The Teenager That Santa Forgot..

One year, Santa forgot me.

It’s true.

To be fair, I wasn’t a small child. I was a teenager.

So how did I come to be left off Santa’s list?

It was 1985. The year of the first successful heart transplant, Windows 1.0, The Golden Girls, The Breakfast Club, Live Aid, Take on Me and wearing your jacket sleeves rolled up Miami Vice style..

I was:

Fifteen. Teenager. Vegetarian. Knew Everything. Annoying.

I don’t remember how I came to be vegetarian, I just know that from 14 I declared myself a meat free zone. I lived on cheese, as 80s vegetarian options looked (and tasted) like Trill. Thank God for Linda McCartney, eh? Problem was, Mum never did understand the concept of vegetarianism. She gave me cheese in place of meat but then poured gravy over it which kind of defeated the object..

Maybe it was hormones combined with my undiagnosed autism (and copious amounts of cheese) but my teenage years were funked up and not in a good way..

I’d argue that black was white and I’d do it with a PASSION. Not content with being meat-free, I terrorised everybody else for being ‘murderers’. Dad took it all in his stride. He thought it was hilarious, but Mum was suffering from the menopause (or rather we were suffering from her menopause) and that particular year she and I clashed more times than a pair of cymbals.

By Christmas, I was struggling. Doing the social thing exhausted me mentally and physically. Going out took hours of stimulating myself with rock music and days of recovery time afterwards. Every time I convinced myself it would get easier but it never did because exposure only works with shyness and I wasn’t shy. I was autistic.

That year I’d asked ‘Santa’ for loads of records including The Cult’s ‘Love‘. I’d been borrowing my mate’s LP but she was pissed off with it spending more time on my record player than hers, so I was looking forward to getting my own copy. Gimme a whoop!

Christmas Eve

We were allowed to lie on the sofa watching films all day and the jar of Quality Street was ceremoniously opened. It was a good day and in the evening Mum challenged her inner Hyacinth Bucket (It’s Bouquet) and did a candlelight supper, which was V posh.

I felt very grown up.

I was even allowed wine. SHHHHHHHH!

Dad was on the Jack Daniels.

Brother was semi-pissed on Southern Comfort.

Mum was on the Stella (I’ll fight you and everyone else) Artois.

Everyone was happy.

Until it went tits up..

I don’t remember what I said, exactly. Maybe it was something about meat and murder again? I just know that I opened my big mouth and said something that had my mother slamming the louvered doors off their hinges as she flounced off into the kitchen.

In my confused mind, ONE thing registered.

SHIT!

Dad was rolling his eyeballs.

Brother was smirking at me.

Elvis was crooning Blue Christmas in the background.

My mother was turning the air blue in the kitchen in-between nose blowing sessions.

Tentatively, I inched my way into the war zone but took one look at her face and knew that grovelling was futile. She looked like Alice Cooper, only with red eyes. Even in my limited understanding of body language, I knew my best (and only) option was bugger off upstairs and leave Dad to smooth things over.

So I went to bed and endured one of the most miserable nights of my 15 year old life.

What, in the name of Ian Astbury, had I said to incur SUCH a reaction?

I still don’t know.

All I know is that I was forever being reprimanded for ‘showing off’.

Showing off?

Er, I’M AN INTROVERT?!

In hindsight, I know that the Christmas Eve fiasco wasn’t ALL down to me. I blame Stella Artois and lack of oestrogen. Stella because it always made my mother do the crying thing and lack of estrogen put her on a permanent hair-trigger. It could have just as easily been my dad or my brother who said something to upset her, eh?

But it wasn’t them.

It was me.

Mostly what got me into trouble were my meltdowns. I’d become overwhelmed, therefore out of control, and it was interpreted as me being a little shit – as so often is the case with autism.

Nobody knew I was autistic.

Not even me.

Christmas Day

I unenthusiastically wished Jesus a happy birthday and prayed that he’d put in a good word with my mother overnight and she’d forgiven me for “ruining Christmas”. I lay in my miserable pit until I heard sounds of life downstairs, then slowly made my way down into the kitchen where Mum was perched on her stool puffing away on a Silk Cut. She narrowed her eyes at me. This look meant, ‘Approach me NOT. I’m still pissed off with you!’.

I slunk into the living room..

There, lit up in all it’s magnificence was our faux Christmas tree and underneath it were three piles of presents.

One for my brother.

One for my dad.

The third pile was my mother’s.

FUCK!

Didn’t say fuck – obvs -my life was hanging in the balance as it was.

For the first time in my existence, Santa had forgotten me.

I’D MADE THE NAUGHTY LIST.

THE SHAME!

Mum looked weird. Sort of angry and sad at the same time and that’s quite a hard one to pull off!

Brother was still smirking. That litle shit positively basked in my misery!

Tears slid down my face.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sorry for myself in all my life.

Dad couldn’t take it anymore. He looked at Mum and said, “You’ve made your point Flo. Come on now. It’s Christmas”

Mum snorted and flip- flopped upstairs in her new mule slippers.

A few minutes later she appeared with my presents.

She went from angry to misty eyed in a matter of seconds and hugged me so hard I thought she’d busted my lung.

“And let that be a lesson to you, Madam!”

Despite having no literally NO idea what this lesson was supposed to be, I chose to keep my trap shut.

Maybe that was the lesson?

Ordeal over, I started ripping into my pressies with the finesse of a three year old on E numbers.

My first gift?

It was Love.

When I tore off the wrapping paper that Christmas morning in 1985, I had no idea that 32 years later, the lyrics to the title song would have such significance to my very existence on this planet.

I guess you could say that I’ve spent most of my life in the ‘wrong hole’?

Now don’t go and ruin this moment by thinking rude thoughts about holes? *serious face*

I mean ‘wrong hole’ as in trying to be neurotypical.

