Tag Archives: Mental Health

Putting my Psychologist on

The UN headquarters in New York
The UN headquarters in New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel like a full-time psychologist most days. Hokey smokes! Between everyone we have a basket full of nuts. I’m speaking mostly of myself, of course.

Here are some of the things that require specialized treatment…

Conflict resolution – Since I knew I was going to have J-man home for the year (and absolutely NO qualms about it) I figured it would be good for him not to be hanging out with his middle-aged mom all by himself. At the time, I thought taking my next oldest child out was a logical step. While I still know that it was a wise decision, sometimes I think I’ve gone crackers. They are polar opposite in personality and pretty much every second is a competition. They can be the best of friends and the very worst of enemies. Most of the time, I hear that I shouldn’t have brought Belle home to home school and she should go back to school. I have been tempted…very tempted. Alas, I have become a mediator the United Nations could hire. Seriously. I’m that good. In the end, if they can get along without maiming each other, we will have successfully glimpsed world peace.

Anxiety prevention – Ack. Who can prevent anxiety? Not me. At this point we’re just mopping up afterwards. We have put J-man into a few different new situations this year. New situations = Nitro Anxiety. What was I thinking? I love my life. He is bearing down and sticking with basketball even though he really is having challenges understanding the game. He ROCKS at the skills, it’s just the plays and social part of it that has him bamboozled. Having braces in his mouth is about as fun as punching myself in the head, but they motivated (bribed) him with the chance of winning an Xbox so he’s brushing when I ask. Yay! Small victories, people.

Depression – Preventing myself from this is a fulltime job. Just kidding…kind of. J-man has struggled with this from early on and we are dealing with (a little of) this right now. I am the cheerleader/listener extraordinaire.

Oldest Child is an Aspie – Having the oldest child be on the Autism Spectrum is a special pickle in and of itself. We were blessed to adopt four kiddos within five years and we do count it a blessing despite me sounding like a whiner at times. Whining helps me cope. When you have an oldest as an Aspie, you have a world that looks like all of your kids are “special”. What I mean by this is, they all notice that he needs some different attention. They all notice what gets him attention. They all TRY the same methods or their own special methods (that drive me mad) repeatedly. Yay…not. We also have the youngest who has some issues herself, and so we have a special little sandwich of goodies. A couple of them have recently admitted that they feel like they don’t get enough attention. Well, goodness sakes children, you do have three siblings all squished together! Any “normal” family would have the same feelings, methinks! At least I know that I play the psychologist role well enough that they can express their feelings. Let’s be thankful for that, now, shall we?

All in all, I really don’t feel proficient at anything much of the time. Now that I’ve written some of that down, I feel like I’ve given myself a much-needed couch session. Whew! Now I can get up off that couch and treat the rest of the patients! Thanks for being my therapists. I know you are out there…somewhere.

 

 

 

 

Taking him out of school

Today we made the decision to pull our boy from school.

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It was a big decision but one that has been coming for a long, long time.

Before he even entered school we had entertained thoughts that his differences may make him a target for other children who would not be understanding of his differences. In other words, we pretty much knew bullying could be an issue for him and put him into public school hoping that “the establishment” could help other kids become more compassionate and keep those kids accountable for their actions. We knew that it could be a learning and strengthening thing in is life. That is to a certain point. We know that adversity brings great strength or great chaos into a person’s character. We were committed to helping him be the person of strength. We’re not through on this one, but we see great strides.

That being said, we didn’t know that he would face such drama! His last five years have been filled with situations that have not been something any child should go through. I can’t go through it all as I love the kids that have done and said things to him, and I’m not going to release information that isn’t mine to share. I see their potential as much as I see my son’s. There are some amazing kids in that class but they are also a tough bunch. They are with each other from Kindergarten until they graduate, most of them. It’s a small town. It goes down like that.

When things took a dramatic turn last week in an incident that involved some of his closest friends, who described it as “it’s just a game”….that’s when we knew that our boy had to be kept safe. When close friends, whom he is fiercely loyal to, then betrayed that trust and became a part of the group targeting him, well, the last bell had been rung.

I need to keep my child safe. He doesn’t get all the situations going on. He can’t keep track of all the innuendo and whether they are mocking him this time or not, whether that friend is telling me to do something I shouldn’t? He has too many messages coming at him that are NOT healthy and have scarred his sensitive heart.

HE has been AMAZING in his ability to get through the difficult and sometimes excruciating  “incidents” he’s had to endure. He’s the kind of guy who hates conflict (doesn’t know why they start) and having to work it out. If it is “worked out” (according to the system in place) then he thinks  all is good and everything is right again. When best friends turned on him he didn’t know what to think. He just wanted to be a part of the group and the group excluded him, on many occasions. So much confusion right now.  We needed to take him out of it. Thankfully, he left on a good  note thinking all was well and friends were friends. I am thankful that the powers that be have been committed to try and mend situations as best they can. Some of it is out of their hands and some of it is interpretation of the “law”.

