Help! Solving the Puzzle of Our Non-Verbal Child

Have you been here?

We typically deal with short bursts of Logan angst and anger.

Inability to communicate, combined with frustration and not understanding the world around him, mean that Logan, non-verbal and autistic, will sometimes hurt himself or others, destroy furniture or otherwise rage against the world.

The thing is, yes, Logan does this. Sometimes. But Logan is also highly distractable. I like to call it the gift and curse of a short attention span. The specialist has called it a complete lack of impulse control because of the damage to his frontal lobe. Whatever the case may be, his tantrums usually run to a fast and furious conclusion.

Lately, though, it seems to be getting harder and harder to redirect him, distract him, otherwise pull him from wherever this place in his head is. We’re running out of options, and today we ran out of ideas, steam, and for a while there, a bit of my optimistic personality.

I wonder, sometimes, about the inner workings of his mind.

His inquisitiveness and charming personality, for the most part, pull a veil over the child who is floundering in an overwhelming world.

What, I wonder, did he make of the trip to the store today, the strange people and bright lights? He openly stared past countless people as he marched toward the object in his affection, in this case the display of furniture in the back of the department store. One brown couch was his favorite, and he rolled delightedly over the smooth surface.

It was the label, I think, that truly started the downward cycle. Maybe he thought it didn’t belong on the couch? That the paper was somehow offending him? Maybe it interrupted the natural lines of the piece? 

He wanted to yank it. Redirection wasn’t an option – he was single-minded in his determination to have that label. Interupting the pursuit of his prize made his eyes fall on another blemish on his fine brown couch: the display sign the sales staff had mistakenly placed on the couch itself. Well, he thought, that just wasn’t right. 

We left five minutes later, Logan screaming his way through the store, desperate to go back and reclaim his brown couch, the scattered remnants of the sign, and his rightful place as the king of our world. 

What went wrong?

This was hardly the single moment in this day gone horribly wrong. Logan hasn’t been able to go through one hour without having a complete meltdown today. He has a scratch along one eye that we didn’t even see happen. And his father and I? We have bruises and wounded souls. 

He has been so angry. Self-injurious. The extremity of this has made us truly scared, not for the first time, about this little guy as he ages. What happens when he gets bigger? When he can’t be held?

I feel like I am this horrible parent for admitting to myself that the future sometimes scares me. Not all the time. As you undoubtedly realize by now, I’m a pretty easy going mommy. I try hard to stay that way. Overreacting to the craziness of our lives on a constant basis would just drive me batty. And I’ve been batty enough in my life, thank you very much.

While this has been a day of extremes for our normally happy-go-lucky little guy, he has been having more trouble over the last week or so. There have been no major changes, no differences in food or anything else we can point to and say aha! There’s the culprit! 

Can you help?

I can use all the suggestions and ideas you guys can throw at me! Jim and I have been hurting so badly over this today. Our little guy is trying to tell us something, and we can’t figure it out.

Adding to that little voice in the back of my head, is the overwhelmed and emotional toll today has taken. I feel like I am letting him down and letting myself down.

You know how I said once that I am not this perfect mommy? That I sometimes feel a bit broken inside?

Today, I broke. And I am still trying to put myself together again, because tomorrow is another day. I’m tired and my optimism is a thin little thread.

We could use your thoughts and prayers, but also, suggestions. Can you think of something for us to watch out for or even something that maybe just slipped our mind?

I would greatly appreciate the help and friendship.  –Kat

Katrina Moody

Katrina Moody

Graphic Designer, Wordpress Addict, Blogger at Kat's Media & More
I'm a special needs parent before just about everything else in life, but also a passionate advocate for my three boys and husband, who all have a bit of awesomeness about them. Awesomeness = Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome, Autism, Epilepsy, Dyslexia, Cerebral Palsy, and more. It all adds up to some awesome kids and an amazing family.
Katrina Moody
Katrina Moody
  • http://www.lostandtired.com Rob Gorski

    First of all, I'm so sorry for the day you all had. Trust me when I say I understand, because I do. You referred to damage to his frontal lobe. Do you mean physical or bio-chemical. Emmett is our youngest and he rages as well. We struggle everyday with communication. We have had to incorporate ASL (American Sign Language). Emmett had NO words or language prior to ASL. However, something about the ASL caused things to just start clicking.

    I always hate giving advice like this because EVERYONE is different. However, if there is anything I can do please let me know. You aren't alone. I might suggest that you join our facebook support group. I tried moving it to an actual forum but no one seems to want to move.
    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_1245195

    Request to be added and I'll add you as soon as I see it. We have all been there and so it's a great place to build connections and bounce ideas or simply vent.

    I hope this helps. You guys are in our thoughts and prayers.

