Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Walk On

Conor loves the treadmill.  At least, he loves it on his own terms.

"Conor wants to walk for 11 hours on the treadmill!" he routinely squawks at me.  Sure you do, buddy.

One time he asked to walk on our treadmill at home for 95 minutes.  I was packing for vacation, so I was totally like "sure!"

He made it to 60 minutes, then asked to get off. "My muscles are tired," he said.  I bet, little man. I bet. But I got a hell of a lot of bags packed in that hour.

If ultra-marathons included a timer that Conor could watch as it counted down the minutes, I think he would be all over it.  26 miles?  50 miles?  No problem.  (As long as he could walk, that is. No running, thank you very much.)

Conor has always loved numbers, so a treadmill is a natural fit. Numbers that move.  What could be better? Score!

(I have to admit, when he was younger?  I would totally set the oven timer for him to watch while I cooked dinner.  Bought me a good twenty minutes at a pop.  What?  Like you never.)

Ok, wait, wait, let me start over. I'm all over the place here.

When Conor emerged from his first short-term hospitalization at Sheppard Pratt at 11 1/2 years old, he came out on a Depakote/Risperidone cocktail.  Depakote is an anti-convulsive that has had some success as a mood stabilizer.  Risperidone is an anti-psychotic that has had efficacy at reducing aggressive behaviors in roughly 70% of individuals with autism. (Individuals with aggressive behaviors, that is. Because certainly there are many who do not have this issue.)

Neither worked for my son.

Well, I should say, neither drug worked on his aggressive behaviors.  Together, both worked incredibly well to increase his weight.

Conor quickly gained 20+lbs in just a few weeks.  I wish I were kidding, but I'm not. Two, three weeks, tops. It was like someone turned on a switch and he became a human vacuum cleaner.  He didn't eat any new foods, but the AMOUNT of food he sought?

Amazing. Shocking. Mind-boggling.

Oh my, young man, what an appetite you have!

Seriously, the kid that I used to beg to sit at the table to eat?  I could not get him away from the food. It was confusing, and sad. We were scared.  And weary. So we fed him.

But when he was discharged from his third hospitalization (the long-term inpatient stint on the NBU) on a different bigpharma-cocktail, I was determined to get the weight off.  (First, ignore that he was still on an anti-psychotic, infamous for weight gain. And never mind that the psychiatrist admitting him excoriated us for being concerned about his weight and the same psychiatrist discharging him raked us over the coals for his obesity. Sigh.)

At our discharge meeting, the nurse told us that the real issue is that Conor is only in the 10th percentile height.  It's not unusual for a 13 year-old boy to weigh 113lbs, after all.

"Did she just tell us that Conor wasn't overweight, he was under-tall?" I quietly asked my husband with a smirk on my face.

Never mind it all.  I was determined.

We have a treadmill at home; I decided we would start there.  He likes numbers, he likes moving numbers, he likes the moving walkways at the airport, we can make this work.  Right?

We began with a manageable goal.  5 minutes. That's it, walk for 5 minutes on the treadmill.

I started when we had the biggest male therapist available.  I set the time for 5 minutes and we got him started.

My lord, you would've thought I was torturing the poor child.

Oh my, the teeth gnashing and the caterwauling, a veritable donnybrook.  You would have thought I was pulling his toenails out with a pair of flat-nose pliers.  (I hear they work better than the needle-nose pliers but not as good as the lineman's pliers. But both are easier than waterboarding him with a Neti-Pot.)


You get the picture.  But, just as I had been taught by the behaviorists on the NBU, if I told Conor to walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes, he shall walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes.

You will walk on the treadmill, young man.  

Sir, yes sir!

It's challenging to "make" someone walk on the treadmill, I discovered.  (It's also really hard to "make" someone do yoga as well, but that's for another post.) Every time he popped off, I ordered him back on again. He hooted and hollered at me.  He almost had a tantrum.  It was rough.

