Monday, May 23, 2011

Full Disclosure

Sometimes I struggle with how much to tell people about David. On some occasions, telling people that David has autism is like saying that he has big, beautiful, blue eyes. It is just a part of who he is and it slides off my tongue easily.

Other times, it seems to take too much energy. Should I let the checker at Famous Footwear think he is misbehaving or explain that he is just having flashbacks from the Croc buying skirmish of the summer of 2010? Honestly I am still having flashbacks from that episode, as well.

Should everyone at church be informed of the trauma that David suffered on Ash Wednesday during the imposition of ashes? Afterall, the phrase "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return" is a somewhat scary proposition and David spent the remainder of the service wiping ashes off of everyone's foreheads lest we return to dust right then and there. He still cannot bring himself to walk all the way to the front of the church to receive a blessing, but rather makes his escape with a quick U-turn at the last minute like a "chicken" exit at an amusement park ride.

I have mentioned that our deck was replaced last week. This time, I did not hesitate to make a full disclosure. If he had not already noticed the emergency responder autism alert decal by the front door, Mike, the owner of the deck company, needed to know about David. I wanted him to understand why I was so insistent that the kitchen door out to the deck be secure while they were working.

Last Tuesday, Mike left a message on our answering machine. For whatever reason as is so often the case, David took a fancy to the message and played it literally hundreds of times. Sounds harmless, right? Well, it occurred to me as David was playing the message for the 52nd time of the morning that it has been cool and our windows were open. Mike and Matt were working right outside of the open windows and must have heard the message. They must have thought I was a psychopath.

So, after David left for school I had to explain to Mike why he might be hearing his message over and over and over and over again. I neglected to tell him that David also is repeating bits of the message in the car as we drive around town. That might be too creepy. Or the fact that I will probably never be able to forget his cell phone number for as long as I live.

Mike did not admit if he has heard his message repeating in our house, but I do believe I detected a sigh of relief after I made my disclosure.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Sense of Security

I found myself lurking around the windows. Is it really lurking, though, if you are on the inside, looking out? Of your own house? I was waiting for the UPS truck. It was late in the afternoon and we had not yet received our delivery. The UPS man usually arrives to our house around five o'clock and I was growing impatient. After all, I had paid for expedited shipping, a rarity.

What could be so highly anticipated, you ask? A new Coach bag? Some stilettos? Does the fact that I had to look up how to spell stilettos answer that question? The item in question was a spring loaded patio door lock. Woohoo!

Spring Loaded Patio Door LockSince David was diagnosed, I have had a pretty steep learning curve. I have become quite familiar with different therapies and interventions, advocacy organizations, educational processes, sensory issues and the list could go on and on. I did not, however, expect to become a security expert and when I say security I do not mean keeping other people out, but keeping David in the house--or alternatively keeping David out of specific areas of the house as the need arises. At various times in David's childhood, we have found it necessary to try to secure the refrigerator, cabinets, pantry, laundry room, bathrooms, basement and Andrew's Xbox, to name just a few.

Our security battle is not unique. In fact, the last time I mentioned it in a post, one Mom even remarked that she had found success with cabinet and refrigerator latches at a marine store—great idea. (We are a resourceful bunch, aren't we?) Surely something that protects against the wrath of Mother Nature can work for our kids, right?

We had already been discussing the need to keep David from opening the sliding glass door in the basement in anticipation of the replacement of our deck. Aside from the usual risk of elopement (aka running away, because in the world of autism, why call it "running away" when you can call it "elopement" much like "repeating" must be a far inferior term to "echolalia") there would be the added risk of power tools, cedar planks and wet cement. Need I say more?

The specific event that actually precipitated the ordering process and expedited shipping, however, was an evening last week when we were getting the boys ready for bed. Bath time is usually David's favorite time of day, but on this particular day, he was not in the mood. He eloped naked (I know, in a different context that phrase means something different entirely) out of the sliding door in the basement. Andrew, having already removed his shirt in preparation for his shower, was in hot pursuit making it an exquisitely fun game in David's mind. I was not far behind, shoeless. In short, we must have looked like the white trash triplets.

Where was Michael during this family footrace, you might ask? I am honestly not sure, but I would suspect he was peering out the window praying that the neighbors weren't watching.

The package did arrive on time and the lock has been installed. The beauty of this particular lock is that it does not function by trying to outsmart our extraordinarily smart and resourceful boy, rather you must have long enough arms to simultaneously pull the latch and open the door—a feat which David cannot accomplish. Not yet.

So for this brief moment I am feeling a sense of security.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Look Before You Leap

Several people have asked recently about David's bus riding habits. Or perhaps more accurately, about exactly how David is getting himself down the driveway and to the bus.

