Have we been going about this all wrong?!?!

The “A” word is something we deal with a lot in our house.  How it manifests itself.  How we react to it.  How we handle it.  How we combat it.  How we stifle it. Due to our last therapy session and some information revealed to me by my son; I think we are fighting the wrong “A” word.  I think we are going about this whole mess the wrong way.
Look at this sweet, curious and proud face.  How does a creature that is so sweet and loving become so aggressive and angry.  How do we go from empathetic and cuddly to angry and aggressive in 5 seconds flat.  People who do not spend any amount of time with him take one look and think I’m nuts! There’s no way that he acts like that.  People who have been there to witness it stare in disbelief and fear for the complete 180 he turns.  He truly can be Jekyll and Hyde.

In the classroom, it has manifested itself as throwing objects to include books and desks, destroying property like his pencil box and dry erase board, hurting himself or others, hiding under his desk and head banging and threats against himself and others to outlandish to even repeat. 

At home, it manifests in screaming and yelling, throwing things, hitting, hiding, running, kicking in our bedroom door, and saying things like “No one even loves me”, “Everybody hates me”, “I hate my life”, “I am stupid” etc.

Anger flows out of him like a volcanoe erupting.  Its is heart breaking and scary.  When he gets like this I can barely contain him, and he’s 8 and weighs 60lbs.  What will 16 be like? Or, 10?  12? 40?

We started in home behavioral therapy and monthly counselor visits.  And while we have seen some improvement, its not really enough to write home about.  It seems like the episodes are getting worse instead of better.  The harder we try the worse it gets. 

The monthly visits up until yesterday were mostly about collecting background information and the whys.  Why do I think he needs to be there?  Why does the school think he needs to be there?  Why does Roo think he needs to be there? etc.  Two weeks ago she talked to Roo a little bit about different feelings,  showed him some emotion charts etc.  After that she decided he needed to be seen more often. We now go bi-weekly. 

That brings us to yesterday!  On the way to our appointment, Roo was restless and fidgety in the back seat.  He didn’t utter two words to me the whole trip.  I tried to ask him about his day. No response.  I left him be.  When we pulled up to his appointment, he refused to get out of the car. He didn’t want to go!  “I hate doctors!” “I am not going!” I said fine stay in the car and roast I am going in.  He got up and came in with me.  We checked in and went straight back, I love that we never have to wait more than 5 minutes for his therapist.  She asked him about his week and then wanted to do an exercise with him that quite frankly seemed a little hokey to me. I actually thought, “this is what I’m paying for?”  But atlas it was one of the most eye opening experiences I have had in regards to Roo in a long time.

The exercise:
She had him name the four food groups and then he had to name a small and big item in each group.  i.e., grape and watermelon, peanut and steak, wheat and bread, shredded cheese and milk (These are what he picked)

Seemed silly, right?  She then explained that a grape and a watermelon were both fruits but one was big and one was little.  Duh?  I honestly at this point was less than
impressed.
She then took out a white board and wrote MAD SAD GLAD SCARED across the top.  Explaining that like the four food groups there were four emotional groups and asked him to pick some words that fit each category.  So he picked

MAD
SAD
GLAD 
SCARED
Jealous
Bored
Delighted 
terrified
Furious
Upset
Happy
cornered
Frustrated
Lonely
Playful
frightened
Angry
confused
Silly
Panicked
She then had him pick two different colored markers.  To my amazement he picked black and YELLOW, not RED. (That is a whole new blog post, for now Insert crazy white girl dance here)  He decided that black would be for feelings he felt little and yellow for feelings he felt big.  Went off in his own space with the board and started marking away.  When he turned the board around to face us, I could tell by her face that it wasn’t what she expected and after looking it over it wasn’t what I had expected either.

MAD
SAD
GLAD 
SCARED
Jealous
Bored
Delighted 
terrified
Furious
Upset
Happy
cornered
Frustrated
Lonely
Playful
frightened
Angry
confused
Silly
Panicked
Really kid?!?!?  You feel mad and sad feeling on the little scale?!?!?  Are you there when you go into full meltdown mode?!?!?!  I can assure you that I don’t feel them little?!?!?  Don’t worry I didn’t say any of that.  We both thought he had misunderstood the assignment, But he said he did what she asked him to do.  She thought because he was happy at the moment that he was feeling that big and the other feelings little so that was why he marked the board that way.  She moved on to the next thing but I couldn’t help but try to process it.  If she was correct then was he also feeling panicked and cornered right then at that moment. 
Can I ask him questions?  I mean I know its her turn to talk but I need to know.  She lets me and I ask him and he says no.  Hmm…we started home I continued to mull all this over in my head, what’s it mean?  I started asking him questions. 
REVELATION:
All this time when he’s getting in trouble for acting angry, and he’s screaming “I’m not angry!”  He really is not angry!  When he’s in full meltdown mode he’s not angry!  He’s scared! 
Our drive home revealed to me, through our discussion, that he’s afraid of not keeping friends, of being rejected, of being wrong, of failing, of not making people happy, of not making me and daddy happy.  And when he gets scared he starts to panic and then he looses it.  And then when WE (the teacher, the principal, the camp counselor, his parents), when we try to correct these behaviours he feels cornered because he’s not angry and he’s trying to tells us but he can’t and then he starts panicking again because maybe he’s wrong.  Maybe he’s not scared maybe he is angry and he’s screwed it up again!!!
How did I not come to this realization sooner? He had always said I’m his safe place.  Why does he need a safe place?  You only need to have a safe place when your not safe, when you are scared.  How in all the helicoptering and meltdowns did I not know my own boy enough to know he was AFRAID!!!!  How did I miss this?  While I am processing all of this I feel something I have not felt in a long time. HOPE!!!  If we start addressing his fear. We can help him to feel more secure then maybe just maybe we can help him get a handle on his reactions to the fear.  for this first time in a long long time I feel HOPE!!!  And Hope my friends is a wonderful thing!

