Why does my Toddler Hate Me?

Jealousy: resentment against a rival (ahem, husband) who enjoys success (ahem, our toddler’s favoriteagainst another’s success (or lack thereof.  The boy always picks his Daddy).

My 18-month old son is starting to give me a complex, people.  A genuine complex.

I’ve been waiting for this whole “Daddy” phase to become just that – a phase – but it’s been months now, with no end in sight.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I love that my husband and youngest son have this amazing bond.  It’s sweet.  It’s adorable.

BUT….

Does the child have to blatantly show his distaste for me?

Think I’m exaggerating?  Allow me to prove myself with a few poignant examples:

Daddy has to leave to run some errands.  Little C is so distraught Daddy has left, he flings himself upon the floor and will not let me console him.  He cries for upwards of 20 minutes.  He is struggling so hard to get away from my clutches, I nearly drop him on more one occasion.

Daddy isn’t home from work yet, so Little C is actually giving me the time of a day with a big ol’ bear hug. Cue Daddy’s entrance.  Little C leaps out of my arms so quickly you’d think I pinched him.  Sayonara Mommy.  Daddy’s home.

The whole family is relaxing on the floor playing with Mega Bloks.  I scooch over beside Little C to help him with the tower he’s building.  He stops what he’s doing.  He makes an angry scowl directed at me, picks up his tower, and promptly plops down beside Daddy.  I swear to God he smirks.

I’m in the kitchen.  Little C is playing with a toy car a few feet away.  Daddy is in the living room, out of sight, out of mind.  Little C suddenly slips and falls, banging his head on the floor.  I immediately drop what I’m doing, rushing to his aid.  As I begin to hold him in my arms, he looks at me – there’s that scowl again – then runs across the house to Daddy’s arms.

I notice Little C perusing the bookshelf.  I sit beside him and ask him if he’d like me to read him a story.  He gives me that telltale scowl, then saunters over to Daddy.  Once he’s in Daddy’s lap, he looks at me, eyebrows narrowed, then hugs Daddy.

Wtf?

Don’t get me wrong.  At times, it’s kind of convenient that the little guy wants Daddy.  Considering we have two attention-seeking boys, this often makes life easier, and even occasionally allows me five minutes of “me time,” (which we all know just means doing the dishes in peace or making lunches without a little munchkin clinging to my legs.  Am I right, ladies?).

If I’m being perfectly honest though, the Mommy pride is a little hurt.  Sometimes, it’s a lot hurt.

Am I the only mother experiencing this?

Don’t leave me hangin,’ Mamas!


Valocity Studios / Foter / CC BY-SA

 

 

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“Wanna smell my feet?”

This question is asked daily of me by my four year-old son diagnosed with autism.  Call it hypersensitive.  Call it hyper-curious.  Call it what you will.  He is obsessed with his sense of smell.

His favorite question is not “why?” but rather, “Can I smell?”

He’s no smelling snob.  He wants to smell it all: hair, soap, water, lollipops, flowers, paper, laundry, dirt, chalk, grass, crayons, hands, his little brother’s diaper-clad butt, our cats, his car seat, all meals, his mother’s glass of vino (wine connoisseur may very likely be in his future.  The boy’s got the sniffing part down).

If there’s a scent, he’ll find it.

When he walks into a room, it’s not uncommon to see him, sniffer in the air, commenting that he “smells something.”  This is rarely said with a look of disgust, but rather a look of extreme curiosity, as if he’s trying to decipher a great mystery.  He has yet to properly label a smell; instead, when asked what something smells like, he will usually respond simply with, “it smells!”

The specific obsession with smelling feet is partly to blame on my husband.  Nearly a year ago, he was wrestling with Big C, pinned him, pretended to smell his feet, and then pretended they were super stinky.  Well, Big C thought this was hilarious, and it soon became an ongoing ritual.  This inevitably led to him wanting others to smell his feet, a request he makes upon various members of our family frequently.  Conversely, he enjoys smelling other’s feet and has no qualms about asking to do so.

We’ve had “the talk.”  You know.  The one where you have to explain when it is and is not appropriate to smell other’s feet: “the exchanging of foot smelling should be done in the privacy of one’s home, not in the school or workplace.”

What?  That’s not a “rite of passage” conversation all parents have with their children?

