Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nervous Breakdown--Continued

I feel like I really need to write about what it's like to parent Robert, and I want to do it, and I'm glad when I finish a post about him. But it is kind of emotionally draining. Luckily I can stop whenever I feel like it's wearing me out.
For another accurate glimpse into what it's like to parent an autistic child like Robert, the Temple Grandin movie is really excellent. It was actually painful to watch because it was like watching some of the hardest things in your life play out on screen. Luckily we're past Robert's most difficult years, we hope. And now we're somewhere in the middle and working towards an independent Robert someday.
Okay, back to my story. :) I was sitting on the swing on our deck after a bit of a nervous breakdown, praying and thinking about what I should do. I realized that most of my stress was coming from having a child who always had crazy days at school and couldn't do his work properly, etc. I had convinced myself when he was little and very difficult, that he would outgrow it all by the time he started kindergarten. But he didn't outgrow it and now he was struggling a lot in school.
I realized that I had to get used to the fact that Robert's school career wasn't going to be normal and straightforward like it would be for my other boys. I had to get used to doing whatever worked to get him educated and not worrying if it didn't always go as planned.
So after Robert struggled through his first semester of kindergarten with Mrs. Wallace's help, the powers that be finally decided he wasn't ready for kindergarten this year and put him in a special pre-K class for kids like him. He was more comfortable there and there was less stress for me too. If only they had listened to me from the start! It would have saved us all a lot of pain! But Robert had learned to read and speak in complete sentences. So it wasn't lost time. Oh well, what can you do! Turns out that this is how things tend to work in the schools for Robert and me. I tell them about Robert, they don't believe me or listen, and a couple of months later they finally do what I suggested they do all along. And thus it is!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Me and School

When I was about four, we moved from a house outside Amarillo city limits into a house in Amarillo so that Juliene could start kindergarten. It was the first house my parents owned. It had three bedrooms. My parents had four kids now. Neil, the baby, had a room to himself and me, Juliene, and Brandt shared a room with 2 bunkbeds. So it was the big kids in one room and the baby, who still cried at night, in the other. Brandt was 1 1/2 to 2 yrs old. But in our family you were a big kid when you reached 18 months, because there was always a new baby.

So Juliene started kindergarten. The school was about 4 or 5 blocks straight down our street. So of course, Juliene walked to and from school every day. I'm pretty sure I was jealous that she got to go to school. We always did everything together and I thought it wasn't fair that she got to go and I didn't.

So the next year I got to start kindergarten. I LOVED it, except for the time I accidentally knocked over a jar of black paint that had somehow appeared behind my elbow. I swear I didn't put it there! ;) But it made a huge black stain in the carpet that was still there years later. When I'd help younger siblings find their kindergarten room, I would tell them that that was the stain I made in the carpet. I was kind of proud of it! I had left my mark on the kindergarten classroom. LOL!

I remember that it frustrated me a lot to learn to read. I don't think I had any trouble with it. I just didn't like anything I couldn't figure out quickly. I actually had to struggle with it for a while before getting it and I didn't like that much!

But I caught on and I loved school. In first grade, I remember that I got a paper back that the teacher had marked in a way I didn't recognize. I asked one of the other kids what it meant. They said I had made a bad grade. I was horrified! I decided that that was never going to happen again if I could help it! I hated feeling like I'd failed at anything. It's probably the thing I fear most in life. I'm much more reasonable about it than I was then. But failing at anything important, (marriage, raising kids, etc.), is still my worst nightmare.

So then school became a contest for me to win. I wanted to be the first one to know the answer, the first one finished with the assignment, and the one with the best grades. And I hated to get into trouble for anything. I felt horrible if my teacher was just unhappy with me for something.

So I took great pride in being the smartest one in my grade. (If I'm starting to sound like an annoying little smart aleck, you're right. I probably was. :) I wasn't intentionally mean to anyone. But I did have to be the smartest. Don't worry, though, it didn't last much longer. :))

I was the only one in my grade in the gifted program for 1 year. What I didn't realize was that I was at a small elementary school in a lower middle class neighborhood. There were definitely smarter kids out there. But I was blissfully king of the hill for a couple of years. :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Nervous Breakdown-Part 1

About a month and a half to two months into kindergarten, the lady from Emory (we were very lucky she did school visits) finished evaluating Robert. I remember getting her diagnosis. Cameron had to work, so I was there with baby Tyler. She said Robert was autistic, specifically Aspergers. I still vividly remember how it felt to hear that, a lot like getting punched in the stomach. We had thought he was just delayed in his development and would eventually grow out of it. Hearing that your child has a condition that he'll have to deal with the rest of his life, is heartbreaking.
About a month into Robert's kindergarten, I very nearly passed out in the shower. Made it to my bed and called Cameron to come home and take me to the doctor. Called my obstetrician (I had had Tyler 3 -4 months before and thought I wasn't recovering well from the birth.) and demanded that they see me (receptionist said they couldn't that day) or I'd have to go to the ER. The doctor said I was fine physically and wrote me a prescription for an anti-depressant. Oh, is that what this is! I'd never had a real nervous breakdown before!
So Cameron drove us home and I went out to the back deck to think and pray about all of this. I know not everyone is religious. But for me, there isn't any other place to turn when you've run out of options. And with a child like Robert, you reach your wits end pretty often. I remember struggling with a 2 yr old Robert and a tiny Jonathan by myself at home. I couldn't, for the life of me, get Robert to cooperate and Jonathan needed constant attention. (Most people will ask at this point, why on earth I had another child after Robert. Good question! :) Reading my blogs about my family growing up might help with that. But the real reason was because I wanted more kids.) Anyway, I was struggling with the two of them and an idea came into my mind that I know was inspiration from Heavenly Father. It was the idea that I had to let everything that wasn't really important go and had to even turn a blind eye to some behaviors that wouldn't be acceptable in an average child. Otherwise, he would literally be in trouble constantly and we'd always be struggling with each other.