When we go quiet on the blog, it’s usually for one of two reasons: 1) things are really good or 2) things are really hard. Unfortunately, this time it’s reason #2.
Simon has been having a really, really hard time, which means we have been having a really, really hard time. Laura thinks it’s been since January, but I didn’t really start noticing it until we came back from Disneyland in April. We can both agree that the last few weeks have been particularly awful.
Simon’s default setting these days seems to be rage and frustration. He is hair trigger sensitive which looks like every day multiple things will set him off on a raging tantrum or just flat out stubborn refusal to do whatever is asked of him. I know it sounds like a typical 7 year old, but magnify it by 10 and that’s more what we’re dealing with.
He has gotten multiple “red cards” at school, which never happened once last semester. He’ll be going along fine and then he just goes on strike (we’re sure there are triggers, but no one can figure out exactly what they are). If you push him too hard or on the wrong day, he now starts hitting/kicking. It’s to the point that his special ed teacher, who loves Simon, has even suggested that he might do better in a different class. That would mean moving to his *SIXTH* class in four years. I'm terrified it means he'll just get warehoused with other kids that are too violent/troubled/low-functioning to hang in a special day class and that there won't be sufficient resources to really keep them moving forward. I don't want him in a holding pen. If he really needs to switch, we'll be diligent in our research and advocacy, but we are pretty much in a “hell no” place about moving classes right now.
This sudden uptick in intensity and the idea that he might need to go to another class has sent me down a rabbit hole. I keep running through all the possible options to answer the glaring question: WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?
Option 1: Someone is hurting him/molesting him (we can’t identify anytime/place where that would be possible) and that he can’t tell us because he doesn’t have the communication skills. Worst. Possible. Option.
Option 2: Something is physically hurting him/his heart function is declining and he is uncomfortable and he can’t tell us. Almost as bad as option 1.
Option 3: He’s just going through some normalish developmental stage that other kids go through at this age or he’s having typical end of the year burn out, but it’s just magnified by autism and is nothing to worry about. Would be great, but doesn’t seem like that’s what’s up and also, HOW LONG WILL THIS LAST???
Option 4: Now that his heart function is stable and his eating is pretty solid, he finally has the opportunity to feel all the rage, frustration, pain and fight for control that he couldn’t feel when he was younger and all manner of awful shit was happening to him. I like this option best.
We are pulling in all our resources including someone who is supposed to be awesome with kids on the spectrum (recommended to us by another therapist), getting a neuropsychological assessment to see if there is potentially some brain damage caused by low oxygen/ toxic meds/sepsis when he was a baby, and talking with our ABA team about starting a “sensory diet” for Simon to see if that helps.
I have had to face some REALLY ugly feelings and fears about our kid being even further out on the margins. I’ve often used the analogy of feeling like we started out on a train with other parents and when Simon got sick, it was like our car split off from the rest of the train. Right now I feel like the tracks switched again and we’re getting sent even further out from everyone else. My biggest fear is that he’s about to get shuttled to a track that dead ends.
He’s getting older and stronger and at some point soon his physical temper tantrums are going to get scary and dangerous. I’m afraid of what might happen if this behavior continues into his teen years and he tantrums when police are around. He looks like a typical kid at first but he can’t follow directions, answer a direct question or control himself when he is raging. If those issues don’t get better by the time he gets to be a teen, I will be VERY worried. White privilege will help him, but an angry violent man is still an angry violent man to the police.
I grew up in a place where people were really valued because of what they did and how smart they were and how well they performed. I never realized how deeply I internalized those messages about “value” and “worth” until I had to confront the possibility that my son might never “produce” for our capitalist society. I am so grateful for the opportunity to dig all that crap out and look at it AND…well, I’m sure I could have found another way to get to it besides having my son struggle.
I also grew up with an almost pathological obsession with independence. Some of it was a coping strategy, but I was also praised for it as a child everywhere I turned. Through Laura, I have learned to value inter-dependence but it’s still a struggle for me sometimes. Every time we have to consider a new class for Simon that is a step further away from “typical”, I have a renewed panic about what our lives might be like with a dependent adult child. What it means for him, what it means for us, what it means for his place in society. If I can just focus on *him* as this amazing human being that I find fascinating and loveable and charming, I’m mostly okay, but if I zoom out too far, the landscape I imagine is really grim. Future tripping is never useful but particularly not when my kid is only 7. I realize spending time worrying about this is absurd and…it’s what comes up.
My Mom has a connection to the head of cardiology at another children's hospital and we're getting to pick his brain about what could possibly be going on. We may do more genetic testing to see if there are any answers there, since a lot has changed since we first had basic genetic testing done 7 years ago. Good times.
We have about a month left of school and a summer full of plans Simon is excited about including 3 different camps. We’re going to try to focus on having fun, getting Simon some extra support and living in the moment, unless the moment involves a tantrum, in which case we’ll fantasize about a Club-Med vacation.