At any rate, this whole “feet thing” is kinda cute and all ‘cuz he’s four.

But when he’s fourteen, it may be a different story.

Because let’s be real; feet are kinda gross.

What is your strongest sense?  


Cín / Foter / CC BY-NC

 

Note: this post is part of a blog hop. Click the link below to read more blogs about what it’s like to have a sensory-special kid!

The Sensory Spectrum

 

A Mother Divided

Most working moms have apprehension and anxiety over sending their children to daycare.  Fortunately, for most, they will eventually discover daycare isn’t so bad and that their children thrive in the environment.

Most moms ain’t me.

I dread daycare. It terrifies me.  All of those feelings of apprehension and anxiety are completely founded on my part.  My oldest son has been kicked out of daycare.  He has been more or less removed from preschool.  He has caused a nanny to quit.

You can see why today, when I took my two boys back to daycare for the first time since June, I was a little freaked out.  In fact, I’ve been agonizing over it for weeks, getting in touch with the school social worker and psychologist, speaking with his new teachers, making social stories, trying to get everything in place to ensure that this day would be a good one.

That’s a lot of pressure.

But guess what?  It was a great day.

As many of you know,  my four year-old Big C has high-functioning autism and a nasty temper, so daycare settings have proven to be a challenge; however, it would appear all of my dedication with him this summer (along with his social skills class, OT,  Speech, and his visual schedule, God love it) has paid off because he was awesome.  He couldn’t wait to go to school: “I’m all set!”  He was all smiles when his classmates greeted him with a hello by name.  The school social worker (who seriously must have wings hiding behind her cute cardigan) stopped in for a visit to check-in and also commented on how great the day was.  When I picked him up, he was sitting with a group of other boys playing cooperatively.  He didn’t come running to me.  In fact, he looked hesitant, but smiled, and asked if he could stay a little longer to play.

Seriously?  Needless to say, I was all smiles and so proud, even a little tearful.

In swoops the Mommy guilt.  I mentioned it was a great day, but I forgot the qualifier.  It was a great day for my oldest son.  For my youngest, not so much.

Since Big C’s diagnosis last February, I have put so much of my time and energy into ensuring Big C’s success that, on some level, I’ve just been assuming 16 month-old Little C will be “just fine.”  He really is an easygoing kid.

But not today.  He had a rough one.  He wanted to be held most of the day (which is so not like him), he didn’t nap at all (also not like him), he hardly ate (are you sure this is my kid you’re talking about?) and he bit another child (okay, that sounds a little like him).  As soon as I picked him up from the teacher holding him, he clung to me like a little koala and made that sporadic sound of breath that comes after a long cry.  He didn’t babble.  He didn’t smile.  He just held tight.  He did perk up once we got home, but I cannot forget that lost look on his face right before I held him.

I end this post feeling conflicted.  I feel like I have a great success story here with Big C. He has been my main muse for much of this blog thus far, and since its inception, he’s made some amazing leaps and bounds.

But what about Little C?  When is it his turn for a little attention?

Tomorrow is always a new day, little buddy.  Let’s tackle this biting bit, shall we?


funky fat girl / Foter / CC BY

 

 

Why NOT throwing your child a birthday party is okay

Bounce houses, rambunctious party games, sugary candy, caffeinated soda, cheap party favors, food left out on banquet tables for children to grab, spill, and lick, large pinatas inevitably leading to kids blindfolded with bats…

If these images send chills down your spine, you’re like me and, likely, you have a kid like mine who gets overwhelmed and overstimulated in a party setting.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love parties.  But now that I have a four year-old with ASD and a one year-old in tow, parties mean work, and lots of it.  I spend my time at parties running around like a maniac, trying to ensure my children don’t create too much havoc and, if they do, at least other parents will see me attempting to stop it versus sitting in a lawn chair enjoying an adult beverage (man, that sounds nice).   The relaxing for me comes at home, hours later when the kids are finally in bed, with my feet up and a glass of wine in hand.

Let’s face it though. It’s become a societal expectation to throw outlandish parties for our children.  Every year around this time, I get catalogs in the mail for kid-party theme kits running upwards of two hundred dollars for decorations alone.

Don’t tell me I’m alone in thinking it’s a little overkill.

So this year, we decided to forego conventions.  For Big C’s fourth birthday this past Friday, my husband and I decided not to throw a party.

