Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring Break 2015

This past week, I’ve been on spring break from school; however, other than not having to go to work, my week has been fairly typical. Ed, who had his spring break earlier in the month, has been working all week, and Alex has continued his regular schedule of therapy sessions: behavioral therapy on Tuesday, respite time on Wednesday, computer class and music therapy on Thursday, and recreational therapy on Friday. While several of my friends and family have spent spring break vacationing in warmer climates such as the Caribbean and Florida, I’ve been tending the home fires here in Indiana, where it has snowed twice. Although I’ve tried not to be envious of those who were able to escape the cold weather here, I have wished that I could lie on a warm beach, which I know would have been therapeutic for the end-of-winter cold I’ve battled this week. Nonetheless, this spring break has turned out to be one of the best ever, despite the cold in the air and in my head. This week has reminded me how far Alex has progressed.

On Tuesday, Alex, who has also been fighting a cold, decided that he was too tired to finish his behavioral therapy session with Jennifer and went upstairs to his bedroom to rest. Instead, she and I used this time to discuss new goals for Alex since he has mastered many of the previous goals we had set for him. When he began behavioral therapy two and a half years ago, our primary concerns were teaching him to manage his behavior so that he would not resort to physical aggression and/or property destruction. By learning calming techniques, he has learned appropriate alternatives to handling his anxiety and frustration, which has made our lives much more peaceful. Since Jennifer had never heard Alex’s history, I explained what had led us to behavioral therapy, including describing the upsetting behaviors that led to his hospitalization exactly three years ago. Although I don’t like to recall this terrible time in our lives, I felt she needed to know this information. As she sympathetically listened, I described how out of control Alex had become and how desperate we were to get help for him. Instead of being upset by reliving this painful memory, I can now calmly explain what transpired because I know that desperate times called for desperate measures. Ultimately, Alex’s hospitalization was the best thing for our family because he finally got the help he needed, and I can have peace about that. That was the beginning that led us to people who could help, the fantastic support team who are providing Alex with the tools he needs to be successful.

On Thursday morning, I took Alex to computer class instead of Ed since I was home and he had a meeting. This was a good opportunity for me to see how he performed in the day program setting. As Ed has assured me every week since Alex started the computer class in January, Alex does a terrific job of following instructions and cooperating nicely with the staff there. While I was sitting in the waiting room eavesdropping on Alex’s session, the director of the day program, who had been very reluctant to allow Alex to participate in activities there because of his history of aggression, came to chat with me. Commenting on how well Alex has done (much to her surprise, I’m sure), she remarked that she was glad that he would be starting a second day each week of computer classes and suggested that he try staying for lunch in the near future. Her positive attitude reinforced that we had done the right thing by turning down our original first choice for a day program so that Alex could attend this one instead. The much smaller facility, which is conveniently located less than five minutes away from our home, allows Alex to receive the support he needs. Moreover, they have shown great flexibility in having him gradually adapt to the program by starting with only one hour per week with the idea of eventually adding more time as he becomes more comfortable there. He is enjoying his time there learning computer skills, and the staff people have been wonderful with him.

Later that afternoon, his music therapist, Noel, told me that Alex had done “fantastic” in their session and began noting all the different areas in which he has shown progress, especially in his behavior and communication skills. Noel’s input is especially valuable because he has known Alex for five and a half years and has seen him at his best and worst. Although we took a hiatus from music therapy for a couple of years during that worst time because Alex was uncooperative, we were delighted to be able to resume music therapy with Noel about fifteen months ago. Not only is Noel very skilled at developing Alex’s communication and social skills through music, but also as a young man, he provides a great role model for Alex, even positively influencing Alex’s taste in clothing. While Noel is usually pragmatic in discussing Alex, on Thursday, he was enthusiastic in describing how well Alex is doing and how much progress he has made.

Yesterday Ed and I took Alex out to dinner because he has done so well this week, and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. Three years ago, if someone had described how pleasant and calm Alex could be in a restaurant, we could not have imagined such a scenario. Not only can we enjoy a meal in peace, knowing that Alex won’t deliberately misbehave to get attention or exhibit anxious behavior that makes everyone nervous, but he also participates in the conversation, making appropriate comments and asking good questions. What many parents would take for granted we know is an accomplishment several years in the making, and we are truly grateful.

When I began writing One Autism Mom’s Notes nearly five years ago in June 2010, one of my goals was to give other parents hope. We had been through a rough time with Alex during adolescence, and he had emerged much better. During the past five years, we have had ups and downs, and we survived the traumatic time three years ago when we thought we had lost our son to madness. We didn’t know how to reach him, but God did, and He provided us with not only the caring people we needed to guide Alex back to us but also the faith and strength and hope we needed as we waited for the breakthroughs. To see Alex overcome so many obstacles, we know that he can continue to make progress, which gives us even greater hope for the future. In my first blog entry, I noted that I needed to write Alex’s history so that he could look back and see how far he has come, and I continue writing with that purpose in mind, now more than ever. While my spring break wasn’t the typical vacation filled with fun in the sun, I’m grateful for the encouragement Alex’s therapists have given me this week and for the blessings God has given us in answering our prayers and making Alex better. Truly, nothing is better than this.

“He will rescue you again and again so that no evil can touch you.” Job 5:19


Diane said...

This is a wonderful article that is inspirational and stresses the the positivity in your lives. I could "feel" your happiness !

K. C. Wells said...

Sometimes a stay-cation give us exactly what we need. 😊 I'm so happy that Alex continues to thrive and make progress. Way to go, Alex!

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks, Diane, and K.C., for your nice comments. We're delighted that things are going so well. :)