Yesterday, while driving home from an afterschool visit to Starbucks (a weekly treat for Brendan & myself) I had to hit the breaks because a driver in front of me was doing something funky. Brendan commented that he wished the driver would practise conscious driving... we skipped a beat & then burst out laughing. Brendan, giggling madly, asked me why what he'd said was so funny, so I asked him what the opposite of "conscious" is. We both had taken the mental leap to the idea that the driver had been driving "unconsciously" (therefore, asleep). (In restrospect, I think he meant "conscientious".) So, we came up with the slogan:
Conscious driving: it's not just a good idea, it's the law!!
Being a conscious parent (most of the time) as well as driver, I have noticed that we seem to be achieving a sense of equilibrium in the new year, at least where it concerns Brendan's new, heightened level of anxiety. We've been tracking his anxiety using a "tic log" & I just began a new one yesterday (I've been making little books out of a stack of computer paper cut in half & bound with crochet thread :), which caused me to reflect a bit on how he's been doing. The homework re-organisation has gone very well, & we're all less anxious because we know what to expect. Monday night was math, which meant that it was Charlie's night to coach & Brendan & I didn't have to rush right into homework after we got home (from a quick visit to the pediatrician to look at a rash & then a longer visit to the grocery store to fill a prescription & our tummies with sushi while we waited :). Last night he had language arts homework- my area of expertise- so I scribed his spanish homework for him, which made him very happy (& kept the anxiety level very low).
The anxiety lately has taken the form of an increase in "fleas" interfering with everything from dressing to homework to what activities he can do (when not on the computer). Although he's not been specific, the clothing issues seem to change from day to day, & sometimes it's colour that's the problem & sometimes it's the order in which they've been placed in the drawer. Some mornings he continually puts things back in the drawer & hauls others out. Others he needs me to put the shirt over his head because the "flea" is preventing him from finishing the job. I have learned that challenging him at these times does not improve things or lessen the anxiety, so I do what seems necessary- or what he asks me to do. Any time he can be pro-active & tell me what he needs is great, in my opinion, even if he needs me to dress him. (Note: being a self-conscious preteen, he always gets his undies on unsupervised & in private!) One of the biggest cognitive leaps we've noticed in Brendan is his growing ability to analyse what's going on & tell us what he needs. I am going to encourage this behaviour where ever I see it! Another way that we've been encouraging him to be pro-active is when he needs to yell or scream... he's been pretty good about warning us. We've been discouraging long screaming episodes, since they hurt his throat, & problem-solving other ways to get the feelings out. He's been pretty good about telling us when's about to get loud (particularly appreciated when I'm setting the laptop down or carrying food...) so that we aren't startled... We've also been trying to be aware of how sensory strategies can help him- everything from burning incense or spraying lavender scent to deep pressure can help, if we can just remember to offer (or he to ask...).
The hardest line to walk with Brendan's anxiety is to know how much to accomodate it & how much to challenge it. What I'm learning is that sometimes we need to go with his flow, to keep the anxiety from increasing, to keep things moving (in the morning before school in particular). When his anxiety is lower, then we can revisit things, brainstorm alternatives, point out ways he can be pro-active, look for what's causing the anxiety... The risk is that he'll become anxious discussing these things, but he also responds well to being consulted & treated like the intelligent person that he is. An interesting fallout of recent dances with anxiety is that he's been able to go back to playing some computer games that were a bit too challenging & frustrating for him when he first got them last month. We made a deal with him that he could play them if he self-monitored for increased frustration, or if he would listen to us if we pointed out that he seemed to be getting upset. I had to do just that last night & I was so pleased when he realised what he was feeling & de-escalated things on his own. Whew!! Hooray!!!
Brendan & I are also in the early planning stages of a new & exciting project. I took my precious savings & bought a new macbook a few weeks ago, mainly because my nearly 3-year-old laptop's hard drive was maxxed-out & really slow, & with the help of a friend (thanks Lee!) got it all set up very quickly. This new laptop came with the newest version of Garageband, which means that Brendan & I can now create our own podcasts :) The idea hit me a couple of nights ago, in the shower (of course), & when I proposed it to Brendan yesterday morning he just lit up... because, as he puts it, his greatest talent is talking... :) We have another friend, Santosha, on board to help us figure out how to actually create podcasts (this is the friend who interviewed me a year ago for the UU radio show). Then I'll need to figure out how to get the podcasts on the internet... but anyway, we are on our way to creating a venue for Brendan to talk about himself & autism (& OCD, & Tourettes... :) and how he thinks & feels about lots of things. We are really psyched. He wants to read some of his stories & sing his parody songs, too (the latest is called "Lucy in the Sky with Daggers"...). I am pretty excited about finally finding a way to get my kid's own perspective onto the 'net. It'll probably take us a month or so to get it up & working, so stay tuned... :)