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.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's 11:30am. My son has been up to use the washroom a couple of times, but has otherwise been quiet in his room all morning until a few minutes ago when he started doing what sounds like jumping jacks. Sounds good to me!

2:17pm We're doing chores before heading out to run errands. I'm cleaning upstairs and listening to my son singing while he cleans up the kitchen. He decided to do up a hummous lunch; plain hummous for me and "not as spicy as I wanted" hummous for him (with half a can of chick peas, he'd put in 2 tablespoons of crushed chillis, five jalapeno pepper slices, and a chopped clove of garlic but says he'll need to add more next time!), cucumber slices, baby carrots, and corn tortilla chips. He made himself a mango smoothie and talked a LOT about how cool it was that he found one of the curly straws and how cool it was going to be to use it, then every time he took a sip he talked about how cool it was to use it; every time. He talked about what he knew about the Queen coming to Canada and about what he'd seen on the G8/G20 reports on tv on the weekend and then the "what if's" started.

"What if the Queen comes here? Where will she go?"
"She's not coming here."
"I know, but what if she decides to? What places will she go to and where will she stay?"

Similar conversation ensued. The topic then moved on to camping. The conversation went something like this:

"What are we going to eat when we go camping?"
"Well, we'll make a plan together but probably like other times when we've gone camping; we'll eat similar to what we eat at home and bring a few treats along."
"One time we had chilli. And we made rice in the big pot over the fire. Will we do that?"
"We could probably do that but we'll figure it out on the day we sit down and make our plans for camping. Today we have other things to do."
"Will we bring apples? I remember we brought apple sauce and those bars I like. I didn't bring the apple juice though so I had to drink water. Will there be eggs?"
"We can talk about what fruit we want to bring and all those plans on another day. Today we have other things to do. Remember our plan for today?"
"Yeah, the thrift store and the other errands and get my prescription. Will we bring tents for camping?"
"We'll be in a trailer but we'll bring a tent for you and your friend in case you decide to sleep outside."
"Is there a fridge in the trailer? Where would we put eggs?"
"I don't know. Look at my eyes and listen. We're not going to do our camping planning today."
"Ok. {pause} Do you think the Queen knew about all the riots in Toronto? How much does a police car cost? How many police cars can you buy with a billion dollars?"
"I'm sure the Queen has heard all about what happened in Toronto. Your other questions would be good for you to look up sometime, but we need to get to our plan for today. You go get the dishes done and I'm going to get some other cleaning done."

And with that, we started chores.
We spent just over 2 hours at the thrift store so my son could stock up on a batch of clothes for summer. When the store was ready to close and I was ready to pay, he had 2 shirts and 1 pair of shorts. As I was paying, he quickly raced around the store, suddenly motivated to get clothes. After I finished paying, he appeared in line with a few more shirts.

For the first few seconds when we came home, my son just didn't seem to be focussing on anything and whatever he did seemed to be done in a rush; left the door wide open when he came in, took a container out of the fridge then put it back in the fridge on the edge of the shelf and didn't close the fridge door all the way, plunked his bag of clothing onto a chair, then looked at me blankly and asked what he should do. I told him to close the back door then asked him if it was a good idea to leave something on the edge of a shelf in the fridge. He slowly closed the back door, then opened the fridge and put the container further back and closed the fridge. He looked back at me and opened his eyes wide then blinked them a few times. I asked if he was tired and he said he was. He napped for just over an hour while I made supper, then he came down and ate, we chatted for awhile, then he did dishes, went for a run, and went up to this room around 8pm; he was snoring shortly thereafter.

Monday, June 28, 2010

My son slept in til about 11 then started his morning with three attempts to come downstairs naked. There hasn't been a naked day in a very long time.