It is no secret that David started the year by walking backward to the bus--not a secret because if I had really wanted to keep that little quirk private, then perhaps I shouldn't have written about it HERE and HERE. He has been in school and therapy for more than half of his young life, but until this year I have always acted as chauffeur, with the help of my husband, parents, sister, niece and anyone else we could find standing on the street corner with a valid driver's license because, as you know, David is a busy guy. Well, David did not think riding the bus was a stellar idea and chose to express his misgivings by walking backwards every day. For months.

Initially, it was a form of protest, but after a week or two, he actually found it quite funny. And we knew if we tried to get him to stop, the more stubborn he would become. Quite frankly, it didn't really matter so, aside from my husband walking backward with him on occasion, we ignored it and assumed David would lose interest by the time he turned, well let's see, twenty seven?

We briefly had hope during the winter months when David stopped retropedaling (it is a word, look it up) but we quickly realized that his efforts were all in the interest of sure footing and as the snow melted, so did David's brush with conformity. He was back to his usual habits.

And then, we had what I like to refer to as the "look before you leap incident." One morning several weeks ago, the usual bus had mechanical problems and bus "seven zero three" was replaced by bus "seven three zero." Imagine David's surprise when he reached the end of the driveway, turned to climb the stairs into the bus and instead of Terry, the tall, lanky, gray haired gentleman with a moustache that David resolutely refuses to greet each morning, he saw an African American woman who could probably most politely be described (since I am no super model myself) as Terry's polar opposite.

As I recall, I shoved David in the door of the bus and high-tailed it back up the driveway before he had a chance to protest. Obviously, David does not handle change well, especially when he has not been prepared in advance and that one episode was enough to scare him straight; we have been marching straight toward the bus each morning without exception.

I do believe that David was thrilled to see Terry that next morning and offered him a crooked little grin, although he still refused to say hello. I guess he still has his own form of bus riding silent protest by remaining quite literally silent.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Raindrops Were Falling on My Head

The school year is coming to a close. In fact, my older son could probably tell you to the hour how much time is left. As usual, I have been reflecting on what we have learned this year and I say "we" because it seems that I learn as much as the boys do, especially when David is part of the equation.

When I left yesterday to pick David up from school, it looked like it might rain so I grabbed my raincoat. But, by the time David was dismissed, the thunderstorm warning had been issued, the wind had picked up and Andrew was at home moving every possession he has ever owned into the basement, convinced that the storm had already ripped the deck off of our house when, in fact, the wind had simply knocked over a piece of lattice that we had taken off in preparation for our deck replacement next week.

Needless to say, it was pouring. I pulled the hood of my raincoat over my head and decided to forgo the umbrella. When the rain is falling sideways, it doesn't help much anyway and I was watching other mothers struggle to keep them from inverting in the wind. I made a break for it. The teachers already had David ready to go, so I grabbed his hand, but he stopped under the small overhang to the side door of the school.

Apparently, David did not sense my urgency. He commented on the rain, and grinned at me with his silly grin. His stubborn baby teeth are refusing to make way for the permanent teeth moving in on top and so David's two front teeth have shifted out at an angle, making his smile somewhat reminiscent of one of his favorite cartoon characters, SpongeBob Squarepants. Or, to put it bluntly as my husband does, right now the kid could eat sweet corn through a picket fence. Hey, maybe that would make his teeth come out.

Anyway, David was standing there, grinning, but really was not too keen on stepping out into the rain. So, yes, I have learned my lesson. When grabbing a raincoat for myself, why not grab one for David, as well? Or maybe the next time I see the dark gray storm clouds rolling in like a freight train, perhaps I should not hesitate to run into the school to sign David out a few minutes early to avoid the storm as some of the other moms were doing. Or I might just consider letting him ride the bus home from school next year and then it would be someone else's problem.

Possibly the most interesting thing I learned is that David's strong aversion to wearing new coats apparently does not apply when there happens to be a weather warning. He had not made me aware of that exception previously—maybe it was listed in the small print. David was eyeing my Talbots raincoat, which fortunately is royal blue and white polka dots, reversible to solid red, therefore meeting David's coat wearing criteria. And, since it was conveniently big enough to cover David and his backpack, he slipped it on and was ready to run for the car.

Of course, we made it but David did remark on my wet hair as I buckled his seat belt. By the time I got home, my sandals were squishy and I looked like I had just stepped fully clothed out of the shower.

What is the moral of this story? The next time I try to put a new coat on David I am going to wait for inclement weather, throw him out the front door with the coat and refuse to let him back in until he is wearing it.

Just kidding.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

What a Wonderful World

I suspect that I may be the first person ever to have cried during the kindergarten production of Peter Rabbit. I guess I really didn't cry during the play, I managed to control myself until the medley of kindergarten favorites that immediately followed the performance.

