Carry On

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It’s been awhile. A long while. So many things have changed, I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll start with the new year.

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“My family” by JI

January 5th, Poke and I were finally officially legally divorced. I could have thrown a party! It was the most wonderful day I’d had in a long time… until I had to take my van in to have the entire power steering system replaced, which cost me $270. Good thing there’s a Firestone credit card.

January 20th, a day that will live in infamy. I was so depressed all day, scared, worried, and had an overall feeling of doom about me. Politically, things have only gotten worse since then. I really don’t know what those people were thinking putting this monster in the White House, but apparently human rights, education, health care, clean air, clean water, etc etc etc mean absolutely nothing to them. Disgusting. I can only hope that he is impeached and indicted, because if he’s assassinated he’ll be lauded as a hero/martyr to the neo-Nazis that call themselves conservatives.

Next up, my birthday, which is at the beginning of February. I really don’t care about my birthday. This year I turned 3_, which is one step closer to 40. Per usual, my birthday sucked. I used to try and make it a good day, try not to get my hopes up, but every year I’d think “This will be the year that my mother doesn’t make a scene/cause problems/make15875187_10154922754774801_5804576778045474111_o me feel like shit” or “This will be the year that Poke actually remembers my birthday and gets me a card/gift/says happy birthday”, only to be disappointed in the end. It’s not like I need a lot of presents or anything, but having one day a year that is actually legitimately just for me would be nice. Unfortunately, this year was another bust. My mother was difficult at dinner, which was a huge disappointment even without her shit, and Squishy was so angry by the time we got home that he ended up going back to his place instead of sleeping over. I couldn’t blame him though, if I didn’t have the kids I’d have gone back to his place and gotten drunk as a skunk.

Luckily though, Squishy is an AMAZING boyfriend. We have been together for four months now, and things just keep getting better. He has been the most supportive, helpful, caring, kind, wonderful man I have ever dated. I don’t know what I did to get so lucky for once, but I am not going to question it. We are getting ready to move into our own place here in the next few weeks, which is the next exciting chapter in our life together. I can’t wait!

15418578_10154850814024801_4636622435768111892_oBoth my sons love Squishy, which makes me life a hell of a lot easier. Poke has gone from mediocre father to terrible father, refusing to pay child support, didn’t do anything for Squeaks’ birthday, doesn’t call them or answer JI’s calls, and so forth. If I could cut him out of their life completely, I would in a heartbeat. He’s a shitty person, and I really don’t want them around him. However, it’s not up to me. I don’t say negative stuff about him to the boys, unlike their father who talks shit about me constantly. My goal is to let them find out for themselves what a creep he is, and I will be there to pick up the pieces when they fall. The only reason JI wants to go there is because he knows he can play the tablet the whole time. I don’t think Squeaks really cares one way or the other – he used to yell “Daddy! Daddy!” when Poke came to get them, now he is just silent. He loves Squishy though, and calls him by his name and by Daddy, depending on his mood. Squishy has a son, KJ, who is twelve, so he’s been through all this before, which helps me out.

Also, for once in my life, I have amazing in-laws. Squishy’s mom and dad are the best. The treat me like I am their own child, and we always have a great time together. I usually spend every other weekend at their place, because Squishy lives right across the street. (Yeah, he lives with his 95 yr old grandmother and takes care of her – awesome man, right?!) My 1st husband’s parents/step father were always kinda blah about me, Poke’s mom hated my guts until I birthed her first two grandchildren, now she hates me again, and the parents of my various boyfriends were never really anything. I honestly can’t even remember meeting many, if any, more than once or twice. But because Squishy and I plan to be married sometime in the future, it is so comforting to know that I already have good people who love me. They love the boys and the boys love them as well, so that’s an added bonus!

16711987_10155038596234801_4013319259268139428_nIn mid-February, Squeaks turned two. He is a super crazy boy! I cannot believe how fast he is growing, both physically and mentally. Squeaks knows his colors, he can count to ten, he knows square, triangle, circle, and rectangle, and his vocabulary is off the charts. This kid is constantly talking. It is quite a different experience raising a neuro-typical child after having an autistic child. I remember JI being so chill, so easy, so “adult” and not needing much attention or supervision. Squeaks could not be more opposite! This child gets into everything. My bff, with whom we still reside, is pretty much at her breaking point with the two year old shenanigans. He’s a very busy boy.

