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, July 9, 2010

Friday, July 9, 2010

I arrived home on Wednesday night shortly after 9pm, and my son was home shortly thereafter. When I asked him how his respite time had been, his response was something along the lines of, "It was good. On the first day, we ate out at this restaurant, then the next day we went to this place for a snack, and one time we went to that other place to eat, etc." It was all about where they'd gone to eat! When I asked what else he'd done, he said he didn't remember.

On Thursday, my son was up sometime before noon, did his chores, then played out in the yard with neighbourhood boys. It always amazes me that he now does this, and is able to actually spend time with them, and to do so without strange looks/comments from them and without verbal prompts from me. It works well that the boys are all younger than my son.

Thursday evening is my son's walking club. He left without issue; I texted the club facilitator, as usual, when my son left and received a response when he arrived at the park. A few minutes later, the facilitator texted again; this time, it was to say that my son was riding a bike around instead of walking with the club (apparently a neighbourhood boy had gone along to the club as well and he'd been on his scooter while my son rode his bike; my son had been reminded just about 10 minutes prior to the club that he wasn't to be riding the other boy's bike). Long story short, I walked over to where they were and brought my son home after having him inform the facilitator that he wouldn't be at club next week. I talked with him all the way home about responsibility, honesty, community, etc. He quietly went to bed early.

Today we had a family picnic at a local park with my daughter, grand-daughter, sister, and nieces. My son seemed relaxed and appeared to enjoy himself, though he knew he was grounded and had to spend most of the time sitting at the picnic table. My youngest niece frequently kept him company with her new puppy. Afterwards, we ran errands and had supper then my son cleaned up the kitchen and we got a few things ready out in the yard because we were having friends over in the evening. Once they arrived, my son spent his time doing chalk art on the driveway, snacking, then filled water balloons and announced, "Hey, I have a fun game. How about if I give everyone water balloons and then you can throw them at me?" One of the women took him up on his offer. He was thrilled. He went to bed after 10 tonight, over an hour later than he is usually able to keep himself awake.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Today has been a very, very, very long day full of many, many, very obvious displays of difficulties with staying on-task and many, many, many questions about the music retreat (tomorrow til Wednesday evening; I received a bursary!) and the Queen and the news-reported tornado watch and intermittent hail we've been having today.

At around 8pm: "I don't want to go to the retreat and I don't want to go to the high school and what if the Queen can't leave Manitoba because of the weather and are we really going to have a tornado? What if we have a tornado? I just want to stay home tomorrow."

Thankfully, one of his respite providers had offered to have him at her place during the retreat, so I took her up on her offer.

On the one hand, it would have been a wonderful experience for my son to be surrounded by half a week of music and musicians, even if it meant he would just be relaxing in the background and reading his books. He would have truly benefitted from the experience. On the other hand, with his anxiety being so obvious and given past adventures when his anxiety has shown itself the way it did today, he may have ended up having a meltdown at the retreat or possibly for a few days after the retreat. (It will also be less stressful for me with regards to accomodations, since retreat accomodations are single, university dorm rooms with bathrooms down the hall. I've been hoping he wouldn't be doing any night-time "exploring" while others are sleeping. The accomodations are also quite a few blocks from the retreat rather than in the same building, which meant travelling to our destination each morning and the possibility that my son wouldn't feel like going on any given day. Since this would be new ground for my son as far as not knowing anyone else who will be attending, it would have made for increased anxiety as far as meeting different people and sleeping on his own in a different place, etc., etc., etc. I'm always hopeful that he'll be able to manage something new if he has someone he knows well to be there with him. Sometimes he handles new situations amazingly well but usually it's because I am there as well as others he has known for a long time and with whom he feels comfortable. Sometimes he handles new situations amazingly well then goes into meltdown mode sometime during the situation or afterwards. Sometimes that hopefulness totally backfires.)

It's always tricky to know which way to prepare my son for something new. Most of the time, if he knows in advance it causes his anxiety to rise. But I don't like the idea of springing things on him as we're on our way either. I have to say though, the latter usually "works" much better.

At any rate, I am very much off to bed.

Friday, July 2, 2010

My son was up around 7am this morning. My daughter dropped off her daughter around 7:30. My son was thrilled, and immediately went into "can't focus" mode. The next few minutes went something like this: my son started his breakfast then visited with his niece then went to get his clothes to get dressed then visited with his niece then remembered he had still had breakfast to eat so sat down at the table then remembered he was still holding his clothes which he then put in washroom. He then came out and visited with his niece then said he was going to eat outside, opened the door, then said he shouldn't leave his clothes on the toilet, left the outside door open, ran to the washroom and got his clothes, said "hi" to his niece, and "oh I left the door open" then ran and closed the door, then told me again he was going outside to eat and went back to the door then stopped and said, "I still have my clothes" and ran towards the washroom. This time he actually went into the washroom and came out dressed!

His morning chores followed a similar pattern: a bit of this chore, a bit of that chore, a bit of visiting, a bit of another chore, going back and doing a bit more of what he'd started beforehand. Eventually I told him to take some time to sit and visit with/play with his niece then take some relax-time on his own to find his focus, then get his chores done. My son (I have to figure out something to use other than "my son" or his actual name!) did a few jumping jacks when he went upstairs then took some quiet time for himself (which turned out to be perfect timing, since his niece was starting to go down for a nap). He came back downstairs while I was making lunch. He was very indecisive about what to have to drink with his lunch ("I'm going to make a mango smoothie. No, wait, lunch is ready so I'll just get some water. I didn't have a smoothie with my breakfast though so I'll just make one really quickly"...). Lunch was all ready sitting on the table while he was trying to decide about his drink, so I pointed out to him that lunch was getting cold and lunchtime might be over by the time he decided on a drink. He poured himself some water and sat down to eat.

