Toast ,cheese, peanut butter, raisins, watermelon, Hot dogs, Quesadillas ..I used to put bean paste on those, but that didn’t pass. (Wait, I just heard the word bean paste ,and I thought , HA, NO WONDER!) Pasta, w butter and cheese. Oatmeal, Blueberries,on every second Tuesday if they don’t look too weird to him.

These are the foods my four-year old will eat. You can find anything on the internet… but how to handle or treat the super-duper annoying traits in the PDD-NOS or Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specific?…. behavior therapy.Wow, could you be any more vague?

What the hell is PDD-NOS , you ask? It means is that he could have a little of this behavior, a lot of that behavior. It’s a potpourri of developmental issues, but the primary symptoms seem to fit him perfectly. Here’s what I got from Wiki:

Because PDD-NOS is a spectrum disorder, not every child shows the same signs. The two main characteristics of the disorder are difficulties with social interaction skills and communication. Signs are often visible in babies but a diagnosis is usually not made until around age 4 Even though PDD-NOS is considered milder than typical autism, this is not always true. While some characteristics may be milder, others may be more severe.Once a child with PDD-NOS enters school, he or she will often be very eager to interact with classmates, but may act socially different from peers and be unable to make genuine connections. As they age, the closest connections they make are typically with their parents. Children with PDD-NOS have difficulty reading facial expressions and relating to feelings of others. They may not know how to respond when someone is laughing or crying. Literal thinking is also characteristic of PDD-NOS. They will most likely have difficulty understanding figurative speech and sarcasm. Inhibited communication skills are a sign of PDD-NOS that begin immediately after birth. Infants with PDD-NOS may not babble; as they age, they may not speak at the age at which speech develops in typical people. Once verbal communication begins, vocabulary is often limited. Some characteristics of language-based patterns are repetitive or rigid language, narrow interests, uneven language development, and poor nonverbal communication. A very common characteristic of PDD-NOS is severe difficulty grasping the difference between pronouns, particularly between you and me when conversing, as in this exchange:

Parent: Do you want to color this or do you want me to? Child: Me. Here, because the parent used the word me to describe himself or herself, the child thinks that “me” is applicable to the parent regardless of who the speaker is. The child does not understand, without intervention, that the assignment of me depends on the speaker, not to whoever spoke it first.

That’s it. And I’m reeling because this is my son. And it is definitely, absolutely-no-more-denying-it on the autism spectrum. Or something that is exactly what it’s like to live with a smaller version of rain man.

I had been confidently telling my friends and family over the last year that he was not autistic. We thought, he’s just a little different. But then there is the noise. He clears his throat like a deaf 80-year-old  trying to hock up fifty-year old chew.       He will sometimes make this sound approximately 15 times in a half an hour. Reader, it’s awful. And loud. Then there are the thousand different, other spontaneous noises that he makes in endless (and did I mention loud?) varieties. High-pitched squeaks or chirps, imitation whistles, guttural belly yells, grunts or mad giggling that  borders dangerously on a cackle.. It can be an assault on the nervous system. Not to mention ones’ ears.

Is that in the wiki description? No it is not. Nor is the extreme anger and aggression he displays toward his younger brother. This is where the ugly lives. Right there. Because when someone is hurting your baby, it doesn’t matter that it’s your other baby doing the hurting. All mama knows is that her baby is crying, and brothers face reflects such rage that it is impossible not to react. Fingers have been dug into shoulders. Angry hands not stopping before a mark is printed. Shame is mixed in hues of purple and red finger lines. But it’s all still ‘normal’, right?

The moment when I think I knew knew that something was absolutely, definitely off was when he went directly in the path of a car when my extremely urgent voice had been telling him to move to the sidewalk. “MOVE!, I commanded, “get out of the street, can’t you see there’s a car coming?” I put my hand between his shoulder blades and pushed, rather firmly. He, resisting, bent forward to evade my hand, threw his balance off and fell out, right there in the middle of the street. Now, the street leading to my home is a very long, gently curving hill, and we are about ¾ to the top of it, and you can see a car coming from many hundreds of yards away. So I got him up and onto the sidewalk with lots and lots of time to spare, so while the speeding car blew the hair off his cheeks, I was furious, not understanding why he couldn’t hear the urgency in my voice, and at my yelling, he exploded in hysterical, wailing tears, mystified and hurt at all the pushing and yelling coming at him. Giving him a direction, or a task, is a trial in patience. God forbid you’re running behind that day. He will point out his own interest instead, ”ma, ma, MA MA!, the train is on the track”, and until you repeat or acknowledge him, he will keep saying it. He attempts to redirect us to his interest nearly every conversation. I hated the blank stare that would come over him if I were asking a question. Any question. Reader, the denial is dead. My son has PDD-NOS. Also known as autism. After I typed that sentence, I was sure the room would get quieter. Strangely, it didn’t.

I’m in school at the National Institute of Whole Health. Google It. It’s cool. I’ve wanted to have this kind of information in my brain a long time now. My classes have ranged from ‘Inflammation and Disease’, to ‘Physics and Philosophy’, ‘Mindful Listening’ and ‘Brain Function and Nutrition’. The lectures are by some of the top minds in health today. My first lecture was by Dr. Barry Sears, Author of ‘The Zone’. Really smart guy. This is when I learned about DHA.     I mean, I knew about it, I took it in prenatal vitamins, and in tablespoonfuls of fish oil for many years, but I didn’t really know what it was. When I learned it, I spent the better part of a week going around saying: do co sa hex anoic because it’s that important. Turns out, for the humans? It’s ALL about the long chain fatty acids. And when I started sneaking the stuff in to my son? It worked. Reader, he became happier. Calmer. Sweet to his brother! Started answering questions with answers that actually pertained to the question! Seriously, it’s worth the exclamation point. It was a year of before, (education, application of DHA) and, now suddenly,… it seems we are in an after. I am loving the view from here.

