Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hot Time Summer in the City

The summer is half over and there are still six weeks of summer vacation. Collegeman made a very half-hearted attempt to find a job. Not that I think one would have been forthcoming around here. There are so many adults out of work that normal jobs taken by teens every summer, if they still exist, then they have been usurped by adults with skill sets and experience and quite frankly bills to pay and a family to feed. I can’t resent that no one wanted to even talk to collegeman. Truthfully, it wasn’t even about the autism. He just sent in resumes. It really was about what is happening in the economy. Why hire an unproven kid, when you could hire someone you know will actually show up because they have so many obligations to meet? It is just what it is. So we decided, much to his chagrin, I might add, that collegeman had to take a class during the second summer session at college.

I have to tell you he was really having a good time doing the teenage thing this summer. I realized that there had never been any time in his life, except for the few weeks between semesters in the winter that collegeman had no school or work obligations. Last summer he did have that job at the college library and it went fairly well. But it was an obligation. Now he did handle it well and his boss thought he did a good job. But there was no down time and no time to hang out. So like I said, this past few weeks, actually two months, have been quite the happy time for collegeman. Sleeping late, hanging out, eating (he did put on weight and he is now on a little diet), earning money through chores and basically doing nothing of any consequence. He was also really really happy.

I think at this juncture, we are going to have to work out a methodology that he can be happy, content and pleased about his world while he pursues his future too. Hopefully all the people who are in place can help collegeman figure out how he can do that. Hubby thinks one day he may just have a catharsis. I am of the mind that collegeman needs a little push in that direction. He may need a little help in reaching his nirvana, so to speak. I think we are going to have to start with the basic idea that you can do more than one thing at a time.

So far we are working on him allowing himself to go to the movies when he is studying. Also the therapist is talking to him about friends. To the extent that he doesn’t seem to understand the value of friends so much as he understand the need to make connections for future success, we are going to go with that. But this morning I did have an interesting quick talk with him about friends. He said that we are his parents and not his “friends.” That he was right, a friend is someone more your own age who you can commiserate with, I also did add that it was OK for him to go to school and have a friend. So let’s see, this is our goal for the present. Actually, I know, it seems that it’s been our goal for him for awhile, but at least he is talking about it and open to the possibility. I hope, he finally does realize that it is ok to have a little fun in life with people your own age.

Now as far as HSB is concerned, I regaled everyone with the fiasco that was the driver’s education orientation. It is for the best. HSB has not even studied for the learner’s permit test yet. Hubby found tests on line, that could help him study, but I truly think that HSB isn’t all that interested anyway. I know he is scared and very reticent about driving. I also know that once he does it and sees that he is capable it will be just fine. But he is conveniently taking his time studying and preparing for the test. Honestly, between you and me, until he has made up his mind that this is really something he should do, I am not so sure it’s a good idea to put him behind the wheel of a car anyway. So I am not losing any sleep over him not being out on the road right now.

I’ll tell you something else too; we are doing a medicine check for him over the summer as well. We were able to get an appointment with a well known adolescent psychiatrist in the area and we are playing with both the focusing meds and the anti-anxiety meds. So far his anxiety meds have been decreased and he is happier. The focusing meds also have been pulled back, but he is a little ditsier. Interestingly the doctor explained to me that with focusing and the autistic brain they have found that a stimulant alone doesn’t usually do it. There should be another drug, probably a non-stimulant added to the mix. He did give me a list of three meds, two of which HSB had been on for other reasons at one time or the other. They so did not work. It’s like I have said, watch their reaction to the meds. There are some rare side effects and your child could be the statistic. It can be dangerous. Any doctor who tells you to keep trying once there is a negative reaction; you need to get rid of (had that happen with the boys too). Luckily this doctor understood that we have only one more drug to try. So we will wait and see what happens once the anti-anxiety meds are taken care of. As he said, you change only one med at a time, so you know to what and why there is a reaction.

