It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a Breakthrough!

I want to start this post by saying that AJ and Hugh are the light of my life. They have the purest little hearts and the kindest souls. I know that because I’m raising them. I see them every day. And, yes, we have challenges. Yes, we have misunderstandings. And every day with them, however challenging, is a blessing, but days like yesterday make it all so much better.

I know that things are just as difficult for them as they are for me, especially because they’re too young to understand some things, so, even though ignorance for them really is bliss, it doesn’t make it any easier than it is.

I started reading several books that Gabby, our behavioral therapist, recommended and have been following these simple methods, and monitoring AJ’s and Hugh’s reactions, and I have to say there hadn’t been any major improvements or worsenings. Until yesterday.

AJ has this fixation on watches. He can stare at the hands of a watch for hours, it’s what amuses him, it’s what calms him down, I can’t understand it, but I’m complying if that’s what he wants. When we were visiting my parents yesterday, he noticed his uncle’s watch, a Stuhrling, and probably took a liking to it, so his uncle, my brother, basically had no choice but to give it to him.

AJ was so happy, I could tell. A mother can always tell, even though he doesn’t really express his emotions in the traditional way. Over the years I learned to read him. But yesterday was a breakthrough. For the first time ever he initiated physical touch. He gave his uncle something of an awkward hug, but it was the most endearing thing I’d ever seen. I got teary, of course. We all got teary. I felt like all those hours of hard work had really paid off.

Hugh, on the other hand, is more unpredictable. I’m guessing it’s because he’s younger, but Gabby, told me to expect that Hugh would be more impulsive. He’s been more prone to tantrums, unlike when AJ was at his age. But I’m happy to say that therapy has been very helpful for both of them, and for me, of course. I’m hoping that over time I’ll have another breakthrough with Hugh as well, even though I know it won’t be easy.

Until next time, Jen. Xx

How to Create Safer Spaces in the Bathroom

As a mother of two adorable boys, I have a lot to say about raising kids, and other matters. They both are on the autism spectrum, so life is a little different for me day to day. It gives me a new perspective despite the inherent challenges.

I am not complaining about my eight and four-year-old. I just have to be a bit creative now and then. I thought I would share how it all happens as we travel on the autism path.  Sometimes writing things down gives me a fresh viewpoint, so here I am. If you follow my blog, you will learn more about special-needs children and the wonder they bring to one’s life.

Even small audio or visual triggers can be enough to get a response when autistic children. Given the importance of bathroom time, you bet that I am into the new technologies that help make the bathroom a safer space. All children require security and constant observation. Mishaps can happen when you aren’t paying attention.

Harmful implements lurk on the bathroom shelves and around the tub. If you share a bathroom with your kids, forget about razors and other sharp objects. Medications are taboo in the family washroom, so hide them elsewhere. Plus, leave toxic cleansers out of sight. They may taste terrible, but they are tempting for the little ones, nonetheless.

Meanwhile, even the toilet can be a danger zone. I am happy for the modern toilets that flush instantaneously and don’t overflow with lots of paper inside. It is more than unsanitary for kids to dwell on the bowl contents, as they are wont to do. Seats now rise and fall automatically to prevent his problem. Your children soon learn to be wary of the alive lid.

The industrial engineers of the world have had a field day with plumbing fixtures. After all, they are a key element of any household. Kids pay a lot of attention to their actions here since the time of their early potty training. Parents make a lot of fuss over doing their business and cleanliness habits.

Self-cleaning toilets help not to mention the ingenious spray devices that now replace toilet paper. You can’t imagine what you can get for a price these days. Some toilets convert into bidets with warm waterspouts. Be careful lest the tots get too interested. Plus, the newest units are amazing in modern style.

They are compact and one piece, so easy to clean. That is important for large families. Some dispense deodorizers and disinfectants after every flush or two. With a new Kohler, Mirabelle or Toto, the bathroom is going to be the most popular place in the house. Get one of these marvels and see a big change in your life!

