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.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

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.

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