Needless to say, with the help of Conor's 1:1 and our determination, Conor not only walked that 5 minutes on the treadmill, after a few attempts he actually discovered that he enjoyed walking on treadmills.  He could listen to his music at full volume, watch the numbers count down, and even started to bust out a run for the last two minutes or so.

And in Conor's inimitable way, he became so obsessed with walking on the treadmill, he sought out treadmills everywhere in town. And soon, he started tantrumming when he couldn't walk on the treadmill or when the treadmill wasn't up to his exacting standards or when he couldn't set the timer for 95 minutes.  (And no, I am not exaggerating. He will walk for over an hour!)

Oh yeah, you better believe Conor has some exacting standards with the treadmill.  Our paltry, low-rent treadmill here at home doesn't even compare to the "Star Trac" treadmill at the gym or even the well-used treadmill at school.

And the treadmill at the hotel where we stay when we visit Grandma?

Sheesh, well that hotel treadmill is just the bomb. I know because he tells me all. the. time.

I wish I could tell you that our efforts have paid off, that Conor is as svelte as Tim Gunn.  He's not.  As a matter of fact, I don't think he's lost one stinking pound.  But he hasn't really gained any weight, either, so the way I figure it, we're even Steven. And even Steven might not be thin like Tim Gunn, but I'll take what I can get.

If only I could stretch him taller... that has GOT to be easier.

There are two videos on this post.  The first is Conor walking.  You'll notice head-bobbing and a flick of his left hand.  These are his tics from the Tourettes.  You may also see some funny breaths. Ignore the boxes, I'm in a constant state of de-cluttering! They will be filled with crap my gently-used items and given away. 

In this video, Conor busts out a run.  You see him touch his iTouch so he can see the numbers moving on the Lupe Fiasco song. Not only does Conor like to watch the numbers counting down on the treadmill, he likes to simultaneously watch the numbers counting down on the song. His love of numbers knows no bounds.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Some S&M, One Menage A Trois, and Shades Of Grey

Last night, as I walked wearily in the front door after taking my typical 10 year-old to his drum lesson, I ran smack into Paisley and Conor playing badminton in our front hall. (Paisley is his 1:1 at home on Tuesdays.)

As soon as she saw me, she got a wry smile on her face and stopped batting the birdie back and forth.  Conor danced off; he was listening to his portable CD player at the same time.

She was trying hard not to chuckle.

"Um, Conor's had a lot of interesting questions tonight," she reported, bobbing her head.  "He wanted to know what S&M stood for."

My eyebrows shot up.

"I asked him what he meant, where he heard that" she continued, her eyes dancing.  "He told me--'Rihanna'."

Oh, for the love of Pete, I thought as I flung my purse onto the table.

"I told him it stood for science and math," she elaborated.  "I don't think he quite bought it.  Jim told him soup and macaroni."

"Why?" Conor had asked her, confused by the response.  "Why does S&M stand for science and math?"

"Because some people think they're fun," she replied, not really knowing what to say.  "Science and math--fun!"(You gotta give it to Paisley, she tries.)

Look, Rihanna, I'm sure your mom's real proud of your hit song S&M (it's quite a catchy little ditty) but how in the name of Mary am I supposed to explain this to Conor?  I've already had to navigate the land mine of Lovely Lady Lumps, for Pete's sake. I haven't even talked to him about straight-up vanilla sex, much less the trickier aspects of the whole whatever-floats-your-boat thing.

Forget that the song's probably a deconstruction of the media's fascination with some of Rihanna's relationships with less savory types (at least that's what the video suggests to me). I have no desire to write a dissertation on the topic.  What I want to know is this...

How do I explain this to my son who is chronologically a teenager but, in many aspects, is much younger than his 10 year-old brother? My son--he can't tell me what he did during the day but can find anything he wants on the computer, on the iTunes store?

Le sigh.

Already, I've danced around (metaphorically and literally) Katy Perry's mention of a ménage à trois in her smash Last Friday Night. (My kids don't speak French, though, so I think I'm golden on that one. Fantastique!)