One Step at a Time

With stories in the news about police out of control and too quick to respond with weapons, I worry about people like my sons who are on the autism spectrum. They might not react appropriately to verbal warnings and would certainly fail to look an officer in the eye. It wouldn’t matter their age. I even wonder if they would be able to speak at all when fearful or if they would have it in them to run away. If they did, this might provoke a negative reaction and the use of a gun to stop them in their tracks (I hate to even utter “dead in their tracks”). So many innocent people have been killed, fueling the race issue. This is my worst nightmare as a parent. My children shouldn’t have to be victims of unnecessary violence because they are misunderstood or disliked. But is it really the fault of the police? How do they know who is mentally challenged? My kids don’t wear a sign!

Things can get out of control in a second when there is a lack of comprehension. I have heard of a homeless man beaten to death by aggressive cops who assumed he was on drugs. He was not. Rather, he was psychotic and had a family in the neighborhood. We live in a dangerous world where weapons abound. Self control is not the hallmark of the authorities in all cases. A nonresponsive autistic person could anger an otherwise normal policeman. He or she might appear defiant and flouting authority. Not enough has been said about this subject. You have to be a parent or relative to care. Let’s get society involved.

Given this possibility, I decided to coordinate a de-escalation course for the local police department that would focus on cases of autism among others. I invited an activist group to help conduct the class and help keep things calm. There would be autistic participants and no harm done to either side had to be assured. Tempers can flare when the police feel criticized or personally threatened. It may not change things drastically, but the program would at least draw attention to previously unknown problems. I like the idea of de-escalation because it involves rational thought and not pure animal reaction. I used this blog post to help me: The police would be encouraged to make choices that didn’t involve a stun gun, tear gas, pepper spray, or a metal baton. They must learn how to distinguish true aggression from a display of autistic behavior. I, for one, am so tired of misassumptions and incomprehension.

I invite others in the autistic community to start a similar course in their area. I guarantee that you will get considerable support and it would not cost much. It is more a matter of convincing the police to organize it. The local media would no doubt publicize the event and assist in making the issue known. There will be no more public outcry of mistreatment when advanced planning provides education.

Taking it For the Victory it Is

AJ ate Cheerios today. That is one of the big toddler milestones—self-feedingCheerios. AJ is 8. To say that feeding him has been a challenge is like saying some people might think astrophysics is off-putting. It’s just one of the struggles in our day when I stop and think about it (and I typically choose not to do that), but it is one of those struggles that I have a hard time with. Picky eater doesn’t come close to describing him. I wish he was just a picky eater. His autism makes him freak out about colors and textures of the things he eats and it gets very complicated. At this point—and it has been a struggle getting here because all he actually wants is milk–he eats corn, chicken nuggets, and one brand of pancakes.

Or at least, he used to eat one brand of pancakes. All of the stores in the area have been out of them for the last three weeks. I always have a reserve in our freezer but not enough to last me this long. I called the company and found out they aren’t making them anymore—seems nobody but AJ liked the taste. I hung up the phone and felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me. Noooooooooooooo. What am I supposed to do now?

I immediately texted AJ’s behavior therapist, Gabby. We ruled out trying to trick him by substituting a different pancake in the old box—they are a unique shape, and so we would have had to outright lie about why they looked different. Our hands were forced—it meant trying something new. We went back and forth a little about what we should offer and finally decided on cereal. Cheerios seemed like it would be worth a shot alongside something like Corn Pops, which might also be something he would be willing to try.

I ran to the grocery store to get the cereals and then picked the boys up from the bus stop. Gabby pulled in right as we were walking up to the house. Gabby explained to AJ what we were going to do today, along with the reward he would get if he complied.AJ didn’t want to comply. First, he demanded to know why we were forcing him to try something new.Once we told him the news, there was a kick and scream fest. I had to take Hugh out of the room through the worst of it because he was in danger of sensory overload due to the noise.

It took Gabby an hour to get AJ settled down enough to try anything. The first three pieces he attempted, with getting to play a new game on Gabby’s iPad each time, made him gag so he freaked out about it. But it was more of a behavior thing than an actual problem, so Gabby was able to handle it. Five tries later and he had actually eaten two whole Os.