Sure it’s going to be a process. I mean, Me? Teaching Math??? Scary thought. But you know, I am ready to do anything my kids need to help them to be beacons of light in this world. I am prepared to do what it takes to parent each of my children in the ways they need me to. I want my kids to be Brave kids who can tackle what the world throws at them. I believe my son has learned a bit of what the world can throw at him and in the end faced it well. He’s grown so much!

I am proud of him and see him thriving with a homeschooling atmosphere. We can adapt our lives and his education to fit him. I can give him one on one personal attention and introduce him to a different social group. One that I can keep track of personally.

He is going to ROCK it!

But first he’s grieving a change and he’s grieving his change in friendships. Aspies don’t love change and this is a change he is not looking forward to. Eventually, it will just become what we do and everything will get easier and we’ll have a routine/schedule that he’ll get into.

I am so proud of the things I see developing in his life and look forward to bringing the tools to further develop his potential personally.

Aspie elevating

Brain cell(s)
Brain cell(s) (Photo credit: jepoirrier)

Not a long post today on what it looks like for my Aspie to get all elevated when stressful times are about to occur or when his routine is messed up.

The imminent departure for us means it gets messy in his brain for him.

*Schedules are upset (though Grandma has awesome ideas)

*Sleep is interrupted because he’s sleeping with a noisy (snoring) brother b/c we are in his room until we leave (biggest bed). He gets it back when we leave so the sleep should be better.

*Sleep deprivation makes the stress of us leaving seem all that worse.

*Focus for more than a nano-second goes to crap

*Incessant talking ramps up

*Eating stops because he’s spaced out and stressed out.

*Lack of food makes him more grumpy. At school it makes him emotional.

*Hand flapping gets noticeable and irritating if you are sitting at the table with him (which sister was and then it got ugly fast)

All of this is very predictable and will be somewhat out of his control, despite usually not having to deal with all the extra Aspie behaviors anymore, until we come back and decompress.

Hoping that he eases back down to stress levels that they can all cope with. Here’s to hoping.

This is why I need the break. Sometimes the extra behaviors drive me wild.

Then again, I’m going to miss my Aspie boy.

 

Getting rid of Artificial Dye

The Food Coloring
The Food Coloring (Photo credit: Matthew Bland)

Yes, it’s the mother of all that is cruel in a child’s life…to take away artificial colorings. Afterall, aren’t those shiny red candies the BEST ones? Isn’t that too-red-for-words juice at the potluck table the only thing that will quench thirst? Even if I did bring a natural juice that tastes BETTER.

Yes, I am a cruel heartless mother who has taken her kids off of dyes. The damage has been done, and my little Aspie thinks it’s the end of the world. He thinks that red dye makes food tastier. Mmm hmmm….

It just may be the end of the world, because the word artificial is on every food label there could be! I haven’t even uttered a word about taking all artificial everything out of our diets yet, but it’s coming. Oh yes, the days is coming.

But let’s deal with the really bad food dyes, shall we? A plethora of research has been done (google it if you want, I don’t have the chutzpah to do it tonight and link it) to show how these food dyes have infiltrated our diets and a ton of foods you would never think would be littered with them, are.

What they cause are behavior issues, to start. This is what I deal with in my family. This is what I will talk about. Artificial food coloring have also been linked to cancer among other things. But behaviors are what I’m talking about.

In our family, we have one Aspie. Aspie children have behaviors that are a little more bizarre than the usual kid on the street. They may say things out of the blue that don’t really have relevance. He may concentrate on a particular subject for YEARS. He may cry after a frustrating go at something. He may be afraid to use the phone because it puts him in an awkward social situation that he can’t predict or script. Sensory issues bring out ticks, uttering that doesn’t make sense or doggie noises. Anxiety is a trigger for a lot of everything.

As he grows older and more mature these behaviors are becoming less and less pronounced overall unless, and I say unless as a foreshadowing…we have food dyes. Yes, I said it. I’ve noticed the difference myself. From a calm, caring, focused (for him), easy to redirect child, comes a hyper, bounce around the house, and impossible to redirect child. He’s bouncy bouncy bouncy. And while this would seem healthy as an exercise, it’s not particularly helpful when trying to complete schoolwork at home. He starts talking NONSTOP. This is a child who is conversational (one-sided, mind you) to a fault. He loves to talk, but after consuming dyes, he is a run-on sentence. Run-on sentences said at a speed no one could track is exhausting to the listener. All this said while bouncing.