It's the age old rock 'n roll push-me pull-me of one generation to the next, I suppose.  I'm sure my mom wasn't too fond of Madonna, although I certainly thought she was da bomb.  But please, I'd be happy to talk to Conor about what "virgin" means, but bondage?  Threesomes?  Seriously?

Um, no, that's what the Internet is for, sweetie. I'll move your computer into your room tout de suite.

(Of course, there was Madonna's 1992 coffee table book, SEX, which I'm sure never really graced anyone's coffee table. Maybe a night stand. A closet?)

Honestly, I don't know what criteria the FCC uses to judge these things.  Fun.'s song talks about "getting higher than the Empire state" and THAT's edited out (sometimes) but S&M and ménage à trios make the cut? Really?

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather talk to my son (typical or otherwise) about the dangers of heroin and methamphetamine than whips and chains.  (Which I only mention because she sings about them in the song, I swear.)

I haven't gotten past good-touch/bad-touch with Conor, how in the world am I supposed to explain S&M? To a kid who will, in reality, most likely, never have sex?

I know! Instead of reading to him from Charlotte's Web, or Stuart Little, or even The Lemonade Wars, I'll start him on 50 Shades of Grey.  That'll certainly be educational in more than one way.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Fill 'er Up!

Considering Conor is the one who usually drives me to drink with his challenging behavior, I think it's appropriate that he came with me to the liquor store today.

Yeah, baby, that's the one. Give it to Mama.

He chose a cart when we got into the store. I hope that this isn't a sign that he has a major tantrum planned in the near future.  (But if he does, I'm all stocked up.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Last Saturday, my typical 10 year-old son, Aidan, and I woke up in our discount-hotel beds at 4:30am and headed out for some fishing on a charter with my sister and our dad.  We could have woken up at 3:00am after sleeping in our own beds, but my husband was afraid we’d wake Conor up when we left.


By 5:30am, we were boarding the boat, meeting the Captain and the Mate, and heading out to catch some bait fish so we could catch some rockfish.  Yeah, a double whammy of fishing.

We caught fish to catch this rockfish.
Not big, but big enough to count!  He'll be delicious.

At 7:30am, we were slipping pieces of cut-up worms on hooks and yanking spot fish out of the Chesapeake Bay like champs. Rockfish love those spot, at least that's what we were told.

At 7:30am, Conor was home having a tantrum (I found out later) because we didn’t have the Aunt Jemima Original Pancake Mix that he likes.  We only had the Aunt Jemima Original Pancake Mix Complete.

(Ok, my husband’s not such a wimp. He handled the tantrum by himself. You go, boy. That's hot.)

See, Aunt Jemima Original Pancake Mix needs Chef Conor to add an egg, 1 tablespoon of oil, and ¾ cup of milk to the mix. 


The original.

 Aunt Jemima Original Pancake Mix Complete only needs the chef to add water.

Unacceptable, asshat.

There was no consoling him.  Jim offered to go to the grocery store with him when it opened at 8am, but that was a nonstarter for Conor.  Nope.  Ker-fluey. Ka-boom. Ker-fluffle


And, after my husband told me what happened, I put my head in my hands and thought… I wish Conor would just stop acting like a toddler already. (In my defense, I had been up since 4:30am.)

You know, I’m not quite sure what having a child with autism is like for other parents, but for me, it is as if Conor is a perpetual toddler.  (A toddler who unlocks doors, works the microwave, and has started the hormonal joys of puberty. And, of course, makes pancakes, with supervision. But only the Original kind.)

I’m sure he won’t always be like this (although he’s been like this for years).  I’m sure when he’s 30 years old (and I’m still 29), he’ll be just like the wonderful teenager he was supposed to be when he was 15.  He does progress, he develops, just at a glacial and uneven pace.

Can I be confess something here? A deep, dark secret no mother must ever utter out loud?  

I don’t like toddlers that much. 