Advocate or Enabler?!?!

It is my desire as Roo’s mom to give him the best opportunities.  I want him to be successful.  I want him to achieve all the things in life that he desires to achieve.  I want him be to happy.  I want him to be accepted.  I want him to have a chance.  I want him to love and to be loved.  Isn’t that what every parent wants?

My greatest challenge in life is to make sure that Roo’s needs are met.  I want to teach him the right things, guide him in the right direction.  Right now I feel like I a Yo Yo!  Am I making the right decisions?  Am I helping him? Am I hindering him?  Am I expecting too much? too little?  Does he need an IEP? Does he deserve one? Is he gifted? Is he having a melt down? Is he a brat?  Is he manipulating me?  Is the blow up of the last 6 months my fault?  Is it Autism?  Is it bad behaviour? Is it bad parenting?

I get upset with someone who is trying to be helpful – In her own demeaning and controlling way.  Yes, she was wrong to talk to someone else about my child behind my back. But her statement that sent me over the edge was “He is as good as he is ever going to be.  You need to medicate him and move on.”  Was I mad because her statement is so blatantly ignorant or because I am afraid she is right?  Deep down somewhere inside do I believe her statement, surly not.  The thought of that makes me angry again.  So many people think he just needs discipline.  That he’s just a brat.  And I fight them, I balk at their ignorance and I move on researching ways to help him. But in my search for information that helps him, have I too become complacent?  Do I explain away behaviours that can be corrected with that’s Autism?  Do I give Autism too much control?  Am I recognizing the difference between Autism and choice?  Am I feeding the monster? 

Serious problems have arose one after another since Christmas.  There is always a reason for it.  There’s a new student teacher. The works too easy for him.  He’s bored. They changed the routine again.  He ate some sort of milk product.  He’s being picked on.  They take things too seriously.  And all of it is true – but is it why?  This first time he got sent home was right after Christmas break and let’s face it he wants to be home.  So each time his behaviors got worse till they caved and sent him home.  Should I have demanded that they keep him?  Should I have insisted on an IEP so the could not sent him home?  Should I have made home so unbearable that he’d want to stay at school? Spanking him does absolutely no good.  I have taken away his toys and video games.  I have sent him to bed (that is not a punishment for him).  I have taken away activities (again, he could care less). 

How do you balance that fine line between enabler and advocate?  How do you know your decisions are right? 

Room Shuffle

Last week I posted on my anxiety over cleaning my boys room and not getting everything exactly so.  I made a lot of drama out of nothing, because I either put everything correctly or he didn’t notice … either way all was good for the moment.

My oldest and Roo are 7 years apart. My two youngest (Roo and Sissy) are 11 months and 3 weeks to the day apart. J has almost always had his own room and his own space.  Roo and Sissy have shared a room with each other since Sissy was born. 
Three years ago we moved out to the farm and everyone had their own room.  You wouldn’t have known it though, because the two little ones were always in my bed.  It got to the point that between the Shermie dog and the kids, my husband slept in Roo’s room.  We finally got them broke of that, it was daunting and took forever. Lots of night with no sleep, as we kept returning little ones to their respective rooms, over and over and over.

At the time we had a 3 bedroom house with an office and a finished attic space.  My brother lived in the attic, J got the office and the rest got a bedroom.  When my brother moved out, J moved upstairs and the office became my sewing room. YAY! But, with J’s asthma and the chimney coming up thru the middle of the attic room, he had to come back down stairs.  And I wasn’t about to give up my sewing room! I did the silliest most selfish thing I could have done.  I moved my artistic unorganized hormone engulfed preteen into Roo’s room.  Their both boy’s, they’ll be fine. 
That was Christmas.  It was not fine!  The battle raged.  Roo has a place for everything and everything had a place. J is more of a free spirit who wants to go where the wind may take him.  The battle of the wills began. Fighting constantly over what belonged to who, who could be in there when, hindsight being 20/20; it was quite possibly the catalyst for Roo’s downward spiral at school.Roo couldn’t handle the chaos that ensued and J i truly believe is incapable of structure. 
The breaking point was last weekend. I scrubbed every inch of their room, it kind of had that dirty locker room smell, it was permeating out into the hall.  I moved every bit of furniture and scrubbed every nook and cranny.  Boys, especially teenage boys, are gross!!! Then after all of that, I walked in to wake them up Monday morning and it looked like a tornado had touched down inside their room.  I was livid, and Roo was a heaping mess on his bed.  He didn’t do it, it was that brother!!!!  As I surveyed the mess, I realized that 90% of it was J’s stuff.  That was it, he had to get out of that room!
So this weekend I swapped three rooms of stuff!  My sewing room is now in the attic.  The remnants of J’s things that were in the attic and his belongs that were in Roo’s room are now in the office, and Roo has his own space.  I set up each room and even made a “tent” for Roo’s  bed.   I let Roo decide where everything should go in his new space and he was more than tickled. 
I am exhausted, but I think this latest change with be a win win for all involved.  Both boys will have their space and I won’t have to kill either one of them anytime soon. Roo will still have company, as his Shermie dog and his Sissy will still sleep with him.  Inseparable those three are, I have tried will no avail to keep Sissy out of Roo’s room. That is a battle I will put of till another day, they both want each other to be there.