Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Reading The Signs

Owly by Andy Runton
When Colin was eight years old one of his favorite book series was Owly by Andy Runton. He used to tell me about some of the stories he read. I was stunned to discover the books relied on pictures and symbols and not words to tell stories. It was a real eye-opener to discover this after hearing the vivid descriptions my son had relayed to me about Owly and his friends' adventures. It was hard to believe how much my son was able to glean from using his powers of observation to pluck a detailed story simply from illustrations.

Oddly enough, due to the limited contact we have with Colin, I now need to use my detective skills to be able to piece together what is happening in my son's life. By using a combination of eavesdropping, emails from school, pumping the other boys for information, comparing notes with my husband and using my powers of observation, I have developed a certain fluidity in reading the daily details of Colin. I have become more patient and to try not to press our son for details. All will be revealed over time.Colin's time.

This is part of our new normal.

The Shut-Up Warning System

Colin continues to avoid any mention of what might agitate (trigger) him and it is hard to decipher what might be Misophonia as opposed to normal teen annoyance. I have not witnessed a single rage since he has been back home for almost two years now. Instead we are given simple verbal cues.

I have developed a "Colin Warning System" to categorize my son's mood.

Shush - a single shush indicates "No more talking", signalling the start of being bothered.

Shush, Shush - a double shush for " I don't want to hear a peep out of you. I am in no mood". This is sometimes done as a preemptive strike before a single word is uttered. It is best to avoid eye contact and go about your business. Quietly. And in another room."

Shut Up! - "I mean business. Go away and leave me alone. Not one more word. You have pushed the limit."

DIE! - "WTF? Did you not hear me? You have not heeded my warnings and I now want to kill you." At this point do not utter another peep and if possible run like hell to another room. Preferably on a different floor.

Verbal Jenga

Similar to the game with blocks, Verbal Jenga is played with words. I have learned before I speak to Colin, it is helpful to assess his mood. Ideally it is best to have him start the game ( conversation) and answer in as few words as possible.At any given point I will be shushed and the discussion comes tumbling to a halt.

If I make the first move, there are a few simple tips to prolong the shut down:
  1. Is the question or comment absolutely necessary? Do not make small talk.
  2. Am I relaying something of interest? You have better luck with topics near and dear to Colin's heart. 
  3. Try to assess mood before speaking. Good mood = Green Light, Unreadable=Proceed with Caution and Red=Stop and wait till later.
When Colin initiates contact, I try to keep my response short and to the point, however I sometime try to push my luck. This morning was one of those days.

Our dog was trying to cough something up and Colin yelled upstairs to me that Sumter was puking. I asked where he had barfed and came down to look. I could not find anything. After telling my son that there was nothing to be found, I started a new topic.

I had signed Colin up for for Lifeguard Certification classes that start next month and wanted to make sure he got my email and text from yesterday with the details. He will need to miss some of his Ultimate Frisbee team practices over the course of two weeks. I needed to hear that he was o.k. with that and totally on board so that I am not wasting money. I also wanted to give him the news that the pool where the classes were being taught need lifeguards, they hire 15 year olds and he could get a job there if classes went well.

As I was being shut down, I tried to write the news on paper. I grabbed a pen and something to write on.

"Don't even bother!" I was told. " I won't read it and I'll just rip up the paper".

Game Over!

 Team Effort

I have relied on my older boys to help relay information and for recon as to what is happening with Colin. We have been so lucky to have this. While eldest is home for Spring Break, I am having him pick his brother up from school. Yesterday eldest went early to participate in Ultimate Frisbee practice with his baby brother. It does my heart good to see the boys get along.

Middle-son has been coaching his younger sibling to apply to a summer program on Mechanisms of Human Disease that he participated in last year. It is a prestigious class with limited space and only the top students from the area are accepted. It is rare for a rising Junior to get in and middle-son thought Colin has a chance at this, especially as a legacy.

I saw two sheets of paper by middle-son's door this morning and picked them up. It appeared that Colin wrote two different essays for his brother to review. After reading them, I was impressed and took pictures with my cell phone so I would have a record. Middle-son caught me and asked me to delete them. He did not want to betray his confidence with his sibling. I apologized and complied.

Sometimes a mother has a hard time with boundaries. I worry about next year with both of my older sons away at school. We will be left with just Colin and his trusty canine. I have no idea what the coming school year will hold.

Will we be able to maintain the stasis we currently enjoy? Will we manage without mediators? What will become of us?........ Stay tuned!

As always, we are a work-in-progress!


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