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.

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