Freaking Out in Autism-Land

This has been the busiest ten days of the year for me.  A week ago, my class presented their final projects for the semester and this past Saturday night, I gave a semi-important lecture for a local arts organization (in a blizzard here in the Midwest…..a blog post for another time).  I’ve been working toward my class’s projects (and showing them) since August.  I’ve been working on my lecture notes (and all the fancy Power Point pix for the lecture) since I was hired in mid-August.  But there are always last minute additions and when you practice the lecture text aloud, often you have to change them, right? After my class was finished,  I had Monday and Tuesday to grade the projects and submit grades to the most complicated grade submission program on the planet. I figured I had all of Wednesday to finish the lecture and edit the pix. So I could, ya know, take a breath and relax before I had to pump up my adrenaline for the lecture on Saturday.

Wouldn’t you know there would be Autism Issues…it was totally predictable….in the midst of it all? Now, I have to admit, this was not the Kiddo’s fault AT ALL, it was mine.  But because of his Autism and the OCD component of his Autism, I had to haul my Tuckus into gear to make all right with his world…..Autism-Land….or there would be hell to pay.

On Wednesday morning, I had the bright idea to water all my somewhat neglected house plants. I’ve been busy and just didn’t have time to do my usual plant grooming but, I thought, why not just water ’em and pluck off the dried up leaves? So, Kiddo was at his day program and I watered plants.  Just before he was supposed to arrive home, I decided to go upstairs to my room and water those plants. I  watered my bedroom plants and then tried to close (and lock) my bedroom door…….but it was stuck and I slammed it shut……big mistake!

Some of you might remember I’ve mentioned Kiddo has a collection of about 15 musical snow globes.  We had special shelves built on the wall in his room about ten years ago….and they’ve worked great…up until now.   When I slammed the door (his room is next to ours), four of the globes FELL OFF THE SHELVES AND SHATTERED ALL OVER THE RUG, BROKE TWO OF HIS LAVA LAMPS AND RUINED HIS TV!  As I realized what had just happened, I heard his bus, so I closed his bedroom door and got downstairs to meet it.  He, of course, wanted to take his backpack up to his room and hang it up on his closet door, as always.  But Kiddo hates disruption in his room; I even have to make sure the door is shut when I change his bed linens or he has a hissy fit. I grabbed the backpack, told him to have a clementine (his absolute favorite snack) and ran upstairs to further access the damage.

I can’t even begin to tell you the damage.  The rug was gross and stained…..and there was glitter (or something) all over because these were, you know, snow globes. Something smelled foul and I realized his collection of Troll dolls, right underneath the shelves with the globes, were soaked with whatever rancid water was in the broken globes.  Right around this time, The Youngest came home to check something on his laptop before going back to teach. I asked him to help me move the TV shelf but he told me he didn’t have time to change…..and this would be messy!  So I told him to turn the family room TV to PBS and their children’s programming…..as he and I were talking in the kitchen, The Kiddo went up to his room behind our backs, opened the door……and began screaming….bloodcurdling screams and wouldn’t go in.  The Youngest and I got him downstairs, I made him a multi-course lunch and encouraged him to eat it in front of the TV (we never, ever do that…but needs, must). The Youngest had to go back to work so it took me about 30 minutes to get The Kiddo to calm down.  I decided I had to get ‘er done and not let him see anything until the Clean Up was finished. SIGH!

It took me almost eight hours to clean up the Flippin’ mess, from the time I slammed that lousy door to being able to let him back in.  I picked glass shards out of the carpet with my bare hands.  We tried to move the TV (and took all the books off of the shelf ) and the shelf fell apart. So, The Middle Boy and Hubby went out to Target and got him a new shelf and TV (an LED which is certainly safer than his old tube TV), and I was on my hands and knees cleaning the carpet with my carpet spot cleaner.  I threw the Trolls into the washer (and they came out great, who knew?) and rearranged the books and VHS tapes (he’s learned to use them …….we’ve tried getting him a DVD player….our Kiddo is an old school-technology guy) and put those damn snow globes on a very, very, VERY sturdy shelf on top of another book shelf. The room looks great, the new TV is safer for him and the carpet looks better than it has since the last time we had the carpets cleaned.  Hubby hooked up the new TV to the video/DVD player and things are organized better for him. The Kiddo sauntered into his new and improved room with a big smile on his face.  All was right in Autism-Land. GGGGGGRRRRRR!