On the one hand, it seems pathetic to be excited that he ate two stinkin’ Cheerios. I know seven-month-olds who can do more than that. But on the other hand, AJ is not most kids, and I have to look at this like the achievement it really is: like a toddler doing long division. It is something that is so incredibly challenging for him to do. It took some work but he did it. And that—regardless of the task—is worth celebrating, right?

Well, That Was (Not) Fun

As a kid, I was always in the water. I loved snorkeling in the pool and pretending I was in the ocean near a coral reef. I imagined all kinds of sea life from a giant squid to schools of baby fish I could touch. Of course, there were no scary things like sharks or sting rays. It was a benign fantasy world at my beck and call. When I grew up I found that I enjoyed actual snorkeling and often went to Hawaii to indulge. I thought my kids would share my aquatic nature, but when I took them to the sea shore for a bit of inflatable kayak boating, they proclaimed that it was not fun. I bought them underwater cameras to make the snorkeling more enticing. It always worked for me.

Hugh was the problem. He was not big on swimming even in the public pool, so why would he go for ocean water. In fact, he refused to go in at first. I had to practically carry him so he would feel safe. He got his bearings but it didn’t last long and we had to abandoned what I had hoped would be a fun snorkeling day. I think water recreation is enormously exciting but not for my kids. So, I took the matter in hand and got creative. I decided to borrow some DVDs from the local library so I could show my kids a new world of wonder. And they were transfixed by the beautiful colors under the sea. When the photographer illuminated certain fish, they became wildly colorful and iridescent. The colors changed as the cameraman progressed. There was an enormous variety of sea creatures of all kinds. The kids wanted to know all the names. I reminded them that we had tried to go under the water on our last trip to the beach but they didn’t want to get wet, especially Hugh. “Well, I didn’t know that we could see fish like that,” he cried. “That’s why we went.” So maybe we would take the snorkel gear out another time I queried? I didn’t get an immediate response but there was hope. Maybe one day one or other of the boys would join me in my childhood hobby. Meanwhile they loved looking at the documentary. They asked me to replay it when it was over. “I used to dive,” I told them and they were surprised. “I love water recreation and want to share it with you.”

“I might give it another try,” said Hugh, but did I believe him? I wasn’t ready to run out and buy scuba gear and find for kids. I want my reticent kids to have more interests and to fill their time with adventure. Alas, this is going to take time.

Back-to-School Shopping

Any parent faces challenges when they want their kids to do something new and all they get back is resistance and/or sass. You use your wits to concoct reasons, but then again kids are not rational beings overall. You make up stories that are so transparent that the children laugh. You can threaten or bribe: there are all kinds of techniques of persuasion. Punishment in my family is not one of them. This is where I draw the line. If I want to buy new backpacks for school (as the old ones are practically in shreds), and the kids balk, I have to backdown for a while. I believe if I present some nifty-looking items that maybe they will change their tunes.

Backpacks are trendy things and kinds are particular about them. When it is back-to-school time, there are tons of new ones on the market. So, this is the time to take the kids on a shopping tour. Find out where the best ones are (and if it is this difficult for them then money is no object). Rule number one, and maybe the only rule, is let them pick their own. The tip, though, is using a guide like this one from Backpacks Magazine to create a short list for your kids to choose from. What does it matter what size, shape, color, or other features such as a myriad of zippers and pockets. They often go with what a friend has, but you really want your child to be more of an individual. If they want to copy others, tell them that model is sold out. Then you can go from there and hope for the best.

My kids are such creatures of habit and they hate change of any type. You have to take it slowly and let them decide that they need something new. Try pointing out the flaws of the old backpacks. Talk about lack of functionality and how things may fall out and get lost. No child wants this to happen to their favorite things. Demonstrate how a zipper doesn’t work or a compartment has broken. If nothing else works, entice them with exciting colors and designs. Backpacks now are not just denim or heavy canvas. They can be brightly printed plastic that is eye-catching and waterproof. If they have an artistic side, they will go this route. These kinds of backpacks are for maximum fun and frankly most of them have plenty of room. Make sure the straps are comfortable and not too long or are adjustable. The bold prints are now a tot’s first choice. If you can’t drag them willingly to the store, try surveying the many offerings on line. What kid doesn’t enjoy a Web experience. Let them pay (with your help) and place the order. Then it is more than a chore.

