Autism; In “The Old Days” – Diagnosis via St. Elsewhere

img_8084

As you may or may not know, DC is 25 (almost 26 – gulp) years old. He was finally and officially diagnosed with Autism when he was 5.

I knew there was “something” by the time he was a year old and looking back, probably before that.

I originally thought that he could not hear.

After many visits to many doctors any many different hearing tests, they determined that he in fact, could hear perfectly.

This and a whole list of other issues, still had me believing that there was “something” –  they were telling me that he could hear– okay, but there was still something.

He was not talking or attempting to communicate, but doctor after doctor told me that boys develop more slowly and not to worry.

I was worried.

By the time he was three there was still no attempt at speech, there was flapping, stimming (although we did not call it that back then) and no eye contact. There were meltdowns (we did not have that word back then either) and as I said, a whole list of other issues that doctors continued to tell me he would grow out of.  I began to feel as if this was all in my head but I finally had him evaluated by Easter Seals and Early Intervention.

Both agencies agreed that there was a “speech delay” and we began to receive weekly home visits through Early Intervention for speech and OT. Although his Early Intervention therapists said that there was “something that they could not put their finger on”, his official diagnosis remained a speech delay.

They told me that because he was an only child, it would benefit him to be around children his own age.  Being a single parent since he was 2, not working was not an option, so at the time, he was with his Godmother’s mother during the day when I was at work.

Following the doctor’s and therapist’s advice, I took him out of the home daycare and placed him in a local daycare a few days a week. The rest of the week he with my friend who not only had a daughter exactly his age but another daughter a few years younger. Activities for special needs children were non-existent at that time, so I found a gymnastics class (he loved to climb) but I decided to put him in the class for children 18 months old, half his age because even though everyone was calling this a speech delay, I knew it was more than that and I knew he would not be able to handle a class made up of his peers.

Well…. That was a disaster! I spent most of the time in a corner crying. He just could not stand to be around the other kids, and most of the time I had to take him away from the situation and bring him over to a corner, nullifying the whole socialization effort.

At the end of each class was “circle-time” – we tried, we really did. He would sit on my lap and scream and scream; he would try to wiggle away. I would chase him and bring him back while trying to ignore the stares from the other mothers.

Then there was “Blaine” and his mother…

It has been 22 years, but I will not forget Blaine and I certainly will never forget his mother. His mother who sat next to us on the floor consoling Blaine loudly as if he was being traumatized by my child’s crying. Let me just say that Blaine was fine, he was really not even paying attention to DC at all, but she continued on and on “Don’t worry, it’s okay. He won’t hurt you” all for my benefit not her son’s.

We did try again the following two weeks with the same result, the third time we just ended up picking up and leaving mid-class. That was my last visit, but I did send his Dad with him the next week just to prove a point that he was not understanding at the time – I will get to that shortly.

A few days after our last disastrous trip to gymnastics, I was giving DC a bath. As he was sitting in the bathtub, I looked at him and he looked as if he did not even know I was there. He looked as if he was having a conversation in his own language with someone that only he could see.

It was right then and there that it hit me! He reminded me of Tommy Westphall, an autistic boy – a character from the old television show, St. Elsewhere. At that point, the show had been off the air for a good five years, but I still remembered the character vividly.

I knew nothing about autism except that Tommy had it. I had never met an autistic person and other than the way Tommy behaved, I knew nothing about it – frankly I cannot even say for sure if I had ever heard of it until then. I know it sounds ridiculous but it was at that moment that the proverbial light bulb went off in my head.

I called his Dad right away, but he was not hearing any of it. In his defense, he really did not see the delays – he really had no experience with children this age and nothing to compare DC to. His was in the military for many years; the years when his nieces and nephews were young. He was never really around young children at any time in his life for any length of time.

I decided that we would change his day with DC that week from Sunday to Saturday so he could take him to that dreaded gymnastics class. All of the talking and explaining in the world was not going to change his mind until he saw the differences first-hand.

He saw them.

He got it.

I will never forget the expression on his face when he brought DC home that day.

I had already called DC’s doctor with the suggestion of autism and she made appointments for him to be evaluated at a Children’s Hospital that was supposed to be very prominent in the diagnosis and study of autism. I did take note of the fact that she did not seem surprised that I was thinking and bringing up autism.

In the meantime, his Dad happened to come across a local news story. The Anchor of one of the local news stations did a story about his own son being diagnosed with Asperger’s. He called the station and requested a copy of the tape and yes, there were quite a few similarities between his son and DC.

Long story, short (too late, I know) – we went through the whole evaluation process and they gave us a diagnosis of:

“Severe speech delay – Rule out Autism”.

What might that mean?

It was explained to us that “Severe speech delays tend to mimic the classic symptoms of autism” including the flapping, lack of eye contact, food and texture aversions and of course the lack of speech itself.

??????

If his speech is just delayed and he should begin to speak, the other symptoms would disappear. They wanted to wait another year to see if he would begin speaking and “rule out autism”.

Fortunately, by this time I already had him in Special Education. He qualified, having previously been diagnosed with a delay, so all of this time was not being wasted, but it would have been beneficial to be able to work with an actual diagnosis. (School-Age for SPED in this area is 3 to 21 years of age)

We returned the following year and he was finally officially diagnosed.

It took more than 4 years since I first thought there was a problem – 4 years of doctors looking at me as if it I was just an over protective, first-time mother – 4 years of people telling me that Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four – 4 years of people telling me that he did not speak because I did everything for him and he did not need to speak for himself – 4 years of the looks, stares and comments from people like Blaine’s mother – 4 years of taking him to doctor after doctor (this is not to say that all of the above does not happen still, because it does, but at the time – not having a diagnosis – I was beginning  to believe that all of this was either all in my own head or all my fault or both) – 4 years…

I honestly do not know if his doctors and therapists back then just did not want to bring up autism, because knowing what I know now – it should have been apparent to all of them.

