Friday, 25 May 2012

Lets play "Brat or Autistic"

Every day is a guessing game. Not a fun, play with your kids, 20 questions type game, but a frustrating, confusing, confounding game of  "is this behaviour Autistic, or bratty?".

I worked with kids many moons ago, but in the challenging, stressful and at times hilarious adventure that is raising my son, I seem to have forgotten what normal looks like. I honestly don't remember how the average, NT, regular kid type 4 year old behaves.

Now I know that regardless of whether a behaviour is deliberately bratty or because of Autism, if it is dangerous, inappropriate, or just plain irritating, we will take steps to try to reduce that behaviour.  The trick is to try to figure out what steps are actually going to be effective to do that. Autistic behaviours don't respond well to punishments that reduce the bratty behaviours. Bratty behaviours need to be addressed as such, because they are behaviours the kid has chosen, not ones that his differently wired brain has forced him into. Also, as parents go, I tend toward the permissive, and indulgent, so he is probably a bit spoiled. That is as much my problem as his, but I still need to know what factors are at work for a specific behaviour.

So, when his iPad runs out of power unexpectedly and he pounds it on the table and screams, is that Autism, or spoiled brat? (Whoever designed the heavy duty cover on this device, I thank them a thousand times)
When he jumps on the couch, throws himself down, over and over until the couch breaks, or he injures someone (usually me) is that Autism, or brat? He does this when there is something especially entertaining on TV.
When he dumps a large container of ice tea mix, a bucket of baby formula and a bin of sugar together on the kitchen floor, then drives his cars through it, is that Autism, or brat? It is sure as heck expensive.
When he throws his juice cup at me if I don't respond quickly enough to his request (verbal or point and grunt, depending on what kind of day he is having) is that Autism, or spoiled brat?
When he breaks down in tears because he has to interrupt what he is doing to go to school, eat dinner or go out somewhere, is that Autism or spoiled brat?
 When he gets off the potty and pees on the floor, is that Autism or spoiled brat?
When he poops in the tub, then smears it on the wall, is that Autism or spoiled brat?
When he refuses to eat anything but watermelon, cheese cut into triangles, and Triscuit snack crackers, is that Autistic, or spoiled brat?

Sometimes it is more obvious than others. Sometimes it seems to be a mix of reasons and explanations. Sometimes I try to figure out what a "normal" 4 year old might do. Or a two year old, for that matter, since that is where a lot of his functioning is at.

We get through, one way or another. I love this kid, no matter what the challenges, and I don't want to do him a disservice by assuming his behaviour is Autistic, or just him, testing boundaries and experimenting with the rules.

I need to learn. I need to figure this out.

But first, I need to clean up the mess on the kitchen floor. Sigh.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

How can I miss you if you don't go away?

I am an introvert. Essentially this means I need time by myself to recharge my batteries, and be able to cope with my responsibilities and enjoy being around the people I love. I also suffer from clinical depression. I am on meds, and am mostly stable, provided I take care of myself.
The trouble is I am not taking care of myself. I don't eat very well, and am a bit of a stress eater when it comes to dealing with the day to day stuff. Fat, sugar, salt, and caffeine are my food groups lately, and that really isn't helping me maintain my equilibrium, emotionally speaking. I am overweight, and gaining again after losing a fair bit of the pregnancy weight last year. Sigh. I haven't been getting much exercise, other than chasing the kids around. I don't read for fun as much as I used to, and I haven't been doing my jewelry crafting. My house is a mess, even after hours of cleaning, so I have been getting that apathy derived from the futility of my actions. I have been crying too often, for trivial reasons, and I really hate that.In short, I am in a funk.

I don't want to be a drama queen, nor bring people down by wallowing in my own misery. My family have their own problems and I don't need to add to them. My kids need me, my husband needs me, and I need them. My amazing, challenging, and very high maintenance little boy is running me ragged. My daughter is sweet and growing more curious and adventurous every day. I worry that I don't do enough for my son, that my daughter is showing signs of developmental delay that I am not worrying about enough, or worrying too much about. That I am neglecting one or the other. Or that I don't respect my hubby's needs because I am too focused on the kids, or my own misery.

The trouble is, I also need me. Alone. I am not getting the me time I need to keep steady. I don't know how to remedy this without feeling like a whiny baby, or an antisocial jerk. My husband is more of an extrovert, and is not happy being alone. He knows, at least in theory, that I need that time, but he also has trouble doing anything alone, and I am the person who fulfills that sidekick role most of the time. My children can't be expected to understand my need to get away from everyone, they are really too young to get it, and when I do try to get those times away, my hubby doesn't get that I need him to keep the kids away. He works outside the house, and to him, having the kids around is a treat, so he has told me. I don't know that he understands entirely how tired I get of having to serve the needs of them and him.

How do I carve out a space for taking care of me? All of the books, resource people, even family and friends say I need to take care of myself in order to take care of others. How do I do that without being selfish? How do I find time without depriving my family? It isn't that I don't love them or want to be with them, but it remains an issue that I can't be with people, even the ones I love, all the time without going over the edge. In a few weeks, my son and hubby both will be home for the summer. Then what? Will I get more time, since Daddy will be around more? It doesn't usually work out that way. He has his own plans and priorities, and although he tries to be helpful, a lot of the time he seems to want to schedule me for plans that suit him more than they do me.

