A Cattle Prod or a Magic Wand?
Last week I had wanted a cattle prod. I couldn't motivate my nearly eight-year-old 2e pg son to put his socks and shoes at all. I gave numerous prompts and notices. I reminded Malcolm that we could not go anywhere without his socks and shoes on. This did not make the slightest bit of difference to him. It didn't matter that he needed to put his socks and shoes on so we could meet friends at the playground. And neither did the fact that we were running out of time to catch a bus for the playground either.
For once in my life, I had wanted to save my sanity and restore my faith that Malcolm could put his socks and shoes on within 5 minutes or less. I don't think it's unreasonable to request this, especially since Malcolm's shoes have velcro straps. Instead, it took him 20 minutes or more to put on his socks and shoes. He was like a lump of potatoes. I just couldn't shift him. I wanted to cattle prod him. Of course, I was beginning to wonder if things would ever change or if I would have an eighteen-year-old son who would spend more than 20 minutes putting on his socks and shoes.
By the time we had finally managed to get out the door and reached the playground, I had desperately wanted a magic wand. Malcolm had darted absentmindedly across the parking lot. He hadn't paid any attention to the driver or cars entering and exiting the parking lot. Did he care that he could have gotten killed or seriously hurt? No. I don't think so. Is this one of every parent's fears? Yes. But as a parent of a 2e child this type of situation is often magnified. The message - we don't dart in front of cars or in a parking lot, period - did not enter Malcolm's mind and was never processed, it seemed.
All the hard work, time, and energy spent effort spent on safety awareness and self-regulation had vanished before my eyes in a blink. All the years of occupational therapy, vision therapy, and neurofeedback were for naught, it seemed. Immediately, my mind flashed to living in NYC and the numerous times Malcolm wanted to fly down subway stations or veer off on subway platforms when he was between two and four years old; those times when I was convinced he wasn't going to live to five and instead be tragically killed in an instant. Those times I had wondered if Malcolm would ever gain the remotest sense of safety awareness or self-regulation skills. Would the severe sensory processing deficits ever improve within my lifetime or my son's, I had wondered. Would things ever get better? But, of course, they did. It just took a loooong time and a lot of therapies. And it took a lot of hard work, time, and energy on my part. Things have gotten better and while the sensory processing is no longer severe as it once was, it's still frustratingly there.
Most parents face these worries and struggles with their child/ren, but for those of us who have or have had kids with such worries and struggles can seem relentless and never ending. It's the constant daily battlegrounds with safety awareness, self-regulation, self-control, self-help skills (ie. putting shoes on), the attentional deficits, the lack of the body in space concept, and the list goes on and on. Will it ever end, you wonder? Why can't my kid just be so 'normal' like the others, you ask.
With these kids, the neurological wiring seems to be faulty or gone haywire. At times, nothing seems to click. There doesn't seem to be any internal switches like other 'normal' kids seem to have. Other times, everything seems to click or be switched on. And there doesn't seem to be any internal off buttons. You throw your hands up in the air. You cry. You scream. Your tear your hair out. Then, you decide to sit down. You decide to take it one day at a time or as much as you can humanly handle. You get help. You get therapy or numerous therapies. You find support. Things do improve, but often at a snail's pace. Over many years, you look back and say, "wow, I can't believe we made it and did it." Gee, I wish life was easier.
As a parent of one of these kids, you often feel like you're entitled to some neurological replacement parts or at least a daily personal assistant for fortitude in dealing with numerous ordeals and chronicles of daily life. At times, you're just grateful for a shoulder to lean on and for those receptive ears to hear what you have to say. That one person who has walked in your shoes or at least similar ones. That one person who knows what it's like to have a child who may totally melt and lose self-control when other kids have no clue about Mycenaean Civilization (what's that?), never mind pretend to re-enact it.
How many, many times would I have felt more in control with a cattle prod and/or a magic wand or deal with the ups and downs of daily life. And how many, many times would I like others to accept and compute the child who is out-of-sync yet has an upside-down brilliance which others find baffling.