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.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Monday was a holiday here. Tuesday was a snow day. Friday (today) there is no school.

On Wednesday, Chef's school had planned an outing to go see a play at a local college. Chef often talked about how he'd hardly had any field trips in high school and now would finally have one, and often reviewed field trips of days gone by. He gave me a permission slip to sign late last week but put it up on the top of the fridge and left it there once it was ready to go back to school. He was reminded on Monday night that he had to return it to school, but Tuesday was filled with snow rather than school so he took it back on Wednesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, Chef walked in after school and said hi. Our conversation then went something like this...
"Well hey! How was the play?"
"GooOOD (much anger tone and immediate anger'ish look). How was Mia and Ruth? (very nice tone and calm facial expression)"
"Wait a minute, I want to hear about your play. What did you think of it?" "I SAID IT WAS GOOD!"
"Oh. Ok. I'd love to hear more about it though. You haven't seen a play for a long time"
(***HINT: An encouraged nap prior to further discussion would have been a GREAT idea at this point!)
"Ohhh, so you fell asleep. Do you remember anything about it before then?"
"Oh. Yes, I heard that and am just wondering how your day went."
"I DIDN'T GO, OK!!!"
"You didn't go?"
"Oh, ok. So what did you do today then?"
(***Ok Mom, take the hint and drop the conversation for now...but noooo, my brain was stuck on "what was Chef doing if he wasn't at the play with his school")
"No one would have made you write exams on a day when a play is planned though."
"No but I knew I still had some so I WANTED to get the finished."
"Oh, ok. So you brought the money home then that was for the play?"
"No, it's in my locker. I'll bring it tomorrow (very grumpily)."

Chef slept. And slept. And slept. When he got up, he lied and lied and lied over ridiculously little things, grumped all over the place, and spent very much time in the washroom. By 6:30, he was in his room reading for the rest of the evening. He continued with numerous washroom trips through the evening and during the night which included much moaning and groaning and saying things such as, "it won't come out" and "it's stuck" and "it must be from the celery and hummus (in his lunch)" Chef has digestion problems. This is one of the indicators that he's ingested far over the top of what he can handle and I debated whether or not to take him to emerg but the night trips to the toilet seemed less troublesome than the evening ones had been.

Chef was in foul space the next morning (Thursday) and didn't change out of the clothes he'd worn to bed and didn't take his lunch when he stormed out of the house at 8am, but by 8:10 he was sort of doing sort of some exercises but still yelled at me the two times I asked if he was coming in to get ready. Thankfully, by 8:20ish he was in full exercise mode. When the bus pulled up he walked towards the bus so I opened the door, held out his lunch, and reminded him he would need his lunch or he'd be hungry. Chef kept walking. I debated the wisdom of commenting further but did anyway to see if he would take the lunch. It took four times before he turned around and came back for it.

When Chef got home after school, he did his usual check before coming inside to show he hadn't brought anything home that didn't belong here (stolen items - easier to check before he comes in than to get the phonecalls or later discover items and have a long mishmashed experience while we all try to figure out what happened).
"Hey, I noticed the money from the play wasn't in your pockets. Is it in your lunchkit then?" (We have a money program at home for Josh where he earns money. If he has debts to pay from stealing or purposely damaging something, the bulk of earned money goes towards repaying debts first - the longer the debt, the larger the percentage. Chef's actually coming along very nicely in this area. Lately I've also introduced the concept of fines for using my time inappropriately - this has not gone over well with Chef.)
"Oh. On what?"
"Being disrespectful to someone else because you created a problem for yourself is not ok. Answer the question."
I stepped away from the window and went about my business. Chef stormed in through the door - "AND I'M NOT DOING ANY STUPID EXERCISES!! I DID SOME THIS MORNING!!"
"You're bringing disrespect into this home and that's not ok. Out you go til you can be appropriate."

The next while our front and back yards were filled with yelling, swearing, banging the doors, repeated door slams (at which point the door was then locked), repeated doorbell ringing, etc., etc. I continued to go about my business inside and Chef turned things around on his own after about 25-30 minutes or so. He exercised for about 20 minutes, intermittenly responding respectfully when I debriefed with him*, then he went over to the neighbour's for half an hour before spending the evening with his sister while I attended a nice coffee-break evening with other parents whose children also live with autism.

*Chef said that he wanted to keep the $3 for treats instead of go to the play. His resource teacher was away from school and his EA went to the play. Chef said he had no one supporting him through the day. He said he was on his own for the day unless he went somewhere where there was an EA. He bought candy from the canteen. That clears up the digestion problem he'd had plus the anger issues. The remaining mystery is whether or not it's true that he had no EA with him and if so, why not. And how was he able to make a purchase from the canteen or cafeteria when last year's resource teacher put a plan was put in place last year already with the canteen and the cafeteria so they would never sell to Chef unless he had his regular EA with him who'd had the ok from home to ensure Chef wasn't ingesting food that might send him back to the hospital again and to ensure he wasn't spending stolen or unearned money.

So, lesson learned for Chef? Unlikely. Without a knowledgeable, appropriately-supportive adult with him, Chef has always made poor choices when it comes to money regardless of how sick he has made himself other times. With a knowledgeable, appropriately-supportive adult with him, Chef might attempt to lie about where he got the money or about what does or doesn't work for his body, but if he is with someone he respects and he knows they know what works and doesn't work, he usually wants to show that he can make a good choice - just like removing the sugary foods from the food bank bag that he would have otherwise eaten if no one else were there.

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