I think it would be fair to say that I am someone whose emotions are close to the surface. In short, I am a weeper. I have even developed a rating scale for how emotional something makes me. There is the misty eyed look, where the tears are just beginning to develop, also easily camouflaged—the "there must be something in my eye" sort. Stage two occurs when the tears actually well over and spill onto the cheeks. Next, comes that semi-serious flow of tears, the dripping off the chin and onto the shirt type. And finally, we have the unabashed, unapologetic, blubbering, blotchy faced, don't care who sees or what happens to my eye makeup, ask a complete stranger for a Kleenex kind of tears.

For what it is worth, Peter Rabbit triggered tears that were somewhat more serious than just teary eyes. This time, I didn't even feel them coming, but somewhere during the Louis Armstrong song, "What a Wonderful World," with the children singing along and also signing the words, and David so obviously moved by the music, I lost it. I had been thinking about what a wonderfully successful year David is finishing. And how happy he is. And how far his language has progressed. And how David managed to respectfully decline the offer of a speaking part, but took his job introducing the play very seriously.

Yes, I cried and I don't really care who knows it. I am proud of David, who works so hard for each baby step and that is the only Mother's Day present that I need. (Well, that and the brand new potting bench that I received to replace the shabby one that sits on our soon-to-be replaced deck—thanks, guys.) So, to quote David, "Happy Mom-mom's Day."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Do they have therapy in Juvy?

David has been studying money in school and he recently received some money as a gift. In the past, I have taken David's money and used it to purchase something that I thought he would want, or probably more often, something that he needed. I sometimes have to remind myself that he is six and like any other six-year-old, he would probably enjoy the opportunity to select something for himself.

So last Friday, I sent Michael and David, armed with a twenty dollar bill and some instructions (because, after all, Michael LOVES my instructions). I encouraged Michael to try to make the experience a teaching moment, to have David look at prices and try to get him to indicate if he had enough money to pay for the desired item. A real life lesson.

I thought that they could start in the DVD section because I was relatively certain that David could find a new SpongeBob DVD that he would want. I received the first phone call at work shortly after they had arrived at the DVDs. "Do we have SpongeBob Squarepants – The Complete Second Season?"

Ironically (or perhaps purposefully, because I often do not give David enough credit), the DVD set that David had decided to purchase was on sale for $19.99, leaving him a penny in change without tax, of course, but that is another lesson for another day. Now if I were to stop my story here, you would probably find it sweet, if not unremarkable. We are always trying to incorporate little therapy sessions into our daily life.

But, as Paul Harvey used to say, here is "the rest of the story." The second phone call came to me at the office a few minutes later; a much less jovial Michael was on the line. In our Target store, the DVD section is relatively close to the seasonal section, currently lawn and garden. (If you are a regular reader, you might already see the foreshadowing.) David, of course, spied the display of freshly minted garden carts, plastic gleaming, and had one off of the shelf, handle extended and started down the main aisle of the store before Michael even had a chance to utter feebly and without any expectation that it would make an impact, "David, no!?!"

Apparently, David turned on the afterburners at about the frozen food aisle and took off at a dead sprint toward the automatic doors of the front entrance. Now, if you know Michael, you also know that he is not exactly the sprinting type so he quickly moved to Plan B—call Kathy at work. Now, what exactly he thought I was going to do about it, from my office roughly eight miles from the scene of the crime, I have no idea—unless maybe he just wanted plausible deniability. "That cannot possibly be my son, traveling at the speed of light with a garden cart in tow, because here I am, talking nonchalantly on my cell phone." Anyway, he must have quickly realized I wasn't going to be much help, because he hung up abruptly. (Perhaps the fact that I was laughing hysterically, also contributed.) And, that was the last I heard from Michael.

It was when I did not receive the immediate follow-up phone call that I started to worry. What if David ran into the parking lot and got hit by a car? What if he was abducted by someone trolling the entrance to the store at that very moment? What if he just kept running in Forrest Gump fashion until he decided to stop running several states away? I quickly dismissed the last two options and settled on the first.

I waited what I considered to be an appropriate amount of time before I called Michael back. Fortunately, David made it to the air lock between the two sets of doors and recognized the error of his ways—or maybe got distracted by the doors, who would know. Michael was able to shove the cart back onto a shelf at the front of the store, eluding store security. He paid for the movie and hustled Mr. Sticky Fingers out of the store without further incident.

Michael really had been worried that someone might wonder if David was trying to shoplift the garden cart, a thought that had never even occurred to me. Surely, Michael could have explained the situation, pointed to the ID tag that David wears on his shoe or shown them the "Autism Alert" decal in the car window. He certainly could have just paid for the cart because, according to David, you can never have too many garden carts. In retrospect, however, I leave you with this question. "Does the state provide ABA therapy in juvenile detention?"
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