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Posts Tagged ‘aggression’

Every year at Jonah’s school they have Harvest Day with food and fun, games for the kids, school tours for the parents/grandparents, etc.  Harvest Day 2013 was this past Saturday; my mom and I went together to visit Jonah’s classroom.  Andy had taken him for an overnight the night before, so we visited there first, then drove the 5 miles to the school, and back to the apartment afterward.

So we saw Boo’s classroom and spoke with his teacher and an assistant teacher.  We snacked on apple cider & apple cider donuts, looked through piles of worksheets and construction paper creations (plus one bottle of blue water with “fish” and “sand” in it).  I loved at it all and brought everything home with me, even unrecognizable scribbles or coloring books he’d made out of pages and a piece of string to tie it all together, the pages crayoned heavily, each in one color only and with no attempt at staying in the lines.  It was almost as if he didn’t see the picture at all and instead just filled the page with color.

They also told us Jonah has been mostly very happy and good in school for a few weeks now (and his residence peeps say the same thing), and my mother and I were both thinking:  It’s when the doctor lowered the steroid eyedrop dosage from every two hours to just twice a day.  Maybe that’s it, and now his aggression will dissipate.  Please God…

One doctor told me when you are given steroids through eyedrops, it doesn’t really have very much effect on mood or behavior.  But I was once a Deadhead, doc, and have seen people use an eyedropper to take acid because it was the fastest way to get the drug into the system –better absorption, quicker effect.  So I find it hard to believe that steroids, no matter how they’re given, don’t have any bearing on Jonah’s behaviors.  In fact if I piece it all together (which this blog helps me do), his behaviors began the summer after we started him on steroid eyedrops, back before we knew he had iritis or uveitis.  Andy noticed his eye was red so we took him to an eye doc, and the first eyedrops didn’t work, and the whole saga began.  Nearly four years ago? 

So now Jonah has no vision (or hardly any) in his left eye, but his behaviors are more easily avoided with positive reinforcement and by reminding him it’s okay if he needs to take a break.  All he has to do is ask for one and he gets it.  I think it’s even in his IEP.  These people who teach and care for Jonah have good ideas and incredible dedication.  They are happy, optimistic, hard-working.  They are amazing.  And God help me but I don’t so much mind the trade:  sight in one of Jonah’s eyes for his overall happiness and well-being – for no more aggression, or way less of it.  Maybe the steroids caused the aggression the whole time…

…and yes we both know correlation does not necessarily imply causation, but then again sometimes it does, dammit. Sometimes it does.  We are in hopeland, holding tight to the pendulum lest it swing back, as if we had the strength to keep it from doing anything but what it does.  But Jonah has been happy, lovey, laughing and giggling – at the doctor, at Andy’s apartment, during our car rides:

happy boo

happy boo in andy’a apartment.  needs a napkin!

happy boo

happy boo at the pediatric rheumatologist, rocking the wrinkled collar

happy boo

happy boo, laughing on a car ride

Of course I could be wrong about it all but hopeland feels good and is so filled with joy – there really is no reason to leave.

But I digress.

Only one couple was there when we were talking with Jonah’s teachers, and they left the room after a bit, so my mom and I could ask more questions about Boo.  Seems his favorite day is Friday, when he can declare/ask no school tomorrow?!  I suppose in this sense he’s like a lot of other 11-year-olds.

So on the way out, we stopped at a table where two ladies were selling cards.  A set of 10 is $10, and you get two cards each of four designs, themed for summer/flowers, wintertime, etc…and every design is created by a student at the school.  Last year I bought two packages, and I was planning to buy two more.  I chose two ‘summers’ and was about to pay when I first introduced myself.  “I’m Jonah’s mother,” I told them, figuring they’ll know who he is — he’s the only Jonah in the school.  “Oh!” one of the ladies said.  “Jonah has a design this year.”  And she pulled out the “winter” package. 

I immediately dropped the two others and bought two “winters” without even seeing Jonah’s design.  I was so eager to look through them, and amazed that Jonah’s artwork has been chosen for a card!  I mean, the designs are always pretty good – and some are really good.  But Jonah just isn’t interested in art or drawing.

