Sunday, December 30, 2007


Today, I'm not quite so chipper about Mason possibly being diagnosed with HFA. I've been reading a lot, trying to gather information, and the more I read, the more I see Mason in those articles.

Mason woke early this morning, wanting to begin his day, but through tag-team mother-father efforts, we managed to nag and convince him back to sleep. He slept for 3 additional hours. I was brimming with - it turns out - false hope, for a better day. He still went postal over a diaper change, as typical. And putting him down for a nap was no picnic, either.

I'm swimming with self-pittying thoughts like, "This is going to be my life - managing melt-downs ad infinitum." Whereas, at three years of age my older two kids were just coming into the best part of child-rearing, my little man is displaying behaviors he will not outgrow. I guess. I'm still learning.

I read up on Wiki all the proposed treatments for HFA, from the proven to the ludicrous. (Case in point - the Son-rise program, which hopes the child will come to choose non-autistic behaviors through parental love and acceptance.) Initially, I was excited to learn about ABA - Applied Behavior Analysis - until further research tells me the child needs 25-40 hours a week of work in ABA in order for it to be effective. How can that be done?

Now I will be cutting my thoughts short, because I have to go run intervention yet again; Mason's nap just abruptly ended one hour after it's laborious beginning.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

How the Appointment Went

Well, I'm happy to report that Mason's appointment with the pediatrician went pretty well. The doctor did listen to me. Surprisingly, she didn't reckon I was just a bone-head at-home mother who has to endure a tantrum every so often. Even more surprising, the labs and referrals she wrote up included each and every thing I had as possibilities on my list. She recommended the following screenings: blood sugar level, thyroid, lead and anemia. She also recommended that I get an appointment at Kennedy Kreiger for assessment of high-functioning autism.

On the surface, that sounds like such a frightening word; nobody wants to hear "autism". But high-functioning autism is not a major tragedy. I'm positive I know a few adults walking around undiagnosed, clearly possessing the traits of HFA or Aspergers, perhaps even a few in my own family tree. (I have a big family; hopefully they'll all think I'm talking about someone else!) Mostly these are just the really brainy people who don't like a party.

In any case, it's a relief to hear a doctor agree that something more could be going on here than stubborn-child-with-tired-mother syndrome. It brings a fresh wave of patience into the dynamic. Knowing that Mason simply may not be able to control his emotions is easier to manage than thinking he just won't.

The only thing that didn't go well was a conflict we had over Mason's vaccination schedule. He is "behind" according to their absurd, intrusive schedule. This is a new doctor in the practice; the more reasonable doctor quit to raise her kids, dammit. I have delayed getting the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for the time being, for the very reason that I thought Mason had extreme behaviors for so long. Although I'm 90% sure that autism is at most tangentially related to MMR, I didn't want it nagging the back of my mind. If he had the shot at the usual age and then seemed to develop autistic-like symptoms, it would really bug me thinking maybe the shot had something to do with it. But, if he received a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder without ever having had the MMR, I could feel confident that (at least for us), it had nothing to do with the shot.

Anyway, I told the doctor I was willing to update some shots, but I was holding off a while on MMR and I haven't decided about Chicken Pox. She said, "Well, let me just tell you that if you're not planning to get the shots, I cannot be your doctor." Okay. Don't beat around the bush or anything.

I think this sort of medical bullying is wrong. And that's really all it is. Obviously, she feels that all children must have all the shots on the schedule and so she's going to strong-arm anyone who seems to be noncompliant. Yet, even the CDC openly states that vaccines are not 100% safe and that side-effects, even fatal side-effects can occur. But, when it's not your own child, I suppose it's just the few eggs you have to break to make an omelet. It always seems like that when it's not your child.

I do believe that vaccines are one of the most wonderful inventions of modern medicine. Our grandmothers never questioned it, probably because they lost a friend or a sibling to horrible diseases like Polio and Pertussis. However, I do question the current schedule of dozens of vaccines. I do think we could have gotten along fine without the Chicken Pox vaccine. Geez, they even have vaccines against ear infections now. But the "mandatory" bullying of parents to inject things into their children, or else be doctor-less is entirely WRONG.

Makes me want to be a pediatrician, just so I could be a good one.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Countin' the Days

It's December finally and I'm counting the days. Not until Christmas; until December 20th. Why December 20th, you wonder? Well, let me just tell you.

My dear 3-year-old, Mason, has been a challenge since he could roll over. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how best to help/manage him. He has been on special diets. He has had a few medical tests. I've changed my mind about how best to discipline him 18 times. Not originally a spanker, I did reconsider that position a time or two...or ten. But I would come back to this basic fact: a light spanking doesn't remotely influence Mason's behavior. Which would leave only...what? A severe spanking? The only possibility that spanking could perhaps change his behavior would be if I spanked him so painfully and so often that he feared me. Which I will not do. So, we're back to what to do?

As he was rounding the corner out of the "terrible twos", I revisited this worry nagging at the back of my mind. Shouldn't the incessant tantrums be tapering off by now? Shouldn't he realize by now that when I say I will change his diaper, I will, and there isn't a whole lot of point in going ape shit about it? Then, as I sat in the waiting room of the hair salon, I started reading an article in a magazine about a woman whose son was finally diagnosed as Bipolar, after her wondering for ten years what the heck was up with him. It freaked me out slightly and I had to Google "Bipolar-early onset" twelve times before I could breath normally.

