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Archive for the ‘The Center for Discovery’ Category

This is the part of the story where Jonah falls overboard and is swallowed by the whale.

There isn’t much to say except that it has gotten worse, and worse again, and worse some more – today sucked blah blah blah and I’m so sad blah blah blah.  I don’t know how anyone can stand to read this blog anymore at all.

Jonah’s almost guaranteed to attempt to seriously hurt his father, me, anyone around him – not once, but several times a day, wreaking a path of destruction behind him – lampshades crumbled, Andy’s now duct-taped fan knocked over, eyeglasses scratched, coffeemaker smashed & broken, dinner swept off the table to spray-bomb the kitchen in one swipe:

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On the pictured occasion Andy had called me for help.  “I can’t leave him for two seconds,” he told me.

So I came over and cleaned the kitchen (after taking this picture).  I picked up the obviously just-delivered rice, chicken, sauces, and dumplings, wet-swiffered the floor, and vacuumed the landing rug/steps… my heart pounding, my mind processing the scene, adding all these details to the new normal, a new ramped-up constancy of Jonah’s violent aggressing.

After I had cleaned, we sat together on Jonah’s floor for a few minutes while Jonah sat on his bed, having been banished there after the kitchen scene.  I asked Andy if he wanted me to go get him more food.  “No,” he replied flatly. “I ate.”  (which I knew was likely a lie).

“They’ll help him at whatever place he goes to,” I told Andy quietly.  “He’s going to get better.”

“You think so?” he asked wearily.  “I think he’s just broken,” he mumbled, lowering his head into his scratched-up hands, running his scratched-up hands through his rumpled hair.  Andy sits with his head in his hands a lot.   I’m usually in tears.

During some car rides the three of us have taken since then, Jonah’s managed to escape his harness in seconds, throwing himself up into the front seat to grab a handful of hair, scratching, hitting, and kicking whatever body part of ours he can reach.  Luckily we are usually already pulled over waiting for train, or I have been able to pull over quickly so Andy (or M, when he and I are the ones driving him) can climb in the back and hold down a fiercely struggling Jonah who is head-butting hard, kicking hard, hitting hard.  Scratching to wound, to make you bleed.  No holds barred.  No empathy.

It is more frightening than anything I’ve ever encountered because I have no idea how to fix it, how to help him, how to pull us all up and out of this.  No wonder I watch Match Game and bead necklaces when I am not watching Jonah.  I need mindless 70s television, ritualistic bead-stringing, care-package construction, and Guster-blasting.  Andy is writing, which is good.  At least there is a fantastical creative outlet for him too, though I’m sure he squeezes it in in two-minute intervals if Jonah is home.

At school there are days when Jonah aggresses and then, as encore, smears his poop on the safe room wall – and he often aggresses 9-10 a day (each of which consists of an episode of a dozen or so of clustered individual attacks, they tell us).

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating that we are really, really grateful for Wildwood, whose teachers, social workers, and other staff have continued without fail to support our family and somehow manage Jonah day after day, week after month.  I am grateful for Andy, who is somehow handling this thing.  The title of my blog may be normal is a dryer setting, but our dryer’s in serious fucking disrepair. 

We want Jonah to get the help he needs, and as soon as possible.  Later this month we’re taking him to Child’s Hospital in Boston (somehow), and we’re going to once again ask his psychiatrist for a new med to try.  The psychiatrist is retiring this month, so maybe we’ll get a new one who’s fresh out of school and fired up to help usIf not, I’m going doctor-shopping.

I’m refocusing my thoughts and actions in an unusual but positive way, because it’s all I can do to keep it together.  But most of time I’m tired and bitchy.  I haven’t felt much like writing, or talking to anyone, or going anywhere, or doing anything at all.

I guess these are our days inside the whale.

“Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight, yet I will look again toward thy holy table.”
~ Jonah 2:4

That sounds to me like I know I’m completely in the dark, but I’m going to hope anyway.

