This blog was initially set up as a means of communicating with my son's team. Since then, I've heard from other parents with similar stories. If you are living with challenges or journeying alongside someone who is, you are not alone. There are many of us. I'm a single adoptive Mom ( of a young man who lives with many abilities and many diagnoses. We have journeyed together through many challenges and a few adventures over the years as my son has tried to find space in this world that makes him feel more comfortable, an attempt made especially difficult when living with Attachment Disorder, PDD-NOS (Autism), Developmental Coordination Disorder, ADHD, prenatal substance exposure, etc. Some of the strongest elements used in this journey have been music, visual arts, therapeutic parenting, team-connection, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, communication skills, community-building, continual lifeskills training, and elements of Theraplay. (Click here for some written resources.) On this journey, there is laughter and tears and growth and hope. The greatest of these is hope.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Prompt-Free Dressing Day!

Today Chef got dressed.

When Chef came downstairs this morning, he was wearing a full outfit and a pair of socks. When reminded that he needed to be wearing a clean pair of socks, he quickly removed the ones he'd worn yesterday and put on a clean pair. The sock-reminder was the only verbal prompt.

Also - Chef verbally took responsibility many times throughout today for choices he'd made. Taking responsibility (and other self-esteem bits) has been a very long journey. It's so very good to see Chef coming along in some of these areas.

And chores? Well, no, not today. But as they say, two outta three ain't bad!

Some Resources

If you are new to the world of parenting children living with Attachment Disorder, some of the biggest pieces of preparation you can do for yourself and your family is to practice self-care, read as much helpful information as you can manage, seek out training, seek out and build a network of professional supports, and seek out and build a network of support from friends/family. (If you have friends,family,or community members who want a starting point to understanding how Attachment Disorder presents itself, the following site offers a basic list:

For those looking for a list, here are some resources I've found over the years, not in any particular order:

**I don't necessarily agree with every single opinion/idea/suggestion/recommendation expressed in all of the resources on this page (nor do I remember everything I've read!) but it's still been interesting to learn of other people's views and experiences.

Don't Touch My Heart (Mansfield/Waldmann)
Windows to Our Children (Oaklander)
Parenting Your Adopted Older Child (McCreight)
Lonely, Sad and Angry (Ingersoll/Goldstein)
Troubled Transplants (Delaney/Kunstal)
Secrets of Discipline (Morrish)
If Problems Talked (Zimmerman/Dickerson)
Born to Win (James/Jongeward)
Parenting with Love and Logic (Foster Cline)
High Risk: Children Without a Conscience (Magid/McKelvey)
Chill Out! Taming Anger (Ray Ali)
A Volcano in My Tummy (Pudney)
Nancy Thomas

More to follow.....

The Attachment/Autism/ ADHD/ BrainDamage Combo

I woke Chef at 7:30 this morning so I could check his feet again. Thankfully they seem fine. He has had a bit of frostbite on one of his toes recently, but didn't tell me about it til a few days after he'd realized he had it. We talked again of the importance of wearing socks in the winter. And given the rate at which Chef's clothing disappears and the responses from him about putting on socks in the morning ("Socks first, then boots." "I don't have any socks." "Where are the 7 pairs you just got on the weekend?" "I don't know. I can't find them." "There were at least 4 pairs in your hamper." "After I did my laundry they were gone." Etc., etc), I think a sock basket by the door would be a good idea. A couple of winters ago, Chef had disappeared from school. When he reappeared, we learned that he'd gone off to play on some snowbanks he'd heard about on his schoolbus. He ended up with frostbite on his leg that day because he'd had snow in his boot and didn't remove it.

This is one of the pieces where I still wonder if Chef needs a different type of support around hygiene/dressing than what we've presently discussed as a team. Is it possible that Chef might actually require hands-on supports in areas such as hygiene and dressing? This week, we're sure going to be working once again(still!) on training Chef to use his book of lists/reminders.

Presently, Chef's home program revolves around training/re-training his brain through positive experiences, positive activities, prompts as needed, "is that working for you?" "how well did that work?" "what would have worked better?" conversations, and allowing Chef to live with the natural consequences of his choices over and over and over and over (except in cases where a change needs to be put in place otherwise due to the possibility of choices leading to dangerous results such as frostbite!)

Physically, Chef is definitely capable of washing and dressing himself. But there seems to be such a strong disconnect when it comes to doing "daily routine" things that require effort - or, maybe it's "chores, and whatever falls under the category of taking care of self and belongings." That said, Chef no longer attempts to power struggle over participating in a daily exercise routine (though he is starting to complain about it now as of today because it is needing to be changed) nor over things like being asked to carry or bring in groceries. Chef never argues or "gives attitude" over any request of him whatsoever unless it's something that is regularly required of him (hygiene, daily change of clothes, chores, etc.) or if someone his age is around and he is trying to act cool around them. Back to washing/dressing - it continues to be an ongoing struggle for Chef at 15 years of age.

When Chef was younger, I used pictures/charts/stickers/rewards/incentives/etc., and often I would end up having to dress him when he wouldn't get dressed. Sometimes he would then remove the clothing. We tried all sorts of different fabrics/elastic waistbands/etc. At that time, he was saying that he didn't want to get dressed because he just wanted to stay home - from everywhere (some of you know about the "firehose the clothing" plan as well!). Sometimes he said he just wanted to wear pajamas. Sometimes he said he didn't want to get dressed because he didn't want people to come over to our house. When he was around 8'ish, I stopped dressing him when needed, and started completely letting him live with the consequences of not getting washed/dressed to go somewhere because we (everyone on his team at the time) agreed that he was capable of dressing himself. Flash-forward to today: it is only recently that Chef has expressed any sense of desire/acknowledgement that he does not want to be outside of his home dressed inappropriately (still working on the "inside of his home" part!), but that still isn't strong enough to motivate him. And from the time clothing is taken from the hamper to the laundry room and back to the main floor for a check before going upstairs, it still continues to "disappear" so this week I'm working on another clothing system.

