How to be Overwhelmed.

I haven’t been on here in a while because I’m the victim of an overwhelming life.

I’ve gone back to school to get my Bachelor’s of English. It’s online school and it’s consuming all my time, that is all my time that isn’t taken up with two part-time jobs, the usual housework, and then there’s autism….

My son is 13 now. He’s been getting steadily more aggressive the older he gets, not out of malice, but because of the normal teenager stuff. Mood swings, rages, defiance, it’s all there. Unfortunately it gets dangerous. I am at my wits end trying to figure out what to do. My husband is home now, but he’s only here when he’s off work. Lately the situation with our son has started interfering with his job and mine.

So until life is somehow brought under control….I don’t know when I’ll be able to post.

Keep praying..hoping…anything… We need all the help we can get.

Scare Tactics

For thousands of years parents and teachers have been trying to get kids to learn, behave, and understand. There have been many schools of thought on the “correct” method of accomplishing that. They have ranged from using logical explanations to beatings and threats to using drugs and counselling. However one of the longest enduring methods is scare tactics.

I’m not just talking about saying, “If you keep making that face, it will freeze that way.” I’m talking about horror stories. I’m talking about traumatizing our children to keep them safe. I’m not saying that this is the best way to accomplish the goal, but it is effective.

Every country in the world has cautionary tales. Some are folk tales. Some are fairy tales. They used stories to #1 get their kids’ attention and #2 get their point across in a way that stuck in their heads.

Not long ago our High School here in Conrad MT staged one such event. It was called the Ghost Out. Click here for the blog and pictures.  This event showed the results up close and personal results of drunk driving. Telling them not to drink and drive did nothing, but seeing their friends lying dead in pools of blood made an impression. There hasn’t been a decrease in the partying, but there has been an increase in calls for rides and checking in to let their friends know they are okay and have made it home. I know that some of the kids wanted nothing to do with anything involving blood, no movies no video games, for quite some time after the Ghost Out.

So now I find myself thinking perhaps it’s time to scare some more kids to save some lives.

I know that most of you will gasp and rant at what I’m about to suggest, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I believe it is time to scare kids about guns, about school shootings.

Desensitization to violence in all forms has made it hard for kids to understand the results of a moment of action. Whether it be horror movies, video games, social media, or even the news, kids in this day and ages have seen it all before. But until they have lived it, violence doesn’t make an impression.  How many kids who were running for cover and trying to survive a school shooting have a new perspective on how precious life is? How many are rethinking how they treat their fellow students? How many are asking if they could have changed things just by acting a little different?

This idea came about after I saw a news clip about the emergency teams that were going through training on how to use battlefield medicine in case of a school shooting. The EMTs were talking about how much this training was driving home the reality of how devastating a school shooting is.  So this got me thinking, maybe it would have the same effect on students. Maybe students wouldn’t be so keen to bring a gun in and shoot their fellow students if they had some up close experience with seeing their friends bleeding on the gym floor.

I know that this idea seems severe and maybe a little over-reactive, but so far what else had worked? People preach and rant about gun control. People blame the government. People blame the police, the administration, the parents, social media, video games, medications… There is no end to the “blame game” of reasons this type or tragedy should never happen. Unfortunately that hasn’t been working. It is time for scare tactics.

How much would it change a kid’s perspective of school shootings if they got to experience it without the actual tragedy? What if they were in class and heard the gun shots? What if they were to go through the drills for a school shooting? What if they were then taken to the gym or the cafeteria to see a scene of massacre where some of their friends were lying dead or dying? What if they saw how hard the EMTs were working to save those injured? What if they then had the opportunity to talk about it and share their fears? What if they were given a crash course in how to save a life?

How many of those kids would go home and rethink their perceptions of the world? How many would reach out to others who they knew were hurting? How many would reconnect with what’s important and do their best to keep each other safe?

I know that this idea is not a perfect solution. I know that in some kid’s cases it might make things worse and give them ideas. There is always a danger of things like that. I know that a lot of parents wouldn’t want their children to go through something like that even if it is fake. However, I keep thinking how effective the Ghost Out was and I just think that maybe scare tactics might just save their lives.

What do you think? Scare them to save them?

