Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ask not for whom the potty flushes...

If karma is a boomerang and reincarnation is fact...Then I must have done something awful to a toilet in a past life.

It never fails...the moment we get into a store one of my herd always has to use the bathroom. Usually on a day when it is 9 degrees outside, so that my kids are undoubtedly bundled up in enough outerwear to provide warmth to a small village. So into the restroom we go-all of us. Because the minute one has to go, they all have to. By the time everyone has finished, washed up and re-dressed, it is spring. They no longer need their outerwear, and I am stuck carrying it around the store.

I really can't complain. There was a time when I thought none of them would ever be potty trained. I had visions of myself following them to college or down the aisle carrying wipes and pull ups.

All of my children struggled with potty training. One of my boys however, had the hardest time. He was not fully potty trained until he was five and a half. It was at first a battle of epic proportions. I very much wanted him to do something that he had absolutely no interest in doing. To this day I still don't know whether it was a sensory issue, a control issue or a little of both for him. Regardless, he just did not get the point of pooping in the potty.

At first we tried everything and anything we could think of. Rewards, threats, books, candy, vacations, cash (I was desperate)...It got to a point that I would have done ANYTHING to get him to use the potty. Nothing worked. In fact, the more persistent I became-the more resistant he was. It became the single most important accomplishment to me-and that was the problem. I made this issue all about myself, totally disregarding my sons needs or wants. I needed to look at this from my sons point of view. Everything I had been doing, the bribes, the threats, etc. had only created anxiety for both of us. I needed to step back, to reevaluate, to come up with a new strategy. This was not about me, but rather, about him. How could I help him to understand that using the potty was an important accomplishment. That staying in diapers would only hinder him...especially when he started going on job interviews...

The sensation of sitting in a dirty diaper did not bother my son. I had to find a way to connect that sensation with something that would bother him. Something that would make the connection in his brain that said "being poopy is bothersome". As he is pretty regular, this step was not hard. I would simply make sure that he was engaged in a favorite activity when the time came. If it was a movie, I would turn it off , or I would remove the favorite toy he was playing with, all the while calmly saying he could have it back after he was changed. This was not always easy-tantrums did ensue. I did not give in. Instead, I would calmly suggest that using the potty would not take him away from his favorite things for so long .After a week or two of this, he was more compliant. The next step I took was having him change himself. This step is NOT for the weak of heart, as poop can be rather appealing in look and texture to some people.(as a side note and point of interest, poop can remove paint. It should also never, ever be in the vicinity of ceiling fans or any other type of fan. period) I LEARNED to always make sure he changed himself in the bathroom-dumping said poop into the potty. (another point of interest-once a child learns to flush-hide all small objects. On the positive side-my husband and myself have mastered home plumbing projects.) Gradually, over about eight months time, my boy made the connection that pooping in a diaper and changing himself took far too much time away from his favorite activities. On June 16th, 2006 at approximately 2:48 p.m. he used the potty successfully-and continues to do so.
So now when I find myself with a herd of kids in the supermarket bathroom, I find it hard to justify complaining too much. Although, if they could all just "go" before leaving the house...alas, I am not a miracle worker.

