Sunday, February 19, 2017

On Starting the Journey All Over Again

Stow got an autism spectrum diagnosis.

Part of me feels compelled to type that line over and over and over again because it feels big enough to engulf everything. I mean, how do you go on from learning you have a second child on the spectrum despite all the work you (and he) have been doing?

The other part of me feels a strange sense of relief. Ren and I have suspected autism for awhile, even though Stow is much different than Sky was at this age, and even though he has responded well to various interventions we've tried. Since Stow was a baby, he has done or is doing developmental therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, hippotherapy, chiropractic therapy, social group, and behavioral therapy. He's also been on some form or another of a restricted diet to reduce the various side effects some foods seem to cause. Most of these things have helped, and many of his therapists and teachers tell us that he doesn't seem like other kids they've known who were on the autism spectrum.

But, nothing has ever come easy for Stow. He's been delayed on pretty much every milestone and has had to work hard to reach a lot of them. He struggles with hypersensitivity to some things and hyposensitivity to others. He has a hard time reading social situations and can often overreact or ignore. Classmates and friends are leery of him because he doesn't respond in predictable ways. He has daily meltdowns. And when he's nervous or happy or sad or scared, he struggles to process what people say to him and put his thoughts into words, and the breakdown in his language can seem pretty catastrophic to him (and therefore to the rest of us).

He gets everything eventually!
Up until the diagnosis, one of my biggest worries (honestly) was that all of the knowledge we'd gained from parenting Sky and all the resultant interventions we'd pursued with Stow would actually keep him from getting a needed diagnosis. I know that sounds strange. What I mean is that even though Stow ultimately does okay, he still struggles a lot; he goes from being fine to needing a ton of support to being fine and then needing a ton of support again. Our job as his parents is to make sure he's getting what he needs when he needs it. Having an appropriate diagnosis can help with that.

Despite all we've done and despite all the ways Stow has managed to scrap his way to generally being on track developmentally, Ren and I both still felt like we didn't quite have Stow figured out. That's why we followed through with the appointment with the specialist ten days ago. I'm not sure what I was expecting when we went, but I guess I was hoping for a little bit of magic, that maybe the appointment would uncover some kind of heretofore unseen disorder that could be easily treated with some new (to us) and exciting therapy. A girl can hope, right?

The autism diagnosis tells us our instincts are in tact, and I guess there's something comforting in that. But, we are a bit overwhelmed as we now realize how much work we still have to do. Just like with Sky's diagnosis, this one didn't come with a roadmap, so the way forward isn't entirely clear. There is a lot we have to figure out on our own. Just thinking about it can be exhausting. Since we've done it before, I know Ren and I are up for the challenges of this journey. I was just really hoping we wouldn't have to take it!

Friday, December 9, 2016

The First Snow (Part 2)

Then there's the whole problem of snow removal.

Toward the end of last winter, I made the miraculous discovery that Sky loves the snow blower (and that he is finally tall enough to maneuver it on his own, which is actually pretty important).  Apparently the combination of the vibration (that fulfills his constant desire for proprioceptive input) and snow flying in chaotic but somehow predictable arcs (giving him an outlet for his visual stim which seeks to see just how things fly apart) makes for a really enjoyable way for him to spend time in the snow. Plus he gets bonus points for doing a job I detest (and that Ren doesn't do due to his back issues).

Me after blowing snow all over myself for the millionth time.
I'm not going to lie; I've been looking forward to taking advantage of this particular obsession of Sky's. Plus, this year, for the first time, since Ren is up and about (Iwillsaynomoreforfearofjinxingit) and therefore able to help with the challenging task of getting the snow blower working after the long spring/summer/fall hiatus, I really expected to have a relaxing afternoon watching everyone else work.

Hahahaha. I'll never learn, but you have to admire my never-ending optimism!

The afternoon actually went something like this:

  1. Sky and I dig two big snow shovels out from under the bikes and brooms and mower and assorted balls and other sports equipment.
  2. I start shoveling the sidewalk between our driveway and the neighbor's.
  3. Ren plugs in the snow blower and pushes the start button. Nothing happens. He repeats some version of this step many times.
  4. I make my way back to our driveway and keep shoveling as Sky rolls around in the yard.
  5. Ren starts cursing at the snow blower that won't start.
  6. Pink and Stow figure out that we are all outside and start putting on all of their snow gear. AGAIN.
  7. Now that everything is wet, Stow can't get it on by himself, so he starts screaming at me from the step in the garage.
  8. I stop shoveling to go help him get untangled from the mess of snow pants and scarf he has created for himself.
  9. Now Sky is throwing snowballs into the air and batting them with the end of his shovel, making a mess that covers the parts of the driveway I'd already cleared.
  10. Pink and Stow think this looks like fun so want my help in finding their shovels which are impossibly lodged behind all the small, handheld electric yard tools.
  11. Ren manages to make it so the snow blower is no longer making any hopeful sounds at all.
  12. Stow and Pink start shoveling the grass.
  13. Sky laments that he really wants to use the snow blower and gets mad at Ren for not letting him.
  14. I'm halfway done with the driveway and tell the kids they will get not screen time for the next century if they don't start actually SHOVELING THE DRIVEWAY!!!
  15. They look at me like I've lost my mind.
  16. Ren determines that the snow blower is out of commission and goes inside to make dinner.
  17. I totally lose my cool when the kids start chasing each other around the back of the house with their shovels overhead and finally manage to guilt them into finishing the rest of the driveway.
  18. I come inside and collapse in my chair convinced I now have bronchitis (I do).

Sigh. At least the snow is fun for SOME of us.