Don’t get me wrong.  Big C still had lots to look forward to as we carefully listened to his comments about what he was expecting.  A new episode of Astroblast was in our DVR queue, a paper crown was set delicately upon a couch cushion, and we were sure to say, “Surprise!” when he walked down the stairs to his banner and balloons.  Certainly, we sang “Happy Birthday!” and he blew out four candles.

But…

I didn’t make the cake.  Big C helped me pick it out at Meijer.

I didn’t cook.  Big C got his favorite: Jet’s cheese bread with Ranch dipping sauce.

I didn’t buy party favors or play party games.  Big C spent much of his day playing in the new sandbox his Daddy made him.

I didn’t have a bunch of kids over.  His grandma, grandpa, and great-grandma were the only guests in attendance.

Big C was completely clueless he “missed out” on a big ‘ol party.  In his mind, his every birthday wish was fulfilled.  In fact, he told us repeatedly that it was a “Great day!” and “Thank you very much!”

Big C went to bed happy.

And I went to bed with a happy heart.

And a clean house.

Bonus.

balloon-1051718_1920

A version of this post also appears on Sammiches and Psych Meds.

 

“Oh, he’s just stimming.”

Stimming: Everybody’s doin’ it.

Even you.

I have a confession.  I stim.  Every night.  It calms me.

Before I go to bed, I count off on my fingers how many hours of sleep I will get.  Sometimes, I have to count half a dozen times just to get that sense of peace.

Sound odd?  Maybe a little.  I remember doing this as early as third grade.  I have no idea why I have to do it, just that I have to.

I don’t just stim before bed.  During the day, I find myself chewing on pencil caps, pulling apart paper clips, tapping my foot, organizing items on my desk into straight, perfect lines, all with little to no awareness I’m doing it.

You’ve probably figured out by now what “stimming” is if you didn’t already know.  Short for “self-stimulation,” it’s a type of repetitive movement we do, often to ease tension or anxiety.  Often, it’s subconsciously done.  I’ve discovered the term to be co-existent with neurological disorders such as autism, though it’s certainly not exclusive.  I’ve never been diagnosed with autism, but I certainly can appreciate, and practice, some of its attributes.

For my soon-to-be four year-old son who has high-functioning autism, his stimming is often a survival tactic.  If he can’t do it, he “explodes,” if you will.  I’ve watched him “stim” for years without realizing it had a name and a function.  With his recent diagnosis of ASD, I have been thrown into a world of jargon and acronyms, stimming among them.  Thankfully, with this new vocabulary, I am becoming better equipped to understand and help him.

I’ll never forget a recent visit to the park with my husband, our two young boys, sister-in-law, her husband, and their two young children.  We were on a nature trail with a long, winding wooden fence.  Naturally, Big C (my son with ASD) ran his hand along the railing.  While I knew the possibility of splinters was imminent, I also knew there was no chance of stopping him.  Big C needed to touch that railing.  He needed to run his hand along its splintery edge to better understand his surroundings.  As a sensory-seeking child, he needs to touch his surroundings, to smell them, even lick them (often to his mother’s chagrin) all in order to understand them.

My sister-in-law, a bit perplexed by my son’s behavior, asked why Big C was slowly running his hand along the railing, head down, humming to himself.

My husband merely replied,  “Oh, he’s just stimming.”

The twinkle of pride in my husband’s eye – true understanding and trust between father and son – was simply magical.

While it may have a stigma to it, stimming really isn’t so bad.  In fact, it can be quite therapeutic.

How do you “stim”?

Note: this post is part of a blog hop. Click the link below to read more about what it’s like to have a sensory-special kid!

SensoryBlogHop

“I do not like that hat. Good-bye!”

Autism: “self + -ism”  (from the Greek prefix, auto = self)

Autism is….complicated.

I’ve been learning a lot of new words since the advent of my son’s diagnosis of ASD.  One of them is scripting.  As a teacher of the arts, I immediately liked the sound of this new vocab term.  It sounds so theatrical!  Essentially, it’s often linked with the term echolalia, both of which refer to when someone repeats something (like an echo: makes sense).  The term scripting is more often used to reference the recitation of lines from movies and books, but it can be the repetition of any chunk of dialogue in the person’s memory.  A lot of us recite or ‘script’ favorite lines and quotes (my husband throws out obscure 90’s R and B lyrics with reckless abandon); the key difference is why people with autism script.   There’s no exact science (which is why autism is so complicated), but scripting can indicate feelings of extreme stress, excitement, or function as a cryptic means of communication.