Spent a long time in this hole
Spent a long time in the wrong hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy Bonkers

‘Mummy, I PROMISE not to go crazy bonkers today.’

How my heart melted to hear those words..

The Boy was referring to his meltdowns because he was going on a play-date.

The last play-date was back in November and resulted in me having to carry him out of my friend’s house kicking me and screaming. OH picked us half way home and The Boy proceeded to scream and kick the back of OH’s seat. He fought OH as he carried him across the road and into the house. It wiped him (and us) out for the rest of the day. As meltdowns go – it was one of his worst.

Most autism parents will know what a meltdown is and they will experience challenging behaviour on a daily basis.

What is challenging behaviour?

  • Self-injurious behaviour – any activity where a person inflicts harm or injury on themselves.
  • Physical challenging behaviour – hair pulling, kicking, punching, biting (or in his case, ninja kicks)
  • Pica – eating or mouthing non-edible items like dirt, stones and stuff.
  • Smearing¬† – people smear can be due to medical or sensory reasons.

The important thing to remember about challenging behaviour is that it has a reason.

Such as:

  • Difficulty in processing information or what I call ‘busy head’.
  • Unstructured time – for instance – at school this would be playtime or free-play in the classroom.
  • Over or under sensitivity to sensory stimuli like noise, light and smells.
  • Changes to routine.
  • Feeling unwell
  • Tiredness
  • Being hungry.

If a child struggles to communicate it leads to frustration, anxiety and anger resulting in a meltdown.

What is a meltdown?

A meltdown (or going crazy bonkers) is a reaction to feeling overwhelmed and any number of reasons (or combination of) can cause it.

Some people make the mistake of thinking it’s a tantrum but there is a massive difference between a child who is having a hissy-fit over not being able to get their own way and one who is out of control due to sensory overload.

A meltdown is the last straw.

What can you do to help your child during a meltdown?

  • Never punish your child for having a meltdown.
  • Speak calmly – never raise your voice or shout.
  • Do not reward your child for calming down after a meltdown as this may lead some children to understand that meltdowns get them what they want.
  • Try and talk to your child about the meltdowns once they are relaxed and receptive.
  • Sometimes it’s necessary to restrain your child but this must only be in situations where they could harm themselves or others. The Boy sometimes likes to be held firmly but other times he can’t stand to be touched. If he is in danger, we have no choice but to restrain him. This is incredibly upsetting as a parent.

Preventing meltdowns

  • Learn to understand when your child is becoming overwhelmed.
  • Distraction can sometimes stop a meltdown it it’s tracks.
  • Establish routines and stick to them. Prepare your child for changes to routine as far in advance as is possible.
  • Pick your battles. Try not to sweat the small stuff as you’ll need your energy for the big ones.
  • A hungry child is a meltdown waiting to happen.
  • Reward positive behaviour – when they get it right in social situations, BIG IT UP!
  • Keeping a behaviour diary can help to identify some of the triggers.
  • Teach your child relaxation techniques.

When The Boy goes ‘crazy bonkers’ he becomes aggressive. Being 4ft 2 and strong he is capable of doing some serious damage. This is the part of his autism which I struggle with and unfortunately it’s his most problematic area.

The Boy isn’t a naturally aggressive child. His default setting is to make people happy so for him to lose control means there is stuff going on in his head that he is unable to process.

How it began

The Boy’s behaviour was noticeably different early on and people put it down to the ‘terrible twos’ but I instinctively knew it was more than that – I just didn’t know what.

One day (aged three) he had an epic meltdown. One minute he was smiling – the next he was yanking out my hair and hitting me in the face. My bewilderment only seemed to spur him on. I understand now that the change in my facial expression must have upset him even more. I needed to put some distance between us so I put him in his room (removing anything that could hurt him) and closed the safety gate. Then I sat on the stairs and listened to his tirade in a state of shock. I had never experienced anything like it. He threw his toys down the stairs then I heard the door slam off it’s hinge. Three years old and he could take a bloody door off?

This doesn’t bode well for his teenage years!

*hysterical laugh* *makes mental note to go open-plan*

At that point I did what instinct told me to and held him. He was shaking with rage but I wrapped my arms and legs around him and rocked him back and forth. Initially he fought me but slowly calmed down. He slept for four hours afterwards which was unusual for him as he only usually manged half an hour but he was exhausted. As he slept I sat and stared at the wall. My mind was in tatters and my heart was heavy. Something definitely wasn’t right and I was scared. At that time I was keeping a journal so it was documented and four years later it’s hard to read.

A few weeks later he started nursery and the manager recognised the autism straight away. With our agreement the child psychologist was brought in to assess him. A year later he was officially diagnosed with ASD and Sensory Processing Disorder.

The rest is history.

To see our child lose it in spectacular fashion is hard to say the least. We’re not talking feet stamping tantrums here – we’re talking total and utter loss of control. It rips my heart out to hear him scream that he hates us but I know at that point he needs our love more than ever.

Our lives revolve around preventing meltdowns but it’s not always possible and the ones which happen in public are a whole different kind of stress because people can be judgmental and unhelpful b**tards.

I have meltdowns but mine are mostly silent. I shut down whereas The Boy explodes. For me it’s like having too may tabs open on the PC and everything locks up. The only way to remedy it is to shut down and re-boot. For him, it’s like the entire thing blows up.

Four years on and the meltdowns still happen but not as often because he is developing coping skills where he can take himself off to his quiet place when he starts to feel overwhelmed. Progress is slow but it’s progress and that can only be a good thing.

He may not be able to promise me he won’t go ‘crazy bonkers’ again but I can promise that we will still love him when he does.

“The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways”. ~ Unknown

Sons, Sand & Sauvignon