Lack of Responsibility

I find it aggravating that in this day and age no one knows what responsibility is.  I don’t know if is it because of the “blame game” culture we live in or if it is just going extinct because responsibility isn’t taught to kids these days.

The thing that has sparked my outrage is this….

Someone hit my Jeep! Hit and run!

They ran into it.

Cracked my headlight.

Dented my fender.

Then just drove off.

Never said a word!

I suspect it was someone dropping their kid off at the Head Start school that is two doors down from us.

You know, I understand. It is really freaking icy out. Sometimes accidents happen. You hit an ice rut under the snow and you slide sideways unexpectedly. It happens. That’s why it’s called an accident.

But seriously, why not tell me?

If they were dropping off their kid, what kind of example were they setting? You’re thinking that kids going to Head Start are really young and wouldn’t notice any way. Wrong. Kids see everything, everything you do influences the kind of person they will be when they grow up. Do the right thing, show them how to be responsible. One day they will make a huge mistake, break a lamp, get in a fight, maybe even wreck your car. Do you want them to remember how you hit a car and didn’t tell anyone? Do you want them to hide their mistake like you did?

Maybe there was another reason, you say?

You’re thinking maybe they aren’t sure they can afford the insurance rates from an accident.

NEITHER CAN I!

I know that I will have to pay for the deductible, get a rental while it’s being fixed and deal with all the hoopla of organizing the repairs whether they told me or not, but that is not the point! If you do something wrong, OWN UP TO IT. It’s the right thing to do.

It sucks to get in trouble. I know that. No one wants to be yelled at. No one wants to admit they screwed up. No one wants to admit they were wrong. It doesn’t matter. Do the right thing. That is how the world works….or how it should work.

A majority of the world today feels that they are not responsible for their actions and look where it’s gotten us. Work ethics are dwindling, sexual harassment is rampant, families are broken, crime is up, government is failing, education is falling apart- all because no one wants to take responsibility for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault.

It comes down to a lack of integrity.

in·teg·ri·ty

  1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
    “he is known to be a man of integrity”
    synonyms: honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness
    “I never doubted his integrity”
  2. the state of being whole and undivided.
    “upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty”
    synonyms: unity, unification, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity
    “the integrity of the federation”

The human race needs integrity in order to survive and thrive a species. Otherwise our culture will collapse in on itself. The world will be destroyed all because of lack of responsibility.

So man up, woman up, cowboy up, however you want to say it. Take responsibility for your action, tell the damn truth and make the world a better place. It all starts with you.

10 Great Dumb Ideas to Fix Our Country.

I know that there is a lot of concern about the direction our country is going, and rightly so.  Nothing seems to be going well. Healthcare is falling apart, everyone is arguing, and no one is fixing it. So I thought I’d put my two cents worth in.  Here are some great dumb ways to fix things.

  1. Elected officials get paid minimum wage. That way they aren’t in it for the money and we get to keep them grounded in the ways of the people.
  2. When congress is in session, the our elected officials can live in dormitories and they only get paid when they show up to do their jobs. Clock in and clock out like the rest of us.
  3. National service. After High School every kids should serve at least a year in a public service or military entity. I don’t mean go to war I mean learn discipline and responsibility.
  4. School should be year around. Having the summers off only helps a few, mostly it just makes it hard for parents to find child care and kids lose a lot of ground.
  5. Insurance companies need to be regulated and simplified. Insurance shouldn’t be so conditional. Either it is there to help people afford times of health crisis or it needs to go.
  6. If you are going to legalize pot, use the money to fund public programs especially things like medicaid and medicare. Then you won’t have to cut them and put a lot of people in desperate straights.
  7. Recycling centers. This needs to happen. Packaging is getting crazy and there is way too much waste. Put some of that retail tax toward fixing the problem.
  8. Prison work programs. Staff the recycling centers with prisoners. A nasty job gets done and prisoners get to contribute to society instead of just consuming resources. Maybe it will help them choose a better life and maybe it will deter others from choosing crime.
  9. Mass transit. We need more railways. Other countries a lot smaller than us have bullet trains. We could cut down on a lot of pollution and create a lot of jobs if we just sorted out our transportation.
  10. Apprenticeships and internships. There are a lot of people who are not that interested in becoming cubicle zombies. Some people want to work with their hands. We need more on the job training options that will be more than just a college course with no experience. Internships and apprenticeships allow people training and experience so they are ready to enter the work force at full speed.

