A Lesson in Physics

Hooke’s law of elasticity is an approximation that states that the Force (load) is in direct proportion with the extension of a material as long as this load does not exceed the proportional limit.

Yield Stress: on a stress strain graph beyond the yield point (or elastic limit) the material will no longer return to its original length. This means it has become permanently deformed. Therefore the yield stress is the level of stress at which a material will deform permanently.

I’m beginning to understand why television moms with children on the spectrum are always portrayed as Type A, overstressed, controlling, and always at their breaking point. I used to think it was an unfair stereotype, but I’m beginning to see this may be an inevitable state of being.

I usually pride myself in being a fairly laid back person for the most part. The last few weeks have been trying to say the least between prepping for two back to school weeks for Olive as she’s enrolled in both a general education and special education preschool program with two different (both new) teachers with two different start weeks, we have a new ABA supervisor who started recently, and both of Olive’s occupational and speech therapy services needed to be renewed this month as well.

In theory these should all be fairly simple tasks and changes as my daughter is in preschool, not college and renewal requests should only involve her speech/OT office faxing paperwork to her doctor’s office. But when you combine the military healthcare system with the amount of paperwork involved with a child with special needs, problems and balls dropping seem to grow exponentially.

The first trigger of stressful eye twitching began when I went to pick Olive up from her first day in her general education classroom and I discovered that Olive’s case manager for her IEP never transferred her IEP to her GE preschool teacher. Not only had that not happened, but no one from the special education department or administration told the teacher that Olive was coming from the special education program or that Olive had ASD. Luckily, when Olive did have an incident that day in which she became upset, the teacher was able to talk it out with her, but it could have easily escalated and gone into the direction of a meltdown. Which is why when I realized that Olive had walked into her first day of preschool without a safety net, the part of me that constantly worries that  one of the balls I juggle for her will drop was crushed. Even though I knew I did everything I could have done to make sure that she was prepared for her first day of school, things still could have gone wrong. As a special needs parent, one of my coping mechanisms is to be as prepared as I can and to make her routines well managed and run smoothly. I contacted the program manager the day of the preschool orientation to make sure I didn’t forget anything, I hand delivered her IEP and authorization requests to the doctor’s office so her speech and occupational therapy wouldn’t be disrupted, I went back to school shopping and hand picked super soft t-shirts, socks, and stretch pants that I knew she could dress herself  before school and that I knew she wouldn’t refuse to wear (no dresses, no skirts, all cotton). I spent hours searching Pinterest for tree-nut free protein options and fun lunch ideas that I could pack for school because Olive refuses to eat any cheese, sandwiches, and most bread. Most of the time, she will only eat hot mac and cheese, nuggets, peanut butter on crackers, spaghetti, and Lunchables (which I know most schools prefer parents not pack).

There’s a reason when you see parents with kids on the spectrum they often have oversized calendars, schedulers filled with appointments, reminders, information, meetings, etc. They are always at therapies, meetings with schools, or doctor’s offices trying to advocate for something, push paperwork, or even just to get all of her services on the same page. I have a binder that (when I’m organized) has all of her paperwork for all of her therapies, referrals, respite logs, IEPs, etc.

Parents with kids on the spectrum may have refrigerators stockpiled for the five meals their kids will actually eat and  travel with a Costco sized cooler with preferred snacks, a favorite blanket, and a tablet because they know that the likelihood of the BBQ serving anything their child will actually eat is minuscule, but chances are their child will need to escape their surroundings at some point during the outing.

I spend most of my time trying to control what I can to make sure Olive has access to all the resources she will need in order to be successful, but no matter what I do there will always be elements that are out of my control. I’m writing this today because even though I delivered paperwork three weeks ago, one of my referrals was denied because the IEP wasn’t received and the authorization which I resubmitted later was not the right one (partially one of my balls dropping and partially speech and medical offices messing up on their end). I had to make three phone calls (the last one I was on the phone for an hour) to sort out the snafu so that her speech services aren’t disrupted and we don’t lose our slot on the schedule (it is next to impossible to get two back to back occupational and speech appointments and I cannot lose my spot). It ended in the doctor’s office promising to call me back (and if I miss their call I have no way to call them back because it’s a general appointment line). I spent an hour after the phone call with my phone attached to me while I tried to find the rest of the missing pieces for “Don’t Wake Hank” so Olive could use it during ABA. Somewhere between finding tentacle number 5 and 6 I misplaced my phone. It won’t ring for me when I call it from my computer and I can’t find it after looking for over an hour. I want to break down and cry and throw something and yell and scream but we are in the middle of an ABA session at my house and I cannot of course break down right now. Which is why I’m writing this.

Because I can’t magically make my phone appear. I know I will find it and I will sort out the mounting pile of paperwork that has become our day to day life and we will fix this problem eventually. Because some days I don’t have it all together and that’s OK. I’m also reminding myself that of all the bad days, I’ve survived 100% of them so far and that’s a pretty good record.