After the third attempt at coming down naked and being reminded that naked isn't appropriate for the time and place and that he needed to get dressed, my son announced that he hadn't finished his laundry and therefore had nothing to wear. I reminded him he wasn't welcome at the table for lunch unless he's dressed appropriately and then said that he has an extra laundry slot this week only because it is the first week of summer holidays and he needs to be sure he's starting his summer on the right foot with all his clothes ready, his room clean, etc. He quickly ran down to the laundry room, threw his laundry into the washer, ran back up to his room and stayed there til the washer cycle was done. Eventually he was in the hallway wearing his (ripped but clean) black pants and a t-shirt, and holding onto a few hangers with t-shirts on them. When I asked where the t-shirts came from, he said that he hadn't done his laundry the other day and that he was sorry for lying. I asked if the morning had worked well for him and he said it hadn't. I told him it hadn't worked well for me either to have him running around naked and doing laundry that he'd lied about the other day, and said that he could pay back the uncalm of the morning by spending the same amount of time being quiet in his room, which he did without issue. When I eventually called him, he came downstairs and washed dishes, deedling Irish tunes and lalala-ing Christmas carols.

In the afternoon, my son hung out with his support worker who spends 3 hours with him usually every week. When they returned, we all hung out and visited on the deck for awhile. My son ate his supper on the deck, then he did some weeding while I planted flowers and worked with the other plants on our deck. We chatted about different topics, figured out how we'd do an upside-down tomato plant, and talked more about what we'd like to do this summer.

When we came inside, we had some baked beans for a snack, then my son had some quiet relaxing time in his room before he went to sleep.

Monday, June 28, 2010

June 26-27, 2010

My son did well at the fundraiser Friday evening. With verbal prompts, he said "hi" to a few people and eventually got out onto the dance floor! He did a great job volunteering at the drink stand.

Saturday morning was amazing. My son did all his chores without any verbal prompts or issue! He took out the garbage without verbal prompts; twice! And he ate without verbal prompts or issue! He even announced he was having a bath; then had one! My jaw hit the floor when he said, "Mom, I finished my chores and I just have to put away my laundry. After I do that, can I make a grocery list?" I spent some blissful time working on personal things in my room, an extreme rarity when my son is at home.

Eventually, off we went to the grocery store. It was a nice walk on a warm day and we had a nice chat along the way. Once we were in the grocery store, I noticed my son was frequently tugging at the back hem of his shirt. When I asked him why, he said he didn't know and moved his hands. That didn't seem unreasonable or unusual, so I didn't explore further til I noticed that he was continuing to tug at his shirt; frequently. I asked him to turn around and lift the back of his shirt, which he did ever so slightly while keeping his other hand firmly in place to cover his pants. Eventually I learned the problem; the back seam of his pants was ripped open. This was no small rip. I don't know that a rip that long even qualifies as a rip. This was an open seam; wide open, with bits of ripped thread and ripped fabric obvious even to my few-seconds-long glance. These weren't tight pants, but they were my son's last pair of pants that he hadn't ruined/hidden/stashed/trashed and I suspect he was tired of wearing them. (The agreement is that my son receives new, store-bought clothes for his birthday and Christmas; the rest are from the thrift store. Thrift store clothing is also purchased at the end of the school year/beginning of summer holidays. If he takes care of items from the thrift store for a set amount of time, he can have them replaced with new, store-bought items. If he continues to ruin/hide/stash/trash clothing, he wears what he leaves for himself or does extra chores to earn money to replace clothing items. For the last month of school, my son left himself one pair of shorts and one pair of pants plus shirts.) We continued our shopping then headed home with my son working at keeping himself covered. When we got home, he decided to change into a longer shirt then spent the rest of the day and evening with his niece who stayed over at our place for the night. She has recently started crawling and they were about five minutes into a rousing game of crawling back and forth from the coffee table to the back door when my son sighed heavily and said she was wearing him out! Otherwise, we'd prepared supper together then my son intently watched reports from the G8/G20 summits. He snacked on popcorn and visited with his niece and me for about an hour before heading off to bed. What a nice day!!

