Tag Archives: anxiety

Santa Pictures And The Autism Family: 10 Ways To Not Go Completely Insane

14 Nov
  1. A week ahead of time, start showing your autistic child pictures of Santa Claus, and tell him that this is the dude whose knee he will be sitting on in order to get a picture taken. Try your best not to be distracted by the neurotypical five-year-old sibling who is bouncing around like the Energizer Bunny on steroids yelling, “Ho ho ho! Hairy Christmas!”
  2. At T minus two days, have a dress rehearsal at your house. This is imperative if you want the autie to wear a suit and tie and he has a tendency to melt down if you try to get him to wear shirts that don’t have horizontal stripes. You’ll probably want to have another dress rehearsal the day before.
  3. The evening before, bath your kids and wash their hair. Do the autie first. If you do the hyperactive neurotypical child first, the autie will head for the hills the second he sees the shampoo bottle. Instead, let the hyperactive neurotypical child dive for cover, hide the shampoo until it’s time to use it, and have a reward system handy. I use gummy bears. Whenever the autie opens his mouth to scream, I just shove another gummy bear in. I have become a master at washing a screaming, flailing autistic child’s hair in less than ninety seconds.
  4. Try not to think of the fact that sometimes, ninety seconds feels more like ninety years.
  5. When you wake up on the morning of the Santa visit, call the photographers who are doing the pictures. Tell them that you have a child with autism, and that if he’s made to wait in line he will have such a bad meltdown that the entire building will crumble and the place will end up looking like an archaeological dig. Most people will accommodate you if they know ahead of time that your child has special needs.
  6. Bring changes of clothes for the kids. As soon as the picture has been taken, the autie will want to put on a shirt with horizontal stripes, and if one isn’t available there will be trouble.
  7. Right before you leave your house, call the photographers again and find out if all their equipment is working. Technology comes with its share of problems, and if you have wait around while they try to get their printer to connect wirelessly to their laptop, your frustrated kids will band together with all of the other frustrated kids who are there, and they will start a Lord Of The Flies kind of mutiny. Believe me, you don’t want to caught with a crowd of angry children. They will overpower you. They will tie the grown-ups to poles and dance around them holding spears and chanting.
  8. Don’t let the absence of spears fool you. Kids can be frighteningly resourceful, especially when they are ticked off and have among their number an autistic child who knows how to think outside the box.
  9. When you are granted entrance to Santa’s domain, don’t mess around. Say hi to Santa, get the picture, and leave. Don’t wait for the autie to make eye contact with the camera lens. You will be waiting until the cows come home.
  10. When it’s all over and you are sobbing in the bathroom from the stress of it all, remember that this experience was positive. As you look at the picture, don’t think about all of the planning and angst leading up to it. Reflect on the fact that you have succeeded in doing a typical family activity. You have brought immense joy to the hyperactive neurotypical child, who shouldn’t be deprived of the opportunity to sit on Santa’s knee. And you have taken another step toward teaching your autistic child some vital coping skills that will help him for the rest of his life. Know this, and feel good about what a great parent you are.
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Autism Meltdown: Surviving The Storm

24 Aug

It all started when I turned on the light in the kitchen. My almost-eight-year-old son George sidled up to me and, as usual, said, “Turn off the light soon.”

George hates the overhead light in the kitchen, and whenever it is turned on, he glues himself to my side and repeatedly tells me to turn it off, like a stuck record. I am so used to this that I barely notice it anymore. I just carry on with whatever I need to do, which last night included unpacking and reloading the dishwasher.

Uh oh. The dishwasher. This is another source of extreme discomfort for George. He gets very anxious when it is open, and like a record stuck on a different track, he tells me over and over again to “put it back soon”.

This – the combination of the light and the dishwasher – was a precursor to the explosion that would happen later in the evening.

I was probably not helping, at least, not at that point. I was in an agitated state of mind, having just come home from a stressful workday. I was multitasking too much, juggling about six tasks simultaneously, and getting stressed because neither of the kids would eat their dinner. I was frazzled and fraught. There is no other way to put it.

The explosion gradually built up throughout the evening, and finally erupted when George turned on the kitchen tap and found the water hotter than he expected. He screamed in outrage and started running around in a panic. I caught him, and using an expertise borne of experience, I used my body to restrain him from thrashing around and hurting himself.

I determined that he was not burned or injured, and sat there wrapped around him while he screamed. And screamed and screamed.

It has been a while since George had a meltdown this bad, but I knew that there was not a thing I could do to diffuse it. This was going to last for as long as it lasted, and we were just going to have to ride it out. Fortunately, my husband was home, so I had someone to tag-team with. One of us would stay with George, while the other would comfort our younger son James, for whom these meltdowns can be mysterious and frightening. Every thirty minutes or so, we would switch kids. Anything else that either of us had planned for the evening was abandoned.

After two hours or so, George finally started winding down. My husband and I cautiously allowed ourselves to breathe. He went back to the work he had been doing on his computer, and I went into the kitchen and made a cup of tea. I got the kids into their pajamas and gave them their bedtime milk. Because they were both still unsettled, I allowed them to chill out on the couch for a while before going to bed.