An IEP Meeting That Actually Went OK

There aren’t many things that make me feel as physically ill as an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. I always hope to go in and get the help my sons need but it tends to feel like the school has other ideas. I understand that everything my boys need costs money and resources; I try to understand where the school is coming from.But my kids deserve an education just like anybody else. Before every one of these meetings, I try very hard to believe that the school district has my sons’ best interest at heart. After the meeting is over, though, I am always dismayed by what’s gone on.

AJ’s last meeting was especially bad. I had his BCBA with me and we were talking about all the progress he’s made at home and the school basically didn’t believe us. I had all kinds of documentation and we had tests performed using the exact same standards the school uses, but they still didn’t accept any of it. They wanted to leave AJ back a year because he’s falling behind and supposedly doesn’t do his work. There was no talk of how to catch AJ back up or why he’s not getting assignments done that he can routinely do (and do correctly, without supervision) at home. I am not proud of this, but I will admit that there was some name calling. Finally, I had heard enough. I stood up and told the school that we were either going to have another meeting or I was going to report them for several FAPE (free and appropriate public education) violations. Of course, they immediately agreed to another meeting. When I walked out the door, I felt like a character in a movie—the guy who gets an anonymous call for a meeting where answers to all his questions will be revealed, but when he gets there, it’s clearthat it is a complete setup; the guy is ambushed and shot a bunch of times. It was that bad.

That was when I called a lawyer.

We had the new meeting yesterday. The school knew I had counsel coming this time and they were already in the room when we walked in (hello—violation!) but I forced myself to keep an open mind. That’s when something really weird happened: the meeting went fine.I would ask for something and they would ask for justification. I would provide documentation and they would agree. Then we would add the language to the IEP. Mind you, I was asking for the same things as last time and it was the same documentation as last time. It was like being in the twilight zone. Apparently, when you do these things in front of a $300 an hour lawyer, all of a sudden your requests are completely reasonable. We walked out of the meeting with every single thing that AJ needs to finish the year on grade level and move up with the rest of the kids in his class.

I truly hate that it came to this. I like his teacher and I know that it isn’t all her fault that things have gone so poorly this year. His support services just weren’t where they needed to be and she can only do so much with each child. I am truly hopeful that we can all just wipe the slate clean now and give AJ a real chance to succeed.

Wet, Wild, and Funky

My kids are not like others and I am in tune with the differences and sometimes that means catering to odd whims. There are times when they are just like any children and I willingly go with the flow. For example, of my sons loves swimming because of some kind of special sensory input he feels while in the water. I am grateful that he enjoys a special experience. Not every young one likes being wet and vulnerable. I don’t have my own pool however other than a small makeshift above ground type. So, I take him to the local public gym which has a nice, large indoor pool. He doesn’t always enjoy the company of other children if they tease or splash him, as rambunctious kids often do. I want him to learn to get along, so we persist in frequenting this location. There is no pool at his school and so far none in my neighborhood.

It makes it easy on me to take him after school on weekends, but I have a minor problem. He hates wearing those plastic pool shoes so he either intentionally forgets them or leaves them out of sight. He doesn’t like the slimy feel of wet jelly plastic. Most kids love them as you can wear them in the pool and have fun with assorted neon bright colors. There is a consequence to ignoring them and that is known as athlete’s foot. Many of you have seen or experienced it. It can itch, make the skin flake off, or even burn. Fortunately, there is a treatment, but first you must identify it and that isn’t hard. Frankly, it smells. It can be gooey and rather unpleasant if you let it get out of hand. I call it wet, wild, and funky. It is yellowish black in late stages and I am surprised that my son completely ignored it. What did he think it was? Dirt? Hardly. Finally, he came to me and said he had the flesh-eating bacteria. How did he know about that? TV no doubt and it is pretty scary. Any child would remember it out of fear. I calmed him down, however, and explained how common is athlete’s foot.