On Sunday morning, my son came downstairs with his sheet wrapped around him and a bit of a surly look on his face. I reminded him that bedding is not clothing and that he needed to put on some clothes. He went back upstairs and didn't return. When I called him for breakfast, he yelled from inside his room. A few minutes later, I told him this was his last call for breakfast. My son came out of his room and announced he didn't have any clothes. I reminded him that he'd just done his laundry the day before and that he needed to get dressed and come down. This was met by a slammed door with no other interactions throughout the morning. At lunchtime, my daughter and son-in-law came with pizza, including a gfcf pizza for my son who, when called for lunch, came down toga-style once again and was once again reminded that he needed to get dressed. He put on the ripped pants, but was reminded they were in no condition to be worn but that he still had shorts and they would be clean since he just did his laundry the day before. To make a longish story shortish, he chose to pull a t-shirt to his waist and have it hang down to his knees then wore another t-shirt just as a shirt. We all decided to just eat our pizza and enjoy our time together.

After lunch and after everyone left, my son started storming (arms crossed, eyebrows down, pouty mouth, stomping, etc) and was reminded that if he wanted to talk, he needed to do so appropriately or he needed to be in his room til he could be appropriate. He stomped up to his room, slammed the door, opened the door and apologized for slamming the door, and closed his door quietly. He came out to use the washroom on occasion but otherwise stayed in his room all afternoon and most of the evening. When I'd called him for supper around 6, there was a bumping noise from his room that sounded like he'd stomped his feet. Around 8:30pm, he came to the top of the stairs and said, "Excuse me please, Mom. I don't know what to do because I don't have any clothes left." "Where are your clothes? You just did laundry yesterday." "I don't know. I just have 2 t-shirts and I wore those today." "Where are the 6 t-shirts you had last week? And where are your shorts?" "I don't know. I just have my sweater now and the 2 t-shirts I wore today. I have to come up with a plan now for my clothes again." "Let me know when you've come up with something." About an hour later, he came downstairs (in his t-shirt ensemble) and said he had a plan for Thursday when he could do his laundry again but didn't know have a plan for the days before Thursday (his laundry time slot is Thursday til Saturday suppertime). When I asked how doing laundry again on Thursday was going to make his missing clothes show up, he said it wouldn't but then the 2 t-shirts would be clean again so he could wear them again. We chatted a bit about good choices, and reviewed what works and what doesn't work. I gave him an orange for a snack and told him to eat it outside and get some fresh air then come in and get washed up and into bed, which he did.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Always Feed the Positive

One of my main focuses with my son has always been to give him as many positive living choices as I can.

When he was younger, he had numerous art classes, BMX bike camp, arts day camp, sleep-away camp, visits to the library and other community venues, etc. He had swimming classes and skating classes through his school. He often wasn't able to manage the entirety of the camps or classes, but he still benefitted from attending when he could.

He has gone on many many nature walks over the years as well as numerous trips to the beach (we found one that is often fairly unpopulated), has been on a few camping trips and can set up his own tent by himself, has attended music festivals and drama festivals as well as a medieval fair, has attended live theatre and live concerts, has performed with a music group on a few occasions, and has volunteered for three organizations. He used to enjoy photography. He's recently done some geocaching. Next month will be his second time being in a parade. We have a house full of books and he's become a voracious reader. This summer he is planning to create a few art pieces with the hopes of developing a small business for himself. He is part of a local walking club, which is a highlight for him. He has a support worker who spends three hours with him each week and is teaching him to skateboard. (He is also teaching him about responsibility and work ethic by taking him out to carry wood, fix fences, etc., on weeks that my son hasn't wanted to do his chores at home!)

With food issues being so prominent in his life, I started teaching my son about nutrition and cooking when he was quite young with the hopes that his focus could switch from "must eat everything possible as quickly as possible and as secretively as possible" to something along the lines of "good food feels good to prepare/enjoy with others." When he is in good space, he is presently able to independently create a nutritious and tasty gfcf breakfast, lunch, supper, or snack. He knows how to prepare eggs, potatoes, almost any kind of fresh vegetable, (real) rice, pasta, meat, salads, popcorn, etc. He knows how to make his own almond milk, and does so when he wants some. He makes his own (gfcf) smoothies. He is just starting to learn how to make gravy and puddings. He is also recently learning about garnishes and likes to use fruit slices to dress up a dinner plate. One of his possible adult goals is to become a career chef.

