Better Enough?

Thank goodness the last two days have been better. If things kept spiraling down as fast as they were, we’d have had to readmit him to the hospital by now.

Yesterday morning, our routine went fairly well although there was some hitting and throwing things at animals and at me. But the morning went well enough that we decided to take advantage of Texas’ last warm day for a while and meet some friends at the park. This was all planned with Javan and he was really excited to get to see some of his homeschool friends.

When we got to the park, he rode his Green Machine bike around the sidewalk a few times before the family that was meeting us there arrived. It’s usually a good idea to try to get to a place a tiny bit before others so he can have a few minutes to orient himself to place before having to orient himself to place and people. The sweet family that met us there is one we’ve known for years and one that can understand our lives better than most, as their kiddos fight some of the same battles Javan does. One of the girls brought her bike, and she and Javan rode around the sidewalk together for a few minutes. After that, Javan wasn’t super friendly. It was obvious that although he’d wanted badly to play with them, he just didn’t know how.

His friend suggested a game of Capture the Flag, or at least I think that was the game he wanted. Javan became defensive and angry because he doesn’t know how to play that and was anxious because he didn’t think he’d be any good at it and would get embarrassed if he tried. So his friend and his dad went to their car and brought back light sabers. Javan went to our car and came back with a toy sword that must’ve been under a seat or something because I had no idea it was there. Of course, he wanted to play too rough, but settled himself with striking a tree with his sword. He was happy because he could hit the tree as hard as he wants. Now, many people would only see that because he was sword fighting too rough, he was being aggressive and mean. But there’s another element to think about that often goes unnoticed in kids like ours: coordination. Javan has dyspraxia, a neurological disorder common in autistic people that effects his coordination and motor planning abilities. Gentle, controlled movements with a sword take much more coordination and planning than just using brute strength. I didn’t need to explain that to this family because they know him well and because their son also has dyspraxia.

Javan then insisted that it was time to go. He told everyone bye and rode quickly off to the car on his bike. The oldest girl of the family we met gave me a baggie to give him. In it were beautifully colored and scented homemade Lego-man soaps. She had some left over from a craft sale and wanted Javan to have some just because she’s a sweet friend. I will have to share a picture if the soaps in my next blog because they’re super cute and they’ll probably strike envy in my Star Wars loving friends’ hearts. I hope I can repay her in the near future.

He fell asleep on the way home and we had a quiet, restful afternoon. It was his spend the night night with Grammy and boy was he ever ready! He usually has dinner with her after work on Friday nights, but unfortunately she got off late yesterday and he was huuuunnnngggrrrryyy, a condition he’s found himself in increasingly often lately. So we met up with Auntie Darya and Uncle Alex at a quiet little Chinese restaurant. When they first arrived to the restaurant, he was prickly and unwelcoming, but by the time the meal was over he was giving them the biggest, sweetest hugs ever.

My mom said he had a great night and morning at her house. Not perfect, but really good. He slept well and for an appropriate length of time. They even went to the store and he behaved appropriately there. We met up for lunch to pick him up and he was happy as a lark, loving, and hungry as ever. Again, he fell asleep on the way home, but today a quiet, peaceful afternoon and evening was not to follow.

It was a really hard day for us. The transition from Grammy’s house to our house probably played into it some. Although that is a part of our normal weekly routine, it may have just been harder for him during this time. We were all sleepy when we got home. Javan hasn’t been napping for several months now, so when he’s sleepy he just rests on the couch and watches cartoons. He had been doing so well that we felt comfortable letting him watch cartoons for a short time while we went and laid down in our bed. I kept one ear open, knowing I needed to listen for signs of activity and when I heard him moving around I promptly kicked my husband out of bed to go sit with him in the living room (Sorry, Hon). My husband explained to him that he was going to finish his short nap on the couch so he could be closer to Javan if he needed anything.

When I got up, Daddy was snoozing on the couch and Javan and I had a snack. While we ate, he picked a butter knife up off the table and began pointing to his bedroom with it. I explained for the umpteen-thousandth time that I need him to use words. He told me he had a knife in his room. “A knife like this?” I asked, gesturing to the butter knife he held. “No, a real knife.” “Show me,” I said. He took me into his bedroom and brought our chef’s knife out of his stuffed animals bin, where it had been hidden under a layer of soft, fuzzy creatures. He gave it to me without hesitation and showed me where he had stabbed through his large stuffed dinosaur.

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“Why did you hide the knife?” I asked him.

“So I could tell Dad I was going to get a stuffed animal and then stab him.”

“You wanted to stab Dad with the knife?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

No response.

“Were you angry with Dad?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because he was sleeping on the couch instead of spending quality time with me.”

We woke Dad up and filled him in. We reiterated that our knives are off-limits. Yes, they will be locked away even better for those of you wondering. We talked about better ways to let Dad know he’s angry and how to tell him why. But see, many autistic people have a problem learning generalization. Javan’s therapist’s have told me he definitely had this problem, which is why he doesn’t benefit from therapy. Today, Javan learned from a very specific situation, but won’t likely be able to generalize what he’s learned to use it in the future. He’s learned what to do and not do if Dad is sleeping on the couch instead of spending quality time with him and that makes him angry. If that specific situation occurs again, he might know that it’s better to talk to Dad about how he feels than to stab him with a knife. But he won’t be able to generalize that to other situations where maybe Dad has done something else that angered him or it is a different person altogether with whom he is angry.

After our family discussion, we tried to spend quality time with him doing something he liked. He consented to play Pokemon cards, but after five minutes he didn’t want to play anymore. He didn’t understand why he didn’t want to play anymore and was very frustrated with himself about it, saying “I love playing Pokemon, so I just don’t understand why I don’t want to play!” We tried to calm him. We told him everyone changes their mind sometimes and it’s ok, we could play something else. But he quickly spiraled out of control. He became very angry, especially at Dad, and was being verbally and slightly physically abusive. Nothing we tried was stopping his outbursts, so as a last ditch effort we decided to get out of the house for a while. Sometimes that works.

We needed dog food anyway, so we drove down the street to the Dollar General. His mood was extremely negative when we left, but by the time we arrived at the store five minutes later his mood had completely shifted. He was able to come in and behave in the store. We found a jacket his size for $6 and bought that for him. By the time we got back to the car, he was giggling and giving kisses.

We got home and did our bedtime routine, but about 25 minutes before bed, he said he was tired and wanted to go to sleep early tonight. Because we had extra time, he picked out an extra long bedtime book. He remembered that this book had been one of his Daddy’s favorites growing up and he picked it out especially for him.

These last two days have been better. Better enough to keep him home? We can’t decide, so I guess we’ll wait and see. I’m really hoping we can keep him at home semi-safely until the school has completed their testing, formulated a plan, and tried it out.

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