Apparent as it should have been, still I had to be the one to say it first….

*****

If you were a fan of St. Elsewhere, you will “get” the photo.

Advertisements

His Title Remains Firmly Intact…..

Brave

I had to take DC for bloodwork for the second time ever, this week. Because of his seizure medication, bloodwork will become a regular part of his life. I am thankful that due to the type of seizure medication that he is on, he will not have to go for bloodwork every month or even close to as often as some of his friends do – small favors.  After all of the chaos during his last visit and even though he realized in the end that it did not hurt at all, I was worried that the ‘not hurting’ part was not going to be what he remembered. The ‘needle’ part is what makes him anxious.

I put his bloodwork off for a couple of weeks because I was scheduled for a physical myself which normally includes bloodwork. I was hoping that we would be able to go together so he could watch me and see that there is nothing to be afraid of.

We talked about it for weeks. I reminded him that it did not hurt. He seemed relatively calm – until we arrived and were in the waiting room. His reaction was just like, if not worse than it was the first time.

The people at the lab were nice enough to let us go together. I wasn’t sure if they remembered him from the last time or if it was just about him losing it at the reception window, or both – but they obliged.

Still, I was not sure if me going first was THE best way to go. I was on the fence. This could go very wrong. On one hand; he could watch me and understand that it does not hurt – on the other hand; THE NEEDLE – he would be watching the needle.

I was still debating in my head when we were called inside and at the last second I decided to go first. He watched every move the lab tech made very intently. He was interested, not fearful at all. When it was his turn, he sat in the chair and insisted on watching the whole thing. He saw the needle and he watched the whole procedure without making a sound. Even with all of the prep beforehand and watching me, I never thought it would go that easily.

The second they were finished, he lost control – jumping, stimming and yelling. Maybe it took a lot out of him to keep himself in control for the needle and he just had to let go when it was over, I don’t know. I do know that even with the before and after commotion, this time was so much easier than the last.

In my opinion, his “Sir DC the Brave” title remains firmly intact….

*****

From August 2015:

“They call me Sir DC the Braaaave”needle“and history someday will rave…….”

DC had to go for blood work today. He has never had to have blood drawn before. They did take blood in the ER after his first seizure but he was so “out of it” that he did not give them a problem about it at all.

DC has always been very healthy so his doctor and I had decided to put off blood tests unless it was necessary because having blood drawn would entail making an appointment at the hospital to have him put out – an all day affair. He is big and he is strong. Even when he was younger and had to have a vaccination, I had to bring reinforcements to the Doctor’s office. Most of the time we had, his Dad, Doug, me, the assistant and the doctor in the examination room. No one could hold him, no one. It was exhausting and even with all of us trying to hold on to him, the doctor would eventually have to resort to chasing him around the room until she had a semi-good shot at sticking him. I often wondered if he ever actually got everything that was in the needle.

Well, we could put if off no longer. Due to his seizures and medications, he had to have blood drawn.  He did let the paramedics put an IV in during his second ride to the hospital and he was much more alert that time. Hoping that he remembered this, I decided we would try to go to a regular lab. I talked to him and explained what they were going to do. I also explained that if he did not let them take the blood at the lab we would have to go to the hospital to have it done. He did NOT want to go to the hospital again.

He was all right until we got to the waiting room at the lab. He was in full-on anxiety mode – yelling “I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies.”, jumping up, yelling and making his noises quite loudly.

We got him into the drawing room and into the chair and at this point he had calmed down enough that I really thought we would be able to do this – until he saw the needle.

Let the battle begin.

The technician called for back up and fortunately Doug had come with me as reinforcement. Still no one could hold him. It had gotten to the point where as great as the staff was, I knew they could not do this much longer. They gave it one last try with Doug actually laying across his free arm and all of us holding the “needle arm”. As soon as he saw the needle go in he stopped fighting and let them finish. Sometimes the anticipation is worse than the actual event.

He was fine. He was proud of himself. “I did it! I did it!”

When we walked out of the room all eyes were on us from the now very crowded waiting room. I am sure they wanted to see who had been causing all of that commotion. I could not care less. He did it and that was all that mattered. DC, with a wave and a smile yelled “Good-bye Ladies” and we were off.

In the car on the way to breakfast before heading to work, DC was so proud and not wanting us to forget it,  began singing a song. I recognized it from when he was young, but I hadn’t heard it in years. I could not even remember where it came from:

(his name has been muted out of the video)

(A reenactment, of course)

“They call me sir DC, the brave,

and history someday will rave

I’m valiant and daring, and noble of bearing

Courageous and gallant, a mountain of talent.

No wonder folks curtsey and wave

I’m Robin, Sir DC, the brave.”

Later I asked him what movie he remembered that song is from.

The Frog Prince – the Muppet version, of course.

He was brave, very brave. I am happy he is so proud of himself. Hopefully this means that the next time might go much easier.

Now next up…. the MRI……

That should be something!

(video begins at 2:44 – at the song)

“They call me Sir DC the Braaaave”

needle“and history someday will rave…….”

DC had to go for blood work today. He has never had to have blood drawn before. They did take blood in the ER after his first seizure but he was so “out of it” that he did not give them a problem about it at all.

DC has always been very healthy so his doctor and I had decided to put off blood tests unless it was necessary because having blood drawn would entail making an appointment at the hospital to have him put out – an all day affair. He is big and he is strong. Even when he was younger and had to have a vaccination, I had to bring reinforcements to the Doctor’s office. Most of the time we had, his Dad, Doug, me, the assistant and the doctor in the examination room. No one could hold him, no one. It was exhausting and even with all of us trying to hold on to him, the doctor would eventually have to resort to chasing him around the room until she had a semi-good shot at sticking him. I often wondered if he ever actually got everything that was in the needle.