My son has definitely come a long way from the days when what he really wanted to do the most was sit in his room and do nothing. He's had successes. He knows he has a future, and he knows that if he works towards it, it can be a good one!

Friday, June 25, 2010


I am pleased to say that, even through the stress of the lack of structure at the end of the school year and even through exams, my son has not chosen to relieve himself anywhere but in the washroom!! For some, I suppose that may sound crude or bizarre to report, but it is a great milestone in my son's life for which I am truly grateful!

And unless he visited some places on his adventure this morning, my son hasn't taken anything inappropriately at home or in the community (though school is a very different story, from what I understand from the resource teacher) for a number of weeks aside from a container of honey I'd left on the counter (he was very helpful in looking for it and was later very creative in his description of where he'd hidden it even though my daughter and I found it down in the storage room). Of course, I'm still very careful not to leave money around so he doesn't have to deal with the temptation of picking it up, and I still keep my bedroom door and my office door inaccessible for him, but there's still just such a different feel in our home with regards to not feeling quite as much vigilance is necessary.

He has had a couple of "meltdowns" during the past couple weeks, but I use the term loosely since the meltdowns simply (simply...ha!) involved a bit of mouthiness and being on-strike, meaning he just didn't do much else all evening other than try to start arguments, spitball his door and heating vent, and continually bang his feet on his carpet til he tired of it. Mind you, it lasted from the time he got home from school til the time he went to bed, so it was no party!! But compared to the all-out tantrums of yore over seemingly little things, this was a walk in the park. I'm so very proud of him that he went through what has historically been, and what seemed to still be, a high-anxiety time for him and that he did so without damaging anything and without running off to seek out sugar.

And (some of you who do know us might want to sit down for this one) my son is actually doing some chores and doing them without complaining! I know, some of you think the chore thing is just a teenage thing; but my son has never ever been agreeable to all....has had full-blown tantrums over them, the fact that I can now sit in the living room listening to him sing while he's doing dishes in the kitchen? Golden.
And he's come to a point where he understands that it doesn't work to not take care of his weekend responsibilities on the weekend. I'm not naive enough to think that my son is now going to always do his chores or do them without issue or take his weekend responsibilities seriously, but "a lot of the time" is definitely a nicer fit than "hardly ever and even then it's accompanied by tantrum."

My son has been reading a lot more this year. Presently, he's reading "Rabbit-Proof Fence." And when he heard a local pizza place was offering gluten-free pizza crust, his response was, "Mom, can they actually say it's gluten-free if it's in the same place as all the other crust?" He knows it's important to have protein, more vegetables than fruit, carbs, and calcium. He knows it's important to drink water throughout the day. Of course, he doesn't independently follow what he knows, but the information is in his head and at home he will make choices based on the information. He is a fantastic grocery-shopper, but that's not new ;-) And he has been independently attending a local walking club that gets together for a walk in the neighbourhood twice a week.

Clothing, hygiene (for himself and his belongings), and food continue to be the challenges he faces daily. It seems that his perfect life would involve him wearing the same outfit around the clock for days on end without washing or bathing, and eating lots of whatever he wanted but mostly at times that didn't constitute a "meal time" or having other people see him eat (he still seems to have a bit of a "I want everything to be secret" thing going to some degree). He still gets rid of clothes in a multitude of creative ways, but we seem to have had much fewer clothing restocks this year than other years. He is actually brushing his teeth much more often this year. That was a very difficult one for both of us because on days that he didn't brush, I brushed for him; it was not a party for either of us. He still doesn't seem to be able to handle much in his room. He will verbally say how he would like his room to be, but appears somewhat defeated when we talk about taking care of items. And when items are moved into his room, they do well (with daily room checks) for the first while but once they lose their novelty shinyness, they just don't seem to matter anymore.

