Monthly Archives: November 2013

Shoes. Dear God, the Shoes

I feel like I’m spending a lot of time venting about my frustrations lately, but mornings have been really intense here lately. Today was no exception: tears, screaming, stiff-bodied flailing from 7:00 until I left him in the cafeteria at school with his teacher, still crying, at 9:05.

First, he cried for 18 minutes over pants again. I ended up doing a load of laundry just to get him to shut the fuck up. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? But my day begins, EVERY DAY begins, listening to him wail like that. It makes my head pound. The sound overtakes all my thoughts. He isn’t consolable. He isn’t reasonable. I can’t hug him because he’ll hurt me. It’s just every day, I have to listen to it go on and on and on.

After he calmed down about the shoes, he cried again because he wanted two waffles and there was only one left.

And then it was time to put on shoes. Shoes. Sigh.

Mikey’s feet are growing, and his big ole’ foot ripped through his beloved “red and black” shoes. Cody took him shoe shopping on Sunday and he came home with a pair of sneakers that resemble bulldozers, and they light up. As soon as I saw them, I felt hesitant. These didn’t seem like sneakers Mikey would agree to wear the day after purchase.

I was right. As with the heaps of non-returnable clothes upstairs still with tags, these shoes were quickly relegated to the “I hate this and won’t let it touch my body” pile.

Monday, we let him wear the holey shoes to school. He wasn’t having specials on Monday and it was cold, but dry outside.

Today, he needed to wear the new shoes. We got snow overnight and it continues to fall. He needs warm shoes to walk to/from his classroom trailer to the main building for lunch and specials, not to mention recess. It’s 30 degrees and snowing. My son is going to wear his $50 brand new sneakers.

I’d probably be more inclined to show compassion over the shoes if I weren’t already dealing with daily, multi-hour meltdowns over weather-appropriate clothing.

I had to forcibly put them to his body while he kicked and thrashed. I had to put Alex in his high chair to keep him safe during the shoe-donning, because he’s so curious and empathetic, he kept wanting to watch and pat his sobbing brother.

Then, I had to carry his stiff body outside and wedge it into his car seat for school, where I happily left him for other people to manage for 6 hours. Isn’t that awful? Isn’t that a shitty way to think about my child?

People who know Mikey often say to me, upon my confession that he has an autism spectrum disorder, “What? Him? He’s so talkative!” Then they imply that we’ve been caught up in a wave of overdiagnosis, that my high-functioning child couldn’t possibly have something technically “wrong” with him.

These people don’t spend the hours I spend watching him writhe in agony over a long-sleeved shirt that “burns” his wrists or freak the fuck out over a pair of shoes he no longer wants but owns.

Every now and again, one of these folks will bear witness to one of Mikey’s milder meltdowns–he seems to keep himself together (just), seeming like maybe he’s a quirky, nerdy kid, until he’s in the safety of his home and family to really let loose–and I see their face change a little.

I’m having a really blue day, which makes sense because I spent my first 2.25 waking hours listening to my child sob. My primary sadness is that I don’t even think I spoke to Alex today, didn’t even read him a book or do anything other than shove a diaper and clothes on him while simultaneously talking to/screaming at Mikey to CTFD.

I’m glad Mikey will be in school tomorrow morning and I can focus on Alex. We’ll do something special together, like spend the morning petting his stuffed owl and talking about boats.

Could Have Been My Son

A teacher from Mikey’s school was arrested for assaulting a student. A 9-year-old boy was choked and shoved around by the neck on one occasion and, it seems, on another was forcefully grabbed by the arm and dragged around while students were lining up or walking between classes.

All I can think about when I hear about such incidents are that my son is the type of person who elicits such angry responses in people. Mikey can be frustrating! I often get to a place where I recognize that I need to take a time out in another floor of the house to make sure I don’t respond to him that way. Violently.

I don’t know anything about the student who was assaulted, what his circumstances are or what happened in that teacher’s classroom. I know that a man who has been with the school for years–who (like all the teachers there) has a masters certification in a pedagogy that emphasizes peace and respect–responded with physical violence to a 9 year old boy.

This hit close to home for me and leaves me feeling a little bit fearful. Of course, a large amount of trust is involved when we send our children to school for the day. It gets dicey when we see evidence of that trust being abused.

The school responded by suspending the teacher immediately following the incident (which was October 18) and on the day of the arrest, phoned home to each family. Apparently they sent a detailed letter home, too, but Mikey doesn’t attend school on Fridays so I didn’t get to see a copy.