I know that most of these come with lots of problems about how to fund them and who will be in charge etc, etc, but honestly something must be done to get this country on track again and yelling at each other about who is right or wrong is getting us nowhere.

So there you go. Kitchen style politics simplified by someone who knows nothing. But maybe, just maybe someone will get inspired and run with this. Good luck.

Sorry I’ve been MIA

I apologize that I have not been posting much. Life has gotten completely away from me. Normally I look forward to school starting and life getting back to normal, but this year it hasn’t yet.

The school here has gone to personalized learning and they were not properly prepared so all is in chaos. Children, parents, teachers and staff are all stressed and unhappy. Crisis after crisis seems to be the day to day norm now.

Also they have not yet been able to find a permanent aide for my son. It’s in his IEP that he needs an aide. Constant changes of substitutes will only last so long until there is a blow up. He has never responded well to change or transitions so this is very stressful. I wait each day for a call that something has gone wrong.  I’m terrified of possible violent outbursts.

Depression and anxiety is getting to the dangerous point for me. I’ve started going to a counselor, but there isn’t much that can be done to change a lot of my situations so I’m just spinning my wheels in the sand trap of false hope.  Slowly, very slowly I’m trying to claw my way to the surface where I hope to get a breath so I can continue on.

I hope you will all be patient with me in getting back on track.

Thanks for still being around.

This is Autism, but I Still Love Him

We’ve been having a rough summer.

My son always has trouble with summer, because he is autistic. The normal trials of summer bother my son too like boredom and cabin fever. In that he is like all other kids, but there are a lot of other issues that come into play.  For example, thunderstorms. He’s terrified of them and yet gets upset because we aren’t having a storm every time there is a cloud. There is also the heat. He loves to be outside but the heat gets to him as well as the allergies that come with summer.

This year has been particularly bad because not only has it been over 90 the whole summer but the air has been filled with smoke from all the wild fires. Outside is not healthy. Inside is boring. It’s a brewing storm. Then you add in things like fireworks from the 4th of July. Loud unexpected noises that sound like thunder happening throughout the nights makes him very edgy. For weeks after the 4th he jumps at every little sound.  He wears sound proof headphones, but the fear is there even if the sound is not.

It finally came to a head one day when he hadn’t been sleeping well. It was a couple of weeks after the 4th and we’d been fighting to go to bed every night . He hadn’t been sleeping and neither had I. Bad combination. He was playing video games. (He likes mini golf) and he couldn’t go into a shed in the background. I told him that it was just part of the scenery and he got upset and started to bite his arm. I told him to go into his room until he could be calm. In the few seconds it took for me to set aside the game controller  he had gone into  his room and slammed his head into his window with enough force to splinter it. 

It didn’t hurt him any, although he had some broken glass in his hair. I had to first get him calm and then get all the glass cleaned up. But he was upset to begin with, then he was upset that he had broken the window, then upset that I couldn’t magically fix it, and upset that I was upset.  It was a long time before we could get sorted and then right after that a thunderstorm hit. Needless to say it wasn’t a good day.

It was a this point that I began to think about medication. I hate myself for thinking about it. I don’t like pills. I don’t like how I feel when I take them and usually I have bad reactions to them. So the thought of putting my son on them when he can’t tell me if he is feeling weird makes me shudder. We had tried him on medication once a long time ago when his violent outburst were getting out of hand and it had turned him in to a weeping pile of mush that was still violent. We gave up, threw away the pills, and learned to live with the outbursts.

But he is getting bigger now. He’s 12. He’s almost as tall as me and weighs 120 lbs. So off we went to the doctor. After a long discussion, the doctor decided that it was probably anxiety that was the route of the problem. If we could get that under control then he might not be a danger to himself. I was willing to give it a shot even though I was wary of the possible side effects.  The second problem was sleep. I found some chewable melatonin and I hoped that would help.