Responsibility continues to be difficult for him but he's come along very nicely this year. He still lies, but not as much, and is sometimes quicker to the truth than he used to be. He's become more socially appropriate this year, and will often now spend time in the yard with other neighbourhood boys. And the neighbourhood boys are very ok with my son getting out his Rescue Hero action figures! Yes, he is technically too old for those now, but he didn't do a lot of playing when he was younger, and using action figures allows him to work out different scenarios and express himself in a way that would probably be very challenging for him otherwise.

He's also been doing some independent playing outside this year. That's been a difficulty for him all his life. This year, he's actually asked if he could go outside to play with his hackey-sac. It was amazing to hear him ask if he could play outside. I remember days when he couldn't handle being outside by himself, and even when he's spent some time outside on his own the past couple years it's been with hesitation and much looking at the window and coming to ask if I had called him. He's sure come a long way, baby!

My son is wonderful with his nieces, and he is wonderful with seniors. He doesn't understand the needs of babies and has often said he doesn't know what to say to them, but he loves spending time with them and makes eye contact with them, etc. And with seniors, he loves to play card games or board games, will ask if they would like some tea, etc. And when we're in a store, he'll often comment about something he thinks someone might like ("I think so-and-so would really like that scarf, Mom.")

Ok, enough blogging for tonight. We are off to volunteer at a fundraising event :-)

Great Places to Hide Stuff!

*For the purposes of this blog, "stuff" is generally defined as items not acquired by socially acceptable and/or appropriate means, OR items for which the intended use is not socially acceptable and/or appropriate (a container of mush hidden away for later spitball creation, for example)

*The following list is NOT intended to be seen by children who live with various "must stash" challenges. Actually, this list is not for children at all; it's more of a "sometimes ya just have to find ways to smile" for adults who live with and understand how it feels to find treasures in unexpected places
*This list is not exhaustive; and I have a sense it's not conclusive either

Beginner Level
-under bed/dresser/nightstand
-inside drawers
-under blankets/pillow

-behind doors/in the fold of bifold doors

Intermediate Level
-inside venting system (bedroom vents, bathroom vents)
-between baseboard and wall
-under bedroom rug when you remove the cover for the bedroom vent
-taped under the bottomside of drawers

-inside a hole created at the back of bedroom closet
-inside a hole created behind any piece of bedroom furniture
-in pockets of clothing hanging in closet

-if clothing doesn't have pockets, just tie a knot in sleeves/pantlegs
-inside mattress/quilted comforter/pillow/stuffed toys
-in light fixtures
-inside legs of keyboard stands, exercise bikes, closet organizers, etc
-behind posters/pictures on walls; make sure it's light and flat
-between books
-between the pages of books; encyclopedias are great for hiding stuff

Expert Level
-anywhere in the crotch or general genital area!


The first time my son used a visit to a store as part of an independent coping plan, he was in Grade 5 and had recently started a new medication. I'd heard a bit of noise in his room but nothing alarming. Then I heard sounds that just didn't seem quite right. When I got up and checked, my son was nowhere to be found, his bedroom window was open, and his screen was torn. When I checked outside, there were footprints under his window; all the same size. He was eventually found at the local convenience store. The clerk there said he had come in, scooped up an armful of candy bars and very nonchalantly headed for the door. The clerk had stopped him, took the candy from him, and told that if he did that again he wouldn't be allowed back. According to the store clerk I spoke with later in the day, this was not the first time this scenario had played out.

One day when my son was in Gr. 8, a friend of mine called to say she'd seen my son leaving a convenience store by his school during school hours. She was concerned that he was wandering on his own. When I called the school, they were surprised to hear that he had left the school grounds. When they connected up with him, however, they found his pockets were full of penny candy; his resource teacher guesstimated approx. $8-$10 worth. They were very surprised that he had slipped away and returned that quickly before they'd realized he was gone. When the teacher took my son to the store to return the candy, apparently the store clerk was also very surprised to see the amount of candy he'd been able to take without anyone realizing. (It reminded me of the time I once had a teacher tell me, "I couldn't believe it! He took the gum right out of my desk drawer while I was sitting right there!")

