Category Archives: Child Psychology

Self Advocacy, Autism, and School

I picked up my kids early on Friday so they could see the child psychologist. It was my daughter’s first official visit, her initial evaluation yielded ADHD but the rest of it is stuff she herself wants to work on, and it looks to be trauma related at first glance. She has bad dreams, wants to be kinder, and needs help figuring out when to draw the line with her friends and siblings-she knows she can be a bit of an instigator if not a bully.

But when it was Oldest Son’s turn it got real. He told us about school that day, how when he got to his classroom he had to wait for the teacher to get there and so he picked up a book to read at his desk.

He reads incessantly, you know. It’s a coping thing, he distracts himself with it and it’s the most benign behaviour issue he has ever had- well, except for when Middle Kid pulled him out of the way of a moving car when Oldest was reading while walking through a parking lot and starting wandering off track. But he can’t hear you when he is reading. The teacher hates it. He yells Oldest’s name over and over to get his attention and on the fourth or so attempt Oldest Son might hear.

The special ed teacher has been sending me emails this year. Telling me things like my son is a black and white thinker, my son argues, my son lacks social skills.

Yes, I always reply. Yes, he is autistic. Then I go into solutions. These are all in his IEP, anyway, but the entire special ed team has turned over since last year and I feel like the new team might not understand Oldest in particular and autism in general.

I have asked them to tap him on the shoulder instead of yelling at him. Oldest is embarrassed by the yelling, he is already different and his differences are starting to bother him. He even shushed me for speaking Persian in a parking lot the other day. So I started singing in Turkish. I am not good at being shushed anymore. I digress. I was going to talk to the teacher about all this at conferences, later this week.

So back to the reading. Oldest is reading, teacher comes in and yells his name and Oldest does not hear. So the teacher goes up to him and asks for the book and Oldest hands it over. Teacher then chucks the book across the room. This is not a school book. This is my son’s personal book from home. His own property.

My son is telling this story and he is sobbing. He already has a cold and it is Friday and he has been maintaining all week in this neurotypical world and I am immensely proud of him and sorry that I rushed him into the car earlier when he was trying to tell me something, probably this. I am not good at talking outside in 10 below, to be fair. But he has been trying to advocate for himself and has been accused of arguing, he has been trying to tell me what happened, and I have rushed him and told him “later”, and here he is in the psychologist office telling his story in a very linear manner, very straightforward, while sobbing. Good for him.

He will know I listened next Tuesday, when he walks into his new classroom with his new teacher.

So this was Friday, though, and I can’t do anything with administration after school on Friday. But I can go get his book back for him. I dropped the boys off at home as Oldest Son did not want to go back in the class and I took the Youngest with me to get the book. We knew it was thrown under a chair and that was all we knew about how to find it. Youngest was confident she could.

Guess who was there?

It was his teacher. I told him Oldest forgot his book, which was now on his desk and I saw his wiggle chair and asked if it helped and he said yes but that the books were a problem. I said “Really, he uses them to self regulate.” and tried to back out of there. But my daughter, my fearless bossy curious daughter went up to him and said “Oldest said you threw a book.” and teacher said “He wouldn’t stop reading!” and turns to me and says “All the other kids were sitting ready to learn…” and I stopped listening and protectively guided my daughter out of the room and told him to have a good weekend.

Because there is no other autistic kid in the classroom.

All the other kids. All the other kids are not working with IEPs and living with electrical storms in their brains and trying to navigate life without social cues. I knew right then that my son wasn’t going to ever be understood or empathized with in that classroom. All the other kids, indeed, are not like my son.

Look, I know the book throwing is reason enough. I am an abuse survivor and so is Oldest. I know that was assault by proxy, violence on a belonging implies violence on the owner. I know. But I wasn’t ready to condemn a person based on temper, because I have one of my own. I can throw shit and get away with it, maybe. But this is a professional who works with children. He can’t be a beast about anything. I shouldn’t be excusing people, it’s a bad habit, but I am sure I am far from the only victim who does this habitually.

So I didn’t sleep well on Friday. I talked to a few moms, we agreed, as does the psychologist, that a classroom change is best. Despite the disruption and stress it causes my son at least he won’t feel unsafe, singled out, or like his teacher hates him. I can’t imagine a new place is more stressful than those feelings.

I was ready to go in there and get pissed off in a couple of languages, I had a lot of scenarios running through my head and none of them made me look anywhere close to sane. But it didn’t turn out that way. I put on a suit and threw the IEP copy from my filing cabinet into a soft sided briefcase. I got the director to meet with me nearly immediately and I wasn’t forceful or alarming. I managed to be pleasant, a useful survival skill. She called in the special ed director after ten minutes, and a half hour later we were decided and I only had to say “violence” one time.

