I’m finally here. All morning I’ve had a need to be here, watching out this narrow leaded window as the squirrels hunt for acorns and the the canvassers scurry for votes. Ah, Ohio in the fall.
There’s a lot I need to tackle. Besides my bookstore work and the laundry and the dog hair floating about and collecting in corners or under the felt pads I put on the bottoms of chairs to protect the wood floors. It seems like all sorts of things are accumulating, so the dog hair is an apt analogy. In addition to “All deese leaves!” (Gabriel’s words) making their annual fall, puzzling behaviors are cropping up. Intensified reactions. There’s enough of them to gather in piles, separating mine from Jonah’s from John’s. Gabriel still has the get-out-of-jail-free-card: he’s two.
For purposes of clarity, I’ll stick to Jonah and myself. What’s really got me thinking is a book I started a few days ago, Impossible Cure: The Promise of Homeopathy, by Amy Lansky. Now before you go all “Jennifer’s joined the Jenny-McCarthy-autism-can-be-cured-camp” on me, let me say that no, I don’t think autism can be cured (or that it should be). But in the case of Lansky and her son Max, the evidence—gathered and compiled by the PhD Lansky, who’s something of a braniac—that presents an incredible turnaround in Max’s “autistic state” (as Lansky puts it) is compelling. Beguiling even.
I didn’t pick up this book because of Jonah. I picked it up because of me. I continue to be skeptical of isolated drugs that “treat” isolated symptoms in, frankly, an isolated manner. My fear that one drug leads to another then to another is starting to play out (in much the same way that women during childbirth find it increasingly difficult to resist interventions once labor is artificially induced). Without getting terribly specific here, I can chart out a constellation of symptoms/issues/personal susceptibilities I’m prone to and now have drug remedies for. And the drugs work, dramatically; but I must add that they bring with them their own constellation of symptoms I can now also unfortunately chart. My innate suspicion that these drugs only palliate or suppress is playing out. They do nothing to treat the underlying cause. That said, they have been incredibly helpful. They have improved the quality of my life in important ways. The trouble is, as their side effects pile up, their miraculous effect is being revealed for what it is: a miraculous (possibly short-term) relief.
Jonah has his own constellation. He’s going through a rough patch of late. As his OT put it, “Jonah is maybe…growing a little bit into his autism diagnosis…as these kiddos grow up, the demands placed on their life advance more quickly than their social-emotional skills. It appears as though maybe things are getting worse but really the kiddos are the same but having difficulty adjusting to the current demands of their life. A lot of development in maturity is expected between the final years of preschool and first grade.” Behavior that was previously chalked up to being a boy in preschool is now being categorized under sensory integration disorder and/or worthy of an ADHD evaluation. Stomach problems have ramped up. Hyper-emotionality and anxiety. Back come the tics and the scripts and the maniacal laughs. He yells at me to “Do something about my brother! Stop him from being a baby! I don’t like it!” The good thing about that last statement is the fact that he can make it. He can tell us how he feels (most of the time). The trouble is, he and we don’t know how to help him make it better. We have some techniques, but they don’t always work, or work well. We must shift and change with him. We must adjust expectations. It’s a constant process of sorting out what’s sensory, what’s avoidance, what’s a six-year-old boy being a six-year-old boy.
A big part of Jonah’s mystery (I like that better than puzzle, which implies he simply needs to be put together correctly) is the connections he makes, and the lack thereof. Landon Bryce at thAutcast.com got me thinking about this. He writes:
My brain makes some kinds of connections– those having to do with sounds and words– very quickly, and very well. It makes other kinds of connections– those having to do with spatial relationships, social relationships, emotions, and some functions of my body– very slowly and not very reliably. This is what my autism is.
Autism is a neural tendency towards hyperconnectivity is some areas of the brain and hypoconnectivity in others. This tendency makes communication and socialization difficult for many of us, but those difficulties are manifestations of that difference in neural processing They are not what autism is.
So what I initially assume to be a “regression” really isn’t. As much as I’d sometimes like for Jonah to simply calm down and quit the scripts and the guttural voices, as much as I’d like the peace of him not bouncing off the walls (I mean this quite literally) for my own sanity, suppressing him isn’t the answer either. He is living out his own progression. And if he stays true to patterns of the past, these difficult behaviors (difficult for me, not necessarily difficult for him) will probably precede another big jump in his own maturity academically, emotionally, and socially. Or not. As J likes to say, “Where was I? O yes!”