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, January 22, 2013

There is a lot of repetition in our house. As another mom worded it, my son and I need to frequently figure out what he was thinking/not thinking, find a solution, and work on the action plan. Repeatedly.  Each task he does throughout the day has had to be broken down and addressed. Repeatedly. Chef is a brilliant young man in many areas - he also struggles with not understanding and/or accurately perceiving some things in this world, has difficulties with remembering what he needs to do, has difficulties with organization, and has difficulty "thinking on his feet" when something unexpected happens. Chef continues to not want to have any disabilities but there are occasional days when he seems relieved to be reminded that something he's struggling with is typical of someone living with autism, for example, and that he's not the only one.

I am happy to report that, with much repetition and consistency over the years, Chef isn't requiring quite as much repetition as previously needed when it comes to some of the day-to-day routine. He is now capable of following (though it still doesn't necessarily happen on a regular basis!) the steps to brush his teeth, have a bath, use a toilet, wash his hands, get dressed, put on outerwear, and make his bed without any how-to reminders. He is consistently able to successfully make a pot or cup of tea. He sometimes forgets to turn off the stove/oven, and if he hasn't made something in awhile (such as rice) he'll sometimes forget how to make it and instead of looking at instructions will just guess, but Chef is otherwise capable of preparing a meal. He still has difficulty with independently gauging amounts and will still eat huge amounts of food at times (a large yogurt container full of lentils for a snack) when not reminded otherwise of appropriate amounts. Shovelling snow no longer needs how-to reminders, nor does putting out seed for our neighbourhood birds.

There are still many winter mornings when Chef walks out the door with only one eye clearly visible and his other eye partially hidden by his balaclava before being reminded that it needs straightening. This morning at -42 (with windchill), he still needed a reminder to wear his hat and scarf to the bus even though he'd just been reminded a few minutes ago when he'd been out for a couple of minutes just prior in order to keep his routine before I called him back to wait inside til the bus arrived (Chef's goal time to be outside in the mornings is a few minutes BEFORE his bus arrives, otherwise the bus will be sitting/waiting while Chef runs around inside the house quickly getting ready instead of getting ready beforehand). He almost always puts on his jacket now AND zips it up! (***Remember when Chef wouldn't even put/keep on clothing at all?? Hooray for wearing clothes now!!)

Visual and verbal how-to reminders are still required for chores. I'm happy to report that Chef is starting to do these more regularly and is starting to initiate them on his own! Chef's internal sense of what needs to be done to have a healthy space for himself is evidently lacking at this point, but he IS presently on-board with doing half an hour of weekly chores and with cleaning up the kitchen on a daily basis with visual and verbal how-to reminders (and without the meltdowns he used to have over this!) Chef still requires visual reminders as to how to do a chore and verbal reminders along the way, but his willingness to start a chore and accept guidance regarding a chore has definitely come a long way.

We continue to work on "up in the morning and ready for the day" - it's slowly coming along. One of the things that I believe has helped tremendously lately has been to limit the time that Chef now has available to him to get ready in the mornings in order to narrow his focus to what needs to be done to have a successful morning. If Chef consistently uses his time appropriately (focusing on what steps are required in order to get ready without meltdown/backlash at mom), more time is added so Chef can enjoy a slower pace and/or a relaxing addition (reading, extra coffee, etc.) to his morning after getting ready. This has been much more successful time-wise as well as growth-wise compared to mornings where Chef has had over an hour to get ready. This also gives Chef all morning to relax in his room from the time he wakes up (which can be anywhere from 5am-7:30am, with Chef going back to sleep most mornings) til he needs to start getting ready.

Chef now almost always remembers to say, "Hi Mom. How was your morning?" when he comes in from school. We've recently added, "What did you do this morning?" and he's started occasionally saying, "Oh, that's good" after hearing my response. Sometimes he'll even ask a further question - this is brand new and wonderful.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Anger. Again.

Today Chef attempted to make black bean brownies. He's frequently talked about this since I initially showed him a recipe and suggested he talk with a friend of mine about details because the recipe I'd come across didn't explain whether or not to drain the can of black beans required.

Chef did eventually ask my friend when reminded, and I don't recall whether it was my friend or Chef who'd written down the specifics of the recipe, but Chef happily came home with the detailed recipe in hand.

Chef's attempt at black bean brownies didn't work out today - at all. After  close to an hour, the contents of the pan were still extremely soupy. When looking at the pan, I asked Chef if he'd followed my friend's instructions about draining the beans. Chef already had that dark, angry look about him when he growled a "no" in response. I thought about how to handle the situation - the "soup" could be put into a container and used in smoothies I supposed, but I knew very well that Chef wouldn't  relax until he'd inhaled the chocolatey mixture and the last thing he needed would be to have all those ingredients marching through his system in one fell swoop. I told him we'd have to dispose of the brownie soup, explained the reason, and said he could try again  another time using the full recipe. Chef kept saying he could just cook it longer. I shook my head and  started to say that we all have times when we're trying something new and it doesn't work out, but Chef stormed off in a huff.

Since that moment, Chef has responded with that same dark, angry cloud to almost every interaction this afternoon and evening. Right now, he's outside snarling after I told him it wasn't acceptable to leave feces in the toilet bowl - his initial response was that it wasn't his fault because he thought he'd flushed. I said I understood that but that it was still his job to make sure the bowl is empty, especially when there's a sick person in the house. Chef started yelling and spitting words and continued verbally escalating as I walked away. I know Chef well enough to know this was a sign that he wasn't going to calm on his own. I turned and put my finger to my lips with a quiet "shhh, calm" but to no avail. I put my finger and thumb on his top and bottom lip, accompanied with "shhh, calm" and he immediately pursed his lips together and he immediately became quiet but started bobbing his head up and down and sideways. I stepped away into the next  room and reminded Chef that he needed to clear the toilet and deal with his anger immediately and if he couldn't do it inside, he'd need to take it outside - he flushed, stormed down the hall, put on his outerwear (something he wouldn't have bothered doing in past years!), screamed at me, and slammed out the door.

Chef went for a short distance at a half-jog sort of pace, came inside and was still not calm enough to be inside so went for a run then came in and actually apologized and was able to have a reasonable discussion over what had happened. He's now calmly folding paper cranes. This is a very, very quick turn-around for Chef, who has often held onto his frustrations for hours/days - I'm hesitantly hopeful this is a sign of growth and positive things to come regarding managing frustration/disappointment/anger.