Posts Tagged ‘Autism’

This morning it happened again.

It’s 10:48 a.m. The phone rings. It’s Max’s school. I know who it is before I answer.


“Hi, Mrs. Lynford, this is Ann, the nurse at Plainwood Elementary.”

“Great. What happened?”

At school, it’s just insane. Max climbs onto the bus at 7:00 a.m. He’s at school by 8:00, and at any point in time after that if the phone rings, I cringe a little. As soon as I see the school name on the caller ID, I know. He’s bitten someone.

It’s random throughout the day. Fighting over a toy, wanting a child to move out of his way, wanting to gain access to something. Instead of using words, he uses his teeth. Today it happened because another child was sitting at the bottom of a slide when Max slid down it. Last week it was because he was having a tantrum, and he reached for the nearest arm. And the time before that, because a student was sitting on something Max wanted to play with. His teacher glanced over at him and his mouth was on the boy’s shoulder.

I’m kinda wishing they made one of these for kids:


Yes, this is for real.

Now, I’ve written about his biting before, when he was two. But that was him biting me (or NTG) during a tantrum. This is staking out a peer, and hurting them.

There’s a little boy at school named Marcus. Max likes Marcus, he’s told me so. Marcus likes trains, which is why I suspect Max likes him. Max is a car guy. Less competition.

Last week, before said tantrum bite, I was getting they boys ready for bed. Max started praying about a year ago, using a little prayer bear he stole from his brother. (I know. He’s since given it back.) Now the prayer has deconstructed into less a organized “Now I lay me down to sleep” and is more like a list of thank-yous. “Thank you for Mommy. Thank you for Daddy. Thank you for Max/Andy/Nana/Auntie Gina. Thank you for new puzzles/new car/water/soccer ball.”

So this particular night I have to prompt him, and I ask if there’s anything else. He thinks about it for a minute and says, “Thank you for Marcus.”

I thought it was so sweet, the next morning, I emailed his teacher to tell him about it. It was probably at that very moment he was sinking his teeth into Marcus’s little wrist.

I feel horrible for the parents of the bitten child. If I was one of those parents, I’d be pissed that my child was not protected. I’d be worried that my child would be bitten every day.

A home, it’s not much different. He and Andy are pushing tow trucks on all the furniture. Andy decides he’s done, drops the truck, and moves on to the next shiny thing. Max is NOT done playing trucks, and wants Andy to play with him. He tries to force a truck into Andy’s hand, and little man is not having it. If he retaliates, Max grabs his arm and bites. If Andy loses a toy to Max, and he tries to get it back, Max grabs and bites. Right now Andy is sporting three bite marks on his arm. Doesn’t matter if I’m in the room, or not. Doesn’t matter if he gets punished, or talked to or forced to say he’s sorry. Biting is the go to.

We’re working on getting an ABA therapist in this summer, and looking for a new psychiatrist in general. But dammit, kid. QUIT BITING! Seriously. No one is going to be your friend if you keep biting everybody.

This has been going on for months now, and it has made me wonder what is going on in his little boy brain. And until last week, I hadn’t really occurred to me that the biting was upsetting for him too.

After the Marcus bite, Max came home off the bus in a full-on tantrum. Like, we came in the door and he screamed and flopped around on the floor for a good ten minutes. I finally sat with him and asked him about what happened that day (I already knew), and I asked him finally, “Did you bite someone today?”

“Yes,” he said, in the most pathetic voice possible.

“Who did you bite?”

“Don’t bite … We don’t bite Marcus or Manny.” He started to cry.

I talked to him for awhile about why biting is not nice, which is something I do ad nauseum these days. It makes me wonder now what the answer is—duck-billed muzzles aside—that can allow him to translate his anger into something else. Or how many steps there to get him from expressing himself verbally instead of physically.

I hope someone out there can help us.

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I woke up on Mother’s Day at 6:41 a.m. Just woke up. No child screaming. No cat screaming. Just my clock, the biological one. Technically, I slept in by twenty minutes—weekdays 6:20 is my start.

