Friday, September 21, 2012

No Such Thing as Free Alterations

Remember when you used to be able to buy clothes and the store would alter them for you?  Your pants would be hemmed, taken in at the seat or sleeves or whatever you needed for that perfect fit.  You'd stand in the dressing room and the sales lady would come with big white chalk and mark up your new clothes.

You'd return in a few days and voila, your clothes would fit perfectly!

If only it worked that way in the world of autism, mark something up with chalk and boom a couple days later, presto, everything fits, everything is clean, pressed and beautiful, off the rack.

Maya just finished her third week of school and things are, well, a little off.

To be honest there has been a lot of change for her to process in a short amount of time.  Besides the obvious, the new school year, Maya is in a new class with new teachers although most of the kids are kids that were in 2nd grade with her and her closest friends are with her.  But I think 3rd grade has slightly more of an expectation for independence than 2nd grade.  It's hard to tell of course from this vantage point.  I have talked very briefly with one of Maya's teachers this past week and he told me that Maya is doing pretty well so far although all the kids have to adjust, but that she was happy in the second week when reading and math started.

Happy with reading?  Um, are you sure you are talking about my child?

The bus is particularly difficult right now.  

Maya's driver is a truly lovely and patient man but he is at his wits end with her as she apparently not only yells, screams and throws stuff but gets all the other kids doing it too.  The worst is that she keeps taking off her seat belt during the ride.

The poor driver has aged about 20 years in the past 2 weeks.

Last year when she was also acting up I suggested he put her in the front seat with him rather than in the back seat of the bus by herself.  At the time he was not really willing to do that because every kid has an assigned seat (although no one was assigned next to him) but now I asked him to do it again to see if she would settle down.  I also gave Maya a sticker chart so for 5 stickers, each one representing a day when she behaved well on the bus and after 5 days she can choose a new game on the iPad for under 2 Euros.

We haven't done a sticker chart in a good 2 or 3 years so I figure since they have not been a frequent visitor as of late, there is a chance it might work.

As of this evening there are 3 stickers on the chart, although our au pair told us that the report today was only so-so but she gave her a sticker anyway, lucky I wasn't home because I wouldn't have.

At home things are okay but I can see that Maya is struggling with all the change.  We are not having meltdowns but just a lot of not listening, disobeying and "I don't want to's."  Our new au pair, with us for a month is trying to find her way with Maya but Maya's totally taking advantage of the newness of the situation and taking her for a ride, taking her old sweet time with everything, stalling left, right and center.

It's a little tough right now but we've seen this before, it's Maya's usual pattern that she falls into when she has to face a lot of change.  The good great news is that usually when these periods of change happen, obstinance is usually accompanied by it's constant companion, meltdowns.  So far we are not melting down.

Not melting down is always a good thing.

I am no expert on behavior and I am not a perfect parent.  I lose my cool at times when Maya.  But mostly when she is having a difficult period I try to just ride it out, I try to be patient with her, I try to find the balance between nurturing and discipline, which is always a moving target.

I don't always succeed.

One of the many things I´ve learned on this journey is that just like altering Maya is no easy, presto-chango operation, neither is learning how to be the right kind of parent on this journey.   I am sometimes too permissive, opt for what is easy over what is right and other times I don´t give her enough space or patience.

Not only is dealing with autism a process but so is parenting.

I feel very lucky that Maya is such a happy child that a lot of the time she can be convinced out of obstinance with a tickle or a hand hold or a hug to snap out of her funk, I feel lucky that she never stays sad for long and that while obstinance sometimes arrives and stays for a stretch, sadness never seems to.

I am not grateful for my daughter's autism but I am grateful for her character.

In Maya's school every Friday the teachers send home a letter to the parents which goes over what was done over the past week.  In second grade letters were hit or miss, sometimes they did them and sometimes not and they were usually one little paragraph which told us the new words of the week and about how the kids had fun in gym class and some little generic sentences about the learning theme.  Every semester the class explores one or two themes, like at the end of the last school year the theme was vacation and the words they learn and use are vacation related, the stories are vacation related, etc.  Trouble was that the themes each last about a month so basically you had the same two sentences for a month which basically gives you no information.

Not that I wasn't appreciative, but they were short on details.  And of course Maya being Maya tells you even less than the form letter.

Letters from third grade, at least so far are a different species.  First off they are at least 2 pages.  Although they do not speak of your kid specifically they do talk about what they have been doing in detail and they talk about the mood in the class.

Today we got an extra letter because today was Sports Day at school   It was great, they gave us a list of the sports activities and what the kids liked and didn't like.  Because I was armed with information I could ask Maya more detailed questions about her day and she told me much more than our usual how was school/fine serve and volley.

I am grateful that even in the midst of difficulty, there is good news too. 

This week is Yom Kippur, the most important holiday of the year in the Jewish calendar.  A day of self reflection, of coming before G-d and asking forgiveness for your sins.  I am not a religious person and I am not big into the ritual of Yom Kippur.  I do believe in G-d but I don´t believe praying should consist of the mere asking of things for oneself so I am not asking G-d for this but I am wishing and hoping that I can find both the strength and the clarity to be more patient and I do ask for forgiveness for those times I was irritated or angry instead of focused and understanding.  I do pray that I can be what she needs to grow and develop to her fullest potential.

My wish for her is that no matter what her difficulties I can show her through my words, deeds and actions to love and be good to herself, imperfections and all.

I don´t think it can be drawn with chalk, but I do believe it can be reached.

1 comment:

  1. I can totally empathize. I also critique my own use of parenting controls. Am I too strict, too permissive, mixed signals, the whole nine yards. Our children all have added difficulties with change, and I can sense your frustration with the school bus issue, where you don't control the situation, and your child gets out of hand. A subject very close to my heart :-/