The first week was amazing. He was going to sleep because of the melatonin and although he was still getting up in the middle of the night, it was still an improvement. The Sertraline was working. He was in a great mood. We had to make a trip to Helena, which is a two and a half hour drive, for my daughter’s orthodontist appointment and I was expecting a blow up when we had to go home. But he was great shopping and he was great coming home. I didn’t even know how to handle a trip without a melt down.

It was great while it lasted.

About a week into the medications, we were watching tv during dinner and the character’s gloves had run away and gotten into some trouble and were sent to jail. In the blink of an eye, my son exploded. He was pounding his fist on his tray knocking food everywhere and then started to bite himself and hit me and his sister.  It was weird! Usually there is some warning before a meltdown but this was like a lightening strike out of a clear blue sky.

Over the next couple of days he started to get worse. He just kept getting really angry over such small things.  Then the big blow up came. My daughter had another dentist appointment this time to get five teeth pulled. (I know that’s a lot, but her regular dentist hadn’t been doing his job and let 4 years go by without telling us that she was going to have a problem with her baby teeth not coming out. So now we are in dental crisis, but that is another story.)

Now here was my first mistake. My son is scared of the dentist but is also really fascinated by it and as soon as he knew my daughter was going, he started asking if he could have an appointment. I told him he would have to wait for his appointment. The longer we sat in the waiting room, the more agitated he became.

Here was my second mistake. I should have known this trip to the dentist would be hard on my daughter and I should have found someone to watch my son while I took her to the dentist.

You have to understand at this point that my son doesn’t handle other people’s pain well. When he sees you cry he gets upset because he doesn’t understand the reason. Often he will attack the crying person. I am assuming because he believes that will give them a reason to be upset so it makes sense to him in a backwards kind of way. Needless to say our family tries to keep the crying to a minimum and let it out only when he isn’t looking.

Unfortunately my poor daughter couldn’t help it. She’d never had dental problems before so this was her first experience in having teeth pulled and five at one time was traumatic. She couldn’t help it she cried.  This set my son off. He didn’t understand why his sister was upset.

Here was my third mistake. My daughter wanted to get somethings from the store despite how she was feeling after the dentist. I warned her against it but she insisted that she was fine and she could handle it. So I stupidly listened. Half-way down the street my daughter changed her mind. She was in too much pain and wanted to go home. Before the trip I had warned my son that if his sister didn’t feel up to it then we were NOT going to go shopping and we would just go home. I thought he had understood, but when we started down the street toward the stores and then turned around, he got upset.

Here was my fourth mistake. I didn’t take him to get food.  It was about lunch time when we finished at the dentist. Because my daughter was feeling so awful I didn’t want to make her sit and wait while we ate. Instead I took my son to a gas station and grabbed some of those deli burgers and chips and a bottle of milk and headed out. He really wanted to get food at a restaurant and got upset.

Here is my fifth mistake. I didn’t stop at the car wash. It is a treat for my son when he is good to go through the automatic car wash before we leave town. Again, I didn’t stop because my daughter was feeling so badly.  I should have know better. Foregoing the car wash always causes a melt down. It was the final straw.

From that moment on it was a nuclear fallout meltdown. The drive back from Great Falls in an hour. Usually the meltdowns don’t last more that half an hour and usually we can get him out of it by playing I-spy or something. But this time I think the medication was in play. Nothing would stop him from pulling his sister’s hair or punching her from the back seat. He was spitting and trying to break the window with his fists and his feet. Foolishly I stopped on the side of the interstate to try and switch everyone around so that I could keep my daughter safe from his attack.

We ended up chasing him around in the ditch and trying to tackle him to keep him out of traffic. I’m sure the people driving by thought we were trying to kill him. He was punching and kicking me while I tried to get him to calm down and get back to the jeep. He grabbed handfuls of my hair and ripped some out. Finally we got him to the jeep but he got a hold of my daughters neck. In getting him to let go of her he got a hold of my hair and pummeled my head with his fist. I got kicked in the chest, repeatedly bit and he grabbed handfuls of my skin on my arms before I finally got him into his seat and buckled in. My daughter drove while I sat in the back by him and tried to keep him from kicking her and bashing his head through the window. Unfortunately that put me in the strike zone. He was so deliberate with his attacks. This wasn’t like his normal meltdowns. I kept telling him that I would be okay, that he needed to take deep breaths, that I still loved him and he would be alright, but nothing stopped him.

