Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Frazzled and Minus Coffee

The word for this morning is 'Frazzled'.

With Bobby in a heightened state of tension, the only thing I can do to improve matters is to absorb it. I think that's what most of us do.

Unfortunately it leaves me needing a double espresso at 9am and there's no coffee in the house.

I've been thinking about Bobby's temper a lot lately, as it's central to many of his problems. Although he has great insight when he's calm, he flies off the handle so quickly that this isn't much good when it comes to a challenging situation.

And unfortunately for Bobby, situations that the rest of us wouldn't find challenging are extremely troublesome to him.

We are experiencing what Dr Heather MacKenzie describes as a 'disconnect'. Bobby knows the right thing to do, he just can't do it when it comes to the crunch. He has difficulties with self-regulation as a result of his autism. As a result, so do I. But at least I have strong coffee to fall back on.

Yesterday, Bobby hit a teacher. He did this because she was shouting at a group of other kids. When general tensions are raised and there's a lot of noise, Bobby cannot think of himself as separate from the stress that's going on. He becomes part of it, even if anger isn't aimed at him. He finds shouting very threatening. Well, we all do, but I guess we can see it in context. To Bobby, it's just rather unpredictable behaviour.

Most of the teachers know to remove Bobby if they are about to shout at someone else. This one didn't, and got walloped. I can understand why. It was the only way to stop her. We need to do some work with Bobby on how he controls his inner moods so that they don't translate into outer aggression. He needs to develop that inner dialogue that we all use when we want to hit someone, but we can't. Sometimes autistic kids can't develop this for themselves, and need a bit of help.

So, I wrote him this Social Story, which I am sharing with you in the hope that if you experience something similar, you may be able to adapt it for your own uses.

Monday, 3 March 2014

My World is My Own Again (From 9am-3pm)

So, half-term is over. I love the way that schools time the holidays. I've usually just recovered from the last one when another pops up, usually with an inset day (or 'insect day' as Bobby insists on calling it) thrown in for good measure.

And so the world's worst blogger resumes her rightful place at the computer and notes without surprise that the last time I updated this blog was Christmas. My excuse is that I'm not blogging my life, I'm living it and my twins take up most of my spare time.

Even when I'm actually on the computer, looking very much like someone trying to concentrate, it in no way deters them from barging in here with a collection of tried and tested means of distracting me from work.

Alec's method is simple. Open door, lollop up to mum and mug her. That's the most effective way, when the arm around my head won't even let me view the screen let alone type. Sometimes he's more polite and just pointedly bashes a Fireman Sam DVD on the desk.

The other morning I was woken up to the sound of Alec's gentle vocalisations (not words exactly, but they managed to sound urgent) and when I opened my eyes, there loomed above my head a four-wheel drive vehicle of the sort that Alec loves to zoom around his room. On closer inspection, a wheel was entangled with a 'twiddly' string, in this case a Chewigem necklace.

Alec loves to twiddle string and had no doubt combined his two loves to unfortunate effect. I carefully detangled the 'twiddly' and he lolloped happily out of the room, with no further requirements.

Bobby's attempts at interrupting me from work are worse than Alec's. That's because I know damn well that I won't get any work done whilst Alec's in the room (although he's not as fascinated by the PC's 'off' button as he once was).

Bobby at first gives the distinct impression that I'll be free after answering one small, simple request, but this is highly deceptive. Actually, he plans on being in here forever.

Bobby saunters in and says 'M-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-um....' in the sort of nagging tone that makes me realise I'm not going to get away with ignoring him.

Since he's autistic, I spell out what he's failed to see. 'Bob, mum's trying to work. You can see that I'm looking at the screen and I'm trying hard to concentrate, and you should be in bed.'

'Yes but M-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-um...'

'What is it?'

'You know the bla blablabla bla bla bla bla Sonic bla bla bla bla platform bla bla bla bla download bla bla bla bla want it bla bla bla bla bla Furby Boom bla bla blabla....'