I remember taking Chef to school one day and putting his boots back on his feet numerous times only to have him continually remove them. He said it was because he didn't want to go to school, yet when he removed them again he just walked into the school building not wearing them. His foster mom used to say that he wouldn't keep his shoes on, though he loved tromping about in adults' shoes. He used to fill his boots with stones. He usually goes through numerous pairs of footwear a year. (This year, he's only on his second pair of boots and second winter jacket so far!) He was recently complaining that his shin was bothering him. I reminded him again that he needed to change his exercise program to include different activities. When I asked him what he'd done with his shoes at school, he said he didn't know. When I asked what he's been wearing at school this whole time, he said he's been wearing his boots. I told him my legs would sure hurt too if I wore snow boots all day long. So now I'll be picking up some supportive insoles for his boots/school shoes (though I'm pretty sure those will disappear or be damaged in short order), and his exercise program is being changed this week to include different activities. The "change" part isn't going so well. It took a few years for Chef to embrace the idea of exercise and, after much journeying/adventure, he was presently at a point where he would get up and do exercises on his own in the morning! Now the exercises need to change.

For years, Chef has been taught basic lifeskills using a variety of techniques/reminders/prompts/etc/etc., etc. It often takes Chef a long time to learn/embrace something, but when he does, it usually clicks. He's learned how to read. He now does quite well in math. He will participate in physical activity at times now, and does some form of exercise every day (which I thought was coming from his own "feel good" or something along those lines, but I've been told from others that he only does it at home and only because "his mom makes him do it" - but he does it on his own every morning without prompts, nonetheless). His verbal skills have come a very long way, and his social skills are continuing to come along nicely. All of these are areas where he greatly struggled when he was younger and are areas in which much work and support was required for Chef to see positive results.

So let's see. A hanging clothing storage unit with five shelves in the downstairs closet. Forget the hamper for now. Each shelf will hold a complete outfit. At the end of each day, instead of the clothing going into the hamper, it goes back onto its shelf so I can easily see whether anything is missing. On laundry day, each complete outfit is checked before going to the laundry room, then reorganized back on the shelves afterwards. Sock basket by the door. Daily foot checks. Over-the-top verbal prompting on using his books of lists til Chef tires of hearing it and is willing to pick up his book.

Holidays. Week One.

One week ago today marked the last day of school before Christmas holidays. The time since then has not been a party.

On a positive note, there have been NO TANTRUMS! For this, I am truly thankful.

Otherwise, Chef has spent the past week not getting washed, not getting dressed (and I don't mean in the "pyjama days" sense!), and doing whatever he can to not do chores. He's been averaging a total of about 5-6 hours a day not doing dishes. This is not new, nor is it reserved for the holiday season.

Yesterday was the first day Chef put on an outfit. He'd been reminded the day before that extended family would be coming out for the afternoon. In the morning, he was reminded again and informed that we'd be going over to his sister's place instead of having everyone at our place. At the one-hour-til-departure mark, he was reminded that he had one hour before the cab arrived, and that he needed to have a bath and get dressed. At the 45 minute mark, he was asked if he was ready yet and reminded that he needed to get dressed - reminded again at the half-hour mark and 25 minute mark. At the 20 minute mark, he asked what time the cab would arrive. I told him I hadn't called yet but that we were aiming for 1:00 and he needed to get clean and dressed. He was reminded again at the 15 minute mark that he needed to have a bath and get dressed, and that people sure would not want to see him in a cab or at his sister's place "dressed" the way he was.

At about 10 minutes to one (when I called for a cab, they said the car would be here at 1:05), I used a very firm voice and told Chef to get ready immediately. Now! Now! Now! Chef jogged up the stairs and went to get dressed. I reminded him that he needed to wash the body odour off of himself before putting on his clothes. He poured a shallow bath and splashed some water around. I've heard the non-bath sounds before so I knocked and went in to support him. With the reminder that he needed to quickly bathe, Chef started slowly rubbing the soap up and down one leg. He was reminded that he could bathe himself or have help from me. He started rubbing soap onto his arm. I asked him where his list was for having baths, and reminded him that he needed to start at the top of his head and work down his body, leaving his private areas til last. I'm pretty sure this process would have gone on for quite some time except my oldest daughter suddenly called out that the cab had arrived. Chef started hearing me perform a chorus of "To the Cab, Now!" It's a fairly simple chorus - the same line just repeats pretty much all the way through.

Chef went out the front door, jacket in hand. I went to the back door and started carrying items out that needed to be loaded into the cab. My daughter was loading her baby's carseat into the backseat. Chef was nowhere to be seen.

I ran back into the house, looked through the peephole of the front door, and saw Chef standing on the front step fiddling with his tie. I opened the door, turned him around to face the yard, straightened my arms and released him in the right direction accompanied by another chorus of "To the Cab, Now!" Chef started running across the yard then suddenly called out, "Ow! It hurts my feet!" Then I clued in. He wasn't wearing his boots! They were sitting on the step so I grabbed them and tossed them in the direction Chef was running, told him to get them on and get to the cab immediately, shut the door and locked it, then ran back to the back door to continue getting stuff from the house to the cab. Still no Chef. My daughter and I got everything together, and as I was picking up the last items I needed to carry, Chef showed up by the deck. No boots on his feet. Dude, not cool. Get your boots on! Now!

