Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Playgroup a la Shirley

The morning could have been worse. Thankfully, Audrey was behaving well and didn't have a meltdown or cry during playgroup. She was quietly observant (thank you, princesa!). I wish I could say the same about the boys. We left the house late, even though I tried my best to pace us so we wouldn't be late. I dropped Ronin off at the daycare first and then ran back to the playgroup room. They were already seated at the mirror for circle time, so I wheeled the double stroller near the door, took out Audrey and tried to sit close by. Nikko saw the cube slide and went for it. I tried to usher him toward the circle but he protested so I let him go back to the cube. I knew he wouldn't sit down without a fight and I didn't want that on the first day with Shirley. There were more parents around, so it seemed. The dad of one kid named Matthew saw that Matthew was creeping toward Nikko and the cube slide. The dad reprimanded Matthew sternly and said, "This is circle time, no playing on the slide right now. Do you want to go home?" He started counting down and Matthew returned to the circle. I felt guilty and embarassed that I was allowing Nikko to climb on the cube during circle time instead of plopping him down and forcing him to listen. I wonder if I should have done that anyway? I have restrained him before and I end up getting a good workout trying to keep him from wriggling off my lap. After circle time was play time and all the parents (except one Hispanic dad who was with his son Oscar, the only other kid in the room that did any crying or protesting today) left the room. I talked to Shirley and said that I normally didn't leave the room, but I could give it a try today. Nikko was in the bean box, holding onto a red spoon that had a carved out face, and was engrossed in stirring the beans. He didn't notice me for quite a while, so I took it as a sign to try leaving. I scooped up Audrey and the food bag and headed out the door. I walked back to the daycare and peeked through the window. I saw Ronin sitting on the lap of one of the aides, holding his rice milk, and crying. She was reading a book to a bunch of kids and was pointing out pictures to Ronin. I felt bad that he was still crying and hoped he'd calm down soon. I walked back past the playgroup room where Nikko's back was still turned away from me into the bean box. I decided to check out the Autism Resource Room. When I entered, three of the parents (one was really a grandma) sat and were chatting. There were no other chairs and the door to the person running the office was closed, but I came in and tried to interject some lighthearted comments on how I don't usually get away. They were polite, introduced themselves after I told them my name, and made nice comments on Audrey's calm demeanor. The dad, Terry, offered his seat but I said no thanks because I had to get back to check on the boys. I saw that the autism coordinator had restocked the slats in the walls with new reading materials so I started gathering a bunch. Karen, Shelly's OT coworker, saw me from another room and waved hi. It was within three minutes of that that Karen came back through the front door and told me that Nikko was having a big meltdown and that I should probably go back and check on him. I got a few more packets and came back to the room where Nikko was camped at the doorway, crying and red. When I came in he became calm but was still sobbing. Shirley told me he ran and sat in the stroller crying when he realized I was gone, and started rummaging through some of the bags but she didn't know for what. I think he was looking for a vitamin, but I had taken the food bag with me. I guess his meltdown was pretty bad, but Shirley said we should still try for me to get away, maybe for five minutes the next time, and keep working on it. After our chat, I led Nikko around to play with the toys and the bean table again. The rest of the parents came back into the room and then it was craft time. We sat at the table and Nikko thought it was snack time. When Shirley took out some paper, Nikko started wailing and tried to escape the table. That wasn't fun, trying to coax him to stay and fill in a sheep with white chalk.

Then the door opened and it was Peg and an aide from the daycare. They said that Ronin had gotten himself sick and that I should come and get him. I felt bad that Peg had to come and get me, because sometimes she seems nice (like when she's with Shelly) and sometimes when I called about Bethanne's playgroup that we were sick or couldn't make it, Peg wouldn't sound that happy about it and always said, "but you ARE going to have your other therapies, right?" And I assured her we would unless the kids were feverish. Anyway, I had to take Nikko with me to get Ronin and left Audrey in the playgroup since she was being quiet. When I walked into the daycare, an aide was holding Ronin who was wearing only a diaper and socks. He had thrown up all over his clothes and on the leg of an aide. There was someone cleaning up the mess behind the desk. I was very apologetic and regretted telling them to give Ronin his rice milk should he become upset. Apparently he cried himself so hard that he made himself throw up. I don't think it was on purpose per se, but the coughing from crying probably triggered his gag reflex. I took him back to playgroup and had a change of clothes in our backpack. Nikko was good about holding my hand as we walked down the hallway, and he scurried off to sit at the table for snack time with Shirley. He took one Cheeto and harbored it until lunchtime. We concluded playgroup with the parachute activity and then I packed up my brood and slinked home. I felt desperate that Ronin wasn't able to calm himself today, and considered asking Chinny if she would come on Monday mornings in addition to the other two days. But, that's a lot to ask of her. I spoke to Atz later and she encouraged me not to take Ronin out, and said I should put Audrey into daycare as well. I'm scared to because she is very clingly to me, just like the boys, and I worry that she'll cry up a storm and I'll be called out to take her back. I also don't want to cause a disturbance in either the playgroup or the daycare.

"Why not? If you don't, some other kid will, " said Atz. True. "And," she continued, "you have to try to continue to socialize your kids." She's right. It's just hard at this young age, and they're going to have to keep going and trying. All three of them are like velcro.

Shirley is a very nice person and seems very calming. I don't know anything about her DT background but hope that she'll be able to make a difference with Nikko. She seemed genuinely interested in his behavior, asking if he had an oral fixation to explain why he wanted the vitamin. I hope she will get used to Nikko and his nonverbal, gutteral ways. She didn't mind Audrey at all, and remarked on Ronin's big cheeks.

I got lunch going and our afternoon was about chilling out, when Denis came home early. There was an estimate for a new HVAC system going on. Nikko was trying to ask about vitamins again, but I diverted him to the Cocoa Krispies instead. Which leads me to a conversation I had today on the phone with Shelly. I posed the vitamin situation to her that I wrote about yesterday and she was kind, but firm in her advice. She told me what I already knew would be the answer but am dreading it, that I should not give in to Nikko and give him a vitamin at his request. I could made a vitamin time, using a picture, but if it's NO then it's NO and I'll have to wait out his tantrums. Shelly also told me kindly that I have to be The Rock about it. She told me that I have to be unwavering and like a Rock, steady and solid. It's funny because I have told myself that in this family I do have to be The Rock and be consistent, be the person that the kids know will help them, be there for them, love them and support them. I think I thought that even before I started blogging, just never wrote it down.

Another time that Nikko was headed toward the vitamins in the cabinet I led him back to the living room and diverted his attention to the bean bags I bought from CP. I opened the package and tossed them into a nearby bucket. It became a game that Ronin was eager to join. Much later into the night, Nikko came across the Oball Football and started tossing it over his shoulder or in an attempt to throw it forward. He seemed to enjoy this activity and it made him sweaty before bathtime. I enjoyed watching him and told Ronin not to bother Nikko when the ball fell into Ronin's path, surely to be snatched up in envy. A tired Nikko, who didn't nap all day, protested a little bit when Denis left his room after prayers and didn't stick around, but he didn't cry for very long. I think he was just too tired. Tomorrow we have speech therapy, I have a chiro appointment, and I'm going to try to squeeze in some errands to the grocery if that's possible. I haven't decided if I should leave Audrey with Chinny just yet.

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