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Squishy and Squeaks with the birthday cake

My new job is great. It’s a very easy job, but the pay is good for being part time. I’ve even gotten a raise! My supervisor made me the customer service champion, which means I’m 16711483_10155041066734801_4729882996231324363_nin charge of all the ways to make customers happier and make their time in our place easier/quicker. Since I’ve been there, our rating has gone up 2%, and I am really proud of myself. I used to hate dealing with people, but since I don’t have to deal with them more than 30 seconds to 2-3 minutes at once, it makes it a lot easier to be sincerely friendly and helpful. Plus I am working for a company that I had worked for years ago, and I absolutely love this place. Benefits are great, even though I’m not full time I get all kinds of perks, and the only thing I don’t get is health insurance.

Despite having a job, things have gotten beyond tight financially once again. With Poke refusing to pay child support, half my income is gone. I tried to get approved for government child care, but it was denied, so until I can get approved, I can only work 2-4 days a week. It is so rough. I am literally out of things to sell, having gotten rid of 95% of my furniture, baby clothes, and toys before/during the move, so I don’t know how else to make money. I am considering donating plasma, even though I usually vomit from getting blood drawn. It’s worth the risk of puking if it means I’ll have money for gasoline. All my money goes to16427354_10155001729529801_6741404559436206401_n bills, car gas, non-food groceries, and my roommate. I have absolutely nothing left. This doesn’t matter to my mother though, who constantly asks me for money. Yes, I do owe them some, but my dad makes almost $100K/year and I don’t even make $100/week right now. I told them I’d pay with my tax return, but that’s not good enough for her. She needs to harass me in the meantime. So, for now, I have cut off my parents. Once I send them the money I owe them, with instructions etc. regarding never asking me for money again, I will let them back into my life. But at this point in time I have way too many stressors to let their petty bullshit bring me down.

So I guess that brings me to present day. Tomorrow is the last day of February, a typically shitty month, and I’m glad it is over. Hopefully by the end of March things will have straightened out and I will be in a much better place.

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JI, Squeaks, and KJ

 

I’m Back

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It’s been a long time since I updated, thanks mostly to my chromebook keyboard suddenly ceasing to work properly. I don’t know what happened, it just stopped working one day. Then a few weeks later, half the keys worked but there was no real pattern to it. So I finally got a wireless USB keyboard and mouse from my dad, and now I can use my chromebook again! YAY!

ji2So anyway, kindergarten started off great. The first day was, in JI’s words, “Absolutely perfect”. I cried for about twenty minutes when he got home. Day two… shit hit the fan. My son JI was sent to the peak aka behaviour room. Day three, okay. Day four, his behaviour was so bad that I had to pick him up early and he was asked to not return. They wrote on the report that he assaulted a teacher. He’s five. He kicked her because she got too close. JI was off for the next week as we tried to find a spot in an ED classroom rather than the general SpEd/Autism room he was in the first week. We got a spot at a different school, and he attended half days at the original school for a week until the transportation was figured out.

He’s been at the new school for a full week, three days, plus Monday and Tuesday. Monday was his first rough day, but he got himself under control. Yesterday after lunch/recess, I guess he started melting down and couldn’t stop. The teacher called me at 2:45pm, and I could hear JI screaming. He said JI was throwing chairs, trying to bite/hit/kick, took off his socks and shoes and threw them, etc. He wouldn’t or couldn’t calm down. It wasn’t until they told him I wouldn’t be coming that he calmed down to get on line for the bus.

jiThe problem is that he doesn’t act like this at home. He doesn’t get violent or aggressive towards me or any other people – and to be clear, he wasn’t at school either, not towards any kids or adults until the adults attempted to get close to him. If he and I have a disagreement, I either remind him of his choices or I tell him the consequences of not doing what he’s told. I’m frustrated because I’m not the special education teacher, I’m not the expert, but they expect me to tell them what to do. I don’t know what to do because he does not do this around me! There was a short period of time when he did, but we suffered through it and moved on. I merely held my ground.

Is JI trying to feel them out? Is there something about school that changes a kid’s personality? Will this eventually pass, or is my high functioning, highly intelligent, super cute, loving autistic child doomed to end up in juvenile detention or some kind of home?! I know it’s the first incident but the way things went at the last school, I’m really nervous. We had a conversation last night and this morning about how he should act when he’s upset or angry, and I hope it sticks.

Parenting my Autistic Child

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I had planned to post a few times a week now that summer vacation has started, but then, as always, time got away from me. It’s good though, being busy. I lost three of my clients and gained two, but I only had a week off in between, so everything I planned to do with only three kids had to be altered to involve five kids – two of whom are autistic. I’ll manage though, because I have no other choice. I just keep working and saving my money for the inevitable day when the house gets taken away.

