Sunday, April 19, 2015

Curve Balls

curve ball-[slang]-something that is unexpected, surprising, or disruptive

Two weeks ago marked the beginning of the Major League Baseball season, which Alex has been eagerly anticipating. Like his grandfather and mother, he’s a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan who starts each season believing that this will finally be the year they win the World Series—that eternal optimism that keeps Alex cheering for his beleaguered team. However, various difficulties, usually in the form of poor pitching, beset the Cubs every year and make the season more difficult than anticipated. This week we had some curve balls thrown our way that we didn’t expect, and we had to figure out what was the best way to address them, especially since things have been going very smoothly the past few months.

On Monday, we found out that our insurance company is refusing to pay the oral surgeon who removed Alex’s wisdom teeth in November, claiming that the extractions were not medically necessary. After Alex got along amazingly well when his teeth were extracted, we thought that we had come through that experience much more easily than we had anticipated. However, this curve ball may mean that we will have to pay for the surgery, which our insurance is supposed to cover according to our policy. Fortunately, the woman who handles insurance at the oral surgeon’s office has been very helpful, pleading our case with the insurance company as we appeal their ruling. She commented that Alex’s wisdom teeth were among the worst impacted she has ever seen on x-rays; in fact, the oral surgeon had described them to us as “totally bone impacted” and explained that they needed to be removed so that they did not cause ongoing pain and further damage to his teeth. (They had already damaged the roots of his upper twelve year molars.) Moreover, their office believes that our insurance company is discriminating against Alex because he has autism. While we are frustrated that the insurance company is being difficult, we are thankful that our oral surgeon’s office is not only being understanding but also supportive, helping us fight the insurance company’s refusal to pay and appealing their decision.

On Tuesday, when Alex went to computer class, we were told that he would have a new staff person working with him because the woman who has been working with him has been assigned other responsibilities. To ease the transition, the woman who has been working with him since he started computer class in January will train and shadow the new woman who will be working with Alex. Although we understood the need for the change, we wished that we had been told ahead of time so that we could have prepared Alex, who is especially fond of the woman who has been teaching him computer skills. In addition, those who work with Alex are supposed to be trained by his behavioral therapist so that they know how to address any issues that may arise with him. While Alex seemed to handle this change of staff fairly well, I called the agency with my concern with the need for the new staff to be trained on his behavior service plan and was assured that this will happen.

Later in the day, Alex had another curve ball thrown at him when we found out his behavioral therapist will not be available for our Friday recreational therapy sessions for three weeks, due to scheduling conflicts. Since Alex looks forward to these Fun Fridays, I sensed that he was not very happy with this news, yet he did well during his behavioral therapy session. However, after she left, he expressed his disappointment to me about missing Fun Fridays. Apparently two changes in one day overwhelmed him as he resorted to exaggeration and dramatically told me that his music therapist was never coming again. I reassured him that he could depend on his music therapist, who faithfully comes to see him every Thursday. In addition, I suggested that he and I could still do Fun Fridays, even though his behavioral therapist would not be there. This seemed to ease his mind a bit.

After a blissfully uneventful day on Wednesday, when he enjoyed spending time with his caretaker while I enjoyed shopping, the changes of the week seemed to really hit home on Thursday. As promised, his music therapist arrived for their weekly session, but Alex became agitated instead of relieved. For the first time in months, he was anxious and upset, and he let me know by grabbing me and muttering angrily. Fortunately, his fantastic music therapist and I worked together to calm him quickly, and he settled down and had a great session of music therapy.

On Friday, I kept my promise to Alex that we would still have Fun Friday, and I sweetened the deal for him by inviting my mom and sister, his beloved Aunt Tammy. As we enjoyed lunch and visiting at Burger King, Alex entertained himself by imitating Tammy, whose voice he finds fascinating. After a week of unexpected and unwelcome surprises, it was nice to relax and spend time with family. I thought we were finished with curve balls for the week until I got home and opened a letter informing us that the agency that provides us with respite care (Alex’s caregiver on Wednesday afternoons) and day services (computer classes) had just assigned us a new representative to coordinate his services—the third one in six months. Although our contact with this person is primarily limited to our quarterly meetings with Alex’s team of professionals, another change of staff just added to the already unsettling week we’d already had.
While I know that life is full of changes and that Alex will need to learn to adapt even when he’s not happy, Ed and I still try to prepare him for transitions, knowing that he prefers predictability and routines. Since things have been going so smoothly lately, we felt disappointment that these sudden changes this week upset Alex. Whenever he seems anxious, I try to analyze whether he is responding to the situation, picking up on my anxiety, and/or dealing with yeast overgrowth in his system. Consequently, I reassured him as best I could, tried to keep myself calm, and gave him an antifungal medication, just to cover all the bases.

After a trying week for all of us, we enjoyed a relaxing Saturday with no obligations, and Alex seemed much happier and calmer, as though he had come to terms with all that had been thrown at him this week. Last night, he smiled and happily announced to me out of the blue, “You’re healthy!” Of course, with his pronoun reversal problems what he really meant was that he is healthy. After I had spent the week trying to reassure him, he was now trying to reassure me that everything is going to be fine. Despite the various challenges of the week, we move forward optimistically, as all true Cub fans do, knowing that eventually things will get better in time.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12


marjorie said...

So glad the curve balls didn't knock your family down. xoxo

K. C. Wells said...

What a sweet soul your boy has. ❤️

Babs said...

Maybe the curve ball was for you not Alex. It is possible that it was to show you that Alex is learning to adapt to new situations as he stated when he told you he was healthy and you may have needed to know that your dental office will stand behind you. I see it in a positive light. Way to go Alex

Pam Byrne said...

Hi Marjorie,
So good to hear from you! Thanks for your nice comment. Hope you and your family are well. :)


Pam Byrne said...

Hi K.C.,
Yes, he is a sweetheart, and I'm glad others can see that in him, too. Hope you and your family are doing well.


Pam Byrne said...

Hi Babs,
I think you're right. Alex is very intuitive--always has been. :)
Love to you and Jack and the boys,