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, March 22, 2012

There's often a fine balance between responding and hoping for a moment of connection and learning, and not responding. Sometimes we as humans mess up that balance and other times everything just lines up beautifully and the sun shines and the birds sing and the flowers bloom and...well, sometimes we stumble into those moments and hope that the seeming lack of negativity from the other person can be accurately translated as a moment of connection or some degree of understanding.

The past two mornings, Chef has slowly come downstairs 20 minutes later than he's needed to in order to have a successful morning.

When reminded that he was running late and needed to quickly get his list (with his morning routine on it because he has difficulties with organizing/remembering and doesn't want me reminding him of anything), Chef's response both mornings has been to tell me that he's late because I took his clock.

Chef continues to be guided towards responsibility. Sometimes a topic requires a lot of reviewing for the responsibility piece to start to settle in Chef's mind. The past two mornings, the clock has been one such topic.

Part A: Chef's been given a few clocks over the years, including two Thomas the Train alarm clocks, a travel alarm clock, a clock to wind, etc. Each clock has met its demise with the exception of one clock Chef received from my grandmother. In addition to the sentimental attachment, this particular clock also sings out various bird calls on the hour. To make a long story short, Chef seemed to find the bird calls to be very, very enjoyable regardless of the time of day or night - and for now, the clock resides in Chef's room without its batteries.

For years, Chef has been getting up in the mornings without the use of a clock. On some mornings when he's gotten up later, he's angrily told me he'd slept in because he doesn't have a clock and was reminded that he could gladly replace the many alarm clocks he's been given by earning money and buying one for himself. Finally the day arrived when Chef had money (gift money) to buy an alarm clock at the thrift shop. I'd suggested he choose one that uses batteries or could be wound, with the added bit that I'd had a few late mornings over the years from "plug-in" alarm clocks not going off because the power had gone off during the night, and that I only use a battery-powered alarm clock now. Chef chose an electric clock.

Part B: Chef has needed frequent reminders over the years to close doors - front door, back door, refrigerator door, freezer door, cupboard doors. Last winter he left outside doors open so often that I warned him that he would soon need to start paying for the heat he wastes. Being an environmentally-aware family, I've also often talked with him about the importance of appreciating resources and not wasting what we have. Chef was warned this past January that I would start keeping track of his financial responsibilities for wasted resources in February. I knew, however, that his would mean little if anything to a young man who doesn't really have a grasp of what value means so the first time I pointed to the door he'd left open and announced that would cost him 50 cents and would cost him more if he didn't close it immediately, I also attached a "real value for Chef" idea to the amount. "This is costing you 50 cents or half a bag of potato chips or the price of a book from the thrift shop." Chef slowly came over and closed the door with the response, "Some books are only 25 cents there."

Fast forward to the recent morning when we'd had to air out the house because of body odour. After all was said and done, I eventually let Chef know that he'd have no extra electricity in his room for awhile because of all the heat that had been wasted through the open windows. The only electrical item in Chef's room (other than his ceiling light) was the clock.

Part A and Part B Together = This Morning:
"You took my clock, that's why I'm late."
"Responsible communicating, please. What word should your sentence start with?"
"I? Um, I'm late because you took my clock."
"That doesn't work."
"(sigh - but no growling/yelling/swearing/tantrumming!) I don't have my clock, that's why I'm late."
"Here are some things you need to think about - you've gotten up plenty of mornings in your life without a clock, you've gotten up every morning the last few days without a clock until yesterday morning, and you've also gotten up around your usual time to use the washroom the past two mornings..."
"Yes, but.."
" addition, you need to think about WHY your clock is no longer in your room..."
"Well, that's..."
"...and also think about how many days you could have earned money to buy a different clock and haven't done so. Now, no one asked why you're late and that's not up for discussion. Bottom line - you have things you need to do quickly because you're late."

And with that, Chef slowly moved into his morning routine - which again included 20 minutes of jumping jacks even though we'd discussed that again yesterday. When he came in from exercising this morning, I said that I'd noticed he was still doing jumping jacks. "That's the one exercise I can do really fast," was the response.

When the school bus arrived, Chef was in the bathtub.
"Your bus is here. (Pause) Did you hear? Your bus is here."
"I heard!"
Chef slowly and grumpily came down the stairs trying to get his shirt on over his wet shoulders.
"You need to be moving quickly. Your bus shouldn't have to wait for you."
"Well, you made me take a bath." (The last two nights we've again been discussing hygiene and how sleeping in a bedroom that doesn't smell very good then putting on the same outfit as days before makes for a very unpleasant smell for others plus germs on Chef's body - quick morning baths would be good until Chef has clean clothes. Yesterday Chef opted out but exercised and bathed on his own this morning!)
I opened the front door, then asked Chef if he was going out to the bus or if I should wave to the driver to continue on without him.
"I'm going! I'm going! I just need to get dressed and get my lunch and shoes!"
Chef did up his pants by the front door and, with his shirt hanging around his neck, he tried to wriggle his feet into his shoes without opening them then huffed and bent down to put on his shoes then started down the hallway away from the front door, half-dressed and wearing one shoe.
"What are you doing?"
Chef stopped and adjusted his shoe with the all-too-common appearance of lack of awareness of time or sense of urgency
"The bus shouldn't have to wait for you."
Chef huffed then started walking slowly down the hall towards the kitchen.
"Moving quickly! Bus is waiting!"
And with that, Chef turned around grumpily and jogged to the door, slid his foot into his other shoe and went out to the bus, putting on his shirt on the way.

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