Link This, Autsim!!!!!!!!!

I just opened my Facebook news feed after a couple of days of FB vacation, and the first post I see is about a new “link” to autism. Because I have a child on the spectrum, I am part of many autism support groups, both in person locally, and amongst social media. It seems  like everyday I see something new about a study that found some sort of correlation with autism. I’m here to say, I am so sick of it!!!

At first, I would read every single one of these and act accordingly. If they told me that autism is merely the result of a gut issue, I would buy the best probiotic I could find. If I read that it was a gluten issue, GF all the way! If it was a dairy issue, cut the cheese (pun intended). Then, you realize you are only left with a handful of food options. Then the “research” tells you that you can’t have any corn ingredient either, so then you are down to only 3 options to give your child. While you are starving your child, and following what all the books and research say, you realize your child is not improving, but is regressing instead. Then you try something else, because that’s what is in the updated autism news ‘links.’

You read that B vitamins tend to be very low in autistic children, and his third blood test confirms this. You order $200.00 worth of B12 shots through a special ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) pharmacy, and give your sweet little baby a shot in the ass every 3 days. You do this for an entire 5 straight months, because that’s what everyone says to do, and you still see no improvement and even more regression.

Now you are starting to get a little skeptical. You want to try everything because there is so much out there that talks about “curing” autism, but nothing is working, and is actually making the situation worse. The Dr’s tell you to try it for 1 more month to get the full effect. You are torn between torturing your child and “curing” this horrific “disease”.

Then you read that ‘paternal age’ is the big correlation to autism. Do you hate your husband for being old? Or hate that he is hating himself for being old? You then read that the pitocin that the Dr gave you when you were in labor could possibly have caused the autism. Do you hate the Dr for not giving you the option of taking it? Do you hate yourself for allowing that to happen, and not reading enough about pitocin before your delivery?

The list of “reasons” and “links” and “cures” go on and on.  So, what do you do? Do you turn off all social media and the TV, and live in your little bubble of ignorance? Only to later beat yourself up for not reading enough or asking enough questions to help your child.

Then, when you decide to check out new “links”, you start asking yourself questions like, “If autism was a gut issue, what does that have to do with my husband being old at the time of conception?” Or,  “If it is because of gluten, then how is it that all of the high functioning autistic children I meet eat gluten-filled diets all day long?” So, when do you stop the madness? When do you say, ‘I don’t give a shit how or why my son is autistic.”? Or do you continue to jump on one leg 3 times while holding your breath and patting your tummy with your left hand with one eye closed because that’s what the books say to do to cure the autism?

I don’t think it ever stops. At some point you have to weigh your options. You have to assess if you have given it enough time, if you are seeing improvement, and if it is within reasonable limits. You also have to let go of any guilt that you may have about your own role in his autism. You have to ask yourself why it is so important to ‘cure’ him, and what that means to you.

Someone told me today that they drank out of the water hose all the time when they were little, and they were fine. So did I. So, of course, I immediately thought ‘maybe that’s why my son is autistic.’ Sorta jokingly, but not really. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. This is what we parents of autistic children do all the time. Overanalyze, over-assess everything because there is no reason or cure…………yet. But we still try, because that’s what we do. And we never give up.

The best advice I was given while reading one of those ‘autism links’  is to love your child unconditionally. Don’t let your child think that you believe he is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ because he is not considered ‘normal’. Appreciate him for the awesome person that he is, and learn to love his oddness. If only others could do the same, there wouldn’t be so much emphasis on the cure.

 

Today I Hate Autism, and Autism Hates Me

I love my child with everything I have, every day, all day. But some days I hate his autism…………..today is one of those days.

It started with a not so great night of sleep. This is very common with autistic children, and especially mine. His usual pattern is waking up at 3 or 4AM and staying up until 6 or 7AM, then going back to sleep. This time he slept all night, but woke up at 7AM (9hrs). For some reason, when he wakes up before 8AM, he is a nightmare. He is so tired and cranky. So, I was prepared for what was to come, but that doesn’t always make it easier.

We had a birthday party to go to for a kid in the neighborhood who is turning 3. I knew this wasn’t going to go over well, but we are always told to take our ASD (autism spectrum disorder) kids out to social events as much as possible. On a side note, just to explain another example of my ‘hating autism mood’………we were at the pool yesterday when this particular birthday boy, who was with his grandmother, said “Hi Keegan,” to which, of course, Keegan didn’t respond. He not only didn’t respond, he didn’t even look at him and kept stimming away. As grandmother looked at Keegan like ‘what is wrong with you?’ (I see that look all the time), I had to say “sorry, he is autistic and has a hard time communicating.” Grandma looked a little perplexed and didn’t respond. I’m sure she had never heard of autism.