Another day in Gr. 8, I got a phonecall from the school saying my son was missing. His school staff were out looking for him, and I called some friends and went out looking for him. After visiting all his usual "pitstops" where he had historically gone to stock up on candy (hair salon, video shop, grocery store, convenience stores, etc) and not finding him, I called the police then decided to ask around at the local coffee shop. While at the coffee shop, the school called. They'd found him. He'd been curled up in a stairwell at the Jr. High. I met up with them to find my son looking very sleepy and not in good shape. Apparently another student on his bus had told him there were "really cool snow hills" at the local high school, so my son had run off from the jr. high to check them out. He said that while he was at the high school, some of the kids had pushed him down and that he felt sleepy so he had gone back to the jr high. He was later treated for frostbite on his leg from having/keeping snow in his boot throughout his adventure.

One beautiful Sunday morning at home last year (the same gr. 8 year), my son woke up and said, "I'll be right back, I'm just taking something" to the local thrift store. I checked what he was taking and said I'd see him in a bit then I went back to making breakfast. After awhile, I realized he'd usually be back already so I went to have a look. He was nowhere to be seen. I called a couple friends and the police, and we went out looking. He was eventually found crouched down between two buildings. There was what appeared to be chocolate around his mouth. He said he had "taken off" because he was hungry. I asked him if it wouldn't have been easier to just come home for breakfast or to just open the fridge and grab an apple or something to take with him when he went to the thrift shop. I later learned from a friend that he had gone to the video rental store and slipped out with candy, so I took him there to talk with the staff and make a repayment plan.

Back when my son was in the early years of grade school, he was home alone with my daughters while I was volunteering in another city. On my way home, I got a call from one of my daughters saying my son was missing. He'd thought it would be funny to hide on my daughters at one point and had sat very quietly in the back of a closet while his sisters and their friends looked for him and called him. By the time they'd found him, they were quite scared and upset, and had told him so; next thing they knew, he was gone. I called the police, and by the time I got home, they'd had a call from someone living a couple blocks from our place. A young boy had shown up at their house, barefoot and in pyjamas. He had asked if he could use their washroom and they'd let him in. After using their washroom, he'd asked if he could have a snack. They'd given him a granola bar. He'd asked for another. If I recall correctly, it was when he'd requested the third that the husband had told his wife to hold off. They contacted the local police, the police picked up my son and brought him home, and the couple and I connected by phone. The husband immediately said he knew something was up when he kept asking for more granola bars. I don't remember if the couple have fostered children or if the husband's family had fostered children, but he said something told him there was just something not ringing right with how my son was acting. At that point, my son had not yet been diagnosed with autism. His diagnoses at that time were attachment disorder, adhd, possibly schizoid personality disorder, developmental coordination disorder, and he was being assessed for possible prader-willi syndrome. He came home, appeared quite calm and quite unconcerned about the whole event except to tell me that he didn't like that his sisters "got mad" at him, and calmly went to bed.

School Exams

My son has had a wonderful year; his best year yet. His only "big" anxiety blips have been around school re-entry following Christmas and Spring Break. This bliss has continued through til a couple of weeks ago when the school started helping him prepare for exams.

Last night, my son made it very clear that he wasn't going to school today for his math exam. He got rid of clothes, didn't eat his supper, and just seemed a little "lost" overall. He told me he wanted to write his math exam next year instead, then conceded to the fact of writing it on Monday if he didn't write it today. When he went to bed, he suddenly started coughing and "sneezing" then immediately called down the stairs to ask if I could give him cough syrup because he was so sick then asked if I had called his resource teacher yet to tell him my son wouldn't be there. I reminded him that teachers weren't at school at that hour but that I'd leave a message, and if his coughing continued through the night or in the morning I would give him cough syrup. He seemed quite relieved and content with that and went to bed. My son was up a few times in the night, and I was certain he would have one of his late-sleep-in mornings. I was wrong. At 8:10, he got up, went into the washroom, came out of the washroom, then flew down the stairs muttering something about having to write his exam so he could get something. He grabbed a pair of ski pants from the closet and ran out the front door in the opposite direction from the school. I was busily pulling on a sweater to hide my pyjamas as I called out to him but there was no stopping him. I came back inside, called the school, threw on some clothes, and went out looking for him.

