The end of January and the beginning of February were a big, gray bucket of suck. I don’t care what anyone tells you, but when you have a child who is hurting, and you’re grasping at straws to try to figure out how to help that child, it rips you apart in ways that have lasting marks.
We spent a lot of time over the past month hashing out ways to help Jake. Ways to make life easier for him. Actions that we (and the school) could take to help him find his happy…his calm. It was an arduous task. It threw us WAY out of our comfort zone. Every time I was going to take the easy way, though, I’d ask myself….”Is this RIGHT?” Many times, I felt it was not. A few weeks after our lives were thrown upside own, we are finding our way to the light. I’m noticing more “hope-y” things in our days, in our moments. That is so important. And, amazingly, as we were going through the struggles with Jake, Tate has been coming into his own.
Juggling three kids is one of the most difficult jobs I have ever, EVER had. I wish I could talk to my mom about it. She did it with such aplomb. She made it look easy. I wish I knew her secrets. (Even if they were that she’d down a box of chocolate every night after we were in bed…) I try to meet all of their needs. I feel like I’m flailing and stumbling and bumbling around..but then the kids do something awesome, and I’m encouraged…maybe I’m not totally botching this parenting gig.
We’re seeing the light…we’re finding our way out of this bucket of suck. Just yesterday, Jake told me that he had a great day at school. He’s been more open with me ever since we had our big talk earlier this month. When Hubz and I talked to him and shared some of our childhood fears and struggles, I think that made Jake see that we weren’t these superhumans….we are kind of like him. Or he’s like us. Anyway, I hear more about what’s hard, what’s not, what makes him happy, and what he finds frustrating. These conversations, while not always the easiest to have (I have to put on my SLP/Social Worker hat), are valuable to get insight into his life. I can honestly say that since he told us about the bullying incidents at school, he is happier. He is less withdrawn. His anxiety isn’t nearly as high as it was. He isn’t upset about going to school. He knows he has safe places there. And that makes my heart happy.
Jake is also less afraid to ask us to explain what we are talking about. Hubz and I sometimes forget that we’re smarter than the average bear. Not to toot our own horns, but we use advanced vocabulary and idioms, sarcasm, and the like. Having two children with speech and language issues and learning how to communicate with them is something that we’re still learning. We’re much better, but it is a process. Since Hubz and I had our big talk with Jake, Jake will ask me to explain what I’m saying more. If I use a word he is unfamiliar with, he doesn’t just let it go, he is asking what I mean. I have also been watching his cues, and when I can see that he doesn’t understand, I’ll ask if he wants me to explain my words. Often he’ll nod sheepishly…and I explain what I’m talking about in a 10-year-old-friendly way.
I feel good about getting some therapy lined up for Jake, as well. We are seeing his psychiatrist this Saturday to discuss his medications, anxiety, and focus. In 2 weeks he will start to see a pediatric psychologist who specializes in anxiety and ADHD. I hope that it helps him to talk to someone who is a neutral party and can just let him get the weight of the world off of his little shoulders.
As we have been preoccupied with all things Jake and 4th grade, Tate has been really coming along. I know parents of autistics say it all of the time, but the progress happens little by little and then BAM!, you realize that your child is doing something that at one time was thought to be damn near impossible. For instance? Tate is having conversations with his peers! During ABA, they read social stories and model conversation starters. He is generalizing these with us AND with his friends at school. During ABA they are modeling appropriate ways to get attention, such as, “Hey there!” or “Hi, (insert person’s name)!” or “I really like your new shirt!”. Tate generalized this at school, complimenting his teacher on her headband, and one of his aides on her sweater. He told one of the girls that he liked her shoes, too. LOVE IT! This is a HUGE step for my kiddo…I’m so proud of him!
Another thing that Tate has been doing is that he asks to have privacy. He escapes to the living room, or goes under the dining room table, or even goes upstairs to our homework room. When he is alone, he does some of his stimmy behaviors or echolalia. He knows he needs it. And we all know he needs it. The beauty is that more times than not, he is able to re-engage with us after a period of his stimmies. I am so proud of him for advocating for himself. And I’m proud of Jake and Cole for respecting the fact that Tate sometimes needs to immerse himself in his stims.
So, even though we have had our bumps and bruises lately, we still have plenty to enjoy. We are emerging from that hard place and into some hope and happy times. And the light feels great.