Saturday, September 12, 2009

When Only the Good Seems Bad

If you've read my blog for any time now, you may remember I signed up a long time ago as a participant in Shelley Tucker's Only The Good posts through her blog at This Eclectic Life. Click either place there and you can see what the objective is in these posts -hopefully, you'll decide to join forces with us too! Shelley recently changed this from a Friday thing to doing it any day of the week that you want to deem being a day for "Only The Good" postings.

Today, I had designs on what I wanted to do, what I expected I could accomplish -that being getting more of the ribbons that are all done in satin stitching closer to being completed on the tablecloth I am currently working on here. I figured since Maya had spent the night last night at the home of Mandy's good friend, Jen-Jen and her husband and kids, and that Mandy was planning a trip to State College to shop for halooween costumer at the children's consignment store there, that would leave me alone, able to work pretty much without interruptions on the tablecloth.

Mandy and Kurt got home around 3 p.m. and she showed me the cutest little Elmo costume -complete with a little hat to match and all -for Kurtis. She was really happy to have found this outfit for him at a price that was right for her so that was a pretty darned good thing. Agreed?

Then she and Kurtis left to go to her sister-in-law's place in Phiipsburg for a little birthday party for her nephew -who turned 11 today. That gave me some more time to spend on my embroidery project which made me very happy.

That is until the phone rang around 6 p.m. and it was Mandy calling to tell me I was going to have to drive into Philipsburg and pick her and the kids up because her car had just broke down on her!

She had just left her sister-in-law's place and at a stop sign about 2 blocks up, when she pushed the clutch in to the floor, it just stayed there and then the car also just shut off completely. No, that wasn't a very nice thing, for sure.

But the first thing Mandy thought of -after using her cell phone to call me, to call her sister-in-law and have a mutual friend who was present come and rescue her and the children -was how lucky she was that this happened where it did -only two blocks away from her sister-in-law's place and not on a busy street over in State College and also, what a good thing it is that she has her brother who provides her with her cellphone on his phone plan!!!!

It was a good thing too that I had taken my shower earlier this afternoon too and not put it off till early this evening because that way I was clean, fresh as a daisy, etc., and able to hop in my little old jeep and run in town to pick her and the kids up then.

After getting the kids all strapped into their car seats and such, away we went to the local Weis Market -a grocery store chain in our region of the state.

And here is where things did eventually go really down hill too.

Maya insisted that I get a cart that is a "Red Car" cart -meaning it has a little car on the front that will hold two toddlers or preschool kids there and keep them somewhat entertained in the process while the parent -or in our case, the parent and grandparent try to do a little grocery shopping.

I got the cart, got her in it and wheeled it back to the jeep where Mandy was finishing up doing a quick change on Kurtis so he too would at least smell fresh as a daisy for our visit to the store. Got him in the cart and fastened down and away we went.

Early on in our visit at the store, we saw Kerri -the young lady who is Kurt's preschool teacher and who also was one of the first therapists to work with Maya when she was initially diagnosed as having developmental delays. She was there shopping with her grandmother and both kids were happy and excited to see her there too.

We made our way around the store and unfortunately,as often happens when Maya and Kurtis are in close quarters -like seated together in this car-cart for a while, Maya gets restless and then starts to pick on Kurtis and gets him upset. When that happened today and Mandy reprimanded her, she began to act up a bit more at which point Mandy then removed an item from the cart, put it back on the shelf and refused to buy it because Maya wasn't behaving properly.

That then ended up sending Maya over the edge into a massive meltdown, the likes of which we haven't endured in public in about two years or more!

She screamed, cried, kicked, hit at us, refused to quiet down, insisting that she "Want my Chewies" -a vitamin tablet Mandy gives her every day. This isn't what started the meltdown but rather what Maya chose to use as her reason for having this hissy fit.

People all over the store were watching us, giving looks to Mandy or to me as if to say "Why don't you get that child to be quiet?" or "Why don't you get that kid to listen?"
This is what Maya's meltdown looked and sounded like -except that this is only a couple seconds of what actually went on for probably 10-15 minutes at the very least.

After a good 15-20 minutes of this constant screaming, Mandy was stopped at the service desk as she had to have the lady there give her a new card so we would be eligible then for some of the store's advertised specials and Maya continued on with her rampage.

Then an elderly lady came over and spoke to Mandy -and actually to Maya -telling her to please be quiet as she couldn't stand that much noise. Maya did stop fussing for all of about 20-30 seconds and then, started up with the screaming and crying all over again. This lady was looking very befuddled but then Mandy turned to her and told her "I'm very sorry this is upsetting for you, but my daughter has autism and unfortunately, right now, there is nothing I can do to her or for her to get her to stop with this behavior. Believe me, we would like it to end just as much as you would."

Upon hearing that, the lady looked a bit stunned at first but then apologized to Mandy and said she understood.

Maya however continued on with her bad behavior. Until finally, as we were trying to check out, Mandy had taken Maya out of the cart and turned to me to tell me if I wanted, I could take Maya out of the store and get her into the car.

That sounded like a good idea to me but it turned out not to be fitting with Maya's ideas and she really threw a fit -throwing herself down on the floor, rolling around, kicking then, hitting at me, screaming more -and even louder -if that was possible. (Trust me, it was possible!)

Each time I would reach for her to try to get her to stand up and come out of the building with me, she would turn her legs to jelly and I would end up virtually dragging her. I couldn't get her up enough so that I could bend over and pick her up and carry her out -kicking and screaming all the way either.