Friday, November 21, 2008

flying boy

The breakfast table in my house on most mornings is noisy and chaotic. Three of my four kids are simultaneously eating, getting dressed, packing back packs and fighting over who is going to sit where...everything you would expect a herd of kids to be doing on a typical school day. All except Oscar. Oh he may argue on occasion about where he wants to sit, but for the most part breakfast is one of the two quiet times of the day for him. Bedtime being the other.
Oscar is my wild boy. He is constant movement, a ball of endless energy. He moves because he must. To me it is almost like his movement is his way of staying here, being grounded, as if stopping would cause him to fly away.On the other hand, there are days when he beats his arms so hard and so fast, I am afraid he is going to take off. He likes to make noise on these days. A constant EEEEEEEEEE sound-likening him to a plane reving its engine. I asked him once why he does this. He told me that"I have to- it feels wonderful!" So I tried it. I started slowly at first, just a little arm movement a small eee sound...until I really let myself go. Soon I was so lost in the movement and sound, I did not realize that the rest of the family had joined in. We looked like a scene straight out of an anthropologists journal-or a mental institution for insane dancers. This went on for a few minutes until Oscar asked us to stop. It was brilliant, and it DID feel wonderful. I don't know that I received the same benefit that Oscar does, but in that short moment, I could understand his need to do this. If only others could.
Oscar had his first experience with how other people view him at school the other day. Two of his classmates told him that his brain was broken and needed to be fixed. He was upset when he told me this. Although his response of "I'm not a robot, I am not missing parts" was very cool. He was hurt.The interesting thing is that Oscar was not upset at the girls. He was upset at how they percieved him. It was the first time that Oscar expressed awareness of his impact on the people around him. He realized that he was part of the group and not an entity unto himself. For that I was happy-the other part of me wanted to yell at those girls.(I can't help it-I'm a mother!)
We use the word different a lot at home. We teach our kids that different is good-something to be celebrated. If you opened a box of crayons and they were all blue, it would be boring. At school a similar message is taught. We are all different, some people learn differently than others, etc.etc. I think that we need to take it further. Oscars classmates comments are proof of that. I do not think that those girls were intending to be mean. Oscar certainly did not see it that way. Oscar IS different-his words, his actions, his movement is unlike any of his classmates-they are going to notice. They are going to have questions. Unfortunately in our quest to teach acceptance we don't allow questions. It is almost as if we are saying-"you can be different, we just won't talk about it" Is that acceptance? I don't think so. I think that we are missing an incredible teaching opportunity. Autism is nothing to be ashamed of. But, how can you say that-if you are not allowed to explain it.
For now I have to live with the limits that the word "different" seems encumbered with. There is so very much that we can learn from each other. Just looking at my curly headed flying boy, all that he is, all that he is becoming, how can we afford not to.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I didn't see it on Oprah

It astounds me how slanted the media is in portraying autism. If one were to believe all that the mainstream media offered on the subject, they would think that autism was the absolute worst most god awful thing that could happen to a child. When was the last time that you saw the words "autism" and "optimism" together? With the exception of speaking about a cure...probably nowhere. Ask the people around you...at work,the grocery store, etc. Ask them what they know about autism. I would bet you that at least 90% of the time you would be told that it was a tragic disorder wreaking only havoc on the lives of parents and children who live with it. Ask them how they know this. You might very well be told.."I saw it on Oprah"
Well if Oprah said it-it must be true!Because she's a celebrity. Now, I have never met Oprah, and she has never met my kids, but according to her I am "heartbroken" by this tragedy. I am? Look, I am not saying that raising a child on the spectrum is easy. It can be hard , frustrating and demanding-but equally so, I have experienced love and thankfulness and pure joy on a scale that I never knew existed. Why don't you see that on Oprah? Why does she have so much clout? I mean come on now...She publicly refers to her vagina as a "va jay jay" and we take her seriously?

We need our own celebrity spokesperson...I had had hopes for Jenny McCarthy until she opened her mouth( on Oprah). When you refer to your boyfriend as the "autism whisperer" and claim that you made a deal with god "cure my son and I'll show people the way." The only adjective I can use to describe that is-YUCK. And yet people listen to her too.Is it because shes a celebrity? (I wonder if she has a va jay jay as well?) I am not looking for an autism messiah. Nor am I looking for a cure.

I think that we do a disservice to ourselves when we start referring to people as a disorder-instead of people who are just different. I wonder how these kids whose parents were on Oprah, how Jenny McCarthy's son...and anyone else whose parent focuses solely on the negative are going to view themselves when they get older. As a burden? As a cause of their parents anguish? Oh, I have heard the argument that these parents are just doing anything they can to help their kids...but I wonder, do they even SEE them?

Thus our need for a celebrity spokesperson. Someone who can stand up and say-We are talking about people here, What can we do to promote understanding and acceptance? How can we make our schools better places for ALL children.How can we create a better world for all people? Someone who can call a genital a genital. Va jay jays need not apply.