Well, we could put if off no longer. Due to his seizures and medications, he had to have blood drawn.  He did let the paramedics put an IV in during his second ride to the hospital and he was much more alert that time. Hoping that he remembered this, I decided we would try to go to a regular lab. I talked to him and explained what they were going to do. I also explained that if he did not let them take the blood at the lab we would have to go to the hospital to have it done. He did NOT want to go to the hospital again.

He was all right until we got to the waiting room at the lab. He was in full-on anxiety mode – yelling “I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies.”, jumping up, yelling and making his noises quite loudly.

We got him into the drawing room and into the chair and at this point he had calmed down enough that I really thought we would be able to do this – until he saw the needle.

Let the battle begin.

The technician called for back up and fortunately Doug had come with me as reinforcement. Still no one could hold him. It had gotten to the point where as great as the staff was, I knew they could not do this much longer. They gave it one last try with Doug actually laying across his free arm and all of us holding the “needle arm”. As soon as he saw the needle go in he stopped fighting and let them finish. Sometimes the anticipation is worse than the actual event.

He was fine. He was proud of himself. “I did it! I did it!”

When we walked out of the room all eyes were on us from the now very crowded waiting room. I am sure they wanted to see who had been causing all of that commotion. I could not care less. He did it and that was all that mattered. DC, with a wave and a smile yelled “Good-bye Ladies” and we were off.

In the car on the way to breakfast before heading to work, DC was so proud and not wanting us to forget it,  began singing a song. I recognized it from when he was young, but I hadn’t heard it in years. I could not even remember where it came from:

(his name has been muted out of the video)

(A reenactment, of course)

“They call me sir DC, the brave,

and history someday will rave

I’m valiant and daring, and noble of bearing

Courageous and gallant, a mountain of talent.

No wonder folks curtsey and wave

I’m Robin, Sir DC, the brave.”

Later I asked him what movie he remembered that song is from.

The Frog Prince – the Muppet version, of course.

He was brave, very brave. I am happy he is so proud of himself. Hopefully this means that the next time might go much easier.

Now next up…. the MRI……

That should be something!

(video begins at 2:44 – at the song)

Still knocking

knock

It has been a busy week and by the time this post publishes, we will be spending a long weekend at the Cape. Normally at this time of year we can expect semi-warm weather, but judging by the week we just had, it is not looking good. Fingers crossed for no rain at least.

This trip was scheduled so that I could attend the birthday party of the mother of one of my oldest friends (grammar school, believe it or not). Another old friend will be coming up from Georgia to attend as well.  I am looking forward to seeing them.

Since we were going to be traveling to Cape Cod for the party, we decided to make a long weekend of it. We are hoping to get to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket on one of the days we’re there.

Three years ago we traveled to the Cape for the same reason, but we did not stay long enough to do anything else, so we decided to go back a few months later to visit Nantucket and to pay a quick visit with my friend and her family.

Below is a re-post from that adventure. I am keeping my fingers crossed for some decent weather this weekend and I am still knocking on wood…

From May 2014 …

Knock, Knock, Knock on Wood

Just recently I was reading a blog that I follow – Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane Blog. The title; What’s in my Purse. The post was about the many trips the family has made to the emergency room over the years and what the author learned to carry with her at all times. If you have a minute, check it out.

It made me realize how lucky I am to have made only ONE trip to the ER with DC – that is correct, ONLY ONE! (Knocking wood, Knocking Wood, Knocking Wood). The one trip came at age 21 and for the most ridiculous reason.  As you may or may not know, DC is 23 with Autism. Safety is not something he has any awareness of. He IS a little better now that he is older, but he is better because he has been taught not to do this or not to do that, not because he really understands what can happen to him. He doesn’t really understand many things unless/until they actually happen. So not wanting him to get hit by a car in order for him to understand what could happen if he were to be hit by a car….. I have to hope that making rules, and pointing out everything around him, will have some impact on him.

I mean, I have really been lucky (still knocking wood), so much so that we’ve never had to use a Band-Aid. He loves Band-Aids and wants to wear them so much that he just wears them for no reason, or invents a reason the wear them. The one and only time he cut himself when he fell off his bike – yes, he somehow managed to tip over an adult three-wheeled bike – he was so excited to have a big raspberry on his chest, he wasn’t concerned about the fall, he just wanted a Band-Aid. He was so crushed that the raspberry was much too big for a Band-Aid, that I had to make up a reason to apply one to his leg, just to make him happy.
Band-Aids, especially “character-themed Band-Aids” are on his “odd gifts list” along with the rolls of scotch tape, mentioned in an earlier blog.

No Injury - Just wanted to wear a Band-Aid

Rounding out the Collection, we have Mickey Mouse (again, no injury)

A few years ago, we took a weekend trip to Hyannis, MA in Cape Cod. He arrived Friday evening. The plan; have dinner and hang out at the hotel on Friday night. Saturday we would take the ferry, and spend the day in Nantucket. Sunday, we planned to stop in and visit one of my oldest friends  before we headed home.

We arrived on Friday evening. DC was happy to be in the hotel. As far as he was concerned, we could just stay there. He loves hotels. Saturday, as planned, we took the ferry to Nantucket. He loved the ferry. We searched out a few book stores as we must (see “Off to the Book Store We Go”), looked around, had lunch and took the last ferry back to the hotel. It was a nice day.  We had a good time.

