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, August 24, 2011

August 24, 2011

Yes. I ate the cookies.

Not all of them. At least, not yet.

It's interesting how the brain operates. I felt fully justified in eating the ones I ate, having heard my son repeatedly call me "fuckhead" during today's tantrum, but I was also keenly aware that if I ate them all it would be from a vengeful place and that's not how I want to live my life. My mind also wandered into one of those ol' dark humour spaces - what exactly is a "fuckhead" anyway?

We spent the first week of August house/pet-sitting for friends in another city. Chef did fantastically well all week. He was a very responsible pet-sitter with feeding and grooming and walking. He was thrilled to see a tv in the living room and even moreso when he discovered it was connected to "netflix" as well as a dvd player. He talked a lot about how happy he was that we were able to walk a couple of blocks and find such an abundance of organic produce, and happily overdosed on toasted tomato sandwiches. He agreeably went on fairly long walks almost every day. And then it happened - he found a candy stash. Unaware of the amount of sugar coursing through Chef's veins, I picked up three small wrappers off the floor in the room where he'd been sleeping during the week. I approached Chef holding the wrappers in an open palm and raised my eyebrows. "What? It wasn't me." My eyebrows went higher. "I DIDN'T DO IT!! I KNOW YOU WON'T BELIEVE ME! IT WASN'T ME!" And that was the start of a 3+ hr meltdown in the yard outside of the house where we were staying. From what I was able to piece together between wrappers and Chef's eventual conversation, he'd eaten a sleeve of graham crackers, a large Lindt chocolate bar, a box of granola bars, and various pieces of random candy. Needless to say, he was fairly exhausted following his afternoon of bellowing/swearing/kicking/throwing/ hollering in the yard - and seemed quite stunned to learn that we'd be going out to the first night of a cultural festival that evening regardless, but he handled it. He handled the crowds, the late evening, the noise, the busyness, the action, the friends greeting him and attempting to start a conversation with him. Oh, and he also handled the fact that he wasn't allowed any desserts or treats at the pavillion.

Last week, a 2 hour tantrum. I don't remember right now if it started with the crumpets I'd found wrapped in a teatowel and tucked under the hallway cupboard outside Chef's room or whether it was chore-related. It came two days after a weekend of getting home at 4am two mornings in a row at the end of the cultural festival.

Today, another 2 hour tantrum with much swearing and verbal-machine-gun-firing and yelling, and a few moments of throwing sticks at the house. Last night, Chef hadn't wanted to sweep the floor. He was reminded that he needed to do it tonight or it would be an additional chore waiting for him the next day. He swept a bit then came upstairs and said the floor was done. I checked. It wasn't. This morning, he said he would sweep where he hadn't swept last night. A few minutes later he said the floor was done. I checked and pointed out that there was a magnet on the floor. Cue the tantrum. Chef went into immediate anger mode of yelling, posturing, and general disrespect. A couple hours later, we had a post-tantrum chat where Chef stated that he had been angry because he shouldn't have had to pick up a magnet that wasn't his and that he hadn't put on the floor. When reminded that the magnet belonged to his 17 month old niece, Chef said he hadn't thought of that. We also explored the choice of spending two hours of being disrespectful in order to try to avoid taking a couple of seconds to pick up a magnet. Chef very humbly responded that he hadn't thought of that either. I also had a look at Chef's arm. At the beginning of the tantrum, Chef was asked to go out to the deck. He chose, instead, to stand in the doorway with a very dark facial expression and crossed arms. I put my hands on his shoulders to lead him out of the doorway. He yanked his shoulder and complained about being hurt but did turn and walk to the deck. Later on, I noticed from an upstairs window that Chef had his hand inside his nightshirt and was moving it around by his arm. Shortly afterwards, his yelling started to include statements about how he didn't want to live with me anymore because he shouldn't have to live with someone who would hurt him and that he wanted to talk with one of his workers. I told him I'd already called all his workers and was only getting their voicemails. "I DON'T GIVE A FLYING F---!!! GET HIM ON THE PHONE, YOU F---HEAD!!!" When Chef was able to be back on our deck respectfully, I pointed out that I had seen him from the upstairs window when he had his hand inside his nightshirt. When we chatted once he was able to come inside, I asked him to show me where he was hurt. He explained that his shoulder had felt a bit tight when I'd put my hands on his shoulders. I asked him again to show me where he was hurt - it was his underarm. There was a hive and what appeared to be either light scratching marks or a bit of redness in the folds/lines of his skin. Chef said he hadn't realized that - he just thought that his underarm was bothering him because he hadn't liked it when I put my hands on his shoulders to walk him out the door. We reviewed that it would have worked better to to not struggle against having help to walk out the door, and it would have worked even better to have walked out the door on his own but that either way, having someone put their hands on his shoulders is not going to cause a problem in his underarm. At the end of our post-tantrum chat, I asked what he wanted to do now. "I want to eat but I know I tantrummed through a meal and now I have to wait til snacktime so I'll just do dishes." Wow. WOW!!! I told him that my next question was going to be, "and what WILL you be doing now" and that he had already answered the question very appropriately. I asked him how he planned to repay me for my time spent during his tantrum today - he said I could have the homemade cookies his sister had made for him. WORKS FOR ME!!!! I mean, er, good for Chef!! That was a huge step for him to give up something so valuable to him. I didn't give any specific reply regarding the cookies. And I really did try very hard not to eat even one - and then, I gave in as per the "it's interesting how the brain operates" paragraph. Later in the afternoon, I was on the phone with one of Chef's other team members and asked Chef if he wanted to talk with her. He declined, stating that he only wanted to talk with "T." When I was finished talking on the phone, Chef said he didn't want to talk with T anymore either. I asked why. He said he'd only said that so I would hurry up and get him on the phone so he could talk with him without me talking with him, and that he was angry but now he was embarassed about how he'd acted and didn't want T knowing. I told him that I would have talked with T if I'd chosen regardless of whether or not Chef wanted me to, and that I'd left a message asking T if he'd be willing to talk with Chef about the choices he'd made this afternoon. Chef's eyes watered, then he said he really didn't want to talk with T and that he had to go to the washroom.

After supper, Chef made it clear that he was not into doing the dishes. I had him help me carry a table out into the yard and handed him some sandpaper. Tonight he worked on sanding a table. Tomorrow the dishes will still be there.

Recent Triggers:
-Nine zillion ounces of sugar from Chef's candy discovery
-Chef's youngest niece and oldest sister are moving out at the beginning of September
-Chef's oldest niece and other sister and brother-in-law who also provide respite once a week are moving to another town this weekend
-This past weekend was a respite weekend, which is wonderful though there was a mix-up regarding scheduling - and regardless of how wonderful respite is, it's still a change
-Housesitting and Folklorama week, back to back, finishing up with coming home at 4am two mornings in a row after much sensory assault for Chef's ears/eyes/patience
-Chef turned 16 last Friday. He didn't get the "all adults" birthday party he wanted, and he bought the candy stash with a big chunk of his birthday gift money and will be having a cake some other time. (There was, however, VERY VERY much appreciation shown for the personal CD player he received)
-More people are talking with Chef about his hygiene. Last night, his sister had him shower when he went over to her house for the evening.
-The local fire dept tested our smoke detectors today

A lot of triggers. And there are always triggers. Environmental. Sensory. Events. Change. People. It's always a balance between supporting Chef through exploring what he can handle and when, and dealing with the times when it's all just too much.

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