Posts Tagged ‘Springbrook’

“If we fell inside a forest
Would it make a sound?
It doesn’t seem there’s anyone around;
Days are long, we carry on
But still don’t understand…”

~ Hang On, Guster

I won’t go so far as to say we “won the lottery” on Monday, driving Jonah to and back from Tradewinds, but it sure could have been worse.  For the most part Jonah was okay, except for two times when Andy rode in the back with him because he was hitting the window and acting squirrelly.  Plus he kept saying Simon?  Simon? Simon? at ritualistically annoying intervals (Simon is a friend’s little boy Jonah almost never encounters).  We’ve learned to just agree to whatever he’s going on about, in general, so there was a lot of either Andy or me saying Yeah, Simon! That’s right, buddy!

We’d brought lots of snacks and had fed Jonah breakfast, so the ride out was an odyssey of peanut butter crackers, cheetos, and Sun Chips with sips of Elmo juice boxes and lots of crumbs in the backseat.  When we arrived we were thankfully greeted quickly; Jonah was obviously confused, I’m sure hoping we weren’t at some new doctor’s office.  He attempted to go right back out the door, mumbling “home,” then tried to climb his dad, but we managed to get him to walk down the hall, out a door, down a path, and into one of the residences where several staff members were waiting to meet and observe him.

We weren’t there for long.  Jonah didn’t really want to explore and seemed nervous, though he didn’t attack and we managed to answer some of the staff’s questions while watching him.  Jonah briefly played with a bead runner and sat on a couch, then again asked for “car ride” and “home,” so we went back through the school building to the main entrance, said goodbye, and started home again.

Andy and I have a hard time discussing details about the residential educational places we tour.  It’s a surreal experience, touring and choosing a place to leave your child in others’ care…not for a few hours, or a day, or a weekend, but for some indeterminate amount of time – months?  Years?  We don’t even know.  So I just asked Andy what he thought of the place and he briefly responded in the positive; we drove away from Tradewinds with Jonah in the back innocently asking for swim pool?  swim pool?  train?, not knowing his very life and future are being decided by his two scared parents in the front seat.

This whole week is vacation for Jonah, so Andy’s got his hands very full.  It’s hard to describe an entire day of caring for Jonah, not to mention with the limited options imposed on them by the cold, the aggressions, and Jonah’s ever-increasing capricious nature about what he wants to do, where he wants to go, what he wants to eat…you name it.

We don’t know if his latest med change has caused him to act more unsettled, but Andy tried the klonopin with Jonah a few times as needed and it only seemed to make Jonah even less able to focus and function – so he stopped using it.  Tomorrow I’m going to call the psychiatrist who prescribed the meds and see what he thinks.

All this week I’m going straight from work to the house to spend some time with Jonah so Andy can have a little break.  Of course they are also going to my mom’s every day, but she hasn’t been feeling well and Jonah doesn’t want to stay that long lately.

When I arrived today Andy told me Jonah had barfed three or four times but didn’t seem sick.  One of the bummers of Jonah’s level of autism is he doesn’t know enough to run to the bathroom and puke in the toilet.  He just lets go wherever he is, and the best you can do if you suspect it’s coming is to chase him around with a bag or a bucket.  If you’re alone with him, you’re cleaning in one spot while he throws up in another.  It gets old quickly.  And besides being sick all over the house, Jonah also was aggressive all day.

When I got there around 5:15, Jonah was in his room on a time-out.   He was glad I came, so when he’d served his time, we started playing in the bedroom, his recent choice for a fun place to play.  He seemed fine, jumping on the bed and singing along when I invented songs, tickled him, and took his picture with the camera.  I’d brought him some colored straws with sparkly strands hanging off them and he clutched them happily, waving them around.

Andy said he’d been saying mama’s comin’ all day, so I was glad he was a good boy for me and enjoying himself so Andy could have a break, albeit a short one.

I’m sure Andy’s looking forward to Monday like never before; in the meantime, I’ll help as much as I can.

Next month, it’s on to Springbrook.  Until then, we, especially Andy, will be getting through the long days, carrying on, one minute at a time.

