Thursday, June 14, 2012

This is how we memorize dinosaurs from A to Z

From the DSM IV diagnostic criteria for Autistic Disorder:

...restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least two of the following:
      1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
      2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals

Kids with autism often have quirky special interests - trains, train schedules, garage doors. They may be so obsessed with their favorite topic they can barely imagine playing with or talking about anything else.

Ryan's main fascination is the alphabet.

He has loved letters for as long as we can remember, and was able to recite the entire alphabet in order months before his second birthday. At the time I thought he was just really advanced.

Letters are such an integral part of Ryan's life, it somehow never occurred to me to write about his love of them. Writing this post kind of feels like I'm pointing out, "Hey, did you know my kid has ten fingers?" But I guess not really like that at all.

His favorite toys include a box full of letters (made of felt, foam stickers, magnets); Dr. Seuss's Super Stretchy ABC Game; and two sets of Word World-themed Legos.

If he's thirsty, he's likely to request juice by asking, "What's something starts with J?"

And he enjoys lining up sets of 26 objects (mostly animals, but, you know, whatever works), one for each letter.

So you can not even imagine how excited Ryan got when Dinosaur Train aired a two-part episode dedicated to assembling all the species from the Dinosaurs A to Z song.

As you might imagine, he watched it several times.

Then he assembled representations of all 26 species. Surprisingly, we don't own a toy einiosaurus or a xenotarsosaurus, so many dinosaurs are represented by other animals that start with that letter; instead of a quantasaurus, we've subbed in a knight I named Quincy. The one exception to the alphabetical rule is the X-Y-Z dinosaurs are represented by creatures of dramatically increasing size (I can't link to the exact video, but if you click here and scroll down to "All the Dinosaurs Sing Dinosaurs A to Z!" you'll see why).

So, next he requested the song to play on a continuous loop on my iPod while all the assembled animals sang along and performed the same choreography as in the tv show.

And this has been going on almost nonstop for the last two weeks.

Tonight at what Stu and I thought would be bedtime, Ryan kicked it up a notch with a painfully-thorough reenactment of the entire two-part extravaganza, including the big dance break; it took over an hour.

Mommy needs something that starts with W...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The worst part of all.

I have a lot of fears about how Ryan will react to this upcoming move. I assume we're going to see lots of tantrums, uncontrollable behaviors we have not seen in months, extra laundry - stuff that even typical kids might work through during a major transition.

But what will we do without Chrissy?

Ryan's first time touching Play Doh without crying, courtesy of Chrissy.
Chrissy has been in Ryan's life for nearly four years- since the first week he had an IEP.* She's like a member of the family. Ryan adores her and trusts her and loves their time together. Chrissy knows exactly how far Ryan will tolerate being pushed, and then she manages to push him juuuust a little bit farther. Chrissy Time is as close to sacred as anything in our house.

Sure, there are other SEITs** closer to our new home, but they're not Chrissy. And yeah, we could drive an hour and meet up with Chrissy every once in a while if her schedule can accommodate it, but not every week.

Moving will bring many changes, but none as hard as this one.

Hey Chrissy, the new house has an awesome guest room...

* IEP = Individualized Educational Program - the all-important document that establishes what Special Ed services a child will receive.

**SEIT = Special Education Itinerant Teacher - a special ed tutor who helps a child generalize the skills he learns at school and apply them to the rest of his life.

Monday, June 4, 2012

This weekend's installment of the end of the world was brought to you by my new bed.

We needed to replace our mattress, so we took advantage of a big Memorial Day weekend sale and ordered one of those Sleep Number beds - the glorified air mattresses designed for couples like us who can't agree on anything. The salesman told us it would arrive in "a few weeks" in "a few boxes" and would be easy to assemble.

I was quite surprised when one week later, I came home to seven enormous boxes piled up outside my door.

My apartment was already full of boxes - some packed, some waiting to be packed - because we will finally be moving to Connecticut at the end of the month. No, we have not sold our apartment yet. (We had a cash buyer lined up, stupid co-op board rejected them, seething rage, moving on...).

So while our original plan had been to move the factory-sealed bed boxes to the new house and leave our old bed at the curb, in the interest of saving space we decided to assemble the new bed on Saturday.

Ryan helped us move the box spring down to the garbage area by "guiding" us down the hall, and he watched us take the old mattress away.

Two hours later, Ryan started freaking out.

"Where is the pillow?" he shrieked in panic. He meant the mattress - he can never remember that word.

"Remember, we took the mattress down to the garbage area," I said. "We got a new bed."

"We need the pillow! Can we see it? We got to go see it!"

Um, ok. We went down to the basement to visit the old mattress in the trash room. I brought a camera so Ryan could take pictures of the old mattress and box spring.
This seemed to satisfy him.

Half an hour later, the panic attack resumed.

"Where is the pillow? Is it still in the trash? We got to bring it back up!"

I showed Ryan the picture he had taken; this didn't help. It actually seemed to make things worse.

"Aaagh, we got to get the mattress and bring it back up!"

"Where would we put it?" Stu asked.

"We got to bring it up!" Ryan non-answered.

There were tears and self-injury and racing heartbeats. We tried showing him our new bed, but the sight of it just upset him more. There was no reasoning with him.

Out of other options, I pinned Ryan to his bed and sang to him until he relaxed enough to put on his jammies.

He asked about the whereabouts of the old mattress a few more times on Sunday.

And this morning.

I imagine this is just the beginning of what will be a long period of adjustment concerning moving. We have shown Ryan the house we will move to, have discussed that the three of us and all our things will move to the new house, have taken him to a park near the new house so he can see that the geese there are as easy to chase into the water as the geese here. But moving is hard for any kid, and probably that much harder for a kid like Ryan who lacks the language to express his fears in a more sophisticated way than punching himself in the head and begging to fish an old mattress out of the trash.

It's hard for me to think about. I've always lived in the greater NYC metro area, so picking up and moving to a far more suburban area, further from my family and friends, is stressful. I've gotten very comfortable where I am, and all the unknowns ahead are a bit scary. And the co-op board springing this new obstacle on us last week certainly didn't help.

For those of you who have moved with kids, what books would you recommend I read with him to help prepare him for the big day?