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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

(Good) Time(s) in a Bottle

The last week with Janey has been wonderful.  She's been in truly a delightful mood.  We've gotten very good reports from school, she's laughing and happy at home, she did not have a tantrum ALL weekend last weekend, she is sleeping well and eating well and being as sweet as she can be.

I was thinking about the old Jim Croce song last night, and wishing I could save this time in a bottle.  Of course, we hope it lasts forever, but it won't.  I'm not being negative in saying that, I'm being realistic.  Janey's moods are extremely cyclical. A few weeks ago, we hit quite a low, and now, we are in a high.  And I don't think anything we do or not do has much impact on these mood cycles.

With Janey, everything works and nothing works.  When she is happy, everything works, all the ideas we have as to what keeps her happy.  She is happy with a routine, with lots of music, with plenty of car rides, with her favorite foods, with our willingness to change videos for her constantly, with being outdoors, with lots of attention.  When she is unhappy, none of those things help.  When she is happy, NOT following routines, or taking rides, or having a lot of music, can make her a bit upset, and we start to see the edges of unhappiness creep in, like arm biting or a worried face.  When she is unhappy, not following the routines is a disaster, but sometimes only to a small degree over the constant disaster-like unhappiness.  It makes me wonder how much we really affect her moods at all with what we do.

I don't know how common it is with autism to have such severe mood swings.  Much advice about autism seems to assume that behaviors have causes that are external.  This can be frustrating to me to read or hear about.  If you look at what works for Janey from a perspective of ABA type thinking, thinking that behaviors have reasons, you get very inconsistent results.  On days she's happy, you might think you've figured it all out.  I've fallen into that trap many times, even knowing what I know.  I think I've figured out a breakthrough, only to realize all I've done is helped a bit with a bump in the road in a day that is overall happy.  When I try to use the same approach on a bad day, it's completely useless, or helps only to turn Janey's behavior from "Should we go to the emergency room right now?" bad to "I think we might be able to make it through the night, just barely" bad.  It's like turning on a bright light in a sun-filled room, or taking away the light of one star on a starry night.  Neither of those things greatly change the already set general level of light.

So we are left with just riding out the storm, or in the case of the good times, enjoying the ride.  You can't put time in a bottle, but I wish we could.  I'd store the last week until eternity comes, and again I would spend it with Janey.

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