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Yesterday, Kathy (a social worker from Wildwood) picked Andy and me up as soon as we put Jonah on the bus and we headed to Rome, NY to tour Tradewinds, a residential facility for disabled children.

I sat in front and babbled like a Chatty Cathy doll the entire trip there – partly to avoid thinking or talking about what we were doing, partly because I’m just kind of a blabbermouth sometimes.

The facility is very nice – a series of 6 houses with 6 kids in each house; every child has his/her own bedroom.  No tubs, though, just like St. Colman’s – only showers.  I wonder if that’s a drowning danger thing.  You couldn’t drown Jonah if you wanted to; I think he has gills. 

At any rate the people were nice and informative and they asked us a million questions about Jonah and then showed us the house and the school building, then explained how they take the kids to the pool on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Y, and on various outings and trips whenever possible.  They don’t, however, have any openings until at least June.  We’re touring Springbrook in early March and The Center for Discovery in late March.

When the tour was over I asked to sit in the back of the Kathy’s van.  Andy thought I was just being nice because I’d sat in front on the way there, but really I just wanted to sit back there and cry.  As a result it was a much quieter trip back; Andy’s not the talker I am, and aside from my blowing my nose as quietly as possible, most of the sounds in the car were in my head:

How can we do this?  How can I live this far from my child?  Will he be scared and freaked out and panicked when we drop him off that inevitable day and then leave him there like some abandoned dog? 

It’s not like he will understand if I say “mama and daddy will be back in a few days, sweetheart.  Mama promises.”

Andy and I are going back on Monday to bring Jonah so they can assess him.  I have the day off from work and Jonah has the week off from school, so it’s a good day to go.  It may be a nightmare getting him to stay calm for the car ride, but we bought one of those bus harnesses for the car so it should at least keep him safe for the trip.

When we returned from Tradewinds and got Jonah off the bus, I grabbed his bag to see what they’d written in his log book:  4 aggressions that day, and he seemed unsettled.  I hate the log book.  I know it’s necessary and they always include something positive, but I hate it nonetheless.  And yet I want to read it right away.  I don’t know what I expect them to tell us one day:  Amazing news to report!  Jonah was perfect all day; he started a whole conversation on a new theory he’s postulating on astrophysics, sat still and solved college-level calculus problems on his own, sang an aria from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, prepared a 4-course gourmet meal for lunch, and counted 246 toothpicks when the box fell on the floor; we now think he’s a savant and should be transferred to a school for geniuses.

Okay, so I’m being just a little facetious.

Lately I have been spending more and more time with Jonah, inventing games and running around and just spending time with him. 

He loves his slinky (he has several) and those bouncy balls you can buy for a quarter on the way out of the grocery store.  And Wednesday evening we played on the bed, jumping and hiding under the covers and singing.

We do so love our little boy.

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Thanks to everyone who left such valuable comments on garnering the information I want about residential facilities. I really appreciate it!

On Saturday I came over to the house in the morning to spend some time with Jonah Russell and give Andy a bit of a break.  At first Andy and I took him places together:  the usual litany of train and mall and grandma’s house, though Jonah no longer really cares whether the train comes or not (and sometimes declares “all done train” as soon as it does come), and Jonah has changed up the route through the mall (oftentimes not even making it all the way to the other end before deciding to turn around and start back, and – most surprisingly – declaring “no coin” at the wonderful brand-spanking new coin-funnel spin-down-the-drain structure; three months ago he would have begged for every coin on my person to throw down to whatever-good-cause)…

…but he never wavers from his desire to see grandma.  Our cat Sugarpuss now lives at grandma’s house because Jonah was attacking her, picking her up by her fur and once trying to grab her collar, nearly choking her. 

Sweet little sugarpuss, who we rescued from a back Albany alley in 1999 and who wants nothing more than to love and be loved, purring and meowing and mushing her face into your face.  My mom likes to read at night and Sugarpuss actually crams herself between my mom and her book, then tries to sleep on her head.  My mom’s other cat, Bootsie, doesn’t seem to mind Sugarpuss so much but Bootsie’s definitely been displaced somewhat.  When Jonah is at her house we watch him extra carefully around the cats, lest he produce his best imitation of a hiss and chase them.