And he did end up at the school. I got confirmation from the school at 9am that my son was there and that all is good. I'm hoping he went straight to the school instead of making pitstops at stores as he's done in the past when he's suddenly decided to be somewhere other than where he is at the time. I wonder what he's having for lunch today. And I wonder what he's wearing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I had a phonecall from the school one day when my son was in Kindergarten. The call was to say that, while they understood that my son loved stones, he was removing too many from the playground.

There were days when my son would come home looking like the weight of the world was on him; literally. Every pocket would be filled with stones; pants pockets and jacket pockets would be drooping-full. If he had worn boots that day, they'd have stones in them. There were days when my son came shuffling home with his feet dragging the sides of his boots along the ground with the bottom of the boots facing out sideways because he'd filled the boots with stones. So we continued to work on having him wear shoes to and at school, which was no easy feat! Boots were the footwear of preference!

I gave my son a jar and told him he could fill the entire jar with stones, and he could fill the jar as often as he liked, but he could only have one jarful of stones at a time. For some reason, he followed that guideline until one day he said it was too hard to always fill up the jar with stones. The jar and the seeming need to gather stones dwindled away. At the time, I'd also started taking my son to buy special stones to collect. He was very taken with them in the store, spent much time looking at them and deciding which to choose, would hold the stone or the stone in its box all the way home; then would either leave the stone in the car or on the counter or lose it in short order and not seem at all concerned. Receiving special stones as gifts met with a similar response; seemingly quite please with receiving it, much time looking at the stone, holding it for awhile, then usually leaving it where he'd opened the gift and not seeming to be concerned with its whereabouts. (As an aside, this is still very common when my son receives gifts; Christmas, Easter, birthday, etc.) My son is now in his teens, and when we go into the bookshop where we used to buy his stones or when he sees similar stones, his usual comment is along the lines of, "I remember when I used to collect stones like that."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pre-Adoption and Beyond

I adopted my son when he was 2 years old. His birthmom had been a drug user and street-worker. He was removed from her at birth, placed in foster care, returned to birthmom, then placed in 1 or 2 more foster homes before his adoption placement. The agency presented his adoption information at a meeting for a group of adoptive parents who were in the final stages of their acceptance process. The information presented was with regards to children for whom the agency had not been able to find forever-families for various reasons.

When I spent time with my son's pre-placement foster mom, she said that she kept his clothes in a room other than his bedroom. I never thought to ask her why. She also said that there weren't a lot of foods that he would eat aside from steak and potatoes and canned pasta. Foster Mom said he rarely cried when he hurt himself and, in fact, rarely cried at all. She also said that he loved going to the park but clung to her if other people were around, and that he loved putting on adults' shoes and tromping around the house, but hated wearing his own shoes and would throw them out the car window on occasion when they were driving places. I remember he broke a railing on the crib up in his room one time when Foster Mom and I were visiting downstairs. Another time, he grabbed a knife from the kitchen, ran through the living room, crawled under the dining room table, and put the knife towards an electrical outlet as though he were going to try to unscrew it. Needless to say, Foster Mom and I jumped in on that immediately with Foster Mom talking and distracting him while I crawled under the table, removed the knife, and was able to bring a smiling toddler out from under the table. He was a gorgeous child, and had the sweetest eyes and the sweetest smile.

My son spent a lot of his first few months after placement glued to me. I thought this was wonderful, that my adopted child wanted to be held/carried by me most of the time. He made it very clear, however, that any ideas I had with regards to playtime or activities were not acceptable to him. If I pulled out a puzzle to do with him, he shook his head and pushed it away. Any and all toys received the same response. I could, however, play with his fingers and toes so we counted his toes, counted his fingers, counted my fingers, pretended that toes and fingers each had their own sound, and bestowed many kisses on each of them.