Therefore, I found all this hard to believe.

The cards come in see-through plastic packages, and the card you can see through the front panel of the “winter” package is this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cool, right?   I thought so.  Here’s the next one:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Downright amazing, yes?  I was secretly hoping this one was Jonah’s – but no.  The third card out of four was next:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nice use of cotton for the snow, right?   Another goodie.

So last comes Jonah’s masterpiece, entitled, simply, “Elf” — of course I loved that he did an elf…

???????????????????????????????

It was all I could do not to crack up laughing right at the table.

I’m thinking to myself, this is the card in the box that people don’t even send.  I love it with all my heart, even as I laugh.  I’m so proud of my Boo.  You see how he signs his name?  He starts off on the right, with JON — then moves over to the left side to add AH.

HOPELAND ART AUCTION:  We’ll start the bidding at a hundred dollars.

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Last Saturday I brought the big-ass pillow with us (the kind that you use as a backrest, with two “arms” on either side) and we successfully got all 4 of us in the car for a ride.  The pillow served to protect the backseat occupant with its bulk and punching-bag-like sturdiness.

The way we accomplished it was to put the pillow in the backseat right from the time we picked Boo up at the residence, and then after his lunch, we told him “we’re all going to the grocery store and grandma’s coming too.”  When he started to protest we reminded him that we’re going to buy chocolate donuts but only if grandma can come.  And by gosh, it worked.  He was even good in the car — he liked the pillow and rubbed it as we drove along.

Boo with his new grey pillow

Boo with his new grey pillow

a soft barrier

a soft barrier

I taped a small conversation we had along the way, though he’s parroting through most of it:

Overall it was a good visit.  At the store Boo successfully navigated the cart politely around other shoppers to the exact location where the beloved chocolate donuts awaited his arrival.  This Saturday we switched our visit to Sunday, so I will see him tomorrow, on Father’s Day, then come home in time to take my own dad out for dinner.

Instead M and I indulged in other plans, afterward ending up driving near Thatcher Park.  What a gorgeous day.

gorgeous day for it

beautiful

the bluest sky

the bluest sky

When we got home M wanted a nap so I took a walk alone to Buckingham Park and took some more pictures, then made some “nature art.”

Always there are ducks and geese, fish and turtles.

Always there are ducks and geese, fish and turtles.

I liked this little boy and took his picture as he watched a goose

I liked this little boy and took his picture at the park

I sat in the grass and I materials that were within reach

I sat in the grass and used materials that were within reach

On Wednesday Jonah had another follow-up appointment with the eye doc/surgeon.  It wasn’t a good visit.  I’m grateful that sometimes it is easier to handle Jonah’s outbursts/aggressions/whatever-you-wanna-call-them.  Sometimes they roll off me like rain washing river-paths along my body, navigating around my heart.  I don’t know why – I wish I could tap into those “sometimes” all the time.  Maybe it had something to do with the rain falling on us all week…

…but, at first, he was good.  Two care-givers from the school brought him up, so I felt more secure knowing they were there.  Still, I came armed with fruit snacks and a yellow octopus I’d bought ahead of time.  He liked both of these gifts.

all, at first, was fine

all, at first, was fine

He even smiled as she guided his head into the eye machine

He even smiled as she guided his head into the eye machine

She told us the pressure in his eye was 18 – nice and low.  She doubted herself and took the measurement again, and got 17.  She looked in his eye and said there was a lot less blood present.  We asked if he could go without the eye shield now but she said no.  This means he’s been wearing the thing for more than a month and has to keep wearing it for we-don’t-know-how-long.  Then she asked Jonah to sit back in the chair and he suddenly freaked, arching his back and standing up, his face melting into anger and sadness.

You can see one caregiver behind him and one in front.

You can see one caregiver behind him and one in front.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, it is awkward for me to whip out a camera at these moments to take a picture (all in the name of photo-journalism).  One more pic, and then I was required to enter the fray.

