Saturday, September 25, 2010

So Far So Good (Hope I Didn't Just Jinx It)

So we have started the new school year and I have not gotten a call from the vice principal or anyone for that matter. Last year I got a call on the first day, about something HSB had done on the first day of school. I knew then that it was going to be a tough year and it really was. I knew about the incident before the school called because in his own ineffectual way HSB told me of the incident. I know he didn’t mean anything by what happened, he was actually remembering a particular child who had picked on him in a class and that child showed up in his new history class. He was not pleased and was quite agitated that he would face the same teasing again. He then went on to obsess about that child and not pay attention in school. I told him that as long as that child left him alone, he needed to deal with the child in the class. That if that child learned his lesson and didn’t tease him anymore than it was over and HSB was to move on.

I guess I shouldn’t just call it teasing, I do think it was a form of bullying and the school did take care of it. This particular child liked to push HSB’s buttons about Obama being President (HSB having been for the other guy and quite vociferously open about his disdain for the President). Interestingly the school didn’t really want to punish the teasers and his friends, even though according to HSB’s para, who actually reported the incidents, that in her opinion it was tantamount to bullying. The school decided I should understand that the teaser, being an African-American child was proud of the first African-American President. No offense, but I am not stupid. I told them, that in no uncertain terms. But when the adult who is there to help my son tells me that what is going on is bullying then that is what I am going to go on and not what is politically correct. My child wasn’t going to be thrown to the wolves because they didn’t want to be accused of not being understanding of the “teaser” child.

Well guess what, they did call those other children in, and their parents, and they of course tried to blame my son, that he was not nice to them either. Knowing HSB what would happen is that whenever one of these children said anything or even made an appearance HSB would roll his eyes and make a negative comment under his breath. But then again what would be your feelings towards those that were purposefully upsetting you. HSB having a really hard time controlling telling it like it is, would most openly show his own disdain for any of these boys. Oh well, tough noogies as they say. Don’t’ want someone to openly show disdain for you, don’t pick on them. (Personally I think the children and their parents were just trying to deflect the blame for the incidents on HSB, and as usual I stood my ground and HSB did not have any of the blame pinned on him.)

The way they resolved the issue was that all of the boys were to ignore each other. They were to stop pushing HSB’s buttons and HSB was to stop moaning everytime one of them opened their mouths. The vice principal explained to me that this really was just 15 year old boy nonsense and that it didn’t really rise to a terrible level. That as long as the other boys left HSB alone, that a talk with the vice-principal and having had the school call home was all they wanted to do. Honestly, as long as it stopped I wasn’t really in a position to demand too much more. I decidedly to let the school handle it this way only because they had always understood with HSB and you don’t need to make too much out of some things. But you can bet I kept tabs on how things were going from that day on.

So when the “teaser” child showed up in that junior year history class, HSB’s anxiety ratcheted itself up and he started to obsess about his nemesis being in class with him. We did have to calm him down and we told him that the para would take care of anything if the “teaser” child started in again. But I also knew "teaser" child really wouldn’t. Junior year is very touchy for kids in highschool and any disciplinary issue is required to be explained on your college applications. None of the children in this school district want any blemishes on their record so the “teaser” spent the year ignoring HSB and HSB spent the year ignoring the “teaser.” Sometimes that is all you can do too.

Children need to learn to deal with incidents on a daily basis that don’t exactly meet the criteria of fairplay as well. Should the “teaser” and his friends have gotten detention? Probably. Should I have decided to advocate more vociferously about the fairness aspect…sometimes you have to pick your battles and let things slide and sometimes you don't stay quiet. I would have to say that my allowing the school to deal with the issue the way they thought best at the time helped with them adhering to my demands on how they deal with HSB last year. As I said HSB had a very bad year last year. His anxiety was off the charts which caused meltdowns and rudeness and numerous inappropriate issues. It is one thing to have these behaviors when you are 8 years old and 50 pounds. It is quite another to have these issues when you are almost 6 feet and 200 pounds. So the school understood HSB and that is what I was going for.