At one point, she was thrashing about on the floor and pulled away from me and suddenly her shirt sleeve gave way a bit so it was like an elastic band reaction where she was straining against my holding on to her and when this gave, she ended up banging her upper lip slightly on the floor. At which point she jumped up and began alternating between trying to run from me or getting back down on the floor and crawling away at a rapid pace.

I finally got a grip on her arm and began to basically drag her along on the floor when a male customer -along with an older man who is an employee in the store, both came over to ask me if I knew she had hurt her mouth and the customer also insisted I was hurting her arm because he knew that from the way she was screaming and crying. I knew better there and no, I was not hurting her arm -not near as much as I really was thinking I wanted to blister her behind about then anyway!

This man insisted that I allow him to talk to her -as he just knew he could calm her down and I told him "Be my guest."

When he couldn't reach her and his wife came over, she told him to leave the child alone and also that she knows the child's mother. Okay fine. I told her then that this behavior is due to Maya's autism and she immediately understood and got her husband out of there and away.

By that time, Mandy had finished checking out and we exited the store -all the while to the tune of Maya still screaming like a wild banshee and clerks and customers all stopping and staring at us to see which of us had to be beating this kid within an inch of her life for her to be wailing and carrying on so much -or maybe it was to get a glimpse of some kid who has no training at home and is simply spoiled rotten, having a tantrum to get what she wants. (Well, in a way, that is what a meltdown is but it is also more than that as it is generally brought on by something, some event, that the child begins to obsess about and it just ramps up a notch at every available interval then until the child is finally cried out or spent.)

We got in the car -still fighting with her -got the kids both fastened in and by the time we pulled out of the parking lot Maya's screaming had subsided.

Not that she got quiet exactly because she didn't but at least she was doing a lot of self-talk and telling herself that she wasn't going to go to school at all next week, then it was that she was going to do something else and after that, something else again. On and on she talked for the entire drive home!

We stooped at the gas station near home and as I was getting the tank filled, she began to tell Mandy and I that only little children who are 1 year old, 3 years old and 5 years old were allowed to go into the little store part of that gas station. No child with an age that was an even number it appeared was allowed in that place according to Maya. We asked her where she got that information and she pointed to the attendant and told us that he had told her that. Then she asked us how old you had to be to go into that place and I made a wise crack remark to her telling her you had to be "42 to go in there."

She didn't like that answer at all and promptly told me "No Gram. You are wrong. You has to be 35."

By that time, the attendant was through with filling my car's tank and as he handed me my receipt, I asked him "What the heck is the big idea telling my Granddaughter how old you have to be to go in this store?" I was winking at him -or at least I thought I was anyway, as I said this in hopes he would see that I was just joking with him. Thankfully, he picked up on that and then said "OH, that's part of our store's policy about how old one has to be to buy cigarettes ya know -age 18 or over."

And that's when Mandy and I realized that Maya was simply reading the sign that said you must be 18 or older to enter here!

But, as embarrassing and frustrating as it was to have Maya go into that meltdown in the store, Mandy and laughed about it on the way home as we told each other and she told her friends as she called them and spoke to them on the phone then that we had just done our own personal Autism Awareness Presentation at the Weis Markets store in Philipsburg today!

So I guess in that way one could say it was a good thing too then, wasn't it, after all?

Now, I just hope for Mandy's sake that the clerks there down lock the doors if they see her heading into the store in the future. Maya's TSS did however promise to give Mandy a set of earplugs for Christmas though.


Maggie May said...

I was riveted from start to finish with this post and I think the description of the tantrum was very helpful.
Although ALL children who are very young can act like that, even if they are not autistic, children who are, do seem to go up a notch at time like that until they are screaming louder than a jet fighter.
It is the people around who are interesting. I suppose the man who thought that you were hurting her was doing what he thought was best at the time and the old lady was, in her way, trying to ease the situation. People might all think that THEY could calm the child better!
I believe there are cards you can give out to surrounding people to say that the child is autistic, but how you would get a card out when struggling with a screaming child from hell I do not know.
Anyway, you seem as though you provided Maya with consistently calm behaviour & that seems to be what the child needs to help bring her back to be calm.
Phew! I am worn out just from reading this. give yourself a pat on the back!

Paula said...

Like Maggie May, I was riveted to your words in this post as well. It's always amazing to me how people who don't really know the situation seem to think that they can handle things better than you can.
For some reason the sound on your video didn't come through for me. I've heard melt-downs in the store before from my very own, not autistic children, so could hear it perfectly in my own head! My son, who is 17 now, has a bit of ADD and we had melt-downs quite often when he was young caused simply from me trying to keep his energy level in check when we were in public places. I experienced the same kind of well-meaning people that you guys have and the people who just give you the dirty looks, wondering why you have no control over your child.
Such a hard thing to deal with all the time and you guys are do such a wonderful job!

Debo Blue said...

I'm glad those people didn't call the cops on you and accuse you of battering or harming Maya. Believe me, it could happen.

About 20 years ago I snatched up one of my nieces because she was acting up in a grocery store and within minutes the store manager was accusing me of abusing that girl!

Sorry you all had to endure that!

lattégirl said...

This was informative. The next time I see or hear a child having a meltdown in a public place, I will remind myself that I have no idea of the cause and that it doesn't mean the parents are doing a lousy job at discipline. I admit that's usually been my first thought. "Jeez, can't they control that kid?!" So thanks for this.