The period of relative calm turned out to be the eye of the storm.

The dishwasher had been running in the background without anyone paying attention to it. George, with his super-sensitive ears, heard the quiet click that heralds the end of the dishwasher’s cycle, and just like that, he was off again. For another hour, this poor child was experiencing an emotional storm that I felt ill-equipped to help him weather.

The worst part of all this was not the screaming. It was not the panicked running around and frantic scrabbling with the dishwasher. The worst thing by far was the look in George’s eyes. He kept looking directly at me, trying desperately to communicate – something. If the eyes are indeed the window to the soul, then my son’s soul was frustrated, unspeakably sad, desperate – almost tortured. It broke my heart to see him that way, to see him in such obvious pain and to be unable to help him.

Much later, when everything was finally quiet and when the entire household (sans me) was asleep, the question of why kept running through my mind. What happened to trigger the worst meltdown we’ve seen in about a year? Could the light and the dishwasher have suddenly morphed from a source of anxiety to a source of full-on panic? Was the hot water just too much for him to handle? If I had not been stressed and agitated, would the situation have escalated to such an extreme degree? In an interesting theory offered by my mother – one that resonates with me – could yesterday’s earthquake have unsettled George and made him more susceptible to stress?

As with most things autism-related, there are no definitive answers. Every question just spawns more questions. All I can really do is go with my instincts and strive to be the best mom I can be.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/powazny/3782692376/. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

For Some People It’s Not So Funny

24 May

It’s almost too easy to make fun of Harold Camping. For the second time the world has, with absolutely no fanfare whatsoever, failed to come to an end despite his predictions. He was so sure of it this time. He said that “there is no possibility that it will not happen.”

Now, I am one of the most Biblically illiterate people around. I know some basics, of course, having been educated in a girls-only Catholic school that’s short on life training and high on guilt training. The Bible story that I know best is the one where Jesus turns water into wine, but I have a vested interest in that one.

As vague about the Bible that I am, even I know that there’s some passage in there somewhere that says the Rapture will pretty much sneak up on us without warning, and that even Jesus doesn’t know when it will happen.

Why Harold Camping thinks he knows something that Jesus doesn’t is beyond me. But anyway.

Now he is saying that his date was off by five months, and that the Rapture will actually happen on October 21st, the date that was originally supposed to be the earth-turning-into-great-ball-of-fire date.

What’s he going to say come October 22nd? That he had the year wrong?

I confess that in the last week or so, I have made much mockery of all of this. On Saturday I posted a Facebook status update suggesting that everyone fail to answer their phones after 6:00 p.m., just to mess with their friends. I posted links to post-Rapture animal rescue services, and I shared Rapture-related jokes. I tweeted about what I planned to wear to the Rapture, and pondered the question of whether I would still be able to go on Facebook when it was all over.

Not that I expected to go anywhere. With all of my skepticism and mockery, if the Rapture ever does happen, the most I’ll see of God is his middle finger.

As easy as it is to poke fun, though, there is a serious side to all of this.

There are people who really and truly believed Harold Camping’s prophecy. Some of them based their entire belief systems on the idea that they would be taken to Heaven on Saturday. Some non-believers might be tempted to dismiss these people as stupid, but that’s hardly fair. I would venture to say that many of them were vulnerable, and got caught up at a time in their life when they really needed something to believe in.

Can you imagine their disappointment when nothing happened? It must have been crushing for a number of Camping’s followers. They are now in a position where they are having to re-evaluate everything they believed in, and in some cases, cope with the onset of depression and anxiety. I think it would be a fair bet to say that there will be a sharp rise in mental illness among Camping’s followers, and that is so, so sad.

What about the people who spent their life savings in the belief that they would need the money after May 21st? Some of them are retired, and they no longer have the nest eggs that they had spent years working hard to put together for their old age.

What about the pregnant lady who gave up medical school, and who now faces life as a new Mom with her chosen career thrown away?

Harold Camping and his prophecy have cost many people a lot – both financially and spiritually.

What of Harold Camping himself? Is he an arrogant opportunist who knowingly deceived his followers, or did he truly believe what he was preaching? Is he deserving of sympathy or criticism?

(Photo credit: Kelly Beall)

A Friend Who Saved The Day (And My Sanity)

12 May

I met my friend Fran about fifteen years ago. We met more or less by default: my boyfriend and her boyfriend were old high school buddies. We always got along well enough, but we didn’t really become firm friends until just over two years ago, when Fran emailed me to tell me she was moving to Canada. By then both of us had long split from the boyfriends who had been responsible for us meeting in the first place.

Despite living on the other side of the country, since Fran came to Canada she has visited me in Toronto several times. During her first visit we ran a race together. I did the 10km race and Fran – running in her first race ever – did the 5km. During that same visit, she assembled an outdoor grill that I had been given and that had me stumped. This is why you have friends who can put helicopters together. Seriously. That is what Fran does for a living.