I just know I am grateful for having a room full of women who could see how the IEP was not being followed and agree that we could do better and a change was in order.
I was planning for a fight and I got consensus.

I hear horror stories all the time from other parents of autistic kids. I can’t tell Oldest until the last day of the week that he is changing classrooms. I hope he knows he did this for himself, that his voice was heard. I wish it were different but he will have to be making choices to protect himself over and over from those who lack empathy. Funny how neurotypicals claim it’s the autistics who haven’t got any.

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Filed under ADHD, ASD, Asperger's, Autism, Bully, Bullying, Child Abuse, Child Psychology, Domestic Abuse, Domestic Violence, IEP, PTSD, SIngle Parenting, Trauma, Uncategorized

Middle Son

My middle child has probably had the most visibly rough time of it. He became his father’s favorite when he showed a willingness to engage in violence, a learned behaviour that it took four years for him to unlearn.

He has a touch of agoraphobia. He does not like to be out of the house more than two hours.

He has so much anxiety that he is always correcting everyone, arguing about the right way to say or do or even be this or that. He probably exhausts himself with it. I tell him every day to leave it alone but he has yet to learn how.

He is very discerning, he figured out the guy behind us is on drugs without hearing a word about it from me.

He is addicted to his Xbox, and cried today because his friend was not home and could not come over to play it with him.

He can’t eat dairy because it makes him angry. I keep him on medicine so that he doesn’t hurt other people with his initial angry impulses. It works well, but I have to constantly battle the insurance companies to get his prescription filled.

He would walk around sucking on lemons and eating raw onion when he was a baby. Not unusual in his father’s culture, but he gets a huge kick out of hearing about it now.

Today he began to throw a fit at the zoo (we had been there a long time) and he stopped himself. I think he has done this once before. I didn’t have to do much to calm him, I just reminded him that kids throwing fits get grounded and gave him a hug.

But sometimes when I remember that he collects glass sculptures, at eight years old, I feel a wonderment.

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Filed under Bully, Bullying, Child Abuse, Child Psychology, Domestic Abuse, Domestic Violence, Medication, ODD, PTSD, SIngle Parenting, Trauma, Uncategorized

More Than I

Today I picked up my Oldest Son during a downpour. As we left the front door of his friend’s house I held the little umbrella up over his head. He didn’t realize I had one at first, and he was afraid of the rain and of getting his video game controller wet so he was immediately grateful. He looked back and said “What about you, you don’t have one?” Meaning the umbrella. I told him I didn’t need one, I loved him more. He said “More than yourself, you love me? I thought you loved me and you equally.” I laughed at him and hugged him under the umbrella and told him that’s not how it works. He was so surprised.

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The Atheist’s Picnic

One or another of my kids comes home every month talking about hell. Their friends or classmates patiently explain to them that I am going to be going to hell, and that they will, too, if they don’t get it together and believe in x, y, z.

I tried to explain to my kids that this doesn’t work, that you cannot force belief. I asked them to imagine I was full of magic beans instead of blood and bones and etc. The older children got it but the baby couldn’t figure it out. Already the concept of hell is too familiar to her. She can believe that but not magic.

I asked her if it was fair to be in control of a person, their food, their destiny, their every material comfort, and to send them to some horrible place? Like would it be okay if I sent her to her room and told her she could only eat bread? She burst out crying. I have to undo this when she is older. Right now she can’t fathom how ridiculous it is to punish a person for a belief.

Belief is involuntary. Changeable, but involuntary.

I sat the older kids down and explained to them the origins and evolution of the concept of hell in Abrahamic traditions, how it was a valley outside of Jerusalem and etc. Gehennem to Jahannam. I left out the human sacrifice bits, not sure how sound those reports are, anyway. I did impress the smell and the sight of trash burning 24/7 on them, and they understood.

Next week in the city is the Monthly Atheist Picnic, with a playground and etc. I am going to take them just so I can point to the crowd and explain that none of these people believe mommy is going to hell. I hope it comforts them a bit.

I don’t care in what religion they end up, so long as the faith they choose is respectful and empathetic to others, and not just their own.

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Five Years Out- What I Learned This Year

We have been free for five years. The criminal order of protection expires in six years. We are down to two appointments per week from eight. I don’t have to log violent incidents because they are so few and far between. Here is what I have learned lately:

If you have a violent or hyper child, try cutting out dairy. Every bit of dairy, even butter, even buttermilk pancakes. Taking away dairy works like an antipsychotic, I am telling you true.

