Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘stim

It’s like a bad pepto commercial, this new stim.

Picture it like this…the house is quiet (ha, like that ever happens..)…wait, the house is not very loud. I’m working , or maybe even on a work conference call. I am focused. I am concentrating.

Blurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp. Roar.

Did a dinosaur just get in my dining room?

No, that’s just my son and his latest stim/tic.

Autism — it’s not just a ‘disorder,’ it’s an adventure. You may need earmuffs.

Tomorrow I’m going on a field trip with my son’s school. I know a lot of us moms do these things because we should, but I’m really looking forward to this. Ds has had a couple of bad shakes when it comes to field trips, one being the time that his teacher told him they don’t use the restroom during the CHILDREN’S play, so he wet himself, and by the time I was notified, he was literally wet waist to toe. And embarrassed. An awful thing to do to a child, particularly without any real sympathy, and it’s stuck in his head ever since. Can’t say as I blame him. Child or not, it’s pretty embarrassing to have half of your body soaked and the smell leaves no room for error in knowing what you’re soaked with. Why it’s okay for that to happen to a child is beyond me, but I won’t go there. That wouldn’t happen this year, with or without me along.

So, tomorrow at 9am, I board the bus with my son’s class and two others. He’s so happy to have me along, although I have been instructed to sit in another seat. You know, Mom, so I can, you know, sit with my, you know, friends. Okay, I know.

This field trip is to a nature place I’ve never been. And it’s only about a 20 minute drive or so. Perfect on both counts. And I can be with ds in case he has any flashbacks or other ‘out of my comfort zone’ weirdness. I’ll update on Friday, but I think it’ll be fun. I enjoy hanging out with his classmates and helping, so it’s going to be a good day away from work.

On a not-really-related note, his hair twirling tic/stim is at an all time high. We’re talking both hands totally engaged in twirling up sections of hair onto themselves until the knot is inpenetrable by anything other than scissors. Ds, though, just pulls them out when he can’t extricate them otherwise, leaving little hairballs all over my house. It’s a really good thing I am a neat freak. A “cleany.” A spotless house person. Anal.

What to do with the hair twirling? We’re working on re-directing and giving him things to do, but he’s even stopping those activities to double-fist and twirl. The scary part, worse than it interfering with normal daily life, is that he’s pulling out so much, it’s now becoming visible that he’s missing some layers of hair. And he’s got beautiful hair down past his shoulders. (Cutting it’s not an option — when it was short, he’d just pull it out by the root easier. And his eyelashes/eyebrows. Eww.)

A praise is that drop-off this morning went good. He was quiet, but happy. I noticed his jeans were a bit too short, so I’m making a run tonight for some more, just to not give him one more reason to stand out. I didn’t realize he’d grown so much in the last few weeks. (And gained 3 pounds!) I did get a call that he’d gone to the nurse’s office with a tummy-ache, but he didn’t have it when he left, and when I ran into a friend earlier who saw him at school, ds was observed doing fine, so something must have made him anxious enough to want to leave school. I also think he can’t quite communicate his physical feelings sometimes. A conversation a couple of weeks ago in the car, on the way to Disneyland, went as follows:

“Mom, I feel carsick. Are we almost there?”

“Sorry, but we’ve got about another 20-30 minutes. Traffic. And you’re not carsick, you’re fine.”

“No, Mom <insert duh tone here> I really am carsick.”

“What’s carsick? How exactly do you feel?”

“I don’t know, I just know I’m carsick.”

Okay then.

Throughout the years, my son’s stims have run the gamut — finger flapping…head shifting…licking everything, licking his arms, licking others’ arms…sucking his shirt collars till they drip…chewing everything…picking his cuticles till they bleed…rubbing his ears until they are raw…grabbing himself, there…you get the picture. We’ve tried a lot of things — diet, supplements, re-direction, distractions, etc. — but in the end, the best success was temporary.

Someone told us early on that if a stim wasn’t impeding function, leave it be. I didn’t really agree then though, and I don’t know. Stims can be dangerous, and stims can be unhealthy. Stims can also scream “I HAVE ISSUES.”

One of my son’s doctors calls his stims ‘tics.’ But tics belong to Tourette’s, and my has autism, not Tourette’s…right? So stims are stims, and not tics. Is it semantics, or are stims ever really tics? Is the defining factor the ability to stop the stim?