“Love and blessings
Simple kindness
Fell like rain on thirsty land
Fields and gardens
Long abandoned
Came to life in dust and sand”

~Paul Simon, Love & Blessings from So Beautiful or So What

Okay, then.   Hope anyway.

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About 3 or 4 weeks ago I decided to order some Fish Oil chewables for Jonah (100mg a day).  I’d read some articles like this one saying most people don’t eat enough omega-3 fatty oils anyway, and there may be some basis to the theory that the Fish Oil supplements may alleviate symptoms of autism: (from http://autism.healingthresholds.com/)

Some scientists have proposed that autism, dyslexia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyspraxia are a related group of neurodevelopmental disorders that are caused by problems in the metabolism of EFAs (3, 12, 13). The idea is that, for unknown reasons, the brains and bodies of individuals with autism and related disorders have problems converting the EFAs from foods into the forms that are necessary for many biochemical reactions (7). In addition, omega-3 fatty acids seem to be lower in individuals with autism than in others (9, 14).

Both of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA have been found to affect many aspects brain function (1, 3). Specifically, changing the amount of DHA and EPA in the diet alters the amounts of certain critical genes in the brain, at least in rats (15). In addition, one study found that giving animals a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 EFAs of about 1:4 improved experimental measures of cognition in the animals (1). Finally, mood and behavior problems in humans have been linked to a lack of omega-3 EFAs in the diet.

So I figured 100mg a day is innocuous enough (esp. since the kids in the studies cited were given 1-3 grams a day) and may even help his growing brain a little, and so he’s been chewing one daily along with the Risperdal ever since.

Then, on Monday and Tuesday, miracle of miracles, Jonah had zero aggressions at school.  This hasn’t happened in months – maybe a year.  I’ve lost count.  Of course I hear the words of doc Reider echoing in my head:

Correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation,” and I know intellectually that 100mg of Fish Oil chewables for 3 weeks has not caused this two-day no-aggression anomaly, but the mother in me couldn’t help but hope, just a little, that I’d hit on something.

Then, on Wednesday, I went to Jonah’s CSE meeting at Wildwood.  I always hear stories from autism moms online whose CSE meeting experiences play out like horror stories, where parents feel ganged up on and must advocate, fight, hell, even hire an attorney to be present – to ensure their child gets the appropriate supports and services.

Maybe our experience was not like this because Jonah is undoubtedly autistic – it isn’t as if he is on any kind of borderline between autism and neurotypical (NT) – and now he is so obviously in need of residential educational placement.  Maybe we’re lucky to have such an enlightened team of teachers and special education school district administrators.  For whatever the reason, I don’t dread the meetings and have never come out of one feeling like Jonah wasn’t given every possible support, service, and consideration.

One thing I learned is we need to keep Jonah on the waiting lists of all the schools, so I called both Anderson and Tradewinds and asked them to put him back on their lists.  I guess I was wrong about the fact that you can’t keep your child on all the lists.

The thing is, November is a long way off, with 3 weeks of time at the end of August and beginning of September between the summer program and school starting up again.  Tradewinds or Anderson could have a spot before that 3-week hell descends upon Andy and me (especially Andy), and since we liked all 3 schools, we decided to take the first spot that has an opening.

I think.

Once again, my time line is gone.  Shit, I didn’t like having it, anyway.

At any rate, the folks from The Anderson School are thankfully willing to come and observe/evaluate Jonah in his school environment, and it’s going to happen on June 14th which is, among other things,

  • Boy George‘s birthday
  • my Aunt P’s birthday (I call her Tree-Shee)
  • Flag Day
  • and the day I found out I was pregnant with Jonah

Not that any of that necessarily means anything, but I still like that it’s happening on June 14th.  And so far as my Fish Oil theory is concerned, Jonah did only have one aggression both yesterday and today, but they were each “very high intensity” according to the dreaded log book, meaning they are aggressions requiring two or three staff members to remove him from the classroom and into the “safe room.”

