Monday, November 29, 2010

Cabin Fever

It's snowing in Ireland.
Proper Arctic stuff that can be measured in inches instead of millimetres.
This happens every year, and every year we flap, panic buy and hunker down as the country grinds to a chilly halt.
Schools close, businesses lock their doors and we huddle indoors unless starvation is imminent or,even worse, we run out of chianti.

Our Scandinavian and Canadian friends must shake their heads in disbelief at how quickly and efficiently we are rendered incapable by a bit of snow.

It's kinda fun in one way, as we get to play at being human squirrels, and have a little unexpected holiday from the usual mayhem of rushing about doing the thousands of Important Things we believe are absolutely necessary....until we're prevented from doing these Important Things and we realise that they're actually not that important at all.

But a curious by-product of our snowy lock-down is that suddenly I have an awful lot of time.

It's a bit mortifying to admit that I am horribly uncomfortable with this.

It's great to be able to read my favourite blogs and keep on top of the laundry (hell, I even go mad sometimes and talk to my children!!! The very thought!) but there isn't much going on to distract me from my  mental chatter.

Really, no-one should be left alone with my thoughts for too long.

It's like a horrible interview between Hannibal Lecter and Mrs Beeton on a continuous loop, filled with all my domestic coulda, shoulda, woulda's  and the dire consequences of being a less than  perfect HausFrau and SuperMammy.

I love a healthy bit of Irish Catholic repression (I mean, what's a stomach ulcer if it means you don't have to deal with uncomfortable thoughts??) and using the busyness of being a full-time Mammy is a great way of making sure that Stuff stays safely buried.
And, yeah, I can hardly describe myself as a Catholic anymore, but I was hard-wired in my formative years to believe that suffering and martyrdom are good for the soul.
(Hmmm...good for the soul, but even better news for people who don't want to hear you whinging.)

So bring on the thaw!
I don't like navel-gazing...turns out my belly button's only full of fluff anyway, not splendid pearls of wisdom.
There's only so much cleaning and playing draughts I can handle before I strap some snow chains to my tyres and take to the roads.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Danger- Autie Kid At Work

Over the past few weeks Bob has been hellbent on a mission to disprove Newton's Laws of Gravity.
In addition to his usual ninja style scaling of walls and flooding of bathrooms, he has taken to lighting matches, licking razor blades (yep, you read that correctly) and smashing eggs (ingeniously, down the back of radiators).
This is in addition to his long-established tricks of  climbing on the kitchen cupboards, wedging himself between the top of the bookshelf and the ceiling, and wriggling from  his big brother's bunk onto the top of the wardrobe.

Did I mention that he likes to climb?
Like a shark smelling blood, he is attracted to danger  at a five mile radius.

Keeping our autie kids safe devours an enormous amount of our time and attention.
Many autie parents have mastered the art of sleeping with one eye open as their kids have been known to climb out windows, or unlock doors in the dead if night.

As a result we live in a self-imposed prison.

I go about my daily work with a bunch of keys in my pocket, and methodically re-check doors, windows and any possible escape route at regular intervals to try and prevent him running away again.
(Bob is a bolter and has been found heading for the hills on  many occasions, despite our every attempt to keep our home on military lock-down.  On one occasion a neighbour mercifully  returned him to us before we even missed him).
I kinda wish I had OCD so all the checking wouldn't be such a pain in the gluteus maximus.

It's become a way of life for us, but now and again I have to remind myself that this is not normal.
I worry about the effects our hyper-vigilance will have on Bob's big brother and sister, and hope that it will not lead them to becoming anxious, neurotic adults.
Now that Winter is here Bob isn't so inclined to go outside, and although we can't let our guard down, there is less likelihood of him running away at the moment.

Maintenance of safety is an element of autism that is sometimes overshadowed by issues such as communication difficulties and toilet training, but it is relentlessly exhausting and mentally draining to live with.

I am clinging onto the hope, as more veteran autie parents tell me, that safety issues will become less prominent as the child matures, and the benefits of education become apparent.

In the meantime, I guess all I can do is dress for the job and jangle my keys with style.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fun-Sized Wisdom

Throw away your guide books and sack your counsellor.
I discovered my very own pearl of wisdom in the back of the car after horse-riding this morning.

This pearl does not come in the conventional, glossy sphere we are accustomed to.  It's more, well...Ellen shaped and definitely talks more than any other piece of jewellery I own.
Ellen is my 10 year old daughter and has had a pretty atypical launch into this world.  She catapulted into this unsuspecting planet in one hour flat and was quickly diagnosed as having a ventricular septal defect (a hole between the lower chambers of the heart).  Even though cardiologists view this condition as relatively minor, when a paediatrician tells you your newborn baby has a heart problem, and there's a flurry of ECGs, X-rays and echo tests, it feels like there just isn't enough air to breathe.
We spent many years attending the cardiology outpatients in Crumlin Hospital and she became aware at a very young age that not all children arrive in bouncy, healthy packages.  She knew that many children were sick and disabled, and that sometimes they died.  Not because we told her, but because she saw them.  Experience has a more profound impact on a developing psyche than hearing about things second hand, so she grew up with oodles of kindness, compassion and a surprisingly  pragmatic outlook that sometimes shit just happens, and you have to deal with it.

When Ellen was seven, just two months after her little brother was diagnosed with autism, the cardiologist found that her VSD had resolved.  We were delighted to get some good news after doing the autism circus.  Ellen wasn't so impressed.
"I'll miss it" she said.
I can't decide if she missed the fact that having a heart defect, which became a part of her identity, had now vanished into the ether,  or if it was the loss of our post-appointment trip to McDonald was a bigger grievance to her (yes, the irony of taking a heart kid to a fast food joint is not lost on me).
Either way, Ellen sees in the world in a direct and madly quirky style.

At school she struggled enormously with language and comprehension, to the point that she needed to repeat a year and get daily extra help with the resource teacher.  Dyslexia and intellectual disability were discounted, and three years of hard graft and skilled teaching paid off.  Even though she is not autistic, I do sometimes wonder about the link between her language difficulties and her little brother's autism.

So having an autie brother has been much like having any little brother for Ellen.  She loves him, fights with him and often finds him the biggest pain in the butt ever.

In the car this morning I was fretting about how I would manage Bob on a visit to a toy shop, as he was invited to a birthday party tomorrow and we needed to get a present.  Dreadful visions of apoplectic autie kids being dragged out of said shop by peri-menopausal, wild haired mothers would surely make the evening news.  Global warming might escalate and the sky may fall in.  I was muttering away madly more to myself than to Ellen and I kinda forgot she was there.

Until a little voice from the back seat said "Mammy, if you believe you're in control, then Bob will believe you're in control and then you WILL do it".
I had to concentrate extra hard not to drive the car across the ditch.
Trying to act as if this was a perfectly normal observation for a small kid to make, I asked her "How do you know this Ellen?".
"Because this is what we do with the horses.  It works."
Erm, this kid is 10.

My mini-behaviourist is on to something.
I pretended I was in charge, and Bob bought it.
Maybe horse-riding does cure autism after-all...