So how do I make this time for me that I need? Most of the stuff I want to do with that time is at home. I feel guilty when I wish he would take the kids somewhere by himself, but when I try to lock myself away in the spare room for some crafting, or work in the yard on my gardening, the kids or the hubby always manage to guilt me into coming out to do something for or with them. How do I change this? I seem to have advice for my friends, but I just can't seem to come up with anything for myself.

Okay, done whining for today.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Hello, my name is Carmen and I am an...

This was posted by a well meaning person on my blog yesterday.
" the word atheism may be turning people off......unless u make a point that u are AGAINST IT! "
Okay, I suppose it is as good a time as any to address this. I hate defending myself to people. I don't really do it that often, but I hate being judged and it makes me feel like I am somehow validating the judge's opinion by responding to it. I don't have the greatest self esteem, frankly, and it really bothers me when someone doesn't like me. Silly, of course, not everyone is going to like me, agree with me, or understand me. Still, I want to reply to this one, because it is a topic I have been thinking about a great deal lately.
I feel like I am admitting to a terrible character flaw, or a disgusting personal habit. I know there are people who will decide I am not worth talking to because of this, and people who will try and save me from myself, or advise me to keep it under wraps, because all of these reactions have occurred in the past. But enough. Let me just come out and say it.
I am an atheist.
Yep, I freely and of my own will admit that I do not believe in a god (or goddess). I am not agnostic, because I have pondered, reasoned and decided that I do not believe there is or was a creator, or that there is or was anyone directing human lives or civilization other than the other humans involved.
That being said, I am not a rabid anti-theist. I believe that all people have the right to worship, believe, and take comfort in their personal belief systems. I respect that people will speak of their religious beliefs and affiliations.
I take exception, however, to those who use their beliefs to pass judgement on me. I also have little tolerance for those who insist on promoting their faith as the one true way, and who denigrate those who believe otherwise.
I am not amoral, nor do I think that anarchy is the way to go. I believe in human beings as generally good people, with some blind spots and  problems, but basically good. I base my moral code on the concept of creating as much comfort and joy in the world and as little suffering and anger as possible. I also believe in treating most people as individuals with needs as valid and important as my own. I  I believe that all human lives are valuable and that everyone matters and has a place in the world that is important, no matter what their abilities, potential, religion or worldview, including those I don't understand or necessarily agree with. I think that those who use their beliefs to try to bully or abuse others into agreeing are wrong. I believe that those who hurt or subjugate others in the name of their beliefs, or doing what they are told and not thinking about what is right, are dead wrong. I don't say that they are worthless or stupid, I say they are careless, lazy, and often willfully ignorant.
I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt, and in treating everyone well, for no other reason than that it is no more difficult than mistrust and selfishness and that when you treat others as you want everyone to be treated (including yourself and those you love) you make the world a better place to live in. Because everyone is connected, every living thing is connected, and you never know how your actions will affect others. So I do what good I can. I take joy in what I can. I try not to let bad stuff make me miserable or bitter. I don't always succeed, and no one is perfect, but I do try.
If people feel they are morally obligated by their religious beliefs to tell me I am wrong and to unfriend, unfollow, or ignore me, I respect their right to do so. I am not going to get into debates about this, and I am not going to change my mind, be saved, or any of the other euphemisms for religious devotions. I am happy as I am, and I don't believe that my stance is harmful to anyone. Be at peace. I do not profess what I believe in order to offend or insult others, but I am not going to pretend I believe otherwise to appease others.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A Valuable Life

Tough day for my hubby yesterday. He teaches low functioning autistic children at the elementary school level, kids with tons of co-morbid conditions and intellectual disabilities. Well, one of the children passed away during a seizure Monday night. The teachers and aides were all affected. He had to call the parents of the other children to let them know what happened, as most of the kids he works with are non-verbal and wouldn't be able to tell their parents why they were upset. And they were upset. Even those who didn't understand or know what had happened were reacting to the grief and upset of the staff.
I appreciate that the parents and others get some comfort by believing that he is in a better place, in heaven, or whatever afterlife they believe is appropriate. I don't believe that. Being an atheist, I don't believe in an afterlife. When someone dies, they are not in a better place. They are dead. Whatever made them a person is gone.
That said, I also believe that this little boy is still with us. Every person he touched, every contact, every smile, every high five (and he loved to give high fives), will carry him with them. He was an individual, an amazing human being, and he will be remembered.
That, to me, is eternal life. No matter what, no matter how short, or limited, or difficult a life is, it matters. We are connected to every other life on Earth. We all have that intrinsic value, every life, every person, everyone makes an impact. That whole "Six degrees of separation" concept is true in that every person who is connected to even one other human being is connected to all of us.
This little boy is gone, and that is a shame, and he will be missed. But he will live in memories, and in the actions of every person who remembers him, and in the impact that they have on everyone who knows them. He mattered. Nonverbal, severely disabled, limited, he still mattered. His life was worth living, and worth having.