We spent the rest of the day with family.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12, 2010

Three words.

Tantrum. Free. Weekend.

Three more words.

Chores are completed.

Yesterday we ran a few errands, stopped at a local cafe for a bowl of soup, then headed over to the art center for an afternoon of painting. Chef painted up a storm and made gifts for everyone in our family.

Today's been a relaxing day at home. There were only a few blips with chores. Chef made his school lunches for the week and (drumroll please!) his chores are finished.

What a lovely weekend

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 10, 2010 evening

After school today, Chef and I immediately went out to do some errands. Chef waited for me on the deck and did some exercises while he waited, then we headed over to the thrift shop so he could pick up some rags and some new boots. We bought his most recent pair last month and he has worn them for two or three weeks; the backs are ripped open and, because Chef is in his "no hygiene mode" and not usually wearing socks, they're smelling ripe enough to be noticed by school staff. A couple of years back, a local store was closing down and were selling hiking boots for $3/pair. I bought nine pairs and, if I remember correctly, Chef went through seven of them that year.

While we were walking around town, Chef and I chatted about school and Christmas preparations. Chef has been able to take a digital publishing course that is for students one grade higher than he is, and that is his shining star this term. He was thrilled that he could take the course, and has been thrilled with the actual course itself. Chef has been saving all his digital publishing creations in his room; no small feat for a young man who is drawn to make a piece of paper into tiny bits of paper. He has them all laid out nicely on his dresser. This is the very first time in his life, at least to my memory, that he has ever taken care of something this long without getting rid of it or taking it apart. I have never seen Chef take such pride in anything else that he's created.

We haven't eaten out for a very long, so I decided we'd stop in at a local cafe where two can dine on well-prepared, homemade food for less than $12. Chef was immediately reading all papers he could get his hands on, and was soon describing to me a number of health-food catalogue items along with their prices. Interspersed with this information was a description of the level Chef has achieved in a fantastic computer game he plays at school which simulates life goals such as career, finances, relationships, etc., and how to achieve them. Chef is playing brilliantly, and shared with me how he knows it's good to have a credit rating but not good to use credit cards, the importance of paying his bills and saving for what he wants, etc. Chef feels very successful in his virtual life. He has four diplomas and is now working on his virtual BA which he has already paid off. He is considering a virtual future in IT. When I told him that is probably a good consideration for him after high school as well, he said he didn't know what IT was. I asked what it was in the game he plays. "I don't know. I just know that they make pretty good money."

Chef and I talked about what food we'd like to make for Christmas day and throughout the holidays. Chef was very very focussed on bananas and had some difficulty moving from that topic, but we came up with a good list of possibilities.

When we came home, Chef immediately and quickly did the dishes and finished his laundry without any prompting whatsoever! He still has the floor to sweep tomorrow, then we'll be back at the thrift shop so Chef can pick up some clothes and socks to replace the ones that have recently disappeared, then we're off to the local art center for an afternoon of painting. I'm hoping tomorrow is a tantrum-free day.

December 10, 2010

We have had a fairly peaceful week at home. Chores and "attitude" are being addressed even more firmly than before - and it's "working." The degree to which Chef must miss out on things/events/comfort, etc., before it matters to him enough to make a difference is pretty incredible.

Chef is presently missing out on his free time in the evenings because free time comes after chores and responsibilities have been taken care of. Chef has chosen not to put his laundry in for the past couple of weeks, and most of his clothes have once again "disappeared." The clothing piece truly is a mystery at this point, since Chef almost always has someone in the same room with him here at home now. The best I can figure is that he is still slipping things into nooks and crannies in the storage room where the washer and dryer also live and where he often is by himself with myself or Chef's sister in the next room. Another possibility is that he is once again sneaking them into the garbage bag right before taking the garbage out. On Monday, he had at least five pairs of socks in his room. Last night he informed me that he has none left and doesn't know where they are. I reminded him that I've been reminding him to put them into the hamper and that he's been taking them there. "Yes, but they aren't in there now and I don't know where they are."

Chef has $12 in allowance from the past few weeks. ($2.minimum per week, $8. maximum if he takes care of his chores/responsibilities, with numerous opportunities to earn money through other ways at home). In order to receive his allowance on Saturday, he has to have completed his chores and needs to have not tantrummed or "given attitude" on Friday and Saturday. Hopefully this weekend will see us over at the thrift shop so Chef can buy a bag of rags (to replace the ones he's gotten rid of in his ongoing attempt to not have to do any chores) and more socks and other clothing items to replace the ones that have recently "disappeared." Compared to previous years, he has come such a long way in learning/understanding/accepting the natural consequences of his choices, learning how to be a contributing member of his family/community/society as a whole, etc - if only the hygiene and willingness to do chores would come along as well! Tantrumming continues to be a work in progress. It is clear that Chef is not "out of control" during his tantrums. It seems as though Chef specifically chooses to use tantrums.

Some of the other bigger pieces in past years have been going to school/wanting to just be at home and not do anything, stealing, lying, and hoarding.

What's Made A Difference?