    Rob

    • http://katscafe.wordpress.com katscafe

      I know you guys get it, Rob. Man do I know. His damage was due to a brain bleed when he was (they think) still in utero. The ASL is what saved us with our other two guys, but with Logan there has been such inconsistent results of any kind. Nothing has seemed to help as much, because nothing seems to work and stay working.
      I joined the support group, as you know, and thanks for the link and for approving it. I wrote a small book in introduction. *grin* You know me well enough by now, I can honestly say you're one of the most honest folks I've come across as another autistic parent. It is so easy to gloss over the days like this. And I just couldn't do it. If I'm going to present the days where I can be strong and can deal well with what's going on, I think it's only fair to let folks know that I am only human … and I break just as easily as the rest.
      As you know, though, tomorrow is always another day. *hugs* Thanks for the support.
      Kat

  • Kristen

    Oh Kat I'm sorry to hear things got a little tough. You are fighting a battle every day that no mother should ever have to, but you love your boys and that gives you your faith and your strength. I will be saying prayers for you and your boys, and I know this is only a little set back. You are allowed to have your tough days, but when it comes down to it you are not truly broken as you think you are. God has given you the strength to be an amazing mother and I know you will be just fine. I will definitely keep you guys in my prayers, and please let me know if you ever need anything more. Love you Kat!

    • http://katscafe.wordpress.com katscafe

      Kristen – thank you! I sometimes just feel like there are pieces of me scattered around. It has helped as folks have stepped forward here and at Facebook to show me that they care, offer suggestions, and just be there. You know my faith is always a large part of who I am, and it does help me, uplift me. I think posting and asking for the help and the prayers is the biggest thing, because sometimes even the strong break. The distinction is that what is broken can be reformed. With friends like you *hugs* and Rob and others who have reached out to me, I've also been able to step out and put words to these kinds of days. Other parents need to know that these tough days are the ones that remind us why we're fighting. You're right, I think, Kristen, I don't think I'm quite as broken as I thought I was yesterday. That's the hope that comes from a new day, and good friends. Thanks for standing in my corner and lifting me and the gang up in prayer. *massive hugs* Love you too!

  • http://shilohscorner.blogspot.com/ Ruthie

    Kat, I am so sorry this happened. I wish I could be there for you more. Hugs and prayers for you. I am always here for you if you need to talk. I am glad you have found some support though. Keeping you and the family lifted up. Love you all.

    • http://katscafe.wordpress.com katscafe

      Thanks Ruth – always appreciate the love and support, and prayers! Congrats on your big day and sorry I've been so distracted from giving you a virtual hug *hug*

  • Heather

    Days like that can be so draining and disheartening!! While it's been a while since I was walking in shoes similar to yours, the heart break those days brought still resonates. Many prayers headed your way! I did want to mention the possibility that he might be coming down with something. I know with my guys, the start of an illness can do a real number on how they cope with life in general. Sincerely hope this helps and that today is a better day for all!!! Big hugs!!

    I

    I di

    • http://katscafe.wordpress.com katscafe

      Thanks Heather.
      I was getting ready to try and put into words – just figured out at least part of the equation – he's been having multiple seizures while sleeping – figured out when he had a nasty spike of exhaustion and twitched his way through the afternoon while sleeping away the day. He's been fighting a cold for several weeks that just won't go away – maybe it's finally lowered his reserves? Thanks again. Hugs are always welcome!
      Kat

  • Kim Quinn

    I won't presume to offer advice, my girls needs are different than your little guys, so I haven't walked your path. So all I can offer is my prayers.

    • Katrina

      Kim, as you well know – prayers are worth everything! Thank you! And I love seeing you back again. :-)

  • http://www.swish4fish.com Gerry

    I have no magic bullets but here are a few ideas that might help you and Logan…

    1) Try getting Logan out into nature. the woods, fields of daisies, anywhere away from people and man made stuff. Just see what happens. It may provide some insights as to possible forms of stress reduction, sources of over-stimulation, etc.

    2) if possible, spend time with Logan doing some form of brain-gym type exercises, crawling on the floor, Cross-walking, etc. to engage left and right hemispheres.

    3) Limit trips, new stimulations and people exposure (as much as is practicle) to less than one hour at a time.

    4) Teach (install) specific non-verbal communications so he can let you know when its time to go or when something is wrong (in his world).

    Consider changing the decor of your home (lazure painting to soften the walls (esp. corners) less hard-edge furniture (more rounded furniture), lots and lots of plants, NO fluorescent lights.

    As someone who used to see invisible planes extending from every corner and every right angle of every wall, every floor pattern, every piece of furniture, (acute angles and interruptions in unexpected places were even worse)I can appreciate Logan's 'concern' with the tags and signs.

    Over the years, I've developed a number of non-verbal communication and stress reduction exercises for my ASD students but as every child is different there's no one-size fits all.

    Again, these are just a few thoughts off the top of my own ASD head. Hope it helps. Best of luck.

    • Katrina

      Gerry –
      Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and for including so much great information for us to consider. Logan LOVES being outside so I love the idea of having him reconnect a bit with nature. I'm pretty sure we eliminated all the fluorescent lighting. (MY oldest has vision issues as well so we're careful in trying to use natural lighting as much as possible). I'll be looking at this list more closely and had to take a moment to say WOW about your website as well. So much information there for me to pour over!
      With three on the spectrum we are constantly looking for ways to challenge and motivate them!