Sunday morning was going to be spent just hanging out in the hotel room until it was time to check out. DC was watching a movie on his kindle, Doug was on the deck and I was packing up the bathroom items. I was only in the bathroom for a few minutes. When I came out, DC was sitting at the desk; right where I left him. He yelled “Mom! Tears.” DC, as a rule almost never has tears, his eyes never water – even when he cries, he rarely has tears. When he is really upset and really crying and wants to make certain I know how upset he is, he will use water or spit to create tears, just for effect.  Even as a baby, he did not have tears when he cried. But here I could see he had tears running down his face…… real tears.

“Tears!”

I thought possibly his allergies were hitting him harder than usual – Doug had the deck door open and the deck was right on the golf course. “DC, what’s wrong, do you have something in your eye?”

“Mom! Tears! Ear!” On one hand he was excited about the real tears on his face but his excitement was mixed with a bit of panic.

I had no idea what he was trying to tell me. Then he showed me the ear bud from his Kindle. There were rubber covers on the ear buds and one was missing. Panicking, I yelled out to Doug something that probably made no sense,  and ran DC into the bathroom. I couldn’t see anything in his ear. DC started to panic now that he realized that I couldn’t get it out right away.

This entire exchange above…. Tears, Ear and showing me the ear bud would normally be cause for celebration – DC being able to tell me that something is wrong and what is wrong is a very BIG  deal, but all celebrating had to wait because he was getting more panicky by the second.

I still could not see anything in his ear.  I dumped everything that I had just packed out and could not find the tweezers. I sent Doug down to the front desk to ask for a flashlight and tweezers, while I tried to keep DC’s fingers out of his ears and tried to keep him from flipping out any more than he already was. Doug came back; the desk had no tweezers (?) and no flashlight (?).

We took DC down to the desk. He would be okay for a minute or two and then he would freak out. The man behind the counter did not seem to understand what we were talking about. I am sure he thought we were all crazy. I was somewhere between panic and laughing hysterically at the ridiculousness of the whole situation while DC was making very loud noises, yelling out random words, flapping, stimming and doing everything else that comes with his anxiety.  I’m not sure what the man at the desk thought was going on and why we needed a flashlight and tweezers, but watching DC in the middle of the lobby absolutely loosing it  frightened him a bit, I think and asked his assistant to go check again. She came back with no flashlight and no tweezers. Seriously, what hotel doesn’t have a flashlight?

I was so trying to avoid the Emergency Room. It hadn’t been all that long since DC finally became comfortable with doctors. I didn’t want a long and scary emergency room visit to erase the years of progress he had made. The other issue was it was his EAR! For years, when we went to the doctor, he would get unbelievably upset and totally meltdown if anyone went near his ears. I remember one of the doctor’s assistants, who was either new to the office or had not had to deal with DC getting his ears checked saying, “Oh! I was wondering why we had to bring extra trash cans into the examining room! I get it now!” – Yes, every single time, he would get so worked up, screaming and fighting that he would vomit. This went on for years. The very last thing I wanted to do was to bring him to an emergency room to have someone poke around in his ear.

The desk clerk gave us directions to the nearest pharmacy and we took directions to the ER too, just in case.

I rode in the back seat with DC to keep him from pushing the ear bud in farther. Doug ran in to the pharmacy to buy the tweezers and flashlight. Now we are all in the backseat of the car, armed with a flashlight and tweezers, trying to see inside his ear. I can’t imagine what the other people in the parking lot must have been thinking. DC had enough at this point and was not cooperating at all anymore…and….. I still could not see anything.

I knew we had to suck it up and head for the Emergency Room. I still wasn’t positive that there was anything in his ear at all. Did he just think that it went into his ear and it was really just on the floor somewhere at the hotel? I didn’t know, but he was so upset that I had to assume it was in there somewhere.

We arrived at the emergency room. It was a weekend in a tourist area;  I was expecting hundreds of people waiting. I didn’t know how I was going to keep him calm and keep his hands away from his ear while we waited. We walked through the door and there was only ONE person in the entire waiting room! I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign but I was going with good. I took him to the desk and explained the situation to the clerk. One look at him flailing around and she asked if he needed to be sedated. I told her (with fingers crossed) that he would not.

They took us right in! (I love this place). They put DC in a bed, the doctor came and checked his ear. DC LET him check his ear! He really must have wanted this thing OUT! He told me he could see it but it was in there deep and he would need to use another tool to get at it. All I could think was “No way he is going to let you do that!” but I SAID “Okay, he’ll be fine with it”.

I explained the situation to DC and told him what was going to happen, not really knowing if he would understand what I was telling him, but he said “Yes! Ear!”, so I think he did understand.

The doctor went in with some sort of funnel-looking thing. I was truly amazed that DC was cooperating and keeping still. He was finally able to get the thing out. Of course DC had to examine it completely before they got rid of it, I suppose just to be sure that it was out.

DC calmed down immediately and we made a big deal about how brave he’d been! All of my worrying about the doctor, his ears, traumatizing him with an ER visit was for nothing. He was totally unscathed by the whole thing and was very proud to tell people that he had been in the ‘hos – i – bull”.

We were done and over it in time to get back to the room and finish packing. Now he wanted to put those things right back into his ears!

“NO, NO, NO!” a thousand times, no……. They went directly into the garbage.

We were also able to visit my friend as planned.

I went on a hunt for new ear buds without any rubber or removable parts as soon as we got home.

Coincidentally, as I was writing this story, DC received a belated birthday gift from one of my friends. This gift included two boxes of character Band-Aids that DC is already wearing proudly.
(and yes…….. I am still knocking wood……………)

“To Boldly Go……”

To Boldy Go....

To Bodly Go….

I confess…

I admit it…

I am just a big old Sci-fi geek from way back. I watched the first episode of Star Trek back in 1966/1967 (?) and I was hooked – for life.

The first “sign” that DC learned when he was very young (for those of you that may not know, DC was non-verbal until he was 7 years old) was the “Live Long and Prosper” sign. If and when he saw a picture of Mr. Spock or heard him mentioned, he used that sign.

