Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘tic

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.

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“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.

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?


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  • Payor: Just wish to declare the document is usually as unbelievable. The actual lucidity with your write-up is simply good and also i possibly could think yo
  • Kim: amen!!!!!!!! Thank you.------ Mom of 5 year old verbal (with speech apraxia), self injurious autistic son.
  • Emily: Thank you so much. I share your pain and am glad to know I'm not alone in my struggles with my very verbal autistic spectrum son.
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