Honestly, I don’t know how that Duggar woman does it, with all the years of tears, and the tantrums, and the toileting, and the upsets.  (And that’s just Joe Bob.)  She and I have both been dealing with toddlers for years, except I’ve had just the two and she’s had 19.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not tripping toddlers as they waddle down the sidewalk and shooting them with BB guns, but it’s not my favorite developmental stage.  Which makes it really tough when my 13 year-old acts like he’s 2 ½... all the time.

Take THAT, Aunt Jemima Complete.

He has tantrums, and often over the silliest things. Like pancakes. (Silly to me, of course. And anyone over the age of four.) He wants them cut into threes... so they add up to 9. And Conor wants to eat the same thing day after day. On non-breakable cups and plates.

He communicates at a rudimentary level. He doesn’t understand everything you say (although he can often say or read the words) and most of the time he can’t answer simple questions about his day. (In his defense, I think he understands more than he can ever say which is tough on many levels.)

I track his bowel movements to make sure he’s not constipated or having diarrhea. I remind him to go to the bathroom, and if I catch him having a bowel movement, I’m not above wiping his bum.

Conor picks his nose. In public. (What he does with it after that, I’m not even going to say. Use your imagination.)

Like Rush Limbaugh, he often yells just to hear the sound of his voice. I swear, he is part howler monkey.  (Did you know howler monkeys can be heard from up to 3 miles away?  Yeah, like that.)

Aw, my little howler monkey.

Conor skips. Like, skip, skip, skip-to-my-loo. (Which is different than skipping to the loo.)

And, like a majority of toddlers, Conor often doesn’t want to share. Mostly, he’s still on parallel play.

Although he regularly sleeps through the night (praise Buddha and big-cap pharmaceutical companies), weekends aren’t any different from weekdays and when he wakes in the middle of the night or very early in the morning, he still has to be closely supervised. I'd personally like to know when the sleeping-until-1pm comes into play.  I'm waiting for that fabulous part of teenager hood.

In a comfortable, appropriate setting (like our house or my parents' home), we can leave Conor unsupervised for a brief period of time.  But after five or ten minutes, one of us has to check in on what he's doing.  You know, to make sure he's not getting into something he shouldn't be.

Like a toddler, Conor has trouble waiting.  Trouble waiting in line. Trouble waiting for you to finish your meal in a restaurant.  Trouble waiting for an upcoming event.  Just... trouble waiting.  For anything.

Of course, on the flip side, like any toddler, he's playful, snuggly, affectionate, dances around to Justin Timberlake's SexyBack, and is asserting his independence in small but meaningful ways.

What?  What are you looking at? You don't you let your toddler listen to SexyBack? Really?  What's next, no more Black Eyed Peas with their Lovely Lady Lumps?  What kind of parent ARE you?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Snowmen

Tonight, I taught my 10 year-old typical kid a new word.  It was-- "goddammit".

Aidan: "Conor wrote Snowmen on my school picture order form, Mom."

Me, sort of under my breath, but not really: "Goddammit."

It's totally cool, though, 'cause if he says it again in mixed company, I can just blame my dad.

(Everyone who knows my dad is now chuckling to themselves.)

Recently, and inexplicably, Conor has taken to writing the word "snowmen" on papers.  I hide the pens, but he finds them.  (If I hide them too well, can't ever find them again 'cause I'm old like that.)

I have no idea why.  Why, Conor, why?  I've asked him.  He says he doesn't know.  Except that I think he's trying to be funny? He certainly thinks it's amusing.

We've actually had to discuss this in our IEP meetings.  (Individualized Education Plans, for those newbies.)  Really?  I really have to discuss this in our hours and hours and hours long IEP meetings? Oh my God.

I know, I know, I should be thankful he's not writing it on the wall.  But I'm tired of my son's inexplicable behaviors and I'm tired of being thankful for not having behaviors that should have been put to rest years and years ago. I wouldn't put writing on walls past him.

He's thirteen.  13! 
4,749 (or more) days old. A teenager.
I should be worried about him impregnating some girl, not writing nonsense everywhere.

Yeah, that's him blowing bubbles.  Yeah, yeah, he's cute.
You know, I am just wiped out from the summer and I just want him to stop writing Snowmen on pieces of paper.  Ok, Conor, can we just do that?  That one simple thing?

