YOU Are the Best. Thank You.

Wow, you guys are amazing. Your comments, emails, and phone calls helped bring me back from sort of a dark place. Thank you for the hugs. Thank you for the suggestions. Thank you for the encouragement. I hope to get back to each of you personally, but haven’t been able to yet.

It absolutely floors me that Jack and I have all of you out there. Thank you so much! You know who you are.

*****

In other, happier news, Quinn seems to have potty trained himself. In the one week since we were forced to throw out Quinn’s diapers, he has stepped up to the plate (or the toilet, as it were).

As a matter of fact—and I know I’m jinxing myself here—he’s even stayed dry at night for the past three nights.

Apparently if you wait until waaaaaaay after your child is ready to potty train, it goes pretty fast.

The only snag is that he’s having some trouble pooping in the potty. You know this page in Once Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel? (Edited for decency and pixelated because…ew.)

Yeah.

The opposite of what you would expect, his aim with his pee is all right. With his poop? Not so much.

As a matter of fact, the first words Alex said to me today were: “Don’t go into the yellow bathroom. There was an incident with Quinn. I will clean it up.”

I’m still trying to decide if this is better than diapers.*

* yes

Yet Another Brain Dump/Freak Out

I am in the throes of a panic attack. Mostly because I am drowning. Drowning in my self-made lake of work and responsibilities, yes, but also drowning in fear and apprehension about Jack’s upcoming IEP meeting. Upcoming, as in, coming up on Monday at the crack of the damn dawn.

You all know I’ve been struggling with the decision of whether or not to send Jack to kindergarten. I’ve also been struggling with the decision of where to send him if not to kindergarten. And what services I should demand if I do send him to kindergarten. And how to pay for whatever the school district won’t.

While I’ve been visiting schools and asking questions and mulling this all over and turning it over and over in my head, I realized today that Monday is coming fast. I need to figure some shit out and I need to figure it out fast. And I realized how really un-goddamn-prepared for this meeting I am.

I also realized how unprepared I am to know what Jack needs. Christ, I don’t know anything about autism. I mean, I guess I know more than the average person, but compared to all of you other ladies out there, I don’t know shit. I’m learning. And I’m trying to learn more, but I don’t know enough.

I don’t know enough about autism to know what Jack needs. And I don’t know enough about the public school system or IEPs to get him what he needs. And I wish I had a fucking crystal ball that could tell me the things that would help him the most, because I would make them happen, no matter what, but as far as I know, no such crystal ball exists.

And I’ve been worrying that I haven’t been putting enough of my focus on Jack. That I’ve been jauntily living the life of a mom and wife and part-time worker and entrepreneur when I should really just be focusing on being a special needs parent.

I’ve been doing some thinking about this lately, about what it means to be a special needs mom. Even without this IEP breathing down my neck, I have so much on my plate, and I’ve started to wonder if that’s okay.

Is it okay to spend so much time blogging? I love it and it makes me happy, but maybe I should be spending that time learning about Jack. Is it okay to be trying to start a videography business? It’s fun and fulfilling and creative, but it’s time-consuming and expensive. (Hopefully not expensive forever…) Shouldn’t I spend that time and money on Jack? Isn’t he more important?

When I finally get my first chance all day to sit down at 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon and I just really want to do a crossword puzzle and decompress for a few minutes, but that time coincides with Jack’s arrival home from school, shouldn’t I really be utilizing that time for him? (Or, God forbid, one of my other kids?) Shouldn’t I be strong enough to put my puzzle down, hunker down on the floor, and play with my children?

The struggle to find a balance between self and child is hard enough with “typical” kids. What does a special needs child do to that balance? Especially when there are two other children in the mix?

Usually I think I’m a good mom for Jack. But there are days that I think I am not the best mom for Jack. Today is one of those days.

Like Mother, Sorta Like Son

I have my theories about Jack coming by his issues honestly. I’ve heard that lots of parents don’t get their own diagnoses until their children get theirs. I don’t have a diagnosis, but it’s not for lack of my own issues.

There are lots of quirks I share with Jack. There are also lots that I don’t. Both Jack and I have sensory issues. But while Jack gravitates toward sensory input, I shirk from it.

I believe that, at the very least, I have Sensory Processing Disorder, also known as Sensory Integration Disfunction (or is it the other way around?).

I broke the news to Alex one day while we were driving. “You know how I’m always thinking that I have one disorder or another?” I asked. “I think I have Sensory Processing Disorder.”

He kindly (and quickly) came back with, “Maybe you have more than one disorder.” Thanks, Sweetie. (And by “Sweetie,” I mean, “Jackass”.)

