Ms. Wordy Wednesday pops along to say hi de ho to me.
“Cute! He draws quite well. Glad he’s conquering his dislike of pencils. The paint must have been quite a challenge too.”
“Ooo you have such a good memory.”
“So that’s it then?”
“Of course not.”
“You’re very curt today!”
“They’re all off school for a week.”
“In my dreams!”
“So um title……..expressing feelings and emotions perhaps?”
“Very good indeed.”
“He’s happy, hence the rainbow?”
“Actually that was a bit deceptive of me. I wanted to talk about depression.”
“Oh. Not exactly my field of expertise.”
“So are you feeling a bit down?”
“Not me, him.”
“The little one.”
“How old is he again?”
“7! Can you be "depressed" at 7?”
“Actually he’s had periods of depression since he was about 3.”
“3? Are you sure, I mean, ….how do you know? Has he been diagnosed by a doctor?”
“No, it’s just my best guess really.”
“Hmm it’s not that I doubt you exactly, ……it’s just that…..I’ve never heard of that before and………if a doctor hasn’t diagnosed him then…….well…..it just seems a little unlikely………doesn’t it?”
“I tend to agree with you.”
“So what makes you think he’s depressed?”
“Well he went to an early intervention class when he was little for a couple of mornings a week. Sometimes, every few weeks, he became unresponsive. He sat in his chair, a rarity in itself, and just wept silent tears.”
“The staff would ask him what was wrong and he either wouldn’t answer or just say that he was sad.”
“That is sad.”
“He’d just be all floppy.”
“Not ill perhaps?”
“Nope, nothing like that, just inert.”
"He'd stop eating too, couldn't even be tempted by Goldfish Crackers."
"Really serious then!"
"And of course he became nocturnal."
"Actually, not nocturnal, just awake all the time. No sleeping at any time."
"That must have been exhausting."
"It was a terrible worry because he'd wander around all night and I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to help him if I simply keeled over myself."
“What did you do about it?”
“Well at first……to be honest, nothing really. I had no experience of depression and we were still trying to learn all about autism.”
“I did remember that the physician who first diagnosed him said to consider medications because many autistic people suffer from depression, especially in their teenage years and had very high suicide rates.”
“He told you that then!”
“Yes, it felt like another slap in the face at the time but thinking back it helped me join the dots.”
“So how often does this happen?”
“Less frequently actually. It used to be every two or three months and last for 3 to 5 days.”
“A few times a year few days.”
“So now he can talk more, do you get any more clues?”
“Broadly speaking, it all boils down to self esteem.”
“Self esteem! In a 7 year old!”
“I know it sounds daft, but so much of it is feelings of worthlessness.”
“Geez Maddy I don’t know what to say.”
“That’s o.k. I don’t really know either. We just do the same for all of them, help them achieve small things that are really huge for them and make sure that they know that we understand and appreciate just how difficult some things are for them.”
“I think we should be doing that for all kids anyway.”
“How right you are.”
On a practical note, there are a few 'techniques' [how I hate that word!] that have proved helpful for my children. The first would be "Carol Gray's" social stories. Mine are of a much more simple, home grown variety, but when they see cartoons of them selves in a 'book' where their continued failed attempts eventually end in success, this has proved a great way of giving them positive feedback and reinforcement.
Why does it work? Difficult to say, but probably a combination the following:-
1. Being a visual learner
2. We're all ego maniacs at heart
3. We know that personalized products are a popular buy line
4. There's nothing like tangible evidence for the doubting Thomas
5. Many people respond to one on one time
6. ......it's fun!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Which half would you like?
It’s one of those little American oddities, a few words that are completely incomprehensible.
You can read it on a page, you can say it out loud, the net effect is the same. What on earth are they on about now? But that was in the good old days when I was a fresh faced immigrant. Years have now passed and I am far wiser. Non-Americans will be pleased to learn that Americans do not have diddy little baths. This is America, the land of big, bigger and the bestest.
Many moons ago in England, I lived with my family in a tall Victorian terraced house. Tacked on the back of the house as an after thought no doubt, was the bathroom. The bathroom had a bathtub, a toilet and a hand basin, but not very much else. It did have a deadbolt and a lock with a rusty old key the size of my small hand, but you needed the strength of a rugby player to shut the door, let alone lock it. All five of us were good sharers and privacy was non existent.
If we were really desperate, there was always the option of the old lean to toilet in the back yard next to the air raid shelter.
This original toilet was there before the bathroom was tacked on.
It was a place only for the brave.
I am, and always have been, a cowardy custard.
Hence I have little sympathy with the current generation of children in my care when it comes to foibles.
When it comes to foibles, which it usually does, their father has one, a foible that is to say. Every morning he shaves in the bathroom next to the kitchen. The bathroom has no bath and is the same size as a crampt cupboard. Standing room only. As he froths and shaves, rivulets of water run down his hands and forearms to collect on his elbows and then drip onto the linoleum floor. Two little puddles of dribbles, every day. This is no great hardship. What is great hardship, for me at least, are the blood curdling screams from my son, every day, when he decides to use the bathroom and finds his path blocked by his dribbling father.
The bulk that blocks his way isn’t the hardship. The hardships are the two puddles. It would be easy to step over the two puddles located closest to the sink, especially if you only have child sized 13 feet and are on your tippy toes, or easy for some people. Other people pogo on the spot and scream, loudly, every day.
Many people, would learn that if you encounter the same problem every day, it might be a good idea to find an alternative solution, preferably a quieter one. Other people need help finding solutions. It is hard to find a solution when you can’t hear. Generally speaking, it is hard to hear if you are screaming your lungs out.
All too often, I find myself just looking at him. I have to remind myself that he has an ‘on’ switch and an ‘off’ switch but no dimmer function, a period when he could think and work out an alternative. It’s an all or nothing approach to life. The absurd can sometimes seem ironic. It is quite sobering for me to realize that this is not a child having a hissy fit or a meltdown, but someone struggling with a gargantuan obstacle, a puddle that might just as well be Niagara Falls. It’s tempting to giggle, a nasty habit that I seem to have acquired over the years.
Instead, I wait a moment to see if the frenzy is spiraling up or down. If it’s on the up and time is precious, I have no option but to scoop him up and cart him off to the loathed toilet down the hall. If it’s on the down, then we have the opportunity to repeat the sequence, to find an acceptable alternative, every day.
Maybe one day, he’ll step over this hurdle all by himself. Just as with so many of the other foibles. It won’t disappear but he will find other ways of coping all by himself. Maybe soon.