Learning To Fly…

Well, it’s official.  Mason has been diagnosed with autism.

As you may, or may not have noticed, I have been basically been avoiding all forms of human socialization lately with few exceptions:  interactions that are required in regard to one of my many “jobs” (this includes school meetings, the very awesome special needs convention this past weekend, and walk related duties); interactions with my children (which, given their constant screaming lately, has taken a lot of silent counting in my head); and a small handful of friends and family.

This is nobody’s fault but my own.  I typically handle stress pretty well – given that I live in a world of Monsters and Mayhem and am often the focus of angry little people (not actual LP – the small humans I gave birth to).  At any given point in time you can find me juggling multiple things at once while still attempting to actually read books and not go completely crazy.  This is not currently the case.  What I’ve been doing has instead been less like juggling, and more like trying to catch the balls shooting out of a tennis ball machine on high speed.

While wearing giant clown shoes.

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I’d love to be able to pinpoint exactly what has gotten my sanity in such a state, yet there isn’t a way to really do that.  It’s mostly been a lot of little things that refuse to go away and are slowly playing tug-of-war with what’s left of my mind.  Take insomnia for example.  There were a few years where I legitimately didn’t sleep more than 2 hours a night, and it was never consecutive sleep.  I never really knew what the problem was, I just knew I couldn’t sleep, and that was a pain.  Now, many years and two kids later, the insomnia bug has struck again.  Even on the nights when the kids sleep through the night, peacefully and quietly, I can’t stay asleep to save my life.  Then when I do sleep, I have dreams that would make Dean Koontz proud.  Seriously, I wake up irritated in the middle of the night because some of the nonsense my head is brewing up would make for some really wild stories.

Anyway, enter the vicious cycle.  I can’t sleep because I’m stressed.  I’m more stressed because I’m tired and less equipped to manage all of the tennis balls shooting out of the machine.  Rinse, wash, repeat.

Add to that the kids spending all day long acting like a case of fireworks that someone tossed a match into…

Mason screams because Kaleb touches A.

Kaleb screams because Mason touches B.

Mason screams because Kaleb screamed about Mason doing X…

They aren’t even actively fighting – they’re just shrieking at each other for absolutely no logical reason.

And then they do start fighting, and I wish they’d go back to screaming at each other.  At least the risk for immediate physical injury is not present when they are on opposite sides of the room shouting at each other like a couple of tortured banshees.

Then there were the two evaluations Mason had scheduled for this week.  I’ve been completely stressed out about these evals for an absurd amount of time – and as insane as it is to be so worried about something I have no real control over – those tend to be the things that make me the craziest.  Captain Control Freak here – checkin’ in!

As I’ve explained before, Mason is really good at manipulating the people around him to get what he wants.  That is by far his biggest strength.  When we were going through this with Kaleb I knew what was coming.  Kaleb is who he is, you see that the minute you meet him, and you’ll never have cause to think anything else.  Mason however, can be who or whatever he wants to be depending on the situation he finds himself in.  So many people only see the sweet, funny, yammering Mason who appears to be just like any other kid.  They don’t see the motor problems, the sensory issues, the meltdowns and the OCD like behavior.  Most people don’t even have a clue they’re being shamelessly manipulated by a two year old.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people who barely know him, or only see him on good days inform me that they don’t think there is anything “wrong” with him.  I’ve learned over the last few years to shut my mouth, smile politely, and change the topic.  The same thing happened with Kaleb when he was going through his evaluations.  One nay-sayer after another crawls out of the woodwork.

The biggest stress point of this is people trying to attribute Mason’s own peculiarities to learned behavior he picked up watching his brother.  Which is basically impossible considering most of Mason’s problems are either things Kaleb stopped doing long before Mason was born, or things Kaleb never actually did.  I could sit here and list them one by one – but I really don’t think it’s neccesary.  Daddy and I both see it – and we’ve been seeing it since Mason was very young.

My concerns regarding the evaluations stemmed from this.  I was so worried Mason would put on his little angel face that the people doing the evaluations wouldn’t see the issues underneath it.

Now, a part of me knew this was a ridiculous fear.  These people are trained to see the delays, the pervasive play, the preferred solo play, the sensory issues, the lack of communication (This is not to say he doesn’t speak because he does – he has words.  Most of them are in reference to a vehicle of some sort, but he does have words.  The difference between speaking and communicating however, is huge.  Just because Mason can use words does not mean he uses them to communicate.).  Regardless of it being an absurd thing to fret about or not, Mason is a sneaky little thing, and I was sincerely worried about this.