Today I want to talk about parenting an autistic child. As I mentioned in my last post, itwp-1465917157645.jpg amazes me how many levels/severities/etc of autism I’ve encountered. My friend has two autistic kids and they’re different from each other, JI is different from them, and kids I’ve met in therapy/meetings/classes are different from them and each other. For me, that is the most frustrating part of being an autism parent. Yes, our kids all share certain traits, but even those traits aren’t necessarily addressed in the same way from child to child. I think that is one of the reasons why this past school year was so difficult.

I know exactly how to parent JI. We went through our rough patches, horrific patches, sad and frustrating patches. Now I know what I’m doing, how to handle his meltdowns, tantrums, fears, etc. Obviously I can’t predict everything or solve every problem, but I am really REALLY wp-1465917063884.jpgfucking amazing when it comes to parenting my child. It is so upsetting and frustrating when teachers or family members want to do things that I know will cause problems. It is absolutely infuriating when they refuse to follow my suggestions or directions. I understand that the educators’ job is to push JI, to teach him how to behave in certain situations, and that they are the experts at their job. It hurts me when he gets in trouble at school just for being himself, for doing things he can’t yet control, like lashing out physically. They say it’s not true, but I know he was labelled “The Bad Kid” in his class last year. I could tell by the way they talked about him, the way they dealt with him, the punishments and discipline he received.

If JI doesn’t want to do something, there are consequences. I utilize the amazing and wonderful 1-2-3 Magic system, and it works if you are committed to it – not gonna lie, it fails if you fail at keeping strong! You must use the system the right way, every time. With JI, there is no negotiating, there are no “threats”, just warning and then consequence. If he does something absolutely deplorable, such as intentionally injure someone, then he does get a more severe consequence. Unlike school, however, he does have the option to earn his things back. I make sure to recognize when he’s done something great, so that he doesn’t feel like he’s being “bad” all the time. I have to admit though, I have lost my shit on him more than once, because I’m a human being. It gets to be a lot, caring for five or six kids for 10 hours a day, and rarely having a moment alone from children. JI and I had a blow up the other day where I just lost it and yelled “Why does everything have to be a fight with you?!” and proceeded to list all the things he fought with me about that day. Not my best parenting moment by far, but I think it actually made him realize that sometimes it is easier to just go with the flow rather than resist so much. A huge part of his diagnosis was the rigidity, and it is by far our biggest obstacle to typical childhood.

I am hoping that kindergarten will be a new fresh start. JI says he hates school because hewp-1465916954013.jpg hates friends and hates to learn. I reminded him that he is learning every day, by asking questions, watching videos, helping me do things around the house, etc. He said that I
should just teach him at home! Well, homeschooling would be amazing if I didn’t have four or five other kids here to deal with, and if I could actually find a way to get JI to socialize in groups of peers. I guess we’ll just keep praying that the kindergarten plan works out.

The Journey Continues

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Back in September we got the provisional diagnosis of Autism for JI. Since that time he went through more evaluations and observations, and earlier this month we received the official diagnosis of ASD level II + Unspecified impulse control & conduct disorder.

School this year was, to put it mildly, horrible. The year started off great, then got really really bad, then it was okay, and then it was just nothing. We agreed to end his school year early because he was basically just sleeping at school every day, and the thing they needed to do with him, socialization, wasn’t being accomplished at all. He only missed nine days, so I don’t care, and the daily fighting was getting to be too much every morning. He’s not even going to participate in the “graduation” because merely mentioning it sends him into a panic. No thank you. I’m so ready for summer and preparing for a new start at a new school.

Because we have the official diagnosis, it was added to his IEP and now we can get the exact services and therapies we need for him. When he starts kindergarten in the fall, he will spend some of the school day in a resource room and some of the day with the NT kids in the regular classroom. He will receive behavioural and speech therapy regularly, and occupational therapy as needed.

The strangest thing about autism is how it is SO different from one child to another. Sure, there are certain signs and symptoms that are shared by all kids on the spectrum, but even those are not always the same. Just because I can parent my autistic child doesn’t mean that I could parent your autistic child. Maybe it would be easier, maybe it would be harder. There are so many differences!

Personally, I have very few problems with JI,  likely because I suspect I am on the spectrum myself (a therapist suggested this years ago, and I definitely fit a lot of the traits) and also because I understand what it is like to be a “weirdo”. All my life my mom told me how weird I am, friends and strangers have called me weird, and I always feel weird. I get why he can’t or won’t do certain things, eat certain things, etc. I know how to talk to him to get him to behave and comprehend what is happening. I’m excited for kindergarten and a new school with all new teachers, if only because I feel that his pre-K had their mind made up about him being the bad kid, the troublemaker. I hope that a whole new environment will mean a good fresh start!

