December 15, 2009
The Hardest Part, at least from a day-to-day basis, the rigid, inflexible thinking. Things that must be done the way they've been done before. No variation, no deviation, from morning (and the order that breakfast items get set on the table) to night (pants come off first but socks come off last and books must be read while sitting on the right side of the bed RIGHT SIDE RIGHT SIDE!). Routines become rituals and the rituals are a religion.
It's all CONNECTED, of course, we're told. I fret about OCD but am assured that no, it's SPD. Dyspraxia is a motor-planning disorder, but when you add in tactile and auditory hypersensitivity and fine and gross motor delays and receptive and expressive and pragmatic language delays and whatever-the-fuck else we've been diagnosed with at some point or another...well, you've got a child who can't sequence day-to-day problems, or recognize patterns in events and behavior, who can't reason things out to their logical conclusion, who doesn't understand the order of the world and other people and basically exists in a tensed-up state, minutes away from fight-or-flight mode at all times.
Okay, not at all times. But just enough for it to feel that way some days. Some little inconsequential details doesn't go as planned and a mental wire gets tripped. He goes from a happy, smiling chattering little boy to...well, something else. Something I'm getting weary of describing, because I still can't seem to get it right. Please to reference EVERY OTHER POST EVER.
So lately we (with help and guidance from his teachers and therapists) have been working hard on improving Noah's problem-solving and abstract-thinking skills. You do this, in part, by deliberately creating problems and then pretending to be a complete moron.
Problem One: Oh no! You need to get dressed for school and Mommy put on your bathing suit! And now she's trying to put your socks on your hands! And your underwear on your head!
Solution: STUPID MOMMY.
Problem Two: You come downstairs for breakfast but your chair isn't at the table. It's in the middle of the kitchen. When you say you want your chair at the table, Mommy pushes it in the wrong direction.
Solution: STUPID, GOOD-FOR-NOTHING MOMMY.
Problem Three: You get permission to go play in the basement, but the baby gate is closed. Mommy suddenly can't get it open, insists on making wild dramatic gestures about WHATEVER SHALL WE DOOOOO in the general direction of a nearby stepstool. IT'S LIKE WE NEED A TOOL OF SOME KIND. HMMM!
Solution: Ask to watch TV instead, because DAMN, WOMAN.
And...so on and so forth.
It's working, we think. Not all the time, but in past couple weeks we've managed to get him to work and reason through a couple change-ups and "why/how come" questions. A good start, but nothing that seemed to curb the Big Bad Reactions to a triggering event.
One such triggering event is, and has always been, taking the alternate way out of our neighborhood. Our house is on the edge of a street that loops around a couple of other houses, kind of like a cul-de-sac but not. But weird. It's like whoever built this development was legally required to toss up some affordable townhouses among the gigantic single-family homes, but sure as hell wasn't going to put them where anyone would actually have to look at them. Thus, we have two ways out.
Obviously, the preferred exit is shorter, but quite often gets blocked by landscaping trucks, extra cars that simply don't fit into two- or three-car garages, I mean, MY LANDS, and...I don't know. Piano-and-Ming-vase delivery trucks. So it's sometimes a little easier to just go around the other way.
Except that Noah always, ALWAYS loses his shit when we go that way. It's takes all of three seconds to end up exactly where we would end up ANYWAY, but in three seconds he can manage to completely lose it. He screams and kicks and pulls his hair and thrashes around in his seat. We actually moved him out of his booster and back into a harnessed carseat thanks to one of these fits, when he managed to turn his body completely around and slide out of the seat belt and onto the floor.
We tried everything we could think of: we took walks around the block, we took pictures of the road for social stories, we drove that way every day on purpose, we drove that way only when we absolutely had to.
It's a little, silly thing, right? But that's how it is. Even if we can avoid a three-second detour right outside our front door, we may have to take one further down the road because a traffic light is out. We have to turn on a blinking red light instead of green. We have to double-back in the grocery store because we forgot something, order orange juice at Chipotle because they are out of the usual apple, wear this red coat because the blue one is in the wash, and on and on it goes. Explaining, comforting, bargaining, begging, completely unable to get him to understand that it's GOING TO BE OKAY. REALLY.
Yesterday I had to drive around the way of doom, thanks to a tree-removal crew blocking the corner. Noah freaked. We continued on. We got to the highway exit for his afternoon program, driving under the bridge we'd soon circle back onto.
"Are we going on that bridge?" Noah asked.
"Yep," I said. I thought about leaving it at that, but instead plunged onward with the kind of endless chatter I do, never knowing how much of it he absorbs, plus, who else am I going to talk to? Fucking Twitter?
"See, we drive arooooound this ramp and get on the bridge! Wheeeee! It's like a big loop."
"A loop." Noah repeated.
I was about to define the word for him when he continued.
"A loop. Just like the one outside our house."
And that was it. He caught sight of a nearby school bus and changed the topic.
I drove around the loop again today, on purpose, just to see.
In the backseat, Noah started to protest. Then he tentatively raised his arms over his head.
"WHEEEE!" he said, and he laughed.