Someone else told me years ago, when I asked what we could do to help my son, “It depends all on how autistic you want your child to be.” In a way, I agreed — I could deal with the way he was, or I could work on helping him more. So away I went, finding the latest and greatest to help him. Then I realized eventually that only in a perfect world could I make it all go away. Sure, we can improve things, fix some things, change others, but I don’t want him to be autistic at all, yet there it is, he’s still autistic. Stims are part of the category of things I’d love to fix, but can’t. Yet if a stim isn’t impeding his function, do you spend time and energy on stopping it, if it takes time away from teaching social and behavioral nuances and behavior?

My son’s stims rotate. Typically, he has about two or three going at a time, and they each rotate for about two months. The only non-rotating stim is his need to constantly move his hair up on the top of his head, and to twirl it. (He’s got long hair, a wish of his. Initially, he said he wanted to hide behind it so he wouldn’t have to see people, and while he no longer says that’s the reason, I still wonder.) Anyway..his current stims are scrunching up his mouth as though he’s giving a kiss while scrunching his nose like the person he’s kissing smells really bad. And he does it over and over and over. While eating, reading, playing Guitar Hero, bathing, falling asleep..it’s incessant. Mix it with the other stim-of-the-month, stretching his mouth longwise as far as it will go. When I ask him why, he says it’s because it feels good, yet other times he appears entirely surprised that he was doing it.

Is this stim hurting anything? No. Is it obvious? Heck, yes. I realize that the ‘obvious’ part of it is my problem, and a problem I need to get over. My son’s very verbal, and many of his behaviors are via yelling, screaming, saying inappropriate/mean things, sometimes combined with hitting, yelling, throwing things, running away, etc. People in stores don’t take to that stuff very kindly, but I’ve found that when your child looks funny, people also stare. My husband’s great at telling me to ignore it, but I’ve got a ways to go on this. Meanwhile, these are still stims I want to fix…or should I?

The diagnosis of ODD has been tossed around a bit during the last couple of years, but we aren’t buying it. It’s not a permanent thing…okay, it’s not always that bad. This week though? Oh yes. In fact, the last 4-5 days have been a bad case of ODD: Obstinate Dude Disorder. (Ask me for my personal definition of PMS…go ahead, ask me. I am really creative with initials.)

This has been a day of obstinance. The last kernel of corn on his plate was the last straw. He’s now upstairs playing the newly repaired Gamecube, but unhappy about the disappearance of its memory card, which, of course, he did not lose. He had nothing to do with it. He, in fact, never has anything to do with anything and the rest of us are idiots.

Along with ODD, he’s a stim monster. Hands in the hair, fingers pulling the eyelashes (normally a sign of stress, but sometimes just a stim) and the most obvious? Shirt off the shoulder, cheek rubbing said shoulder. Over and over.

Stims are one of those things that are really common with kids on the autism spectrum, but that doesn’t mean we just let it go. We do pick our battles, and right now, his ODD is our bigger battle, but I do worry since the winds are apparently due to kick in within the next couple of days…four or so days of them. When the winds get bad, he normally wants to stay in his jammies all day and cuddle…or yell. You can’t really tell what kind of mood he’ll be in. That changes every minute, and I doubt even he knows what he’s going to do next. The good news? I work tomorrow and am off work again until Monday. I can pound Starbucks while working on some new ABA techniques that may help.

Speaking of ABA, I’m thrilled to be starting a new program within the next few weeks. Thrilled. Seriously. I know we’re in for a lot of work, but I am clearly not a professional behaviorist, and I welcome the input of those who have been in the trenches. I am looking forward to this to the point where my friends are probably thinking “oh no, she’s talking about it again.” To you who put up with it, you can come to our open house in December. 😉

Tomorrow I get to experiment and see if there’s another cookie I can make for ds that doesn’t have oatmeal or chocolate chips. Oatmeal makes him gag, in any form, and he’ll eat chocolate chips forever and I’d really like to bless my family with something other than that kind. Then I need to complete some jewelry I’m making for Christmas gifts, plan what pies I’m making for Thanksgiving dinner and dive into the stack of new autism books that are growing dusty. (And it’s not helping that I keep adding to it. I just bought Dr. Bock’s book on autism and epidemics of childhood and I have a highliter ready to go.)

Speaking of books, has anyone noticed the plethora of books on autism that are coming out over the next few months? Now we just need a bookstore closer to my house..like within 5 minutes. I can get to our closest Borders in under 10 minutes, but I want closer. Parking alone at that store takes longer than the drive. I also have TACA’s journey book that I have yet to crack open though I know it’s full of info that I definitely need to try.

Off to see if the memory card has yet been found. Ds stood on the stairs yelling about it, then crying, and for right now, he’s calm….the calm before the storm?


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