Breaking News! AAP to Change Stance on Screen Time!

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Mothers everywhere, relax. You’re no longer a bad mom. From The Huffington Post:

Parents across the Internet rejoiced this week, declaring themselves well rid of “screen time guilt” after an announcement by the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly signaled it will amend media guidelines discouraging screen time for children under two and limiting it to two hours a day for older kids… after the organization’s 2016 national conference on the topic.

12003340_10153677979509801_2764872134249134331_nSo does that mean we can go ahead and let the TV babysit our kids? Of course not. But it does mean that the American Academy of Pediatrics is finally going to be up to date with the way real people live their lives. I’ll be the first to admit, as I have in the past, that screen time (a term I absolutely hate, by the way) plays a HUGE part in our everyday lives. Because JI’s brain is moving so fast and he has such a difficult time focusing and calming down, the tablet has always been a great way to get him to do those things. It’s also a great motivator, reward, etc. He plays with12027586_10153685243159801_9117712163234884203_n educational apps, such as Nick Jr (on the computer only), ABC Mouse, and Math Monkey to name a few. He also plays games such as Plants vs Zombies, which might not be educational per say, but that require a higher level of thinking and planning. I started playing PvZ when I was in my mid 20’s and had a difficult time beating some of the levels – hell, I still have a hard time with some of them! JI can fly through level after level with ease, earning the gems and sprouts and so forth that help him advance to higher levels. It’s amazing. Even Poke can’t play as well as JI does!

JI doesn’t care for movies or many TV shows, but he does like to watch videos on YouTube of people playing video games. He watches them play, and then goes and plays the same game and beats it right away. It’s not like he’s taking the easy way either, because he usually doesn’t follow their directions (ha!) and if he does, it’s only for levels that he’s really struggling with. The rest of the time he12002368_10153667994864801_3267765275522840393_o watches them for entertainment. JI also likes to watch videos of tornadoes, hurricanes, and other crazy weather stuff. He’s been interested in weather since he was a newborn, and meteorologist is on his list of things to be when he grows up.

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Is this your idea of fun, mom? Where is the tablet?

Would I like for JI to be more in tune with the present moment? Yes. But I know my child will never be that way. I used to think I was a bad mom because I couldn’t get him to play with toys or do puzzles or anything like that. Then I realized, through the whole autism evaluation process, that those things are, for lack of better words, beneath him. JI never played with toys creatively, and if he did play with a toy he played exactly how it was supposed to be used – ie, A spoon is for stirring, it cannot be a drumstick, and a pot is for cooking, it cannot be a drum. He gets angry at “silly” things. If he doesn’t see the point to what you’re asking him to do, he won’t do it. Using the tablet lets him be creative and learn at the same time, while also challenging him and adapting to his current cognitive level. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be an app developer and put mommy in the fanciest nursing home!

School’s Out for Summer!

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JI had his last day of school on Thursday, finishing up a great last week of school. This school year has been very difficult for us, from starting out at another school as an NT peer to being recast as disabled by the school system, then switching schools at the same time that Squeaks was being born and record amounts of snow were falling on central Ohio causing several weeks of snow days.

wpid-20150523_182057.jpgLearning how to behave in a different classroom setting was a challenge as well. At the public schools here, a red-yellow-green system is used, and in the beginning JI was constantly on red (all kids start on green and get moved to yellow and then red depending on their behaviour). I was feeling really poorly as a parent, but over time I realized that he just had to work it out and learn how to do it their way. This was tough because I always want my baby to be his best! I looked at his sticker chart for the month of May, and he only had four redwpid-20150526_164525.jpg days! Spectacular! JI has ended this school year on such a positive note, and I could not be more proud of him for all the growing and changing he has done.