Meanwhile, the beginning of this school year has been exceptional for HSB. He has a terrific schedule with only 3 or 4 classes on most days. He has plenty of downtime and support (well he always had the support) and his case manager is the same one from last year. She is very invested in HSB doing well and I couldn’t be happier. She is also the bowling coach and like last year made sure that HSB had his medical charts in so he could start with the bowling team in November.

I have received numerous emails that HSB is being very social. Working well in groups and doing his homework without too much prompting. There was a bit of a transition issue in math, but the school had him talk to the math teacher and he apologized for his attitude and it has been good since then. Meanwhile HSB told me nothing had happened and that he never had to talk to the math teacher. I let it go. Most 16/17 year olds don’t like to tell their parents everything and as long as the school is informing me about what is going on, I will let HSB have this teen idiosyncrasy.

I think that an important point needs to be made here and that is we did a huge change up of meds for HSB this past summer. I have posted before about being careful with medications and watching your children, but the difference that we have seen in him as far as his interactions in school is nothing short of him being a different person. Many medications if overdosed can cause depression, more not less anxiety and interfere with their thought process. We started with a doctor who specializes in how to medicate the autistic brain (sometimes less is more) and his understanding that the mix of medications is also different for the autistic brain.

What we have seen is the blossoming of HSB. He is engaging, sweet (to others not me of course I am still mom and Satan’s emissary on earth) and interactive. He picks up on unspoken verbal cues from his paras and teachers and even tires to engage collegeman in conversation. Even their relationship has taken a better turn. Interestingly collegeman has requested joint counseling for the two of them with the therapist so they can deal with their issues. Since they see the same therapist, HSB didn’t mind and the therapist thought it was a good idea. Maybe that helped too. But HSB was open to everything and I do think that it has a lot to do with his medication.

I know how much we hate the fact that our children are guinea pigs and that the only way to find out what works or doesn’t is to give it to our children. I think though that the problem here for me was that I let it go on just too long. I should have asked for additional advice the minute HSB started having issues in school, instead of waiting for the meltdown that occurred at the end of his junior year. I know that everyone will say, you can only do your best, but what I didn’t know is just how different things should and could be. We kept chalking a lot of the behaviors up to his age and the autism, instead of where it should have been, on the wrong and too much medication.

I think at least we learned our lesson and the minute there are personality or behavioral changes I am going straight to the psychiatrist and going to review the meds. He even told me that if something is working today doesn’t mean it will work 6 months from now and that we do need to be vigilant. Well I will give him that. I won’t give him telling me that collegeman can’t go to law school because the social paradigm will be too hard for him, that is a Rubicon I will cross with that doctor when and if I have to, (how many lawyers have you met that didn’t have some sort of issue or t’other), even doctors can learn a few things about autism. But for now this psychiatrist knows his meds and has helped one of my sons. We are planning for him to review collegeman’s meds too, maybe that will also help stop collegeman’s seizures and make it easier for his social interactions as well. I don’t’ put anything past medication in today’s world, helping or being the cause of issues. I tell you medication is such a godsend, but you have to be so careful all the time.

Until next time,


P.S. Collegeman was in the Epilepsy Center at Beth Israel Hospital this weekend having a video EEG because his anti-seizure medication levels were so high but his seizures had returned (his bloods were taken at the beginning of the summer, while the seizures restarted in August). Interestingly they took another blood level in the hospital and the medication which we had kept at the same levels was practically nonexistent. The levels had gone from very high to extremely low in practically a split second.The discrepancy in the blood levels was amazing. It meant that all of a sudden collegeman had started to metabolize the  medicine making it less effective than before. The neurologist said that that was why collegeman was starting to have seizures again, so they are raising his antiseizure medicine levels. It is interesting I think that this happened and I think a good warning as the psychiatrist said that at any time medicine can change and its usefullness can change. Collegeman is almost 20 and really developing that male musculature. His testosterone levels must be raging and his body changing dramatically both externally and especially internally. We always think that puberty stops when they stop growing upwards, but it continues well into their twenties, especially for young men. I think a study should be done about the effect of hormones on medication and autism. That would be a great study. Maybe it would provide a few more answers and a few heads-up to parents as well.