??????????????????????

Moments after this picture he bit N’s wrist, hard, drawing blood.  (The dude is about to retire; I bet he feels it’s none too soon).

After this we got Jonah down on the floor, where he thrashed, kicked, hit, head-butted…the usual whole 9 yards.  In the interest of protecting the two of us at his feet, I leaned in to take off his left shoe and BAM he thrust forward at the same time and kicked the shit out of my right shoulder and, afterward, scratched me up right between the eyes. (I never wear glasses around Boo anymore).  Eventually it took me, the two caregivers, and even the doc herself to get Jonah under control.

My tears were brief, and all for Jonah this time, whose face crumpled, desperately upset — innocent even in the midst of the aggressions.  The doc hadn’t yet done the ultrasound, which is an important part of the whole exam, but she made the wise choice to put this off, scheduling another appointment for a week away, making this coming Wednesday another anticipated & exciting attempt at examining his eye properly.

Then we somehow convinced Jonah that it was all over, that there would be no more doctor, that we were all done.  N was able to stand him up and guide him out of the office, holding both his arms.  I stayed behind to check out and make the next appointment.  Of course I could feel all  eyes on me, all the seated, (mostly) senior citizens who’d heard the screaming and carrying on, but I’m used to that.  What I’m not used to is what happened next with the elderly lady in line behind me.  I glanced at her and smiled, but she narrowed her eyes at me, the corners of her mouth turning sour-down in disapproval, shaking her head as if to say “what a shame you can’t raise a child who isn’t such a brat.”  Instead of shoving her over like I wanted to, I turned back to the receptionist, got our paperwork and appointment card, and quickly walked away.

Andy just called and said Jonah was good today, both with him and at the residence.  May tomorrow be a happy day too.

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there, all the step-fathers, foster fathers, grandfathers, and people who act as fathers to others….to all the fathers no longer with us, to all the brand new fathers, and to fathers who are sick or alone, and to all the men who decided not to be fathers because they were mature enough to know they didn’t want to do it.

When it is Mother’s Day I usually also give a shout-out to all birth mothers who selflessly made adoption plans for their babies, but I don’t feel the same way about birth fathers.  Perhaps I should, but I just don’t.  At least not about the ones who don’t stick around long enough to see the whole thing through, and I haven’t heard about too many of those.   I couldn’t give a crap about my birth father…who he is, or where he is, or why.  At least my birth mother carried me in her womb and then had whatever it takes to watch as they took me away.

I miss my mom’s dad, who I called “Poppy.”  Jonah’s middle name is Poppy’s first name — Russell.   He died just after I’d gotten engaged to Andy.  I wish I could have known my other grandfather, my dad’s dad, but he died when I was a year old or so.  He was a deputy fire chief in Albany, and was just 57 when he passed away.

I honor Andy as our son’s father, and I’m looking forward to honoring my own father too, by spending some time with him and taking him out to dinner later in the day.

It has been good.  I feel like I can handle things.  And I’m grateful for that.

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Andy called yesterday to tell me Jonah had a bad tantrum/aggression in the van – not sure where they were going to (or coming from), but Jonah was being all snuggly & lovey with a caregiver one moment, then launched himself at her, grabbing a chunk of her hair.  Another caregiver tried to intervene but Jonah got a chunk of her hair too.  When it was all over, Jonah had two handfuls of hair and a small bruise.

I’d almost rather hear that some kid attacked Jonah and got a hunk of his hair than be told Jonah was the aggressor.

His caregivers are dedicated individuals who deserve to be wealthy, and though I have been assured they are paid better than at some other schools, I still don’t see why they don’t get more for what they endure, and how they love, and why they do what they do…which is essentially to be foster parents for groups of disabled children.

So many things work backwards in our world.  God forgive us all for not caring more about one another.

I know Jonah does not hurt others deliberately, or at least not with malicious intent, and I know he can’t help who he is and what goes on in his little brain…but that knowledge doesn’t fix anything or help the pain I feel when he hurts others.  In all my life I never imagined giving birth to one who harms people.  It’s almost funny.

