Friday, November 20, 2009

Catching up

It's been a rough time. I was sick (with the flu, then a severe and tenacious sinus infection) for 2 1/2 months, which really taxed the whole family. I didn't feel like doing anything but resting, and Hans took some time off to let me do that, but he needed to be at work, so for the most part we muddled through. I was crabby and I'm sure that affected Jack. Plus I didn't have the stamina to take him to the playground or our usual haunts.

In addition, we had a really rough session with psychologist who had been (is no longer) treating Jack and advising us. Although Hans does not see it exactly as I do, I felt attacked by the doctor, who said if we had followed his advice about starting speech therapy and a hiring preschool aide for Jack 3 months ago, he would be in a much better space today. I felt particularly hurt by these comments because no one has a magic pill or treatment for spectrum issues. As parents we do our best, make decisions that feel right, learn from our mistakes, and move on. While both Hans and I do not disagree with the doctor's assessment, I feel the doctor was quite defensive and did not display appropriate empathy. We are grateful for the assistance he provided in the beginning of Jack's treatment, but believe we need to find someone familiar with spectrum therapies in our area, alternative treatments (some of which we found and are described below), and schools which might be a good fit for Jack in the future. We didn't get that from this doctor so are now searching for someone to help us in this way. The break between us and the doctor occurred at a particularly low point for Hans and I (Jack was a little freak that week) and took a while to recover from.

So I'm not sure how much of that family stress rubbed off on Jack, but he has had long stretches of oppositional behavior, whining, and general pain-in-the-assishness. I realize that parenting has its up and downs, but these downs were really quite low. This past week, though, I am feeling at about 80% health-wise and Jack has been much better. He also seems to have gone through a brain growth spurt; he is writing letters and numbers with increased confidence and skill and now reads incredibly well. Just this afternoon he insisted on reading "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," by himself all the way to the end, before we could leave for preschool. He sometimes reads himself to sleep at night too.

Let's catch up: I don't remember much of mid-September to mid-October I was so sick. Once I started feeling semi-human again, Jack and I had some really strong growth experiences together. One day we went to free-play at Pump It Up (an indoor inflatable bouncy house chain) and I was worried it might be overwhelming for him -- lots of kids and noisy to boot. But he loved it. We traveled down to the beach at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve a few times and although we always missed low tide, we had really peaceful and fun trips. Jack has asked for a friend from school to come over and play and each time they get together Jack is a little more social and cooperative.

Our preschool field trip to Lemos Farms (which I wrote about previously) seemed like a giant step in the right social direction. Two weeks later Halloween rolled around -- another event which was challenging last year for the whole family. This year Jack coped with a very crowded preschool Halloween party -- he didn't engage with other kids much, but he didn't get shut down either. He was excited about Halloween and trick-or-treated quite capably through our neighborhood.

Preschool has been up and down. Jack's definitely paying more attention to the other kids, but he hasn't yet figured out how to deal with angry feelings well -- we've had a few times when he's hit a kid and one (knock wood) biting episode. We've brought in an aide for him, a very nice, bright woman who we hope will assist Jack in social situations. More and more Jack is willing to play pretend games that don't (or hardly) involve letters and numbers, like donut factory -- his aide will attempt to pull kids into his activities and vice versa.

Last week we started speech therapy. His speech-language pathologist was impressed with his speech understanding and usage -- it's at about a 5 year old level (she had to stop at 5 because he was getting bored). She found his speech difficult to understand, so we'll approach therapy focusing on individual sounds and then moving on to speaking more slowly and clearly.

A class at Project Commotion is another new "therapy." This San Francisco non-profit offers martial arts, Capoeira, and "classes that incorporate movement, tumbling, sensory activities, and play," for "children with autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, cerebral palsy, and trauma." The class we take is like Acrosports for spectrum kids. Jack does find it challenging, but his instructor really knows her stuff, and I'm hopeful PC will be a good outlet for Jack's energy, as well as a safe place to explore social connections.

For fun we started swimming in one of San Francisco's warmest pools. Jack loves the warm water so much we go twice a week. It's great to have one more exercise outlet now that our pre-winter rain is starting.

Coming up: Thanksgiving. Jack is excited because he knows the time between Thanksgiving and New Years is eggnog season and he LOVES eggnog.


amandastea said...

Glad to know that you recovered! Let's get together when David is back, OK?

And great to hear Jack's progress! :D

Brenda said...

I hope you don't mind - I was catching up with some of my daughters friends and accidentally hit a "next blog" button and you came up. I was intrigued by your story and that of your son. You sound like a very strong woman although you share your struggles very candidly. I encourage you to stay focused and push your boy to the best he can be, loving him all the way. Good luck.