Chronic Tonic at VOTS- Looking For Emotional Rescue

Well, it's been one helluva week, eh? Much like the rest of the country we watched in horror here at chez triv as the events of last Friday unfolded and our hearts ached as we thought of our own boys aged eight and nine at their own elementary schools nearby. Then somebody on one of the 24/7 news-o-rama stations said it--the shooter was on the spectrum and Cleetus hollered, "Oh, hell no!" and turned off the teevee. We don't know exactly what's coming, but we suspect and we don't want to hear it, no. It goes right up at the top of our joint "fuck that" list.

For those of you who don't know our younger son is on the spectrum. High functioning, but on there and we've had somewhat of a struggle this year. So, all of a sudden whatever rank speculation that may happen between the the talking heads would feel very personal and we couldn't take it. Just seeing that picture of that kid when he was young damn near killed me. Buttons buttoned to the top, shy eyes peeking from beneath that fringe of bangs and almost a smile...oh.

I can only talk about my kid. Yeah, he's different, he processes information differently than we do and he has trouble verbalizing his thoughts, but he's getting better at it. The thing I've noticed is that he's like a sponge, he soaks up information and stimuli very easily. So, I've made it my business to make sure that his world is full of kindness, sharing, empathy--love. This is something you'd do with any child in the course of raising them, but with a kid who misses the social cues? Oh, it's a production.

And we're lucky. From the time we first suspected the whole family has been Team Dan all the way. I've never had to attend a meeting without Cleetus by my side, my parents opened their house to a team of therapists coming through for several years, his older brother relentlessly pursued every play strategy that was suggested and over the last six years Dan has progressed. Yes, we've hit some bumps, but we've also had his diagnosis upgraded each time he's been seen by that fancy doctor who thought he'd never have original speech.

So, my kid had some trouble last year. His anxiety was getting in the way of his progress, it was looking like they wanted him medicated and they brought in the big guns to back that up. They brought in a psychiatrist to see him and then talk to us about our options...hmm. A lot of different medications. I told her I would take it under advisement. What I did was take the four weeks between school letting out and his summer program starting to work with my kid. And I kept working with him and by the time I met with his one on one towards the end of his summer program she told me it was like working with a different kid. She wondered if I had medicated him. I told her that I understood that medicating a kid might be easier than working through anxiety, but we weren't ready to take that step.

We met with his teacher in November, she was full of praise, but I think she would still like to see him medicated, just to "turn down the noise in his head." I struggle with this. Truly I do. I know what she's saying, but if he is progressing and not unhappy I can't see it. For now, I can't put an eight year old boy on the type of drugs they're talking. So, we go along, taking each day as it comes and working for the best outcome and only hoping that tomorrow's Dan is a little better than yesterday's.

Then a national tragedy happens and you think your heart is broken until they announce on the teevee that the shooter was on the spectrum and you find out it can break just a little more.





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you're a parent, you will always worry about him

sartoris's picture

I have grown hyper aggitated at the narrative of this event which is portraying autism as mental illness.  Reporters should take the time to educate themselves on autism so that they can then educate the public on what autism is and what autism is not.  Asperger's is not mental illness.  What happened with this young man will never be known.  Why he killed will never be understood.  Blaming it on Asperger's is the height of laziness and ignorance.  Your son is blessed to have parents like you and your husband. 

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well, it's hard to argue that point when all services

triv33's picture

that your kid gets are billed to the mental health arm of the health insurance, so they see it as some form of mental illness, no? I've asked that question, I get no good answer aside from that's done that way because that's how it's done. So, it's not a mental illness? No. But the therapies that he needs are billed as therapies through mental health services? Yes. Why? Bcause that's how it's done.

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yeah - the "news" media has woefully....

poligirl's picture

dropped the ball on this one. here's hoping they shut up soon. and maybe do some nice pieces correcting themselves. ahhh - i dare to dream....

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dream on sweet poligirl ...

NY brit expat's picture

I realised that if I actually sat there waiting for them to apologise, I would actually have turned into a stone ... that is an interesting image ... it's been one of those days, weeks, months, years ....

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type1error's picture

Dan is very lucky to have you and Cleetus.

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Would your careful strategies make for good tv?

geomoo's picture

Because if not, we're not likely to hear much about the value of "kindness, sharing, empathy--love".  People are interested in power and what it does, people are fascinated by violence, punishment, and blame.  These make good topics for television.  Who wants to consider such boring things as asking "How was your day today?" and waiting patiently for an answer.

The child who survived by playing dead was asked how the shooter looked.  "He looked like he was angry."  That seems to me the most pertinent description I have heard.  Has there been any discussion of the simple emotion of anger, and that almost every single one of us has imagined killing someone in anger?  Sure, most of us don't do it, but it's the same emotion.  Iow, things are at once simpler and more complicated than the entertainment-driven coverage suggests.  To be entertaining, television makes things grand and large, exciting and disturbing.  I expect the author's afternoons interacting with a child who needs it were none of those things--simple, direct, unexciting, small detail LOVE.

Until we stop expecting easy solutions which assume all our problems exist somewhere outside our common human nature, until we realize that what makes the vital difference in our lives is simple acts for which we recieve little recognition, we will continue to see societal dysfunction everywhere we turn, because the world really isn't the way it is depicted on television.

I guess I got on a little side track there.  I find your story touching.  Giving love to a child who needs it will have a much greater effect on our culture than any law.  We are suffering because simple parenting is looked upon as much less valuable than putting on a uniform and shooting people.  Because this is less valued, people are not receiving the support they need.  How many more shootings will result because families are too financially desperate to care for their children properly?  What will be the cost of that side effect of austerity?

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it's a strange but wonderful thing, to find you have to teach

triv33's picture

something on a different level. To explain a smile. To say,"Hey Dan, do you see Mom smiling at you? Do you feel that? You're smiling back, do you know why? Do you feel warm and nice and kinda happy inside? Mommy's smile did that, so you smiled back, isn't that cool? We just communicated with no words." And his smile turns into laughter.

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Beautiful and moving, triv

geomoo's picture

I truly don't want to be cruel to anyone's memory, but cause and effect is important.  Contrast that lesson with handing him a gun and telling him he might one day need to shoot someone with it.  Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but still, there is cause and effect.  I would guess without evidence that someone with asperger's, having fewer filters, is more likely to take what he is taught and face value and be less able to negotiate subtlety around when violence might be appropriate.  As the survivior said, he was "angry".  He may easily have felt that he had been taught that what you do when you're angry is shoot people.  Plenty of Americans seem to feel that way, even if they are unlikely to put it so bluntly.

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glad to see push back happening in some parts

temptxan's picture

of the media against the rush to mental health judgment the press was busy engaging in. This has been a sucky few days. Hoping this brings some real change but hoping has not worked out so wee for me thus far.

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