Anything But Typical (Book Review)

8 11 2010
“How do you show appreciation? Appreciation is an emotion. It’s a feeling. You can’t draw a picture of it. Why do people want everyone to act just like they do. Act like they do.
And if you don’t — If you don’t, people make the assumption that you do not feel what they feel.
And then they make the assumption– That you must not feel anything at all.”

 Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, a Schneider Family Book Award winner, is wonderful in a confusing sort of way. It’s a story for adolescents written from the perspective of a 12-year-old on the autism spectrum.  It addresses friendship, outbursts, sensory issues, family dynamics and a boy’s first crush.

It deals with bullying.

“…He is laughing more. Louder.
‘You want to know what her name is?’ he is saying.
…My hair hurts. My chest is tight.
‘I bet her name is Retardo Girl,’ the boy says.
No, I am thinking. Her name can’t be Retardo Girl.
Can it?
‘And I bet she rides the little bus to school’
And then I figure it out. He is just being mean. When a dog gets mean and bites a person, it’s the law that they have to put that dog to sleep. This boy is being mean. He is lying. He doesn’t really know PhoenixBird. I have nothing to worry about. For some reason my head is still shaking.
But I can breathe.”

 This isn’t a pity party or some veiled attempt to explain to neurotypicals (NTs) what it’s like to have autism– although I think it does.

“My head exploded.
There was no way to stop all the molecules that started penetrating my skin.
My hands flew off my body.
My body flew into a million little pieces.
I could smell the fresh coffee that Aunt Carol and my mother had put up for desert as we hurried out the front door. I could smell the pastries she would have put out, and I wanted one.”

Anything But Typical is a story in its own right whose main character is an individual with his own history, his own likes and dislikes, his own wants, tastes and fears. 

It’s given me some insight into my 10-year-old and cautioned me about making emotional demands. I wouldn’t say that Anything But Typical is a must-read– but, it’s a good read that made me think.


Yet Another Follow-Up on Daytrana

4 11 2010

J has been on the Daytrana patch for about 3 years now… we put it on before he wakes up and take it off as soon as homework is done in the evening. We’ve gone up on the dosage and gone back down and generally speaking it’s been good.

Lately, however, we’ve noticed that there is a bell curve on the effectiveness of Daytrana during the day.

  • 6:30 Patch goes on
  • 7:15 Rise and Shine!
  • 8:15 bus comes– pretty smooth ride to school
  • 9:00 all hell breaks loose
  • noon– zombie time to 2:30 ish
  • 2:30 very productive time of day– good conversations, descent focus
  • 4:00 home from school and homework– very smooth
  • 5:00 patch off– play time (usually computer, editing)
  • 7:00 my son comes back to life (hungry, funny kid!)
  • 10:00 bedtime

Not sure if there is a moral to this story but, I talked to his teacher and this is an accurate portrait of his day… so, I’m going to talk to J’s doctor and see about switching meds at Christmas Break so that if it doesn’t go well, we can go back to the tried and true-ish when school starts back up.

By the way– we have recently figured out that Band Aid brand blue no hurt antiseptic wash works great on the red-sore icky spot the patch’s adhesive leaves behind… Just thought you’d want to know.

ADD: The Patch

13 03 2008

J is doing pretty well with the Daytrana patch. He’s been on it for a week now and I’m seeing some positive changes in him. It hasn’t been bump-free though…

Two days were big cry– I want to go home– days at school and his poor bottom is checkered with little red squares… I’ve finally figured out how to help him with the skin irritation– Band-aid Hurt Free Antiseptic Wash helps get it off and a little first aid cream helps with the soreness.

The crying wasn’t such an easy fix– we couldn’t figure out what the problem was. He told me that he wanted to go home and Mrs. K wouldn’t let him so he was sad. His teacher, who should be sainted; “St. Mrs. K” said that she couldn’t find anything that was different or that could have triggered it.  One of the possible side effects are mood swings so maybe that’s what it was.

