Tag Archives: Ogden

From Meltdowns to Student of the Month

From Meltdowns to Student of the Month

Today my son was named a Shining Star aka Student of the Month at his school. I imagine this would be a pretty huge deal for any parent, but as a special needs mom, I am downright ELATED. I worry about him just making it through the daily routine, so to see him accomplish and achieve anything beyond that is extra exciting. Fourth grade is turning out to be the best school year yet, and I attribute much of Haiden’s success to his teacher.

Haiden has been at the same school since kindergarten. He has had an IEP in place every year, and for the most part the faculty has been very accepting and accommodating of his quirky personality. His teachers have been fantastic every year. In kindergarten it was sweet Ms. R. Her name was Rescorla but this was a bit of a tongue twister for the kids so she went by Ms. R. I was finishing my BA when he started and I desperately wanted him to get a coveted spot in the full-day class. In retrospect it was better for him to start only half days. He was still in phases of frequent, frantic outbursts and meltdowns. He spent a lot of time on Ms. R’s lap. She was great at keeping me updated of his progress.

In first grade he had the cutest, nicest teacher, Mrs. Steed. She always had so much patience with him. We worked out a system of keeping track of his behavior. She printed strips of paper that had a row of smiley faces and sad faces. When he did what he was supposed to do he earned the happy faces. If he acted out he would earn a sad face. We thought this was a great plan until he had an epic meltdown the first time she colored in a sad face. Realizing his fragile psyche couldn’t tolerate this negative reinforcement, she immediately changed the tactic. She made all the faces happy and he had daily goals to achieve a certain number. She was awesome.

In second grade he had Mrs. Solipo. Man, all I can say is second grade was a rough year for him. At one point in time he got suspended for threatening another student with a pencil. Ay ay ay. But we worked tirelessly to improve behavior issues. Mrs. Solipo researched and found articles and tried many many things with him. She became like another mom to him, and he adored her. Still does! She has become a true friend and someone I can talk to about any worries and concerns. I feel like she always has Haiden’s back.

And then there was third grade. Mr. Mean. I mean Mr. Mann. When we met him at back-to-school night, lots of red flags popped up. First, Haiden has always loved having female teachers. This dry, wispy, monotone man couldn’t have been further from the sweet, nurturing teachers he had had previously. On the rare occasions I had to interact with him, his voice put ME to sleep and he expected a room of 8-year-olds to stay engaged??

I had assumed he had been informed that he had a special needs ASD kid in class and that he was adequately prepared to deal with this type of student. It became glaringly clear by the end of the first week of school that that was not the case. I received a call from the principal letting me know there had been an “incident.” There was a fire drill– fire drills freak Haiden out, even if he knows they’re coming. He started panicking and yelling. Mr. Mann expected him to just fall in line with the other kids and when he didn’t, he grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him out of the class. In Haiden’s words: “He grabbed me so tight I felt like he was pulling my muscles off the bones.”

I picked Haiden up from school that Friday with the sickest feeling in the pit of my stomach. I started searching for other options. We checked out a Montessori school– too expensive. I called all the local charter schools– they were full. I even looked into homeschooling– it just wasn’t feasible. So we decided to do something we have avoided doing all these years: put him on meds.

His pediatrician called in a prescription for Risperdal, which is an anti-psychotic drug. I picked it up from the pharmacy and dove into the fine print of all the side effects. In one paragraph it stated that it could lead to Tardive Dyskinesia,  a disorder resulting in involuntary, repetitive body movements. In this form of dyskinesia, the involuntary movements are tardive, meaning they have a slow or belated onset. It most frequently occurs as the result of long-term or high-dose use of anti-psychotic drugs. When I read that my blood went cold. I turned to my husband and told him we weren’t going to do it. When I told him why, he firmly agreed. His mother struggled with, and ultimately died from, this ugly disorder.

So I gritted my teeth, swallowed the lump of guilt in my throat, and continued to take Haiden to Mr. Mann’s class. Third grade was rough for both of us. I went from being pretty active in his classroom to avoiding it altogether. Teacher appreciation? Fuggetaboutit. I printed some scholarly articles for him, highlighting some of Haiden’s behaviors and ways to handle it. Mr. Mann never read it. His method of measuring my son’s progress was a behavioral chart he would fill out every day. For each subject there was Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor. According to that man, my son was poor in math every day. I learned to take it with a grain of salt and consider the source. It wasn’t that my son wasn’t doing well, it was that his teacher wasn’t.

