Sunday, September 15, 2013

Autism: Up, Up and Away

Autism:  Up, Up and Away 

Ahhh, a quiet Sunday morning in beautiful Central Pennsylvania.  Birds chirping, clear blue sky and a bit of chill in the air.  I awake at 7am and prepare to face the day until 8am by having too many cups of coffee. As I stand out on the porch, I scan the horizon for the dreaded "monster", that one thing that drives my dog completely out of his gourd.  I try to kill time before letting him out to do his business so that it is not too early  should he bark and disturb the neighbors, but  early enough to avoid "the monster".  The "monster" usually appears without warning for you or I, but he can hear it coming miles away before the human eye can detect it.  

Ok, all looks clear and I open the back door and he takes off quietly to take care of business.  I call him back in saying "time for coffee".  Ahhhh, a sigh of relief.  All is well and we can all wake up now as most folks do on a Sunday morning. 

My son with autism is still in his bed, covered up with his blanket pretending to be a ghost.  As with every day, I hope for a day free of meltdowns, no upsets or triggers, a somewhat "normal" day. 

Hate to disappoint you Mom, it isn't gonna happen. 
(YOU GET THE PICTURE).  The dog is in full blown barking meltdown. 

He is running around the house, sliding around on the hardwood floors, barking his hyperactive head off at 50,000 decibels. I love my dog, I will protect him from anything as I believe he would do for me.  Labor Day weekend, he injured his right hind leg chasing "the monster".  It has taken me 10 days of semi house confinement, massages and assisted walking to get him back in shape.  I see him shrugging off any residual pain to zoom around the house, looking out the windows, determined to get to the monster. 

NOOOOO, Kipper stop! I try to stop him from over exerting the leg as he runs and jumps to see out the windows.  (By now the suspense must be killing you, "what is the monster?".  It is the hot air balloon that flies over our house.  Beautiful to behold, my dog views them as the coming of the "aliens".  The owners actually landed the balloon in our back yard one year.  My son and husband loved it, but it drove the dog to froth at the mouth.  "What's Kipper barking at?".  My son calls from the bedroom trying to be heard over the barking. 

"No, Kipper"I demand again and that's where the explosion ensues. 
"No no, you're screaming at me saying "no".  My son now, is in full meltdown.  Banging himself in the head, crying and screaming. "no, no".  I try to tell him I'm not telling him "no", I'm telling the dog. Too late, we are off and running with a full blown meltdown.  I do not know what the aversion to the word "no" is.  For him I'm sure it is connected to some script in a video.  Perhaps it was the level of my voice when yelling at the dog.  Mom error.  I've not respected the  "autism rules of the house", certain words that he cannot tolerate.  My heart sinks.  Please God, let it be a short lived meltdown.  He moves to the kitchen where he proceeds to vent his anger and frustration by banging on my kitchen counter.  He and the dog are now in full concert with each other with regard to noise.  I try the "hand squeeze", nope ain't working.  He's gotta work it out for himself, he's gotta vent, and de-escalate himself.  

After about what seems like an eternity, but in reality only about 20 minutes, things calm down.  The dog doesn't understand why I'm giving him dirty looks for something he cannot control.  He is scared of "the monster" and he doesn't understand what it is and what it could do to him.  He lacks the language to explain his fear, frustration and sensory overload that "the monster" creates.  

Not unlike my son's situation with autism.  I understand them both. 
But on mornings like this I can't help but think "Mr. Monster balloon, would you stop and take me up, up and away?"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Autism: "My Butt is Sweaty!"

Autism:  "My Butt is Sweaty!"

This blog falls into the "you gotta laugh" category because living with autism, if you don't allow yourself a laugh now and then you will self destruct. 

So just another day on the autism road.  I pick Joey up from school and as our ritual would have it, we head for McDonald's to get his french fries and orange Hi-C.  Still in the 80's here in Pennsylvania so the kids are wearing shorts and t-shirts to school.  Not quite autumn yet.  As we are driving along he's in the front seat next to me. 

"My butt is sweaty", he proclaims.  I've heard this many times before.  I assume the nylon material of the shorts causes him to sweat.  The fact that the car seats are leather doesn't help either.  "Hang in there" I suggest, "We'll be home soon and you can change clothes". 

We arrive at McD's and I give the drive thru lady our order and proceed forward to pay, then head for the pick up window.  I'm more concerned with planning out how to hold a bag of fries, a large drink and an ice cream cone, than I am with what's going on next to me. 

"Here you go" the pick up window girl announces, and I reach out to take the ice cream cone from her hand, turning to give it to Joey as my eyes fall on his lap. 

In true autism style, with no concern for the social situation surrounding him, he has lowered his shorts to alleviate the "sweaty butt" syndrome.  My mouth hanging open, ice cream in hand I just want to shout "pull up your pants"!  Something holds me back.  I hand him the ice cream and whisper "pull up your pants".  On the slight chance that the girl at the drive thru didnt notice I decide not to bring any more attention to the situation.  

But then as usual, the thoughts start racing through my head. "Oh my god, what if she did see?"  "What must she think of him?"  "What is she in there telling the rest of the staff at the restaurant?"  We do have a group of young people and the manager at this McD's that know us and know of Joey and they probably would come to his defense but these workers all seemed new lately.  These are times when I want to have a big Autism Awareness Ribbon plastered onto the driver's side of my vehicle.  If I had the money truthfully I would have my vehicle painted in puzzle pieces from bumper to bumper to stop the stares, questions and remarks we autism parents know all too well. 

As we drive home to a point I marvel at the logical way he solved his problem.  If we did not live in a society with rules and norms that we follow the obvious solution to your butt being sweaty is to remove your clothes.  It just plain made sense to him.  

I remember a teacher in high school asking the class one day:
"why do you iron your clothes?"
"because they are wrinkled", every replied. 
"do they not fit because they are wrinkled?" he asks'
"are they dirty and smelly because they are wrinkled?"
Another rule of society that truthfully has no practical basis.  We do it because society tells us to, that's they way it is and that is what you must do to fit in.  For a person with autism this must be horribly confusing because it is not based in logic.  It requires that unspoken desire to gain the approval and acceptance of others that many folks on the spectrum just cannot grasp.  

Obviously we must have some rules in order to survive without total chaos but think how much more relaxed we would all be without so many of them.