As much as I try to presume competence, the reality is that doubt creeps in my mind on a daily basis. Why? Because even though I think I know what my daughter is trying to tell me, I’m often wrong. I suck at playing charades. This game is what all parents are forced to play when their child has a communication disorder. By no means does this imply that she does not understand, but that her words and her motor planning fail her.
Last week, Jess was suspended. We added suspended to SFY on her AAC. She does not like this word. She makes a sound of exasperation when it is spoken. I was told that Jess was unprovoked. This is true. No one else did anything to make her over react. However, if someone says something to her that hurts her feelings and she takes it to heart, Jess may let you know that she is not pleased. This possibility was my first assumption. This made sense because she was premenstrual.
My second guess was constipation. When Jess came home from work, she spent the rest of the day on the floor of her room. No interest in food, music or TV. A possible cause, maybe she was backed up like the NJ Turnpike? Relief didn’t come till the next day. I thought that this was the problem for her meltdown at work. However, just like the TV show House, it isn’t his first or second diagnosis, but the third dx that solves the mystery.
The third option didn’t present itself till the following night. Being that hind site is 20/20, I now realize that Jess felt illness coming on and didn’t know how to express herself. As her general malaise progressed, she used her talker less. Over the course of the weekend, she acted unsettled and alarmed. This culminated in a nasty stomach virus. We were forced to pitch camp in the den during the waves of nausea. Jess took to the floor and I had the couch. She was so sick, even the cats stayed clear.
On a positive note, Jess was able to make mad dashes to the bathroom and was able to let loose in the appropriate vessel. This is huge for her! For years, she either didn’t attempt to leave her room, or when she did get to the bathroom in time, she’d lean backward and not forward (I know, TMI). Yes, it seems like common sense to bend over to vomit, but her motor planning is seriously compromised. Even though this was a dark night, I could at least see some positive light.
Over the course of the next six hours, I was the worst and the best Mom. I can handle getting up a few times, but after the 5th time being woken up, it’s difficult for me to find patience for the patient. However, this time was different. After I lost my cool (honestly, steer clear of me when my sleep is disturbed; there is a reason they say “let sleeping dogs lie”), an overwhelming sense of calm took over. Even though she was the one over the porcelain bowl, my prayers were answered. Jess stopped fighting the inevitable, she started to help herself and I was able to manage without assistance. I was able to comfort her and tell her what we all want to hear, “you will be okay”.
The next morning, in bleary-eyed exhaustion, I did what everybody else does, I lamented on FB. It’s comforting to find support and receive helpful advice. One Mom reminded me about electrolytes being out of balance after this type of illness. Dehydration is always a concern. Every time I have purchased Pedialyte, Jess refused to drink it. Since I looked like ten miles of bad road, the last thing I wanted to do was go out in public. Thank goodness for Google. I found a recipe to make a version of Pedialyte which worked and it is much tastier than the commercial product. Success!
After this ordeal, kept Jess home for the next three days. She was wary to eat and didn’t have high energy either. On the third day of being housebound (hmm everything happens in threes), I asked her if she wanted to go to the barn. My quiet child suddenly was babbling like a brook. In her words “Facebook, suspended, George, hug, now, when, better”. Jess doesn’t get to the barn as often as I do and she was excited.
As we walked to the pasture to get George, there were blue birds flying around us. They would land on the fence and chatter as if to catch me up on what I’d missed these last few days. George was happy to come in and Jess was eager to help groom. When he was finished work, Jess then wanted to be the one to lead him out to the pasture.
My trainer refers to Jess as the horse whisperer. The horses soften around her. They can sense when someone has fear and they can sense when someone needs to be treated gently. If George is in a “mood”, he may not give others a pass, but he does for Jess. George doesn’t speak like Mr. Ed, but he does communicate to her in his own way. He tells my little bird not to be afraid and that she is safe with him. He shows a combination of presumed competence and support. Hopefully, I can push doubt aside and follow George’s lead.
Final thoughts: There is a reason they say try, try and try again…it’s a matter of threes. Also, husband was very much involved. Typically, we tag team each other, but this time, I told him “I got this”.