I created this blog several years ago, just after my son was first diagnosed with autism. At that time, I didn’t know ANYTHING about autism. What it was, where it came from, and what to expect from the future. Most importantly, I had no idea how to manage the day-to-day challenges presented by my son’s behavior… behavior which seemed completely unpredictable at the time. The hardest thing for me was that he often had melt-downs. Big, scary, hurl-his-tiny-body-on-the-floor-and-scream-and-kick tantrums. He could have a meltdown like this at any time in any place, and I didn’t have the tools to either sense that it was coming or to coax him out of it when he did.
For a long time, I was terrified to go anywhere with G. He hated holding hands. Anytime we had to go someplace involving parking lots or crossing a street, I’d be seized with panic. I could either reach out and grab G’s hand (risking a tantrum) or I could just shadow him with my body (risking that he would bolt in an unexpected direction). The crossing guard at S’s elementary school and I are bonded for life, as she literally SAVED MY SON’S LIFE on the day he jerked his hand out of mine and dashed off the sidewalk unexpectedly, into the street. He was hurtling obliviously through the crosswalk, when Sharon, the crossing guard, stepped between G and the oncoming car with only moments to spare. Often, it felt easier to admit defeat and stay home.
Shortly after his diagnosis, G was enrolled at the public preschool in our town, and received his education and treatment from the AMAZING teachers and therapists there. Right alongside of my son, I received education and support as well. Surprisingly enough, Fruit Loops were the key to our transformation. Within the safe confines of the school hallways, the therapists would use Fruit Loops as an incentive to gradually mold G’s unpredictable behavior. If G would consent to holding his teacher’s hand when crossing the hall from classroom to PE, he could earn a Fruit Loop. Hold hands from PE all the way down the hall and around the corner to the cafeteria? Two Fruit Loops. Hold hands with mom from the classroom all the way to car? Three Fruit Loops. Heck, take the whole bag… just please don’t run in front of a car again!!
For the next several years, I never went ANYWHERE without a bag of Fruit Loops in my pocket. At the time that I created this blog, it felt so strange to me, and a little bit hopeless. I thought I would always be the mom with the sugar cereal close at hand. It feels different to me now, though. It’s been a very long time since I’ve needed to rely on a Fruit Loop as a motivator. G’s behavior has improved so steadily (as well as his language to state what he needs instead of act it out through behavior). My skills as a parent have improved, thanks to the guidance from G’s teachers and therapists. Now, as G and I approach our friend Sharon at the crosswalk, we give and receive friendly waves. Nobody’s life will be risked or saved today! Now the title “Froot Loops Blog” serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come, and an inspiration to keep trying even when it feels scary or hopeless. The key to unlocking the next challenge could be just around the corner, and it could be something as simple as a bag of fruit loops.