The silver lining is that these events led to us getting him occupational and behavioral therapy. His official diagnosis at that time was ASD, ADHD and unspecified anxiety disorder. The poor kid was/is trying to balance A LOT of shit in that beautiful mind of his. And without meds. I cringe at the thought if we had started the Risperdal. I hated the idea that these chemicals would alter the inherent make up of my son. Sometimes he can be a weirdo, but he is my funny, sweet, smart, super cute weirdo!

And then TODAY happens. My son was chosen as Student of the Month. When his teacher called his name I think he was surprised and pleased. She said the kindest things about him, and the best part was we could tell she meant it. From the first time we met her, all of my angst from third grade was put to rest. She is like an ASD angel sent from heaven just for Haiden. She takes such great care of him. It’s such a relief to have that weight of worry lifted off of me this year. A couple months ago I had to come chat with her about Haiden’s use of some grown-up words. I walked into the school ready to ground Haiden from Minecraft for life. Mrs. Hunsaker was so kind about everything that I left the meeting feeling proud of my kid. (Not for saying naughty words, but for other things.)

My heart is bursting today. Some days I’ve had heartbreak over this kid, and I’m sure I will in the future. But today my heart is happy. Now I just want a “My kid got Student of the Month” bumper sticker to commemorate it.


Fit Shaming My Inner Fat Girl

Fit Shaming My Inner Fat Girl

I am a teensy bit obsessed with weight loss shows. I literally cry every time I watch The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss. I follow the coaches and many of the contestants/participants on their social media and I feel like they are my friends. I feel like I can relate to them, having been overweight for many years. So imagine my delight when The Biggest Loser’s Jackson Carter announced a fundraiser 5k on the Ogden River Parkway, one of my favorite go-to running spots.

I have struggled with my weight most of my life. When I was around eight, I plumped up a bit. This in itself wouldn’t have been so traumatic except I was now bigger than my older sister. Being only a year apart, people often referred to us as the “Rabino Twins,” and at one point in time someone told me the only way they could tell us apart was that I was “the bigger one.” (Thanks a lot, ass hat. Almost 30 years later and that still haunts me.)

In my 20s and early 30s, my weight yo-yoed. At my heaviest I weighed more than I did when I was nine months pregnant, pushing pretty close to the 200-pound mark. Luckily I began running when I was 31 and my weight has been relatively stable, aside from my last pregnancy.

My 20s were not kind to me...

My 20s were not kind to me…

Today I guess I would be considered pretty fit. I try to exercise five to six days a week and eat relatively healthy. But I certainly allow myself indulgences every now and then. (Let’s just say I would not be a pleasant person without chocolate and wine in my life. Even WITH them, I don’t think anyone is going to accuse me of being the sweetest person they know.) I recently went to North Carolina for my BF’s wedding and South Carolina to visit my old childhood stomping grounds of Goose Creek and Charleston. Of course I had to indulge in all of the southern delectables I can’t get in Utah. Even when I did, though, I couldn’t fully enjoy the splurges because I have a super naggy inner fat girl. And she can be very loud and obnoxious.

I don’t wear the battle scars of my weight problems externally, but I know what I have been through and what a struggle it is on a daily basis to do the right thing and make good choices. So imagine my surprise when I showed up for Jackson Carter’s fun run and I ended up feeling FIT SHAMED. (I had to Google that to be sure it’s a real thing. It is!)

One of my many many ups and downs with the scale.

One of my many many ups and downs with the scale.

There were probably about 100 runners for the event. It was a chilly morning, but everyone was in good spirits and having a good time. Since it was October, many participants were in costume, me included. (Hey, I was hoping to snag a prize with my Ace Ventura costume. It was not in the cards. I just looked like a crazy lady in a tutu.)

The run was a quick out-and-back. I am not fast by most running standards. In fact by serious runners’ standards, I’m downright molasses. I have run five full marathons, but there’s no way I’m ever qualifying for Boston or anything. On that day, however, I was one of the fastest and fittest. To these other runners and walkers, this was EASY for me. Because it was an out-and-back course, I passed people on the way back as they headed to the turnaround point and I headed for the finish. I smiled encouragingly, gave thumbs up and high-fived as many of them as I could. “Good job. Way to go. Looking good. You got this.”

Everyone gathered at the finish to cheer in the last two people. I could tell that for the man and the kid with him, they had just achieved a huge accomplishment. I had goosebumps and felt so happy for and proud of these complete strangers. The magic of the finish line is just that feeling of camaraderie: “We did this. Together.”

