Autism Watch: 2007

Archive for July 2009

Do you ever wonder that?

There are days that really make me lose faith in people. Days where I just don’t get it, where I wonder if I’m cracked, expecting too much of people, but wondering why we’ve got so many people running around claiming to be people loving their neighbor yet screwing them when they can, whether deliberate or not.

I had (another) one of those days yesterday. I’m still flabbergasted, shocked, dismayed, disappointed, discouraged et al. Few things make me dwell on them for this long, yet this situation has. And I hate that. I have far more important things in my life to waste any of my life on this but I’m drawn to it like a gawker at a train wreck. I still can’t get over it, and yet I’m pretty much unable to do anything else about it.

Last week, my son resurrected a relationship with another little boy from the neighborhood. They’d been friends on/off before, but only lately has my son’s age/maturity level meshed. (My son is 8, the boy is 10.) The boy, who we will refer to as Boy A, is a good kid, polite, well-mannered, patient, and just plain fun for my son. All of last week, they played together outside, hours at a time. We were thrilled. Few people understand the excitement we can feel for our children when they have an achievement that other people take for granted. In this case, it was a successful friendship, a relationship without issues and problems. Hence, the thrill factor.

Fast forward to the weekend, where another neighborhood boy, who we’ll call Boy B, who has been friends with Boy A for a while now, returns from a week vacation. He comes home to find his friend playing with my son. They attempt to play together, and they make it work for a couple of days. Given the history of my son and this boy, it was a surprise. They are typically like oil and water. This boy (Boy B) is diagnosed with Asperger’s, and mom likes to blame everything on meds not at the right level. Oh, if only meds were magic, right?

Anyway, all three of the kids are playing together briefly on Tuesday morning, and something happened. I don’t yet know what, but Boy A and my son leave Boy B’s yard and head to mine, where they’re happily playing. Boy A’s phone rings, he stops smiling, and tells my son that Boy B’s mom says they can’t play together, he has to go, bye. Lost yet?

I am.

Boy B’s mom talks to Boy A on the phone. She is not his mom, yet she makes these comments to him about another child, and in his ‘listen to adults’ world, particularly an adult he’s been around quite a bit due to some events the families attend together, he listens. I don’t blame him, he’s young and listening to an adult, but can you guess what happens next?

Yep. Major meltdown, along with attempted hairpulling but he controlled himself. I was SO proud of that in itself. After he explains it all to me, I, in my inability to comprehend that an adult would really do that, go to talk to Boy A, who confirms the story. After a quick two-minute call to dh to clarify he agrees that it’s time, the gauntlet was thrown and it’s time to engage. We knew it would happen someday, but still naively hoped it wouldn’t.

Once I could get a sentence out without a bad word, I head over to Boy B’s house to speak with his mom. After playing the “huh? what do you mean?” card and seeing it wasn’t working, she admitted speaking to Boy A on the phone and basically blamed my son for pushing her son’s buttons. WTH? After another 5-6 minutes of trying to get her to understand the irrationality of singling out my child so her son would have a friend, and we (my 19-year-old son and I) gave up. It was futile. She simply couldn’t understand that there were no problems until her son returned to the picture, and taking it out on my son was inappropriate. There was no apology, no compassion, no real anything but a whole lot of “is this what you learn to do when you go to church on Sunday or when you’re posting to religious blogs or about the bible on FB?” I came home, continued to calm down little dude by telling him, over and over, that he did nothing wrong. This was not his problem. How do you tell a very intelligent, very literal 8 year old boy with autism that this boy’s mom was way out of line and said things she shouldn’t have without saying it outright? So I said it outright. I think it’s important my son see that he’s defended, that he feels safe knowing we’ve got his back, and knowing that the bad people don’t always win, even if they do temporarily. And I won’t lie. I also, as did dh, felt it was important for this woman to be aware that my son matters. He may not matter to her, but he does to me. He may not be her son, but he’s someone’s son. The other thing I have strong feelings about is something I can’t touch: that the mom taught her son to fight dirty, to rumor, and that whining will get you what you want. And poor Boy A who was basically stuck between two friends and someone else’s mom? I wonder what he learned….probably nothing positive.