So anyway, we get to the party and, of course, Keegan just wants to be held. That’s it. Will not let me put him on the ground. There are tons of kids running around having a great time, and Keegan refuses to put his feet on the ground. Part of this is because he was tired, but the other part is just autism. He was probably overstimulated, and confused at being in a place he had never been—two things that are always hard for ASD kids. He then began to whine and ask for his juice. Of course, we were in an area where no food or drink were allowed, so we stepped out of the area to drink. When I tried to take the juice away from him and proceed back to the party area, he began crying and whining in his ‘this is only going to get worse’ kinda way.

This is where my bad parenting starts to play a role. For those who are always telling me how great I am, and how patient I have become, this is when I call bullshit. I start to feel that ‘if my child was normal, I wouldn’t be sitting here miserable, I would be happily watching him run around like all the other kids’ kinda way. I try so hard not to let this happen, but I am human. I know I should be thinking ‘poor baby is just tired, at least my child doesn’t have cancer or something worse’, but sometimes life gets in the way of happy thoughts.

I began to get angry and frustrated that this is my life, and I will probably never be able to enjoy a kid’s birthday party ever again. Not that kids’ birthday parties are ever really fun, but it would be nice if my child could enjoy a birthday party. He can’t even have his own birthday party. Keegan just turned 4 and we had nothing but a cake, candle, and 2 presents from grandma and grandpa, while daddy and I sang him happy birthday very quietly, as to avoid upsetting him with loud singing. And we had to open the presents for him. He had no interest. We could have afforded a party, but it would have made him anxious and upset to be in a party setting. So what is the point–it is for him, after all.

We abruptly leave the party before the behavior escalates. Actually more like before I escalate because, luckily, Keegan has very little behavior problems and rarely tantrums. But, I knew the whining and the holding was not going to cease. Which was just pissing me off, so yep, you guessed it……….Keegan picked up on my anger and frustration, and began crying. He is very perceptive of others’ feelings and emotions. I read once, which makes sense, that children who have limited receptive language have to rely on others’ behaviors and emotions to dictate the situation. So, we were both in a state, and just figured it was better to leave. I get in the car and whine to my hubby on the phone about another fabulous autism experience, and Keegan falls asleep, just as expected.

He rarely naps, so when he does I dread it more than I enjoy it. I know that when he wakes up, he will cry and whine for at least 20 minutes. He hates to wake up from a nap (he gets that from me). Of course, that is what happened, then came the dreaded lunch. It’s only dreaded because he never eats, and that always stresses me out. My friend asked me the other day (who obviously has no children and is not too familiar with autism), “Doesn’t it worry you that he is not getting adequate nutrition?” I didn’t bother to tell her that I have had sleepless nights, upset stomachs, fights with hubby, non-stop conversations with his developmental pediatrician about it, and am currently getting feeding therapy with 2 different speech therapists. I just said, “I have to remind myself that if he is eating anything, he will live…….for now, anyway.” I also didn’t bother to tell her that if I spent all of my energy worried about his eating, I would also have to worry about every developmental milestone he still has yet to achieve. I would have to stress out that he can’t draw a circle when told to, that he can’t sing his ABC’s like all kids his age, or that he can’t cut paper. I would also have to worry that he still sleeps with a pacifier every single night, and that he can’t drink out of a regular cup, only a straw. I would have to stress out about the fact that he may never be potty trained. The list goes on and on, so at some point, you just have to stop worrying to avoid killing yourself.

Now, back to the rest of the shitty autism day. Off to Keegan’s favorite place in the whole wide world (sarcasm)…….getting a hair cut! To make matters worse, we decided to try a new place and new stylist, so that is always risky. While finding a parking spot, Keegan already started crying. He did exactly like I knew he would during the cut………………..cried like someone was stabbing him in the stomach repeatedly with a serrated knife. I know most children hate getting their hair cut, but I think Keegan thinks he is having another blood draw, or getting more shots. Maybe the hair falling on his neck feels like needles on his little skin. Because he can’t tell me, I’ll never know. The stylist was so awesome, but that didn’t matter. Keegan still hated every bit of it, and the tears streaming down his face made me want to cry with him.

So, I thought I would ease his pain a little with ice cream. Luckily, there was a Marble Slab Creamery right across the street. The whole time in line he is crying in my arms. We sit down and he stops crying to eat his ice cream, thank God. He takes 2 bites and starts screaming. I’m thinking brain freeze, or the radio is bothering him. When he refuses to eat anymore, I begin eating it. After all, my mother always told me that you shouldn’t waste ice cream. After the first bite, I realize why he is crying. It was so gross. I’m not sure if the people didn’t know how to make ice cream that day, or if we just got a bad batch, but it tasted like powder with milk ,and no flavor at all. I almost began to cry with him, but instead just picked up his sad little body and carried him to the car. Epic fail for mom.