One thing that’s definitely increased by leaps and bounds is the amount of baths Jonah wants every day.  We can bathe him in our house and arrive at grandma’s with his hair barely dry, yet he’ll enter her house, run up the stairs, and immediately declare his desire:  bath!

It is no hyperbole to tell you some days he takes 6-10 baths a day.  And here we have certain rules and games and necessities as well – usually only one of us can be sitting in there with him, and sometimes we are all banned:  no grandma!  no daddy!  no mama! or, if he decides he wants one of us, hey daddy?! 

Then there are the bubbles.  There must be bubbles, lots of them, and water (pretty hot water)  as far up to the top of the tub as we’ll let him have it – so he can go underwater completely, take mouthfuls of soapy water and spit them in perfect whale-spouts into the air, and cavort about, making waves, always requiring a towel or two on the floor.

He loves the colorful Spongebob Squarepants container the bubbles come in, but they’re expensive so my mom secretly refills the bottle with something else every time he empties the whole damn thing into the tub, pouring water from the bottle to the cap and from the cap onto his head and then requesting various cups and containers into which he can continue the pouring extravanganza.

Sometimes he’ll stay in there for an hour, sometimes 5 minutes, and there’s no telling which it’ll be.  All done bath, he’ll declare, and then one of us has to hurry to grab up the towel while he runs into my mom’s room and jumps all over the bed, naked and dripping as we try to catch him.

Jump!  Jump!  ‘Errybody’ jump!  he sings and laughs, bouncing from one spot to the next like a jumping bean, until I catch him up in the towel and dry him as vigorously and quickly as possible before he can escape.  Once dressed he stomps Olympic-quick down the steps to ask grandma for ‘tune-fish samwich’ and black soda, which we usually let him have because he’s getting much better at going pee and poopy on the potty.

He did have an incident/attack where he lightning-fast shot out at his grandma, but Andy and I got to him before he did her any harm and then held him down on the living room floor until he calmed down again and we could go.

When we got back home on Saturday I gave Andy a much-needed break by playing endless silly games with Jonah in the heated basement – catch the beanbag (what color is it?), roll the pretend shopping cart, put the slinky down the stairs, stack the blocks (what color are they?) chase each other around – up and down the stairs – around the craft table – that kind of thing. 

It was fun and I snatched him up and hugged him tight, my sweet little boo.  Yesterday I didn’t go over; I felt stuffy and sickly.  When I called Andy he told me that Jonah had taken his radiator cover off and threw it into the hallway at 4am, which scared the bejeezus out of Andy, but I guess there was no fight or agression afterwards; Jonah just felt like kicking up the nighttime scene a notch, I guess. 

We’ll see how he does this week.  Another psychiatrist appointment on Wednesday for some further med adjustment, maybe, and I’m supposed to be hearing from Springbrook soon, once they get Jonah’s paperwork. 

I sure hope they have bathtubs.

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Talk about Catch-22

FOILing information from government agencies is like pulling teeth.  There are laws in the way of the core information I want and need – Mental Hygiene Law 33.13, Education Law 29.29, and of course dear ol’  HIPAA.  I can write to request “statements of deficienies” and the course of corrected action taken, but will the statement refer to the nature of the kind of problem(s) I’m looking for (abuse/neglect)?

Not to mention that every page provided to me costs 25 cents, which could end up costing me a small fortune if I’m FOILing 1500 pages of “statements of deficiencies” to sift through.

I thought they could redact (black out or edit) identifying information, but that takes time, first of all, and the records keeper at OPWDD tells me she cannot disclose allegations/complaints/findings of misconduct or convictions – and would never be able to disclose cases of abuse and/or neglect, no matter what – because of those 3 laws I mentioned above. 

I tried to research the laws but I’m like someone in 8th grade science class trying to study quantum physics.  It all reads in legal-ese and makes no sense to me. 