Willingness to Go to School:
-Supportive school staff
-Computer Use at school
-"Not At All Fun" theme at home on days Chef doesn't attend school when expected

-Having an adult supportively velcroed to Chef at home,at school,in the community
(if Chef is on his own and there is something he sees that he wants, it's his)
-Chef does a "self-check" as soon as he walks in the door from school
-I often (not always) watch Chef get off the bus and walk to the house to ensure
he is no longer stashing stolen goods in the yard before coming inside
-A lock on my bedroom door, money kept put away
-Stolen items removed immediately upon discovery, expected resitution

-Having an adult supportively velcroed to Chef
-Chef also does "a self-check" before going upstairs at night, as well as one
when he returns to the main floor if he has been in the basement
-Regular room checks and careful kudos to Chef (because sometimes compliments go
the wrong way in Chef's mind) for any small successes
-Immediate removal and expected restitution for items

-When Chef is caught in a lie, he is reminded that we are all a team and that
a team works together. He is expected to return to the person to whom he
has lied and be truthful.

Overall, Chef appears to be much happier and calmer, and have a growing sense of awareness and pride, as he experiences successes in these areas with the required supports. He seems to have a stronger understanding and acceptance of what is acceptable (what works) and not acceptable (what doesn't work) when it comes to how Chef interacts with his environment and the people around him. The hope is that a lot of the rote learning will be habitual by adulthood so Chef has a few less issues to deal with as an adult in the world.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pants - December 7, 2010

On Monday, I reminded Chef that he was not to wear his beige pants anymore. He'd been wearing them for numerous days already (and probably nights) and there were spots on them that were questionable at best. Chef said he only had a pair of jeans to wear then and reminded me that he didn't have any other clothes and we reviewed the reasons for that (most have "disappeared" again and Chef hasn't been putting in his laundry). "Well, jeans it is then. You're not wearing the beige ones again."

On Tuesday morning, Chef came out of his room wearing his beige pants. "Did you need help taking those off?" I asked. "No," replied Chef as he shuffled back into his room. A couple of minutes later, he came out of his room, stood in the hallway and said, "Mom, did something spill on my pants?" "Pardon?" "Did something spill on my pants?" "Well, whose pants are they?" "Mine." "And where were they?" "In my room." "So why are you asking me about them?" "I don't know. I just wondered if something spilled on them during a room check."

This was all sounding a little odd.

"No, why are you asking?" "They smell." "I would smell too if I were a pair of pants bunched up in your room the last few weeks." "Yeah but I washed them before they went in my room and I haven't worn them since then." "Ok, but your clothes will take on some smells if they're left bunched up in a room." "Oh."

Chef went outside. When I walked into the front entrance - whoa. Ok, the pants definitely smell. I left a voicemail for his resource teacher warning him.

December 9, 2010


Something is happening.

Chef made his bed.

I don't mean that in the typical, "Oh my word, my teenager made his bed!" way.

Those of you who know us know that Chef has gone through numerous mattresses. They usually start to meet their demise through Chef's need to pull at threads/lint/fluff/anything small really. Once a tiny hole exists, it usually must be poked and prodded until it's a larger hole at which point it usually then becomes a tuck-away place for other string/thread/fluff/anything small really. Historically, the mattress eventually turns into something akin to a large pocket/backpack in which to store various items while the mattress itself is being slowly (though sometimes quickly) taken apart. Parallel to this part of the mattress's adventure, it is usually being christened with various bodily outputs including but not limited to urine, blood, etc., etc., etc. The mattress eventually ends its adventure by being disposed of for sanitary reasons or being increasingly dismantled by Chef.

There have been many times when Chef has spent many nights sleeping on his bedroom floor when he was younger, stating that he was more comfortable. When he was very young, he used to say his bed was too high. His most recent bed was a low bed. He still often slept on the floor, sometimes on top of his vent. Other times, he could be seen sleeping partly under his bed with a stack of heavy books over his vent. Sometimes he slept in his bed.

With the complete destruction of his bed a few weeks back, Chef has been sleeping on his floor. We've kept the coil frame up against a wall in his room in case we came up with an idea for an "indestructible" mattress/cover of some sort. Chef initially stated again that he wanted to sleep on the floor anyway. As a mom, it's been very difficult to see your child making certain choices, and for me this has been one of them. But with strong support from other team members, I've managed to just accept it.

So - I've been using even firmer boundaries with Chef lately. Any slight hint whatsoever of any type of "attitude" - every single solitary little teensy hint of anything inappropriate - is met with the reminder that Chef can choose to be appropriate or take himself outside to do something physical. There is no second chance or warning when it comes to showing "attitude" while doing a chore. Anything that appears to be passive-aggressive in nature is also met with the same response. So far it's been lots of "Take it outside" from me - and lots of agreement and seeming shift in "attitude" from Chef! There have been a couple of very minor and very short-lived pepperings of whining or foghorning, but Chef seems to be accepting the fact that additional issues outside just keep him outside longer. I am hoping this will "work well enough" to break some of Chef's chore-resistance habits before the temps start dropping too low.

