Monday, January 30, 2006

On Again, Off Again

A series of schedule changes (early release, in-service day, field trip, sick therapists, etc.) has left Oliver a little "off" lately. His emotional volitility reminds me of those pre-diagnosis days when we all walked on egg-shells, not knowing what would trigger a tantrum.

I often think back to a recurring, pre-diagnosis conversation that I had with RT (Resident Teenager):
"RT!" I would yell into the next room from the kitchen, "What are you doing?"
"Well then why is Oliver screaming like that?"
"I don't know. All I did was X,Y, and Z."
"Well, just stop it, would you?"

Somewhere along the line, RT mostly stopped interacting with Oliver because just about every time he did it ended with a version of this conversation. And I, of course, was ever on red alert trying to head off these emotional exercises before they got started or, failing that, to distract Oliver from letting small upsets escalate into full-blown tantrums. The problem in those days, however, was that we were never really sure what would cause the breakdowns. Consequently there were a lot of things we didn't do. We didn't leave Oliver with a babysitter. We didn't visit friends. We didn't take him shopping. We didn't invite people to our home. Life came down to avoiding things that were likely to cause trouble -- which was potentially everything.

But since Oliver started receiving services in late September I can probably count his tantrums on one hand and each of those were mostly attibutable to his being overly tired. Our ability to help Oliver deal with his frustrations better has stemmed from our new understanding of what lead to the tantrums and how to prepare him for the small changes that life throws at us. And the upsets these days are a far cry from those pre-diagnosis that left me clutching him in despair, both of us sobbing, exhausted and covered in vomit. His upsets now seem almost fleeting in comparison.

The fact that four "off" days are so remarkable to me means that we are having days that are more "on" than "off" and reminds me of how far we've come in the last six months. On Sunday evening we followed through on plans we had made to invite the neighbors to our house for a get-together. After a LONG day with Oliver I had briefly thought of cancelling but didn't. I am gradually coming to see that maintaining a social environment at home is important -- and theraputic -- for all of us. And so for two hours that night we entertained our friends and, much to my surprise, were entertained by Oliver. There was no escaping to another part of the house. There was no crying or hiding or hitting or biting. Instead there was my wonderfully silly little boy who grinned and giggled and who climbed on laps and just in general had a great time. Our neighbors have seen Oliver at his worst and so I felt truely delighted to share this little boy with them.

Tuesday is a school day and hopefully we are back to our normal schedule this week and the coming days will be more "on" than "off".


  1. A very great step ahead for Oliver, indeed!

    We've had periods of having to avoid "potentially everything" out of fear of tantrums or worse. And every time, we've gotten to a moment when we've said, this is no good for us, for our family, and therefore for Charlie. Not one of us was free---we felt like prisoners of autism and Charlie's needs. That is especially great he did so well when your neighbors came over and sounds that he enjoyed their company--and the variety--too.

    Hope all is soon "on again."

  2. I bet you slept peacefully on that Sunday night after watching your boy have such a wonderful time with company. Keep those "on" days coming!

  3. yay for oliver and for having a bit of social contact! we've been slowly coming out of the deep freeze of isolation, sometimes things go swimmingly, sometimes not. it's especially wonderful to hear about your lovely evening with oliver and friends!