“Oh, ma,” he exclaimed. “Of course, I will wear jelly shoes and never take them off.” All of a sudden, I had immediate compliance. “Will that keep it away?” he asked. I was thrilled that he understood the value of a precaution like pool shoes and that he was willing to put up with an unpleasant feel to keep athlete’s foot at bay. He took a survey of his friends and sure enough none had the nasty malady. Why? They all sported pool shoes from the moment they left the car to the time they got into the pool. If they preferred to swim without them, they stood ready by the side of the water for the trip back to the locker room and car.

Has to Be Just Right

My life revolves around my kids and their special needs. Some of these pertain to sleeping habits. Hugh loves to get under a heavy blanket most cold nights, but you can imagine that when it is warmer in the summer, it is too much of a covering. He gets hot and wakes up repeatedly through the night. That means I am also up to check on him and I don’t get a good night’s sleep. Most parents understand this dilemma. I can get up and remove the blanket but come back in an hour and it is still there. I resorted to a ceiling fan to keep him cool on hot nights, even when he persists in his blanket habit. I did some searching and found a site called First Rate Fans that helped me choose the right ceiling fan for his room. He seems to sleep more soundly and then I can get back into bed. But I don’t until things are just right.

I installed the fan so it has two ways to operate. There is a switch on the wall that controls speed and the light that is in the center. Of course, we don’t want that to go on during the night so the control is in the off position. I also have a remove for Hugh and am hoping he will learn to use it on his own as he grows older. He has to learn to be the master of his own fate at night. For kids with autism, controlling their environment is very important from an early age. This need continues on as they mature. They can’t always depend on their parents. Older kids I meet express a desire to do things their way and it is not always the choice of their mother or father. In my house, the kids decide what games they play, when they want to go outside, when they want to invite someone over, what they eat, and when they go to bed within about a half hour range. I love the independence. It solves a lot of problems and you don’t always have to dictate to them what they can do. It is not in their nature to respond to tight control. I am in complete agreement. The ceiling fan should be part of this self-reliance. I want Hugh to know how it works, when it should be on, and how to adjust the speed according to the room’s temperature.

Hugh loves the look of the fan and of course the breeze it creates. In the winter, the blanket takes its place as a focal point of bedtime attention. I don’t think I will ever break him of the habit of a heavy cover. It gives him warmth first and foremost, but also security and a feeling of safety and contentment. I wonder if he will ever outgrow this. I suppose not. Oddly enough, my other son only likes to cover himself with a sheet. I love to see the differences between my boys. My life is a day-to-day mystery as to what each one will do.

Adjusting to a New Therapy Schedule

Every fall we go through it: the changing of the therapy schedule. I try not to rearrangethings too much in the summer just to avoid this exact scenario.Something always happens that is out of my control and forces us to make changes. The behavior therapist cuts back hours or Hugh switches from AM preschool to PM preschool. There was that one time the school changed dismissal time. It’s enough to drive a mama to drink. Or at the very least, throw her day planner out the window.

Between the two boys, we do 20 hours of therapy a week. Luckily the behavior therapists come to our home, so at least they can meet the boys at the bus stop and get started right away. But speech, OT, social group, and PT are all in clinic offices. I am sure that people would be amazed by the amount of therapy my kids are in. They work so hard and it really is helping them (because you know that if it wasn’t working, I wouldn’t be doing this at all). So it is hard, when their developmental pediatrician looks at me and says, “Hey, I’m hearing great things about music therapy. Have you ever considered adding it to their regimen?” to say no. Sure it is inconvenient for me but what does that matter in the face of getting my children the help they need? At what point do I even have the right to say no? I second guess myself so much with them—the curse of every modern-day parent. But how could I look them in the eye and tell myself that I’m doing the best I can if I am not doing everything in my power to get them the help they need? You start to think, well, ABA for 5 hours is helping them so much, can we do 6? Then the whole house of cards that is my schedule starts to wobble.

