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.

Summer Camp

When the kids were little, we started putting them in summer day camps – typically at the Y, and mostly to keep them occupied, surrounded by other kids, learning to learn from other adults, and, to be quite honest, to give me a few hours of respite from three toddlers. As the years went on, summer camp became tied up in whatever sport they were involved in at the time….soccer, golf, dance……Last year, Big Man went away to Mammoth for a few days with the cross country team to train at altitude. Two years ago, the Princess spent two weeks in Orange County at a summer dance intensive.

We’ve had a much more difficult time with Little Man as far as summer camps go.  He did the Y one year I think.  Once he was diagnosed on the spectrum, I struggled with putting him anywhere. We had a disaster of a Lego robotics camp a few years back. I ended up pulling him out a couple days before the week was out. The instructors just didn’t have it in them to deal. I lost patience, and a bit of faith.

Last year, we found an amazing camp nearby. Well, one of my close friends found it online and sent me the link. Right away, it sounded perfect for our guy.  It’s was a coding camp…five days, six hours a day, of working with technology, generally through gaming. I won’t say he had a perfect experience – autism did still rear its ugly head a few times. But the director and instructors were willing to work with him. Not to mention, he wasn’t the sole high-functioning kiddo there. We were super impressed. Much more, he made one  very good friend he still keeps in touch with.

I started getting emails for this summer back in January. Originally, they weren’t going to have any sessions at the college nearby (a ten minute drive), but rather down in San Diego (45-60 minutes each way, depending upon traffic). I didn’t think we were going to be able to manage the logistics.  But then a few months ago, they did open sessions at the nearby campus and we signed him up right away.

This is the week of camp. He was anxious but excited yesterday morning.  He was talking about the programs he thought they might be using, really looking forward to learning.  But when I picked him up, the director said he’d had a bit of a rough afternoon. It is a LONG day – 8 hours to be exact. That’s a lot for him. Little Man wouldn’t even talk about what he’d done all day until a few hours after he got home. I do think he ran out of fuel, and lost the ability then to self-manage.  He was happy to go back today, waking at 6:30, and announcing, “Day 2!”.

I texted the director a bit ago, just giving him some hints and tips for dealing with Little Man. He responded right away, letting me know things were going well today, and that he was appreciative of the input.  Again, I’m sure our son isn’t the only spectrum kid they’re dealing with. He can’t be. But if you know one kid with autism, you know one kid with autism. They’re just as different from each other as anyone else.

I’m not picking him up today, as I have a work event, but I’m still anxious to hear how his day went. He is doing something he loves, so hopefully that keeps the issues to a minimum. And on Friday, we’ll get to meet his instructors and classmates, and see what he’s been doing all week.


Little Man has one more year in middle school, but we are already thinking ahead to high school. The biggest decision will be where he goes.  I’ve been trying to live in the land of denial with this one. I’d rather not consider a) three kids in high school; b) his actual transition to high school (because we know how well the transition to middle school went); c) my baby in high school; d) getting to know a whole new IEP team; and e) his last tri-ennual evaluation, set for his Freshman year. All. Of. That.

He will, of course, have a voice in the decision-making process. What brought it all to mind today is that he brought it up in the car this morning. He and his buddies were talking about high school, where they each wanted to go, and – of all things – the possibility of getting community service hours by volunteering at their old elementary school when they’re in high school. Nothing like planning ahead! Anyways, he firmly stated he wants to go to the same school as his siblings. Okay, well, wow.

There is a math and science high school in town, which is much like the middle school he attends. It’s project-based, heavily utilizes technology, collaborative work, and it’s much smaller than the nearby high school. It’s a lottery process to get into the math and science high school, so it would be luck of the draw to get him in. It’s also across town – at least 20 minutes each way with traffic. So while I think it would be a really good environment for him, I’m unsure he will get in, and unsure of the logistics.

I like the idea of him at school with his brother and sister. I haven’t had all three in the same place in nearly five years. And if he does go there, that will give us that many more years of blessing those hallowed halls with our particular brand of crazy. I’m sure the Principal, VP’s, counselor, and school nurse are already cringing at the thought of three extra years with us around.

Knowing he would have his brother and sister on campus to look out for him and help him gives me small peace. I know how frequently Big Man and P see each other at school (hardly ever) during the day. It’s a big school with 2500 students, give or take. I do panic though…..the more students, the more opportunity for some jerk to give him a hard time. And don’t get me started on the PE situation with locker rooms, etc. I can’t even…..

He’s in a good place now. High school will be a new story. He’s hardly had to change classrooms, is used to not having homework, and has plenty of kids similar to him at his school. The kids know him, accept him, know his quirks and how he is. I can’t entirely picture how that’s going to go in high school. We do have other options besides these two. There is a charter high school, Classical, and other semi-homeschool options (although the thought of him being home more during the school day, well, that’s a whole other discussion). He seems bent on going to school where his brother and sister go.

It’s going to be a transition no matter where he goes. Those transitions are never easy with him. Yes, we have another year where we are, but the process has begun.

