Understanding

“Martin’s progress has slipped a little.”

That’s a euphemism for reality. It means Martin is having a crap week.

I write a lot about this topic, I know. When Martin suddenly looks less like a kid on the path to recovery, and more like a kid with autism, when he tanks, when it all goes to pot, when dinner and bedtime just are not going to happen without a glass of wine (for me, not for Martin), I blog. I blog because I owe you the whole story, because it’s cathartic, and because misery loves company. (These posts tend to generate more messages than any others. Need to talk? Have at it: findingmykid@yahoo.com. Or use the comments section.)

Martin had been doing so well lately, right up till this weekend. Saturday we invited a local family over to swim. They have two kids, age four and almost-six. I’ve known this family for about a year, from church. I know the mother better than the father. Halfway through the afternoon, the father apologized to me for not realizing that Martin has autism. He was surprised when his wife mentioned, on their way to our house, that Martin follows a special diet to alleviate autism. He’s seen me helping Martin around the other kids at church. He always just assumed that my son was shy, or nervous because he doesn’t know the other kids well.

Apologizing? Because you see Martin every week and didn’t realize he has autism? Thank you, but really, no apology necessary.

Sunday afternoon we went to a birthday party. Martin willingly joined a game of tag with the birthday boy and a few other friends. Sunday evening Martin was disappointed that Adrian couldn’t come out to dinner with us because he had a conference call. The call finished earlier than expected, and Adrian surprised us by showing up during the entrée course. Martin, visibly excited, exclaimed, “Oh, you came! I’m so happy!” A friend, visiting for the weekend, who hasn’t seen us in several months, remarked on Martin’s uptick in verbal skills.

We rocked the weekend. Then all hell broke loose.

Sunday night Martin had trouble getting to sleep. Monday morning he slipped into unfocussed silliness. Monday afternoon, at a playdate, he cried and stomped for 20 minutes when I refused to say we could get a chalkboard at home. (I’m scared of chalkboards. Better just to leave that one alone.) Tuesday we received a note from school that Martin was acting defiant and attention-seeking, and that he had hit a teacher. (We jumped all over that one. Martin spent Tuesday evening writing an apology to his teachers.) The highlight of my Wednesday was Martin throwing himself onto the Stop-N-Shop floor and screaming, “I don’t want to buy any fooooooooood!” (As a sign of how far I’ve come regarding public embarrassment: I spent that minute or so, while he was screaming on the floor, searching my purse for my grocery list. Where is that list? How could I have misplaced it so quickly? Wait, is that my kid terrorizing aisle 24?) Through all these incidents, Martin’s language skills, so strong this summer, failed him. He repeated himself, went rote, even babbled. And yet, except for sleeping, he hasn’t stop talking since Monday morning. Just talking and talking and talking and talking. Point, or no point. Accentuated here and there with loud, forced laughing.

Why? What transforms a close-to-typical-child weekend into a thought-we-were-past-these-symptoms week?

After three-and-a-half years of biomed, I’m finally getting the hang of recognizing the likely causes of backsliding. This week, it seems, we’re dealing with yeast die-off. Several weeks ago I began seeing the harbinger of yet another yeast flare. I’ll spare you the details of that harbinger; suffice to say, it’s poop-related. Candex, an enzymatic formulation, has been controlling Martin’s yeast. Last week, Martin’s biomed doctor and I decided to increase the daily Candex dose, and I started that process Thursday evening.

Increased Candex leads to decreased yeast. Decreased yeast means yeast die-off. That’s a toxin in the system, almost like alcohol. It can make a kid silly, or angry, or irritable. That’s happening to Martin now. In tandem with these behaviors, the aforementioned yeast-flare harbinger (okay, fine: the unusual poop) is fading.

Yesterday morning I signed on to one of my autism-recovery groups and saw this post from a fellow mom:

We’re on week three of nystatin for yeast. These past five days I’m pretty sure we’ve been dealing with die-off. Behavior has been super hyper, nonstop talking/making noise, fake laughing a lot, not listening at all, emotional outbursts, no attention to tasks AT ALL, itching??

Yes. Yes! I cyber-shouted. That’s yeast die-off. I’m right there with you, sister.

Understanding the physical cause of Martin’s, ahem, “slip in progress” helps me see that the behaviors are not within his control, and indeed that my little boy probably feels as agitated, flummoxed, and eager to alleviate this situation as I do. Understanding the physical cause also helps me see that darling, recovering Martin will return.

Soon.

On Monday's playdate, Martin behaving. Didn't last long.

On Monday’s playdate, Martin behaving. Didn’t last long.

From Crappy to Happy

Remember the post about really crappy days?

Today is a really crappy day!