Today, he is verbal but will still, at times use his signs in conjunction with his speech – that “Mr. Spock” sign has come to represent Star Trek in general for him and he still uses it.

Coincidently, DC just happened to be born on William Shatner’s birthday (not planned – I swear)

Before the days when Star Trek costumes were available to purchase - DC's second Halloween.

Before the days when Star Trek costumes were available to purchase – DC’s second Halloween.

Last October, we finally made it to New York Comic-Con. I was nervous – it was so crowded, but the hope of meeting Felicia Day, kept DC pretty much on track. He also got to meet William Shatner and the Real Mike Tee Vee. All were very nice to him and he was very, very happy.

A few years back a friend of mine told me about “Shore Leave“,an event held in Baltimore every August. It is smaller than ComicCon and the original plan was to try this first, see how DC managed it and then move on to the bigger ‘Con’ in NY at a later date. Somehow we ended up doing it in reverse. But, since DC did so well at ComicCon we decided  Shore Leave would be a breeze.

We left on Thursday afternoon as soon as DC came home from his work program. Our 5 hour drive to Baltimore somehow turned into an 8 hour haul. We opted not to stay at the hotel where the event was being held as we were planning on doing a few other things in Baltimore while we were there and I really thought it would be just too much for DC. We had reservations at the Holiday Inn – Timonium. We finally arrived a little bit after 11pm.

The man at the desk checked us in to room 717. We headed up to the 7th floor in the slowest elevator known to man – reverse warp speed. We opened the door to room 717 and found that the door was bolted from the inside and soon a man’s face was looking at us through the 6 inch space in the door. He wanted to know what we were doing and why we had a key to his room. We explained that we had just checked in and this was the room we were given. He explained that HE had just checked into this room moments before. DC does not understand this, he wants to “go to the room”.

Fortunately a hotel employee was in the hallway and called down to the desk. He got the desk clerk to assign us a different room on the same floor, let us in with his master-key and went down to switch out the keys for us. We were now checked into room 725. At about 11:45, the room phone rang. It was the desk clerk. He has forgotten our name (??!!) – we had reservations so he should have all of that information, but I gave him our name again. At midnight, the phone rang. It was the desk clerk once again, this time calling to tell us he would have someone slip free breakfast coupons under our door for our inconvenience. We thanked him and hoped this would be the end of the phone calls for the evening.

We spent Friday at the Inner Harbor. DC of course spotted the Barnes and Noble and Hard Rock “Caf” (DC-speak) so, you bet we had to  visit both places. It was a nice day and we had a very nice time.

We got back to the room at about 4pm to discover that no one had come to clean. I thought that was odd, but given the debacle of the night before, I really didn’t think too much about it at the time. We would be heading back out in an hour so there wasn’t much point to calling anyone to clean at that time of day.

Reading the Shore Leave schedule, I noticed that there was a “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock” tournament at 6pm. DC loves the Big Bang Theory and thinks “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock” is the most hysterical thing he’s ever heard. He does not really know what it means, the words are  just so funny to him. I thought if we attended the tournament, he would see exactly what it is…. a game.  I didn’t think he would actually understand the game, but at the very least he might understand what they are talking about in the show.

When we first walked in, the moderator was explaining the rules, reading from a very confusing T-shirt, complete with diagrams and pictures of the signs. One of the participants piped up “That boy has the directions right on his shirt” – I don’t think the moderator appreciated this, he looked up, sighed and went right back to explaining with HIS T-shirt. DC got a kick out of the tournament and asked me more than once “to play“. I knew he really didn’t understand it and thought about asking the moderator if someone could play a quick game with him when they were finished, but during the practice rounds I did with him, I could see he really didn’t get it. He just threw whatever I threw. I told him he could play against me. We played at the table while the tournament was in progress. This seemed to make him happy enough.

After the tournament we were walking down one of the hallways and I noticed the TARDIS in the corner and pointed it out to DC. He recognized it immediately yelling,  “Dr Who” We went to check it out. It was a photo booth. I don’t know what sort of directions the man gave DC when he was in the booth, but I could see from the computer screen outside that every time “Look at the Camera” came up on the screen, DC did something with his hands and his face, when the prompt was not there he sat looking at the screen normally. I’m sure he was following his understanding of the directions the man gave him.

He also happened to find a pair of TARDIS slippers. There were only two pair on the table, but thankfully one pair was his size. He was pretty darn happy to get them. He has a “thing” about slippers lately, I don’t know why. He has a few pair of slippers at home but never wanted to wear them, all of a sudden he loves slippers and wears them all of the time. The Tardis slippers were a nice find for him.

Pictures taken, slippers purchased, now DC was beginning to get antsy. He had enough for one night and as you may or may not know, DC’s favorite thing when on vacation – besides bookstores and restaurants, that is – is the hotel room. He really just LOVES hotel rooms, so he was anxious to get back. We arrived back at the hotel at a little after 9. Jokingly, I said to Doug, “I hope they didn’t give our room to someone else”

 -I really have to stop joking like that, really!

We got to the door and the key would not work, none of our keys worked. There were 2 women just down the hall going into their room and I heard one  say  to the other, “Now look,  their keys won’t work” and they asked us if our keys worked. We told them that they didn’t. They proceeded to inform us that they had just checked in and they were assigned room number 725 (our room). They opened the door, went in and realized that this was clearly someone else’s room (especially as you know,  no one had come to clean it that day). They had just been down at the desk to have it corrected and in the process the people at the desk deactivated our keys.

DC just wanted to “go to the room” and again, we are left standing in the hallway. I was so worried about Shore Leave being too much for him, but as it turns out the hotel caused him (and me) more anxiety that anything else that weekend.

