Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Healing Journey: October 2010

Reporting from our Son-Rise bubble, here are the highlights shared with friends, family, and our Son-Rise community during our sixth month in the program.

03. Son-Rise Outreach

Learned a lot this weekend. Katrina was great, and left me with new goals for our program, new tips for me, and more importantly: The confidence that Kiki and I already are doing great, and he is going to be okay.

Regarding crying and screaming: I thought I was doing the technique right, and it turns out that I was actually responding too quickly. Because mommy’s so good at understanding her child’s words through his tears, I was not responding slow enough. Katrina told me to be dumber. I saw it work within hours for her, and today I’m seeing Joaquin’s expression as he’s figuring out that I no longer understand crying. I have to say I have a very smart little one—ehem!—He learns fast.

05. Tested

11:41 am. Yep! Today, I’m being tested on everything I’ve learned.

5:40 pm. A+ for me and Eliza, and for Joaquin!… Amazing! Don’t know how we got him in the room so easy. Eliza went in for an hour and then I gave her feedback for about an hour. It was our first time, and it was like talking over coffee and cake with a friend. I’m so lucky I got such a great first volunteer.

06. Playing

Another fun day in the romper room. Wow! I think I could be a child facilitator in the future. I’m really enjoying playing. Who would’ve ever thought.

08. Drawing Streets

Recently he’s asked me to draw the street. I don’t think I’ve drawn it more than ten times, and today he surprised me drawing it himself. When I went into the romper room and saw the chalkboard, I saw the many streets, but thought perhaps he didn’t mean to draw streets. But he did. He drew them for me several times. Awesome little one!

He is so responsive lately! Also very curious to test boundaries and explore our reactions to button-pushing behaviors (like throwing stuff and yelling for us to grab it). But check out how great he looks in this video!

11. Pushing Buttons

12:02 pm. Make no mistake. Sometimes I HATE the present moment. But I think that has to do a lot more with toddlerhood than with autism.

2:21 pm. So he did it!… I lit up like five Christmas trees with music and all. I barked! And he may have seen foam coming out of my mouth! I definitely have a limit, and ridiculous annoying tantrumy behavior while I have shit on the stove and have given him all he’s wanted all morning is a little much for my capacity. I have limited bandwidth. Oh well. I think it’s okay to do it once every five months. It was actually funny to hear him repeat the word “joder”. I may have said something like “No puedes joder mas”. And he repeated the whole sentence. Oops!

[To a fellow Son-Rise friend] “Controlled” and “suffocated” are perfect words to define the feelings I experienced right before exploding on my own tantrum. I’m making a list of subjects for my consultation with William. Not sure I’ll get to cover them all. The list is growing :)

5:40 pm. Right when I was loving the time we spent in the romper room, he’s decided he doesn’t want to play in there. It’s been going on for over a week now. Kills me!

7:45 pm. ?I thought I was over this kind of behavior. While listening Joaquin happily enjoy the romper room with Joey after saying NO to it all day with me (for over a week), I intend to get my ass out of here and enjoy the awesome break I’ll get in MA next week. I mean, it’s not like he’s going to miss me a bit. You should see him running to the door when dad comes versus the cold uninterested welcome I’ve always gotten.

12. Killing me softly

9:33 am. [To a friend] These days he wants to draw outside all day. I’m trying to understand his need for a break, but deep down I’m scared that he’ll make this permanent and ruin all the process, and stay autistic, not being able to go to school or ever accept strangers in his life, and you know… That inner voice always projecting horrible scenarios. I’m gonna have to dialogue this issue and find a way to calm myself down so I can keep accepting the whole package just as it is.

"Big Bang", chalk on concrete

9:26 pm. He is really onto something this week… Throwing things, hiding things, putting himself in situations that justify him screaming for help. I see it all as a way to test if he can get attention this way (like he doesn’t have enough already). He’s being sort of needy. Very weird, and not very autistic—I think. Pushing big red buttons and trying to see if he can puppeteer me. But extremely interactive and awake at the same time. Just this week, it’s the first time that he sings a song along with me. Usually he responds to my prompts or sings by himself, but he’s singing “Los Pollitos” with me. And he sings so cute!!! He knows the song so well!

13. Awesomism

“?In many ways we are becoming more like them as we attempt to have them become more like us. We are already starting to rise to the occasion” from AWESOMISM!: A New Way to Understand the Diagnosis of Autism by Suzy Miller.

[To a Son-Rise friend reading the same book] But sometimes it’s hard to see them as evolved beings of light, huh? Like, when they’re wrapped around your neck screaming right in your ear.

14. Experimenting

11:17 am. So after a week of so-so feeling days with Kiki (he keeps trying to control me, and I keep resisting), today’s experiment is FLEXIBILITY. Just for the heck of it. Because perhaps I’m not being as flexible as I’m saying I am becoming, and he may be trying to teach me something.

3:41 pm. Reporting from the trenches: This is tough shit! ;)

5:03 pm. NO MORE BUTTONS!!!!!!! (P.S. The flexibility experiment is OVER).
[To friends asking what happened] Terrible!… Failed miserably… The thing is, it’s too hard to let a toddler in control. It was supposed to be only one day (just to see what happened), of course with certain boundaries. But I couldn’t keep it happily. I think my attitude has slowly gone to hell since he started rejecting the romper room, and I ended up losing it today. Plus this obsession he’s developed with pressing buttons (telephone, dish washer, micro-wave) is starting to get on my nerves. I see a big Option dialogue in my near future.

6:40 pm. This evening, while playing in the patio with chalk, he surprised me making a drawing and calling it “mama”. I asked him to draw papa, Joaquin, and his four grandparents. All people drawings have this specific style and methodology. Very cute!

23. Maximum Impact

“Maximum Impact” (2nd program in the Son-Rise sequence) was such a great break. I always try to create a powerful experience out of these retreats at the Option Institute, and this time I came back with a list of resolutions that extend through all aspects of my life (not just Joaquin). I’m sure there will be days in which I’ll forget them, but I like a lot having this plan :)


25. Grinding teeth

2:50 pm. After 2.5 weeks Joaquin is still rejecting the playroom. I think he’s had plenty of a break, so today we went in and he cried the entire time while I did all I could to stay okay with it. Out of the room the fear of this never passing is hitting me, but I’ve decided to persist and let him cry as much as he wants, and hopefully soon he’ll realize that it would be more fun to enjoy our time there like we used to.

7:54 pm. [Responding to friends] Hi all… The reason why he’s saying no to the room is because we introduced strangers recently. This is his biggest challenge. Strangers in the room are a challenge to his autism (William’s words) and so he’s rejecting the whole thing. Only wants “papa” who so far has provided 100% fun and almost no challenge as he didn’t do the room and took him outside to all the outings he wanted (nothing that challenges his autism). So, not persisting in getting him back in the room means quitting. Not happening.

26. Going to Battle

11:02 am. OMG! I’m a force of nature! Just gave myself the most inspiring war speech in the shower. I’ve been seeing all this situation with Joaquin as “it sucks”. Turns out, THIS IS IT! This is the crossroad where either we all go down the path of him never conquering his biggest challenge, or we get strong and clear on our purpose and help him do it. I’m soooo excited that we’re here! This is the battle, and I’m ready!

27. Victory!

So guess what. Today Joaquin asked to go in the Romper Room and we had so much fun (two new games improvised in the spur of the moment). What a great birthday present!

29. Making Words

The addition of a second set of foam letters triggered a recent interest in spelling words. The last seconds of this video were edited out; Joaquin fell from his chair… Too sad.

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