"Autism & Memoirs of an Old Maid"…C'hele's Story

May 14, 2007

Autism: I’m Not A Bad Parent! I’m A Parent Of A Child With Asperger’s Syndrome ~ “The Beginning, Part II”

Filed under: Autism, Special Needs — C'hele @ 17:27

Michaela was an irritable baby. Early in her infancy she had to have minor surgery to pop a membrane that permanently covered one eye and was given oral antibiotics. She had been checked for possible sleep apnea and heart difficulties as at night she would suddenly wake up for a gasp of air. Toilet training was completed at three and half years of age and Michaela had recurrent ear infections between two and a half to four and a half years of age. Michaela had an audiology assessment (when she was four years old), with results of normal hearing. She sat unassisted at 12 months of age and walked at approximately 15-16 months of age. She said her first word at around 2 years of age, (“hum-brd, “as she was entranced by the hummingbirds that visited the feeder in the front of living room window). She started combining words at around three years old or so and she grew up to be an incredibly overactive child from the time she learned how to crawl. At the time, we had lived in an older double-wide mobile home on three acres and some areas in the home were quite unsafe and had yet to be repaired. I had already caught Michaela in some potentially dangerous predicaments and had to literally barricade areas off for her safety, as she would constantly disappear and get into mischief. I was becoming a wreck. She was so impulsive and fast, that she would constantly escape and many times I could not find her (and she was only crawling!). The only way for me to get anything done around the house was to have her with me via a kangaroo pouch, later in the highchair, then in a battery operated swing and an exersaucer. When people would come over unannounced, they would be horrified to see how I had barricaded Michaela in the living room. It was then I was first pegged as a “horrible, over-controlling mother“, not willing to let a child to explore her surroundings, etc, etc, etc. I was in tears – they didn’t understand what was going on. Hell, I didn’t even understand!

Like I already mentioned, Michaela was an irritable child and was not happy just sitting around quietly playing with her toys. I observed that Michaela did not play with any toys that were at her own age-level but she would gravitate towards toys six months her junior. She always had to have some form of “movement” whether it was it crawling around in circles, racing around the house, sitting in her swing (outside or inside swing), or sitting in her exersaucer. I observed that whenever I gave her the “motion” she needed she was the happiest and should I take her out, she was immediately miserable. Whenever we visited friends or family the battery-operated swing would always accompany us as she would become miserable, tear the place apart and none of us would enjoy the outing. My grandfather was so concerned with Michaela being in the swing so much he felt that it would cause brain damage! So? To prove my point, I took her out of the swing. Needless to say, he never questioned me again about Michaela’s high energy level and why I kept her in the swing while visiting others. By the way, I need to state that Michaela was never left in her swing or exersaucer for extended periods of time but only when she needed it the most. I remember watching Michaela when she was old enough to stand and move about in her exersaucer. For those who do not know what this contraption is, it is a modern version of the walker but stationary. A child is able to bounce and spin around to view his or hers environment and Michaela literally wore hers out. I would watch her spin around until she vomited. Later when she became accustomed to it, she would spin around and around then suddenly stop. Her eyes were almost rolling in the back of her head; she was enjoying the dizzying sensation so much. The strong need for sensory stimulation was incredibly obvious.

My marriage was over when Michaela was a year and a half old and Michaela and I ended up moving into my parents home until my divorce was finalized – and my poor mother who looked after Michaela whilst I was away at work, I found, was also barricading things off! She was constantly amazed at Michaela’s impulsivity and high energy level. At the age of two, Michaela spontaneously ran into the living room, tripped on her own feet, fell, and hit her chin on my mother’s glass coffee table. The result was a trip to the hospital and four stitches to her chin. By this time, I was really concerned about Michaela as she seemed to be so scattered at times. I remember when she was around three and a half, taking her to Costco one day. Within half an hour, she was miserable, whining, then crying, trying to get out of the buggy. I could not for the life of me, appease her. She literally leaped out of the cart and headed over to an area where large jars of pickles sat with the intentions of smashing one. I was beside myself, one minute she was ok, the next I had a tyrant on my hands! Whilst attempting to wrestle the jar of pickles out of her hands a couple stood nearby, observing the situation. After safely putting the jar back where it belonged, I tried to calm Michaela down, who was by now having a full-blown melt-down. The couple just shook their heads and I’ll never forget what that woman told me: “You are a very bad mother; you should take that child out right now and spank the hell out of her.” Horrified, embarrassed, and at a loss as to what to door say, my weeping is what shook Michaela out of her melt-down out of concern for mommy. I ignored the couple, picked up Caela, left the full buggy where it was and left the store. It was later I discovered, that the lights and the overly stimulating environment is what caused Michaela’s behaviour and for her to “shut-down.” I was relieved to know that it wasn’t due to me.

She wasn’t the typical child and the more I expressed this concern, the more I was shot-down by others. The best advice I could ever tell other parents who suspect “anything” of their children is to always go by your gut-feeling, it will always be right. Despite the heart-ache I had to endure from being attacked by family and friends I have absolutely no regrets. I remain true to the old adage that “a mother always knows best.” Later I will explain why it was so hard for other’s to see what I observed and why it was so important to stick to my gut feeling at this time.

Michaela started Preschool at three years of age and the Early Childhood Educators were having difficulties communicating with her. Michaela was non-compliant, highly energetic, unable to sit for circle time, and aggressive towards other children. I observed at my mother’s home that Michaela would attack the pets in the house out of frustration and anger. It was extremely difficult for the teachers to deal with her high energy level and her inability to follow direction. Both at home and at school, she seemed to be sad, aggressive and angry all the time. At home at night, Michaela was constantly waking me up in the middle of the night for her need for security (to be with me), or she would wake up because she couldn’t sleep. The preschool was concerned about possible special needs issues that needed immediate early intervention, so they invited a social worker from a special needs preschool to come and observe Michaela.

I was so impressed with care and attention to Michaela’s needs and the respect and sensitivity shown to myself and her father regarding these issues. I was stressed having to deal with an unnecessary four year divorce, Michaela’s special needs issues, my attorney from hell, having to live with my parents for four years (until my divorce finalized), standing by my beliefs that Michaela indeed did have special needs (when Caela’s father, family and friends blamed me for creating an unnecessary label and that she was just a late bloomer), loosing everything I owned due to my divorce, and more. I couldn’t think straight anymore and was close to a nervous breakdown. The Early Childhood Educators were aware of all of this and were always there to lend an ear. Later found I found (to my extreme guilt in my need to talk often), I caused the preschool teachers many times, to be late for their next class. I am extremely grateful for the compassion, care, and concern they displayed towards Michaela and I. After the necessary reports were filed, Michaela was unable to stay and needed to be transferred to a special education preschool. Impressed with the assistance we received from the Early Childhood Educators, I decided to enrol myself into an Early Childhood Education Program. This, in my opinion, was the beginning of my understanding early childhood development and understanding my daughter better.

To be continued…



1 Comment »

  1. Hello my name is Benjamin. I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. I have been battling with my insurance company and they are not going to help me get a bipap machine because it is a pre-existing condition. I am trying to get one used online. I set up a website to try to tell my story and hopefully make enough from the ads to purchase a bipap machine. The last sleep study I went to told me that if I did not get a machine, I was headed for a heart attack in 5 years. I am 36. I appreciate anyone who makes the effort to spread the word. I would like to try to set up a way for the uninsured to get cpap and bipap machines without insurance. Thanks Very Much

    Comment by Benjamin — November 8, 2007 @ 07:11

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