And in a little more than two weeks he will have his big eye operation to take the Reticert implant out, in a last ditch effort to save what little sight he has remaining in his left eye.  The irreverent thought just came into my mind that if Jonah cannot see as well, perhaps he will at least start missing his targets.  Andy and I will have to be hyper-vigilant to ensure Jonah does not touch his eye shield or try to itch his eye beneath it.

Today I am going to visit my therapist and I will talk to him about my struggle with this ever-cyclic aggressive behavior I can’t accept and have no power to control.  I know better than to hold on to the wish to control it, and I know better than to place blame upon myself, or upon Jonah, or upon God, or upon anything at all.  I know better.  I just can’t help the tears that always come, the feelings that always arise, the frustration I always feel.  The fear that as he gets older and bigger it will only get worse.  Hopefully Dr. A. can help me with all that.

I know when there is a situation I cannot change, I can only change how I react to it.  And so I am making changes.  Now I exercise, eat better, meditate, pray, and take long walks in the woods.  I breathe deeply, in and out.  In and out.

I’m counting on the spring to bring new life, new hope, and new health, body-mind-spirit all working together to find the place inside where things are quiet and still.  Where music plays and my heart rejoices.  Where there is peace.

No one gives their dreams away too lightly
They hold them tightly warm against cold
One more year of traveling ’round this circuit
Then you can work it into gold

They say, “Jonah, he was swallowed by a whale”, hmm
But I say, “There’s no truth to that tale”
I know Jonah, he was swallowed by a song

Here’s to all the boys who came along
Carrying soft guitars in cardboard cases all night long
An’ do you wonder where those boys have gone?
Do you wonder where those boys have gone?

Jonah by Paul Simon

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“They say Jonah was swallowed by a whale
But I say there’s no truth to that tale
I know Jonah
Was swallowed by a song…”

~ Jonah by Paul Simon

Jonah has a broken finger incurred sometime during this morning’s tantrum/attack/aggression, on the bus that takes the kids up to the school building.  They took him to the hospital, x-rayed his hand, splinted his finger, brought him back to the house.  Not an enormous deal but one that caused me some concern.

His regular nurse was so kind when she called to tell me.  “Jonah is fine,” they always start out by saying.  Sometimes he isn’t – not really, but at schools like this everything is relative.  And he is fine.  He is safe and he is fixed up and it is over.

But I asked her to please contact Andy first next time.  Andy lives 5 minutes away.  I live an hour and a half a way.  I have a full time job, and I can’t be at my desk crying, like I nearly always end up doing.   I’m a crybaby, they need to understand, “strong mother” or no, and you can’t make me lose it at work because then nobody wins.  I need my job.  Let Andy call me at 5:30 when I get home from work and then tell me what happened, unless it’s an “he’s not okay” emergency.  Andy’s willing to do this and we’re going to try this new “leave mom out of the loop for a few hours” plan.

I’m tired of the merry go round.  I want off.  After a while it makes you sick to your stomach.  Your horse or your ostrich or your donkey goes up and it goes down, over and over, while the merry go round itself circles round and round, all with the bad-stereo strains of carousel music playing too loud and endlessly, no way off, no one to stop it all.

I just don’t have the fortitude.

for·ti·tude

[fawr-ti-tood, -tyood] Show IPA

noun

mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously: Never once did her fortitude waver during that long illness.
They ain’t talking about me, folks.
Ah, but wouldn’t you rather see some new pictures instead?

Our dog Jack has the United States of America on his nose.  Look closely.

Jonah loving Guardian Gus

Beautiful rosebushes

Thus ends a long Thursday.  Across the miles I am holding my son in my arms, so close, smelling his hair, breathing him in, and he is calm, and we have snuggle time, and we are both swallowed by a song…a lullaby…

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I’m at work and my cell phone rings.  (If it’s the area code where Jonah lives now, my heart goes into my throat, even though they’re usually “only” calling to notify me, as they must, that Jonah was involved in an incident.  That means he probably scratched, bit, kicked, and pulled God knows how many people’s hair.  It means they had to physically restrain him to prevent him from hurting himself or others).