The other thing I'm doing is having Chef start his chores before supper. Chef used to come home carrying every issue that bothered him at school, and we sometimes spent entire evenings or more dealing with those issues. That all ended when I started having Chef take a rest as soon as he gets home from school. When he walks in the door, we only have a very brief "how was your day" check-in then Chef heads off to his room. There are times when Chef sleeps close to two hours! Other times, I can hear him snoring for a bit then he's just quiet in his room for awhile before coming downstairs. We've basically carved out a two-hour timeframe for after-school resting; a margin which alleviated the after-school issues. As soon as Chef was up, we would either start supper or eat supper then Chef would spend the rest of the many evenings not doing a chore. As of this week, Chef is to do a chore before supper. Supper time comes when it's suppertime, not when Chef is ready. If Chef is still doing his chore when it is suppertime, then that's how he's chosing to spend his suppertime. This never would have "worked" awhile back, but this week it seems to be sinking in with Chef that it's time to take this all seriously. On Tuesday, we needed to run a quick errand after school and Chef was reminded again that he needed to remove certain inappropriate items from his room when we got home. He said he didn't want to. I told him that I wasn't asking whether he wanted to and that I already understood that he didn't want to, but he still needed to remove the items. He was given an extra hour after rest-time to do this, even though it wouldn't have taken more than 5-10 minutes to accomplish if he went slowly. When the hour was up, I called Chef downstairs without saying anything about his room. He asked if he could make supper. I told him I'd already eaten. Chef looked surprised. I reminded him that he still needed to get the dishes done from the day before and that, since he was still on Monday's chores, he wasn't ready to start Tuesday evening yet, and that his supper wouldn't be waiting for him until he decided to be ready to eat. I told him he had 20 minutes to finish up the dishes that he left from Monday and that he could choose to get them done in the 20 minutes or start using his eating time. 20 minutes later, Chef was sent outside to find his willingness to do the dishes. Since he showed good attitude outside, he was called in less than a minute later and informed that he had another five minutes to either finish the dishes or go back outside, keeping in mind that he was now using his suppertime which would be over in a few minutes. I do not believe in withholding food, etc., but I do believe in allowing Chef to learn that his use of time defines some of his choices. Chef suddenly took this very seriously and got the dishes "done" then ate and spent the rest of the evening in his room.

WHEN HE CAME DOWNSTAIRS WEDNESDAY MORNING - he was carrying the inappropriate items with him that he'd removed from his room!!! On Wednesday after school, Chef had his usual rest-time in his room, then came down and was informed that I'd checked the dishes and most of them had received the "dip dip dry" treatment so he was still on Tuesday's chore and wasn't ready to start his Wednesday afternoon yet. He was outside twice but showed very good attitude outside immediately so was only outside very briefly then came in and (are you sitting down?) actually WASHED the dishes!! They were clean!! He had a few blips around wiping a counter and the stove, but the dishes themselve were clean. Chef ate and spent the evening in his room. (Free time activities happen when Chef has completed chores without taking forever/giving attitude/pretending to do the chore/etc.) When Chef went up to his room, I immediately heard a banging sound so I called him down. He said he had sat down on his bed. I pointed out it sounded much louder than a "sit" and he responded with definite grump. Out he went. When he came back in, he told me he'd made his bed during rest-time. I'm sure I blinked a few times. "You made your bed?" "Yeah, I put my bedding on it." "Well, that is awesome! Let's see!" Chef and I went into his room and I couldn't believe my eyes. There were only a couple small balls of string/whatnot on his floor and no other bits of paper or chunks of mattress foam or anything else! He had moved his furniture around! The piano keyboard was sitting nicely on the bench instead of leaning on its side in the corner of the room. And his bed had bedding on it!! "Wow! What brought this on?" "I don't know. I just wanted a better room and I got tired of sleeping on the floor." "You mean you slept on the coils?" "Yeah. It felt better on my back." "So are you thinking you'd like to replace your mattress or just leave your room as it is now?" "Yeah, I'm hoping to get another mattress." "Hoping? Is it just going to happen?" "No, I meant I'm going to get another mattress when I have enough money." We then talked about what was left on Chef's list that he had to repay to others for stealing, what items he needed to replace, and how he had much less "debt" owing to other people this year than any other year at this time. Needless to say, I told him I was very proud of him.

Mornings this week have seen a change as well. Historically, Chef has waited til the last minute to get ready for school. We started to see a change in this when his bus driver one year told him he wouldn't wait for him anymore and I told him that if he missed the bus he would stay home and do chores because school is his work and if he's not at school working when he's supposed to be, then he's working at home. There were some changes here and there with that plan, but it obviously made things more tricky at home. This year, he has a driver that waits patiently for him. Chef is in no rush at all this year til he sees the bus arrive. He usually doesn't eat breakfast or put on clean clothes or wash or brush his teeth or use deodorant, etc., etc., regardless of reminders, incentives, smell, possible discomfort, hunger, etc. He recently has been getting up on time again and independently doing exercises, but getting ready? There are all sorts of subcategories to the "getting ready for school" mornings. This week, new plan. Chef gets up later and goes out to wait for the bus. I put his lunch (that he's made) outside for him and he can either choose to take it or leave it. This provides a quiet morning for myself, my daughter, and my grandchild. I'll do this for the rest of this week then see whether Chef initiates some sort of discussion or desired shift. I am thinking that if he doesn't, what I might do is do alternating weeks of "immediately outside" mornings then a week of alternating days ("immediately outside" on Monday, opportunity to have a morning inside to get ready, etc) and return to really really playing up the breakfast foods again. Maybe enough of the "inside is really nice and so are tasty breakfasts" mornings will someday override the "I don't want to do anything" mornings.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December, 2010

So where are things at otherwise....

Chef continues to do a good job at cooking. He was even garnishing for awhile but isn't any longer. He does tend to forget some things if he hasn't prepared a certain food for awhile. He doesn't access his notebook or written information that he needs, but will now check the cooking instructions for rice without issue when reminded; there had been some sort of rice problem a few weeks back. I haven't been teaching him any new skills recently, but we'll be working on some holiday items together.
Chef's interest/skills in origami have resurfaced following a Christmas party at an art gallery where one of the activities was to make origami decorations for the gallery's tree.
Chef is getting top marks in science this year, and has been bringing home gifts of art for me. Chef continues to be a voracious reader, and is strong in computer skills at school.
Chef is able to talk about nutritional information and some environmental effects of choices we make.
This year, Chef seems to be developing more interest in appropriate self-development rather than aiming for "clown" or "cool" mode. I don't know if this is true at school as well.

