This I Can Handle (#186)

From bangs to tears. With one more day of 2005 to go, this is one way in which I can sum up the past year in Autismland.
2005 began on a hopeful note when Charlie learned to read about ten sight words—then, in the second half of January, he spiraled straight into a regression, one of whose many terrible features was an increase in violent behaviors, towards himself–head-banging–and others. From then on, Jim and I were on a campaign to get Charlie into an educational placement appropriate for him. Charlie finally began attending a new school on December 6th, after spending a month at home with my mom (aka PoPo) and being homeschooled by our ABA therapists. Along the way, we found help for Charlie by starting him in private verbal behavior sessions in April and in a home ABA/Lovaas program in September, and by seeking out the expertise of our now-home-consultant in July.

By teaching him to ask for a “break,” to use an activity schedule, to play appropriately with toys, and to read, his therapists and teachers have taught Charlie new ways of communicating his needs and frustrations that involve–if I may be literal–other parts of his head than his forehead meeting the floor.

And that’s why I’m thinking I can sum up 2005 as “from bangs to tears”: Yesterday and today, when I tried to sneak Charlie’s “yallo haht” and blue fleece vest into the washing machine to divest them of the scent of greasy hamburger, I was met at the basement stairs with an 8 1/2 year boy in tears.

“Haht! Coat on!”

Charlie looked right at me with two brown eyes leaking tears, the face of tragedy, catastrophe, and cosmic disaster. I stopped the washing machine and fished out the hat and vest (Charlie knows what to get when I saw “put on your vest” but can’t always retrieve the right noun when he himself speaks). Items grasped, Charlie ran off all the way to my bedroom, where he cast hat and vest on the carpet and enwrapped himself under the blankets of my bed.

“Goo’ night! Bedtime.”

Charlie has been surrounding himself with over-beloved objects these past few days: His favorite “barn pate.” “Ocean” (= a placemat with a bright blue sky and a certain lighthouse on one side, a map of where the beach house is on the other). A pot of brown rice. His fleece hat, vest, and jacket, plus his “puffy coat.” A photo of my parents’ house in California. Our attempts to tell him that “all of this stuff will still be here if it’s downstairs” (instead of in our bedroom), have been met with those tears.

Compared to facing the tears–the very real tears of sorrow and loss and fear–of Charlie, it was “easy” to hang on to a screaming, struggling, kicking, banging boy with feet as big as mine. When your child is in full tantrum mode, what you, Autism Parent, must do is obvious: Stay really calm (ha!), don’t get excited (yeah right), speak in an even and bland tone (“let’s try to sit down”–also yeah right). But how can one not acknowledge a little boy’s tears, a little boy’s fears that his hat and vest are going to be swallowed in the washing machine?

Charlie had a good day. We played Perfection and did puzzles and went through some books; he and Jim went on a vigorous bike ride; he had a “fantastic” verbal behavior session. He shared a few fries with us and dipped his pickle into Jim’s ketchup. He fell asleep on the battered blue and white striped couch, “yallo haht” and “bwest” entwined in his long fingers.

Tears, maybe even some smiles and laughs: Is that too much to ask for in 2006?

7 Responses to “This I Can Handle (#186)”
  1. mom-nos says:

    It’s been an honor getting to know you and Charlie in 2005, and I look forward to sharing 2006 with you as well – the tears, and – I’m very, very sure – the many smiles and laughs as well.

  2. KC's Mommy says:

    I look forward to hearing all about Charlie’s adventures in 2006!
    Have a Happy New Year Charlie, Kristina and Jim!

  3. Eileen says:

    I can’t thank you enough for the gift of knowledge and inspiration that you and your dear Charlie have given me this year. I am looking forward to a New Year of the tears, but more and more the laughs and smiles! We are honored to continue down this path with you and the others in Autismland!!!
    Happy 2006!!!!!

  4. Dennis Durst says:

    Hi Christina!

    Jim sent me the blog, and I find it very moving. Kenric (almost 8) has ADHD, and while the symptoms are much less severe, there are still some tantrum moments that can be scary.
    Thanks for being a great parent and for communicating your joys and sorrows so others might find relief in them.


  5. Mothersvox says:

    What a year it has been! Thank you for sharing your inspiring story of sticking up for Charlie in the face of so many formidable challenges. I’m so happy to know about your family and hope that we will somehow meet in 2006–crossing the Hudson one way or the other! m.

  6. Wade Rankin says:

    May we all have a great 2006.

  7. Lora says:

    Thank you for sharing all the delightful stories about Charlie, I have enjoyed them so very much, it has been encouraging and insightful to read your blog. I look forward to 2006 and all of Charlie’s new adventures and learning from you as you and your family cope with living in Autismland.

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