Which brings us to our anecdote.

Two days ago, Big C (my three year-old with ASD) and I were having fun with Play-doh.  I was also using our “play time” as a teaching moment.  We were working on colors, turn-taking, and verbalizing what we were thinking (I say we, but it was mostly me).  At one point, he tired of sharing and asked me to work with my own Play-doh so he could do his own thing.

Fair enough.

Once I had made a little sculpture by myself, I asked Big C if he liked it.  He looked over and said, “I do not like that hat.  Good-bye!”

Fascinating.

To the innocent bystander, it would appear Big C completely misunderstood me.  But he didn’t.  He was scripting from a book by P.D. Eastman called Go, Dog, Go! that I read to him roughly six months ago.  In the book, a female dog repeatedly asks a male dog if he “likes her hat” and the male dog says, “I do not like that hat.  Good-bye!”

Big C totally understood me.  He just had an unusual way of showing it.

This moment was so important for me and Big C.  It was a solid reminder of why my son is hard for others to understand.  Yes, he does struggle with articulation, but more often, it’s not how he says things, but what he says.  He appears to be speaking out of context, but instead, he is making amazing connections between what he is ‘reading’ with what he is experiencing. He’s taking the reading concept of “talking to the text” to a whole new level.  When the time comes for Big C to write literary analyses and cite examples from the text, he is going to be a pro!

BUT, I recognize more clearly now why this is a social impairment for him.  Much as I’d like to, I cannot follow Big C around and translate for him, citing to others how clever he is with his literary quips.

What I CAN do though is teach him how to explain to others his seemingly obscure connections.

In response to my question, what if he said this instead: “Mom, I know what I should say.  Society says I should tell a white lie, that I like your sculpture.  Instead, I’d like to provide you with a literary anecdote from an antiquated children’s book you read to me that highlights the masochistic society of the 1950’s with the use of male and female dogs.  You see, the female dog keeps looking for the male dog’s approval by seeking a compliment about her hat.  He denies her several times as she continues to change her appearances for his benefit.  At the text’s end, he decides her hat is worthy and they ride off into the sunset.  While I don’t care for the gender biases of the text, I appreciate the display of brutal honesty.  That’s why I need to be brutally honest with you now.  I know you want me to say I like your sculpture, but I don’t.  Maybe you should try again.”

Of course, he could simply say, “Your question reminds me of a book we read once.”

That would certainly suffice.

Call it scripting.  Call it echolalia.  I call it pretty damn clever!

Beginner-brightearlybookx
By Jengod (talk) (Uploads) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39605122

Overdosing on Therapy (the real cost behind it)

 

It’s been just over a week now since we parted ways with our in-home ABA therapists.

I feel like I can breathe again.

I have my family back.  I didn’t realize just how toxic the situation had gotten until my husband said the other day, “Do you realize how much calmer you are now?  Big C and Little C too.  Everyone just seems…happy.”

He’s so right.

My little guys and I are sponges.  If one is stressed out, the rest are.  Now that the poorly implemented ABA therapy is gone (I have to say poorly implemented because I know there are some amazing ABA therapists out there), I feel normal again, or at least our family’s version of normal.

With a sense of normalcy came an epiphany last week: I need to stop trying to fix my kid.

He doesn’t need fixing.  He just needs my help.  Shame on you medical community for making me think otherwise.

He needs help learning to cope with his sensory overload.  He needs help learning how to express himself more clearly to others to avoid his own feelings of frustration. He needs help learning how to use his words rather than his fists when his emotions overtake him.

I don’t give a shit if he likes to line up his toys and his Cheerios.  I don’t give a shit if he likes to suck on turkey lunch meat to calm himself.  I don’t give a shit he has to run his hands along the surfaces of a new room.  I don’t give a shit he has to smell everything.  I don’t give a shit that he echoes back what people say.  I don’t give a shit he talks about subjects out of context.  I don’t give a shit that he expresses himself through leaping, jumping, and spinning.

