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Friday, January 30, 2015

After the Blizzard

Janey just took off on the school bus, her first day of school since Monday.  As you probably know, we had a blizzard here this week.  And as you probably can guess, Janey did not enjoy the break in the routine much.

The first few days were manageable.  Tony was home, as his work was closed too, and together we all worked hard to keep Janey busy and distracted.  There were plenty of times of screaming and tantrums, but some better times too---watching videos, reading books and as often as we could, tiny trips outside to see all the snow and to give her a change of scenery.

As is often the case, though, after two days, Janey had had enough.  I think she probably felt she had lived through some bizarre middle-of-the-week weekend, and Thursday, it was supposed to be over.  Whatever it was, she woke up in a terrible mood yesterday.  Before 5 am, she had lashed out at me over and over---hitting me, bending back my fingers, kicking me and trying to bite me.  It was not pretty.  When Tony came to help, she hit him also, which is less common.  Her rage went on and on, and Tony eventually decided to take another day off.  I was upset he was going to miss work, but to be truthful, I don't think I could have handled her all day by myself.

The day was very long.  Janey would have a calm period, but then inevitably, we'd have to say no to some request, and she would freak out.  Or she'd start her "snuggle on Mama's bed" routine, which has become a complex dance of us moving from one bed to another over and over, with rules that are known only to Janey and which I constantly break, causing her to be furious.  I lie down for a minute with her, and then she said "Want to snuggle on THAT BED OVER THERE" which sometimes means I'm supposed to move to that bed, sometimes means we both are, and sometimes means just she is.  I guess wrong a lot.  It might sound funny, but repeated twenty times a day, it isn't.

I'm sure you might be reading this and thinking "Boy, they give in to her a lot".  Well, we don't, really.  She makes requests all day every day, and probably 90% of the time, the answer is no.  But when it's something we CAN do, we try to do it.  However, it's very rare that that actually works.  But what are we supposed to do?  If Janey asks to hear a book, after being told no to all kinds of other things, I try reading her the book.  Of course, I read it wrong, or read the wrong book, or read it at the wrong pace, or say the words a little differently than she is expecting, and she rages.

More and more, Tony and I feel overwhelmed.  Caring for Janey is a two person job at the least---often more.  We are left with very little time for the minimal needs to live.  It's hard to find time to cook, to do chores, to take a second to regroup.

We are pursuing help.  I've taken some steps hopefully to work on the Mass Health mix-up, and we have put in an application for the Lurie Center at Mass General hospital---a clinic we've heard good things about.  We are going to have a meeting at school soon.  We are ready to accept in-home help even if it isn't respite, if we can get that.

But our experience with Janey's hospitalization has left us realizing that the help out there is pretty limited.  When the hospital discharged her with NO help in a discharge plan---well, that was an eye-opener.  We need respite, in whatever form we can find it.  We are open to a private or residential school, if such a thing is possible.  The short school day she currently attends, although it's a wonderful school and is staffed with great people, is not enough for her.  We have realized that in the last month or so.  This current setup is just not working.  None of us are living a life that feels anywhere close to sustainable.  But saying all that is very, very different than actually getting the help, despite what seems to be the perception.  The state agency that deals with developmentally disabled kids has nothing to offer at this time but a referral back to the local autism agency.  They are well-meaning, but offer really only things like occasional parties outings.  Even if the Mass Health is fixed, at this point, they don't cover autism services, nor does our other insurance.  There is simply almost nothing available for help.

That truth--that so little help is available---is something very hard for people not living this life to accept.  I think sometimes people want to think there's all kinds of help we are not taking, out of pride or stubbornness or something.  I think people feel better thinking there is help there which we could get if we REALLY wanted to.  But those of us living the lives of autism parents know the truth.  There is not help, not meaningful help.

I don't want to be discouraging, but the truth is, I'm discouraged.  I'm discouraged most of all for Janey.  She is not happy.  I'm discouraged for my sons, who must deal always with turmoil at home.  I am discouraged for Tony and for me.  Increasingly, Janey's needs are standing in the way of such basic things as making a living, sleep and health.  The stress we feel at all times is indescribable.

And so, after the blizzard, we are left with the reality of our lives.

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