may run.

No one besides family has loved her before.  The idea of someone who doesn’t have to care about her caring about her is difficult to trust. She may doubt, she may wonder why you care, she may not believe you really care. Be consistent but not overwhelming.  If you remain calm, she may come to believe it. In the meantime, there might be a dance of moving forwards and backwards. Trust me, she’s worth the wait if you’re willing to be patient.

She has priorities……School first, then family, then dance and cheer. You come in somewhere after that. Don’t attempt to mess  up that order. You’ll hear from us if you do. And she will probably set you straight before we even have to step in.  She’s kinda tough-minded that way.  She has big plans for her life, and if she feels like you might try to sway her from those plans, you’ll likely be shown the door. Heaven help you if you start shifting your plans for your life – kiss of death right there.

The heart is easily broken, so that first relationship is the most difficult, mostly due to fear of how it will end, and how you will deal with heartbreak. One of you will hurt the other. Most likely, you will hurt each other. There’s a lot of angst involved in that first love. There’s a lot of learning involved in that first love.

If you play your cards right, you’ll both learn, love, and grow, and someday, she will find all the notes you’ve written each other, come across an old photo or the first gift you ever gave her, and she will smile fondly in remembrance of her first love.

 

Therapy

Little Man had intense, one-on-one therapy for over a year when he was first diagnosed on the spectrum.  He reached a level the services at school were sufficient and we were moved to an as-needed basis with his therapist. He hasn’t seen her in nearly five years. But given the changing social dynamics he’s encountering, the fact high school is looming, and because of his heightened anxiety and thoughts of self-harm the last month or so, we decided it was time to add his private therapist back into the max.

We saw her this morning. I’d forgotten how calming she is. Her voice and manner put me to ease immediately. She’s the perfect level of letting him wallow in his opposition, while at the same time insisting upon certain behavior. She remembered him, remembered our family, and while not happy for the circumstances, was happy to see him again and hear how he’s doing. He refused to talk or answer any questions initially, but about twenty minutes in, we were talking about high school and he joined the conversation. It was fairly easy for her to dialog with him after that.

He asked to see his school therapist once as week in addition to his outside therapy. That’s not something he’s expressed before, but hey, if he wants it, I’ll ask for it. We have his IEP meeting next week – he is required to become part of that process now – and we want him engaged, accountable, and to contribute by stating his needs and wants. This was a good first step towards that end.

His therapist asked why we were there. I told her the discrepancy between his social and emotional skills and that of his peers has widened to a very obvious place once again. We want to help him bridge that gap. Also, the anxiety and depression levels have risen in the last couple of months – we’re seeing a return of the anger and tears to a place we haven’t dealt with in a long time. And then there are the thoughts of self-harm. He needs an outlet, a safe place to talk. Therapy gives him that. Thank God for good therapists.

So we’ll add this back into our routine, once a week, for a couple of months and see where that puts us. I just need to know my boy is okay, and on a good path, with good tool in his toolbox that he’ll actually use.

 

Let the Research Begin

Little Man is rumored to have done well on the high school tours field trip yesterday. I’ve had two good reports, and he was all smiles and conversation when I picked him up from school. So, yay for that. And now, the research begins.

He did like the Math & Science high school. He would like to put his name in the lottery for admission. I’ve reviewed their website and the paperwork they sent home. One thing caught my eye – Special Education support programs will be limited. I’m not exactly sure what that means. Do they not take IEP kids? How would my kid navigate their campus and curriculum if they don’t have the supports he needs? They have a few informational meeting dates coming up, so we’ll go to one of those and get some answers. While the school sounds fairly similar to where he is for middle school, I won’t give up the supports he needs. That one little line on the informational packet makes me say, “Hmmmmmm.” He also liked the school down the street that his siblings attend. He said they had the best presentation, and he got a flower from the agricultural department during their tour, which he was super happy about and proud of.

We do have a lot of options available in town. I just really haven’t wanted to think about this process. I’d love to stay in denial-land just a little bit longer. Unfortunately for me, the application periods are opening, and we don’t have forever. So let the research begin. Sigh…..

High School Visits

Little Man has a field trip today. His class will visit all four public high schools in town. They call it “Jump Aboard.” I am freaking out, just a little bit.

Field trips for him always give me anxiety. He hates the bus. It’s loud, it’s out of routine, the kids are usually over-excited. It’s always been a trial with him, since Kindergarten. Then there’s the process of getting him through whatever they’re doing. He took his headphones today. I’m not sure if his SAI will be with him or not. Every time I think about him navigating four high school tours without losing it, I twitch. I’ll be on high alert all day today, until I pick him up this afternoon.

The other reason I’m freaking? This just makes it more real the fact we are at the point I’ve been trying to put out of my mind the last couple of years. We have to choose where he’s going to be for the next four years. We have to figure out what environment is going to best suit him and his needs. I haven’t wanted to think about this. I want to stay in the land of denial, and in the relatively-comfortable zone we’ve found at his current school. They know him. They know how to handle him. They know his quirks, his needs, his anxieties, his amazing mind.