We went back down to the desk and informed them that once again, we were stuck in the hallway. Last night they had us walking into someone else’s room and tonight they sent strangers into our room. The women at the desk said that when the desk clerk switched our room the night before he didn’t mark it down – which explains why no one came to clean – they thought it was empty (but why did he call to ask our name?? – That will remain a mystery). One woman offered us free breakfast coupons for the rest of our stay (they must have to give out an awful lot of those) – I informed her that we had already been given coupons the night before for that error. They didn’t offer anything else. I could be wrong, but it did seem as though the women that walked into our room that night were upgraded to a suite – but, I could be wrong…………….

On Saturday morning, we decided to take in the “Fairy Tale Panel” back at Shore Leave. DC must have been much more exhausted from Friday than I realized as he fell asleep and slept (in the front row, mind you) throughout the entire hour. 200lbs of dead weight hanging on me the entire time – just what you want when you are running a panel, someone fast asleep in the front row!  He did also sleep through the Once Upon a Time panel at ComicCon, but at least it was a dark room and we were nowhere close to the front. I suppose it could have been worse, he could have been snoring.
Saturday was much more crowded than Friday night had been. We tried to stay away from the most crowded areas, but refreshed from his “nap”, DC made a bee-line to the Buffy doll that I knew he wanted but refused to buy the day before – I think he was just too overwhelmed on Friday night to know what he wanted until he found the Tardis slippers, that is..
We had purchased tickets for 3 photo ops the night before, but we still had a little time to kill, so we went to the autograph tables, which surprisingly, were not very crowded.

Our first stop was Robert Picardo. I explained to DC that he was once on a Star Trek (Voyager). His sign read “I’m the Doctor”. This confused DC, he knew it wasn’t David Tennant, the only Dr. he is aware of, but the sign did say “I am the Dr.” so he called him Dr. Who.

– just following directions, Doc…….

We moved on to Michael Welch. He was exceptionally nice to DC – really, they all were.

We then headed to THE most confusing Photo Op line ever. We had tickets for 3 Photo Ops which meant we had to get in line 3 times. The lines did move quickly, but it was all very confusing trying to figure out where we were supposed to be.

The woman at the entrance to the photo room just Ooo’d and Ahh’d over DC every time we arrived for a photo. “Oh! Look at him, he is so excited!” – he was, plus there is no one that loves to have their picture taken more than DC does.

His first photo was with Robert Picardo, “Dr. Who” from a half hour earlier. He didn’t call him Dr. Who this time even though he was wearing a Dr. Who shirt (he didn’t have his “I’m the Doctor” sign with him and it wasn’t David Tennant on his shirt).

Next up was Eve Myles. She was a few minutes late getting to the photo room and when I saw her coming down the hallway, I got a little bit anxious. Her hair was much longer than it is on TV and in photos. DC LOVES long hair, LOVES it! Before we were faced with another  ‘Snow White Incident’ I launched into “the rules”.
“DC, you can not touch her hair”
“Okay Mom”
“DC what is the rule? – Tell me”
“Don’t touch your hair” (the usual pronoun confusion,but I knew he understood)
and then….. just for good measure…
“DC, what is the other rule?”
“Don’t pick up the people”
and he didn’t……….

Next and thankfully, last as DC was tired of getting in and out of lines…. Silas Weir Mitchell. I love Grimm. DC has seen it a few times, but I don’t think he really knew who he was. It didn’t faze him because, someone was taking HIS picture and isn’t that really all that matters?

At this point, DC was starting to get edgy. Our last stop was the Eve Myles autograph table. We had a good 1/2 hour wait until she was finished with the Q&A she was leading. We slipped inside to listen and more importantly to move DC out of the hallway.

He didn’t want to sit down.

He didn’t want to stand where we were standing.

He didn’t want to stand in the next place we moved to.

We moved close to the door and he seemed okay with that.

But then a staff person came over and told us we couldn’t stand there so we moved back to the hallway.

We decided to just wait at the table.

There was a wonderful lady sitting at the table who just happened to be a Special Ed teacher (we seem to run into Special Ed teachers everywhere we go, she was the second on this trip), she let DC pick out the photo he wanted autographed early. He picked a photo of Ms. Myles from a Merlin episode. We chatted a bit, she chatted with DC a bit as well. She told him he was doing a good job waiting – he loves compliments, who doesn’t.

The Dalek from the Tardis photo booth was now roaming the hallway “EXTERMINATE!”,  so that helped to keep him occupied until Ms. Myles was finished with her Q&A. When she arrived at the table, the woman whispered something to her and then introduced her to DC. She told her that he was waiting a long time for her. He was first in line for her autograph, she was lovely to him. He was thrilled…..

but he was also “done”.

I didn’t try to push him to do any more. We arrived that morning at 9 and it was now after 3. That was a long stretch for him, even with the nap. He had a few sketchy moments throughout the day, but I really I think, overall he did a fantastic job!

In the words of DC, “We all had a wonderful time”

except for this guy…………..

this guy....

this guy….

and a big shout-out to the “trying to be helpful staff member” that asked Doug (aka “This Guy”) if he needed help finding something….

“I’m just looking for some place to hang myself”

(Thanks Guy, I’m sure, Doug was waiting all day for an opportunity to use that line, and there it was)

#LLAP

Knock, Knock, Knock on Wood

Knock On Wood

Knock On Wood

Just recently I was reading a blog that I follow – Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane Blog. The title; What’s in my Purse. The post was about the many trips the family has made to the emergency room over the years and what the author learned to carry with her at all times. If you have a minute, check it out.