He didn't cry in the mornings when he woke up; just sat in his crib until I came in to lift him out. Then one morning, I found a handful of empty banana peels in his crib. Another morning, I discovered one of my (previously-filled and fairly heavy!) crystal candy dishes in his crib; empty. One afternoon when we were out visiting, an aunt and I watched my son toddle over to the kitchen just after we had finished cleaning up from a wonderful meal. We commented on how cute he was and then we watched in horror and ran towards him as he lifted the lid of the garbage bin, scooped out a handful of coleslaw, and immediately put it into his mouth.

Over the years, there was much discovery of urine and feces throughout my son's room; urine on the floor, walls, and ceiling. There was urine on the window, out the window, and urine in the track of the window frame. And there was frequently urine in the closet; on the walls, on the floor, on the ceiling, in the corners, and yes, on the clothes. Feces was occasionally tucked behind furniture or inside my son's mattress but mostly it was found in the heating vent; daily.

Over the years, little piles of bits of food, wrappers, paper, q-tips, fabric, string, and indistinguishable balls of combined bits were often found behind furniture, under the bed, under sheets, and poked into holes that my son had made in his mattress. Behind his dresser, I once discovered a large hole that housed various items of clothing, an empty peanut butter jar, and a myriad of other bits that had been collected in short order and stashed in the newly-crafted hole. If there was a box of q-tips within his reach, the box would usually be emptied in one shot and the broken q-tip bits could often be found under his bed. My son said they were airplanes that had crashed.

Over the years, there have been many food issues. My son would often refuse to come to the table for meals, and wanted meals brought to his room. There have been many times when it seemed he was doing whatever he could possibly do to ensure he was not eating meals (being naked, refusing to come for meals, going in his room and not coming out, etc.), which would always be followed by him ranting about being hungry. At mealtimes when he did come to the table, he would usually be watching everyone else's plate while he ate from his own. His eating speed would increase if someone took another helping from a serving dish. My son didn't seem to have an understanding of when he was full, and he was eventually assessed for Prader-Willi. Test results were negative. He is capable of eating huge amounts of food without vomitting, though he then often ends up having abdominal pains and/or bowel difficulties later in the day/evening/night. And he has a mind-boggling ability to transport and hide food. He has inhaled a jar of peanut butter and washed it down with a bottle of pancake syrup quicker than you could say the word, "shudder". There have been many many unimagineable food combinations eaten by my son in huge amounts after eating a full meal and in the time it took me to take a quick washroom break. When my son was in Grade 2, he stated that he just wants to eat alone because when he eats with other people he always wants all the food everyone else has.

Over the years, there have been many clothing issues. My son has been naked on many occasions in our home and occasionally outside of our home. There were mornings where I had already dressed and redressed him a few times, carried him out to the front steps, then had quickly run inside to grab my keys and returned to the front door to find him undressed or in the process of undressing in the front yard. Clothing has been urinated across in the closet and in drawers ("Now I can't go to school because all my clothes have pee on them"), and occasionally torn, but mostly they have been stashed away down vents, tossed out windows, hidden behind toilets, hidden in the storage room, taken out with the trash, stuffed inside a ripped-open underside of a mattress or stuffed inside stuffed toys, or taken over to the local thrift store. Yes, we have tried many different types of clothing and fabrics. Pyjamas, on the other hand, were the clothing of choice for the first few years...but that's another chapter!

Well, my hands are telling me that's enough typing for today. This has been a very brief introduction, and will continue with other topics such as "stones" and "school" and "water" before fast-forwarding to the present update of where my son is at now and the successes and celebrations in his life.

For privacy reasons, I will only provide non-identifying information..but if you are alongside someone on a similar journey, my hope is that you will find hope and comfort and peace knowing that you and your family member or friend are not alone, and that there are many many joys and life gifts along the way...