After lunch was cleaned up, the three of us went out on the deck. My son watered the plants then played with his niece til my daughter arrived around 2:00. On her way home, she dropped us off at the nearby grocery store. While shopping, my son and I talked about what he would take along for food to the music retreat we're attending early next week. We don't know if there will be a kitchen available so we talked about what sorts of "camping food" he could bring along. "That's good," he said. "I like camping food." He chose apples, oranges, bananas, limes, baked beans, rice crackers, tuna, individual containers of "quick-cook" rice, baby carrots, and snow peas.

We walked home (when grocery shopping, my son loves showing how much he is able to lift/carry in his backpack at once but I think he overdid himself this time!) and talked about the retreat. When we passed the local movie theatre, my son started talking about how early people lined up for various movies. This remained the topic of discussion til we got home.

We had a fruit break when we got home, put the groceries away, then my son asked if he could make supper. We talked about what he might make, and settled on corn on the cob with homemade fishcakes. He did an amazing job with them! It's a simple recipe, but he did them up just perfectly and they were nice and light. We each stuffed ourselves with three cobs of corn and a bunch of fishcakes, and watched a bit of the news. After supper was cleaned up, we spent the evening on the deck; my son read magazines (he's presently reading through past issues of "The Beaver") while I mostly rested my eyes.

Around 8:00, my son went upstairs for his bath and was in bed and snoring around 9pm.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Our Home Program

Wow, there's sure a lot of typing under this category! It will take awhile to get this post finished. Thanks for your patience!

1. Natural Consequences: This is one of the biggest time consumers in our home. It also has been the foundation for the bulk of Chef's present successes in the area of life skills.

By "natural consequences" I mean exactly that; natural consequences - not consequences put onto someone by someone else, not "no tv for 3 weeks because you didn't take out the garbage", and not "I'll just do it for him because he didn't get it done and I can't leave it like that!" Some folks mistake natural consequences for punishment. Some folks mistakenly coddle. Allowing my son to live with the natural consequences of the choices he makes in our home has provided the type of support that has "worked" in helping him grow and develop in many areas. Does he still return to "baseline behaviours"? Sure, especially during times of transition - but not to the same degree as when he was younger.

2. TEAM, TEAM, TEAM: Being part of a strong support team is vital to Chef's successes.

3. Community

4. The Arts


July 1, 2010

Today's plan was to sleep in and just have a relaxing, quiet day at home then go over to a friend's parents' place in the evening to celebrate his birthday.

My son was up around 11am, made himself eggs and baked beans for brunch, did his chores, read Time magazine on the deck for awhile ("Mom, I really like Time. Do you know why? They have all sorts of interesting information in there. Did you know that WalMart in the States pays higher minimum wage than other stores in the States? It says so in Time; just a minute, I'll get the article. They have other stuff like that in there too. It's a good magazine") then came in for a rest from the growing humidity outside. For supper, I made up a field-greens salad with chicken and cuke slices and orange slices and crushed corn tortillas. "I like how you did the cucumbers and oranges, Mom. Very nice presentation."

Mosquitoes seem drawn to my son, and often leave lump-sized evidence of their snacking on him, so he was quite concerned about being outside this evening; but we made a large homemade birthday card and that helped him focus on the upcoming celebration.

We had a very nice, relaxing evening celebrating our friend's birthday with his family and a few friends. My son had brought along a book and spent most of the evening reading and snacking on fruit (and some vegetables and some chips), then had a small water fight with the birthday boy!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It was around 5:50am when I first heard my son this morning. By 5:55am, he was asking me a barrage of questions about the Queen and camping, and talking about the riots in Toronto.

I can't be more specific than that because my brain only truly embraces early mornings that are quiet and calm and slow. I wasn't processing half of what my son was saying, and kept wondering where the nearest adult might reside who would be willing to come to my house and field these questions for my son.

With the lack of such a person, I chose to distract my son with giving him the task of coming up with breakfast ideas. Of course, he immediately started reciting a rambling list of possibilities and I realized my error, so I then told him he could go ahead with making and eating his breakfast, then could pack a lunch for himself to bring along (the day's plan: geocaching at the zoo with my sister and nieces, followed by a picnic lunch, a trip to the gelati shop, and a movie) and that he needed to do so as quietly as possible.

My son nodded, said "OK," then started whispering a bazillion questions about the day, all within a matter of a few seconds: Are they still coming to pick us up at 8? What time will we be home? Are we still stopping to pick up picnic stuff? Should I still pack a lunch? Can I bring the spicy hummous if I keep my mouth closed after I eat it? How many caches are in the zoo? Will there be a lot of people at the zoo?

As he was asking these questions, I just looked at my son with probably a doleful expression; then I put up my hand and whispered something to the effect of, "Stop. What I meant by 'quietly' was that you need to just focus on your breakfast and lunch without asking me questions. When you are finished your breakfast and finished packing your lunch, we can talk but not til then." My son closed his mouth, nodded, and got out the eggs.

We had a great morning of caching at the zoo, had a wonderful and healthy lunch, then found a few more nearby geocaches. before heading over to the "cheap seats" place to see "Furry Vengeance." My son laughed through almost the entire movie. We found another cache at a local park then stopped for gelati, and stopped for one more cache at another park on the way home.

When we got home, my daughter and niece were over. My son started cleaning up the kitchen from his morning prep, visited with my niece, and dropped into bed around 10:30.