We get home and decide to go outside to swing, which is his favorite thing in the world. The minute we start walking down the porch stairs, it starts raining and lightning. Out of nowhere. Another epic fail for mom. Tears, tears and more tears. You never tell an autistic child you are going to swing, then say ‘just kidding, we aren’t.’ We went inside and I just sat on the ground, holding him, and crying with him. It hurts when your baby cries for most of the day and as a mom, you can’t do anything to make it better. I just wanted the day to end.

Luckily, the night ended on a much better note. We took him to his favorite restaurant (the only one we can go to and not get too many looks while he jumps up and down in the booth throughout the entire meal). And, HE ATE A BUNCH OF PIZZA! Now my night was made. He ate and we were all happy. Maybe this autism thing isn’t too bad after all. Always a roller coaster. I have to constantly remind myself of a great quote. “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.” At least it was OK at the end of the day…………….tomorrow is another day.

 

My Judgment Day

I don’t blame those judgmental, uneducated, and uninformed people  who frown upon me and my autistic child whatsoever. Why is that? Because I was one of them.

I always looked at those parents and unruly children and rolled my eyes in disgust. I would think, ‘how could those parents let him get away with that behavior? That kid is such a brat!’ I would assume that child had control over his/her actions and just chose to do the wrong thing.

I worked as a school social worker with autistic children, along with taking numerous classes in grad school emphasizing special needs. People sometimes say to me “well, you are lucky that you have the knowledge and the experience for dealing with autism”. I have news for you people…………none of that prepared me. I was still judgmental, and never truly understood what it really meant to deal with autism until I became an autism parent. You can hear about it all day long, and play with these kids during the day at school, but that doesn’t even come close to the daily ins and outs of autism.

Since the start of this journey, I realized how important it was to help people NOT be like me. I want to help others see autism through the child’s eyes (or the adults), and to understand before they roll their eyes……..to stop themselves from assuming the worst. I’m happy to say that I have had at least 2 friends tell me that they look at children and their behavior differently when out in public. They stop themselves from judging and think ‘that child might be autistic and may not be able to control himself.’ I had a supervisor tell me once that if I helped just one patient the entire time I worked at the hospital, I did my job. Well, I want to change more than one persons perspective. If that’s greedy, then I’m sorry….not sorry.

I realized the other day, at the hospital that I work at, that I still have a lot of work to do. We don’t usually admit autistic children unless they have another mental health diagnosis that needs acute care. There was an autistic/aspergers child who was being a little difficult. But if you knew about autism, you would know he wasn’t just being a brat. He was frustrated because he didn’t want to eat his lunch and the staff was taking away some of his privileges because of this. If these counselors knew anything about autism, they would know that most autistic children have food/sensory issues, and they would not try to make the child eat, or punish him for not eating. You would also know that some autistic children (especially mine) don’t understand the ‘if this, then that’ concept. It may be too abstract to some.

They then proceeded to physically take the child back to the unit without options or warning. For those autism parents reading this, you know what happened next. Yes, the child began to have a complete meltdown, which required the staff to become aggressive with him, when given no choice, to avoid the child hurting himself or anyone else. My first thought was ‘my child is one of the few autistic children with very little behavior problems, but if they pulled him up off the floor like that, you would probably see Chucky-like, crazy-ass behavior problems emanating from his little body.’ I understand that it is instinctual to treat a child in a psychiatric hospital the same as the next psychiatric patient with mental health problems. But not all behaviors are the same, or should be tended to in the same way. Long story short, I did tell the necessary people and urged some autism education, but only time will tell.

Anyway, I’m not saying these particular counselors were judgmental or ignorant, but uneducated for sure. They were assuming that this child was in control of his emotions and behaviors. They thought punishing him was going to set him straight. For some, this does work. But understanding everything about autism would have helped this child remain calm and avoid a meltdown all together.

As I have said before, I am far from perfect, and not at all the worlds best mom, or even best autism advocate. The other day, someone called me judgmental and it made me think……..I probably do have a lot more work to do in that department myself, but I think everybody does to a certain extent, I don’t care who you are (or maybe that’s just me being judgmental, lol).  It’s very hard to put yourself in other people’s shoes, but just keep in mind that most people are just trying their best. Educate yourself before you judge others’ actions or behaviors, especially those in children. Someone asked me years ago why I became a social worker. My response was “I gotta get to heaven somehow”. Little did I know then that I was (and still am) nowhere near getting into those pearly gates.