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.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Chef continues to adapt to our new home since moving last year. He's always seemed most at home out in nature, especially around water, and that hasn't changed. When we go down to the lake, he excitedly runs along the shoreline, watches/feeds the seagulls, collects stones and shells and excitedly brings them to show me. He's always pointing out his discoveries - holes in the ground, a bed of shells, frogs, fish skeletons.

One of the biggest challenges continues to be Chef's lying. It's often used in what seems to be his attempt at expediting conversation, but there are times when dishonesty is still being used for other reasons. Most recently, he's been spending a lot of time at a neighbour's home saying that she needs him to help her with a lot of indoor housework as well as walking her dog and helping her take in her groceries. I've commended him for being so honourable and applauded his plan to save his "extra" money for his university application fee. (I've raised Chef with the mindset of the importance of community-building as well as being mindful of living each day mindfully and meaningfully. A meaningful day includes aspects such as community, personal growth, friendship, etc.)

Within a couple of weeks, however, Chef began spending his days in our kitchen playing on his phone (which he does all day/evening long, easily 12 hours a day unless he's out of the house or unless someone is visiting, and often does late into the night as well - yes, I've talked with him about balance, etc., he thinks I'm just being "mom") so he could watch out the kitchen window to see when this neighbour was home and as soon as he'd see her car he'd run out the door saying he had to get over there right away to help her with chores. It got to a point where all he was doing at home during the day was sleeping, eating, and watching for the neighbour. He'd greatly regressed in hygiene (back to wearing clothing the next day that he'd worn to bed the night before, reminders/refusals regarding bathing and brushing teeth, wearing clothes for days on end), was occasionally doing a chore at home but never doing a complete job (his jobs at home are to do the floors and washroom and bathroom once a week, plus clean up after himself) and stopped cleaning up after himself almost completely. When I've talked with him about it, he'd say he's tired when he comes home from helping the neighbour plus there he gets paid for what he does. Any further attempts at discussion fell on deaf ears.

One day while this was happening, Chef left the water running in the washroom just before running out the door to the neighbour's house. He's left water running frequently and has visual reminders in the washroom as well so I debated but knew it would help him remember better if I asked him to come home to turn it off and then thought this would be a good time to ask the neighbour if she could initiate a chat with Chef about streamlining Chef's help to specific days so he wasn't always watching for her out the window. When I walked over, Chef happily agreed to go home and turn off the water, and I chatted with the neighbour. I think we were both surprised. She shared with me that she has only asked Chef to vacuum once or twice for her and any help from him otherwise has been to walk her dog and occasionally help her bring in groceries, and once or twice he tried to help her with her computer. Otherwise, she said, "He's nice company for me but he mostly just sits at the table drinking coffee and playing on his phone."

Something new that Chef has started doing recently has been to offer to make supper for both of us then goes to the kitchen, makes something, then sits down in the living room with a bowl of something for himself, stating he'd changed his mind about making supper for us. This has happened five times in the past two weeks. And when Chef offers to make supper, he becomes sullen if I "turn down his offer" regardless of how I word it.

Chef is occasionally going out on his own now! This took a lot a LOT of work but he now independently goes to the store, the coffee shop, or just for a walk on his own. I started working with him on this by giving him a twoonie and suggesting that he treat himself to some coffee at a place we occasionally visit downtown. He initially refused, so my next step was to give him the twoonie, suggest he treat himself and I'd meet him there in 15 minutes. That worked. We did that a few times and I followed up with then lengthening the meeting-up time. Then one day I said, "Why don't you just go on your own today and see how that goes? You know some of the folks there and there's wifi there and you've spent some time on your own and that's gone well." So, Chef now goes for coffee on his own (and pays for his own) every once in awhile. And while he still doesn't initiate conversation with anyone, others who are now familiar with him will chat with him if they see him.

I continue to gently encourage Chef to explore ways of getting to know/spending time with people his age but that was completely rejected by him where we used to live, and now that we're living in a "new" place in a smaller town, he's even less inclined. Thankfully, he is still willing to come along to various music sessions and other community events.

We continue to work towards Chef's independence. Because there haven't been incidents of stealing or eloping for quite some time, I'm personally comfortable in that area with the idea of him being home on his own. The problem, however, is safety. There are still concerns with occasional problems in the area of cooking safety and awareness, and there are still many times when it's clear that Chef's brain doesn't always give him the messages he needs to keep himself safe or to make good choices
when something unfamiliar happens. My two biggest concerns as his primary support person and as his mom is physical safety (whether it be accidentally burning something in the kitchen or what he'd do if he accidentally cut himself, etc) as well as how he'd handle something unusual (such as a stranger at the door asking to come inside, a toilet overflowing, etc). Those are the types of situations I'm hoping to focus on with him over the next few months (though now that's been interrupted the last few weeks with his "hang out at the neighbour's so I can play on my phone all day" plan). Presently, we've implemented a plan where he's on his own in the house for one to two hours at a time right now and I'm within a 20 minutes drive, usually much less.

There are other areas of concern around learning to be mindful of consideration at home, the ongoing large quantity sugar/carb ingestion (which is worse, actually, when other areas are also more concerning), and the ongoing "I'm 18, I can do what I want" mindset around things like wearing scented deodorant that triggers physical issues for me, wearing clothes for days on end, spending money on an online game when he says he doesn't have money for groceries, etc., as well as the ongoing concern over Chef's sullenness when I try to talk with him about anything of concern.

One other challenge that has resurfaced lately is around times when I've made a commitment to do something and have to be somewhere at a certain time. Chef and I have numerous discussions around those commitments and talk about what each of us will do and explore options, etc. Both times last week that I has such commitments, Chef had stated he wanted to come along (one was a bank appointment and Chef wanted to come along to do errands for himself, another was a show he wanted to come along to attend even though there were other options for him) but when the time came to do so, he'd decided to have a long nap just beforehand and refused to get up/get ready/etc. and both times I was late for my commitments.

Another ongoing challenge is in trying to support Chef in making appointments, making phonecalls he needs to make, accessing information he's capable of accessing, etc. Yes, I could do all those for him but he is capable of making phonecalls and capable of looking up information online - it just takes a very very long time and many many prompts for him to remember/be agreeable to do so.

Otherwise, Chef is doing very well. I often have folks tell me things along the lines of, "He's such a sweet guy, I can't believe there's anything wrong with him" or "He's so mature for his age" or "He's such a good kid, he could easily be living on his own by now." While I clearly see that they don't understand things like appropriate language (there ISN'T anything WRONG with him, his brain just functions/thinks DIFFERENTLY than the brains many folks have) or the obvious lack of friends his own age or executive functioning challenges, etc., I'm so thankful that folks are seeing so much good in him. Chef generally presents well in public, especially if he has his phone with him, and is very capable in many areas. I'm especially proud/thrilled to be able to say that on "good" days, he's a good son (asks if I'd like tea/coffee if he boils the kettle, shares information he thinks might interest me, helps carry things from outside, never plays loud music, invites me to go for walks with him, has a fantastic laugh, often prepares food when we have company, etc., and my friends enjoy having him around).

He continues to having ongoing exposure to a large arts/music community of folks and I'm hoping that serves him well in life with regards to all the gentle people he meets along the way.