I wondered what would happen today when little dude was trying to play outside. Thankfully, it was so extremely hot, he was inside until after 4pm. His siblings played with him a lot, and I bought him a new set of Magnetix at my (horrible) trip to Target. (In fact, Target owes me $54.73 for a cash register breaking amidst my transaction, resulting in my ATM card being charged twice. Sigh. Let me just add the phonecall to the list of things I have to do tomorrow before little guy’s neuro appt.) At the end of the day, during a Magnetix break, he found Boy A outside. They rode together for just a few minutes, but Boy A had someone coming over for a sleepover, so he had to go inside when the guest arrived. It cleared the air though, and relieved my sweetie that the boy wasn’t scared off of playing with him. And if he was? What to do? I just hope we don’t have that worry.

Aside from that, the reality is that I have an instigator who feels no remorse about making others think my son is a troublemaker, living about five doors down the street. Who knows who else she runs into. I did make it clear that if there was anything she even wanted to breathe in the direction of my son, to see me or my husband instead. Thing is, I don’t think she realizes what exactly it is she did. Maybe in her mind, she was truly just trying to make her son happy. I know that’s a priority to me, but to throw another innocent child under the bus to achieve that is wrong. In any sense of the word, wrong. I don’t care what she says about me but I do care what she says about my son.

And the kicker? This is a special education teacher. Be careful, people who can’t handle their own children and treat others’ kids this way could be teaching your children.

Got a neighbor who treats your autistic child badly, or your family badly? I’d love to hear. I’d love to hear what you did, and how you learned to live with it. I’m lucky — I’m moving in another six months or so — but I do have to protect my son for those six months, which could include some other ignorant uncompassionate person run-in. Some days, I am thoroughly optimistic that the general public is good, that people do care, and that you can be good to one another. I go to the store where someone opens the door for me, another person hands me something I’ve dropped and a person walking by on the sidewalk says hello. No one stares at my son’s behavior, and I even get a few green lights on my drive home. Then a day like yesterday sadly wipes it all away, though I know it shouldn’t. She’s just one person, one stressed, tired mom who took her frustrations out on someone she thought wouldn’t talk back. But it’s the bigger picture, it’s what she represents  — the inability of society to truly care for those who are different, for people to really love each other as they love themselves, and the lack of interest in learning to even try to reach out in a positive way. It’s the dark side of people, where you may know someone but you never really do, because people are only nice until you mess with the happy convenience of their day by calling them on their bad behavior that was initiated sheerly to ensure that happy convenience.

Tomorrow will be better. I won’t let her sap too much of my energy, but I am determined to prevent any further related issues. Once again, my son has learned a harsh lesson at too young an age. For that, I will try to forgive, but I won’t forget. Each one of these situations takes a toll, and it’s my job to fix that. I’ll chalk it up to learning something else that hopefully will somehow help in the future, though I’m not sure yet what that is.

In the last year, we’ve learned we aren’t safe from judgment at school or church. Now I can add our own neighborhood to the list. Moving day can’t come soon enough.

My little guy’s last couple of weeks have been rough. Not sure why — it started before the aborted camp attempt, and it was after school was out, by a couple of weeks, so we can’t figure out what’s up. He’s just more edgy, more easily irritated, and he yells a lot more. A lot. So, I shouldn’t be surprised that today was no different.

Before I go further, let me just say I’m getting over a nasty case of the stomach flu that I thought was going to kill me. The kind where someone’s stabbing your stomach back up through your throat and out your mouth with about 30 sharp spears. The kind that leaves you dry but still nauseated, exhausted but unable to sleep, with joint aches and pains that should only come with a three-story fall. (Not that I know what that feels like, but I can guess now that I’ve had this flu.) It started after ingesting a yummy dinner of chicken tortilla soup that seven of us — I feel the need to specify that only three of us got sick, and not all right away, so no, it wasn’t food poisoning. (I made the soup, so you can see why I’d want to specify that.) A few hours later, I was down for the count. I’m still not feeling myself, and I’m sure it’s affecting my mood.