Also today I received the paperwork that JI’s teacher filled out in regards to his social behaviour and such in the classroom. There were three questionnaires to be completed, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the answers. There were a lot of things that he does that I thought he didn’t do, such as play with other kids and act wpid-20150519_111334.jpgappropriately in group settings. He wasn’t doing that at the beginning of the year. Now I’m wondering, and hoping almost, that he behaviour problems were just temporary and that he doesn’t have ASD or ODD or related disorders. Of course I’m still going to keep going with the evaluations, because I’d rather test for everything and get a ton of negatives than stop testing and have him fall behind again. He definitely still has sensory issues, so behaviour therapy will definitely help with that.

wpid-20150527_134717.jpgI’m very excited for this summer. I think JI is going to mature a great deal between now and August, and hopefully next school year won’t be as emotionally demanding as this past school year. I have heaps of ideas in my brain about what to do to help JI in that maturing process, and I cannot wait to share them with you all. The next three months are going to be unique in that JI is becoming an actual boy, not just a toddler or preschooler, and Squeaks is going to be doing a whole lot of growing, and might be sitting up and maybe even crawling by the end of the summer. I am just so eager to see it all happen!

Special Needs Kids are the New Black

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JI may or may not be autistic. He may or may not have ADHD. He does have SPD. He does have a speech delay. He does have a gross motor delay. He does have social/emotional behavioural delays. JI is a special needs kid. There, I said it.

I never thought I’d be this mom, this special needs kid’s mom, this mom who is researching how to get her son to recover from a meltdown faster, who has to interpret her son’s language for his father and grandparents, who has met with so many doctors and specialists and teachers and evaluators that she bought a day planner… a day wpid-20140527_122142.jpgplanner! But I love my son and I want him to have the best life he can have, and I will not let his disabilities stand in his way because he is so incredibly bright. I mean, the kid is three operating at a kindergarten level! Just because he can’t speak properly doesn’t mean he’s stupid.

So here’s what I mean when I say that special needs kids are the new black: everybody’s got one, and it is trendy to have one. You could say that special needs kids are the new tiny dog in a giant purse; if you haven’t got one to deal with and talk about and take pictures of, you’re out of the clique. At first it was okay – so many parents thought their kids had a problem, so they took them to the doctors and awareness was raised. No longer were autistic children put in homes to rot away, no longer were kids with ADHD labeled “bad” and punished, and so forth. But then, it became a thing. Every little kid who threw a fit wpid-june2014-076.jpg.jpegsuddenly needed to be on medication. Every preteen who rebelled was labeled as having Oppositional Defiant Disorder. The pharmaceutical industry boomed. There were so many kids on the spectrum that everywhere you turned another kid was being diagnosed. Then the celebrities started getting involved. Perhaps the most famous, Jenny McCarthy led the good fight against vaccinations and claimed that she healed her son, cured his autism, through diet and holistic treatments. The thing is, nobody knows what causes most conditions, and it is highly unlikely that what she did “cured” him. Certain symptoms can be alleviated, but there is no cure for autism.

I’ve read stories online of people whose child went through several major life changes in a short period of time and stoppedwpid-20141013_122605.jpg speaking. Are they autistic? No. I’ve heard about a kid who switched schools and fought with his teachers every day for months. Does he have ODD? Not likely. I have read about a parent who more or less ignored their toddler, so the child constantly acted out, ran away, and threw tantrums. Were they having ADHD related meltdowns? No. But all of these children were labeled special needs at the behest of their parents, and that is the problem. A diagnosis for your kid justifying your shitty parenting or lack of ability to deal with kids being kids does not a special needs child make. There are HUGE differences between a meltdown and a tantrum, as explained here.

The thing I don’t understand is why a parent would want a special needs kid in the first place. Those of us who have them, of course we love them, but I wouldn’t wish this lifestyle on anyone – and my kid isn’t even that “bad off”. I know people in real life who have nonverbal autistic kids, who have kids who have cerebral palsy, kids who have neurological disorders and their children all require round-the-clock care. JI can pass for a typical child on any given day, as long as you only have him for that one day. Between the struggles to make him comfortable, to make us comfortable, to get him the help he needs, it has been a difficult and lengthy process. I have cried, I have screamed, I have smoked so many anxiety cigarettes. Once again, I would not wish this easy-compared-to-others situation on anyone, so why parents push for it, I cannot comprehend.

wpid-20150218_194819.jpgPlease – parent your child. Try all the other avenues first. Are they acting out? Reward good behaviour with the attention they so desperately seek. Don’t put them on medication. Do they hit, bite, scratch? Teach them about others’ feelings and how to keep your hands to yourself. Don’t get them a label. And then, when all else has failed, then go to your doctor and discuss your child’s behaviour. I’m not an expert and I do not claim to be one, but I know the difference between a special needs kid and a kid just being a kid. Let’s let our kids be kids before we jump to saddle them with something that could potentially follow them for the rest of their life.

Check out this AMAZING video:

Posted by CCHR International on Friday, April 3, 2015

It describes perfectly what I’m trying to say.