Sunday, 16 September 2012

Aspergers and Fixations

I have frequently alluded to the fact that Jack is obsessed with airplanes.  But when I say this, I know that most of you cannot possibly understand the depth of this preoccupation.  Jack has done fairly well at keeping himself together the past 6 months or so.  In fact, I almost forgot just how intense he can get when it comes to his "area of interest".  Today, I remembered.

It all started innocently enough.  Jack was "helping" daddy paint some trim on the garage and back doors yesterday.  John grabbed a box out of the garage and told Jack to paint the box- fairly clever really.  However, Jack being Jack, painting the box was not enough.  He opened it.  He found the model of the BF-109 Messerschmitt that his dad had purchased several months ago- he put it aside for down the road, as it is for ages 10 and up, very delicate, complicated, and certainly not meant for someone Jack's age.  Jack went NUTS.  I was out at the time, but apparently John had Jack convinced that they could assemble it when he was 6 (yeah, that's next May).  A feeling of dread came over me- how long would that last?  And predictably, within the hour, Jack was asking John if he could drill a hole in the box so that he could see the propeller and bolt.  He asked this about 25 times between 4pm and 8pm.  And my anxiety was mounting.  I gave him melatonin, and he went to sleep.  I am a believer in melatonin solely for getting Jack to go to bed at night- in terms of helping him sleep through the night- not so much.  He didn't sleep through the night once this past week.  Last night, he woke up crying for the messerschmidt at 1am, 2am, 2:45am, 3:30am, and finally 4:40am.  At about 5:20, I finally took him downstairs.  And the meltdown began in earnest.  He wanted the box opened, I tried to explain over and over again that it was not really a plane inside.  Instead it was about 100 pieces, needed cement to be put together and did not even include the paint that was needed to make it look like it did on the box.  Of course this was beyond Jack's comprehension, and I can't blame him for that.  After about an hour of sobbing, I decided that the only thing I could do was take the box away.  I knew enough to expect an epic meltdown, but I had to weigh my options- one huge meltdown or an all day affair?  I chose A.  Turns out that both options sucked.

Jack hit the roof.  Climbing on things screaming, begging to have it back.  I decided to cut the picture out of the front of the box so he could hold it.  This has worked pretty well in the past when he is fixated on something- he has slept with many pictures in his bed over the years.  And it helped for about 20 minutes, then he was back at it again.  I decided to show him the contents of the box

It had no effect.  He wanted me to "fix" it.  There is no distracting or redirecting Jack when he works himself up to this point.  I remind myself over and over again that this is how his little brain is wired- that he is not being "bad", he is truly unable to refocus his attention.  But where do you draw the line?  Because his behavior does escalate, and his behavior becomes inappropriate.  I drew the line at him coming up to me, pinching me, and telling me I am a "bad mommy".  This was at 7am- about 2 hours into the fun.  Time out it was.  Jack has very high anxiety, and in the past I have found that putting him in time out and shutting the door does very little to help him understand that he did something wrong.  All he can think about is the fact that mommy left him alone, and he is trapped.  I certainly don't want him to feel like that.  So I leave the door open, sit in the doorway, and make him stay on his bed for the duration.  So at least he knows I am still there.  However, this takes away that whole parent getting a chance to regain their sanity piece of the puzzle.  In any case, he calmed down somewhat, and we tried downstairs again.    Unfortunately, the situation did not really improve.  The crying continued pretty much the whole morning.  He asked for "the plane" approximately every 2 to 3 minutes.  He yelled, he screamed.  After about 4 hours of this, 3 cups of coffee, and very little sleep, I found myself yelling back at him.  Oh crap.

I try so damned hard not to yell at Jack.  He is a tough kid, and the urge is strong at times, but I do my best to remain calm.  So when I found myself at this point I did what any self respecting mother would do when they are at the end of their rope.  I loaded the boys in the car and drove....and drove....and drove.  Across the bridge, almost to Delaware if I'm being honest.  Just to give you an idea of how tired Jack was, he fell asleep as we crossed the bridge, so after 20 minutes in the car.  I can count on both hands the number of times he has fallen asleep in the car in his life.  Not often.  Sadly, after a 20 minute nap, his picture of the plane slipped out of his hand, jarring him awake, and starting the crying fit all over again.  This continued for the whole drive.  I heard "I hate you" come out of my son's mouth for the first time today- that stings.  Being the exemplary parent that I am I turned up the music.  Mommy had to get some kind of break- especially since my eyelids were fluttering a little too frequently for my taste.

OK, so we made it until about 10:45- I called my parents.  They live on that side of the bridge, and "fresh" people would surely help right?  Ummmm....kind of.  We headed to their house, where Jack proceeded to tell them all about the plane.  My dad distracted him with his John Deere combine, and slyly hid the picture.  I could tell he thought he had solved the problem.  Ha, I say.  About 3 minutes later Jack was hysterical, looking everywhere for his plane.  There are times that I know my parents have thought I was exaggerating about Jack's obsessiveness.  He sleeps through the night at their house, is often distracted by the different toys, and of course my mom has the bird book.  I do not think they doubt me anymore!  He asked for that plane AT LEAST every 2 minutes the entire time we were there. About 2 hours.  At one point I looked at my mom and said "I just can't".  She said she couldn't even imagine how exhausted I must be, and I headed to the guest room for my own 5 minute time out.  I guess my parents decided to take the boys for a walk, because my dad came in to tell me that I should come sit in a chair in the family room while they were gone and found me curled up on the floor between their Murphy bed and a spare file cabinet.  He looked at me like I was on crack when I told him I was just fine where I was.  By the time I left, my dad was saying he was exhausted from Jack's antics today, and said he understood why I didn't feel the need to move earlier- too much energy would be exerted.  Let's just say that both of my parents hugged me extra tight before we left.

It was about 1:15.  The Ravens game was on.  John was undoubtedly entrenched in that- and Jack FREAKS when football is on in our house for some reason (although he didn't even notice it was on at granddad's).  I decided to drive around for a bit longer.  Nate was asleep within 5 minutes, as it was his nap time at this point anyway.  Jack fell asleep AGAIN before we reached the bridge.  We are talking exhausted here.  Victory!!!!  Only problem was that mommy needed serious coffee....but I knew better than to go through a drive thru.  That would wake Jack up immediately.  So I drove and drove some more.  After about 40 minutes it happened- I got stuck at a traffic light.  And Jack was off and running again.  He had dropped his picture and he went completely ballistic.  I repeatedly told him that I was not willing to get into an accident in order to pick up his picture and he would have to wait.  He was unable to listen to logic at this point though and just became more and more hysterical.  He woke Nate, who just stared at him like "what the f*** dude?".  We arrived home and Jack started back in on daddy.  I decided to take him up to his room and read with him for awhile- my last attempt at distraction.  He fell asleep AGAIN.  I guess crying all day is exhausting even for Jack.  He slept until 5pm.  I don't even want to think about what tonight is going to be like.  He hasn't napped in 3 years.  It could be ugly. 
exhibit A

He is still talking about it almost constantly, but he is at least calmer right now.  I walked away for awhile- for sanity.  It is painful to watch your child go through this- when Jack gets like this there is very little I can do for him.  His brain just cannot let go, cannot allow any other thoughts in.  It's disturbing to watch.  It has been so much better recently- but today was a blast from the past, and not a pleasant one.  Here's hoping that it was just a momentary blip. 

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