He’s had two good days in a row… so, here’s to it being taken care of and smooth sailing from here on.

ADD and Autism… Pass the Meds!

10 03 2008

J was screened for ADHD last week and is now on the Daytrana patch. I’m not sure how I feel about my little fella being on another daily medication (He takes Glycol for his constipation already) but, whatever it takes to help him grow into a productive member of society… we’re committed to helping him despite our reservations.

When I was filling out the questionnaire prior to the screening for ADHD I wanted to write paragraphs not just circle numbers– “yeah…. he hurts people physically sometimes but it’s not malicious! He gets overloaded… frustrated and just lashes out. He’s a good boy!” But, these questionnaires aren’t personalized… they don’t really want to know him just whether or not he has certain markers that categorize him. 

There are 10 possible markers for attentional (as opposed to behavioral) issues. J has 8 according to his teacher’s assessment, 7 according to mine and 4 according to his father’s… My husband tends to be a little rosy… and, his time with J is fun– he gets the play time, snuggle for bed time not reading time, not chores– just the fun stuff so he doesn’t know the struggle to get through a chapter of Junnie B. Jones or  getting the dogs fed. J does have ADD. (The H is for Hyperactive and J doesn’t have that part… just attention defecit)

We talked to the Doctor about several options– meds that come in pill, powder and patch form and we selected the patch.  With J’s food issues and past fights over taking cold medicine we thought that was the best bet.

He’s been on it for three days and we think we’re seeing some positive changes. His appetite seems to have decreased so I’m making pizza every night–he loves peperoni pizza so I’m hopeful that he’ll eat some.  So far so good… but, I’m concerned that he’ll loose weight– and he doesn’t have any to spare! At least he doesn’t seem to have any of the other possible side effects (headaches, dizziness) or we’d have to find something else.

I don’t want to be overly optimistic or see things that aren’t there but,  it seems as though the fog is lifting for J.  His speech is more complete– sentences! Responses to questions and responses to his name called…. he’s reading better– doesn’t have to be re-directed as often. He’s following through with directions and seems to be clearer.

I’m glad he’s taking meds. I hope we are doing the right thing for him. I hope this makes the difference for him.

Parent Teacher Conference

16 02 2008

Well… we survived the latest Parent Teacher Conference. Academically J is at about 3rd grade although he’s in the 1st. Yeah! That’s my boy!  Socially… not so good.  He’s still having trouble interacting, staying on task and still has some outbursts although these are much farther apart than they have been.

His teacher said that he is almost ready to be mainstreamed but in a “regular class” the teacher won’t be able to keep drawing him in; getting his attention. She asked if I had taken J to a neurologist… no. Not since early in his diagnosis.

J’s teacher can’t diagnose for obvious reasons but, I find that she ends up not giving me helpful information because of these rules… Anyway, I blurted out– “Do you think he has ADHD?” She gave me the “statistically a lot of kids with Autism have ADHD” so it’s a possibility.

Long story short: J is going to be screened for ADHD on March 6th.

I love his teacher! The woman is worth her weight in gold! (And she’s no skinny minnie…) He had her in pre-school and we saw really great progress in him! She loves him and he loves her. She is wonderfully creative and interested in his progress.  But, she is tied to rules. Lots of rules. She can’t tell me outright what I need to do to help my child and that’s frustrating.

On one hand I understand but on the other hand couldn’t I sign a “I won’t sue you or report you” form and let her speak freely?

I want J to function as a productive, self reliant member of society so, if he has ADHD we’ll do what we need to do to get that under control. My understanding is that medication is effective and the only real treatment.

If you read “J is sick” a week ago you’ll understand that I have real concerns about getting him to take anything. I don’t think there is a patch or taste-less version… ‘Guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. (Any advice?)

On the more positive side of the conference– J is reading at a third grade level! Yeah! We’re reading a chapter book together– his first one ever!! Junie B. Jones and the Sneaky Peaky Spying by Barbara Parks is such a cute book but, I can’t wait until we’re ready for Captain Underpants! That’s literature!