Brain Rotting Fun?

When Jaylen was a year old, he had a tendency to become addicted to certain things.  We didn’t know it was Autism yet, but knew him not connecting with us, retreating into his own world, and filling and dumping buckets for hours was strange.  I can still hear his first home therapist’s nervous and appalled laughter as she told me not to let him fill and dump or play with dirt for more than a half hour.  Who knew?  I thought he was just really independent.

One of his “things” was TV.  He loved certain shows and could watch Noggin (now Nick Jr.) for hours on end.  I always judged those parents who let the TV babysit their kids before I had kids of my own.  For us, the only alternative to tantrums, self injurious behavior, the constant filling and dumping, or spinning in circles was TV.  So we let him watch.

Fast forward 4 years and Jaylen is really not into TV much at all.  He will request an episode of SpongeBob most days.  According to him, “I don’t watch little kid shows anymore, just big kid ones.”  Which is crap because as soon as Xavi is watching a “little kid” show his eyes are glued to the screen.

In the winter, we watch more TV out of cabin fever and boredom.  Now the weather is nice, we are out most of the day, and when we come in the TV just stays off.  As long as they are not asking for it, why use it?  Every once in a while they will be hyper or fighting and TV is a good way to calm them down.  Sometimes I need to get work done and the TV does babysit for a half hour.  Overall, it does feel good to find other things to do besides TV.

The boys in 2009
The boys in 2010

Am I one of those people that thinks TV rots kids’ brains?  No.
Do I think it may affect their attention span?  Yes.
Can we find other things for our kids to do to get exercise, interact socially, and learn actively?  Easily.
But do I love when I get a minute to myself as Chuggington is blaring from the playroom?  Absolutely.

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I did it for…

I walked for Jaylen.

I walked for all the kids I know with Autism, who are loving, sometimes frustrated, special kids.

I walked for frustrated parents doing the best they can.

I walked for the parents who just got the diagnosis and are confused, sad, lost, and hopeful.

I walked for people who raise awareness, promote understanding, and do the research to help our kids.

I walked for Jaylen.

(In the pictures: me, my husband Gerald, Jaylen, Xavier, my Mother-in-law “Mimi,” and my sister “Aunt D”)

You Choose: A Brat or A Behavior Disorder

I knew Jaylen was different by the time he was 6 months old.  By one year of age he did not connect with us, was often in his own little world, and was hooked on repetitive actions.  At 16 months, when he was still non verbal despite scoring normally on hearing tests, we began the evaluation/diagnosis journey.

Tantrums were the other huge indication something was “off.”  At the height of his behavior issues, he would tantrum almost every hour, which left he and I exhausted and confused.  Jaylen’s inability to sleep through the night, common for kids with Autism, ensured we were also sleep deprived.

I called a friend who specializes in infants and toddlers with Autism. She told me he was tantrumming for reasons, despite my insistence they came from nowhere.  Sometimes, I knew he was frustrated or annoyed.  Other times I was completely baffled:  Was it pain somewhere he couldn’t communicate?  Did he want me to play a different way?  Did he need more or less stimulation?  Having a non verbal child is frustrating, sad, and incredibly trying.  I give thanks everyday Jaylen was able to learn to communicate.


Sometimes these tantrums would be severe, last up to an hour, and involve self injurious behavior, broken objects, and blood chilling screams.  At the time I thought nothing could be worse.  I felt sorry for myself and hated Autism with a vengeance.  I was beside myself and at the end of each day wondered how I could make it through another.

I assumed neuro-typical terrible two’s would be simple compared to what I went through with Jaylen.  Was I wrong or what?  This kid is a brat!  Those “typical” toddler issues I had read and heard parents complain about are happening and they are loathsome.

Xavier yells at me in full comprehensive sentences.  He tells me how things are going to be.  When he doesn’t get his way he throws things, hits, and bites.  Jaylen couldn’t even say no until he was almost 3, which killed me at the time, but now I almost appreciate.  At least Xavier warns us by yelling, “I’m gonna frow (throw) this fish stick” or whichever object has him upset at the moment.  Oh and the incessant whining…I don’t even want to go there.

Which is worse?  A kid with Autism, SPD, and ODD?  Or a bratty two year old?  I’m going with the two year old.  Maybe it’s because the two year old terror is my current reality. I definitely have more respect for “normie” parents right now.  I realize it’s not all butterflies and rainbows with the omission of special needs.

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One Size Fits All?

Did anyone say, “Distract him!” to you when your baby or toddler was crying? 

I heard that one.  A lot.

I did as they recommended and sang.  I took their advice and I built a tower and knocked it down.  I listened when they suggested I sing and dance and act like a clown to get my son to stop crying, screaming, and tantrumming.  It didn’t work.

Now that I have a neurotypical child I realize for a lot of kids distraction does work.  If Xavi is crying or being a brat I can usually distract him with a song or a flashy toy.  I can feign excitement over the littlest thing and get him to relax.

That wasn’t the case with Jaylen.  He couldn’t be distracted.  In fact, he still can’t be distracted.  He has laser focus on what he wants, when he wants.

I’ve talked before about people not passing judgment or acting as if every one’s situation is the same.  Being a special needs mom has completely opened my eyes to the reality that each child is different.  What works for one probably won’t may not work for another. When I was a teacher, not a parent yet, I didn’t understand or grasp this concept.

My advice for new parents, listen to others suggestions, but remember that you know your child better than anyone else.  If you try something, even something widely used and accepted, and it doesn’t work, then move on. To each his own.

This is my favorite picture ever of Jaylen, “Wait…What?!”

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