Monday, April 17, 2023

The Parental Mirror

SAY waiting room: "Counseling Help 5 Cents - The Doctor Is In"
Years ago, when talking with my daughter's therapist, as I tried to be there for both my kids while supporting the family with a F/T job as my family and home broke painfully apart and crashed, I was given the best piece of advice.

"Your daughter needs to see you happy," she said. "She needs to see you making time with your friends and modeling positive social and coping strategies."

At the time I felt despair, like falling down a well. I was overwhelmed, unequipped, and isolated. I felt like the worst parent ever.

Then I tried even harder to catch myself first before hyper focusing on "finding a fix" for my kids.

I have gotten better with practice. I have realized this not only applies to my daughter, it also applies to James, who has a highly developed empathy with those around him. On the plus side, he models "good" behaviours if they are around him and he can, to an extent, read a room. On the stinker side, it gives him a fiendish ability to push peoples' buttons.

But I digress. Fewer years ago, I was talking frankly with my son's ABA supervisor, about the overall regressions and socially unacceptable behaviours that roared out in the face of a horrible 8th grade experience, second evacuation due to wildfires, and COVID-19 lock down. I was so desperate for help that despite trying to bubble myself so I could remain on call for my family members with already compromised immune systems and not lose any time at a severely unsympathetic job - I called ABA and told them I wanted to continue in-home services. Thankfully, it was the right call.

"Your son is begging you for attention," he said to me. "You do not realize how stressed you are and how that is affecting him. I know you have a huge load of responsibility, but your son NEEDS you." This set me on the track of thinking again about the Parental Mirror, as I like to think of it, and how important that was for my kids and myself. 

With this supervisor's urging, I was able to investigate IHSS and becoming my son's caregiver. A family friend, who also is an IHSS caregiver for her disabled son, urged me on further. I discovered that an IHSS staff person had misled me in thinking I could not be my son's paid caregiver (at 15 hours a week) if I also worked full-time. To make a long story short, I transitioned from working 40 hours a week at an increasingly stressful job and not being paid for caring for my son to being paid to care for my son (currently at 63 hours a week) and (all things considered) earning more take-home pay. 

I am SO much happier, and it shows in my son's reports from school and his overall demeanor. It has taken me a full year to stop feeling burned out and that I can do more besides caregiving for my son and start living my life again.

Everyone will tell you that, as a Special Needs Parent, you are crucial to your child's development and well-being.  Next time you're feeling stressed and downhearted, take a look at yourself in the Parental Mirror, and give yourself a boost, love, and encouragement - just as you would to your kids. It works, and you're worth it.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Parents ... Sound Familiar?

 After a super good week at school and afternoon ABA, when all was pretty darned much sunshine and budding roses, there came Counterbalance and negative behaviours. Sigh. Autism, Spring, Teen hormones, lack of a social squad, and impending graduation - all smooshed together in an active pressure cooker. 

This was me last week:

Yoda, preaching CONTROL

My guy is now 18. April is a good month to pause and reflect how far he has come, honour his resiliency through life crises I never had to deal with at his age, and gird up for the uncharted that is adulthood. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Showing Care and Kindness

A common thread for parents and caregivers to those on the spectrum is a deep wanting to know what their child or person is thinking and feeling. After a while we think we know. We hope we are making correct guesses.

And the there are times when a sweet connection is made, and it is everything. 

I remember, after months of being told my son might be nonverbal, he began to make progress. I cried big mama tears when, at age 4, he said "I love you" to me.

The bear hugs (sometimes flying). The big smiles and starry, happy looks at me from his heart through his eyes.

The most recent illness, with me on the sofa, made better by a concerned text from his room to mine: "Mother, do you need ibuprofen?" or a shy shy "there there" pat on my head.

The Thank You card he insisted on giving me because we were sick on Valentine's Day and by the time a friend could take him to the store they were out of those cards.

Tonight, being offered a cookie that he baked with his class today at school (it was delicious). 

I am touched, and I am proud of him for being caring and showing it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Still Standing

We've had quite a spell of winter bugs: colds, flu, and more. 

Winter has been very winter this year, with lots of atmospheric rain and periodic plunges into the 20s. We were visited by snow in our hills and we may not yet be done with this frosty and wet weather.

We participated in two ABA sessions at our local bowling alley and while the second session was much more enjoyable for James, it is also where we picked up norovirus. Gah!

Through it all, James has been really patient. He is doing great with making snacks with supervision - quesadillas and PB&Js. He has started to participate more for PE. 

Still here, and moving forward.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

ALL The Things - To Do List

 So today I woke up at 4:00 AM, courtesy of my head cold and next door neighbours who like to slam doors as they let the dog out, take the dog for a walk, come home from a walk, then leave for work.

After being sick for almost 2 weeks and finally getting 2 nights of good sleep, I was ready to Do The Things - ALL The Things. So it wasn't bad at all to start that early. I made my evil dark coffee and drank it while I made The To Do List - Christmas day menus, items to get at the store, admin tasks, reminders ... all of which helped me organize the sequence for the day. 