The records keeper was kind enough to send me a 5-page document called “Access to Mental Hygiene Records” but according to that information, I am not a “qualified person” (either the abused person or a family member of the abused) and thus would be denied access to records and documents pertaining to allegations and investigations into any abuse.  Really?

I have to read the whole document more carefully, but to be honest I am getting better (and more) information from simply speaking to other parents who’ve had to make the decision Andy and I are facing.  If that means I’m not intelligent enough because I have failed to acquire a law degree, so be it.

I’ll find out what I can, how I can.

So far Jonah’s been denied admission at both St. Colman’s (they sent me an e-mail explaining “we feel that Jonah needs a more consistant (sic) program and one that does not include the vacation periods that we have.  Our thought is to move him to the most restrictive environment and then move him after a couple of years to an environment like our program.”) and Devereux (because of Jonah’s eye problems), so we’re on to looking at Springbrook, Tradewinds, and maybe a place I hadn’t heard of called The Center for Discovery – a mom told me her son is doing wonderfully there. 

And I think I might re-read Heller’s Catch-22 again. 

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

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Yesterday was day two of Jonah having zero aggressions at school – not sure how long it’s been since we’ve had two days in a row, and once again the hope rises in me.  The people at Wildwood are determined, wonderful social workers, teachers and staff…they do not give up but rather continually change and tweak and modify each child’s individual program, tenaciously working toward an answer, resolute in their skillful, caring methods to lead every child to his or her best self.  I am so grateful to have them.

Yesterday after work M and I came over to the house to watch Jonah for a while.  Andy went to the library and to pick up Jonah’s pull-ups, and I played with Jonah (he loves to jump on the bed, yelling “Jump!  jump!  everybody jump!”), fed him his dinner, and put him to bed.  It was so nice to spend a little time with him, brief as it was, even though I had a nagging fear in the back of my head the whole time that we was going to attack me.  On Saturday M and I took Jonah for a few hours but when I brought him back inside the house and asked him for a kiss, he tipped his little head up toward me and as I bent down to give him a kiss, he grabbed my glasses with one hand and pulled a chunk of my hair in the other.  Andy quickly intervened, leading him away, and I just left, saddened by the end of what was, all in all, a nice visit.

Today it’s snowing hard – we’re expecting 7 to 12″ before the storm’s over, so there’s no school.  Andy is taking Jonah to an early morning eye doctor appointment in this mess, and then maybe Jonah will want to play in the snow or go sledding.  I hope Jonah is good for Andy today.

Yesterday I did some research on four more schools, all of which have 365-day-a-year residential programs for children with autism:

The Anderson Center for Autism (near Kingston/Rhinebrook) will be conacting us in a day or two to set up a tour.  http://andersoncenterforautism.com 

Devereux (Red Hook) Campus – 1:1 ratio – I left a message with them so I don’t know what our status is – supposedly all these schools have been sent admission packets about Jonah.  http://www.devereuxny.org

Tradewinds Education Center at the foothills of the Adirondacks – Utica/Rome (serves cerebral palsy and autism kids) – they have a 12-month residential school program but have not yet received paperwork on Jonah.  They have no current openings but there should be 7 or 8 this year.  http://www.upstatecerebralpalsy.org 

Springbrook (near Oneonta) – spoke with admissions coordinator Cheryl DeDecker; she did not receive any paperwork on Jonah yet.  They are a 365-day-a-year program, and currently there are no beds available.  There should be beds in April and May, and in September they are starting a brand new autism program which can handle 24 more students.  www.springbrookny.org

There is another one in Massachusetts that I forget the name of, and our caseworker from Catholic Charities told us about a place in Baltimore, MD (I forget the name of that one too) that takes kids w/autism who have severe behavioral problems, puts them through an intensive ABA program for 3-6 months, and then sends them home again.  We’ll be looking into that too.

If anyone knows anything about any of these programs or places, or knows of any other ones (the closer to Albany, NY the better), please share whatever you know.  The more informed we are, the better.

The snow is so pretty outside my window at work right now.  I’m going to just stare at it for a while and try to forget that I’m searching for a place to send my precious boy away.

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