i miss coffee. sad post.

Here’s the problem.  I want coffee with my toast, but we can’t find the little cup that holds our reusable filter for our Keurig coffee maker.  I don’t want to blame Joel, but it was probably Joel who took it.  He has this compulsive behavior that causes him to grab things at random (or what seems random to us neurotypicals in the house) and runs away with it as quickly as his little legs will carry him before anyone can take whatever it was away.  After that, who knows.  It could be anywhere at this point.  I washed it a couple of nights ago and left it in the dish drainer next to the sink.  In the morning, when I went to make some coffee, it was gone.  The filter and the lid was there, however.  So, no coffee for me until that little sucker is found.

Until then, looks like I’ll be having tea for breakfast.

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friday afternoon meltdown

I could kind of tell by some of Joel’s behavior this afternoon that it was coming.  His overall energy level felt different.  His actions and movements were quickened, more abrupt, like he was agitated.

Then it happened.  I was in the kitchen finishing up the dishes and the door bell rang.  It was one of Will’s friends asking if he could come outside to play.  I stood there with the door cracked open just enough to communicate, but not enough to allow our dog, Jack, to run outside.  Joel, who was watching a favorite t.v. show, realized the door was open and he joined Jack at the door and proceeded to try to open it further and also make a run for it.  It was all I could do to apologize to the boy and shut the door in his face before both of these wild boys tried to bolt for it.  Joel was upset that he couldn’t leave and he ran to his room where he had accrued all of the chopsticks we own and played with them briefly before returning to his show.

I thought all was returning to order and went back to what I was doing when the neighbor boy, unsatisfied by our last exchange, returned to inquire as to whether or not Will could come out and play.  Will did not want to come out and play and the little boy tried to break my heart by informing me that he had no one to play with and that his mother would not let him come into the house at the moment because she was cleaning house and he would mess it up.  My mind sidetracked briefly as I considered my very untidy living room where Joel had created three separate piles of dvds, torn magazine pieces and, of course, his handful of chopsticks.  Before I could sympathize with the boy, Joel was back at the door and attempting to escape.  I quickly said, “Sorry, but I have to close the door, little boy” and tried to calm Joel who just wasn’t having it.

Meltdowns are different for different people.  For Joel, it is both scary and can turn violent.  He doesn’t scream, but he does make sounds loudly and oftentimes he cries.  His face is a mixture of anger and fear.  He kicks and pinches whoever is near by.  He sometimes throws himself into furniture or runs at one of us.  It is imperative that we adjust our voices to a quiet, soothing tone.  Yelling at him will not calm him down.  Neither will spanking him.  It is often a whole-family ordeal to calm him.  For a really bad meltdown, a nice bath does the trick and maybe offering something to eat or drink.   Then, one of us, usually me or his dad, will sit with him and hold him gently.  Sometimes he won’t let us hold him and he retreats to his bedroom where he might kick and bang on the walls until he eventually calms down.  Today, Maya and I worked together to calm him.  First, we turned on a favorite movie that has a lot of singing which he loves and I held him, as much as he would allow, and talked to him in a soothing voice.  He drank some water and slowly settled down.  Like I said, it was pretty mild.  It started and was over in about 20 minutes time.

I know that people who do not live with Autism may see his behavior and think it is a temper tantrum he is throwing, but they would be wrong in that assumption.  The world is a very frightening place for him and even the slightest change in his routine can shake up his entire world.  Because he cannot speak, he cannot vocalize his emotions and fears.  He shows these fears physically.  When he reaches out and pinches me, I do not take it personally, becuase it is not meant as a personal attack.  At that moment, Joel is afraid and he is trying to protect himself.  If I were to yell at him at that moment, it would only further terrify him.  My job at that moment is to help him realize he is in a safe place.

Right now, things are “back to normal,” or whatever that means in our house.  Order has been restored and all is right with the world.  I know there will be more meltdowns in the future, but I don’t know when they will occur or what will set them off.  We just have to read the signs and be prepared.

no power to ya, jenny mccarthy

Is it just me or have those of us in the Autism community given Jenny McCarthy too much power?  I really think we have.

I’m not even going to start with what I believe to be the real issue we should be focusing on, which is her stance on vaccinations, but with her recent categorization of so-called “warrior moms” versus “victim moms.”  I’m very happy for her that she had the right to choose the medical route she has chosen for her son and that she is happy with the results.  It is not the path my husband and I have chosen for our son, nor would we choose that even if we did have the money and connections she has.   We have found no scientific evidence to support these methods are effective, so we will not use them.  That doesn’t make us victims.  It makes us informed.

In fact, I’ve taken a good long look at my husband and me and at our children and I can safely say there are no victims here.  Being a victim implies you have no power over your situation.  No, we didn’t choose for Joel to have Autism, but he has it nevertheless.  We chose not to wring our hands and worry, but to educate ourselves.  We found out what options were available to him and have used them.  We enrolled him in our local public school system where a wonderful team of people rallied around him and us and made it their mission to devise and implement a learning plan based on his skills and needs.  We have accepted Joel’s Autism as it is a part of who he is.  It affects everything that we do, but we are an adaptable group of people.  Acceptance does not mean we are doing nothing.