We all agree this was a good thing, in the long run. Why the universe conspired to choose the one day I had to do my own stuff to make it happen, I’ll never know.  I was so tired, my eyelids hurt and I sobbed when I went to bed.

In case you were wondering,  I finished the lecture on Thursday afternoon. It went great but I never did get my *relaxing* time as I had wanted. ‘Cause why should anything be different….I’m living in Autism-Land!

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Ummmm, YUCK!

Those of you with a squeamish stomach should probably move on.  This will not be for the sensitive!

I have been pregnant fours times, carrying three pregnancies to term. Each time, I knew I was pregnant within days of conception for a very simple reason…I started to vomit!  Each morning, I lost my cookies but was fine come 11 am. Odors set me off or looking at pictures of something.  It could be food, it could be laundry detergent, or it could be a hot day with mowed grass especially fragrant.  I kept a plate of saltines and a bottle of ginger ale at my bedside and would nibble a cracker or take a sip before I got out of bed and that seemed to help.  But by 11 am, I was back to normal and could go about my business. Tough to do when you have toddlers and a teaching schedule!

When expecting Son #2, Son #1 was about two and we were beginning rounds of testing  to get a diagnosis.  But a funny thing happened around that time, something so odd and so shameful, I told no one about it;  Son One began to smear feces.

I woke up one morning and  couldn’t get out of bed before I started to heave from a horrid smell.  I ran to the bathroom, went about my business and then peeked in to Baby One’s room.  I started to gag….my Lord!  Baby One was covered in poop and so was his crib and the wall next to the crib.  I went into my room, found a red bandanna, tied it around my face and then started the clean up process.  I ran a bathtub of bubbles before I got the Baby, grabbed him, stuck him in the tub, scrubbed him from head-to-toe—did I mention he was frightened by my Old-West- Train-Robber look?–so he was screaming.  I dressed him, and brought him into the TV room, turned on Sesame Street and got the cleaning supplies.  By now, I was dry heaving under the bandanna.  I stripped his bed and threw the soiled linens in the bathtub while I cleaned the crib and wall.  I took the bed linens to the washer and started a load and then began to sob.  I made him breakfast and got him from the TV room. I thought this was just a one-fer, I didn’t know this behavior would continue.

A few weeks later,  I put Baby One down for an afternoon nap and, since it was after 11 am, was able to do some housework with cleaning supplies that would make me nauseated in the mornings .  I began dinner and then washed the kitchen floor.  I wanted to finish the floor before I got him up, so eventho I could hear him rustling around, I finished. Big mistake.  He was sitting in the middle of his crib, happy as a pig in…..well, you know! My husband didn’t quite believe me at first, because it seemed so bizarre.  One night, we heard Baby One giggling (yes, you read right, GIGGLING) and when we went in to check, guess what we found him doing?

It was right around this time I stopped calling family regularly.  I was so ashamed and really, whom could I talk to about this?  Would my Great-Aunt Pat  or Cousin Charlotte or my Mom or Mother-in-law know why and what to do? They already questioned me as a mother and this would cause them to think less of me.  I told no one and my husband and I did everything we could think of to stop it.

Now the feces smearing didn’t happen all the time, so we never quite knew what would trigger his desire to do it.  I checked on him often when he was napping.  We tried to get him on a BM schedule, something we were trying to do anyway to have him toilet trained (hahaha, the was a joke on us….he wasn’t completely toilet trained until he was six) before the new baby arrived.

Throughout his childhood, he had bouts of smearing, most intense right about the time he was finally toilet trained.  After that, it was occasionally, usually if he was too lazy to get up to go to the bathroom.  We used a behavior technique called *over-correction*, which meant in this instance we made HIM strip his bed and put his linens in the washer, after we gave him a COLD (he loves hot/warm showers so a cold one would get the crap off but not give him pleasure) shower. He was about 12 when we resorted to that and I am happy to say, that really put an end to this behavior.

Knowing what I know now, it is common for many, many children on the Spectrum to be feces smear-ers.  Doesn’t even matter their functioning level, they just smear.  The whys don’t even matter…for every Kid, there is probably is a different reason. It’s not unusual AT ALL and in later Blog posts, I’ll discuss some ways of handling it so it GOES AWAY!