Look, I'm a patient mum. I am - really. But once it gets past 9pm and he's in pyjamas, I don't feel like tuning into Bobby's second language. Most of the time, we do collide on the same planet at some point, but when it comes to technical stuff, we don't. Usually, even if I concentrate fiercely, I can't quite make out what he's getting at.

I haven't quite worked out whether this is because what he's saying is simply too technical for me, or whether he doesn't know quite what he's talking about either.

So, I do what all good mums do.

'Why don't you ask Dad about it?'

A doubtful look ensues. Probably he's weighed this up already and decided that I'm the softer touch. Bobby ignores my suggestions.

'But Muuuuuuuuuuuuum.... Bla blablablablablablablablablalbalblabala bla Sonic blablabla Furby bla blabla updated version blabla bla abla AVAIBABLE (means 'available') blabla bla Jahmahl says blablablabla'

'Bobby! I am trying TO WORK!!!'

I am amazed at how little Bobby is sometimes fazed when I lose my rag. At times, a slightly raised voice is enough to make him hit the ceiling. But when he has his mind set on drilling some information into my brain, nothing seems to put him off. It's like the wind of my fury is howling past his cheeks, making his hair stand on end, and still he firmly stands his ground without so much as a raised eyebrow.

'Okay okay, keep your hair on mum! Jeeeeez, calm down.'

Me keep calm? ME keep calm? I have spent ten years of my life trying to keep HIM calm. Now that's what I call gratitude.

I use the last little drop of calmn left in my body (and by this stage, whatever I was planning on writing has floated off into the air never to be seen again).

'Bobby, it is not a good thing to try and ask mum about these things when mum is tired at the end of a long day, because I can't listen very carefully. It is better to ask me when I'm relaxed. Ok?'

'Ok. Will you do it tomorrow?'

(Deep sigh) 'Yes, tomorrow. Now off to bed.'

'What you working on?'

You can probably understand by now why it was that I virtually skipped into Bobby's classroom with him this morning.

Alongside himself, I delivered Bobby's substantial luggage - a bulging schoolbag that included some model Furbies that 'help me to concentrate on work'; a loaf of bread and bag of apples for snacks (inexplicably, Bobby's autism means he is allowed to make his own toast) and his PE kit.

The homework during the school holidays had been to create a collage of your favourite book for World Book Day, including reviews, photographs, pictures, quotes etc.

It took us three days of negotiation and two painful hours to complete, but ours was all Bobby's work. All I had done was to help him to plan it. He wanted no glitz or glamour but tolerated getting his hands messy to make some purple hands for his piece on Horrid Henry.  The result was respectable if not exactly stunning. Bobby has only recently begun to talk about characters in his literacy work. Until now all he could say was what a character did. Buzz Lightyear, for instance, was a space ranger toy. He couldn't think about whether he was brave or a leader or any of that.

He's just about got as far as saying that Horrid Henry is 'Horrid' and with further thought 'likes voilence on TV'. I could say a few things about Horrid Henry myself, like if he was my kid I'd teach him a thing or two - and I could also say a thing or five about his parents (who, according to Bobby, need AuKids magazine). But very unfortunately it's not my homework. Literacy isn't Bobby's strength and they are all his thoughts, noone elses. That's all that matters.

This morning, I could see the other kids putting their posters into a pile on the teachers desk, with her delighted exclamations at each one. There was glitter, there was glamour, there were three-dimensional stick on bits.

'I'VE DONE MINE!' said Bobby, getting his face as close to Mrs Larkin's as he possibly could. 'I'VE GOT MINE TOO!!' and he proudly placed it on the pile, to her enthusiastic reception.

I mentally looked heavenwards. Yeh that's right Bobby. Take all the credit for it when I could have had more fun pulling teeth than trying to steer you in the direction of a single written description.

But there we go. He's in school. He's done his homework. Everyone is happy. And I can look forward to a day without twiddly entanglements and technical negotiations.