It made me realize how lucky I am to have made only ONE trip to the ER with DC – that is correct, ONLY ONE! (Knocking wood, Knocking Wood, Knocking Wood). The one trip came at age 21 and for the most ridiculous reason.  As you may or may not know, DC is 23 with Autism. Safety is not something he has any awareness of. He IS a little better now that he is older, but he is better because he has been taught not to do this or not to do that, not because he really understands what can happen to him. He doesn’t really understand many things unless/until they actually happen. So not wanting him to get hit by a car in order for him to understand what could happen if he were to be hit by a car….. I have to hope that making rules, and pointing out everything around him, will have some impact on him.

I mean, I have really been lucky (still knocking wood), so much so that we’ve never had to use a Band-Aid. He loves Band-Aids and wants to wear them so much that he just wears them for no reason, or invents a reason the wear them. The one and only time he cut himself when he fell off his bike – yes, he somehow managed to tip over an adult three-wheeled bike – he was so excited to have a big raspberry on his chest, he wasn’t concerned about the fall, he just wanted a Band-Aid. He was so crushed that the raspberry was much too big for a Band-Aid, that I had to make up a reason to apply one to his leg, just to make him happy.
Band-Aids, especially “character-themed Band-Aids” are on his “odd gifts list” along with the rolls of scotch tape, mentioned in an earlier blog.

No Injury - Just wanted to wear a Band-Aid

No Injury – Just wanted to wear a Band-Aid

Donald Duck - part of the

Donald Duck – part of the “Character Collection” (no injury, just a fashion statement)

Rounding out the Collection, we have Mickey Mouse (again, no injury)

Rounding out the Collection, we have Mickey Mouse (again, no injury)

A few years ago, we took a weekend trip to Hyannis, MA in Cape Cod. He arrived Friday evening. The plan; have dinner and hang out at the hotel on Friday night. Saturday we would take the ferry, and spend the day in Nantucket. Sunday, we planned to stop in and visit one of my oldest friends (from grammar school, believe it or not) before we headed home.

We arrived on Friday evening. DC was happy to be in the hotel. As far as he was concerned, we could just stay there. He loves hotels. Saturday, as planned, we took the ferry to Nantucket. He loved the ferry. We searched out a few book stores as we must (see “Off to the Book Store We Go”), looked around, had lunch and took the last ferry back to the hotel. It was a nice day.  We had a good time.

Sunday morning was going to be spent just hanging out in the hotel room until it was time to check out. DC was watching a movie on his kindle, Doug was on the deck and I was packing up the bathroom items. I was only in the bathroom for a few minutes. When I came out, DC was sitting at the desk; right where I left him. He yelled “Mom! Tears.” DC, as a rule almost never has tears, his eyes never water -even when he cries, he rarely has tears. When he is really upset and really crying and wants to make certain I know how upset he is, he will use water or spit to create tears, just for effect.  Even as a baby, he did not have tears when he cried. But here I could see he had tears running down his face…… real tears.

“Tears!”

I thought possibly his allergies were hitting him harder than usual – Doug had the deck door open and the deck was right on the golf course. “DC, what’s wrong, do you have something in your eye?”

“Mom! Tears! Ear!” On one hand he was excited about the real tears on his face but his excitement was mixed with a bit of panic.

I had no idea what he was trying to tell me. Then he showed me the ear bud from his Kindle. There were rubber covers on the ear buds and one was missing. Panicking, I yelled out to Doug something that probably made no sense,  and ran DC into the bathroom. I couldn’t see anything in his ear. DC started to panic now that he realized that I couldn’t get it out right away.

This entire exchange above…. Tears, Ear and showing me the ear bud would normally be cause for celebration – DC being able to tell me that something  is wrong and what is wrong is a very BIG  deal, but all celebrating had to wait because he was getting more panicky by the second.

I still could not see anything in his ear.  I dumped everything that I had just packed out and could not find the tweezers. I sent Doug down to the front desk to ask for a flashlight and tweezers, while I tried to keep DC’s fingers out of his ears and tried keep him from flipping out any more than he already was. Doug came back; the desk had no tweezers (?) and no flashlight (?).

We took DC down to the desk, he would be okay for a minute or two and then he would freak out. The man behind the counter did not seem to understand what we were talking about. I am sure he thought we were all crazy. I was somewhere between panic and laughing hysterically at the ridiculousness of the whole situation while DC was making very loud noises, yelling out random words, flapping, stimming and doing everything else that comes with his anxiety.  I’m not sure what the man at the desk thought was going on and why we needed a flashlight and tweezers, but seeing DC in the middle of the lobby absolutely loosing it; he looked frightened and asked his assistant to go check again. She came back with no flashlight and no tweezers. Seriously,  what hotel doesn’t have a flashlight?

I was so trying to avoid the Emergency Room. It hadn’t been all that long since DC finally became comfortable with doctors. I didn’t want a long and scary emergency room visit to erase the years of progress he had made. The other issue was it was his EAR! For years, when we went to the doctor, he would get unbelievably upset and totally meltdown if anyone went near his ears. I remember one of the doctor’s assistants, who was either new to the office or had not had to deal with DC getting his ears checked saying, “Oh! I was wondering why we had to bring extra trash cans into the examining room! I get it now!” – Yes, every single time, he would get so worked up, screaming and fighting that he would vomit. This went on for years. The very last thing I wanted to do was to bring him to an emergency room to have someone poke around in his ear.

The desk clerk gave us directions to the nearest pharmacy and we took directions to the ER too, just in case.

I rode in the back seat with DC to keep him from pushing the ear bud in farther. Doug ran in to the pharmacy to buy the tweezers and flashlight. Now we are all in the backseat of the car, armed with a flashlight and tweezers, trying to see inside his ear. I can’t imagine what the other people in the parking lot must have been thinking. DC had enough at this point and was not cooperating at all anymore…and….. I still could not see anything.