That said, I let ds play outside today while I sprawled on the couch. I can hear him playing with the kids, but wasn’t prepared for when he ran in screaming, sobbing, red-faced. “She yelled at me!” Initially, I wanted to go have it out with “she,” but reason kicked in..that and my husband reminding me that the little guy has his own perception of reality and we needed to get the story from someone else first. In the end, we learned that the situation was handled with less harshness than he saw, and was nowhere near as bad as he understood it to be. But, that’s the problem, in a nutshell.

For one thing, I can’t expect other people to know my son has different ways of seeing things, that he takes things literally, that for him, it’s ALL A BIG DEAL. Others don’t necessarily know how to handle him, or that he even needs any special handling at all. And I can’t go around telling everyone — it’s not like I can put him in a t-shirt that says “I Have Autism,” but yet we put him out there and expect him to learn how to deal…when in reality, few people let him be around their kids long enough to learn, whether or not we tell them. In this particular case from today, he’s still able to play with the kids, but then we have the second issue: how to get him to understand? He’s abrupt and says what he’s thinking and feeling, he can’t always communicate his feelings appropriately or gently enough, and he doesn’t understand give and take. It’s all just so difficult and leaves me feeling, again, like I can’t do enough.

So what do you do? How do you let them out in a world they’re not prepared for, or that’s not prepared for them?

“Summer camp SUCKS!”

We tried. He really tried, too…at least I think he did.

It was a regular summercamp, one without special needs teachers or programming. A) Special needs camps are costly. B) Special needs camps aren’t local. C) Special needs camps don’t have enough slots. It was 20 kids BB’s age, with activities that included crafts, sports, speakers, and games.

Day 1: We pick him up and he was moping out the door. This didn’t go right, that didn’t go right. He got ‘put out’ for this game, ‘put out’ for that game, and lost five minutes of swimming. Finally, after we let him vent, we learned he’d used a teacher’s squirt gun on another child, and was repeatedly too strong when playing games. (And the squirt guns? They were allowed, a planned activity, but the kids were supposed to use small guns and he used a big gun he found ‘just laying around.’) He didn’t want to return, but we made a deal: go all this week, and you don’t have to go any further.

Day 2: More of day 1, just maybe worse, despite me having spoken with the lead teacher that they might want to make a few minor accommodations. Still didn’t want to return, but was glad he wasn’t having to go next week. (And we’d already planned on only one week, we didn’t have unrealistic expectations.)

Day 3: More of day 1 and day 2, but he did run in that evening with a smile on his face as he showed me the flashcards the local police department gave them when they brought all their canine dogs for the kids to learn about and pet. BB loved the dogs. Then, he showed me his pom-pom animal made during craft. Unsurprisingly, other kids were making dogs, cats and monkeys, and mine made a zombie.

Day 4: Never happened. Days 1, 2 and 3 were cumulatively making his behaviors worse each night, and Wednesday night (aka Day 3) was unbearable. Bad tantrums with things thrown around and knocked off as he walked by. Screaming, yelling, the whole thing.

All in all, he says he’s not anti-camp. He says likes the idea of camp, just not this camp. Part of it was caused by his inability to get along in that type of social environment, but it was worsened because a little boy from school attended camp, and was the same whining tattler he was all year long. While they didn’t seem to make many accommodations for my little guy, even with the special needs I mentioned (I never mentioned the “A” word), they didn’t seem to really do much to stop this aforementioned little guy from his behavior; my son would get a time out, and this boy is rewarded by the kid(s) he whines about getting the time out. What does that teach the little boy? No wonder he’s still whining and tattling so much. For him, it works.

After another mother of a tantrum this evening (we just came home from three days at an RV park with friends), he is quietly (well, sort of) sitting at our table eating a Klondike bar. He ate a good meal of his favorite chicken/ham/cheese nuggets from Fresh & Easy (no additives, preservatives, or extra ingredients) and seems to be calmer. Let’s hope it stays that way, tomorrow’s going to be a busy Monday, and I have no car. (Maintenance time.) I think big brother’s planning on taking him out for a little while, perfect timing.

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