Sunday, November 15, 2009

No Reason

We only have a few weeks left until our 12 weeks with a para sub are finished. Daniel's para is on a 12 week family medical leave. She had a beautiful baby boy this summer and starting with the first day of school started 12 weeks off to be at home. While I was very happy for her, this left me with a lot of anxiety as this meant for us, the first 12 weeks of middle school were with a sub. We had tried to arrange a sub of "choice" and because of many different reasons, that didn't work out. Except for some minor bumps in the beginning and the horrible two days during the full moon, things have gone remarkably well. The sub who has stayed with him came in on day two and after a week of subbing agreed to stay on until Mindy (his long time para) comes back on November 30. Let me say, this sub has been AWESOME. We have been so so lucky to have her for these weeks. I can't imagine the difficulty if we'd had to bounce around from person to person this whole time. But it has obviously been an adjustment. She doesn't know Daniel, although she's learned pretty quickly and has a wonderful calm nature about her that he needs.

During the "full moon incident" I could feel myself wanting that date to come. As great as his new school has been and as well as they have gotten to know him, they still don't KNOW him like Mindy does. I've felt that these last two weeks. Again, this week a few things "happened". I have been working closely with his teachers. They have talked to me a lot trying to sort out the "Danielisms" that appear that they don't know what to do with. I can shed some light for them, but without being there and just hearing their explanation of things, it can be hard to figure out.

This past Thursday apparently right after I got in the shower to get ready for work, my cell phone rang. I didn't hear it obviously and since it was charging in my family room the next 30 minutes that I was getting ready I had no idea they had called. Of course they never called my home phone either, but I had told them cell first. I, silly me, figured that they would then try my home number, but I guess not. I was walking out the door to head to the office and my gut kicked in. I thought, "I had better check my email". Which I did. Only to find these two emails:

1. I need your to call me right away 3*3-$%^$ then 20 minutes later....

2. Re: Okay, I think we are okay...hopefully. I will call you if anything else happens. Ms. _____ did not do anything and Daniel went after her and got in her face.

First I know from first hand knowledge that it is scary when Daniel comes at you. He is big. After a trip to the Dr. this week I know he is 170 pounds big and about 5'6" tall. He is careful not to touch you because that is his line. But it takes a strong person to stand there face to face with him. I know because I'm usually one of the people he'll do it too. The funny thing is, he'll only do that to the people he trusts. It's almost like he is calling out to you for help. But I digress, I need some feedback here to know what your reaction would be, because my reaction to the email's was NOT GOOD. First I called the number in email number 1 and no one picked up. Probably because things were under control and they were back to class. So I left a message saying I was in the shower and missed the call and that I would email her.

So I emailed and "lost it" in my email. I was pissed. More than pissed. I told a friend of mine that I was yelling at a teacher in an email and she said "you mean with all CAPS?" . . . not that much yelling, but I answered and copied my husband, the social worker and the AI teacher consultant. I tried to explain my rage as I will try to explain it to you, my readers. First I'll say as I mentioned earlier they aren't asking me to come and get him or anything like that, they are letting me know of the situation and asking for my input on what triggered him, usually. I am fine with that. If anyone can help them find the triggers they will all be happier, including Daniel, my main concern. BUT that phrase "______didn't do anything and Daniel went after her and got in her face, set off my triggers. I know part of it goes back the fiasco 1st grade year where I heard daily and in meetings that "everything is fine and he can't handle it and goes off for no reason". I had a flashback, similar to the veteran who hears the car backfiring that makes a dive for cover. I went into defensive mode.
I explained as clearly as possible, that Daniel does not go off "for no reason". It may not be a reason that they see, but something set him off and it is up to THEM to figure it out. I will help but do not tell me it was for no reason. I went on and on and on. . . and on. I said my best guess, having no explanation expect he "went off", was among other things, that possibly some of the kids around him were acting up and no doing what they are supposed to and/or some of the work was too frustrating etc. His speech skills are still very limited, especially when he's upset. So he can snap in frustration. Which is what happened. I later learned that:

1. in 1st hour in computers his keyboard stopped working (who has not freaked out from their computer breaking down? and this sends him into orbit) It sounds like he actually handled it quite well. He "went to the boys room" which is one of his things he is supposed to do when he is stressed. It gives him a walk and an away safe place. He can sing in there, which helps calm him down. They switched his keyboard and he was back on target but still running a little higher than normal. On to second hour. . .

2. They were doing a very difficult assignment (sound familiar?) he was very frustrated with.

3. They had a lock down drill. He usually does well with these, but with the other two things having just happened he was on edge and apparently some of the kids were talking and laughing (which is against the rules). Making him lose it. (again, sound familiar? am I good or what?)

I didn't hear anything after my email went out except from my husband who said he was 100% behind me and he thought I explained my anger quite well. After talking to him I began to relax myself and headed off to work.

I got a rather surprised apology, still not really understanding MY losing it, but explaining she did not mean to offend me in any way. (and probably telling her co-workers that Mrs. Sneathen went off on her 'for no reason') :) I actually still couldn't bring myself to answer her so I didn't. I then got an email at 4:00 and again and 6:30 (in case I hadn't received it). I wasn't answering and I think I was driving her crazy, but I didn't want to answer until I felt better about the situation.

I finally responded the next day. I basically said I knew that nothing was meant by it, but that "for no reason" thing will set me off every time, again explaining why. The lesson for all of is pretty obvious....autistic or not, we all have triggers and they are different for everyone. The difference is that even in my anger I can sit down and write a comprehensive answer as to what made me angry. Daniel cannot. He doesn't even always know why he's upset, he just knows he is. Often when you ask him what made him angry he'll describe what he did in reaction to the anger, like, "I got in her face" still not understanding what made him angry to get in her face. We work on this every single day. For YEARS now we journal every night. Every night we write down 1. what made him happy, 2. how he helped out during the day and 3. what made him angry. I would say 8 out of 10 times he tells us his reaction to his anger and then we help him work through to the CAUSE of the anger. Sometimes he even tries the "I wasn't angry" which is true part of the time, the other times he was and is trying to avoid it. We then have the opportunity to talk about what he could have done differently, if anything. This isn't my idea, we do it for his private speech teacher. He's come a long way. In the beginning he would RELIVE the incident like it was happening anew, every single time. Yelling and crying. He doesn't do that anymore and sometimes he can tell us the why. We are making progress, but we aren't there yet.

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