Monday, June 9, 2014
I had planned on writing a different blog today. I had planned to write about the experience of watching the rain clouds gather while we watched from a shelter at Lake Warren. I had planned to write about the beauty of the storm and of its magnificent power. That was the plan.
The reality is that Isaac is obsessing. For those who will understand this, Isaac is autism obsessing. For those blessedly ignorant of my phraseology, imagine the worst toddler obsession you have ever encountered and magnify that behavior to the hundredth power. I'm being kind. It's actually more than that.
Isaac has been up and down the stairs wearing a path in the flooring between his room and the kitchen where I sit to write. He has always been obsessed with Veggie Tales and the computer. Managing his behavior used to be easier as he was entertained by switching from YouTube clip to YouTube clip featuring a hodgepodge of Veggie Tales, Barney and Disney sing a longs. As he has aged, Isaac's obsessions have multiplied. His computer no longer fully satisfies. He has added a calendar fascination. I blame the schools. They concentrate a good bit through the years on the calendar, the specifics of the date (month, day and year) as well as upcoming holidays. If a child is particularly prone to obsession, this constant curricular reinforcement over the years is akin to perpetuating a drug habit.
Isaac began taking all of the calendars in the house and stashing them in his room. He writes on all of them and tries to put something on each and every square. He identifies the most obscure holidays and fixates on them. Last year, he discovered for the first time that he could ask for presents at Christmas and then get them. It may sound like a simple concept to you, sweet reader, but to us this was a major cognitive breakthrough. We celebrated his achievement until after Christmas, when Isaac identified the next holiday out and demanded presents for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. He then wanted presents for President's Day and for his sister's birthday. When we successfully held these requests at bay, he found that we did concede and say that we would give presents for Easter. Every day, all day, every moment, he talked about Easter presents, List, One- Two Presents. The obsession grew to such a frenzy that the rest of us resorted to drastic measures. We moved Easter. By the Saturday before Palm Sunday, the children were in complete agreement. Make it stop. Tomorrow can be Easter. It will be OK. God will understand. I wrote a social story for Isaac and we changed Easter. Thankfully, he bought it and the plan of mobile Easter went off without a hitch. We breathed in one sweet moment of peace until Isaac looked up at us and said "Mother's Day. Presents. List. One, Two."
I was fed up. "No Isaac. All done presents. Presents for me on Mother's Day. Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine!" It would have been laughable. The whole situation is until you stand back and think about what that kind of obsession does to the sanity of those who live with the obsessive person. You do learn to block out a fair amount of Veggie and calendar talk but that becomes more difficult when Isaac comes up to within an inch of your nose and reminds you that it is "Almost Father's Day. Presents. One, Two."
"No Isaac. Presents for Dad on Father's Day."
"List. One, Two Presents."
"For Dad, Isaac. Just for Dad."
"Sunday is Father's Day. Presents. One, Two. Just Two. Just Five."
You ignore the boy. He comes closer and closer and gets louder and louder repeating and repeating and repeating.
You cannot yell. You may not scream or reprimand angrily. If you do, behaviors will escalate quickly and you will have a much bigger mess on your hands. A redirect with an alternate activity lasts as long as the activity lasts and then the obsession starts again with the same level of incessance and volume.
Popular advice tells us to live day by day. During these times, day by day is much too long a period to comprehend. Moment by moment by moment. That's how you get through. Manage this moment. Live through this moment. Keep it together through this one moment and then the next one and the next. That's the trick. Moment by moment until I know that Sam is coming home from work. Then I can tag off and it can be his turn.