Winter Tantrums:
There was a time when Chef would go outside in the winter without outerwear to tantrum. He would go onto the deck and stand or sit on the deck and immediately start whining/foghorning/yelling about how cold he was. If I opened the door and held out his jacket and reminded him to put it on, he would either grump and turn away then return to whining/foghorning/yelling or take the jacket and throw it into the yard or onto the deck, then return to whining/foghorning/yelling. Chef now puts on his outerwear before going outside. **Also, Chef has now been wearing boots rather than sandals since the second snowfall. He did put on his sandals that morning and started running out to the bus but he did come back and put on his boots when I kept calling him back and holding out his boots. He has also been wearing socks since last week.

If I remain in the same room as Chef, he does a good job at any chore on his list. He will still try different "games" with dishes though, and it feels as though he just likes the attention and diversion of having someone sitting there.

"Obeying Mom"
Chef will do pretty much anything that is asked of him (as long as it is not something that he deems to be a chore); make tea, take out a diaper, carry in groceries and unload them, carry bags, cook, shovel snow, etc., etc., etc., and indpendently does a good job of it. If I tell him to put down the hot sauce bottle because he's using a lot, he immediately puts it down. If I ask him to remove his socks to make sure he hasn't hidden anything inside them, he immediately removes them without issue (I guess this might be different if he'd actually hidden something hidden in his sock).
This weekend after Chef's tantrum, I wondered how Chef would have responded if I'd asked him to come in and make some tea while he was in mid-tantrum. I have a sense that he might have stopped and come in and made tea. There have been times when he is tantrumming on the deck and his sister has opened the door and asked him to take a bag to the recyling bin for her, and Chef has stopped his tantrum, said "ok," and quietly run the bag to the bin then resumed his tantrum when he returned to the deck. Maybe enough of those types of disruptions would be beneficial; of course, the other side is that he would then be expecting folks to "fix" his tantrum, and he'd be getting additional attention. At any rate, Chef does do whatever he's asked as long as it's not something he views as a chore.

Social Interactions
Coming along nicely. Awkwardness is not as noticeable this year.

Chef still doesn't seem to be at all concerned about hygiene. If he does care about hygiene, it doesn't show. Once in awhile he will brush his teeth. He still seems to have no concern regarding his clothing, nor any interest in replacing the clothing items that have "disappeared."

Chef has independently started keeping jugs in his room to urinate in them during the night. I'm ok with that; it solves his "I don't feel like walking to the bathroom" issue and lets me sleep better at night without waking to him getting up then having to make sure he returned to his room afterwards. The concern is in getting him to remove the jugs from his room once they are full. He does not do this on his own, and resists when reminded to remove them. He doesn't keep them tucked away, they're out in the open. Sometimes he removes the caps to put various items into the jugs.

As long as "problem" food is locked up and Chef is consistently monitored, food is not an issue. We are able to keep canned goods in the cupboards but have to keep the can opener hidden or Chef will eat canned goods in the washroom or while doing dishes. Uncooked pasta now seems to be ok to have in the kitchen without being eaten. I had put spices away for awhile but have reintroduced most back into the kitchen without issue. The food in the fridge is generally just produce, eggs, and leftovers, none of which seem to be a concern. Bananas still cannot be kept in the kitchen. Any jam or jelly or anything else that is sweet or dessert-like has to be hidden away in the fridge or will be sneakingly removed and emptied when Chef discovers it. Cooked/leftover meat is not safe in the freezer; Chef will sneak it out and eat it. We have actually had a loaf of bread in the freezer for about two weeks now. This amazes me. Those who have read through my blog know my son's focus on bread if it's around.
A couple weeks ago, my daughter put english muffins in the back of the freezer under other items. When she couldn't find them, Chef told her that he'd thrown them out for her because he thought he saw some mould on them. I informed Chef that they wouldn't get mould on them from being in the freezer.
Last week we had stale bread from a french loaf my daughter had bought, and toast that was completely blackened on one side from being forgotten under the broiler. I tossed it around the yard for the birds. When Chef went out to shovel, he picked the bread out of the snow and ate it.
We do not have items such as frozen waffles, prepackaged/ready-to-eat food. If we did, I have no doubt that Chef would be focussing on those.
Before Chef goes upstairs, I always check the stairs and have Chef do a personal check to make sure he's not stashing anything. There is never an issue around Chef doing a check, he just does it. Chef will still occasionally sneak through the house for food, but very rarely compared to times in the past.
Because Chef does not (or takes weeks/months to) do chores to earn money to repay items he's stolen, the immediate consequence is that Chef is informed that the type of item he's taken will no longer be available for a long time because he has too much difficulty with having it in the house.
This seems to have been effective for the time being, evidenced by Chef no longer eating spices and by Chef sneaking less food into the washroom or under/into the sink, etc. to eat while doing dishes.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

December 5, 2010

Part B

There wasn't a sound from Chef's room until around 9:30 this morning. A few minutes later, I was in the washroom and heard Chef's door open then close. I left the washroom quietly and peeked in his room. No Chef. I walked downstairs and saw him quickly disappearing around a corner. I walked through the kitchen and into the living to find Chef just starting to duck down between the china cabinet and loveseat. He was wearing only socks and had a blanket wrapped around him (he has gone through/gotten rid of numerous pairs of pajamas). I told him to go back up to his room, followed him upstairs, and told him to get dressed. A few minutes later, I told him it was time for a room check because I didn't know if he'd been sneaking downstairs other times during the night. He made an angry face and grumped at me. I reminded him that he was the one who was breaking rules and when he gets caught breaking a rule, it is not ok to take that out on someone else. He grumped again. I told him he could fix his grump or take it outside. He went outside and immediately did some jumping jacks and I called him in a couple of minutes later after I'd checked his room. There were the usual disturbing items but nothing out of the ordinary. Chef came inside in good space. I asked him to return to his room and to sing so I would know that he was in his room. He is presently singing in his room without issue while I'm doing up this morning's blog entry.

