Sunday, May 21, 2017

Finishing Strength

In our house, the month of May tests our endurance. As Ed and I finish up teaching for the school year, we find ourselves engaged in grading multiple papers and exams, sitting through end-of-the-year meetings, and trying to maintain the enthusiasm we had in August with students who would rather be outside enjoying the nice weather. Even though Alex continues his schedule of support services throughout the summer, May always seems to be difficult for him, too. Because he is quite intuitive, he likely senses the stress Ed and I feel trying to accomplish everything we need to do, despite our best attempts to keep things calm for Alex. In addition, the high pollen counts and unpredictable weather with varying air pressures along with his concerns about severe weather, namely thunderstorms and tornadoes, makes May difficult for him, as well.

Recently, he apparently caught the virus that was going around and making people lose their appetites. Fortunately, he doesn't seem to be in any discomfort and hasn't complained of anything bothering him. Not wanting him to lose weight and strength, we have encouraged him to eat and drink whatever appeals to him. Although he has been compliant, his diet still includes a limited range of soft foods, such as applesauce, pudding, and scrambled eggs. We keep trying to tempt him with foods we know he loves, but even when shrimp or meatloaf nears his mouth, he makes a face indicating disgust and tells us he’s not hungry. Our formerly meat-loving son who would eat nearly anything placed before him has become a vegetarian who favors fruit. However, we know with Alex that phases pass about as quickly as they appear, so we try not to fret about his current eating habits.

Other than his appetite, Alex appears healthy and content, still energetically happy hopping through the house and enjoying his usual activities. However, we have noticed that the tremor in his hands caused by one of his medications seems to have increased, making eating more difficult for him, and requiring more assistance from us. In addition, he is not as eager to go places as he usually is, which makes us think he’s still not completely recovered from the virus he had a couple of weeks ago.

The other day, Ed mentioned that he had noticed a white film in Alex’s mouth when giving him pills in the morning, and he wanted me to take a look in his mouth. Armed with a penlight, I couldn’t see any redness or sores, but I did see the telltale milky film we see when he has yeast overgrowth in his digestive tract. After more than a year of having the yeast under control, the beast sadly seems to be back. With the extremely warm and wet weather we’ve been having along with an immune system compromised by a strange virus, Alex was susceptible to the invasion of yeast in his digestive system. No wonder he hasn't been interested in eating much! However, we were thankful that the usual primary symptom––irritability, sometimes displayed in a meltdown––has not been present.

Fortunately, we had the prescription medication Diflucan on hand and gave him a dose on Friday and will give him the second dose tomorrow, praying that one round of antifungal will wipe out the yeast in his digestive system and heal him. Next weekend, we will take him for his routine six-months lab tests, which will help his doctors and us see if anything else could be contributing to his change in appetite and increased shakiness. In addition, he has his usual biannual appointment scheduled in a couple of weeks with the nurse practitioner who oversees his anxiety medications, so we can consult with her about our concerns. Hopefully, he’ll be all better by then so that we can spend the appointment talking about how well he has done since he last saw her in December.

With all the other stresses at the end of the school year, I really didn’t need having to worry about Alex’s normally healthy appetite being off. Feeling overwhelmed and fatigued, I have briefly toyed with the idea of having the lesson plans for the final two weeks of school for my middle school students revolve around watching YouTube videos while playing with fidget spinners. Of course, they would be thrilled, but I know that’s not what's best for them. Moreover, I know that I would not be giving them my best, which I always strive to do. With eight class days to go with my students, I will pray for strength, patience, and peace, knowing that God has me where He wants me to be for now, relying upon Him and waiting for what He has planned, and continuing to hope for Alex’s complete healing.

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:3


Unknown said...

Hello Pam I have only recently discovered your inspiring blog. I too am a mother of a now adult son with autism. My son Andrew turned 20 years old a few days ago. I have devoured all of your blogs since I discovered them a few weeks ago and a lot of the experiences you have had with your son mirror my experience with Andrew. He was diagnosed at age 4 with autism although he has always been verbal he had a regression around age 14 and then around 17 we started seeing aggressive behavior out of nowhere. It was only a few months ago that we had to have him treated at a hospital that specializes in managing young adults with Autism and stablizing their behavior. It has been a rocky road finding the correct medication but we finally think we are on the right track Andrew also for the first time will be able to get ABA in home therapy to help him manage anxiety your blog makes me hopeful that Andrew will eventually stabilize to the point where our family can function somewhat normal and have a predictable routine in our days. Thank you for putting your story out here.

Celeste Thompson

Pam Byrne said...

Hi Celeste,
Thank you for your kind note. I'm so sorry that you've had to go through the same difficulties with your son that we did with Alex because I know how heartbreaking it is. I'm glad that the medication is helping, and the ABA therapy will be a great support, too. We've found that the combination of the right medication and therapies have worked wonders for Alex to help him deal with his extreme anxiety, which can lead to aggression. We were also told that the closer he got to age 25, the better he would be because his hormones would settle down, and we definitely found this to be true!

Looking back, I can say that the terrible times we went through with him led us to the contentment we now enjoy today with a more typical family life. His extreme behaviors enabled us to get help, and the support team we have is outstanding. I hope that you will soon be able to look back on your experience with a sense of relief, knowing that in the end, everything will be all right.

Please feel free to private message me on my One Autism Mom's Facebook page. I'd like to know how Andrew is doing and look forward to hearing about the progress he will make.

Take care,