We know how to partay! ahem.

then there is my second oldest who, bless her beautiful heart, reacts to Red 40 by becoming  ruthless assassin. She is smart as a whip and beautiful to boot, but infused with that deadly chemical anyone who looks at her the wrong way gets a full throttle beating, if you know what I mean. The claws come out. It gets ugly, fast. This is a recent (last wee and this week) observation as we had Valentines (can we say red and pink candy galore?), then she snuck a red candy yesterday and I figured it out only after a rash of karate moves to unsuspecting victims. Oh, perhaps they had it coming to them at some point, but that was not the case here. I totally called it and she confessed. I had no idea at the time of the exasperated conversation, that I was right, but knew she was eyeballing a candy from her sister’s stash that had RED 40 written all over it’s pretty red flower face. And she had taken that candy despite my earlier “NO!” to her.

So then,  the youngest two. I have just kept them away because we are staying away from it as a family. I am trying to have a healthier menu overall. My third child, has had some behavioral issues in the past, but is coming around nicely. I need to track his behavior when he’s been around the dastardly chemical enhancer. So far, the oldest two have kept me busy when something has been ingested so I’ll have to pay more attention to the younger two.

It is when they have functions at school, church or at friend’s houses that I can’t control what they eat. My one son (ironically, the one that doesn’t seem prone to behavioral outbursts at the time) kept himself from eating any of the food/candy that had dye in it on Valentines, in his class. So proud of him! He may be self-regulating himself that way and that is terrific!

How to keep them away from it for those times when I’m not with them, though. OY!

Any ideas on this from experienced parents?

He doesn’t know

He knows, but he doesn’t know.

There is a boy at school with the same name as my boy. When I met him, I knew. I just knew. I saw it before he even reached out his hand to shake mine. The act of shaking my hand took me by surprise because I knew he was like my son. Like him, but not exactly. I wondered if there was just a sense about the whole thing.

Do other Autism Spectrum Moms just know? I don’t know, because I don’t really know any other moms with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) kids. I do, but I don’t. I should really get to know them better. No one had to tell me that this child was on the spectrum, or on some sort of spectrum.

But he shook my hand, which is strange for an ASD kid, so maybe I was wrong. Maybe my Aspie Mom sense was all tingly for nothing.

Then there was this one day when my boy said “This kid is really weird. He does strange things and is just really weird.” I almost snorted coffee right up to my brain, but suppressed it. My Aspie son was making social judgement on another ASD (at least in my head) child.

How do you tell your Aspie child that he’s weird too?

You don’t.

“Why is that kid so weird?” He asks me.

Um, uh, “I gotta go to the bathroom” I said and in my head continued …”and hopefully you’ll forget that you asked that question.”

Just how do you explain it? I mean, I tried. I told him kids are different and we are all valuable even if we do things differently than others. I told him that some people have disabilities you can’t see but affect the brain and that makes them act different and not process things like others. Inside my head voice continued, “Like you.”

I’ve just never really seen him as weird or different or disabled. I’ve never talked to him about being disabled or special needs. I know that others see him differently and with these labels. In fact, I pursued a label to get him help, but I don’t see him that way…not really. Having a diagnosis helps me understand his behaviors like never before. I like knowing what we are dealing with and how to help him thrive in this world. I  have never had the right words to say “Hey son, other people see you as ____.” I have told him that he has “Aspergers Syndrome” and what that kind of means. Really, how do you explain that to a child who thinks he’s “normal”? He just wants to be like everyone else.

I see my son as having a kind heart that bleeds with sensitivity. He loathes to see anyone hurt, whether it be human, animal or insect. He won’t even throw a spider outside on a cold day. Oh no. He’d rather keep them safe in a plastic container in the basement room with him, only to have me find it months later…*shiver* The value he places on life is a beautiful thing, though.

He’s been asking deep, introspective questions since he could form sentences. He asked me why God let bad things happen when he was three years old. What three-year old child asks that? That scratches the surface of questions he would ask and I would have no clue about how to answer them in a way that would make sense to a small child. He would often have me stumped. I’m happy that he is at an age where he can understand many more concepts and it is easier to answer those questions.

My son is a child that will go to great lengths to help and please his parents and friends. His willingness to do things when asked (as long as it’s not school related) is a shining beacon to those around him. This is a beautiful thing when you need him to do the dishes, but can be a harmful characteristic when friends start to influence.

Some people may see my son as obsessive, but I think that he just has focused interests. So what if he can’t think of anything besides Star Wars for three years straight. I’m ok with the fact that every spring he gets excited about looking for insects to take care of and love and try to take inside. I’ve become ok with it, and he’s become ok that the insects stay outside. Every fall we deal with the disappointment that the frost brings. No more insects to love and inspect except those little beetles and spiders that just won’t die when they find their way inside.

But how do you explain an invisible disability to a child who is so incredibly able to do so much?

We talk about strengths and weaknesses. We all have them. When he struggles I relate to him in the struggle and give him examples of those who have overcome to do great things. When his strengths stand out, we are quick to encourage him in them. Like the bug thing.

He doesn’t know. So how do we tell him? Do we have to?