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I met God in a castle on a mountain……… okay, maybe it was more like a Mayan inspired brick house on a hill.  But it seemed like a castle.  It was there I  read the book, ‘Conversations with God’.  In it, ‘God’ says that he/she/it speaks to us all the time..through experiences, song lyrics, commercials, an overheard rant from a vagrant person at a stoplight..essentially, anything that catches your attention could be a message from the divine. All we have to do is pay attention.  Now before you pooh-pooh this possibility,  give it a go.  I did, and blow-my-knickers-up-with-a-whisper, it worked. ‘God’ was listening! and responding to my prayers/thoughts, angst filled rants in my journal. Amazing right? Example you ask? Many, but here’s one of my favorites:                                                               I am watching tv and a promo for a new sitcom appears. I recognize the lead as a young woman I had counseled the year prior about following her dream of acting ( when I say counsel I mean I listened and then prompted her to realize what she already knew)and here she is, the lead in a new NBC sitcom. Well. Despite feeling pleased that she had obviously done well in her pursuits, I also felt deeply morose about my own lack of accomplishment. I went on a mind-fuck bender for a bit, even managing a few tears and a ‘whoas me’ or two.  Then, a commercial catches my attention: A beautiful couple, black-tie dressed, tickets to the opera, a dark and stormy night… in the headlights of their car, stands a wet, miserable looking dog…the couple look at each other, look at their tickets, and the next shot is of the man carrying the wet dog to their car. The screen fades black, and then: IF YOU’VE DONE ONE THING….YOU’VE DONE SOMETHING.

Instantly, I am flooded with many emotions: pride, embarrassment,gratitude, but mostly, love. Because at that very moment, lying comfortably on my bed, is a dog that I had plucked off of the rainy sidewalk just the day before.                                                           I saw that dog, bloodied and obviously exhausted and scared, being avoided by everyone on that sidewalk (because he was a pit bull),and leapt into action, coaxing him with a piece of deli meat. He went immediately to the vet and cost me money I didn’t have to fix him up.  I don’t tell you this to toot my own hero horn, I know that a lot of  people would do the same as I that day. I tell you because when that commercial came on, I understood immediately that I had accomplished something, I made all the difference in the world to that dog, and ‘God’ was giving me a gentle chuck on the chin for my silliness. It was a ‘God’ moment, and it was unmistakable. Also, I was sitting in that previously mentioned castle, rent free.    That was quite something as well. I was actually  living in a historical monument.  It had a view that made me feel like a girl of privilege and possibility.   Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, built  in 1926,and called ‘The Ennis House’.     How in the hell did someone from anyone get to live in a historic monument, you ask?  Well.  Mix cute, nice girl with super old dude in need of a household caretaker, blend just the right amount of opportunity, and zing!  In-sies!     And get your noodle out of the gutter, I did no nasty bits for entry-ever.   Well, I did have to pick up dog doo, and do his laundry, but that’s icky on an entirely tolerable level for living in a castle in the sky, right?   I soaked up every moment like I was  junkie bread mopping up  heroin gravy….I spent many nights star gazing on my window ledge, marveling in this unique spot in the world.  I would  volunteer as a docent and give tours, proud when the group would troop into the room I lived in and I could tell them this was mine, taking credit for nothing more than fortunate circumstance.  I learned quite a bit about the architect, and the reverence for what he’d done in this space made me stop, sit still and listen for the first time in my life.

I’d struggled with faith, or rather, the lack of, my entire life. I grew up without proper supervision, and so ended up being quite short in some significant areas. This was handed home to me by my  then lover whom, when he broke with me, called me a dichotomy, being in love with one half and repelled by the other.  He was very successful, and I was very..not. My astonishing insensitivity to his sensitivities coupled with not having a clue what I was supposed to do with my life, led to a premature end of my first significant love.  I did nothing but sit still for some time after that, medicating with wine and weed, not even attempting to recover the sense of belief I’d had of myself, because even though God did speak to me, in that beautiful house on the hill, my ears may have well been stuffed with stones because I did not hear it. I did not believe in me and  I went on, wounded and stumbling, for years…  Although I stared and stared, there was no blueprint in the stars..your purpose is what you say it is , and I had nothing to say then. It is mine alone to bear..and yet what saddens me  most to this day is that I did not really listen, really hear what I’d heard from God that first time, in the Ennis House on the hill.  I did the thing I feared the most- I stayed in the shallow end of life.  I refused to believe that I had something to offer.                                                                It took far too long for me to figure out what it is I’m supposed to be doing with my life..how to utilize my gifts. I’d found a good job, the kind with just enough of the lies you tell yourself to avoid the real rainbow. Only now, eleven years later, am I taking my first steps toward who it is I truly am.  Prompted again by a heartache, but  this time held up and encouraged by someone who did not turn away from my flaws, ( helped, surely because I did not repeat the mistakes I made)  who loves me, really loves me. And that has made all the difference.