It would be great if Chef participates in school-lunch prep today. He hasn't at all for the past few weekends. When he doesn't participate at all, I don't either. That leaves Chef having to prepare his school lunch the night before or in the mornings. He's been leaving it til mornings, then just grabbing an apple or an apple and some crackers or occasionally some leftovers. He hasn't had consistently good school lunches for two weeks now because of his weekend choices. I wonder if he's tired enough of that to make a change and do some lunch prep today.

***UPDATE: After a late lunch today, Chef shovelled the neighbours' front porch (very small) and made a pathway to the parking lot, then came in and independently made his school lunches without issue. He offered to make supper ("to help make up for how I acted today") and was reminded that he gladly could but he would still need to do weekend chores (two household chores - he is also technically supposed to be doing extra chores to pay back for stolen/damaged items, etc., but is behind just on his regular day-to-day stuff at this point). Chef cooked liver, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables for supper. It was great. When it was time for dishes, Chef moved very quickly and had the kitchen finished up in about 20 minutes. When I checked the dishes, they weren't clean (I don't mean in a "teenager not cleaning dishes" way or that there were a few missed spots, etc. There were lots of food bits, etc. ) It was great that the usual dragging out of the chore hadn't accompanied the "not cleaning" but it was very clear that Chef again hadn't made an effort to actually wash the dishes. There were no rags for Chef to clean the little washroom downstairs because he's gotten rid of the rags and we weren't over at the thrift shop so he could replace them because he was tantrumming on Saturday. It's all a chain. At this point, I really do believe that it is mostly all a ploy to do whatever it takes to get out of chores. I've suspected that over the years when it came to some things; as time goes on, I'm more convinced. I could be wrong. I realize chores involve a lot of steps and some planning, which is why Chef has written helps to use (which he doesn't use, but he no longer whines, etc., when reminded of using helps), but sneaking through the house to take stuff also requires steps and planning. Repeatedly throwing hard snow/ice at windows also requires steps and planning, evidenced by Chef taking the time to find the "right" pieces and tossing unworthy pieces onto the ground. Independently making his own school lunches requires far more steps and planning, yet Chef is very successful in that area when he makes his lunches on the weekends, and very successful when independently cooking meals otherwise as well.

And so, the chore saga continues...

December 5, 2010

Part A

The past few weekends have all had tantrums. Wait, there was one tantrum-free weekend that took place right after Chef's appointment with his mental health worker and "new" psychiatriast. Chef had stated after the appointment that he was embarassed by what had been discussed during the appointment. That weekend, there were no tantrums. There was the usual not wanting to do chores, etc., but no tantrums. That was new. Usually, after appointments in which concerns are discussed, Chef displays his feelings disrespectfully.

That was a few weekends ago, and there has been a tantrum every weekend since. All the tantrums have been chore/responsibility-related or stealing-related. Chef hates chores or anything that he deems to resemble a chore, and Chef becomes angry if something he has stolen has not been used by him prior to the item being discovered missing. Otherwise, things are going quite well. At this point, all tantrums are redirected to outside of our home because Chef has been destructive inside our home in the past.

Last weekend, we were enjoying a very pleasant weekend together - until around 1pm on Saturday when I discovered $20. was missing from my wallet(which I thought I had hidden well enough, but obviously hadn't). It was about four hours before Chef stopped behaving inappropriately and close to another hour before he admitted that he'd taken the money and hidden it. He tried explaining to me that he needs money to have like other kids. I agreed. I also reminded him that other kids don't spend weeks on end trying to avoid doing a chore, and that they do what they can to earn money rather than stealing it. I asked if he needed me to remind him of the allowance/money-earning system in our home. "No, it's ok," was the reply. On Sunday morning, Chef didn't come out of his room til just before noon and was still showing anger about the money. He was reminded that he could use his anger management tools/activities to help himself feel better and turn things around, or he could take himself outside. He stormed out of the house and started repeatedly kicking the door and ringing the doorbell and raging for just over an hour. Thankfully, the neighbour and I had already arranged for Chef to be at her place Sunday afternoon from 1pm til bedtime. When I opened the door and told Chef he could head over to the neighbours', he stopped, yelled that he was hungry, and that he didn't want to go to the neighbours' place. I agreed that I would be hungry too if I'd spent my lunchtime tanrumming instead of eating. A few minutes later he went over to the neighbours' house. A few days later, he told me he's never tantrumming again because he didn't like having to suddeny go to the neighbours' house. I didn't respond to the comment.