Alright but then what do we do with HSB for the summer? So far he is helping with chores. Now that collegeman has started his class,too preoccupied to do chores, there are chores for HSB to do and earn cash for those much prized video games. Not such a terrible thing that he has to earn something that he wants. He can learn that not everything comes to you because you want it and sometimes, (GASP) you can’t get it just because you want it. You have to wait to have the money. Instant gratification is a real curse for this generation. I think we hurt our children because of it, all our children autistic and NT alike.

Then HSB also has to study the driver’s manual and start his college essay. I have found that as long as he has a schedule to follow he is very happy and that we limit the time on the computer and on the video games. He also has to exercise and after his cardio he has to do an exercise DVD involving free wieghts or ab exercises. But I think in reality, as I told the doctor, what has made him the happiest  is that he is scheduled and busy. He needs to know that he has something to do. I have now also started taking him on errands with me when I can and make him come do even the most mundane chore, like grocery shopping. Besides the fact that it is a good life skill, HSB needs to leave the house and get out into the world. It is so easy for teens with aspergers to sequester themselves in the house and then decide that they don’t need to leave anymore. (By the way, this is very different than being agoraphobic.)

What I had been told and I had started to see it with both boys, is that teens with aspergers will tend to ensconce themselves at home because it is easier. Being a teen is so difficult to begin with, now add the social issues associated with aspergers and the child is just overwhelmed. The psychiatrist was talking to me about how that is exactly what happened with HSB this past year. Having trouble academically, losing his best friend, not having an outlet once bowling stopped and the knowledge about the upcoming transition out of high school into college all added to his feeling so very overwhelmed.

So I think it’s not a bad thing that HSB has an easier summer. I just wish I could find an art class or something fun that he could do and be out and among kids his own age. Unfortunately if you look around, most of the kids his age are not even here. They are still going on excursions, whether a bike trip across the US or one of the charitable trips where you build homes in Nicaragua. Some are camp counselors, but those tend to be college age students and even graduate school students. Heck some counselors are even teachers.

Actually we did work it out that HSB would volunteer one day a week at East Coast Assistance Dogs. He is helping input into a data base about the dogs and even got to learn how to start to train the puppies. He particularly was attached to a little 10 week old golden lab named, Blondie. He learned how to bend down to call her, get her to sit and even the proper way to pet a service dog. He said after awhile he was on cuteness overload. Oh yeah, collegeman is also volunteering there at the same time. Of course collegeman is obsessed with getting the data input done because that is a “real” job, but we make him stop and help with the dogs too. Nice and wonderful people at ECAD. Since I am staying with the boys to help with the social interaction for HSB, they have promised to find something productive for me to do as well.

So the rest of the summer seems to be set, so far anyway. Collegeman is studying and volunteering. HSB is delaying taking the learner’s permit test, helping with chores and volunteering. Even I am getting into the act with the dogs. But I think what is the most important aspect of how the rest of the summer is going to go has a lot to do with the fact that there needs to be a schedule. In fact the more lazy and hot the day, the more scheduled everything has to be. Remember, the more tired you, the parent become, the more scheduled everything has to be.

While summer is supposed to be the relaxing time for everyone. It is when the world slows down because of the heat and everyone goes on vacation or has a staycation, that it is the hardest time  for us, the parents of special needs kids. If your child is in ESY then some of the time is scheduled but that also only lasts for a few weeks. Here it was 6 weeks, but that usually left the month of August to figure out what to do with your child. Even with special needs children at home, there should be a little of a slowdown. Do take it easier and do make time for when you can put your feet up too. Whether it’s that cup of coffee at 5 in the morning, out on the porch, before the kids wake up or that glass of wine or bottle of beer after 8 pm when they have all gone to sleep (oh yeah, some of us do both...woohoo). Don’t forget that an overstressed parent isn’t good for your children and it certainly isn’t good for you. The dog days of August are approaching, remember those schedules and truly batten down the hatches…

Here’s an oldie but a goodie when it comes to summer music:

Or maybe this is your speed:

On that note don't forget about that wonderful autism support program Surfer's Healing. They may be coming to a town near you. Check it out.

Better yet, this is what used to drive parents crazy:

Until next time,

Trying to stay cool,