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.

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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.

White Trash Party!

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From Wikipedia:

White trash is a derogatory American English racial slur referring to poor white people, especially in the rural South of the United States, suggesting lower social class and degraded standards of living. The term suggests outcasts from respectable society living on the fringes of the social order, who are seen as dangerous because they may be criminal, unpredictable, and without respect for authority whether it be political, legal, or moral. The term is usually a racial slur, but may also be used self-referentially by working-class whites to jokingly describe their origins or lifestyle.

It always tickles me when people call me white trash. Clearly the official definition doesn’t apply to me in any way whatsoever, but the slang definition (redneck, hillbilly, etc.) also couldn’t be further from the truth. I wonder, then, what makes them think that calling me white trash would be insulting? Let’s explore this phenomenon.

  • Am I white trash because I am overweight? Surely there are no fat rich people. But I can lose weight – you’re ugly on the inside and that will never change.
  • Am I white trash because I receive government assistance? Well, here’s the thing – I never did before Poke fucked up our entire life. I never needed it, I never wanted it. I still don’t want it, but I don’t have a choice.
  • Maybe I’m white trash because I am a SAHM who runs her own home-based business? Or could it be that I’m white trash because I have a college degree, like everyone else in my families?
  • I might be white trash because I don’t spend thousands of dollars on clothing for myself or my children. Because I prefer inexpensive or second-hand clothing, that means I am trashy. It has nothing to do with my disgust at the sheer amount of materials being discarded and piling up in landfills, leaving a mess for future generations.
  • Oh, I know! I’m white trash because I come from a middle class family, my parents (both bio and adoptive) all own their own homes, my father makes over $90K per year, and I went to private school my entire life.
  • Am I white trash because I occasionally feed my family fast food and/or food from a box, like mac’n’cheese or Hamburger Helper? Well, not so much Helper now that Poke is gone – that shit is gross.
  • Perhaps I’m white trash because I have four rescue cats as pets. Everyone knows that white trash have lots and lots of animals roaming around.
  • Maybe I am white trash because I live in a trailer in a trailer park? Oh… wait. I live in a house with a fenced in yard in a nice suburban neighborhood. Weird.
  • I know! I am definitely white trash because I believe in equality for all people regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., and I am liberal leaning socialist, and I enjoy having Obama as president, support gun control, love the ACA, and yet I’m still Catholic and pro-life.
  • I must be white trash because both my children are physically and mentally/academically ahead of their peers.
  • Am I white trash because I drink my wine from a box? Yeah, okay, you’ve got me on that one. That is kinda trashy… but I also like to save money, so I’ll take it.

Overall, I think it’s pretty clear that I am most definitely not white trash. To me, when someone stoops to calling me that, it’s obvious they have absolutely zero fodder for the fight. They say to themselves, “Damnit! That bitch says nothing but the truth! I can’t prove her wrong! What can I do… hmmm… I know! I will call her names. That’ll show her!” It’s all quite amusing. Call me names, insult me, I don’t care. You can say what you want, but I know the truth, and all my friends and family know the truth as well. The only person who is coming off as trashy – and ignorant – is you.

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!

Update on Life

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I have been away for quite some time now, because there has been a lot going on. I was originally going to write a post about living with mental illness and mentally ill family members, but I didn’t get a chance to before the literal shit hit the fan.

Since November, Poke has been actively suicidal. It has truly taken its toll on our family. He has been hospitalized, in the ICU, and gone through several different mental health providers. Unfortunately, his attempts to get his mental health under control were too little too late, and our family and marriage were badly damaged.

There were times when I was terrified to leave him alone with the children, times when I had to banish him to the basement to “live” for a week because I could not bear to have him around them, times when I literally dropped him off at the crisis center and called his mom to deal with him afterwards. His behaviour was completely out of control, and I was afraid for myself and the kids. He is by no means abusive, however, he would have these episodes monthly, then semi monthly, then weekly until it was like living in a mine field and I didn’t know what would happen from day to day. He never laid a hand on any of us, but he became aggressive and violent and just so angry that I didn’t want to take the chance that he would someday become physical.