Stick with me, though. This isn’t going to be an unhappy post. I’ve been doing too much frustration posting lately, like when I used to do too much middle-of-the-night posting. It’s just not healthy. So today, in this post, I’m going to write myself back to happy.

First: the background. A couple weeks ago, Martin wasn’t himself. If you read this blog regularly, you know that. Here’s an excerpt of an email I sent Martin’s biomed doctor March 13:

Most nights he’s taking two hours or more to fall asleep, and waking two or three times between midnight and 5:00 a.m. He is tired all the time. He’s also “floppy” again. He is extremely hyperactive; charcoal tablets, salt/baking soda baths, and clay baths haven’t helped. His teachers have been telling me that he’s inattentive in class and not responding to his name. He had a pee accident at school this week. Sunday afternoon he had a meltdown so severe that my husband was unable to get him out of the car.

We’ve been on nystatin two weeks, and the yeast hasn’t responded, as far as I can tell. Martin remains itchy.

In general, I have an unhappy kid right now, and I feel horrible about it. Obviously, we need to make changes.

Things have got better since I sent that email. I took Martin off nystatin, switched him to full GAPS diet (more on that in a later post), and on the advice of his homeopath, increased some of his “support” drops (Inflamma-Tone and Liver-Tone, among others). He took a turn for the better, in terms of increased awareness, and some reduction in time to fall asleep, and less itchiness.

This past Tuesday afternoon, he got sick. The school nurse called me to retrieve him, and I ended up having to keep him home the rest of the week. If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted much this week, try being housebound with Martin. While sick, Martin had good language and connection, but he slept poorly and was crabby.

Second: this day. Adrian’s alarm woke us at 7:00. Adrian and I got home last night at 11:00 pm from the City. I had to feed the cats and strain Martin’s chicken broth, so it was 12:15 am when I got to bed and 12:40 when I got to sleep. Martin woke three times between then and 7:00 am. He was never up long. Still, each time I had to get up, tuck him back in, and then get myself back to sleep. Figuring 30 minutes for those diversions, I got just under six hours’ sleep, interrupted. This was after a week when I was exhausted from his night waking and unable to nap because he was home with me.

Martin was still sleeping at 7:00 am. I would have preferred to get at least 30-to-45 more minutes myself. Not possible: Adrian had scheduled an early gym visit, because his trainer had something else to do later today. So up we were. I had Adrian fed and out the door before Martin left his bed.

I tried to convince Martin to dress himself. He did, eventually, but required 15 minutes of crying and whining to reach that point, and even then didn’t make it to the socks. He declared breakfast—chicken broth, salmon sausage, and a bit of banana—to be “all things I like!” Still, he dawdled. We ended up rushing to get out the door for his 10:00 am special-ed reading program at the public library. Amidst the hurry, Martin had a meltdown because it was too warm to wear his heavy knit “dog” hat.

We drove to the library. Martin had another meltdown because I said, as I do whenever Curious George comes along, that Curious George had to wait in the car. I delivered Martin, still teary-eyed, to the reading program. Then I walked to FedEx to ship my kid’s stool samples to a lab (biomed parents know that ritual) and proceeded to a coffee shop, where I sat alone, missing the easy camaraderie of the parents from Martin’s old Saturday-morning playgroup in the City.

When I returned to retrieve Martin, he had a meltdown because I hadn’t brought Curious George into the library with me. I suggested that we go to the car, where Curious George was waiting. Martin screamed. In the library. My suggestion, it turns out, was wholly unacceptable because Martin wanted Curious George to “play with him” in the library.

By the time we got home, I could feel myself coming down with whatever’s had Martin sick this week. I told Adrian I needed to lie down for 20 minutes. I climbed in bed and shut my eyes. Within five minutes I opened them again. Martin was running around the house yelling, “Mommy! Mommmm-eeeeee!” I could hear Adrian in his home office, on a call. Not wanting his call disturbed, I said, “Martin, I’m in the bedroom.” Martin ran into the bedroom and jumped on me. I got up. I took ibuprofen for my head, which ached.

For lunch I prepared raw carrots and broccoli florets with avocado-and-fermented-garlic dip. I called Adrian from his home office to come eat with Martin. Because the meal, which I named “dippin’ plate,” was new, I wanted Martin to see that Adrian was eating the same. Martin, however, claimed he needed the potty. He disappeared for 10 minutes, during which Adrian finished his own dippin’ plate and returned to his home office. So much for eating what Daddy is eating.

After I finally got Martin back to the table, he left repeatedly, running to our bedroom, the farthest point in the house, and laughing. It may go without saying that we ended up in a rush to get to his afternoon social program at the JCC, and that I left the kitchen a disaster, and that I didn’t get a chance to feed myself much, and that I was feeling worse by the minute.