Later I was chatting with a lady, making small talk about Jackson, The Biggest Loser show, the event. I made a comment about how great it was to see all these people, especially those who were working toward their weight loss goals. She looked me up and down and said, “Well yeah. But you’re a runner, right?” I swear, if there had been a cartoon bubble over her head, the word runner really would have been italicized. And in bold.

It was so weird, that accusatory tone. I’ve had people call me a runner and say it with awe. Some say it with the tone that lets you know they definitely think you are cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. But I’ve never been called a runner and felt guilty about it.

Is that how they saw me? I wanted to explain that, no- I used to be overweight. I have been where you are. I am proud of you and I don’t even know you. You are awesome and amazing and inspiring. I have journeyed your journey. Because there is a part of me that is The Biggest Loser. But there is also a part of me that is the coach.

autism, endorphins & why I don’t spank my kids

autism, endorphins & why I don’t spank my kids

I hadn’t intended on jumping right in with my two cents on autism, but after reading this story today I just had to.

Jillian McCabe Was ‘Overwhelmed’ Before Autistic Son’s Fatal Plunge

RIP little London. 😥

Ummm. Hey, Jill. (Is it okay if I call you Jill?) Parenting overwhelms the best of us. You can’t just go throwing your special needs kid off a bridge. Take a break. Read a book. Go for a walk. Talk to a friend. Do some yoga. Go for a run. Have a good cry. Drink a glass of wine. Hell, drink the whole bottle. I have those days, I totally get it.  I don’t know, do something, but for crikey’s sake DON’T THROW YOUR SON OFF A BRIDGE.

There are tragic stories all the time about parents killing their kids, and each one is devastatingly heartbreaking to me. But when I hear the ones involving special needs kids I am even more saddened to think of the lives lost. I am a protective mama bear to all of my kids, but I have to admit my Haiden has often needed a little more protection than Mia & Eli. It hurts my heart to think of him being hurt, and I can not even imagine being on the giving end of that.

I am not a spanker. On the few occasions I have lost my patience to the point of hitting one of my kids, I have been so consumed by guilt I could not let it go. Prime example: When Mia was three (she’s almost 19 now, just to give perspective on how long I’ve held onto this) I was a single mom, working full-time and going to school. After a particularly long day, as I was bathing her, she splashed water on the floor, and I lost it. I pulled her up and smacked her naked bum. A welt immediately appeared. But the worst, the absolute worst part, was the look in her innocent tear-filled brown eyes. Those sweet eyes were full of sadness, hurt, and the heartbreaker: fear. I caused that. I decided that night to quit my job as a restaurant manager and find something less stressful, because I knew I could not take pent-up work emotions out on my child.

Last year, we had a bunch of people over to our house. Haiden has a hard time when there’s too much going on, if it’s too noisy, and especially if other kids are messing with his stuff. So it was no surprise to me that he had multiple meltdowns. And usually I can diffuse him pretty quickly, but that day I couldn’t. By the end of the night I was absolutely out of patience. As he was throwing an epic fit, I took him into the bathroom, flailing and screaming. I remember the instant so vividly- as I raised my hand up, right before it made contact with his butt, his eyes flashed that same set of emotions I had seen in Mia’s eyes 16 years ago. Sadness, hurt, fear. But it was too late. I couldn’t take it back. He looked at me, shocked at what had just happened, and then he said something I will never forget, as he sobbed and gasped and fat tears rolled down his cheeks:

“Why? Why would you hit me? Only bullies hit because bullies are mean.”

I choked back tears and pulled him close, hugging him tightly and apologizing profusely. Because he was right. He was telling me exactly what we have always told him. And here I was, The Bully. Worst heartbreak ever. I never want my kids to feel that again.

Haiden has taught me immeasurable patience. And I’ll admit, I am “lucky” that his ASD is on the high functioning end of the spectrum. I can’t imagine if he was non-verbal (although I have days I wish he was. I kid, I kid. But seriously, the kid can talk for days. On high volume. Think megaphone.)

But no matter the circumstances, I can’t imagine hurting my own children. And I’m sad for the kids who end up hurt at the hands of their parents. And I feel sad for parents who are so far gone that they even had this thought process that would lead to the end result of killing their kid.

I’m also lucky that I can run. People ask me how I got into running. They tell me how they hate it and they wish they could love it the way I do. I am lucky that I found my joy in running. I began running in 2008. Haiden was diagnosed with autism in 2009. The timing couldn’t have been better. Maybe in some ways running found me.

So the moral of this story can pretty much be summed up in a quote from “Legally Blonde”:

“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” Except fill in “Happy people just don’t kill their kids. THEY JUST DON’T.”

And that is all for this one.