Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ten Things You Would Overhear Every Day in Our House

Anyone reading this post has stories to tell about the goings on in their unique household.  I’m sure you have even said things that, to a neighbor listening in, would sound as though you were drained of all coherent thought.  In this post, I want to share with you a list of ten things we say in our own home that, while not all necessarily quirky, we should at some time record for easier playback.

Though I agree that there are likely a households out there that repeat one or two of these phrases daily, in our House of Chaos, there isn't a saying below that doesn't go unsaid every day.  Ten of the most popular are, in no particular order..

1)  “NO PASSWORD”:  Each and every mother loving day, Nolan insists on connecting with one manner or other of electronic device.  We try not to connect him with anything that can display a movie, mostly because of numbers 2 and 3 (and in part #4) below.  Because we lock the devices, part of that objection requires us to repeatedly utter “No Password,” to which we are met with screams, repeated volleys requesting the secret code, crying, high decibel whines and whatever ruckus he thinks will annoy us into giving in.  If we do, we are guaranteed to holler…

2)  “NO PAUSE/PLAY”:  This should actually read “No Pause, Play, Stop, Fast forward, Rewind, Eject, Reinsert, Freeze frame, Zoom”, but I wouldn't have time to type all that (especially since we only say this statement every day).  Like I said in #1, we try to keep the remotes, Wii controllers, computer and iPad passwords, smart phones and other DVD/Netflix access points away from Nolan.  If we slack (daily) and he gets a hold (daily) of one of the aforementioned forbidden items, he will resort to pressing any combination of the electronic commands listed above. To do so is to feed caffeinated cane sugar directly into the vessels of his sensory diet.  That leads to us yelling…

3)  “STOP BOUNCING”:  As do many kids with autism, Nolan stims.  Repetitive movie quotes, humming in a way that mimics the Tasmanian Devil, and the “typical” hand flapping are all daily self-stimulation activities we have come to know and love.  But, every time we cue the intro to Spongebob Squarepants or Yo, Gabba Gabba (or any other sherbet-colored children’s television show), our +100lb. boy starts rocking the joint --- and I don’t mean by being musically inclined.  When he starts bouncing, the living room sways, the TV that (if I do say so myself) is securely mounted to the wall begins to jiggle, and you can ride the surf of the hardwood floor boards the length of the house.  Then, it isn't long before we yell…

4)  “TURN IT DOWN”: This may be the least fair of all the items on this list, because --- let’s be honest --- what parent doesn't at one time or another crave peace and quiet?  In this case, though, we’re talking about both Madison and Nolan, and redundancy.  It’s every day, several times a day, that we utter this statement.  Whether it’s the iPad, Netflix or that robot we bought for Christmas, the device unfailingly manages to reach a decibel level somewhere between “chainsaw” and “fighter jet squadron”.  Ask the user to “turn it down”, and they will --- but only until they think we can no longer hear it.  Then, the child will kindly return the volume to its previous ear-bursting level, most likely so we don’t miss out on all the fun ourselves.  Of course, while this is going on with one child, to the other, one of will have to say…

5) “STOP WHISTLING”:  Guess what Madison has learned how to do.  All the time.  Ask her to stop whistling, however, and she will reach an indignant posture that is reserved for the most arrogant diva.  We may have asked her to stop whistling because its suppertime, Mom is sleeping or she has been at it for eleven hours.  Regardless, all she heard was that she would never again be allowed to whistle for the rest of her life.  She sulks, we get upset, she has to go to bed, then we have to say...

6)  “STOP KISSING THE MIRROR”:  There’s a nice, full-length mirror hanging on the hallway side of our bathroom door.  Though she’s no sort of “clean freak”, Lori is wiping that thing daily.  It would appear that neither Nolan nor Madison is intimidated by nor suffers from heightened hypersensitivity caused by this shiny, reflective decoration.  On the contrary; each one --- eight and nine respectively, mind you --- cannot resist placing a full-on lip smack every time they head through the bathroom door.  Not long after this, we will have to tell Nolan…

7)  “YOUR UNDERWEAR IS ON BACKWARDS”: One might think that this phrase is reserved for me.  Rest assured, I usually get this one right the first time without too much instructional assistance.  Poor Nolan does this so often, though, that (well, first off, it made this list; and second) I’m beginning to wonder if at this point in time he thinks that’s just how they go on.  No matter; it isn't long before we have to beg…

8) “NO MOMMY’S BED”: This one has only been nightly for about three months.  A year before that, it lasted a little over a year and a half.  I mentioned previously how Nolan demands nightly and repeatedly that he wants to sleep in our Lori’s bed.  It isn't a quiet request and it won’t arbitrarily happen.  Oh no.  Even on the off chance he falls asleep in his own bed, by between 12:30 and 3:30 in the morning, Nolan will end up in our bed.  We no longer try to fight him on it, either.  Not if we want the rest of the house to get any kind of sleep.  And, at that time in the morning, I just want to get to my sofa.  Then, in the morning, there is no doubt Lori will have to say…