One thing I will not accept, however, is Jenny McCarthy defining me as a mother, or my husband as a father.  She may share similar experiences with us, but she doesn’t know the first thing about us.  I will not even give her the power over me by letting what she says offend me.  She can say I’m a Satan worshipper for all I care.  It doesn’t make it true.  I’ve read several really good blog posts by other Autism parents who share my sentiments in this regard who are completely infuriated that she said these things and while I cheered them on from my computer, the other part of me said, “Do not give this person that power over you.”  She is not an authority figure on any of this.  She is not a medical professional, nor a scientific researcher.  She is a person who became famous after she posed for Playboy, had a few parts in some movies and t.v. shows and was in a committed relationship with Jim Carrey.  No where in her resume does it say she is qualified to judge anyone for making parenting decisions that differ from hers.

If we are going to hold Jenny accountable for anything, it must be for the misinformation she is spreading about vaccinations.  There is no scientific evidence to support vaccinations have a link to the emergence of Autism, but we do have tons of evidence to support the fact that vaccines do save lives.  Her crusade to vilify vaccinations extends outside of the Autism community and affects everyone.  If people are refusing to vaccinate themselves or their children, they are literally putting everyone else at risk.

So, to recap, Jenny is a nuisance to the human race not because she believes she is a superior parent, but because she is using her position in the limelight to spread misinformation that endangers lives.  That is my opinion on the matter.  Anyone who disagrees is more than welcome to post a comment or send us an email.  As long as the discussion is friendly and we all agree to be respectful of differing ideas, I am in favor of some good dialogue on the issue.

breakfast and the supreme court ruling

I sat down to my little laptop computer this morning with my usual breakfast of coffee and two pieces of buttered toast (I know, I live a glamorous life) and proceeded to check out the world as it is on my Facebook wall when I saw the news.  I stopped in mid-chew and tried to determine if it could possibly be true.  The Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.  I was so excited, I could barely finish my meal.

I have been scouring CNN for days waiting to find out how the Supreme Court would rule on this specific bill.  I really hated to be cynical, but I did not expect that it would be upheld.  The scariest part of Joel’s diagnosis for me were the words “pre-existing condition.”  Because he was already covered through James’ employment insurance at the time of his diagnosis we were safe, but James isn’t planning on staying with the company forever.  That meant that in the future, Joel could have been denied basic health care coverage because of something he was born with.  Fortunately, Joel is a relatively healthy kiddo and only needs to visit the doctor for basic check-ups or vaccinations.  We do not have him on any kind of special diet or medications as we feel that education is the best route as far as “treatment” is concerned.  Unfortunately, he is accident prone and also seems to lack the awareness that many of the things he would like to do could, and sometimes does, result in physical harm.  It is reassuring that if he does injure himself through some kind of zaniness or another that he will be able to receive medical care.

Needless to say, I am grateful for the efforts made by Presient Obama’s administration to do something to fix the problems pertaining to health care in this country.  Husband and I feel this is going to be a great thing for our family as well as the countless people who have already benefitted from the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law.

Greetings and Welcome!

This blog will document random events and moments in our life and home as we make our way through the world of Autism.  “We” are James and Shelley, a husband and wife team and parents of two “neurotypical” children, Maya (14) and Will (9), and one “non-neurotypical” child, Joel (5), who was diagnosed as having Autism in 2011.

The name for our blog, Unlocking Doors, has a two-fold meaning.  There is the metaphorical meaning which has to do with the mysterious nature of Autism and our daily endeavor to break communication barriers with our son and to further understand his actions and quirks.  Then, there is the literal meaning, which requires a little background information.  Up until about two weeks ago, Joel was unable to open most of the doors in our house, which was actually beneficial because of his often-times destructive nature.  This little guy loves to tear up paper and he does not discriminate against books, magazines or important pieces of mail therefore these things have to be kept out of his reach.  Anyway, about two weeks ago things got quiet (which is NEVER a good thing) and then we heard the sound of running water.  We followed the sound to the bathroom where little Joel stood in the bathtub completely naked with the water running and all of our toothbrushes (except his) were in his hands.  He was using them to scrub the bathtub floor.   The toothbrushes went in the trash, the boy was dried off and dressed, and we all reconciled ourselves to the fact that from now on, all of the bedroom and bathroom doors would have to be locked from the inside to prevent further catastrophes.  Now, anytime one of us needs to use the bathroom, we have to use a screwdriver to pop the lock.  The same goes if we need to fetch something from one of our rooms.  This is just a tiny aspect of the reality of life with a small, Autistic child, but we find it very worth it.

Having a child with Autism is both a challenge and an adventure.  As you can see, we never know what each day will bring, but we look forward to sharing these little slices of our life to help spread Autism awareness.  We have come to realize that Autism is not the end of the world and that there are many positive things that can come from a diagnosis and hope that this blog will have meaning for everyone whether they are a part of the Autism community or not.