I look back three years ago when we started this decision-making process for middle school. I remember how stressed and anxious I was. I remember my fears and all my worries. I know we made the right choice for him, that it all worked out, and that this too will work out, and someday I’ll look back on this time and wonder why I was so very anxious.

We want what’s best for him. We want him to be happy with the decision, and to buy into it, so he will be part of the process. Today is the first step on this new part of his journey. So, yeah, I’m a little freaked.

It’s Time for More…

I remember the very first time I was volunteering in Big Man’s kindergarten class and they had a lockdown drill. I held it together because, hello, surrounded by 5 year olds, and I didn’t want to make a bad impression upon his teachers, but I got home and fell apart. My little boy was practicing what to do if someone came on campus and started shooting. For all that’s holy, 5 year olds shouldn’t have to know that stuff. But it was part of the routine….they did fire drills, earthquake drills, and lockdown drills. It was, and is, just normal routine for them. That broke my heart then, and it breaks my heart now.

I remember duck-and-cover drills when I was in elementary school. Growing up near the California coast in the midst of the Cold War, and with Vietnam still fresh in everyone’s minds, we were prepared for air raids, along with the usual fire and earthquake drills. I’m sure my parents were a bit freaked their little children were having to learn that stuff. I’ve never asked them. It was just part of life.

We got a call from the district last night….our high schoolers will begin new drills and training – training to run, hide, or fight. I teared up as I listened to that call. My God, what have we allowed happen in our country that our kids have to know how to handle a shooter with a semi-automatic weapon? WTF??!!! That, combined with the massacre in Texas yesterday, plus the Vegas shooting, plus Orlando, plus Aurora, plus Sandy Hook, plus VT…..what does it take? When is it enough to finally enact sensible gun reform? It’s time for more than thoughts and prayers for the families of those slain (not that I’m disdaining anyone’s thoughts or prayers – Lord knows those families need them).

We’re supposed to make the world a better place for our children, give them better lives than we’ve had, right? I don’t feel like that’s happening. As I child I learned what to do if a foreign invader attacked. Our children have had to learn what to do when a fellow citizen decides to take innocent lives. Sorry, but that’s just f’d up.

I get the Second Amendment. Everyone’s guns don’t need to be taken away. But let’s just use a little bit of logic. On the no-fly list? No guns for you. Mental illness (and please remember, I have a child on the spectrum which equates to mental disability)? No guns for you. Been convicted of a felony? No guns for you. Basic, common sense, yes? And why the heck does any private citizen need an attachment for a gun that essentially makes it an automatic weapon, for all intents and purposes? Can we at least admit that much?

Kids should be allowed to remain innocent for as long as possible, and not have to think about a bad guy showing up at their school, their mall, their movie theater, their ballpark, their church to do serious harm. My goodness – we limit what they watch and listen to when they’re children, but yet allow them to be exposed to this possibility?

I’m sure I’m asking for it by writing all of this. But I am so freakin tired of sending thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those lost to the insanity of a mass-shooting, knowing that even their loss won’t change a damn thing as far as guns are concerned. It’s time for more.

When you take it all away

Little Man has been struggling of late….nothing new….it’s part of his journey, normal for him. As I’ve written recently, he’s been avoiding going to class, which results eventually in falling grades. With high school looming, we’ve had to incorporate some tough love into the routine. Teachers and the principal are on-hand to track him down if he doesn’t show up to class. We are notified if he misses a class.

At the beginning of the week, when we were alerted the extent of the problem, we took his phone and computer away. We took it all away. Caveat – he does have his phone at school. He listens to his music when he’s getting overwhelmed…I give him his phone as he gets out of the car to go on campus, and take his phone back as soon as he gets home.

The first couple of days sans devices, he was fine. He even seemed happier, less amped, less stressed, less reactionary.  I thought, “Hey, maybe this is actually a good thing for him.” Yesterday, he hit a wall. He was pacing. His breathing was elevated. I saw all the signs of high anxiety levels in him. He still has three more days after today without his phone and computer. Who  knows how that’s going to go.

He has had to be more creative. He created a paper character to make a stop-action film. He’s been drawing more. He still isn’t outside much. And he really wanted to talk with his friends last night (he typically texts or facetimes them every afternoon). He had something of a meltdown when he realized he wasn’t able to do that.

It pushes him when he doesn’t have his devices. That’s both good and bad. Those devices are his way to decompress, but then he becomes reliant upon them, to the point of tuning out the world. I think he needs to tune out the world for a little bit when he gets home from a 7-hour day of school where he has to be “on” and mentally/emotionally working the entire time. He is tapped out. But if allowed, he will ONLY be on his devices, watching YouTube videos and playing video games. It’s a very difficult fine line to find, much less stick to.

Wish us luck this weekend. It could either be great, or a complete nightmare.