I’m gonna give it to you straight: I’m f#@*ing tired. I am tired in ways I don’t even know how to describe. Everything is a fight, and right now I’m struggling with the fight to get professionals to understand.

I am physically exhausted. Let me start what I’m about to explain with a couple of quotes:

“I have worked with well over one hundred kids on the spectrum, and I have never met a child as ‘active’ as Gus.” – Board Certified Behavior Analyst

“I have been doing this for over 7 years, and like I said, I have never seen a child as active as he is.” – Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not exaggerating when I tell you that my son is moving from “son up to son down”. The only time he is still is when he is asleep, and he has a lot of trouble doing that. I thought I had seen some “hyperactive” kids, but every one I have ever met has NOTHING on Augustus.

Let me paint a picture for you: I have just one lamp in my entire house because he has broken all of them. He has tore down curtains and the attached rods and their hardware on several occasions, and I finally gave up and tacked blankets up. I once had an acquaintance ask me “How are the curtain climbers?” in reference to my children. That would have been funny if it weren’t true. I have holes and bite marks in the curtains that remain. I have gone through countless “new to me” rummage sale recliners he has jumped on and body slammed and broken. The couch is stained and in shambles because he has jumped on and crashed onto it so often. I think even grandpa & grandma had a chair fall victim. I have holes in my walls from furniture being tipped over and crashed into the wall and from being jumped on and slid into the wall. My baseboard heaters are commonly disassembled. I cannot leave anything on my table or counters unless pushed all the way back to where little hands cannot reach, and he keeps getting taller. A coffee cup is broken in this house at least monthly. I cannot have food or drink in the living room or utilize the coffee table. The TV had to be mounted on the wall where it could not be reached. The refrigerator and pantry have to have locks, not because he would eat everything, but because he would dump everything out and tear everything up. The bathroom door has to be locked from the outside. Every exit to the outside has to be locked from the inside. My bedroom is locked from the outside. If not, he takes all the clothes out of the drawers and off the hangers. When I say locked, I mean rigged so Gus cannot open, which sometimes means Ada cannot open, which means more work for me. These precautions are for his safety. He seems to have no impulse control. He unravels toilet paper. When he is allowed access to the bathroom, he will put everything he can find in the toilet and bathtub, and then turn the bathtub on full blast. He throws things off of bookshelves just for fun. He tears things open and apart. He takes things out of drawers and cupboards and runs throughout the house with them. He enjoys watching TV or his tablet, but he cannot sit still while doing that either. He has to be running, jumping, and crashing or spinning, twirling, and flapping. He hates having the lights on in the house, and turns them off every opportunity he can get. It’s an endless battle to have the lights on at night to get things done. He likes to hear the noise of things hitting the ground. He likes to watch things hit the ground. Even in his car seat, he squeals, squirms, and kicks the chair in front of him. I am telling you, he absolutely cannot sit still. CANNOT. This all started when he was very young, and the only change is that he is heavier and taller now, therefore, more destructive.

He is nonverbal, but he is NOT quiet. He makes all kinds of squeals, sounds, noises, and babbles. He loves noise. It is comforting to him to make noise.

He struggles to wind down and shut his body and mind off. He will not sleep without a dose of melatonin, and wakes up every single morning between 2 and 4 AM squealing, screaming, jumping, and crashing. We have modified things so he is safe in his room and not wandering about the house at these times, but it’s still not quiet. If we are lucky, he falls asleep again after an hour or two.

I’m used to this. I’m exhausted, but in a permanent state of exhaustion. I’m used to it. What is concerning is that this “extreme activeness” is inhibiting his ability to learn. He has to get up after just a few minutes of sitting and just jump in place. He has to take breaks to crash into beanbags. Even when he is trying to focus and sit still he still has to move; kicks his feet, shakes his head, etc. He tries so hard, but he absolutely CANNOT keep still. It’s not his fault.

We give him plenty of opportunity to get his energy out in appropriate ways. We have a trampoline in the living room, a swing in his room, and various other things to try to help him feel calm. We have tried so many different sensory diets and tools I couldn’t even count them.

He requires constant supervision for his safety. I can try to lay on the couch or in my room or anywhere, but I have to make sure he is within at least hearing distance. If he has access to me when I am laying down or trying to rest, he climbs on me, jumps on me, pushes against me seeking pressure. Therefore, until he falls asleep or he is in someone else’s care, I do not “rest”.

Anytime we are out of the house, he has to be holding someone’s hand or he will bolt away. He has no danger awareness, stranger danger, or impulse control. He communicates primarily physically right now, and will walk up to anyone and grab their hand if he wants to go somewhere or have access to something. He has zero concept of personal space. If he sees something he wants, he takes it, whether it be food on someone’s plate or someone’s personal valuables.

I guess that sums up the physical tired and a bit of the mental, too. I have to always be on my toes anticipating what he might get into, onto, etc. You could not imagine the effort it takes to even just attempt to keep the house in some order.

Then there’s the fight and the emotional exhaustion. The fight to get people to understand. The fight to make sure he is given the same rights as others. The fight for services and HELP.

