Saturday, October 06, 2012

Olympic Gold

In an exciting new development, Joey got all excited about participating in his school Olympics on Friday. He's usually put off by the crowds, the noise, and his lack of motor planning. Joey is a perfectionist- he wants to win, and get dramatically upset when he realizes he is unable to do something- like jump rope. Or skip. Or get a ball in a basket.

Andy's class had their Olympics on Wednesday, and he loved it so much, he got Joey all excited about it, too. It also helps that they are into rankings and medals right now, with all the Olympics hype and their love for Mario Party 9. I packed some movies in Joey's backpack just in case, but we were all excited that he was excited.

Yep, he participated! and guess what- his class won. He got a gold medal! I got several texts from teachers telling me how happy he was, and he got off the bus practically dancing, showing me his medal, talking about the games and ceremony.

Then he got serious.

"What's the matter, baby?" I asked, suddenly concerned.

"Andy didn't get a medal," he said very seriously. "Andy is going to be sad." We talked a little about Andy possibly being sad, since we knew Andy had worked very, very hard to do his best and wanted one.

"I'll give him my baseball medal!" Joey announced in a brainstorm.

"But you earned that medal, too. They are both your medals. Let's think of something else we can do to help Andy feel better." But at that moment, Andy's bus arrived. Joey grabbed his scooter, and headed down the walk to meet his brother.

I could see them meeting, hear them:

"I got a gold medal!"
"I know! I am so happy!"
"I'm sorry you didn't get one. You tried really hard."
"But you got one."
"We can share it! Because we are both winners, because we did our best!"
"Thank you, Joey!"

I couldn't be prouder of my two little men.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

About Language

Joey went to see the eye doctor today. He's been struggling with reading, and we wanted to eliminate the kinds of issues Andy was facing. Cutting to the chase on that front, his eyes are perfect. Physically.

I picked him up early from school; the appointment was at two. He was thrilled. He's been having rough days, but today went very smoothly. Even so, he was glad to get out of school- hey, he is a ten-year-old, right? Who doesn't want to get out of school early? So off we went, with him chatting merrily down the road about Mario and Luigi and thwomps and...

"Mommy, do I have autism?"

Well, now, where did that come from?

"Yes, dear," I replied simply.

"I'm autistic," he said with a grin. "What is autism?"

So we chatted a while about what autism means- about thinking differently, and seeing the world in his own unique way, and how his is good at math and better at it than most of his friends, and yes, it makes him different and makes it more difficult for him to talk.

He seemed very happy with all of this, and you could see the little wheels turning in his head. We did not discuss the language of person-first or self-identity.

After a moment of quiet, he announced again, "I'm autistic!"

Then he returned to Mario Brothers. This time, he was telling me all about Buzzy Beetles;  subject he also cheerfully instructed everyone about at the eye clinic.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


I'm sitting at home. I don't really feel like writing. I can't find any movies to watch on TV. They all look old, worn out, but I don't want anything new. I could clean, but there is no energy in my arms, my legs, my eyes hurt. My stomach hurts.

He got off the bus morning- he was quiet on the bus- saying he was going to slash people. This was blamed on a game, but I don' know any game he plays that includes slashing. I suppose it could have been worse- he kept the nasty words to himself. I know the bolting is avoidance and attention, but this threatening needs to stop. I got into the car, and drove to Staples, grabbed some cards and markers and binder rings; maybe having those old picture cards and schedules would help again. There is so much for him to worry about. I could make the cards while observing his class.

But I am stopped at the front desk, told I am not expected. But I am expected. But no, they think I'm not. I get it- I've been seen too much. I've been labeled a helicopter parent. I'm being stopped, railroaded, turned away. They have Mrs. H come do it. She's good at it, they know I trust her. He's gotten on a roll since she's arrived. Well, of course he has- she knows how to cut through his avoidance and get him to move. But she won't be here every day. She has other cases, at another school. She's hoping for Tuesday-Thursday. Hoping.

Oh, and by the way, he needs some work on his personal hygiene. Yay.

The principal happens to walk by, he tries to say hello. I can't respond right now. I escape to the car- bolting, just like my Joey.

My Joey, my sweet little guy, is ten. It is getting harder to balance out the growing-up with the odd emotional non-progress; how to deal with a child who is both ten and five at the same time. Puberty is upon us, he knows how to get attention, he explodes from anxiety then turns around and explodes to just not have to do work. It gets difficult to know if this spiral of self-deprecation is depression, or an attempt at control, or an avoidance, like so many other ten-year-olds. How much does the repetition of material he has already mastered annoy him (how many times can you answer a seemingly inane question- one that you know the asker already knows the answer to- without going bat-shit crazy? Some subjects definitely seem like that to Joey). How much energy can you expend before being exhausted? And if a strategy for communicating exhaustion or frustration result in calming, feels-good activities, why not try to use those strategies for other times of discomfort- like time to get work done, or try something new, or cope with minor frustrations?

How have I managed to totally fail him, to not get him to understand the importance of self-regulation, to love learning, to want to know about the world. How have I managed to sabotage all the work we thought had been done?

I sit home, and stare at the computer, the blank TV. I manage to get down to the Farmer's Market and pick up some sweet potatoes for dinner. They are sitting on the counter. I'm not sure why I bothered. Andy will look at them and pretend to retch. Joey is just as happy with hot dogs or McDonald's. JoeyAndyDad doesn't like sweet potatoes.

I talk to my mom. I think I managed to get her upset because I'm upset, but not much else. I know I joke a lot about drinking, but seriously, I don't really. I suppose this would be a good time for it, but I'm just as lethargic about getting something out of the fridge as everything else.

I go back to school at 2, so I can get more evidence of what a hovering, bad mom I am, spoiling my child until salt won't save him. And trying to figure out how to fix it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Tug of the Heart

I was in the middle of heating up my lunch when the phone went off. I have it set so that I know exactly which teacher is calling or texting me, so I knew this wasn't going to be good. Joey was having a bad day. He had bolted from reading, screamed through science and was now breaking down in math. Definitely NotAGoodDay.

I seized our back-up meds, dumped the soup I had been heating into the crockpot to stew with the meatloaf, and headed for school. Only one of the front secretaries even bothers to have me leave my license anymore. I sign in, note that I am expected to the thin air because they all know that already, and head down the hall.

His teacher and para are in the hall, chatting. This isn't the math teacher he's supposed to be in with, its the other teacher, and she has vacated her classroom so that Joey's resource teacher can use it to calm him down. The other child the para is in charge of helping isn't in school today. That may be one facet of today's melt festival.

I peek in, and the resource teacher gives me the thumbs-up, so I go in. He sees me, wraps his arms around me, leans his head in.

"Mommy, take me home. No one wants to be around me today."

I explain that I am not taking him home, that I have brought him some medicine, and I let him have it. He takes it, cuddles in again.

"Take me home. I want to go home."

The resource teacher suggests they go for a walk instead, and he agrees; off they go. I watch them disappear around a corner to walk up and down the stairs.

It is time for me to go, so he can settle and the resource teacher can do her magic, and get him to do some learning today- likely 1:1, in the small chunks of activities he knows he can handle when he's upset. I know there is something wrong in the other classroom, the one with the reading and the math. The other teacher and the para keep talking, discussing strategies to help Joey through a lesson, through a day, through times when he needs to be engaged, through breaktimes to get him calmed.

I turn and walk down the hall, so I can be gone before he sees me.

But all I want to do is take him home.