10.19.2007

Autism Rears It's Ugly Head

Yesterday we had the experience of seeing autism rear it's ugly head after months of having no major outbursts. Just a couple days ago I commented to Erwin how much easier Kaeden had become...we haven't heard him screaming nearly as often, haven't witnessed his violence or been cussed out like we have previously. But, I had to go and jinx it by mentioning it. And yesterday the full reality of living with autism came at me in one full leap. I have to say, 'his tantrum wasn't as bad as it could have been, and we gained a bit of control throughout the episode, but it still hit me like the blow of a hamemr watching my son regress to the violent, out of control child that rips my heart to shreds. And in reality, the entire thing could ahve been prevented last night, and I am the one to blame for it's full blow-out. That makes me feel really sad, that after years of living with my autistic son, I still manage to create a scene in which I know can become explosive. You'd think I would have learned by now. But I haven't. It's just too confusing living with autism, trying to work out when a situation is okay and when it causes a tantrum. Like walking on eggshells waiting for one to splinter under your feet.

Kaeden has been undergoing some major dental work for the past month. Every week we are greeted with shots and drills and water sprays and lots of noise. This is not something Kaeden handles well, and he has been very brave and done well throughout it all. Last night, the shot numbed his lips and tongue, which sent him over the edge. He was not happy. He couldn't relate to the weird sensation in his mouth and kept telling me over and over how much it hurt. I tried to be sympathetic, but really, there was nothing I could do. I reminded him the value of good dental care, how brushing his teeth could prevent a lot of these problems, because brushing his teeth is a major issue for him every day of his life. He hates doing it, and when he does, he doesn't do it well. And I can't help him, becuase he can't handle the pressure of me brushing his teeth. It's a no-win situation. Anyway, after his appointment we got home and it was already past dinner time. I agreed to make fries and snacks just to get everyone fed, but told Kaed he'd ahve to wait til his mouth wasn't so numb. Mistake number 1. He was hungry.

Next. because he was in pain, I told him to lie on the couch and watch a movie. He picked a family movie and we decided to make a movie night out of it, eating in the living room while watching the movie together. However, I suddenly realized 3/4 through the movie that the kids hadn't yet done their homework. The whole dental visit had thrown our schedule off-whack. So, I got out their homework and turned the movie to pause until their homework was complete. Mistake number 2.

Kaeden can't focus on homework unless he is sitting with no distractions at the kitchen table. However, there was mail from earlier in the day on the table and he became interested in that instead of his homework. I took it all away, leaving just his work in front of him. Mistake number 3.

I sat next to him to help him as he complained that he doesn't know how to do this work, it was never explained to him, blah, blah, blah...trying to get out of doing his math, his favorite subject. I assured him he could easily do the math problems, as he can add and subtract better than anyone I know. So, I started helping him by turning it into money problems, which is his favorite subject matter. But he wouldn't write the answers, so was giving me the answers and I wrote them for him. Until he started giving me only 1/2 an answer and expecting me to complete it for him. When I wouldn't do it, I could see the fury beginning to rise. Mistake number 4.

I told him we were going to turn the movie back on at 8:30 whether or not his homework was done. He could choose to get it done, or else go to bed without watching the movie. Mistake number 5.

After 10 minutes of scribbling on his homework and punching holes in it, I calmly put it away and told him to go brush his teeth. It was time for bed. Mistake number 6.

You don't need to know all the details following, but it was as if a huge explosion erupted. Too many commands, too many changes at once, too much happening for my son's brain to work through it all. And when I knew what was happening, I didn't stop and let him relax, but just piled on more commands and more stress, and was asking for a break-down. And I got one.

Although I don't blame myself for his tantrum, becuase the requests were simple and needed to be completed, I knew at one point that it was getting to be too much for him. I didn't take this cue and put an end to it all, but continued on as if my son could handle it. I didn't deserve to be treated by him how he treated me in the hour that followed. Nor did our home. However, it was all my mistakes leading up to that moment, mistakes which Kaeden didn't deserve to be subjected to either.

This autism thing, it is shattering. And it's so confusing. And it's a continual learning process. And last night made me realize that I have much more to learn. And with the schedule we've been keeping these days, it's no wonder he'd had enough. We have to leave room for him to breathe and to process. And last night, we were all breathing much more rapidly than our bodies and spirits could handle.

3 comments:

Casdok said...

Hard sometimes isnt it, but like you say we learn, they learn. And we all muddle through somehow.
Hugs to you x

Maddy said...

Well my sympathies are with him! Because I'm very biased when it comes to dental nightmares.

Otherwise I would like to point out that I am unable to count high enough to report the number of screaming meltdowns we experiences this morning in our 40 minutes 'get ready for school' campaign.

Lastly I command you to do as I say [rather than as I do!] to 'try' [yes I know it's hard] to think of everything that you and he did 'right.' I'm not much of an accountant myself, but I know that you're both doing great.
Best wishes

Jade said...

Tera, please try to not take on blame. Sometimes things simply don't go as smoothly as we'd like. You can't be on point 100% of the time. I'm not sure anyone can think in an ABA frame of mind all the time. You're doing your best with what you've got, and from what I can tell you're doing an amazingly successful job. There is not one person on this planet that is perfect. And it is those innately human flaws that help us to continue to learn about ourselves and others.
Try and cut yourself a break. You're doing awesome.