I pee. The baby is up. The cat hears me and begins his morning song for food. I go feed the cat and decide to sneak a load of laundry from the washer into the dryer, grab Andy and then head downstairs before he wakes anyone up.

But Max. Max.

Max has been dealing with some anxiety lately. He’ll be looking for a toy and will full on yell at us, “Where’s the blue car!!!!” over and over again until we point it out to him. Sometimes even then he won’t go pick it up, he screams at us to get it. (We don’t, btw. He can pick up his own damn car.)

So I’m midway between my laundry task when Max bursts out of his room and full on yells, “It’s happy time! It’s happy time!” I’m like, “Okay.” He continues, “Mommy! It’s HAPPY TIME!”

“Okay, buddy, you don’t have to yell.”

“It’s happy time. IT’S HAPPY TIME, MOMMY!”

Keep in mind that this is full-on, Tori Amos’ Tear In Your Hand kind of scenario. Fonts and capitalization don’t do it justice. He is saying the word happy in a voice that is not. In a voice that says, If you don’t give me what I want I’m going to throw myself down on the floor and wake everyone in the neighborhood.

I say, “Okay, buddy. Let Mommy finish and we’ll go downstairs in five minutes.” (Five minutes is our standard countdown time for anything: five minutes to potty, five minutes to tubby, five mintutes to go bye-bye.)

“MOMMY! Happy time, MOMMY!”

“Yes, dude, I get it. Mommy has to finish this and then get Andy, okay.”


“Go ahead, go get him. Open the door.”


Good times at what is now like, 6:50 a.m. My mother graciously appears in the doorway of her room to find out what Mikey wants while I shove the clothes into the dryer. I tell her, “I have no idea. It’s happy time.”

“Oh,” my mom says.


“I was trying to teach him Happy Mother’s Day yesterday. I was telling him, ‘Tomorrow we’ll tell Mommy: Happy Mother’s Day.’ Is that what you’re trying to say, Max? Tell Mommy.”

He looks at me and says, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!”

God love him.

Flowers from Ned/Thor/Gunnar and the boys.

Flowers from Ned/Thor/Gunnar and the boys.

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It’s a little ridiculous at this point. I know I’m preaching to the choir. It seems like the entire country is fallen ill: colds, flu, fevers, bronchitis … you name it.

I’m over it.

I currently own four bottles of children’s cold meds (with acetaminophen and without, nighttime and daytime formulas), at least a pair of acetaminophen and ibuprofen bottles for both kiddos, and I’m pretty sure I now own stock in Kleenex. And Puffs. Waaa!!

This is not a paid advertisement. Pinky swear.

This is not a paid advertisement. Pinky swear.

The sickness entered our house in September, when school started up for Max. (He’s there five days a week, so he gets maximum germ exposure I guess.) One or both children have been sick since then, with no more than a one-week break between viruses. I don’t exaggerate (I say that only because as a writer, I tend to exaggerate). We canceled a Thanksgiving trip to Ohio because of fever and colds (first Max, then Andy). Max spent Christmas with a fever and cold. We rescheduled our trip for New Year’s—and as Max got over his week-long fever, Andy picked it up. My mom came to visit instead and we celebrated Christmas and rang in the New Year in VA.

At the end of January, we were supposed to leave Virginia and head to Ohio for my mom’s birthday. And … Andy ended up with a sinus infection. Technically, he never really got over his NYE cold, it just morphed into the need for a ten day stint on Amoxicillin.

Next week I’m attempting a Valentine’s Day trip to Ohio. I supposed I’m playing with the Universe at this point (historically, NTG and I have not spent many V-Days together). My sister isn’t returning my calls because she totally doesn’t believe we’re coming. I’m going for it anyway.

But what to do to stave off future sickness? We all know washing hands. Vitamins. But what else? Essential oils? Rubber gloves? OJ every day? I’m at my wits end, and ready to send Max to school with a face mask on. I’m not kidding.