I don’t give a shit that he doesn’t meet the doctors’ definition of “normal” or what I’ve come to know as “neuro-typical.”

I think that my son is awesome.  I think that my son’s quirks are adorable (most days).

Why do I need to try and eradicate that behavior?

Shame on you medical community, hell, shame on you society as a whole, for making me think I need to.

What I’ve come to realize is that two separate medical communities gave my son an unhealthy dosage of therapy recommendations.  The doctors that diagnosed Big C spent all of an hour with him, then doled out pages upon pages of therapy recommendations: 40 hours of intensive ABA therapy, social skills training, parent training, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, genetics testing, all sandwiched between paragraphs of text about our role as parents and what we should be doing.

As a parent new to this world of autism diagnosis, I was terrified.   These doctors, these professionals, made me feel like if I didn’t get my son access to all of these therapies immediately, I would be failing him as a parent.

And failing is something I do not do.

Where was the counseling, the medical guidance, through all of this?  After a diagnosis and a twenty-plus page report, we were sent on our way with a list of websites and books to check out.  That was it.

There was never any discussion of, “This therapy list is simply that.  A list.  A list of all the possible options you might pursue.  It’s a generic list we provide all children diagnosed with autism.  Your son is on the mild end of the spectrum, so some of this is a little extreme for him.”

Why wasn’t that said to me?  Did anyone ever consider the toll it would take on us as parents?  The emotional burden placed on my family because of a therapy overdose?  To me, it is the highest form of lethargy.   No one took the time to really talk to us.  They gave us their diagnosis, derived rather quickly, then sent us packing.

Shame on you, medical community.

But here’s the good news.

I’m over it.  I’m putting my trust in my own gut and inclination to research and study a subject until I am an expert in it.

So when the social worker finally calls me back from the first medical community we met with, I can happily tell her to piss off.

I just worry about the other parents, like me, who are going to be unnecessarily overwhelmed by a diagnosis that, let’s face it, is explained piss-poor by the professionals.  I’ve learned more from my new community of bloggers than I have from any doctor.

To those parents, remember you know your child best.  It may seem like obvious advice, but you start to doubt yourself when a doctor and a diagnosis tell you otherwise.


ep_jhu / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

 

ABA Lessons: Ditch the Bad Therapist

ABA Therapy: Applied Behavioral Analysis (recommended treatment for children with autism)

When I first started this particular blog series, I had grand dreams of sharing all sorts of valuable lessons about ABA therapy.  I imagined all of the amazing ideas I would learn about how to work effectively with my three three year-old son diagnosed with ASD and how blogging about it would help, not only me, but other parents out there.

It hasn’t worked out so well.

I haven’t been blogging much valuable insight about ABA therapy because the therapists we’ve worked with haven’t given us much.  ABA Lesson #2 goes into more detail about the issues we’ve had; it’s been disheartening and frustrating, to say the least.

Though I should say former company we’ve been working with because we cut ties as of yesterday.  I couldn’t feel more relieved.  It all came to a head after Friday’s session.

After our last team meeting, I thought we had hashed-out all of our concerns and had a game plan.  One of our biggest concerns was the back-to-back therapy sessions on Thursdays and Fridays, meaning we would have therapists in our house for four hours and Big C wouldn’t get a nap.  I was very explicit about this being a concern, and I was reassured that the second session would take on the form of a “play session” where Big C and the therapist would socialize through a series of board games.  I was still a little worried, but I thought we’d give it a try.

That is not what happened.  At all.

Here’s a prime example of why some students grow to loathe school.  They get stuck with a shitty teacher who lacks intuition or empathy.

***

The second therapist shows up at the house for the second session and seems a little surprised by the reminder of a “play session.”  I also remind her of my concerns about overtaxing Big C, and that  he seems a little extra tired today.  Unprepared, she hasn’t come with any games, so I have to give her a crash course on how to play Hungry, Hungry Hippos, a favorite game of his we have.

The session take place in our home office, as usual.  It has a glass door, so I can “sneak a peek” if I want, but we keep the door closed to keep my 15-month old out (he’s always interested in what big brother is doing!). The session begins about 4:25 pm with a promise that “we’re going to play and have fun today, buddy!”

First lie.