That was the longest hour of my life.

By the time we had gotten home I was near hysterical with terror and guilt. I had to wrestle him into the house. I sent my daughter downstairs out of harms way and took my son to his room. It was dark and he was still agitated. Then almost as quickly as it started he was back to normal. He wanted a drink and a snack. He sat down and started to watch tv. At that point I was doing my best to stay calm. I wanted to sob and curl up into a ball and shake, but I knew it would only set him off again. I stayed out of the room where I wouldn’t trigger him but also where I could keep an eye on him.

This is the damage that I came out with. I was so  stiff and sore. This doesn’t show all the damage. I have a lot of bruises on my head and legs, but you get the idea.

I am pretty proud of myself. Considering the craziness that we went through, my son came out without a mark on him.

My daughter only had a little welt on her neck. I managed to protect both my kids from harm. I don’t know how, but I did.

I called the doctor when things looked like they were as calm as they were going to get. We went over and the doc was shocked at the level of damage on my arms. He thought maybe we needed to up the dose of Sertraline because it seemed like it was working, and he get me some Risperdone pills to use as needed when things were out of hand. We went back home and I followed the doc’s orders. But over the next few days, my son stayed angry. He was mad about everything. He kept biting himself for tiny little upsets. So I talked it over with my husband and we decided to stop the meds.

 

It’s been three days now and he hasn’t had any blow ups. Well, there were a couple of small ones, but I’m not expecting miracles.

The thing is this is our life. I can’t say I’m not affected. I’m a wreck.  I love him completely and I’m terrified for the future. I’m not scared if him. I’m scared of what he’ll do to others. This whole episode has turned my fears into reality. What happens when he goes to school? What happens if we go to Great Falls again?

I know that it may get worse as he gets bigger. I may end up with broken bones at some point. I don’t want that to happen, but I’m not going to fool myself. This is Autism. This is melt downs. It’s hard. I hope that we can get past this someday and he can have a productive life, but I fear the alternative. That it may get too bad and he’ll have to live in a home where he’ll be doped up and live a miserable existence. I don’t want that either.

Right now I’m not feeling real positive. I’m bitter at the world for the lack of help. I’m angry at myself because I should have known better. I’m disillusioned with my life right now. But it doesn’t matter. This is Autism and we get up every day and keep going. I love my son regardless.

Happy Birthday to my Son!

He’s 12 years old now. It seems hard to believe. 12 years of struggling and fighting to get to this point. It seems longer and yet it doesn’t seem that long at all.  I guess that’s normal. Most parents feel that way. I guess it’s different because it’s been 12 years of Autism.

Life is not easy when you have Autism in your life. Whether you are a parent of or are the autistic person, challenges abound. Let me give you an idea.

It’s been 12 years of communication issues. Sometimes he’s been unable to communicate at all, sometimes he can get across what he wants after a lot of effort. Sometimes it causes so much frustration that he becomes violent.  Sometime we have the same conversation hundreds of times a day.

It’s been 12 years of health issues.  RSV virus, Jaundice, ear infections every few months, dental problems, bruises and bite marks, behavioral issues, attention problems, sleep disturbances and allergies.

It’s been 12 years of sleeping issues. The first six years of sleeping in our bed because of night terrors, then the next six years of sleeping in his own bed but getting up multiple times every night, which means that I’ve slept on his floor more hours than I can count.

It’s been years of violent outburst and broken things. We’ve had to replace a TV, several chairs, and now a window. There are holes in the walls, a lot of broken toys, and quite a few rips in our clothes.

And yet through all this, he has grown and started to thrive. He has friends who adore him. Everyone in town seems to know his name and they always say hi to him. He reads, he writes albeit both really slowly and with difficulty. He loves to tell jokes. He laughs and plays. He knows what he likes and isn’t afraid to tell you. He loves to help around the house and help in the yard.  Although he is usually terrified of new things, he loves an adventure. He’s terrified of storms but can’t wait for them either. He loves amusement park rides even though the surroundings overwhelm him. Animals love him although he is usually scared of them. He’s growing into a relatively well rounded young man.