Gus’ therapists and my husband and I decided that the hyperactivity was something that needed to be addressed since it was really negatively effecting GUS’ life. Covid-19 made getting an appointment with a clinical psychologist a chore in itself. I won’t go into the boring details, but it took appointments, several phone calls, and a whole lot of waiting just to be seen. THEN I filled out lots and lots of information for the psychologist and talked to him/her on the phone a couple of times for extended periods of time. The day of the appointment comes and the psychologist decides we would be fine meeting via Zoom (video conferencing). I was fine with that if that was what they felt was best. They said they were happy to be a part of Gus’ care team and follow-up with him throughout life. At the same time, said psychologist told us he/she was unsure of what he/she could do for us. They had letters from Gus’ primary care physician, had talked to Gus’ BCBA on the phone, and talked to me on the phone TWICE. We were very specific in letting them know that we wanted to address his hyperactivity, sleep problems, and bouts of sadness and crying. The meeting ended with “Well, I didn’t see him, so I can’t diagnose him with anything, but I think you could try…” There was more to it, but not worth explaining. It was just stupid. I’m not really sure why we jumped through all of the hoops if this is how things were going to go down. Needless to say, we have all decided a second opinion is needed. All parties involved kind of got the vibe that said psychologist was not interested in working this case. I wish he/she would have just said so. What a huge waste of time.

That’s the emotional and mental toll, besides the day-to-day frustration and heartbreak (on Gus and my part) of watching and seeing him cry and not being able to understand or help.

I am constantly rearranging our schedule, filling out paperwork, talking on the phone, e-mailing, arranging, explaining, persisting, and fighting. A constant balancing act.

We are lucky in that we have a few therapists who now somewhat understand Gus. I type “somewhat understand” because none of us fully understand. Everyone is different. Everyone on the autism spectrum is different. We all need to take the time to at least try to understand, or at least understand that everyone is different and accept that.

I always try to share the good, but sometimes I think it’s good to share the  hard, too.

It’s not that nothing has gotten “better”. He has improved in SO many ways, as I often share. It’s his hyperactivity that has not changed and is inhibiting more and further progress.

Needless to say, we are seeking a second opinion. AKA here we go again. I have to call the insurance provider tomorrow and two different professionals to try to get this ball rolling all over again.

I have no idea what the answers are or what needs to happen.

As I mentioned, I am f#@*ing exhausted, but I will never stop fighting.

The Fight

Summer is here. We’ve already used almost an entire bottle of sunscreen. We all have tan lines. That’s how it should be.

I am happy to say that our local swimming pool is OPEN, with precautions in place. I know just how lucky we are. Most public pools throughout the country are closed down amid the Covid-19 panicdemic. Going to the pool with my two children has and always will be an adventure. I have to admit, until this year, we had only been to the local pool MAYBE twice and my oldest is five-years-old. This was only partly due to our busy schedule. The other part was ME. Having two small children close in age made going to the pool terrifying. The fact that one has zero danger awareness and the other is quite cautious and that neither of them can swim makes for a wild time. Now that they are older and I found them floaties they can wear, life at the pool has gotten much easier. I have succumbed to the fact that I will most likely never be the mom that gets to sit on the side of the pool reading a book and soaking up the sun. I will always be the mom in the pool. I’m okay with that. Fortunately, both kids love the water. As I stated, Gus is fearless! He will float/swim himself anywhere and has zero fear. Ada is very cautious, doesn’t like to get her face wet (especially not the eyes), and usually has a tight grip on me or someone else. What is a sensory seeking little boy’s favorite part of the pool?: The jets where the water comes out on the side of the pool. He will find one of those and hang out there as long as he can, placing his hand(s) in front of it. Ada took swimming lessons this year and has gained a lot of confidence. I really want Gus to learn to swim, but will have to maybe wait until he is a little older and find somewhere that specializes in teaching those on the spectrum. The hardest part of going to the pool with the kids, at least when I am alone, is leaving. I have to get the kids and myself dried off, gather all of our things, and get everyone’s shoes on all while holding Gus’s hand. If I don’t, he will take off and jump right back into the pool.

I also set up an inflatable pool in our yard. Both of the kids enjoyed that. What did a sensory seeking little boy enjoy most?: Leaning onto/out of the pool so the water would cascade out to make mud. He also enjoyed getting in and out and bolting at a dead run. A good workout for me.

Speaking of bolting, we are doing our best to try to have a privacy fence installed around the perimeter of our yard. It would be such a relief to be able to be outside and play with BOTH kids not have to worry about Gus running out into the street or getting into any other forms of danger. He could then RUN without having to have his little hand in mine and burn off that excessive energy he carries around with him at all times.