We have been in marriage counseling for almost two years, and it seemed to be working for our relationship, until one day it was blatantly obvious that it wasn’t working. I got to the point where I could not stand to be around him, I could not stand to look at him, talk to him, touch him, kiss him, etc. I didn’t want him anywhere near me. So, after his last outburst when he threw a tantrum at the local dog shelter and embarrassed JI and me in front of all the other customers, I decided a change had to be made. Little did I know that he was going to make it super easy for me by randomly quitting his job when he walked out of work and never went back. He had been talking about feeling burnt out and no longer enjoying his work, but I told him that he absolutely had to keep his job to support the family. I told him that if he quit before finding a new one, that would be it, and we would be done for. Apparently that didn’t matter to him at all because he went ahead and walked out. I told him to go to his mom’s house, and that was that.

We separated officially on July 27th, with an agreement on how and who would pay the bills. The separation is supposed to be a trial for three months. I am hoping that in these three months he will take the time to get himself mentally healthy and happy, however, if he chooses not to then it’s obvious what his real decision is. I believe he came into fatherhood and marriage with the best of intentions but perhaps these things really are not meant for him, and if that’s the case then I’d rather have him out than in, rather have a happy family on the weekends only rather than a miserable one 24/7.

He’s been gone a month now, and I have not been this happy in years. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted, like I no longer have to watch what I say in my own home, like I am an actual human being. JI’s behaviour has improved twenty fold. At our last counseling session, Poke says “I’m glad you’re having such a great time”, to which I replied, “We’re not having a great time. We’re doing life the way it should be done – with love and happiness.”

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.

Let’s Talk About Why JI is Extra Special

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My older son, JI, is going to be four in July. When he was nine months old, I noticed that something was “off”. At first, I thought he was2012-03-27_16-47-42_778 deaf, until he passed a hearing test with flying colors. He never babbled, didn’t do much “talking” of the infant variety at all. He barely responded to voices and people, though he was incredibly alert. So we hooked up with Help Me Grow here in Franklin County, and they ran some tests on my little guy. He was ahead in his motor skills, behind in speech and language. Thus, from the age of one, JI has been in speech therapy continuously.

beechwold (1)The first suspicion the specialists and our pediatrician had was Autism. I was very leery to label him, however, because he was so young and because I feel that certain conditions are way over diagnosed in this day and age. It’s a good thing I held out, too, because after a few months of speech therapy JI was making eye contact, using letter sounds, and becoming proficient in ASL for kids. Between speech and occupational therapy, he had outgrown all the symptoms of Autism by age two.

However, at age two, he was still far, far behind in his speech and language, so we enrolled him in a school for special needsIMG_20140301_173733_621 kids. He went to school every day, rode the bus, and socialized with other special needs kids as well as typical peers. At the beginning of the school year, JI had about ten spoken words, and by the end of the school year, he had well over one hundred. Columbus City Schools did their evaluation and determined he was no longer “disabled” and invited him to return to that school as a peer. This year’s school year started off with JI in the peer group of his classroom, and it was apparent within weeks that he was absolutely not ready for that. Academically (language/math/etc) and in regards to fine motor, JI is at above average at a kindergarten level. However, his speech is at 15-18 months, his gross motor is behind, and his social-emotional-behavioural level is way below average as well. It took half the school year to have all the necessary screenings and evals done by Columbus City Schools until he was finally qualified as disabled once again. Unfortunately, that meant switching schools.

February of this year was a rough time to start with because I was set to have Squeaks, my newborn, by c-section on the 11th. He arrived early, messing up all our plans. JI attended five whole days of school in the month of February, between the waiting period from school to school, having to stay with my parents out of town when the baby came early, and many, many snow days. Life has been tough the past few months, but I am holding it together as best I can.

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Now that he’s been in his new school for almost two months, a new set of issues is coming to the surface. We have an appointment with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in May to once again have JI screened for Autism, as well as ADHD and other behavioural conditions.

I’m not trying to force a diagnosis on him, but it will be comforting and a relief to know that maybe it’s not just Sensory Processing Disorder or bad behaviour, and once we have something official I can get him the exact help he needs.