First I Drink Coffee Then I Do The Things sign

I made breakfast for James and made sure he had his meds. I bagged up water bottles to recycle and had James dump his launder in the washer to be cleaned. List and recycling in hand I shepherded my guy into the van for stop #1: Trader Joe's. Although it had been open only 15 minutes, the lot was full. Luckily inside was not so bad. The recycling got taken care of. Wow, milk has shot up! I discovered that the one thing they were out of was what I wanted for Christmas dinner's main course. 

Okay, back at the van, James helped me load the groceries and then he returned the cart. Off to Stop#2 Kohl's. Avoided crowded route and entered a store with very few shoppers (I remember from my Christmas working at Capwell's that you have to get there before 11 to avoid crowds). This made it easy for James to pick out a gift for his dad.  There was no one in line and we zig-zagged through the line like the beginning of Shrek in Duloc. I swiped my online order on the way out - voila, James now has a Christmas t-shirt!

Stopped (#3) at the independent grocer on the way home and had a lovely conversation with the butcher, who saved Christmas! James' Cheez-Its were and on sale on the way to the register, so I got enough to last him on vacation. 

We tried looking for deer on Deer Hill South, but saw none. At home, James helped me unload the car and he took a break while I put away food, tossed his clothes in the dryer, and took a breather. Then I helped James get started on a shower and hair washing, which we accomplished in under an hour!!! Clean clothes were sorted, folded and donned. Hygiene list was completed.

Next, we hit the road so he could visit with his dad, play video games, and give him his present. They had a good time. I got to gas up the van for the cheapest gas around and hang out in the redwoods for a nature break.

On the way back up, hanger started to set in (not too badly, though), so we celebrated being on vacation and shower/shampoo victory with a pizza and shake from Amy's. Now it's dark again at just after 5:00 PM, but I can rest. It feels so good. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Spot Cleaning of Behaviors Past

After a week of being sick, with the holidays and  both kids' birthdays bearing down on me, I have finally committed to cleaning the house and decking the halls, one bit at a time. Some are regular spots, like the fridge, counters and stove. Others, well, send me back a bit in time ... 

When we first moved in, it was after being evacuated for a week from both old and new places because of a huge wildfire. Shortly after, COVID-19 shut us all down. Remote learning in a new house that was cramped with unpacked moving boxes and a working-from-home Mom was the 4th chaotic school change for James in about a year, after almost 10 steady years in the same district. It crashed with a divorce, deaths in the family, and the absence of his sister. 

Behaviors started up that he'd never had before, and they progressed downhill and exploded. That period was so intense that I blocked a lot of it out. Attacking spots of milk, food, and tissue on the walls, furniture, and floors today reminded me forcefully that at some point I let got of trying to get everything cleaned up because he'd only do it again and again ... I had my hands full, and I was losing my mind.

These days, James' teeth have been fixed, he has been in the same school for almost 4 years and back in the classroom for almost a year and a half. Family relationships are slowly being rebuilt. Despite some churnover, ABA has been a staunch support and parter for us as well as the school. While there is still a lot of work ahead of us, we are back in the realm of much more sane and calm.

I cleaned those expletive deleted spots, and it felt good.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Autism Today

Photo of electric shaver: Remington WETech Face & Body Grooming Kit

Today on Autism, we covered good phone etiquette, emotions management, and hygiene promotion (self shower and shampoo). I found and re-assembled his electric shaver components, which he then used to shave chin hairs and trim long locks that got in his eyes. He did a great job in a good amount of time.  

We cursed the leaf blower that someone tried to use across the street, until sheets of rain discouraged them for the day. On a plus note: James used his head phones each time they tried, after only 1 initial prompt.

I did more paperwork ad emails for the partial conservatorship while monitoring progress in the bathroom. His hair is curly after a shower. I try to not be verklempt.

We discussed:

  • World politics (Russia and North Korea - why are they fighting)
  • Geography (are North Korea and North Carolina the same type of thing (county, state, something else)? 
  • Who is going to work (of our acquaintances)? 
  • Weather check-ins (Is it raining? Will it snow?)
  • Where are our cats?
  • Have I ever been to Spain, Italy, France, Germany, China, Japan, North Korea, or Disneyworld?
  • Why is Sassy meowing so much?
  • What did I used to do in High School (on weekends - hahahaha, that's another lifetime ago!)
  • Going to see Christmas lights
Writing Christmas cards sadly did not happen this weekend. I'll keep trying on that one. He already picked out cards to send during yesterday's visit to Cost Plus (I am not affiliated with this company and am still calling it that, I know it's a World Market!).  
Nutcracker holiday cards that James picked out

Overall, a good day. One more week of school until winter break!

ETA an hour later: Um. I spoke too soon. Someone tried to trim their bangs with the trimmer. Oh my. Well, it will grow out!