The answer is always the same, "I do what I do because it's what I do." Every parent has challenges, mine just seem to be a little more obvious. If I was given a choice? That's the second most asked question. Knowing what I know about raising autistic kids, if I knew before I had kids that they'd be autistic, would I still have them? Well, would I also know about the joys? The hugs and sweet cuddles after the storms? The laughs through the tears? The soft hands taking mine for reassurance when we face new challenges? Hell yeah, I'd do it again.
The last few weeks have been hard. Challenging. Painful. Teen Queen has been having frequent violent meltdowns. Most autistic kids have meltdowns, to varying degrees, either directed inwardly or outwardly. Baby queen has moderate meltdowns when she's tired, frustrated, sensory overwhelmed. She's self-injurious, head banging walls, doors, floors, windows, furniture. I've patched more than a few holes in the sheetrock where she's headbutted. She also whacks herself in the head with her forearm until she has large callouses and calcium buildup on her arm and forehead. We have an MMA padded sparring helmet that we put on her to keep the damage to a minimum, but it pisses her off even more. TQ doesn't normally have the same frequency of meltdowns, but hers are more violent and directed at anyone in her path. Think of a 5'10", 300 pound, pissed off tornado without reason or the ability to register pain. That's my TQ.
When a meltdown occurs, the reasoning part of the brain is shut down, so talking doesn't do anything but aggravate; your voice sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. The best you can do is try to get them someplace quiet away from any sensory stimuli, and hold on. I've been trained on holding and takedown techniques, but when you're wrestling with someone bigger, stronger, and insanely pissed, those techniques don't always work. I do my best to keep both of us safe, away from other people and Max. (Max thinks his one job is to protect me, and when she melts, TQ is an enemy. I have to protect them from each other.)
In the last three weeks, TQ has had 4-5 meltdowns a week, a couple severe enough to need sedation. Better living by pharmaceuticals, right? It got to the point we were both so bruised and sore, exhausted and scared, that I got an emergency appointment with her psychiatrist. We sat down and tried to figure out why, all of a sudden, the increase in occurrence and severity; and the therapist came up with something so simple, so obvious, I'm ashamed I didn't see it. She is in flux.
TQ has graduated, aged out, of the only thing she's known since she was three. She's been a student at PISD schools for 19 years. But she knows that's over. Something good is coming up, but it's new, unknown. Unknown is not good for autistic people who thrive on schedule and continuity. Summer break is hard enough without knowing what's going to happen when it's over. TQ is nervous, scared, stressed, and that's a volatile combination for anyone. So we have a starting place, how do we fix it?
There are programs for people who fall in the category of Mentally Impaired (used to be Mental Retardation, but that's changed for a number of reasons). Two things have to happen to access them: the individual has had to have been tested before the age of 18, and they have to go through an intake evaluation before placement. A lot of parents balk at the thought of having that stigmatizing label attached to their child. Denial runs deep. But if you don't get the diagnosis, you can't access the programs. Then you're child is screwed. TQ was evaluated every five years from the age of 6, she has the diagnosis. I sat in the momvan in the garage and cried for almost an hour after the first test. Her intake evaluation was supposed to happen on July 11, but she was in such a state of turmoil, they couldn't complete it. We rescheduled for August 23. Until then, we're preparing her. She can't attend the Borger Area Learning Center until after her IE, but she can go to some of the social events to get to know the other "clients" and counselors. She'll become familiar with the building and people and hopefully some of the stress and fear will ease up over time. TQ went to the first event last week, Wednesday night. The group went bowling and Pizza Hut. There were some nerves, some tears, she crushed my hand for the first 10 minutes; but when a couple of the other young ladies came to talk to her, she loosened her grip. By the end of the evening, I was sitting against the wall watching my oldest angel take her first step into a new world. Yeah, there were tears.
So, knowing everything, would I do it over again? Damn skippy, I would.