While we are on the topic of excessive energy…I always talk about Gus’s energy level. People kind of brush it off in thinking “He’s a boy. They’re wild and energetic!” I’m like “No, you do NOT understand. I am talking holes in the wall, biting holes in my curtains, literally climbing the walls, like nothing I have ever seen before!” We can’t have lamps in our house because he will break them. I am talking hyperactivity like I have never seen. Anyway, one of his therapists and I were talking…You know how they have to be so very careful about what they say because they are not “doctors” and can’t diagnose things per se…Well, she finally admitted to me that she has worked with well over 100 kids on the spectrum and Gus is “most definitely the most active” she has ever worked with. She told me that she has worked with a lot of kids with a lot of energy, but apparently Gus takes the cake. Honestly, I feel vindicated! That being said, it has been recommended and we have decided that Gus should see a clinical psychologist again. Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat emotional, mental, and behavioral conditions. A clinical psychologist gave Gus his diagnosis of ASD/SPD. We have no idea if there is anything more to his behavior than his ASD/SPD, but we want to rule anything else out. His abundance of energy and “hyperactivity” along with his extreme sensory seeking tendencies make it very hard for him to focus and pay attention to learn. Some days are definitely better than others, but we really want to make sure we are doing everything we can and dealing with and treating everything we need to for him to live his best life. Getting him in to see the clinical psychologist is going to be another of the many “jump through hoops” processes we come across in this journey; ESPECIALLY, with Covid-19 going on. I have to get an appointment with his primary doctor just to get the referral to a clinical psychologist and then hope they are taking patients anytime in the near future. It’s all a big headache, but we will get it done.

ASD is a SPECTRUM. No two individuals with a diagnosis of ASD are the same. Gus seems to be quite the little mystery. His therapists have told me more than once that he makes them work and think and really flex their skills. He can exhibit a behavior for a few weeks and then all of a sudden it’s gone for a few weeks, only to reappear again. Every time we meet a new physician or therapist, I know they think I’m nuts because explaining Gus is not easy. There are no simple answers of “yes” and “no” to their questions.

Right now we are dealing with a lot of crying. Gus is “minimally” verbal. Therefore, he cannot tell me, or anyone else for that matter, why he is crying. He will sometimes cry for up to an hour at a time. It’s real tears. A sad cry. Could this be a medical issue? Is he in pain? Is this an attention seeking behavior? Is this an automatic behavior? Is he being denied access to something he wants but cannot portray? Can I just for a second express how amazingly hard it is to watch your baby cry and have no idea how to make it better? It’s terrible. I am as “in tune” with Gus as a person can be, but that doesn’t mean I can always figure it out, and to be blunt, it sucks. We have a functional analysis (FA) on the schedule for this next week. A functional analysis is a completely controlled environment in which you try to provoke the undesired behavior. So, in our case, the undesired behavior is crying. This will at least HOPEFULLY help us narrow down if this is behavior related or perhaps medical. Either way, we are doing the FA, as well as having him be seen by his primary physician AND a pediatrician that specializes more in children on the spectrum. Of course, this is all pending referral and Covid-19 hoorah-doorah.

In awesome news, Gus is learning! He knows some shapes and colors. Don’t get me wrong, he is always learning, but I am talking preschool-type learning. He understands so much more than people give him credit for. Just because he cannot say a word absolutely does not mean he does not know what a word means.

We get words out of him here and there; primarily, food and drink requests, although he generally has to be prompted to do so. He very much prefers physical communication. He would prefer to take you and show you. He would prefer to place your hand on what he wants or needs.

We are still working on potty training to a point with minimal success. A lot of this is on me. Ideally, I would like him to be potty trained by the time it’s time for school, but I also have other goals I find more important and appropriate that he is more ready for in the meantime. It will all come together and work out. 

We had a lot of fun this weekend celebrating America. I never know how Gus will react to fireworks, but this year he loved them. In typical Amanda fashion, I could be seen with a punk in my mouth like a cigarette trying to light it with a lighter with a jumping and wild Gus holding my other hand with Ada looking on fairly impatiently. Thankfully, as usual, I eventually recruited the help of my family. Grandpa, Grandma, Aunt Emily, and Uncle Anthony were to the rescue. Gus likes fireworks a little too much, and would take off after them. Dane eventually returned from work and put Gus on his shoulders while he lit off some Roman candles, and Gus thoroughly enjoyed that. We had minimal meltdowns and tears, and only a couple of physical altercations.

We also attended the local firework display our volunteer fire department puts on at the lake. That went much better than last year with just a few tears, scraped knees, and some physical altercations in the wagon. The wagon was a God send, as we could strap Gus in there to watch. Fireworks happen when it’s dark and late, and Gus does not get “tired”; he gets absolutely wound up until he passes out from exhaustion. He and the rest of us enjoyed the show, and both kids were asleep by the time we got back to town.

We also attended a family get-together and celebrated some postponed birthdays. On the short trip there, Gus somehow got a bloody nose that went unnoticed until we pulled up. Therefore, I spent several minutes in the 100 degree heat trying to get his face cleaned up and his nose to stop bleeding. He had smeared blood over his entire face and had blood on his shirt. Thankfully, Dane was present to help hold him. Have I mentioned the hyperactivity and that he HATES having his face touched? That was an adventure that very nearly had me in tears.

Gus turned FOUR in June and his sister turned FIVE in March. It’s hard to believe.

As always, I have a whole lot of other things I would love to put into words sometime, but for now this is it.

Enjoy SUMMER, and I will try to get back to blogging on a more regular basis. It’s good for me.

       -AMomsFaithUnbroken

Summertime Update