I knew we had to suck it up and head for the Emergency Room. I still wasn’t positive that there was anything in his ear at all. Did he just think that it went into his ear and it was really just on the floor somewhere at the hotel? I didn’t know, but he was so out of control,  I had to assume it was in there somewhere.

We arrived at the emergency room. It was a weekend in a tourist area;  I was expecting hundreds of people waiting. I didn’t know how I was going to keep him calm and keep his hands away from his ear while we waited. We walked through the door and there was only ONE person in the entire waiting room! I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign but I was going with good. I took him to the desk and explained the situation to the clerk. One look at him flailing around and she asked if he needed to be sedated. I told her (with fingers crossed) that he would not.

They took us right in! (I love this place). They put DC in a bed, the doctor came and checked his ear. DC LET him check his ear! He really must have wanted this thing OUT! He told me he could see it but it was in there deep and he would need to use another tool to get at it. All I could think was “No way he is going to let you do that!” but I SAID “Okay, he’ll be fine with it”.

I explained the situation to DC and told him what was going to happen, not really knowing if he would understand what I was telling him, but he said “Yes! Ear!”, so I think he did understand.

The doctor went in with some sort of funnel-looking thing. I was truly amazed that DC was cooperating and keeping still. He was finally able to get the thing out. Of course DC had to examine it completely before they got rid of it, just to be sure, I suppose, that it was out.

DC calmed down immediately and we made a big deal about how brave he’d been! All of my worrying about the doctor, his ears, traumatizing him with an ER visit was for nothing. He was totally unscathed by the whole thing and was very proud to tell people that he had been in the ‘hos – i – bull”.

We were done and over it in time to get back to the room, finish packing – where he wanted to put those things right back into his ears!

“NO, NO, NO!” a thousand times, no.

We were also able to visit my friend as planned.

Visiting Friends

Visiting Friends

I went on a hunt for new ear buds without any rubber or removable parts as soon as we got home.

Coincidentally, as I was writing this story, DC received a belated birthday gift from one of my friends. This gift included two boxes of character Band-Aids that DC is already wearing proudly.


(and yes…….. I am still knocking wood……………)

“Look in the mirror and spit cookies”

"Look in the Mirror and Spit Cookies"

“Look in the Mirror and Spit Cookies”

One of my greatest fears (one of them; I have a million) is DC having something medically wrong with him and I won’t be able to tell.

Unless he has a fever,  throws up or passes out right in front of me (try catching a 200lb boy at 3am) there is really no way for me to know.  He doesn’t really let on that there is a problem and when there is, his behavior is pretty much the same as it always is. I don’t know if he doesn’t feel pain like the rest of us or he just doesn’t process it the way we would expect.  This boy can run full speed with a sprained ankle!

When he was younger, he would “tell” everyone that he was sick; actually he would just sign “sick” with no other details. Most of the time he was not sick at all, but he knew the school nurse had jellybeans in her office so that is where he wanted to be! Then he discovered when he was finished with the jellybeans that they would call Mom to pick him up. Most of the time, knowing that he really wasn’t sick, I would pick him and bring him to work with me – which he loves, so I wasn’t really winning any battles there, but I had to work. (We’ll forget about the ONE time, he threw up all over my office, the ONE time he really was sick and no one believed him. I guess he showed us!)

On the few occasions that I did suspect that something might be wrong, I had to resort to asking him questions that I hoped he would respond with a “No”. The more ridiculous the question, the better. Because he answers “yes” to everything, I can’t lead him to an answer by asking;

“Does your head hurt?”

“Yes”

“Does your stomach hurt?”

“Yes”

If I ask him more than once, all of his answers then become “no” because he thinks he’s giving me the wrong answer.

So I have to ask “Do your eyebrows hurt?” or “Does your hair hurt?” By asking him this sort of question, he thinks it’s funny, gives me a “no” and then he understands the question and sometimes even tells me what hurts.

Because I had to do something about his daily jelly bean pilgrimage to the nurse’s office, I stopped taking him to work when they called. If he was so sick that I had to pick him up, he had to go home and rest. That ended that game, but now he won’t tell me anything at all because he’s afraid he’ll have to rest or worse…. go to the Doctor!

There was one time when he did tell me…..

Well, sort of…

One night he ran by me on his way upstairs. I asked him what was wrong and where he was going.

“Look in the mirror and spit cookies” and he ran upstairs.

After a very confused few seconds, I realized that a few months back I went upstairs and found a disgusting mess in the bathroom sink. It was apparent that DC was sick (evidence! YES!) But instead of telling me he just went to “listen to the music” in his room.

I realized that “ looking in the mirror and spitting cookies”  was his way of telling me he was going to be sick, because that last time, he was in front of the sink, in front of the mirror and he had eaten cookies!

I was right and yes, this is the way my mind has to work to be able to figure anything out.

I’ve told him so many times that it is very important for him to tell me when something hurts. Mom might have medicine to make it better; it doesn’t always mean a trip to the doctor. We have this discussion at least once a week. I didn’t think I was getting anywhere.

The other morning I heard, “come here please”. I went upstairs and said “What’s wrong, DC?”

“I need your help”

What do you need me to help you with?

“Nothing, I love you” (I didn’t find it all that odd because he calls me upstairs quite often to tell me he loves me or to tell me what he wants for breakfast the next day).

I went back downstairs. He came down looking a little out of sorts. I asked him again what was wrong.

He proceeded to tell me, not in the words you or I would use, but he told me! Luckily I had medicine to fix it! He was okay in about 20 minutes.

So I’m hoping that he’s realized that he can tell me and sometimes I can fix it and it doesn’t always mean resting or going to the doctor. I’m also hoping this means if something is bothering him enough, he will say something, which is a little bit of a load off my mind.

Just one small step in the right direction……..