When Martin and I finally were at the door, ready to leave, Adrian showed up. He asked, “Why do you seem grouchy today?”

On the way to the JCC, Martin peed himself and lied about it.

Which brings us to this moment. I’m in the JCC library, blogging while Martin enjoys his social program.

Third: the happy. Let’s review this day—

Martin took 15 minutes of crying and whining to get dressed. This was partly my fault. I broke routine by asking him to dress himself as soon as he woke, before he even went to the bathroom or ran around. And yet he still got managed the task. As a bonus, when I asked him to pull his arms inside his shirt, he looked down and said, “Oh, it’s on backwards,” and then cooperated fully.

I’m tired from a long week with Martin at home, plus I’m starting to get his illness. Having unexpected sick days is a hassle. The other days, however, Martin gets to attend a fantastic kindergarten. Adrian and I could hardly be more satisfied with Martin’s special-needs school and his academic progress. I make this point because I’ve seen from autism parenting forums how many families need to consider homeschooling because they have no appropriate placement. We are lucky

Speaking of Martin’s (and now my…?) illness, Martin had a fever! It was the second time he’s had a fever since we moved last summer. Fever is good. Fever is healing. Fever indicates that Martin’s immune system is responding appropriately to illness. That’s progress.

Martin had repeated meltdowns today. There’s a pretty good explanation: He too is tired, and not feeling so hot. (Lest you think I’m dragging a sick kid around town, it was Martin who insisted that he felt better and could go to the library this morning.) Plus, the meltdowns didn’t last long. When he wanted the dog hat, we talked, and he agreed to get Curious George instead. When he screamed in the library, I asked, “Remember last week when you screamed at church and we had to leave?” He took the hint and calmed himself down in exchange for extra playtime at the library. I offered five minutes playtime. He bargained me up to seven minutes. That works.

Martin didn’t eat with Adrian, and then ran away from the table. Each time, I kept my cool. I went to the bedroom where he’d run, took his upper arm, and walked him back to the table without a word. After a couple tries and not getting the attention he wanted, Martin settled down. In the end, he ate the dippin’ plate. The GAPS diet isn’t easy, especially when it comes to packing for school. If Martin accepts a dippin’ plate once or twice more at home, I’ll give it a go for school lunch. Hurray for new stuff.

Martin peed on the way to the JCC. My fault. In our rush to leave home, I didn’t have him sit on the potty. I figured he had just gone during lunch, and I didn’t want to be later than we already were. In the car I could tell he needed to go. When I asked him, he said he could hold it till we got to the JCC. That never works. At least I had spare pants and underwear in his backpack, so the afternoon wasn’t ruined.

I’m getting sick. But the ibuprofen has kicked in.

One of my March Madness brackets is doing fantastic in Adrian’s office pool, with all 16 of its Sweet picks intact. My favorite team plays tonight.

My son is recovering.

And now I’ve written myself happy again.

Martin, sick but managing his iPad.

Martin, sick but managing his iPad.

Curious George lending Martin a hand to recover from illness.

Curious George lending Martin a hand to recover from illness.

 

Otherwise

Are you wondering what Martin said last night?

Last night Martin said, “Otherwise.” He came up with the word. He used it properly and in context.

You’re thrilled? You can’t believe it? Here’s what happened:

Adrian and I put Martin in bed at 8:00 p.m. Martin was all worked up, absolutely could not go to sleep. We are fighting yeast again (Martin versus yeast overgrowth, round IV, get your tickets now) and started nystatin on Friday. Martin’s doctor warned me that we might have a difficult week with yeast die-off; so far, our “difficult week” has entailed diminished attention and focus, fleeting eye contact, and unrelenting hyperactivity. Fabulous.

After an hour of bouncing on his mattress and (needlessly) visiting the potty, Martin started yelling the he wanted to go in “the big bed”—my and Adrian’s bed, where Martin is allowed only in the morning, to wake up. Adrian, exasperated, suggested that we let Martin fall asleep in our bed and then move him back to his room. I agreed but said it had to appear to be Adrian’s idea alone, so Martin wouldn’t start thinking he can bug me for big-bed access.

Adrian called Martin to the family room, where we were watching House of Cards. I hid behind the sofa (Adrian’s idea alone!) and listened. Adrian told Martin that he could take a stuffed animal and climb into our bed, on one condition: that he settle down and go to sleep. Did he understand?

“Yes,” answered Martin. “I will go to sleep. Otherwise I will have to go back to my bed.”

That was it! No prompts, no hearing anyone else say it first, nothing. Martin casually lobbed “otherwise” into the conversation, as if it were an everyday word.

As if he’d never once tested in the bottom third percentile for expressive language skills.

Now, if only he’d settled down and gone to sleep….