By now, anyone reading my blog has probably figured out that Gray is not the Rainman version of a child with autism. He is not just a quirky kid who would be eligible for a mainstream education someday. He is not strong in some areas and weak in others. He is weak in pretty much all areas except for maybe a short sprint event. Gray is severly disabled. I think that this is, in part, due to the fact that Gray has other diagnoses besides just autism.
For example, Gray also has a diagnosis of Childhood Apraxia of Speech. This means that the part of his brain responsible for coordinating the movements in his mouth and throat is not functioning properly. When Gray tries to speak (which he does pretty often), it comes out as a completely unintelligible jumble of sounds. There are other people who have this diagnosis who can learn to be successful talkers with lots of intense speech therapy, but (after years of intense speech therapy) it is clear that Gray’s other cognitive and general language problems make this an unattainable goal right now.
Gray also has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Simply put, this means that he cycles through episodes of highs and lows. In Gray, the lows are periods of crying, head-banging, biting himself or tearing at his clothes and general distress that may or may not have a clearly identified cause. These periods are hard to watch because you feel badly for the little guy and want to help him, but generally, you just have to wait out the storm.
The highs, or mania, are another thing entirely. For Gray, when mania takes over, it is like he has been possessed. He runs around the room, laughs hysterically, knocks things off tables, pulls people’s hair, pinches, slaps, climbs furniture, and generally causes rapid destruction. It’s scary. This is not bad behavior that can be reached with discipline. This is a physiological change that affects his whole body. His eyes look wild, his face turns red, he drinks incredible amounts of liquid, he urinates or defecates many times per hour, and he is clearly unreachable by any outside intervention.
That’s where we have been for the last couple of days. Gray’s medications are meant to address this problem, but I am astounded by his body’s ability to break through this medical intervention. Unfortunately, Gray’s medications are in constant need of adjustment. We will be adjusting again, I guess.
It is clear to me that this is not an area where Hope can help Gray. She is, after all, just a dog. This is one of the situations that makes me glad I got our dog from ASDA. As I have mentioned before, ASDA trains their dogs to cope with a range of “autistic” behaviors without getting upset or frightened. During training, the dogs experience gentle slaps and hair pulling and startles with immediate treats given afterwards. This teaches the dogs not to see things as a threat. It is up to me and Gray’s teacher to make sure and keep this up so that Hope doesn’t become adverse to Gray and his crazy behavior. There have been LOTS of treats for Hope this week. G-d bless her calm demeanor. She is a model for us all.