This year is especially difficult because my little guy, Hugh, is going to be going to school every day. I used to get the majority of his stuff out of the way while AJ was in school; now that option is gone.In order for life to be manageable at all, I have to try and get the boys’ appointments simultaneously. At the very least, I need them back-to-back so we aren’t traipsing all over town from the moment they get out of school until bedtime. So I sit here with my planner, trying to come up with time slots for everything that needs to be done and there just aren’t enough hours in the day most of the time. I’m sure at some point I will figure it all out but right now it just feels overwhelming!  At the next IEP meetings, I will push for more of this stuff to be done at school, but until then it is on my shoulders.

Wish me luck!

Because Autism

Kids with autism have their routines. You learn what they are and you allow them to dominate your children’s lives. It is the best way to make them feel safe and comfortable wherever they are. My kids like to be at home where they have all their games, the TV, and assorted toys. They can preoccupy themselves for hours on end like any child. I like when they interact with each other and especially with me. I encourage variety although it is not always easy to attain. Most of the time we have harmony in the house if all goes according to plan. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. I can think of a few times when meltdowns have occurred for practically no reason at all. It is simply due to a change in mood. Some kids are fickle about how they feel and they don’t shy away from expressing it.

One night the power went out in a major storm. That in itself was enough to scare them to hide under the bed. I gave them a flashlight but it didn’t help. They had a break in their routine of watching TV or playing a video game or two before bed. Since this has happened a few times in the past, I was smart enough to buy the best generator. The expense was worth every penny to keep peace in the house. This was our savior that night. I also had remembered in advance to buy a portable DVD player that didn’t need much power. The generator worked fine and the kids could indulge for a couple of hours. It virtually saved the day. The meltdown dissolved and the boys were back to normal and then some. They liked the idea of the auxiliary power and wanted to know how it worked. Candles and flashlights were not enough to keep them quiet and content.

I can’t remember a better evening than the night of the storm. It is interesting that the howling winds and thrashing rain didn’t scare them at all. When in front of a video game, they are completely absorbed. They could go for a long time entranced and it is difficult to tear them away. That is the problem with TV and games for most kids. You have to set a definite time limit that they will respect. Fortunately, my boys are good sports because they know they will be back glued to the screen the next night. I don’t allow 24 hours a day of such stuff as that would be destructive to their little brains. I don’t believe in over indulgence or keeping your kids calm the wrong way. I also want them to have creative time when they are on their own with art supplies, books, and assorted tools. Life for kids has to have multi dimensions. But on a dark, stormy night, TV and games will do the job nicely for a while. It quells the panic thanks to the generator.

Meltdowns vs Tantrums

One of the first things you need to learn as an autism parent is that there is a clear difference between tantrums and meltdowns. A tantrum usually has a purpose—the child wants something and thinks that a tantrum is the best way to get it. Once you give in to whatever it is, the tantrum stops. A meltdown, on the other hand, is a reaction to something.It typically is beyond a child’s control. They are overwhelmed by their surroundings and it is the only way they know how to cope. I tend to think of it as what happens after the straw breaks the camel’s back.

The two things can look very similar, especially to people who are outside of the autism spectrum. They see your kid screaming at the grocery store and immediately assume that it is because you told them they can’t have something they want. They write off your child as just another entitled kid with terrible parents. It doesn’t occur to them that it could actually be because the lady next to you drowned herself in perfume, and that mixed with the buzzing from the florescent light, the scratchy tag on the back of their shirt, and the constant visual onslaught of all those items on the shelves with their bright packaging, is just too much for one little kid to handle. Since most people are capable of filtering these everyday things out, they have no concept of how intensely it can bother someone.

