Monday, April 13, 2015

A New Chapter?

My son has been part of a Pragmatic Skills group through the University of Virginia Speech and Language Center on and off since he was seven or eight.  There were two years (6th and 7th grade) when they didn't offer services because he'd aged out, but this year a new program started and he was happy to return.  He's pretty sociable and gets a lot of feelings from success from that group so I was happy to see him return.  Two weeks ago the director called and told me that he'd completed everything they had to offer him so last week he said farewell.  I had mixed feelings.  Success and completion are wonderful, but I didn't know of any other services available for him, so I was concerned.  Lucky for me the director knew of a local counselor who's doing a group called "8-9th grade social skills and emotional awareness and regulation group", in which the counselor plays games with the kids to help them work through social situations.  I talked to him today and we're going to meet him tomorrow!  I'm so excited!  It may not be a good fit, but I'm hopeful considering that my son loves to play games and it sounds like the others in the group function much like he does.

Also, the mother of a friend my son met through the classes he does on Fridays mentioned that her son is struggling with the same feelings of alienation and loneliness so we're in the beginning phases of possibly starting some kind of social group for kids on the Spectrum in Meetup-style.  I think that's sorely needed but I worry that I won't be qualified to deal with the situations that arise.  I figure we'll give it a try in the hopes that our kids will make some friends and feel less alone, and if it doesn't work out then we can at least say we tried.  I know there are other kids like ours in the area, the question is will getting them together lead to them forming bonds of friendship?  There's only one way to find out.

After attending the VAHomeschoolers Conference & Resource Fair I've changed tactics with our homeschooling.  It's time for him to take more responsibility so I'm gently reminding him what he should be doing, but I'm no longer in the role of headmistress.  I remind him that if he doesn't complete the necessary work he'll be put on homeschooling probation and I lay out where he needs to be with his work, but beyond that it's up to him.  It's really difficult, I worry that he won't do the work and the worst will happen, but I can't continue to argue and fight with him every day.  I told him that I'm no longer the bad guy and he's no longer able to blame me for how hard his life is. :)  I wouldn't say he's fully on board, but it's made life much more pleasant day-to-day and I see him thinking about the future in a much longer time frame than he was before, when it was easy for him to focus on one day, one lesson, one hour, and how I was the focal point of his misery.

The lull in drama with the group of mostly girls ended, sadly.  It turns out one of the girls wasn't able to attend at the beginning of the year and she was the source of a lot of the bossy behavior, but she's now returned so things are back to being difficult.  I talked my son into calling the lady who leads that group and they discussed options, which was wonderful, she's a caring and supportive person who puts a lot of heart into giving the kids opportunities for growth and curiosity.  Last week he didn't have to deal with the issue because of our astronomy field trip to the McCormick Observatory, which was a huge hit (Professor Ed Murphy is a veritable font of information and the kids loved him!), and this week there's a field trip to the Nanostar Lab, so we have a couple of weeks to do some research on group dynamics so he can discuss the issue of not feeling heard with everyone and offer suggestions on how to improve the situation.  He's reluctant to tackle the issue, but I'm hopeful that he'll learn an important lesson about working within group dynamics.

We fell off the wagon with the workbook, but I'm hopeful that we'll get back to it.  There's been a lot of change in our lives in the last few months, to both my job and my husband's, not to mention trying to see my granddaughter every other weekend, so I'm trying to be gentle with myself about the things that fall through the cracks.  I know that I'm doing the best that I can and keep trying to improve and get more organized, which is a HUGE challenge for me!  My natural inclination is much more toward chaos, which is exactly the opposite of what a young man on the Autism Spectrum needs.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Teen Angst

I think about posting to this blog often, but as you can tell by how rarely I post it doesn't exactly lead to me sitting down and doing so.  Stealing time is a challenge, but equally limiting my post rate is my uncertainty about what to post.  I don't want to be negative, but I'm not a mindless cheerleader and my inclination is to share it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Trouble is, where's the boundary?  I haven't exactly sorted that out yet, but I'm going to post and write what feels appropriate and see where it leads!

It's been a challenging year.  Not only has my son reached the height of his father, six feet tall, he's also just as immersed in pubescent hormones as he was a year ago.  Frankly, it's wearing me down.  My older, neurotypical son was certainly a challenge, but he was much more sullen and silent in his angst, while my younger son is loud, overblown, and sometimes physical.  He's not abusive, but he can be explosive, and that triggers some things from my past that I thought I'd overcome.  I've built a life that doesn't involve violence so when I'm confronted with violent behavior, I'm also confronted with the knee jerk reaction it elicits in me.

My son argues about doing any kind of work pretty much every day, although occasionally he'll have wonderful, positive moments that give me hope for the future.  Right now his immediate response to just about everything is, "It's too hard!", "I can't get it!", or "I'm never going to get this!", and it doesn't seem like any response on anyone's part will break him out of his spiral around the drain of self pity and negativity.  We have a great family counselor and he works with my son weekly, which I really appreciate, but I find myself running low on resources a fair amount of the time.  I wonder if part of it isn't the unusually snowy winter leaving us housebound more often than we're used to.  I love snow, don't get me wrong, but I very much prefer it when living in a state that's equipped to deal with it.

On a positive note, my son seems to have found his sea legs as far as the homeschool group he attends that's mostly teen girls (there's only one other boy and he's a couple of years younger and has a sister).  I also switched up one of our days so that we're doing field trips almost weekly and that seems to bring some much needed positivity to homeschooling.  This week we went the Science Museum in Richmond and we were there until they closed!  My son also mentioned going back twice on the way home, which was a wonderful surprise.  He was engaged in and excited by all of the hands-on exhibits, and he even enjoyed the movie, Violent Universe.  He's really into astronomy so I've contacted the Astronomy department at the University of Virginia about the group mentioned above going to the McCormick Observatory on a field trip.  We'll probably do that in a couple of weeks and he's so excited about it.  I'm always thrilled to find something that leads to him smiling and showing enthusiasm!

Math continues to be a struggle, to the point that my husband considered changing programs again, but after talking about it at length I think he's going to stick with Thinkwell.  I don't think it's the program causing the problem, I think my son will resist any program and find flaws no matter how the information is presented.  I find myself wondering if he needs tough love or an immersion into nothing but things that are big challenges for him, but right now we're staying the course and insisting that he complete a page of copywork a day and otherwise letting him do his own scheduling.

We're going to start reading a book about executive function for teens and I hope to gain a lot of insight into coping mechanisms for him.  Reading the introduction, I found it hard to believe my son's picture wasn't on the cover!

How do you engage your child with ASD?  It's a constant challenge for us, overcoming his pessimism and negativity.