The residential schools don’t have safe rooms.  They have the staff and capability to handle whatever is happening right then and there, ostensibly.  I don’t know.  One even toilet trains the kids immediately.  It’s all done with ABA, something I was never really on board with, but now of course I question my original stance.  All the residential schools we’ve toured use it.  It works.  All the kids looked happy, the staff dedicated and engaged.  I’m not looking for Jonah to be Einstein or Temple Grandin;  I just want him to be happy, as independent as possible, and able to learn and grow.

My problem with ABA was formulated in 2006, when Jonah was 4.   I think it was born from the hope/assumption that Jonah was going to end up higher functioning by now than he turned out to be (and certainly not aggressive at all).   I thought, if taught through ABA, he’d just be a robot…trained to act, speak, and look normal.  It seemed horrifying to me.  Something Orwellian.  But I had the confidence of a woman whose child, though autistic, was at the very least not a danger to himself or others.  He’d had every modern advantage a child with autism can get.

After all, doc Reider had noticed something was up with Jonah when he was just 6 or 8 weeks old:  our boy was staring at lights, not faces.   (In our infinite ignorance, Andy and I had already nicknamed him “Moth Boy.”)

So we stayed on top of the situation, got him early intervention before he was 19 months old, and enrolled in Wildwood School full-time just before his third birthday.  We thought we were doing the right thing.  If we had got on board with full-time ABA all along, would he be better than he is today?  I don’t know.  Who knows anything when it comes to autism?

If you’ve met one kid with autism, you’ve met one kid with autism.

It’s a puzzle inside a mystery inside an enigma inside a matrix of love, pain, frustration, guilt, helplessness and anger; amazement and joy.  You take wrong turns and make mistakes.  You come to question everything.

Autism is the agnosticism of impairments;

you have to be okay with “I don’t know.”

And so we sally forth.  Andy’s sick with something…the flu?  Walking pneumonia?  He managed to work today.  And I’m tired.  Lots of meetings today, a ton to do at work.

Time for Match Game.

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Yesterday we found out that Jonah was accepted into Tradewinds – but they don’t have any openings until at least June.  We’re glad he’s been accepted and are going to tour Springbrook on the 9th, which was my favorite place (on paper, anyway)…then we will visit The Center for Discovery (the farthest away from our town) later this month. 

Jonah has just gone back to school after a week’s vacation – it was tough on Andy, the vacation, and I tried to help a little each day though it was not much help, considering I work full time.  Andy was stuck with the aggressions and the endless requests, the poops and the thousand baths a day and the attempts to get Jonah to eat healty foods, the cleaning and the playing and the getting him to bed. 

Yesterday, right out the box Jonah had 4 aggressions at school and one on the way home on the bus.  He’s been swatting a lot again lately while saying the word “swat,” something he’d stopped doing for a while.  We got the dosage of Risperdal lowered again and quit using the Klonopin – it’s this constant guessing game of drug combinations. 

It reminds me of that movie Awakenings.  From Wikipedia:  

It tells the true story of British neurologist Oliver Sacks, fictionalized as American Malcolm Sayer and portrayed by Robin Williams who, in 1969, discovers beneficial effects of the then-new drug L-Dopa. He administered it to catatonic patients who survived the 1917–28 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica. Leonard Lowe (played by Robert De Niro) and the rest of the patients were awakened after decades of catatonic state and have to deal with a new life in a new time.

The problem is, the drug didn’t work consistently and the patients began regressing back into their lethargia.  The Robin Williams character desperately tries all different combinations of the drug he’s using, first less of it, then more of it, and all the while his patients are slipping away, eventually back into their catatonic states.

Working with Jonah’s meds has the same flavor of frustation.

Yet, in the midst of the frustration and aggression, Jonah still has all his smiles:

 

And I do so love the smiles!

I’m doing a lot of freelance writing lately, so my posts may be few and far between for a month or so…but I’ll try to keep you all posted on everything that’s going on.  Happy March!

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