I know it seems like terrible things keep happening at school, and they do! But I still feel overwhelmingly that this is the best place for my son. That he’s in a good place. Because amazing things are happening there every day!

Little things like the consideration for new research showing that recess prior to lunch leads to more productive afternoons for students–Mikey’s school has recess before lunch. Or things like a lack of punitive response to actions–if someone hits or shouts out in his classroom, they do circle time to discuss respect and role-play respectful behavior.

They emphasize emotional intelligence. They’re teaching my kid how to tie shoes! And he knows where the liver is and what a pancreas does. So I’m trying to focus on these positive things and not worry about what terrible thing could happen next. That’s a sure way for a parent to drive herself nuts.

Gradual Acceptance of the Seasons

Last time I wrote, I was lamenting our difficult morning meltdowns triggered by the changing seasons and the requisite outfit changes that go with them. Our mornings have gotten a bit more peaceful, but only because it warmed right back up and Mikey has been able to wear his beloved “number shirts” to school with his “fluffy pants.”

We continue to struggle with his pickiness about clothes. I know about Mikey’s sensory issues. He, in fact, has a Sensory Processing Disorder diagnosis and I know how this affects the ways clothing can feel against his skin. But the kid burns through fluffy pants like you wouldn’t believe. A pair of pants can change like *that* from “soft fluffy” to the dreaded “hard fluffy.”

This fall, we bought him 7 new pairs of fluffy pants and he’s already deemed 5 of those pairs to be hard fluffy, which means he’ll only put them on his body if Cody immobilizes his trunk and I slither the pants on to Mikey’s thrashing legs.

Sigh.

But he’s getting better at accepting that Halloween has passed and it’s time to buckle down and prepare for winter. He allowed me to hang Thanksgiving window decals this afternoon and we composted the rotten jackolanterns. Our uncarved gourds are still on the front steps, which is fine as it’s still decorative gourd season.

God forbid we pull down the tattered spooky drawing he made for the storm door. We still have to make daily recreations of the New Yorker’s Halloween issue cover, which features an orange moon with a bat in silhouette. Some days, knowing that his autism spectrum disorder causes his mind to perseverate and stick to certain things…some days this knowledge does nothing for my frustration level.

I want to shake his shoulders and scream, “Halloween was 19 days ago! Get over it! Don’t you want to make a hand turkey and eat stuffing?”

The worst is that Alex, with his budding language skills, has started noticing when Mikey has meltdowns. He’ll come up to me, point to his brother, and say, “Crying! He crying!” He’s sort of empathetic when he does this, but it mostly seems like he’s saying, “We’re all seeing this, right? He’s crying again? For, like, a half hour?”

Today we had a pretty peaceful day. He had a good day at school, wore clean underwear, and even agreed to a jacket. He allowed Alex to be excited about inflated yard turkeys as long as we called them “Halloween turkeys.”

Perhaps digging out the Christmas tree will really help him move along? Who knows what tomorrow will bring. I just know I’m washing the fluffy pants with the kitchen towels and praying for mild weather.

Meltdowns for Snow

It snowed yesterday (and today). We weren’t prepared for that around here, which is to say we did not prepare Mikey for the changing season. Last year at this time, when he began his daily meltdowns over the removal of the neighbors’ Halloween decorations, the unprecedented difficulty with the changes inherent in our weather were the final straw urging me to get him evaluated.

It looks like this year is going to be no easier. He wakes up every day insisting we pretend it’s still Halloween, that it will always been Halloween.

When I saw it had snowed, we explained to him that he’d have to wear warm pants and long sleeves to school–he needs to walk outside to go to lunch, specials, and recess, plus his classroom is in one of those little trailers separate from the school and the temperature inside generally matches the outside.

I spent most of this summer hiding his “fluffy pants” and hooded sweatshirts and now he flat out refuses to wear anything but his short-sleeved shirts.

Yesterday, he screamed in a code-red, stiff-bodied meltdown from 7:15 until 8:54, without pause. My head is still pounding from it (plus today’s mini version of the same).

It followed that he had a rough day at school. His classroom does not do time-out as a rule–when I came to pick him up yesterday he was sitting in a chair separated from the group, behind his teacher. She couldn’t think of what else to do to stop him from wrestling with and diving on top of the other children as they sat on the rug for circle time.

When I called his BSC to ask for advice, she wondered what it was that sounded just like a dying buffalo in the background. That’s my son! The wailing, writhing ocean of emotion he doesn’t know how to regulate.

In a few minutes, our TSS will come over and we’ll get Mikey from school. The plan for today is to begin discussing transitioning between seasons.

So that’s our struggle this week.