Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Autism: Then and Now

I've been doing some painting this week and noticed a small hole at the top of the back door. Seeing that hole brought back a ton of memories. I went upstairs to see to check Ryne's bedroom door. It is still there.

We used that hook to lock our son in his bedroom at night. Ready to call the authorities on me? I wouldn't blame you; before we began our autism adventure I would have been appalled if I heard of a parent putting such a hook on their child's door.
I'm not sure why the hook never got taken down -- we haven't had to use the hooks in six or so years. In addition to his bedroom door, we had them on all the exterior doors. That's because when Ryne was younger he would constantly run off if you took your eyes off him for an instant. In parking lots I often carried him, even when he was 4, and even when I had Grace in my arms too. If I let him walk, he'd wriggle his hand out of mine and bolt in front of a car. Needless to say, it was easier to just avoid leaving the house, so I usually saved errands for the evening when Marc was home.
That explains the hooks on the exterior doors, but the bedroom? Weren't we afraid of him being trapped in there if we had a fire? Absolutely. It was a hard decision that even some other autism families would not agree with, but ultimately we decided the risk of a fire was not as likely as him wandering out of his room at night and falling down the stairs before we could reach him (his room is right next to the stairs, ours down the hall; he could climb baby gates in the blink of an eye).
When I think about those early years, I think mostly how physically exhausting it was. I think of all the times he'd throw a tantrum and turn into a limp pile on the floor. It was amazing how strong and heavy he could be when he did that. One time he had a tantrum in the middle of the school cross-walk when I went to pick Anna up from 1st grade. Another mom had to take Grace for me as I pulled him off the pavement and then spent five minutes trying to force him into the car. I think a third mom went to find Anna for me.
It's been eight years since we officially became an autism family. So much has changed since then, both with our family and the autism world in general. Shortly after Ryne's diagnosis, a veteran autism mom told me, "Someday you will be picking out dining room furniture," meaning someday my every thought would not revolve around autism. At the time, I was overwhelmed with all things autism and dismissed her comment, thinking perhaps she wasn't fighting hard enough or had even given up. I could not have been more wrong. There is life after an autism diagnosis. My blog kind of proves the point -- how many autism posts have I written in the last year? Zero. (Okay, one can argue that I haven't blogged about much else in the last year either, but you still get what I mean!)
Even though our autism adventure has less ups and downs than it used to, we still have struggles and concerns. We still pursue therapies and interventions that will hopefully help Ryne. Therefore, I want to spend a few posts discussing where our autism adventure has taken us lately. Some of my local readers know we've been doing a program called Brain Balance, so I plan to post on that next. And I'll share a little about what we'd like to do in the future. We're in the final weeks of the swim team season, so I'm not sure how quickly I'll get these posts done. But when I first started this blog, it was very therapeutic remembering where our autism adventure had taken us and I want to continue to record our journey. Maybe our experience will help one of you.
And now if you will excuse me, I need to go remove that hook from my son's door.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Good Dog

There are some heavy hearts at the Blue House.

Saturday was our last day with our sweet dog, Jessie. She has blessed our home for the last five years by being our constant companion. She loved to sleep under the kids' feet while they did their school work, and I think it broke her heart earlier this year when she could no longer make it up the stairs to sleep with the kids.

Jessie came to us from Uncle Jim, and even that was her second home. So we're not sure of her age, but guess that she was over fifteen years. Thank you, Uncle Jim, Tookie, and Tres, for letting us have her. It wasn't supposed to be forever, but we couldn't part with her.

We've known for a while that the end was near, but it was still a shock when the vet said it was time. Her kidneys were failing and she had either developed or was developing bladder cancer. So we decided to make her last hours real special by breaking all the rules. We told the kids Friday night what was going to happen, and after all the initial tears were spent we treated Jessie to a bacon cheeseburger and fries from Five Guys. We played out in the front yard for a while and snapped some pictures. Then she had a little bowl of ice cream. That night she slept (at least part of the night) in a real bed, surrounded by her kids.

And now it just seems so wrong not to have her here. Thankfully we still have Jasper, but he's mopey too. We all loved Jessie. She was such a good dog.