The insidious thing here is that I cycle between thinking he's a normal, if high-intensity, active, child and thinking he's definitely abnormal. A friend of mine, who also has a challenging son, described it well. She said, "It's almost like a battered woman. When everything is going okay, you forget what you were so concerned about and tell yourself it's fine. Then, you have a bad spell and you feel desperate for help right this second." (Okay, I paraphrased and embellished there, but that's the gist.) It really is like that.

In November, we were having one of those bad days. Mason was going ballistic about every imaginable thing all day long. He had had several bad nights in a row, complete with night terrors about spiders he was sure were in his bed. I called the pediatrician and told them I needed an appointment to discuss "behavior issues". (One of my main problems in life - understating the problem to the people who can help.) The receptionist came back with an appointment in January. Say WHAT??? Fortunately, at just that moment, Mason went psychotic because I didn't let him play with my PDA. I practically screamed into the phone at the receptionist, "Do you HEAR why I need to come in SOON?!" That's when she found me an appointment December 20th, which was still a month away.

The good part about having to wait a month has been that I have documented what goes on every day and every night. I'm putting together a synopsis on a calendar, so I have a quick-start chart for the doctor to look at, since I reckon it's improbable that he'll read 57 pages-worth of The Mason Show. This way, he'll be able to see the erratic, unpredictable chaos in shorthand.

Right after I made the doctor appointment, we had about a week of "normal Mason". There I was, the battered woman again, thinking, "I feel stupid telling the doctor he tantrums endlessly. I mean, little kids do that. I'm probably wrong. He'll probably tell me I'm an idiot and I got lucky with the first two really cooperative children. I probably had PMS when I made that appointment." (Which I did, actually.)

Last night, though, Satan Spawn Mason showed up again. I didn't know whether I needed a doctor or an exorcist. I had to take Kyla to do a chorus concert at the mall. There's my daughter, singing like the Heavenly Host, and there's my son, rolling around on the floor like he's possessed. An elderly couple was glaring at him out of the corners of their eyes, no doubt thinking, "God, what an awful brat!" The nicer people said, "Boy, he has a lot of energy!". I just smiled wanly and looked at my watch.

I really want to find out what's up with Mason. The Demonic Mason cannot be normal. Something has to be provoking it. And why, I wonder, do the nightmares coincide with the rages? He'll sleep normally for weeks and behave okay. Then, he'll have horrible nights and worse days for a few days. Why?

I'm worried the doctor won't listen, or won't care, or won't want to get to the bottom of it. My husband thinks I'm setting myself up for disappointment. "You'll probably be more frustrated when you get home than you were before you went." Always the optimist.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day. And I actually hope I have one more bad spell, on December 19th. Then, maybe I won't forget how desperate I feel right at this moment and how really worried I am for my son.

Here's to answers: hope for the best! Feel free to pray for us if you like that sort of thing.

Monday, December 3, 2007

That Ancient Question

One thing I like about the church we've been going to is that there aren't any canned answers from the pulpit. Some people rail against this type of church, because they find its lack of dogma heretical. All I know is that without a church like this one, I couldn't go to church at all.

This past Sunday, the pastor was talking about the hardship that Mary and Joseph faced, hardships we generally forget in our romanticized nativity stories. To illustrate, he told a story about his grandmother. His grandmother suffered a major tragedy during World War II, when the German air raids made a direct hit on their garden "bomb shelter", killing 11 of her 13 siblings. The only 2 surviving brothers, ironically, were off at war.

There were some interesting "coincidences" in the way events unfolded. Circumstances worked out such that the grandmother had not been able to be there that night. If she had done what she intended, she would most likely also had been killed.

What I like about the pastor is that he didn't whitewash the two ways of seeing this. One could say God spared her. But then, it begs the question, why not spare the other 11? Of course, he has no answer; this is not a new theological question. But I like that he's plain enough to say so.

This is the very question that goes through my mind in an endless, dizzying loop. How can we ever be grateful for some good we perceive as coming from God without wondering why He would also allow the bad? I'm thankful for the three kids I have. And I'm damaged over the one I lost. I have not been able to see how one can suffer tragedy as a Christian and not be nagged by this question forever after.

Another thing I appreciate that the pastor said was that his grandmother never really did heal from that loss. It affected her emotionally forever. This is another plain talk fact that I too seldom hear among Christians. In Christian circles, everyone wants to hear how someone remained "strong" in spite of tragedy. Or even better, tragedy upon tragedy. Job is admired. It is a great smudge upon a Christian not to rise from the ashes like the Phoenix and proclaim that God is good. It really isn't popular to be shattered. Nobody had a good word for Humpty Dumpty, who couldn't be put back together again.

There was another interesting feature to this story. The grandmother most missed a little brother named George. The pastor later learned that Grandmother was fond of the pastor (Matthew) in part because he looked like George. When Matthew had a son of his own, he named him George, without knowing this was the name of the favorite brother of his grandmother. And it turns out, little George looked even more like the great-uncle George than Matthew had. And so, the grandson George was a favorite of Grandmother. So, if you invoke Providence again, it's as though the grandson redeems the loss of the brother in a way.

But not really. Why not have an Uncle George that gets to grow up
and the little grandson George? What would have been wrong with that?

The reason Suffering poses such a problem theologically is because there is no way to put these three elements together: 1) Omnipotent God; 2) Omniscient God; 3) Omnibenevolent God - and still come out with suffering. How can tragedy be if: 1) God has all power; 2) God has all knowledge; 3)God always does the best thing? Every possible explanation manages to be lame when you are the one with the suffering.

Anyway, at least the pastor is good enough not to give the lame excuses and try to sound righteous.