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, January 6, 2011

Miracles and Mayhem

On January 4th, we had a blip when Chef got up. He couldn't/wouldn't do anything at all other than loud incessant whining - and then it came out. "I don't want to go anywhere! I don't want to go to (another city)! I just want to stay home!" When I asked him what he was talking about, he said that his aunt had mentioned over the holidays that maybe we'd all get together to go see a movie. I assured him that wasn't happening that day and there were no definite plans made about that at all. An hour later, Chef was dressed and ready to start his day and had what seemed to be a very enjoyable day. During that time, Chef talked a lot about how he was feeling about the possibility of having a new weekend respite home.

"I don't like being around people who smoke like the people at that other place."

"I hope they're not mean to me like those other people were."

"I hope they're not rich because if I break something it will cost a lot to replace it."

"I hope they're not like (Chef's present respite provider) cuz they just make me sit around and watch tv or play video games all the time and they don't have any books for me to read."

"I hope they're someone I know. Maybe they can be like (Chef's sister and brother-in-law) because it's quiet there and I know them already and they don't make a lot of noise or anything."

"I hope they're not rich because rich people have servants and I've read books about slaves and I know that's wrong."

Ah, a glimpse into how Chef's mind processes. We chatted for quite awhile about all of those concerns, and I reminded Chef of what would happen if and when a new respite home is found; I'd meet them, we'd talk, Chef would meet them, etc., and that it would all happen over a period of time. In hindsight, I should have been more specific about the "period of time" comment. Later that day, Chef asked if I knew when his new worker would be coming to the school to see him again. When I said I didn't know, he asked if I could find out because he doesn't like not knowing, and he didn't want to suddenly have to go to a new respite place. When I reminded him again of the process that would take place, Chef said, "So when (my worker) comes again it doesn't mean that I'll have to go with him to the new place?" "No, not at all. He's just coming to spend some time with you to get to know you."

Today, Chef got up and got dressed and all the good stuff that's been happening this week. Today is day number four in a row that Chef has gotten up and independently put on a clean outfit without issue plus eaten regular meals plus plus plus. The "independently put on a clean outfit without issue" thing is huge. Huge! We decided to use a gift certificate today that we received for a local restaurant.

When we came home after lunch, we spent some time looking for a house key that has mysteriously disappeared, then decided a nap would be a good plan. There are some germs floating around these days, and Chef took an extra day off at home after the holidays because he's been coughing and sniffling. I ended up nodding off in the living room and woke less than an hour later. A few minutes after I woke up, our neighbour came to the door and asked if I'd seen what was outside our back door - there were sheets tied together hanging from Chef's second-storey bedroom window. I went up to check and Chef was gone. His parka and boots as well as his shoes were all by the front door. This meant he was out in the snow in just his socks, pants, and a short-sleeved shirt.

To make a long story short, I found him at the local library. He explained that he thought he could hide there and no one would find him and then he wouldn't have to go to a new weekend respite home. I immediately notified the local police that I'd found him then we headed home.

When we got home, Chef warmed his feet, had a good cry and accepted a hug (and even hugged back!), then sat quietly sipping a mug of tea while I contacted all the folks who'd been out looking for him. When I asked him to tell me more about his plan, he said he thought he could just hide at the library and not have to go to a new respite home. I asked him what he thought would happen when the library closed. His eyes looked surprised then he looked down at the floor and said he hadn't thought of that. I explained that he could have fallen when he climbed up into the window frame and that he could have fallen while climbing down the sheets. I explained that sometimes people with autism have wandered off and been lost for a long time, and that he could have been hurt or died if it had been colder and he had been out longer. Then I asked him what would be happening before he would ever have to go to a new respite home, and he gave a good explanation of what he's been told but said that he forgot at the time and doesn't always remember stuff. I told him I understood that but that even if he didn't remember, he did know that tying sheets to his dresser wasn't a good plan and climbing out his window wasn't a good plan and being outside in winter without boots/jacket wasn't a good plan. "What should you have done when you were still feeling worried?" "Not done that, and I should've talked to you."

The next concern was what to do about sleeping tonight. We rent, so I can't just run down to the local hardware store then spend the evening wiring up an outside alarm system or installing security bars on the outside of Chef's window. On top of that, it's a second-storey window (I specifically sought out a 2-storey place because where we used to live was a one-storey bungalow and Chef had climbed out his bedroom window a few nights/early mornings to get candy at the local 7-11 during a time when he was being introduced to a new med). There isn't another room where Chef can sleep because he goes through belongings. He'd tied his bedding to his dresser frame (he'd previously destroyed the drawers but had been keeping school papers on the top of his dresser), so we've moved the dresser into the hallway for now in hopes that Chef won't try to climb out his window again during the night by tying his sheets (he only has one sheet and one blanket in his room tonight instead of two top sheets) to his computer desk or closet organizer or mattress coils (he previously stripped the mattress bare down to its coils but we've kept it in case we can figure out an "indestructible" mattress material that can be shaped over the coil frame).

It was interesting for myself today to realize that I didn't feel nervous or scared. It felt horrible to know my son was out in the snow in his socks and I wasn't convinced that his body's need for warmth would take priority in his mind over his desire for candy (which I thought at the time was his goal), and it bothered me that I wasn't sure where to start looking because Chef already knows that the local stores would call if he showed up there without an adult. But I knew that the local police had two cars out looking for Chef, and that a crew of other folks were out looking for him after I'd made only three other phonecalls - thankfully this happened on a weekday when a call to a couple of local places was able to reach a number of good-hearted folks! That type of support means the world to a single parent raising a child who lives with so many challenges. There are definitely benefits to living in a small town.

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