This past Thursday evening, Chef and I went with friends to a Christmas party at an art gallery. The staff were instructing folks on how to make origami ornaments to decorate the gallery's gigantic tree. Chef dove in with enthusiasm. Origami is one of his interests and he is very skilled at picking it up quickly. When he is shown something to make from paper, he will initially make quite a few. If he runs out of paper, he'll just rip some to the necessary sizes to make more. I've been amazed at how tiny some of his cranes have been. Once the novelty wears off, he doesn't do origami again until someone other than me does more and then he's back into making beautiful pieces again. On Thursday, Chef learned how to make an origami Christmas ball and an origami pop-star, and made quite a few for the gallery's tree then brought some home and has been making a few pop-stars since. When I encouraged him to show some of the folks at school how to make then, he said he wasn't going to show anyone at school. I have a sense we'll have a nice number of them to hang in our home for the season though.

On Friday, Chef informed me that there were no rags (again) to do any chores, and he'd already taken close to an hour in the kitchen without having actually washed any dishes. I hadn't been feeling well since Thursday night, and just sent Chef to bed early on Friday. Chef was up at 6am doing exercises on Saturday morning. From my room, I called to Chef to go back in his room til later because it was too early to be doing exercises on a Saturday. Chef went back to his room. At 7am, Chef was out in the hallway doing exercises again. I told Chef he needed to wait until I was up before starting his day. Chef said, "OK" and returned to his room. I was up around 9, but there was no sound from Chef's room until just after 11am, at which point there was banging. When I knocked on his bedroom door, there was no answer. My second knock was met with a loud banging in Chef's room. I opened the door to see Chef sitting on his floor wearing just a shirt and banging his heel against the floor with an angry look on his face. I told him he needed to use his tools and behave appropriately or take himself outside. He looked down at his feet and banged again. I told him to take it outside. Chef stood up, put on a pair of pants and socks, walked down the stairs, put on his outerwear, went outside, then immediately started yelling that he was cold. I opened the door and told him this was his one reminder to work off his anger and then he could come in, that doing something physical would warm him up, and that the sooner he shows he's being appropriate, the sooner he'd be inside. Chef continued to yell and make "foghorn" sounds. He continued yelling and "foghorning" for awhile, then started picking up snow and throwing it at the house. A few minutes later, he started throwing small balls of hard snow at the door, then the window, then would quietly look for large chunks of hard snow and/or ice and hurl them at the window. I wasn't too concerned at that point because he was far enough away that it wasn't making an impact and I figured he'd quickly tire of the physical energy required. Wrong. He was shortly seeking out large chunks of the hard stuff and coming closer to the house to hurl them at the window and at the neighbours' window. I called the police and explained the situation, and that my son needed the message from them that this was not appropriate. I had the blinds closed at a certain angle that allowed me to see out if I stood in a certain place. Chef would scan the living room window, then step back and look up at my bedroom window and hurl snow then look at the living room window again or at the neighbours' house. I saw that after my son would throw at the neighbours' window, he'd then grin and laugh as he turned to pick up more snow. When he'd throw at our window, he'd yell and "foghorn." I called the neighbour to let them know that the police were on their way. When the police arrived, my son told them that he was angry because he knew he had to do exercises. Needless to say, I informed the officers that he usually does an exercise program on his own every morning and that I hadn't allowed him to exercise as early as he'd wanted that morning. I also mentioned Chef's "do anything to get out of chores at all cost" way of thinking and the steps that needed to happen before Chef could come back into the house. I also informed the officers that Chef's usually employed the yelling of, "I'm hungry!" when tantrumming outside if he has tantrummed through a mealtime and missed his meal. The officers were very clear with Chef about the importance of listening to his Mom, and directed him to start doing some physical exercise. They also informed him that if he'd broken either of the windows, they'd be cuffing him and taking him to the youth detention center where he'd have to stay in a tiny room by himself and would only be allowed out for meals and a short break each day. (Unfortunately, that information has never been much of a deterrent for Chef, even when his mental health worker talked with him about it when he was around 8 or so. Chef has stated in the past that he'd like to be able to just sit and do nothing all day.) I informed the officers that the last time I'd called in officers, Chef had started up again as soon as they'd left and that Chef needed to know that we were all on the same page about what would then happen. The officers talked with Chef more about being appropriate and stated that they would be returning to deal with him again if he continued once they left. They stayed and talked with me a few minutes while Chef got into a jumping jacks groove and seemed to be turning things around. I thanked them, they left, Chef continued exercising, and a friend of mine came over to hang out in the house for awhile so Chef would be more willing to get his chores done. Chef came in appropriately and started cleaning up the kitchen appropriately. Then began a few "games" here and there; flitzing dirt from the kitchen doormat out into the living room, removing his dirty sock from his foot to use as a rag because he'd gotten rid of the rags so he wouldn't have to do chores, pretending to be cleaning the bathroom upstairs while we were downstairs but instead going into my bedroom, which I had mistakenly left unlocked, and removing items then hiding them in the bathroom for later retrieval, etc. Chef lied about being in my bedroom and made an angry face. Back outside to deal, but this time he immediately did some exercises. When I asked him if he was ready to come inside and be appropriate and honest, he asked if my friend was still there. I asked him again if he was ready to come inside and be appropriate and honest. He angrily asked if my friend was still there. I closed the door. Chef turned to face the house, pulled his toque over his head, and started foghorning while jumping - then started losing his balance, stopped, put his hat on properly, turned around, and did jumping jacks. A few minutes later, Chef was honest about what items he'd taken from my room and where he'd put them, and started dishes. He finished dishes just before 6pm, had supper, and went to his room. Chores finshed so far this weekend: dishes. Sort of. I still need to weed out the ones that received the "dip,dip,dry" treatment. Chores started: floors.