Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Happy Half Birthday, you have Aspergers

Happy Half Birthday.. You have Aspergers..

Ella had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. At least between lunch and when we walked in the door after school.

Ella has a bully at school named Makayla. Generally, the bully just shoots Ella dirty looks. Yesterday there were 4 different instances of her shooting Ella dirty looks. To top it off, Ella accidentally hit Makayla on the head with her umbrella yesterday, and Makayla erupted at her for it. She walked out of school feeling like she was going to cry, and got in the van, very stressed and unprepared to deal with the chaos of 3 small children.

She had three separate meltdowns just on the way home. She wanted to talk about her day, but Maddie was interrupting, Annelise was singing to herself, and Teddy was laughing and making noises at Annelise. It was more than Ella could take. She was hitting the chair in front of her, the window, her leg, yelling at us that we couldn't be quiet, we wouldn't listen, we didn't care about her, and we didn't love her. She was hurting herself with the strength of hitting things, and telling Maddie to stop looking at her "in that way", and ran into the house and into her room when we got home, yelling "why does everyone hate me?" as she went.

I got the other kids settled doing other things, playing and watching a video I think, and went to talk to Ella. I asked her to tell me about her day (which I've recounted). After that, we talked about her meltdowns. I asked her if she realized that they were caused by bottled up stress and emotions she had not talked about. She told me that she wishes that she were not too afraid to talk to her teacher about how she feels about her bully glaring at her, and she also wishes that her teacher would used the OT's recommendations for allowing her to do small things to help alleviate stress in school, especially allowing her to take tests and do writing assignments in a quiet place outside the classroom. I told her I would talk to her teacher, but with 2 weeks left, she will probably just need to deal with things.

I also asked if she realized that other people are affected by her meltdowns. I gave her the mental picture of being a tornado coming into our car after school, whirling and then tossing cars and roofs and tractors and glass at us as she melted down. We were doing what we usually do, but it was more than she could handle because of the bad day she'd had. She laughed at the imagery, and agreed that we were all doing what we usually do. I also told her that Maddie had been asking questions about her. About why she can get over a fit and Ella can't. About why Ella has meltdowns at the store or in the car, and she doesn't. About why Ella won't eat a lot of foods and wears the same clothes and shoes all the time. And that she is starting to be embarrassed when Ella has a meltdown, but doesn't know why Ella isn't embarassed.

I mentioned to her that after her father has been away on business for half the week and comes home, that we have noticed that he does not handle the usual noise and ruckus of our house well, either. That he tends to retreat into our bedroom with the laptop to stay out of the chaos. Everyone is doing what we always do, but it is too much when he is not used to it or in the right emotional state to deal with it.

I asked her if she had noticed that I had been acting different when she had a meltdown, too. I asked her what I did when she had a meltdown about picking out clothes the other morning. She said "You didn't walk away, you didn't yell and tell me to hurry, and you helped me make choices". I told her that was right. I asked her how I reacted today in the car while she was freaking out, she said "You didn't yell in my face, you didn't say you would ground me, and you tried to make everyone be quiet in the car". I agreed. I asked if that was different than I had acted before, and she said yes.

I told her that I had been doing a lot of reading about how her brain works. That she inherited the way her brain works from her father. I had been pointing out to her recently that she has inherited different things about her body from different people. Her eyes are blue like Grandma's, she has freckles like me, and she processes things and reacts to things the way she does because her brain is more like her father's. She has inherited her father's same ways of thinking, reacting to stress and to loud noise, his coordination for things like putting on socks.. his love of predictability and how it makes him makes feel safe. For instance, I like the novelty of choosing where to eat after church, and he stresses out if we don't always go to the same place because it brings him comfort and stability. I told her it took some real hard thinking for me to understand why her father felt that way because it didn't make any sense to me at all. That the sameness would be boring and limiting, because that's how my brain thinks.

I told her that the books I had been reading had helped me understand how to help her work through her meltdown, that it would not help if I demanded that the meltdown stop, and that she was having a meltdown because of her perspective on the situation. I needed to see her perspective, not just mine.

I asked her if she remembered the test she recently took with Dr. H., and that that she and her father, and many other people, have brains that process the same way hers does. I mentioned to her that she has a friend with Dyslexia. Her friend's mom is learning more about how to teach her because there is a name for her reading difference and processing of words and numbers. I told Ella that she has processing and reacting difference called Aspergers Syndrome, and that about 1 in 150 kids have Aspergers Syndrome or another one of the Autism Spectrum disorders. That she is in good company. I said that I knew there were kids at her school that have Aspergers or Autism also.

She said she didn't have any questions about it when I asked her, but that she was glad that I could read about it. I told her that it was helping me be a better mom and a better wife since her father has it too.

It was a lot to take in. I'm not surprised that she didn't have any questions. But I had never seen her feel so misunderstood and rejected, and she seemed more aware than usual that she was different from people around her, so it seemed like a good time to have this discussion.

She gave me a piece of good news too:

Late last week, Makayla played a trick on her and Ella felt embarrassed when Makayla and her friend laughed at her for her reaction. Ella talked to her friend Abigail, and the bully and her friend got angry because Ella told Abigail what they did. Abigail went to them and told them that they were mean to trick Ella. She told Ella that she would stick by her all through school. Abigail and another girl named Heather have been Ella's school friends this year, and I thought it was sweet to hear that Abigail stood up for her and promised to be her friend and help protect her from bullies. She said that it made her feel safe that Abigail talked to the bullies without her asking, too.

I have found several children's books about Asperger's and Autism, and wanted to get one, but wanted to tell Ella about her diagnosis first. I will review the one I decide on soon.

Thanks for listening. I am so glad to have you supporting me whether by responding to my posts or just taking the time to read and think about us!


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