Tuesday he had his evaluation for Child Find.  This was to ensure he would be starting school in the fall, and get the help he required (speech, OT).  We got up in the morning and headed over to the school they were to do the evaluation at.  I remember going to the same school for Kaleb’s evaluation three years ago.  We walk in and meet the psychologist and the speech pathologist who are to do the eval.  We put Mason in his seat, and he immediately starts to flip out.  We put him in my lap, and get more of the same.  Eventually we just put him down to see what he’ll do.  And of course, he goes directly to a school bus I wouldn’t have found if I was looking for it.  He must have honed in on it the minute we walked in the room.

The rest of the evaluation was pretty standard.  They ask questions, I answer questions.  One tries to engage Mase while I answer questions, then they switch.  It became obvious pretty quickly that Mason had no intention of cooperating – but at least he wasn’t screaming.  I have no idea what their end result was, and I imagine I probably won’t until the staffing meeting is scheduled before school starts up.

That night we went to see Scooby-Doo Live (Musical Mysteries).  Growing up I was obsessed with Scooby, and it absolutely thrills me that both the boys have a love for the crazy pooch as well.  We went to Johnny Rockets and got milkshakes and burgers before the show, and all three of us had a great time singing along and warning Scooby and Shaggy whenever the ghost entered the stage.

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Yesterday morning Mason had his diagnosis evaluation.  This was it – time to figure out what is going on with the bug once and for all.  Daddy and I knew what was coming – but it’s still a nerve wracking experience.  Once again Mason had no interest in any interaction with the psychologist doing the final evaluation (this of course was added to the mountain of paperwork I filled out a few weeks ago, the evaluations that Mason’s therapists did, and all of the information on file from the last two years).  No big meltdowns occurred (unless you count him throwing himself down on the ground and screaming for ten minutes over a matchbox car being taken away).

At the end she was able to total up his scores and give us an official diagnosis.

Mason has autism.

This is the point in time where I am brutally honest.

I am so unbelievably glad the evaluations, wondering, questions – all of it is over, I can’t even begin to express.  Am I upset?  Sure, a bit.  But honestly, we’ve known this was coming for so long I came to terms with it long before yesterday.  It doesn’t change anything.  At least, not really.  It doesn’t change who my child is, or who we are as a family.  It doesn’t affect how we play, or learn, or spend our evenings.  It doesn’t mean he’s anything more or less – he is who he is and we love him for that unconditionally.  And, with the exception of the Poopcasso Jr. tendencies, I wouldn’t change a single thing about him.

But we finally have something written down.  Something that gives us an absolute, definite direction to go in.  We know now where to get help for him, and we know he will get that help, no matter how hard we have to fight on occasion to make it happen.  That is a relief.  The piece of paper, the label – they don’t matter to us, but they’ll go a long way to ensuring he is not looked over or ignored as he continues to grow.

Last night was the first time in well over a month I really slept through the night.  I didn’t so much as move.  Seriously – I woke up in the exact same position I fell asleep in, not even the blankets had moved.  Of course, an entire night without moving is a great way to give yourself a backache and a stiff neck – but it was so worth it to not feel like I was going to fall asleep standing up.

It’s been a crazy couple weeks.  In the last week alone we’ve had The Family Cafe conference, my mom’s birthday, both of the evaluations, Scooby-Doo, and more meltdowns than I can count.  To add to the crazy, I’m packing up all three kids with Miss Lisa tomorrow and we’re going to go meet Lightning McQueen!  I cannot wait to see the look on Mason’s face when he gets to go meet his Cars hero in real life!  Follow that up with a trip to the T-Rex Cafe and our week will be completely.  Thankfully, Daddy comes home in less than a week and maybe we can go back to having some semblance of calm (if you know us personally, you are probably laughing like crazy right now).

But, since it is Friday, the week is finally over, the evaluations are finally over, and the house is relatively clean (no, seriously!  Mason has of course trashed his room again, and the living room has a few cars scattered here and there, but it actually looks like people live here instead of crazy Monsters).  I’m going to go make mini tacos, fire up the popcorn machine, cut up some fruit, and watch Star Wars with my Monsters. *Mason has discovered the joys of watching the Jedi go to town with a light saber – the look of awe/wonder/what the hell?? that crossed his face when he first saw Yoda was priceless!

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Honestly, I’m not trying to be all MIA – and I’m going to work on getting myself back in the habit of writing in the mornings.  Of course, I promise nothing.  Have a great weekend everyone, I can’t wait to tell you all about meeting Mason’s heroes!!

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