Jaymes has been back home for a little over a month now, and things have been surprisingly laid back and calm. I kind of expected a rough transition back home from the foster home, but it actually turned out to be nearly seamless. No complaints there- it makes me feel great to know he was really ready to come back home. Jaymes has been really pleasant and happy for the most part. Not to say we aren't having some little bumps in the road... But it isn't as bad as I expected.
Jaymes has changed a lot in the six months he was away from home, and so every now and then I get the idea in my head of how he will react to something, only to be shown that my information is quite outdated. Six months ago, that child would be giddy with the joy of going to the zoo, where he can roam and move around as much as he wants. Apparently not so much anymore. Don't know whether it was the heat, or that he just isn't into traipsing around in our enormous zoo. Last week we made the decision to go out there as a special treat for the kids. All was good until we got there. The first thing Jaymes did when we got him out of the car was to ask to go home. Not the best start for our special trip out! I decided that he might just need to warm up to things, so talked him into walking over the giant bridge, where he could look down at the monster turtles living in their swamp. He did think that was pretty cool, as well as the colossal fish swimming around.
Unfortunately, his happiness did not last long before he was again whimpering and wanting to go home. At this point, it was decided that we had driven over an hour to get there, Sierra was thrilled to be there, and that it was high time for Jaymes to learn that sometimes we do things we do not want to do. After fifteen minutes or so of on and off whining, Jaymes settled in and decided to tolerate it. I guess he figured that it was easier to just follow along than to throw a tantrum in the heat. I was very proud of his ability to accept that we were doing something he did not want to do. That shows a lot of maturity, at least for Jaymes.
One thing that I hate about our zoo, is that it is 90% hills. Steep ones. In case walking uphill seems pretty simple, let me explain Jaymes and his method for getting up said hills. Jaymes holds hands. He does this partially because we have always made him (for safety), partially because he likes the security, and partially because it makes his life a lot easier. how, you ask? Well, Jaymes believes that by holding your hand, you are his motor. He lets himself be towed along, making as little effort as possible as far as walking goes. It's actually really funny, it reminds me a bit of when I was a kid pulling my toy doggie by the rope as I walked. His legs move, but without actually propelling him forward. This isn't a big deal on the flat stretches. But hills... That's a different story. It's like hauling dead weight up that hill. Dead weight that giggles and talks. On top of that, every few steps, he throws on the brakes randomly. An itchy foot, a sock not pulled up high enough, or something interesting on the ground... Whatever causes these frequent stops, the end result is the same. I'll be walking along briskly, then very suddenly get jerked back hard enough to lose my balance. I usually cannot help but yell "woooooosh!" when he does this. So, picture me, covered in sweat, hauling my eight year old up these hills, jerking to a halt every few minutes. Jason and Sierra, of course, get waaaaay ahead of us, and I know for a fact that my husband looks back and giggles to himself everytime he hears my "wooooooosh!" and sees Jaymes yank me backward.
Eventually the heat got to me, and I decided this was an excellent time to start teaching Jaymes to walk under his own power, rather than being towed. He was not pleased with this. I took my hand out of his, and started walking at a good pace. He ran to catch up, and tried to grab my hand. I dodged his grasping hand, and kept walking. He then decided to try and gran various other parts of me in an effort to be reunited with my hand- the elbow, my shirt, my leg. When he realized it was not going to happy, he went to daddy and tried the same thing. Jason didn't have the heart to tell him no, so he let Jaymes have his hand and Jaymes seized that sucker and help onto it for all he was worth. Jason did periodically make him walk on his own, without hand holding and Jaymes did a really great job. By the end of the day he was certainly doing more walking on his own and he was not really distressed by it anymore.
Jaymes was really quite unimpressed by the animals, but he was a great sport. Eventually we got to the lion's habitat, and it reminded me of the previous trip we'd taken to the zoo. It had rained that day, and there were big puddles all over the place- particularly in the prime viewing location in front of the lion fence. It was a hot day, and I guess Jaymes decided he was on his own for finding a drink. I was busy admiring the lions when I heard a woman shriek. "OMG, he is going to get AIDS!!!!" Turns out my little man got thirsty, so he laid down on his belly and was slurping water from the puddle. Not at all sanitary, but I really wasn't worried about him catching AIDS. I scooped him up and we left the area quickly. Even now, thinking about that cracks me up. It was classic Jaymes hilarity, and every time I go to the zoo I will relive that in my head.
In the end, the trip was a success. Jaymes may not have loved it, but he practiced being more independent and he also learned that even if we don't want to do something, sometimes we just have to. It was a good experience.
So really, things have been good. Jaymes isn't aggressive anymore, and he is far less destructive. He's re-learning what he can and cannot do at home. He's been using a toddler potty in his room at night, rather than his diaper, and that is mostly going well.
We are having some issues with handling emotions, and particularly with self injurious behavior. There are times when Jaymes gets very frustrated and whiny, and usually the best bet is to put him in his room to lie down and calm himself down. Unfortunately, sometimes that is not a good idea at all. I'm learning that if he is in his room crying for more than 5 minutes, he needs to be supervised. the other day he clawed his face bloody, long nail marks up and down both sides. He also bit his arms, and scratched them. He's got some awful bruised bite marks, and the scratches on his face look painful. I feel so guilty to thinking it was better to let him work out his emotions alone, if he had not been alone I could have stopped the scratching and biting before it began. The psych raised his Risperdal a bit more, in an effort to balance out his emotions. along with that, I'm keeping a close eye on him and trying to anticipate things that may start his cycle of frustration in an effort to avoid further self injury. You know, it's really hard to watch your child self injure. It's even harder when you are recovering from self injury yourself. Of course Jaymes doesn't have the same reasoning for hurting himself, and he isn't doing it with intent like I have, but I know what goes through my head when I get into that. It breaks my heart to think that Jaymes is feeling that same internal anguish. Yes, I know that an autistic child self injuring is not the same as a "normal" person self injuring- but some of the same emotional pain must be present in both.
I'm trying to keep Jaymes busy, catch things before he is distressed, and let him know that he is safe, loved, and that he knows what is expected of him. Trying to be as consistent as possible. So far there has been a lot more good than bad, and it really is good to have my little man home again. It's hard to imagine life without him, it feels like he never left.