9)  “WAIT FOR IT”:  We really should put that Angel Guard seat belt latch cover back on the buckle.  This nifty device keeps Nolan (any child, for that matter) from unbuckling the belt.  Otherwise, every day as soon as the van slows to Docking Speed, we hear the dreadful ‘click’, and he is standing up.  Lori started saying “wait for it” as she would travel the loop in front of Nolan’s school on the way to dropping him off.  If she drawls out a slow “waaaaaait for it,” the boy will at least stay buckled in --- even though he may think she’s playing a game.  It works in parking lots, driveways and fast food drive-thrus…go ahead, try it at home.  While you are doing so, I’ll explain that we constantly have to tell Nolan…

10)  “GET YOUR HAND OUT OF YOUR PANTS”:  Again, this one amazingly is rarely directed toward me.  And, once again, Nolan and his underclothes made the list.  This one happens so frequently that he can recite it back to us on command.  One afternoon I had to stay after work for a meeting; Nolan was allowed to hang out.  Lori left him with his iPad, and I had him situated in our meeting room on a beanbag.  I turned around to check on him and, there he was, in this room full of female teachers, digging in The Valley.  All I was able to say was, “Nolan...”  As if we had rehearsed it (and I guess in a way we had), Nolan replied, “Get your hand out of you pants.”  Oh, how they laughed...

Way to stay classy, son.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Unprompted and Unexpected

As I mentioned on my blog Celebrate the Autism Spectrum (click here), I get excited when any child in the World of Autism does anything beyond expectation.  It may be a one-time thing, or it could be the sign of something big on the horizon.  Doesn't matter.  To those of us who know and understand, even the littlest leaps are amazing.

Friday Nolan made one of those unexpected leaps.  His paraprofessional told my wife today that, while working with Nolan, she somehow caused her finger to bleed.  Well, Nolan noticed, and at first reacted as we figure he would.

“Are you OK, Ms. Lafayette?” he mumbled as though his mouth was full of marbles, trying so hard to speak as fast as we do.

She showed him her finger; it was bleeding a little, but she assured him she would be fine.  Undeterred, he told her, “Be right back.”

“It’s OK, Nolan.  I’m fine,” she tried to convince him again.  Opening the classroom door, however, he told her over his shoulder, “Stay here.”

Ms. Lafayette was curious at this point where the journey would take him, so she ducked into the hallway a short distance behind him.  She wanted to give him his space, while still intrigued by what he intended.

“Stay ‘dere’,” he commanded again when he saw her tailing him, and he turned the corner toward the school’s front door.  Ms. Lafayette was not worried, though she ducked through a shortcut to arrive first near where she was sure would be his destination. 

Opening the office door, Nolan struggled at first to get the school nurse to understand his desire.  “Bandage,” he stumbled.  She was confused, so he repeated, “I want bandage, 'puhweeze'.”

Upon seeing Nolan’s aide, the nurse understood.  She handed him the supplies he needed, and he headed back out the door.  Ms. Lafayette scooted back down the side hallway, hoping to meet Nolan at the other end.  As soon as they found one another, Nolan tried to open the package and put the bandage on Ms. Lafayette’s finger.

He did all of this unprompted.  All by himself.


He also likes electronics.  A lot.  When it isn't time for him to use the iPad or computer or watch movies, Nolan will scour the countryside (that is, every room in the house) looking for a stray, unguarded cell phone.  Lori, Kaleigh and I recently acquired smart phones, and they are as functional as any computer.  Leave one without a lookout, and he is on Netflix or YouTube, playing, pausing and rewinding the same two or three seconds of any interesting video he can find.

Friday night I was the negligent adult, and he wore my phone out until the battery died.  I tried to get my phone from him as quickly as I could, without any luck.  By the time anyone had gotten to him, Nolan had pulled a switcheroo; somewhere in the fuss, he had unplugged his mother’s charging phone and replaced it with mine.



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Madison's First Sleepover

Even though we have two kids on the spectrum, I don’t talk much about Nolan’s older sister Madison.  Mad (she doesn't care for “Maddie”) was diagnosed with PDD-NOS 2½ years ago, and, while we had our suspicions for some time before, she wasn't diagnosed until she was 6½.  Even though she has autism, honestly, sometimes it’s easy to miss.  Mad is smart, talkative, loving, makes eye contact, does well in school and is relatively independent.

But there are a couple places where her uniqueness shines through.  First of all, she has a nearly eidetic memory, and catches details of a situation at a quick glance.  Yet, while she can recall the weather and exactly what she was wearing on the day we bought our pet mice last year, to get her to remember the morning routine she has been doing for years or focus long enough to find a bright pink piece of paper on an otherwise empty dining room table, and all hope is lost.

Then, there are Madison’s social skills.  I’ll start by saying that Mad is in love with everyone.  In her eyes, there is not an ugly person on this planet, and everyone loves her back.  Why wouldn't they?  To her, all people are perfect and she considers every soul she meets to be a friend.  From our big, gruff, bearded typical Vermont neighbor next door to my boss she met one time in the grocery store, Madison loves all people.