She starts running drills.  He moves through them fairly quickly, but it is quite evident he is a little wound up, which is actually a sign that he is tired.  It’s the mania before the crash.  The therapist attempts a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos, but she screws up repeatedly (seriously, it’s not hard) which flusters Big C immensely.  After only one game (which takes, literally, a minute) she puts it away and goes back to “table time” asking him to do a series of tasks for rewards.  Today’s rewards are cheese, Craisins, and iPad time.

She never comes back to any games.  So much for a “fun” session.

By 4:50 pm, twenty-five minutes in, I can hear the meltdown begin.  I am frustrated because he should have had a break already. That was something repeatedly discussed, but I don’t go into the room because I recognize he needs to work through the tantrum before seeing me.

It isn’t until hours later, when I watch the video of the session (something I insisted on a week prior) that I learn what I describe next.  Had I known sooner what was actually going on in there, I would have intervened sooner.

Basically, I feel like I am watching my son suffer a sort of mental torture.  I’m not exaggerating.  She makes promises and doesn’t keep them.  She makes demands: “Touch the table, go ‘Ba!”, match the red card, find the circle, touch your nose, what’s this boy doing on this card, blah, blah, blah,” running drill after drill, then not making good on the promise for a break.

Big C tells her early on, “I’m tired.”  I am so proud.  He is using his words instead of simply having a meltdown.

She doesn’t care.

“Do this (another random, out-of-context task), then you can have a break.”

Lie.

Big C tells her, “My butt hurts.”  He wiggles around and tries to stand, but she restrains his seat so he can’t.

“You just have to work through it.”

Are you kidding me?

He keeps trying to put his head down.

“Put your head up.”

He closes his eyes.

“Open your eyes.”

He starts flailing his arms, getting more and more agitated with every passing second.

“Hands down.”  She grabs his arms and places them on the table.

He starts to get angry.  “Don’t touch me!”   Good for you, buddy.  Tell her what you want.

She ignores him.  She continues to poke and prod him until he is literally sobbing.

“What do you want to work for?  Do you want to work for cheese?  Do you want to work for water?”

Work for water?!?  

“I want my Mommy!”  He has already told her this repeatedly, but it falls on deaf ears.  He tries to get up, but she won’t let him.

“You have to work for it.  Do this.” She taps her nose.

“No!”

“Do this.” She taps her nose again.  After a few more times, he does it.  He wants her to stop and is smart enough to know it is the only way to make it stop.

But it doesn’t work.  Instead, she says, “Do it nicely.”

My three year-old son is completely exasperated at this point.  He has no idea when the end is in sight.  I sure as shit don’t, and frankly, I don’t think the therapist knows either.  She seems to have completely lost herself.  It’s like she’s trying to break him.

And she does.  At this point, he is going through all of these crazy motions, tapping the table, touching his nose, putting his hands down, matching colors, describing actions depicted on cards, all with snot and tears dripping down his face.

Finally, after 45 minutes, he is allowed a break.  He runs out of the room and collapses in my arms, sobbing.

And the therapist has the gall to tell me she has no idea what set him off.  Even though he told her he was tired, he told her his butt hurt, he told her he wanted to see him Mommy.  Even though he completed every task she asked, even though she kept lying to him, promising him a break that would seemingly never come.  And she couldn’t tell me what “set him off.”

Oh, and she also warns me he may have a scratch on his arm from when she was restraining him.  Yes, you read right.  And, sure enough, he has a small, bleeding scratch.  Thankfully a Jake and the Neverland Pirates band-aid is a cure-all.

I tell her the session is over and to please leave.

Our goals have been very explicit with our so-called ABA “team.”  Teach him how to manage his aggression, and teach him how to interact positively with his peers.  How did this session help to reach those goals?  No one can seem to tell me how.

I am so sorry, Big C.  I am so, so, so sorry.

***

So I guess I have learned some valuable lessons so far.  Don’t just assume that if a person is a BCBA (Board-Certified Behavior Analyst) that he or she is necessarily quality material.  Sadly, you sometimes have to learn that truth the hard way.

I would like to end by saying this post isn’t meant to put down ABA therapy.  I certainly hope my experience was merely a bad one and not representative of what ABA therapy should look like.  I’m quite sure there are amazing therapists out there (and I plan to pursue them), but I cannot deny the bitter taste this bad apple has left us with.