But as a parent of a kid with sensory issues, we have to be able to differentiate so that we can work through it accordingly. A tantrum can be acknowledged but the second you give in, you are inviting it to happen again. I usually just stand there and ask my kids very calmly, “Has acting like this ever gotten you what you want?” and then they usually taper off because the answer to that question is no. On the other hand, if there was something that kicked off the meltdown and you give in, the meltdown still won’t end. It’s too late. The only thing you can do is wait it out.Sometimes you’re in a public place so that isn’t easy to do. It can be really embarrassing, too. Just remind yourself that it is, at its heart, an uncontrolled response. If your child could help it, they wouldn’t have melted down. Don’t let other people’s attitudes interfere with you helping your kiddo. JudgyMcJudgerson over there can actually control her behavior, so she’s the one who should be acting better.

Every kid will respond differently to calm-down techniques. Hugh needs me to pull him into my lap and hug him as tightly as I can until he is able to regain control. AJ, on the other hand, usually needs to be relocated to a safe place where he can lay on the ground and kick and scream until he exhausts himself. I remember one particularly bad meltdown when Hugh was sick. We got through the exam and were about to walk out of the office when the receptionist called me back. Hugh, having finally seen the exit, could not understand why we had do go back. He threw himself on the floor and started screaming bloody murder. Everyone in the waiting room looked at me and I could see the judgement in every single adult’s face. Spoiled brat, they were thinking to themselves. I couldn’t get close enough to Hugh with all the flailing limbs to pick him up, so there was no hope of calming him down. He had handled everything as much as he could and that was his limit. I was forced to pull him by the arm—across the dirty floor—and back to reception to fill out one last form they had forgotten to give me earlier. It was one of my most humiliating moments as a parent. The receptionist, who knows Hugh pretty well and knew what was going on, apologized for setting him off. We had to let him scream a little more before he was worn out enough that I could safely get him back to the car and wait the rest of it out.

It’s going to be hard. Tantrums are difficult and meltdowns are terrible. But they are going to be part of your life. All you can do is learn how best to handle it with your child and then help them through it the best you can.

We Went Grocery Shopping Today, and it was Glorious

My children hate the grocery store. This is not uncommon for kids with sensory issues. The sheer amount of stuff, the smells, the bright lights, the noise from the customers and registers. It’s enough to drive even the best of us crazy. Hugh has a harder time than AJ, and I have found myself going shopping when Hugh is in school just to make things easier for all of us.

We’ve been working on it, though, using exposure therapy. On the whole, I am not a big fan of exposure therapy. For the most part, I try to respect the things that my kids will tolerate and what they won’t. If they’ll eat pancakes but not waffles, or don’t ever want to play with playdoh, I figure that’s fine. However, we can’t avoid the grocery store for the rest of their lives. I don’t like going either, but it is a life skill. Life skills are non-negotiable in this house. The first day, we just drove there and sat in the parking lot. The next day, we went in and stood in between the two sets of doors for a few minutes. The next time we went, we actually went into the store. And so on and so forth. It has been incredibly tedious and frustrating.

Of course, though, the boys had a few days off for whatever reason—it certainly wasn’t a holiday—and AJ dumped all the milk down the sink because he thought it “might” taste funny. It was all I had left. Hugh started screaming because he wanted milk with his breakfast and so I had no choice but to take them with me to get more. We hadn’t actually been shopping yet on these exposure therapy trips, so it was going to be a real test.

I explained everything to both boys and got them loaded in the car. Hugh was still screaming due to his lack of breakfast but he got into the car willingly. AJ already knew there were consequences coming for wasting all the milk so he was trying his best to behave despite being nervous about where we were going.

We got there without incident and I was able to get them the police car cart, which allowed them to sit together. Even though there were other things I needed, I went past all of it and grabbed the milk. Then AJ asked very politely if we could get some more of his favorite toothpaste because we were almost out. I asked Hugh if he minded, but he had his head down and didn’t answer. I went to the toothpaste aisle and got what we needed. Not a complaint out of either of them. I decided to try and push my luck. I grabbed three more things that we needed. Still nothing from them. I could not believe it.

I decided that was enough for the day and we went up to the register. The cashier tried to talk to Hugh and he covered his face, but that was really all. We got in and out without a single fit! I could hear choirs of angels singing as I put our bags in the car. This is life-changing stuff, people. Life changing!

I gave both boys a reward when we got home, but Hugh was really only interested in his breakfast.