I know, I know, it's just a stupid, little, insignificant, pea-in-the-mattress-princess thing.  But I'm so tired. So tired. Tired of the puzzle of it all, tired of trying to figure him OUT.

Just... tired.

But don't worry your pretty little head about Aidan's language.  He knows better.  Plus, he tells me that one of this best friends drops the F-bomb pretty consistently when he's upset, so I figure Aidan will need "goddammit" just to keep up.

I mean, I had Catholic school friends to educate me on curse words.  Aidan doesn't have that luxury.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Oh No, You Didn't!

Last week, I took my standard poodle with me to pick up my typical kid at baseball. Poor Linus is stuck in the kitchen a lot 'cause Conor FREAKS OUT when the dog gets out and runs around. "Linus might chew our toys," Conor tells me as he leads the 60lb dog back to the pokey. (It's true, he might.)

So when I have the opportunity, I take Linus with me. And, of course, Linus sports his very matchy-matchy collar and leash set from The Black Dog store. 

Yeah, girl, you know what I mean. My parti-poodle was lookin' fine.

Here's Linus with his new collar. His leash matches. Sha-ZAM!
("Parti" refers to the two-tone color.  Needless to say, I often
throw my hands in the air, raise the roof, and sing "Parti-poodle in da house."
My husband loves it.  NOT.)

See, Conor loves The Black Dog store, and, at every opportunity, will either visit the actual store in Connecticut or purchase items online. We have mugs, leashes, collars, hats, and t-shirts galore from this store. He thinks The Black Dog store is fab-u-lous.

His most recent t-shirt purchase.

Like a gentleman buying lingerie for a special lady friend, Conor lovingly purchased a very nice matching collar and leash set for Linus. Out of his own allowance, nonetheless.  I didn't really think much about it when I waved Linus into the back of the SUV. 

Whatev, gotta go, baby, I am l-a-t-e.

So... I went to sit on the bench with two women I hadn't met before while the team finished up. And, of course, we started to talk about Linus.  It's not just desperate single guys and kids with autism that use pets as social lubricant after all. We all do it.

"He's so handsome," one of the women said.  "Thanks so much," I replied.  "He's a good pup."

"And he's so coordinated," the other woman smiled teasingly.

Coordinated, I said to myself. What does she mean, coordinated? Like, he didn't trip over himself? I let it pass.  I had no idea what she was talking about.

"My dog's too high strung to bring to the games," the first woman continued.  She smiled warmly at me. "She's a collie."

I nod. "Linus is pretty high strung too, but we're only going to be here for a short while," I smiled back.

"And he's so coordinated," the other woman said.  Why does she keep saying that? Is it because he's sitting so nicely? (I'm bribing him with treats.)

"His leash and collar," she pointed out, her eyes sparkling. "He's coordinated." 

Oh, I thought. Oh no, you did-n't!

Um, ex-cuse me (I didn't say out loud, not snapping my head back).  You're not dissin' my dog's fab-u-lousleash-and-collar set, are you?  No way, nuh-uh.

I mean, my baby's already something fabulous.  He's got himself some natural hot pants.  See?

Hot pants.  Sha-ZAM!

And, as if that's not fabulous enough for a night out at the baseball game, my baby's got himself a natural mankini.  See?

So, he is NOT going to be wearing anything but the most fabulous leash-and-collar set The Black Dog store has to offer.  Yeah, you know it.

"Did you tell her that your child with special needs picked it out and that it's special to him?" my husband asked me when I got home and regaled him with the story, zorro snapping and head shaking and attitude and all.

"Hell, no," I replied. "I just told her Aidan's brother liked the leash and collar, that he purchased it, and had she heard of The Black Dog store? You know, like on Martha's Vineyard? It doesn't matter whether he has autism or not." Snap.

Wait until I bust out the scrumptious winter coat Linus has hanging in the closet.  She's gonna be jealous. Uh-huh, you know I'm right.

Two snaps, a twist AND a kiss.