I know that we have a really long way to go and not all of it is going to be positive. Sometimes every day is a struggle, but I look at how far we’ve come and I couldn’t be more proud of my son. He’s overcome so much to be the wonderful 12 year old that he is today.

Happy Birthday, Bubba!

Autism and Wandering

One of the things about having a child with Autism is that they have a tendency to wander. It may be because they don’t realized they shouldn’t and they are in their own little world or it may be that they run from something they are scared of. What ever the reason, it scares the crap out of us parents.

My son has disappeared a couple of times on us while out in public and he has wandered off from grandma’s house and home. I can’t tell you how terrified we were. I live in constant fear that one day he will slip out and we won’t find him. Luckily we live in a town where almost everyone knows my son, but what if….

The lovely people from Quality Life Concepts, our family support, turned me onto the BIG RED SAFETY BOX.

It is put out by the National Autism Association. Which is great resource by the way.

I signed up and donated $10 and they sent me the Big Red Safety Box. In it there was  lots of handy stuff.

NAA’s Big Red Safety Box includes the following resources:
1) Our Be REDy Booklet containing the following educational materials and tools:
A caregiver checklist
A Family Wandering Emergency Plan
A first-responder profile form
A wandering-prevention brochure
A sample IEP Letter
A Student Profile Form
Emotion Identification Cards
Wandering Quick Tips
2) Two (2) GE Wireless Door/Window Alarms with batteries
3) One (1) MedicAlert Bracelet or Pendant, and One (1) Shoe ID tag*
4) Five (5) Adhesive Stop Sign Visual Prompts for doors and windows
5) Two (2) Safety Alert Window Clings for car or home windows
6) One (1) Red Safety Alert Wristband
7) One (1) Child ID Kit from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Sometimes help is actually available. You just need to know where to look.

Donkey Basketball

Donkey Basketball. Sounds funny doesn’t it? Well, it is. It is a game involving players riding donkeys up and down a basketball court trying to get the ball in the hoop while staying on the donkey. There is no dribbling but there is passing to other teammates. If the ball goes awry then the player must get off their donkey and chase down the ball and throw it to another player then get back on their donkey.  The donkey’s wear little rubber shoes to protect them and the floor of the gym. It isn’t a fast paced game, but it is fun.The Shelby FFA kids were having a fundraiser by way of playing Donkey Basketball. They asked the Conrad FFA group to bring a team to help out. My daughter volunteered without a second thought. Her and a couple of other kids rounded up enough members for the team. They donned fake mustaches and little sombreros and called themselves the Caballos diablos. Incidentally the team was all girls with one guy. Most of them had never been on a donkey, but they had ridden horses. It was an eyeopening experience.

When they arrived they found out they would be playing against the three time running champions- the firefighters. They were very intimidated but unbelievably enough the kids won! The Shelby FFA kids were playing against the Shelby Faculty. That match was a comedy of errors because it seemed the kids weren’t quite ready for their teachers to be so game. The final match was the Shelby FFA against the Conrad FFA. Nothing like friendly competition! Was more like a free for all and the donkeys were winning.

 There have been a lot of articles about the cruelty of donkey basketball. They say it violates the donkey’s rights and subjects them to frightening circumstances. I can’t say if that is true in other places but here in Montana, it wasn’t true at all. As a matter of fact, we live with an abundance of animals here in Montana and everyone is brought up to treat them right. 

The donkeys were subjected to lots of petting during half-time, but beyond that they were treated great.

From the looks of the games, it was the donkeys that were in charge of things. Most of the time they were meandering where ever they felt like regardless of what the riders wanted and in wonderful Montana fashion, the riders just laughed and let them go where they would.  My poor daughter had picked a very sleepy donkey that spent most of its time visiting with the audience and getting its ears scratched. She even ended up in the corner at one point because the donkey decided that he was done. 

All in all it was a wonderful night and my daughter said that she was glad she did it and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The FFA raised a lot of money for the food drive and everyone went home smiling, even the donkeys.