 

Autism and Circle Time Success

 

Recently, my posts have had a dark-humored tone, giving my friends “expecting” bone-chilling nightmares.  Today’s post is a bit more upbeat and a blissful reminder that perseverance, intuitiveness, and a deep respect for a child’s emotions can earn you a fast-track ticket on the Mommy Success Express.

A little over a year ago, when Big C first attempted preschool-style classes, it was disastrous.  Music class led to tantrums and instruments used as weapons.  Attempts at soccer led to chases around the gymnasium with zero interest in the children around him, let alone the ball.  Gymnastics became a free-for-all with circle time treated as a detour through Hell.  He was kicked out of a daycare, more or less kicked out of a preschool, and at the advent of his new daycare in January after the nanny quit, circle time was still a looming obstacle to conquer.

Given this back story, you’ll better understand why today was such a turning point, not only for Big C, but for me as his mother.

For those of you following my blog know, Big C is receiving in-home ABA therapy.  To supplement that, I have been taking him to a social skills class as well as organizing and participating in a variety of play dates to get him practice socializing with other kids (that, and to get me out of the house because I crave adult interaction).

Today, I decided a trip to our local library story hour would be great practice for Big C, not only with socializing with other kids, but following directions by another adult.  I was apprehensive, especially since the preparations to get him out the door were a little rough this morning, but I was meeting with friends and knew the snippets of conversation I could snag from them would recharge me for the day.  Plus, there was a part of me almost morbidly curious to see if Big C could even do it.  There was also another part of me that was terrified as I would also have my 15-month old son (Little C) in tow.  Two against one is never good odds, but I have great friends who I knew would help at any sign of disaster.

We arrived a little early, which is both a blessing and curse.   Yes, it’s impressive not to miss the festivities (those with kids know how hard it is to get them out the door), but arriving early also means unstructured “down” time which always freaks me out because it freaks Big C out.

But it was okay.  In fact, it was just fine.   Big C greeted one of my friend’s children with a smile, most definitely invading his personal space, even patting him on the head, but being “overly friendly” with a greeting is at the bottom of my list of social skills to work on with Big C.  I’m just pleased Big C acknowledged him at all and didn’t growl at him (as he may have in his younger days).

Once the story hour got rolling, Big C enjoyed singing the “Welcome” song while Little C clapped at the end, all smiles.  Big C was the first to raise his hand and share an idea about what to feed the dog puppet the librarian had: “Dog food!” Duh.  Whenever Big C got remotely off track, I whipped out my “to-go” set of visual cards to remind him when to “sit” and be “quiet.”

Then, about twenty minutes in, he said, “I’m tired.  I want to go home.”

I said, “Are you sure?”  He said, “Yes, I’m very tired.  I want to go home.”  I said, “Okay, thank you for using your words to tell me how you feel.  Let’s go home.”

And we did.  And that was it.  That was it.  

Anti-climatic?  Sorry.  I couldn’t be more happy about that.  For me, this was a moment of triumph.

For some parents, they may think I gave in by leaving; others might scoff that a near four-year old couldn’t last the entire hour. Frankly, I don’t care.  In my mind, he had the wherewithal to recognize he was tired, and the trust that he could tell me, knowing I would respect his feelings.

Wow.  Feels good to be riding that train today.

Taking a ride on the Mommy Success Express.
Taking a ride on the Mommy Success Express.

 

 

ABA Lessons: Extinction Bursts will make you question why you became a parent

ABA Therapy: Applied Behavioral Analysis (recommended treatment for children with autism)

A central concept of ABA therapy is that you ignore negative behavior and respond enthusiastically to positive behavior with a reward.  Often, verbal praise and recognition is all that’s needed (at least that’s the end goal).  Naturally, being ignored can be stressful and downright irksome, resulting in even more negative behavior.  In the ABA world, they like to call this “extinction burst.”  Basically, the child is going to try even harder to be noticed until he/she finally figures out it’s not going to work.

Sounds fairly basic, even easy, right?

Allow me to provide a little “snapshot” from this evening before you make up your mind.

***

Big C’s 4-6pm ABA in-home session is just ending while I am setting dinner on the table for three (another late night for Daddy Catharsis).  Big C comes rushing out of the office, smiling and pleased.  Okay, that’s nice, I think.  His therapist and I chat for a few minutes, then she finishes up in the office while the three of us eat.

