Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Little Understanding, Please

I shouldn’t have let Aaron go to his day group on Monday.  His mood was pretty foul at home, but he wanted to go and so I let him.  He only wanted to go because he knows that having a special meal on Friday night depends on him going to Paradigm every day.  Funny how these rewards can come back to bite me.  He was pleasant on the drive across town.  But the way he slammed the van door when he got out was a sign to me that it might be a rough day.  And it was.

I knew when I got the phone call from Paradigm that afternoon, and Barb said a quick hello before putting her phone on speaker.  That’s usually what she does when she wants Aaron to also talk, and wants him to hear me.  Aaron was yelling, very upset and belligerent.  It had been a no good, very bad day…..and was soon to get even worse.  At this point, Aaron didn’t want to ride home with his driver.  Last August, we hired an agency to bring Aaron home from Paradigm in the afternoons.  Aaron likes going from point A to point B, with no stops in between.  But the route includes other clients that go home before him, so this had become a trigger for Aaron.  On his no good, very bad day….Monday….he did NOT want to ride anywhere but home. 

Once Aaron is upset…really upset….he’s like a volcano that must erupt until the flow of anger is over.  His autism prevents him from calming easily.  It prevents him from listening to reason or being reasonable.  He has very few filters, so words fly when he erupts, and some are inappropriate.  He decided on Monday to go ahead and ride home with the driver, knowing that he really had no other choice.  But he promptly told her to shut up when he got in the car, and he refused to put on his seat belt.  The whole way.  Not good….not good at all.

Shortly after he got home, upset still but calming some, my phone rang.  It was the agency that provides his rides home, telling me that they were very sorry but that Aaron would no longer be allowed to ride with them.  I understood, but I tried to do some explaining and then I asked for a second chance….but two days later was told there was no second chance.  Good luck with finding a new driver….it’s been nice working with you…. 

Back to Monday.  After the phone call, Aaron looked stricken.  He decided to try to rectify things by offering to help cut the ends off the asparagus I was fixing for supper.  I let him.  And during supper, out of the blue, he asked if he could write a get well note to our friend, Atha.  She’s been very sick and is in a rehab center.  I got him a note card and he wrote her his succinct get well wishes.  They were words of gold to me that night.  I think they will be for Atha as well.

Later, though, as Gary and I tried to absorb the events of Aaron’s day – especially the loss of his ride home, which is huge – things went downhill fast.  Aaron ended up realizing that we were trying to bring up the recurring subject of him moving out one day….living in a residential setting. 

“You could live with some friends, Aaron!” we said.


And he stormed up the stairs as he told us how much he hated us.

But within seconds he was stomping back down the stairs, sitting in the recliner and rocking furiously.

“You just want me to leave!” he said, with tears coming down his face.

We tried to explain….tried once again to reason with him.  It doesn’t work.

“Aaron, Rosa lives with her friends and comes home on weekends.  And Shauna, and Natalie….”we told him.

“I DON’T CARE ABOUT ROSA OR SHAUNA OR NATALIE!!” he again yelled…..and again stormed up the stairs.

This went on for a long time, until finally he….and we….were spent and there was nothing else to say.

Tuesday was a better day at his day group, for the most part.  I drove to Paradigm in the afternoon to pick him up, fighting my frustration.  It didn’t help me at all to see and hear Aaron being rude to another client.  I was distant and silent as we started the drive home, finally responding some to Aaron but being rather cold.  That wasn’t a good choice for me to make.

“Mom!” Aaron said.  “You’re ‘iknorin’ me!”

The volcano erupted once again when we got home.  Aaron kept saying over and over that I had ‘iknored’ him.  He was crying hard, and my heart was breaking.  I tried to explain, but to no avail.  He pulled a large picture off his wall, taking some paint and dry wall with it.  He ripped a dollar bill into pieces.  He very loudly slammed his door several times.  And he told me that he was going to put a sticky note on his door that said, “Mom is an idiot!!” 

I sat on his bed.  He had his headphones on as he looked at a video.  I told him again that I was sorry, and I asked him to forgive me.  All he could do was cry and say, “You were ‘iknorin’ me!!”

So I said the words that always reach his heart.

“Aaron?  Would you like to go get a Slushie from Sonic?”

Without even a pause he quickly said yes, and so we got in the van and got his slushie.  I parked in the Dillon’s parking lot, away from others, and he slurped while I talked.  He calmed and I tried to explain things, knowing full well that Aaron doesn’t relate to most of our explaining sessions.  Finally I was done.  There was quietness before Aaron spoke again.

“Mom?  There’s a reason why you shouldn’t watch Alien Vs. Predator 2.”

He didn’t notice my deep sigh or the shaking of my head.

Oh, if only Aaron could convey to us his hurt and his anger with reasoning words instead of hard and hurtful words!  Or curse words.  Or just totally ignoring the situation and talking about aliens. 

Aaron often doesn’t even know why he’s frustrated.  He just is on some days.  As he escalates, so do others around him, and that only further compounds the issues.  I reacted with ‘iknorin’ him on some of the drive home, which I really shouldn’t have done, so he reacted.  Did he ever!  But he was afraid that I didn’t love him anymore.  He’s terrified of losing my love, but he can’t verbalize that.  So he reacts with anything that comes to his mind that demonstrates his deep fear and hurt.  That usually means that he breaks something, like his watch or his glasses or his picture on the wall or the dollar bill.

Why am I telling you all of this ugliness?

I’m sitting here listening to Aaron’s monitor….listening for another seizure which may come.  He had a long seizure at 5:30 this morning, and only one seizure means that usually more will follow during the day.  He’s napping in his room and I’m on alert as I go about my day. 

I tell you the ugliness of his behaviors because really, those behaviors hold him down more in life than do his seizures.  It’s a raw, hard reality for many parents of special needs children.  Those sudden, awful, interrupting, exhausting behaviors.

I can explain seizures.  Other parents can explain various visible special needs of their children, or even special needs not seen but understood.    But behaviors?  So frustrating….so embarrassing… condemning for both child and parent.

But we need those behaviors to be understood as well.  And we as parents need to always work to understand them, too, especially in the heat of the moment. 

I have friends who would say to others, “Please, please understand my loud and uncooperative and bizarre and hateful child.  Please just try to understand, and not judge and not condemn and try to give advice or lectures.  Just understand, a little even.  Sometimes that’s all we can manage, too.  A little.”

And love a lot.

Tuesday night, as Gary was going to bed, he said, “Hey Aaron.  Come here.” 

I thought that Gary had something cool to show Aaron, so I looked around the corner of the kitchen to see what it was.

And as Aaron walked toward his dad, Gary held his arm out and gave Aaron a hug.  Aaron even responded!

I blinked back the tears.  Sometimes it’s hard to love Aaron, honestly, but we must….and we do.  I was very thankful for that sweet picture that ended our second no good, very bad day with Aaron.

One more thing.  I went inside Paradigm yesterday when I went to pick up Aaron.  What a lifter-upper that was!!  Those wonderful clients, with so many needs, have so much love to give….even on or after the bad days.  Love for me and more importantly, love for Aaron.  We could hardly leave for all the hugs and talking and smiling. 

Every day is a new day, as Barb says.  A fresh new start.

“This is the day which the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it!” 

But sometimes I AM glad when they’re over.  J 

Playing Skip-Bo at the end of one of those rough days

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