I do enough oversharing here at Stimeyland, so I don’t need to list all of my crazy symptoms here. (I’ll parse those out when I need blog fodder.) Suffice it to say, when we got home this evening and there was barely perceptible music coming from a house down the street, it took everything I had not to (completely) freak out. I had to abandon my kids’ bedtime routine and retreat to a back room with my iPod Shuffle.

It’s kind of a bummer, but I think it’s helpful for me in my interactions with Jack to have some sense of what it’s like when you’re absolutely driven toward (or away from) something. It’s also been educational for me to realize that I am not just weird about things, but that I am wired in a way that makes me weird about things.

Having a name and a cause for my quirkiness doesn’t make it any easier to deal with music from across the street or, say, putting my hands in water, but somehow it does make me feel better about it. And that’s a start.

DCMM: Survivor: Kindergarten-Style

Send him to kindergarten or don’t send him to kindergarten, that is the question. Recently I have been obsessing over whether to send my young son, who just turned five this month, to kindergarten next fall with the rest of his peers. Part of me really wants to keep him in preschool for an extra year.

See, my son is on the autism spectrum. And while he is very smart, reading and doing some math at age four, his social development (among other things) is behind that of other children his age. Lately I’ve had a lot of encouragement from his teachers and doctors to send him to kindergarten next year. And I’ve started leaning in that direction.

And then I read this. A kindergarten teacher in Port St. Lucie, Florida, led her students in a discussion of a child’s negative qualities and then conducted a poll that resulted in his class voting 14-2 to kick him out of the class. The child, Alex Barton, is in the process of being diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

I cannot even describe my feelings when I read the first couple of blog posts I found on the subject. My concerns with sending my child to kindergarten stem largely from a fear that the other kids will ostracize him. The thought that a teacher would allow that to happen had occurred to me. The thought that a teacher would actively encourage, and even instigate it had not.

Apparently Alex had been disruptive and, as his punishment, the teacher made him stand in front of the class while his peers called him things such as “disgusting” and “annoying.”

Not surprisingly, Alex is devastated and has not been back to school since.

Honestly, regardless of Alex’s disability, this is reprehensible behavior by a teacher. Coupled with the disability, it is shockingly abusive.

And now I’m left wondering about my own child and his chances for success in kindergarten. I’m pretty sure none of the teachers at his school would engage in this type of behavior, but then again, I wouldn’t have thought that any teacher would.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Jean blogs about autism, and everything else having to do with her life, at Stimeyland.

Well Children

I’m trying to get my entire immediate family to a doctor in a four-day period. I went yesterday for my uncooperative ears. I’m trying to get Sam in tomorrow for his allergies. Maybe Alex will break his leg or something on Sunday.

Today was Jack and Quinn’s turn. They had their annual checkups today. You can see the biggest effect of this checkup over here. [Hint: I’m being forced to parent.]

But the saddest part of the checkup was when Quinn got one shot and Jack got four. I put a little thought into who should get vaccinated first and I decided that Jack would be less likely to be upset by Quinn’s tears and screams. So Quinn went first.

Yeah, he was pissed. And then, after the injury of the shot, the nurse insulted him by putting a Bugs Bunny band aid on his leg. Again, he was pissed.

I was right in thinking that Jack would be unbothered by Quinn’s cries for mercy. He kept saying, “I’m going to be brave,” and then plastering a big, fake smile on his face. When he started getting stabbed the smile went away.

Although the nurse did compliment me on my child-restraint talents.

[Note: Those talents do not come from regularly forcibly restraining my children. I used to work for a vet and learned how to restrain uncooperative, unhappy patients who are getting shots/blood draws/toenail clips.]

Jack was not insulted by the band aids, but on the way home he did offer up his own sad appraisal of the situation:

“I have holes in my body.”

This might be the last time they’re happy to go to the doctor for a while. I might have to leave them home when I take Sam tomorrow.

Thanks For the Free Medical Advice!

You know you’re desperate when you start asking for medical advice on the internet. I mean, surely the internet wouldn’t give me bad medical advice, right?

Most of you suggested I go see a doctor and beg that doctor to fix my ears. And I did. (Eventually. It’s a long story that I’m not going to go into now, but this ear congestion episode has led me to switch doctors.)

I just choked down the four pills I have to take every 12 hours (antibiotic, decongestant, and acidophilus). I’m hoping that the miracle of modern medicine will greet me tomorrow morning in the form of ears that are usable for their intended purposes: hearing and balance.

Thank you, everyone, for all the good and kind advice!