Your birth control pills or your estrogen can be making you sick. The side effects I am free from now that I have gotten off of The Pill are:
Stomach pain
Extreme persistent hunger
Eyes too dry to use contacts in
Cracking skin
Agoraphobic tendencies
Weight gain
Exhaustion
Sudden flares of temper
Irritability

I never suspected my Pill was hampering my recovery. Hard to control your PTSD when you are tired and irritable! Why was I on the Pill, when I live like a nun? For cysts. I get cysts inside and out and I would rather have them than the stomach pain I ended up with. Cyst pain is easier to deal with than that.

My Oldest Son did not experience his yearly regression. Possible reasons for the relief: 1)his obsessive and pervasive tendency to check out of reality and into books as a coping method
2)his anti-anxiety medication

He did NOT, however, ever gain back some of the skills he lost last year when he regressed. He is currently showing signs of stress- chewing his shirts, so I am still holding my breath a bit. But school is over in a week. I think this is going to be a regression free year.

It’s okay to be lazy. Sometimes you can’t go go go.

Thanks to the Sheriff, the DA, the DV Liaison, the Medical Team, and the friend who let us move into her basement almost five years ago. You made all things possible.

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The Remembering

The seasonal changes make you remember.

My son has been jumpy and irritable for a few weeks. Last week it was the anniversary of one of the worst beatings I had. Not because I broke a bone or required hospitalization, it was an unremarkable beating, as all mine were, in severity. It was a bad beating because I was stretched out fully over a bed trying to tuck sheets into corners when he started on me, right on my spine- a repetitive thing that left me feeling as I were hit by a truck for quite some time. It was the only beating I screamed through.

It was about five days before I could walk comfortably. I prefer to be kicked or hit on fleshy parts (luckily I was pretty overweight after having the babies and stayed that way all during breastfeeding). There are good reasons to be fat or to cut off all your hair when you are in an abusive relationship.

I don’t exactly remember after which beating it happened, my son’s rejection, but I think it was that one, because of the noise. Normally their father just got in a blow or two and walked off. This was an intentional and prolonged effort, and any kid awake could hear it. After my son tried to disassociate from me. He knew I could not keep him safe, after witnessing my inability to protect myself and seeing his father ridicule my pain. He refused my help putting him to bed, and he turned away from me when I offered to hug him. It really hurt. He did that for a day, tried to keep himself safe from his father by rejecting me. I knew what he was doing, but watching it was different from reading about it. It hurt so much I knew I had to leave. I didn’t want them to go through such psychological gymnastics in their toddlerhood. Just because he had stayed off of them for a few months did not mean he would never hit them again. They would never feel safe if they kept seeing him hurt me.

A week later he went insane and spent the night accusing me of having sexual relations with his own family members. Ridiculous stuff, things that could not possibly have happened. He was confused on timelines and could not remember when or where and he made up stories to fit his confusion and accused me of doing things I could not have done even were I so inclined.

This is what a decade of absolute loyalty and obedience will get you.

I spent the entire night patiently correcting him and reminding him that at that time this and that was happening and therefore he was mistaken and etc. By morning my temper was short, my children were up, and I had far more to do and could not spend any more time coddling his crazy. I told him in a loud voice that he ought to check with his family and leave me alone about it, because he was very wrong. In some other words, I am sure. Polite enough, but firm. He did not like firm women.

He got in one blow, on my back as I walked away, where I still had bruising. While I was holding the baby. He looked at the patio door- all glass to the outside walkway where anyone passing could see in, and he stopped.

What kind of coward beats a fat, quiet, breastfeeding woman on the back?

His mother saw the whole thing. She decided it was my fault- because I spoke to him above a whisper. This is a woman who watched me stand up for her every time her son abused her and yet walked away each time he took after me. I don’t understand her at all. I consistently pulled him off of her, even knowing he could turn on me. Shouldn’t she have returned the favor?

There was a lot more drama that day, and despite my efforts to avoid anything further I sustained some injuries later, nothing too serious.

We left in a police car, actually two.

Today my son turns to me as we walk into the school for a function and starts telling me about the police car he rode in five years ago, when he was three. He doesn’t remember being scared any longer, which was how he felt when he got out of the car and was reunited with me at the time. He remembers the hard plastic seats. He said they were comfortable. He obviously doesn’t quite remember accurately.

But he remembers, with no prompting from me whatsoever. Five years to the day.

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Helping Teela Hart’s Survivors

I know people have wondered about it: the way that one of my dearest friends passed out of this world in silence almost a year ago now – without a word from me about it on my blog. I have gnawed a hole in one cheek over her death and the subsequent silence that has […]

via Teela Hart’s Survivors. — Americana Injustica

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