It is the area code, and they are calling me to relate an incident.  When we hang up I call Andy and tell myself to just go back to work.  There isn’t anything I can do.

For years, behaviorists and teachers, psychiatrists, Andy, me – everyone – has been searching for a pattern to Jonah’s aggressions, a cause.  A reason for all this.  It isn’t who he is, the violent kid trying to scratch your eyes out.  It isn’t who he is.  It is as frustrating as anything I’ve ever known.  I don’t want to think about it today.  I want to know my son without having to fear him as well.  Thank God the world is catching on and more & more is being done for people with autism.

They say Jonah loves the new temporary house.  He can see the river and the railroad tracks, and right there you’ve got two of his favorite things:  water and train.

Jonah, at the glaucoma appointment, wearing J's sunglasses, playing it cool

I’m taking a couple days to go offline and see Guster (again) for my last concert this tour.  If I’m lucky, the dreaded area code will not appear on my cell phone until I return.  Be well, Boo.  Your mama loves you.

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It is Jonah Russell’s 10th birthday today, and time itself must be bending and twisting and teasing me, because I just can’t wrap my mind around that.  I’m off work from noon today until next week.  I was going to drive down to see Jonah after I got off work, but I’m recovering from an ugly stomach bug (I didn’t go to work at all Monday) and don’t want to bring it to him (if he didn’t bring it to me). Plus, I don’t want to upset his special day with an unexpected visit – he won’t comprehend why I’m there.  They’ll have a pizza and cake party for him tonight — and he even gets a present or two.

We had our own birthday party for him at grandma’s house on Saturday; Andy drove him up and grandma had gotten him balloons, all his favorite foods, and cake with chocolate frosting.

Tomorrow morning M and I are flying to Denver, Colorado to see Guster play with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.  Then back home for two more acoustic shows before (sob) the tour is over.  There is a reason my son learned to sing one of their most complicated songs.  If you click on –> Keep it Together you can see a You Tube video of him singing it, and in pretty good tune & rhythm, when he was 7 — at a time when his verbal language consisted entirely of two-word phrases. (Sorry to long-time readers who’ve heard me say this a dozen or so times).  I guess I brainwashed the child; he was certainly unresistant.  And so together we live happily ever after in Gusterland.

I just sent their album Keep It Together, in fact, to the awesome nursing staff who drive him to doctor appointments.  It was their idea; they said they’d play it in the van for him.  I’m so grateful for the kindness of those who have my son in their care.  There is no better gift to me than to nurture, teach, play with, care for, and maybe even love my little Boo.

PAUSE

At that moment the nurse at his school called to tell me Jonah required another two-person takedown today, after it happening twice yesterday.  I called his glaucoma doc yesterday to ask if the new meds he’d given him (eye drops) could cause pain or increase aggression but they told me no.

I don’t know if I believe this.

I’m going to ask a good doc I know, though, and look into it some.  I don’t want my boy to be in pain, or feeling this compulsion to aggress anymore.

What is it, bunny?  What can I do to make this world softer, better, more tolerable for you?

Sometimes I get mad.  It’s like that scene from Rainman where Raymond’s younger brother Charlie, played by Tom Cruise, loses it while driving in the desert and Raymond insists on purchasing underwear at a K-Mart 5 or 6 states away.  Charlie screeches the car to a halt, throws himself out onto the empty road, and paces wildly, ranting to the desert before returning to his brother, screaming, “You know what I think, Ray? I think this autism is a bunch of shit!  Because you can’t tell me that you’re not in there somewhere!”

It’s the whole theme of the movie, and sometimes the theme of the frustration I feel when I can’t communicate with Jonah the way I wish I could.  Our bright, amazing, incredible little boy has such violent aggressions – and now juvenile arthritis and glaucoma to boot.  It ain’t fair.  He’s so brave.

Despite everything, little Boo, you are ten today — and I love you more than the earth and sky.

Baby Jonah, 2002

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart…

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