I feel like a lot has been put on hold while we dealt with the major upheaval that is moving house with two autistic children, and sorting out the last of those ties that my ex-husband and I have financially. We're almost there. I think we have this co-parenting thing down as well as, if not better than most too, and I'm pretty proud of that. For so long though everything has been a matter of "After we sell the house...", "After we move...", that I seem to have forgotten what exactly I was going to do once those things were settled. When I was so busy it was also easy to not focus on how I was feeling, or to look too far into the future and worry. Logistically we're settled now. The worst is over as far as supporting the boys to transition to the new place. It feels like home. But those things I was going to do? I can't quite remember. I know I have a plan somewhere for the Little One with what I needed to do next with him, but more pressing is the need to stop and to breathe for a moment.
I tried really hard to ignore that feeling- it's just not possible right now. The kids need me. The Little One has a list of things he needs, and Bubbly especially is having a hard time of it at the moment. We've had to change his meds again, and we just don't seem to be able to get the right mix for him. The last couple of days have been like having the preschool aged Bubbly back again, except that at 3-4 years old I didn't have what he was capable of last year in my head. He's regressing and it scares me. I try to tell myself that he's just preparing for a big leap forward as he usually does, but it feels different this time. The thing is, he's not unhappy, far from it- but it's in my face over and over again just how severe he truly is, and today was a frustrating and potentially dangerous example.
It was already a rough day. With the addition of another medication Bubbly's ADHD meds seem to have been rendered useless, and his sensory seeking is giving me flashbacks of harder days. He needed to stay inside as he hurt his foot yesterday and had a nasty cut that he wouldn't keep covered. We did go for a drive to get out for a while, and I tried to keep both boys entertained (and failed miserably). When the Little One went for his nap I resisted the urge to collapse on the lounge, and tried to engage Bubbly in some activities he likes in the sunroom, which is his favourite spot in the new house. Evidently he wasn't keen though because he got up and started to shut the glass sliding door. This door is a bit tricky and has a habit of deadlocking itself (it's the pre-extension back door). I normally have my keys in my pocket for that reason- but for the first time today they were hanging up near the front door- and though I raced to stop him, he got that door shut, and it locked itself. Bubbly realised right away that he couldn't open it again. He tried a few times, and I jiggled and tugged at it to no avail.
Bubbly looked at the door, at me, and back at the door. He didn't lose it. He doubled over with laughter, waved, and yelled "BYE!!!" before bounding away to the lounge room.
I stayed calm. I knew The Little One's window was accessible from this room and not totally closed because there's a phone cord running through there to to the sunroom. When I got my contents insurance they told me that the style of windows we have (roller handles make them open outwards) are more easy to break in through, so I assumed I could easily break in. Do you think I could pry it open though? It may as well have been reinforced steel. I'm really questioning the extra on my premium now for these "less secure" windows!
So I knocked on the back door. I could see Bubbly happily sifting what I thought was ash from the (cold) fireplace. After a bit of knocking and calling him he looked up.
"Buddy, I need your help" and I signed "help".
He bounced to the door, signed back and said "hep". Then he tried the door again, and after much coaxing I got him to try to flick the lock, praying it wasn't really deadlocked. It was. He waved again, and said "Bye", like it was no big deal, smiled, and ran off again.
After trying again to pry the window open, I went back and knocked again. "Bubbly, help Mum?"
"Hep" and he giggled.
"Go to Little One's room. Find Mum."
He pointed. "Mum"
I tried again. One step this time.
"Go into Little One's room"
He looked at me funny and ran away again to resume his sifting.
He knows he's not allowed in his brother's room.
We repeated this routine a few more times. I stayed calm. It didn't seem quite real and The Little One was still asleep. I did have my phone in my pocket though (thank GOD!) so I called Daddy thinking he might be able to break in. He came straight over and we talked tactics through the gate, which of course I had padlocked to prevent the boys or dog escaping.
There's a small hole in the screen door. If Bubbly could get the keys (which he'd done this morning to tell me he wanted to go in the car) he could poke them through the hole in the screen to Daddy and all would be fine. So I listened to Daddy knocking on the window behind Bubbly- who giggled at silly Daddy and continued ripping apart my fake potted palm (the polystyrene under the fake soil was the white stuff I'd thought was ash).
I knocked on the rear door again.
"Bubbly, open the door for Daddy."
I got excited when he went and opened the wooden door.
"Dad!!!" He giggled again and ran back to the lounge and the polystyrene he was making snow around the room (he even turned the fan on so it swirled around like in "Frozen").
"Bubbly, get the keys for Daddy"
He got up, went to the door, and I heard him say "Key!". Daddy said he was pointing at them, but he just didn't seem to get that we needed him to get them down. We tried every way of asking him to get the keys down but it just didn't gel. So Daddy climbed over the 8ft gate and tried to help me break into Little One's window again. Again we were unsuccessful.
I tried again to get Bubbly to go to his brother's room to see Daddy in the window. He finally went to the room and peered around the door frame. He saw us. He giggled. He reached in and touched his brother's foot, and he bolted out of the room he knows he's not meant to go into!
While all this was happening I tried calling six "24 hour local locksmiths" (it was 2:30pm Sunday by now). Only one answered, and he was an hour away. I was starting to sound a little frantic by now and explained that my disabled child and toddler were inside alone, and he said to call him back if we could't get anyone. I called an insurance company who were happy to sign me up for a fee but would then be an hour or so. We didn't have that long so they suggested the fire department to break a window.
"We can do that ourselves." said Daddy.
So we chose the least dangerous window- over the kitchen sink with the fly screen on the inside to stop the glass, and of course then Bubbly came to watch us through it and to dunk the tomatoes I had ripening on the window sill into the abandoned washing up water in the sink. The window was the same as the others in the house.
"Bubbly, the handle. Turn handle for Mum?"
He waved and gestured around it several times, pleased to identify it for me.
I gestured "Turn handle. Round and round."
After a few repetitions he managed to crack it a few millimetres, and took off again.
Then he returned with the tv remote because it'd gone onto standby mode.
"Buddy, first open the window please? Round and round" It cracked open the tiniest fraction, and he returned to the window with a honey jar. "Hun?"
"Yeah buddy, open window then Mum can get honey."
He went to the drawer and got a spoon, and took off with the honey. So independent when he wants to be!
By this stage Daddy had a brick. He tried gently to break the glass, then had me check Bubbly was in the other room, aimed and threw it. The breaking sound gave me flashbacks of Bubbly running head first through a window last May, but I sucked it up and talked to Bubbly through the door when he came to investigate the smashing noises. That was the first time he began to look upset. Until then he'd thought the entire situation was highly amusing.
Daddy climbed in (I'd have had no chance!) and opened up. We cleaned up the glass, we cardboarded the window, and we cleaned up the polystyrene "snow" that was EVERYWHERE inside. The Little One slept through the entire ordeal.
So we survived unscathed other than the cost of a new window pane. I'm not a wreck because no one got hurt, but it's made me think, not only about the spare keys that I will be having cut tomorrow, but about how to proceed from here with Bubbly. He locked that door twice more this evening so he clearly didn't link up what had happened. At seven years old he struggled to follow very simple one step instructions. His communication stopped at identifying objects or people most of the time- and this was in a happy, baseline state. If he'd been distressed things could have been so much worse. I'm also conscious that at the end of last year he probably could have followed a couple of those instructions with enough repetition. There's a clear regression there, and it's not just with the move and the med change- it's been building for months now. I don't know where to go from here, but in the days ahead I'll be talking to people who I hope will have some ideas for us.