Yes I am.

Well, sort of.

It doesn’t help that in an ASD household, staving off colds has other challenges. I cannot explain to Max how to not touch his face or exchange fluids with other classmates, because the kid still sticks his fingers up his nose on a regular basis, and stims near his face daily. And he has sensory issues when it comes to water, so I don’t think they get him to wash his hands at school often, and here, he flat out refuses (I wipe, and hand sanitize a lot).

I have tricked him into gummy bear vitamins—and I know lots of folks freak out about dyes and such, but I have to think of the trade off.

And this week, the news comes out that the Brits may have saved us. In the meantime, maybe Mother Nature will keep giving us snow so the kiddos don’t have school until March. 😉

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There. It. Is.

It’s like a sentence all its own. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who has a child that is autistic. Everybody that knows somebody feels relief and sadness when they hear this news. I feel so sorry for them. I’m so glad it’s not my child.

It has taken me awhile to write about it. I think because when we first got the official diagnosis for Max, we were shocked. He made eye contact at home with us. He spoke, although he could not tell us what he wanted. He was very affectionate. He was not rocking himself to sleep in a corner.

But there it was. Like some horrible end-of-the-world kind of sentence.


We didn’t tell many people. There’s a good amount of fear in the judgment and reaction from others about this diagnosis. And, we wanted to wait and see.

We began what we need to begin, which you can read more about on A is for Autism on this site. We were able to get an IEP, and he’s been in a specialized classroom since March of this year. He is beginning to really talk and vocalize his wants and needs. He loves his private speech therapist. He loves going to school, and riding on the bus. In many ways, he is a happy and healthy kid.

And yet.

I suppose I also put off writing about it because I didn’t know where this was going to end up. I had nothing but questions and no answers. And as a writer, and even as an editor, I’m a research-y, fact-checking kind of girl. I like my ducks in a row. And ASD is not a duck-in-a-row kind of thing.

I tried the one and only online forum I knew of, and lasted approximately one post before I decided to not go there again. (The moms were too … intense there.) It was too much information for me to process, and way too many acronyms. I left feeling overwhelmed and unprepared.

I tried just reading posts to glean information I could apply to my son, but that’s the tricky thing about autism. Each kid is completely different. No kid was just like my kid. It was frustrating. One issue could be addressed by going to XYZ organization that was local to that mom’s state. My son may have the same issue, but my state doesn’t have such a service. You get the gist.

Being in rural VA has not helped. I know one mom who has a son that is also autistic, and in Max’s class. There is one parent organization that covers ALL of northern Virginia, which spans four huge counties. I often will drive over an hour to attend a seminar or event.

And yet.

Max has meltdowns. Beyond tantrums. The kind of event that has me following him around the house for an hour to stop him from breaking something or hurling a toy through a window or biting his brother or banging his head against the floor. He will hit, kick, slap, bite, and even head-butt me to express his anger when given an opportunity.

He is sensory-seeking, which means we have gone through the following phases as he looks for sensory input: stimming (stimulating) an object close to his eyes usually while humming a noise; sticking his hand down the back of his pants (and yes, often coming up with something, and wiping it on the floor, the couch, the walls, the windows); sticking his fingers up his nose and wiping that on the floor, the couch, the walls, the windows (I buy a lot of Windex); and spitting—on his brother, on the floor, the couch, the walls, the windows.

For a parent, it is not fun. It often is hard to remember why you love your child. It most certainly, at times, is difficult to enjoy your child. Many times you miss out on the “normal” milestones in his life. It is often hard to remember not to yell. Or spank or even punch a wall yourself. There are days where all you do is correct your kid, yell and try time out, hoping it doesn’t turn into another meltdown.

So from time to time, I may share some of the tidbits and tricks I have learned in parenting an autistic child. I may vent about his behavior. I may cry that he’s never going to reach “normal.” But I’m finally ready to talk about our journey, and hope that it helps.

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