Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Aside: Setbacks, Relapses, and A Long Ways to Go

Just as I have to remind myself that Zack has come very far and isn't nearly as bad off as some others, I also trick myself into forgetting that he's still got a long ways to go, yet.  That, and as any parent probably experiences with their toddlers - but special needs parents certainly experience - there are relapses into undesirable behaviors that can prove frustrating, even disheartening.

Again - not whining or complaining.  Just a window into our lives...

The beginning of the school year has been a little rough for Zack.  First of all, he's got a new one-on-one teacher we're not sure of yet.  She's not bad, it doesn't seem...it's just that we get used to one teacher, learn to decipher how hard/easy she's going to rate Zack's performance every day, and then he gets a new teacher.  So we're still trying to sort her out.

Second, he's relapsed to a few of his old habits, which is common in all kids I suppose, but especially disheartening in special needs kids, because often their old habits are inappropriate and hindering in their social and intellectual development.  One habit he's resumed in particular is called "light gazing":

light gazinga compulsive behavior in which children constantly stare at light sources for stimulation through flickering shadows or shifting light patterns

Basically, Zack will get himself stuck in an almost mindless loop of running the same pattern through the house and staring up at the lights, "stimming" off the shadow flickers.  He won't watch where he's going, runs into things, and if we don't try and interrupt him, he continues this pattern indefinitely.  It hurts to watch, really, because it's visual confirmation of Zack's disability, which cuts himself off from others and isolates him in a looping, repetitive, mindless world.  

It also makes it hard to get anything done: dinner, dishes, vacuuming - and we're always faced with this choice: continue the chores and everything else that needs to get done, but let Zack stim himself and lock himself deeper inside himself, or take the time to drop everything by the wayside and go interact with him, try and knock him out of his loop. We'd really thought he'd moved past light gazing, so it sucks to see him doing it again.

Also, I'll admit to feeling a little depressed when I picked him up at daycare yesterday afternoon.  Zack now attends a mainstream daycare briefly in the morning before his bus picks him up and in the afternoon when the bus drops him off.  Again, here at home: his interaction with us and Madi has skyrocketed.  He's like a "normal boy".

However it's very obvious that he doesn't interact with his peers yet; hardly at all, other than a robotic 'Hi' and 'Bye', during which he doesn't even look at who he's speaking to.  Yesterday I saw packs of 3-4 year olds playing and interacting with each other, babbling to each other in mutually confusing conversation but still acting as if they belonged together.  And there sat Zack, all by himself, fiddling with his Thomas Trains as usual, as if none of the other kids in the room even existed.

We'll get past this.  We always do.  Sometimes, however, it's easy to trick yourself into forgetting how long the road ahead is...