After about five minutes, Big C starts pointing his fork at me and muttering, “I’m going to stab you.”

Previously, my inclination would be to grab the fork and say, “No.  That’s not nice.  Eat your dinner.”  Instead, I remind myself to ignore it.  I take a deep breath and do exactly that, focusing more on 15-month old Little C who is right beside me, tossing parts of his dinner on the floor.

Suddenly, a fork goes whizzing past my face.

I whisper an expletive under my breath, calmly pick up the fork off the floor, walk into the kitchen, and place it in the sink.

“Hey!  Where’s my fork?” Big C comes rushing into the kitchen to see where I’ve placed it.  This begins our “dance.”  He grabs a chair, places it by the sink, and attempts to grab the fork.  I take him off the chair, then put the chair back.  I lost count how many times this went on.  A few punches are thrown (from his end).  He starts laughing. It totally becomes a game to him.  Probably I should have ignored it and stopped putting the chair back.  I don’t know.  This ignoring shit is complicated.

After a few minutes, Big C moves on into the office where the therapist is taking notes.  He starts throwing random stuff onto the floor.  I watch him do it from a distance.  He looks at her (who, naturally, is completely ignoring him), throws something on the floor, looks at her again, then does it again and again and again.  I have never witnessed, from the outside, such a blatant call for attention.

Once the office is trashed and the therapist has left wishing me well (thanks), Big C attempts to gain my attention again.  “Mommy, I have to show you something.  I was a bad boy.  I made a big mess.”  All of this is said with enthusiasm and a huge grin.  I refuse to acknowledge his existence.  I continually turn my head to avoid making eye contact.

That stresses him out.  “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy……” (lost count on those too).  I am determined to ignore him until he does something positive.

However Big C decides more negative behavior is best.  As I am trying to clean up dinner (which includes putting away Big C’s largely uneaten meal: too bad buddy), Big C takes an exercise mat, ties it to a chair, then drags the contraption around the house multiple times, causing all kinds of destruction in its wake.

At this point, I’m holding Little C in my arms to ensure his protection, while muttering a tirade of expletives under my breath.

I then make a grand show of playing with Little C, verbally citing how wonderful he is and how much fun we are having with our Mega Blocks.

After about twenty minutes of this battle of wills, Big C finally walks over to me and says, “Mommy, I’m sorry.”  Those. Actual. Words.

A choir of angels appears.

I hug him and tell him I accept his apology and invite him to play with us.  While we are all three playing blissfully and peacefully together, I cannot deny the perfectionist side of my personality reeling from the havoc that I will be stuck putting back together later.  I push this aside for now though and savor in the moment.  It worked!

Silly Mommy Catharsis.  If it were that easy, everyone would do it.

Two more minor incidents occur, one involving a hammer aimed at  a glass door, but I won’t bore you with the details.  Suffice to say, I decide early bedtimes for both boys is a well-deserved treat for Mommy.

Too bad.   

While Little C goes down without a hitch, Big C is a little unsettled by the fact that he didn’t get to finish dinner, have snack, or watch the show he wanted.  Apparently, my chose of bedtime book also sucks, as he decides to rip every book off his shelf.  Then he decides being forced to stay in his room to sleep is ludicrous and tries to make a run for it.  I do not allow him to do so, calmly tell him good night, then close the door.  I know what’s coming though.  I keep a hand on the handle from the outside and, sure enough, he tries to open it.

Oh, is he pissed.

And may I just say at this point, I am dog-ass tired.

I keep a grip.  It is not easy.  My 40-lb three year-old is shockingly strong.  When that doesn’t work, I hear him make a running start and slam his body against the door.  He tries this at least a half dozen times.  I hear the startling smash of toys hitting the door.  I am in shock, and thankful, that his little brother is not waking up in the room next door.

Then, I hear the light switch turn on and the sound of Big C playing.

And now I get pissed.  Tears of rage and exhaustion wash down my face.  This isn’t supposed to be fun!  You are supposed to be asleep!

I walk in, pick him up, and literally toss him into his bed.

His smile is nearly evil in its triumph.

Score: Mommy Catharsis – O, Big C – lost count.

***

On nights like this, I like to think man invented wine solely for me.

 


mdanys / Foter / CC BY