We have been home on vacation this week and we have ridden quite a crazy roller coaster. At the beginning of break I felt like things were going actually better than they had been going during the school year, however now I am having to face the reality that things can't be qualified as better or worse, but actually just different.
Matthew's behaviors have become more extreme and more concerning:
1. He stole $19 worth of candy at a store when we were shopping. Now many have said, "all kids do this"however for Matthew it is different.
** he does not understand that taking things is wrong
** no consequence I have imposed has had an effect on him
** his response to going back to the store and paying for the candy was, "it's ok, they gave me money back".
You can't teach money concepts to a child who doesn't understand it. To him the $19 was equivalent to the $1 bill he received as change. It is all made of paper, all green and essentially all the same. We have talked about money for years, we have spent money together, we have talked about what he can afford and can't afford when he has a certain amount to spend. He can do this all with anyone, but he doesn't see a difference between a $3 skateboard toy and a $30 skateboard so he does not understand the value of items and he doesn't actually value them differently.
2. He is threatening his brothers. This is the worst thing for me as a mom. It is hard to see Matthew so upset that he starts talking about hitting his brothers. It is harder still to see his brother so scared. There is nothing I can do to make it better for them in the moment. When things got really bad on Saturday night I had a friend come pick up J and D, but that still causes them stress and trauma. They still were here for the beginning of the intensity and they worry when they leave with a friend about what is happening when they are gone.
3. He stole food at his grandparents house today. All he has to do is ask for food and he can have something. Sure, sometimes he is offered just a piece of fruit, but that is still something and if he is hungry, he will eat it. He took handfuls full of crackers at his grandparents and shoved them in his pockets. When we found them he screamed, he cried, he yelled, he denied, and he tantrummed. Finally, the truth came out and he was so upset.
In many ways I know that for him to have taken food from his grandparents, the problem is beyond his abilities. It is all he thinks about. All day and all night he is obsessing about food.
That said, no matter how much you obsess, you can't just take what you want. You have to ask. He has to check in with an adult. Yet in this house with 2 adults who know everything that is going on, he managed to get to the crackers and shove them in his pocket and lay on the couch eating some.
For me it was reassuring that even 2 people cannot always monitor Matthew. It was also a sad, sad reality. He is typically on his best behavior at my parents house because he wants to make them happy. To see that today he couldn't even keep it together at their house says things are getting bad quickly.
4. Another one of Matthew's obsessions is cigarettes. Yesterday Matthew was at Target with his respite provider and he said he had to go to the bathroom. He went into the bathroom and apparently found someone with a cigarette in their mouth. Apparently while the man was using the urinal Matthew told him he shouldn't smoke. You can imagine how well this went over, especially given that this man was not totally stable himself. The many yelled at Matthew and Matthew quickly ran from the bathroom.
This raises more issues- he is an 11 year old boy, he has to be able to use the boys bathroom. However, in the boys bathroom there is no one to monitor him and he cannot take care of himself. In this case, how is he safe? He isn't. And again, with the respite staff it was just 1:1, there were no other kids to take care of and yet he still struggled.
I decided after the tantrum Friday, Saturday and today that Matthew is not safe at home. This is the hardest decision a parent of a child has to make. There is no line in the sand that says, "yep, this is when your child needs to be hospitalized". It is a gut feeling. It is the feeling for me that my other boys are struggling too much. It is Jacob's need to not leave my side. It is Jacob crying, and David getting quieter. It is Jacob chewing on his sleeves, and David picking his fingers. It is my own feeling that without help we may not get through the night without a tantrum.
So I worked up my nerve and I called 4 Winds hospital. I was ready to take Matthew tonight. We need help, my boy is screaming for help......and there are no beds.....there may be a bed tomorrow, but there may not. Who knows how long it will take until there is a bed? How long do we wait?
Are we safe to wait? I will make us safe....I will call for help. I will set up playdates for the younger boys. I will schedule breaks and we will do our best. But, if you needed any other kind of medical help, you would go to the ER and there would be help. There is no ER to go to. There is no help. Our system is broken, when a little 11 year old boy is in need of help and there is simply no help for him!
I am sharing our story because we have to have a change. Mental health needs have got to become a priority for our country. My son did nothing wrong to deserve his struggles, and on the right meds he may be healthier. If any of you, know anyone, or know someone who knows someone, please speak up. We have to make caring for those with mental health needs a focus so more parents can hit bottom, and make that call to the psyciatric hospital and get their child help, rather than coming home and worrying how many days, weeks, or months it will be before a bed is available.
- I am a single mom of three amazing boys! All three of my sons entered my family through adoption. All three of my boys have developmental disabilities. My oldest son, Matthew has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder. David, my middle son, has a genetic condition, he has a duplication on his 15th chromosome which leads to autism like symptoms, seizures and learning challenges. My youngest son, Jacob has learning disabilities. Each of my children bring unique challengs to our family and also bring their own personality and joys to our everyday life!