June 19, 2008 by Marj Hatzell
I try to use positive terms when it comes to describing my boys’ idiosyncrasies (Yeah, idiosyncrasies, that’s what it’s called. Certainly not quirks.). For example, my boys aren’t hyperactive, they are spirited. They aren’t delayed, they are moving at their own pace. They aren’t grouchy and cranky, they are expressing their emotions. They aren’t picky eaters, they are…ok,FINE! They ARE picky eaters. But I think you catch my drift. And if you don’t, perhaps it would make more sense if I said that I’m not flighty and distracted, I’M WELL-ROUNDED, mmkay? I had four college majors because I wanted to learn a little of everything and I have a thirst for knowledge, not because I have problems making decisions. See the difference? It’s all about being positive.
Bugaboo. BUGABOO. Lately he’s become a different little boy. If we go back a few months (a year, really) some of you might remember we tried a certain medication because Bugaboo was having a tough time with hurting himself (biting his hands like silly, banging his head) and we were quite disturbed. With the amount of intervention this child has, there really wasn’t anyplace else I could think of to turn. We talked to his Neurologist at the time (we saw a new Neuro briefly while THE BEST NEURO IN THE WORLD was setting up his new office) and he decided to try a medication given to autistic children and adults more commonly than I’d like to admit. I was quite wary, but when your baby is biting holes in his hands and not sleeping and crying for hours at a stretch and hurting himself, trust me, you don’t know what else to do.
So we tried it. It worked for a little while, it didn’t work for a long while and still we stayed with it. I kept getting promises that he was growing, it took time, etc, etc. Then we started noticing annoying side effects, such as heavy-duty stimming. Now, lots of kids with developmental delays stim. It is a way for them to receive some of the info their brain lacks. But Bugaboo wanted to stim all day. ALL STIM, ALL THE TIME became his motto. And he grew, which meant he needed a higher dose of the meds. We increased (expected) and waited. And in the past two months, my once-eternally-happy little boy turned into a miserable, crying, violent monster.
By this time we were back with the BEST NEURO IN THE WORLD and I called him and said, “WHOA! We’re seeing THIS and THIS and THIS at school and at home. We’re scared. We want him off of it.” And the Neuro said, “WHOA! Wean him off! Something ain’t right!” And we made arrangements for blood work when he weaned off (which will take place next week). And the past two weeks? Heaven. Bugaboo is back to the old Bugaboo. Mr. Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy. Less stimming, more playing, more “spirited” but much, MUCH less crying, biting and the like. In fact, it’s like the Bugaboo we lost a year ago when we went on the meds in the first place. Do I regret trying it? No. It was the right decision at the time. But I don’t think we’ll try anything again for a long while, unless we really need to.
The interesting thing about Bugaboo in the past few weeks is that we are learning more about his personality. I really feel it was suppressed with the medication and he had a glazed over look most of the time, which I despised. Right now he is happy, smiling and plotting an attack. And by attack, I mean Bugaboo sits quietly and sings and hums to himself and waits for me to be out of eyesight (he’s a master with that peripheral vision) and then takes, say, AN ENTIRE DRAWER OF SILVERWARE and tosses it in the trash, one by one, back and forth, until I come upstairs with the laundry and realize what he is doing. Or he might steal scissors behind my back and go outside and I find him trying to saw his leg off with the kitchen shears and when I shriek and grab the scissors he’s all, “Mother! I’m trying to do something REALLY IMPORTANT HERE!” and then giggles wildly and runs off. It’s almost as much fun as finding him drinking out of a toilet while using the bathroom cup as a dipper. I’m glad he’s learning to drink out of the cup but TOILET WATER? Sigh.
Yesterday Bugaboo’s personality was out in full force. When I told him it was time to get out of the tub he gave me the hairy eyeball and took his hands and gave me the biggest splash he could muster. I thought it might have been accidental (he splashes quite enthusiastically in the tub) but then the day proceeded downhill from there. I asked him to stay out of the dirt and as I turned my back I felt a hurl of gravel at my back. I told him it wasn’t time for a bike ride and the next thing I knew he was sprinkling wood chips all over the couches and rug. I told him several times throughout the day that we weren’t going to our neighbor’s house (he tried dragging me there a few times) and at one point he waited silently in the front room until he knew his brother was taking the lock off the door and then BOLTED up the street in the middle of an electric storm. And darted behind one of the houses to take a short cut to the house he wanted to visit. Towards the end of the evening, when Bug Boy’s therapist was visiting, Bugaboo wasn’t getting all of the attention he wanted. He asked for juice several times and I cut him off, as he was drinking too much. He went to Bug Boy’s therapist, threw his arms around her neck and then kissed her repeatedly. Then he turned around, look straight in my eyes and thrust the cup in her hand and signed, “DRINK!” and looked quite satisfied with himself. See? He’s already learning to woo women by promising then physical favors. That’s a skill that will get him far in life, as his father is a master at doing stealth housework in order to get snuggle time.
What’s funny is that all this time I thought he was so laid-back and easy-going and content. What I didn’t realize is that he is one smart cookie and he is constantly plotting and coniving and manipulating (or at least trying to, but I’m down with THAT, yo.) and he is quite passive-aggressive. Like, “Hey, you aren’t getting me juice? Then I’m gonna take this here drawer of shiny stuff and stick it in the recycling bin, ok?” or”Oh. This light switch? Is this the light switch you want me to stop flicking on and off? This light switch right here under my left hand? Are you sure this is the one you want me to stop flicking? This one?” I mean, he understand everything we say. Everything. He even pretends to be occupied and the husband will say something like, “I need chocolate” and I’ll say, “We have m&ms in the closet.” And suddenly Bugaboo is racing to the closet and holding out his hand and signing, “CANDY! EAT! MINE!” It just goes to show you that just because he WON’T COMMUNICATE (I believe he can and just prefers to stay within himself because he is stubborn and strong-willed. Don’t know where he gets that.) and wants to do it HIS WAY, he is still inside that teeny body of his, hanging on every word and plotting his next kamikaze attack on my houseplants and herb garden.
Presume intelligence, my friends. He may not SEEM like he understands, but TRUST me. This kid could be cracking intelligence codes behind my back for all I know.