Meeting the new team

After the super fun (read, sarcasm) events of Monday for Little Man, an IEP meeting was called for this afternoon to talk strategies, and any changes that may need to be made. I’ve met his SAI and social worker, and have had a few conversations with the principal leading up to school opening. I hadn’t met his new teacher, the programs specialist, speech therapist, school psych, or adaptive PE teacher. It’s a lot of people in one room.

In a way, I wasn’t too worried or nervous.  This isn’t our first trip to this rodeo.  My only cause for concern was the words he used Monday, that those might be his ticket out of this amazing school, that they might decide he needs more than this new, small school is able to provide.

So, yeah. Lots of people  in the room. And we were in there for 45 minutes, talking about my little guy.  It went well.  I really felt like one of the experts in this meeting. They’re all new to him, but I know him. I know his quirks, his triggers, what usually works, and what will bring out the worst in him.  We put a couple new things in place, and reiterated some things in his IEP they hadn’t used yet. He will have hourly scheduled breaks until he lets us know he doesn’t need them, or quite so many of them. He will have his own big box of goldfish for snack recess. I’m putting together and taking his comfort box to be kept in the social worker’s office. I already told him he will be taking his noise-cancelling headphones to use during math time – math time involves a lot of student collaboration, which results in a lot of noise, which apparently has been distracting and unsettling him.

The speech therapist is sweeter than sweet, and young. She told me she has a 12 year old sister, who is also autistic, and who loves Minecraft. Bingo!! She will be a huge hit with Little Man.  The SAI loves interacting with him. She’s had quite a bit of experience in 8 short days.  The social worker was so happy to find a couple of things to connect with him over (Legos and chess).  The Principal is totally accessible, and wants to challenge him academically as much as he can with as much technology as possible.  The APE teacher will meet with him Friday.  Good luck,  young sir. LM is quite the case when it comes to PE.

When it came down to it, I told them he is excited to go to school every day, and I am still convinced this is the best place for him to thrive.  My momma heart was comforted they seem to agree, and want to make his transition and experience here the best it can be.

Somebody please tell me

Little Man *just* got his technology back on Wednesday. That’s two days ago. Two. Days. This morning, when I went to wake him up, there lay on the bed beside him his brother’s phone (and the big box of goldfish but I won’t even deal with that – it’s calories!). Are you kidding me?

I don’t know how to handle this anymore. Why do I forget that consequences have very little effect on his actions? He knew as soon as I picked up the phone he was in trouble. I didn’t say a word, but he started crying and throwing a tantrum pretty much immediately. He got angry, so angry, with me. Really? You’re angry with me, bud? He had once again waited until I was in bed, asleep, to sneak downstairs to get the phone and the goldfish. So I have two issues: 1) He’s staying up til who knows what time of the night/morning watching YouTube videos or Netflix; and 2) He’s being sneaky about it, which, once again, is as good as lying in my book, which, once again, we do not tolerate in our home regardless of whatever diagnosis. He knows better. He knows. Trust me, he knows. This is not a new conversation. It’s been going on for months. I need him healthy. When he has school the next day, he needs all the sleep he can get as it really does help his tolerance levels. He needs sleep, desperately, to grow. He isn’t getting that sleep if he’s watching videos all night.

I’m frustrated. I’m sad. Yes, I’m even angry. What does it take? Why do I even bother? Somebody please tell me how best to handle this. I’m about to the point of locking up every single device we have in the house, every single night (including the dvd player, remotes for the tv’s, and plug for the computer). It’s that bad. Do I just give in and let him have his screen in bed? Then I have to explain again why a rule doesn’t apply to him but does apply to his siblings. He won’t get his reading done he’s supposed to do every night (goodness knows he won’t do it in the afternoon just after school). He won’t sleep. I just don’t have any clue how to handle this.

He’s lost technology, again, but for two weeks this time. He was extremely remorseful all morning, in between being really angry and stomping around the house. He kept apologizing. I didn’t have anything to say to him. I made him get his iPod, DS, and Kindle and hand them over to me. I’ve hidden them. Now we both get to suffer, because every day for the next two weeks, he will do his best to make me crazy, hoping against hope I’ll relent to save my own sanity. I will have to entertain.  I will have to listen to the whining. I will have to provide options to keep him busy which do not involve screens of any kind. Why is it the punishments you know they  need are also punishment for us?

NaBloPoMo prompt for today: What have you learned about yourself through blogging?

I could repeat much of what I wrote yesterday. I’ve seen inside my own mind. Putting it down on paper/screen makes it real. The words are out there. I’ve learned I have a long way to go in managing my own reaction to Little Man’s autism. I’ve learned I still have a lot of emotion with regard to my oldest son’s premature birth. I’ve learned if I let myself, I could try to relive my childhood through my daughter’s life (she’s way tougher than I ever was).  I’ve learned it’s difficult but not impossible to forgive myself. I’ve learned I worry more about some things than anyone else involved, that I can obsess when everyone else has put it out of their mind as a non-issue. I’ve learned I’m imperfect, but better than I let myself believe. I’ve learned I have a lot more to say, I just need to the courage to get out there and say it. I’ve learned people care. If you live it out loud, if you put  yourself out there, you just might help someone or inspire them.