But, to get her to understand the complexities and nuances of childhood relationships, to realize that not everyone wants to hear about her family all the time, or to make her realize kids can have more than one friend at a time, is a full time job.  She has “friends” at school, but not by the same definition we used as kids.  Don’t get me wrong; she knows when someone is being mean to her and there are some she does not like at all.  But we accept that Mad may likely never have a BFF.

Nevertheless, Madison had her first sleepover this past weekend.  We have known “V” and her family for a couple of years now.  We invite them to game days, and we have watched each other’s kids from time to time.  V and Mad are in the same class, and she is the closest thing to a best friend that our daughter has.  V knows that Madison is quirky and can get annoyed sometimes at her chattiness.  Even though they get along well together, I was leery about the event.

That was a pointless worry.  Madison and V had a great time together.  Sure, Madison chatted V’s ears off and had a tendency to get upset at the unfairness of losing a Wii game.  But, when I caught my little kid leading the play activities and had V following her every direction without argument, my apprehension melted away.  Her friend showed up at about 4:30 Saturday, and was still in our house 24 hours later, never once begging for us to rescue her or asking for amnesty.

We worry that she’ll never have long lasting relationships with kids her age.  If the past weekend was any indication, Madison doesn't seem too worried about it.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rough Sleeper

Nolan doesn't know how to sleep.

"What's that?" you ask.  "Know how to sleep?  Like, he can't choose a position?"

No.  I quite literally mean exactly what I said: the boy doesn't appear to find the "natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost, so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli" (  I'll elaborate.

During school nights especially, we try to get Madison and Nolan to bed for 8:30 at the latest.  Sometimes we succeed with this, which is especially helpful when Lori and I are attending classes ourselves and need the time that they are zonked out to get our own work done.  More often than that, though, we aren’t even putting them in bed until about 8:30 --- and that is due to our own procrastinating.  There is a fear Lori and I share that we associate with most of the overly dramatic transition times in our house --- times that make a Lindsay Lohan temper tantrum look like a Teddy Bear picnic.

(Oh those dreaded transitions --- a time for fighting to get them off the iPad, screaming as they refuse to move down the hallway toward the bathroom, rerouting as that trip down the hallway turns into a detour into a random bedroom, our struggling to drag a limp, lifeless body back into the hallway, frustration as one child can’t resist admiring herself in the mirror, irritation as the other one can’t resist planting his lip prints on the same mirror, and concern as they both need to be retrained once again on the same procedures we retrained for the prior evening regarding teeth brushing, hand washing, potty using, medicine receiving and turn taking.)

Eventually, they make it into bed.  Stories have been read; covers have been pulled up to chins and kisses have been doled out.  Once the lights are off, we know what happens.  Every night.

“Mommy bed,” we hear, and we ignore.  “Daddy, Nolan Mommy bed?”  For now, it’s phrased as a question.

I don’t know why I always do, but I can’t continue to ignore him, and I answer every time.  “Go to sleep, Nolan.  In Nolan’s bed.”

“Mommy bed?!”  It’s a louder question this time.

“No, buddy.  Daddy’s laying in Mommy’s bed tonight.”

“Mommy bed!” he shouts again.  I ignore the request this time, and the cacophony of repetitive demands begins.

“Mommy bed.  Mommy bed!  Mommy bed!  Nolan Mommy bed!  Daddy, Nolan Mommy bed!”

And if we continue to ignore him: “MOOOOOMY BEEEEEEDDDD!” he screeches two octaves higher.

He knows the buttons to push.  “Nolan!” I tell him directly, “You are laying in Nolan’s bed, tonight!”

The debate continues for a little bit, and sometimes he even falls asleep.  Or so it seems at first.  He wasn’t always this way.  He used to insist on sleeping with one of us when he first started sleeping in a Big Bed…and we would usually give in.  Then one day, he just stopped.  He would fall asleep in his own bed and we wouldn’t hear from him until morning.  Then, about three months ago, it started up again.

The one piece that never seemed to go away, however, and happens without fail as though he’s on a timer, nearly every night at almost exactly 12:30 in the morning: Nolan screams.

It’s a scary sound, and often lasts for a half hour or longer.  Sometimes the screams are accompanied by moans, sleep talking, and other alarming, indescribable noises.  Quite often, while we assume he is sleeping, he will holler, “Mommy, no!” or “K’wee (his sister Kaleigh), stop it,” or some other random, sometimes inaudible statement, all the while maintaining the chorus of other unsettling sounds.  No one is in the room bothering him, and we have ruled out the cats sleeping too closely to him.

During this time, he also kicks, turns sideways, and rolls in his blanket like a Cheese Dog on a convenience store steam roller.  We try to calm him down by patting his back, and --- curiously --- sometimes yelling his name works.  There are nights though where no amount of consolation will work; the poor guy just will not sleep.

I guess that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  He sleeps, of course, if ever so very lightly; and not very well, or very deeply.

I’d imagine that’s why he ends up in our Mommy’s bed, anyhow.