During Fran’s visits, we always seem to go through an inordinate amount of wine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Most recently, Fran came to my wedding. I can safely say that if she hadn’t been there, I would have been lost. She arrived three days before the wedding, when I was roughly halfway through a week-long nervous breakdown. By this point, she had already helped immensely, having offered to play flute music at the wedding ceremony (Fran can fix helicopters and play the flute like an angel).

On the day she arrived, Fran and I went driving all over the place, picking up the guest favours, sorting out a camera for the as-yet unconfirmed photographer, buying crafty stuff to make the guest favours look pretty.

The following day, while I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off and doing frantic last-minute shopping, Fran calmly took charge of the guest favours. She spent the day wrapping them, putting ribbon around them and even adding a bit of hand-written calligraphy to finish them off. They looked gorgeous.

I have to pause at this point to give credit to my Mom. She helped with the guest favours too. Enormously. For a day and a half the two of them – Fran and my Mom – were at it, working hard to make everything look perfect. If it hadn’t been for them, I honestly don’t know what I would have done.

Fran also helped keep me from unraveling completely at the seams. During the day, she was offering practical help with all kinds of things. During the evenings, she kept me supplied with wine, good humour and great conversation.

On the day, she drove back and forth to the reception hall with her friend Corrigan, dropping off things that needed to be dropped off and helping keep everything in line.

And of course, there was the music at the ceremony. It was beautiful, it was personal, it made the ceremony complete in a way that some random organist could never have managed. The musical interlude continued at the reception, where Fran and Gerard’s cousin Liam played a wonderful set of Celtic music. They played together effortlessly, despite having met and practised together for the first time the previous day.

Then there was the photography. We had a number of people present with cameras, many of whom are very capable photographers, and Fran was one of them. She took hundreds – literally hundreds – of fantastic pictures that are a wonderful record of a perfect day.

Fran, if you’re reading this, thank you does not begin to be enough. You came through for me in so many ways at a time when I really needed it.

Next time you’re coming to town, let me know and I’ll stock up on wine.

The T-Word: A Scary Word For Autism Parents

13 Apr

This morning heralded the beginning of a new phase in my life as a special needs parent. We met for the first time with George’s transition planning team to sign the paperwork that kicks off the process of transitioning him to full-time school.

Any parent of a child with autism will tell you the same thing: that the word “transition” is one of the scariest words in the English language.

“Transition” means that the routines that pretty much hold the world together for a child with autism are about to be turned upside down and inside out.

“Transition” means that there are likely to be meltdowns, that for a period of time my child’s anxiety will be mirrored in his eyes in a way that will make me want to weep, and that the entire family will be without sleep as George makes the adjustment to his new reality.

Despite the fact that this is a process that makes me fraught with anxiety, it is a positive thing. When he started IBI therapy two and a half years ago, George did not have a lot of skills. He had virtually no vocabulary, no self-help skills, he couldn’t follow directions, he couldn’t interact, his emotional regulation skills were nowhere, and he had all kinds of fears that made his life very difficult. There was always a spark in him, though; a light in his eyes that made people sit up and take notice.

After two years of full-time therapy, the progress in this child was off the charts. It would be a stretch to describe him as fully verbal, but he was making requests using full sentences, he was starting to interact in a limited way, he was no longer afraid of the dark, he was starting to verbally express emotion, he was able to follow instructions with multiple steps, and in a giant cognitive leap, he had started to display his quirky sense of humour (deliberately being funny for the purpose of making other people laugh is huge. HUGE!)

And so, six months ago, the decision was made to cut his therapy in half and graduate him to the next program up. Instead of traditional IBI therapy, which is intensive one-on-one programming, he is now in a School Stream program, which is conducted in groups of five. It is a simulated classroom environment, designed to help children with autism learn the kinds of skills needed in school. There is  teacher who leads school-type activities, and each child has his or her individual support person to help with prompting and reinforcing.  The children in this program attend School Stream for half of the day, and actual school for the other half.

It has proven to be a very effective program for George. It has helped improve his social communication and interaction skills – areas that remain difficult for him, that traditional IBI therapy is not designed to address.

And now, effective from September of this year, George is being deemed fit for full-time school. This is a testament to the progress he has made, both in IBI and in School Stream. His teacher at school, who has had him half-days for the last six months, is excited to take him on full-time, and he will be with her for at least two years. At our last meeting with her, she had glowing things to say about George. He still struggles intensely with social communication, and he is not nearly verbal enough to hold his own in a conversation, but academically he is flying. He has developed the skills to function, and function reasonably well, in a classroom setting, even if it is a modified classroom designed for children like George.

That George is ready for this transition is a positive thing indeed. It is something that makes me so proud of him. He has had to work so incredibly hard to get to this point.

But still.

The process of transition is not going to be easy, which is why the planning starts six months before the transition takes place, and does not end until six months after the transition has happened. This morning’s meeting with the transition planning team was the first of what will be many. From what we’ve been able to tell, there will be good supports in place for George and for us over the next year, in order to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

I cannot help being anxious about it, though. George’s departure from the therapy centre will mean the removal of a layer of support that we have had for the last three years, and although George might be ready for it, I don’t know if I am.

I might just have a harder time with this transition than George will…

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/misskprimary/1038145678)

A Foray Into Fiction

16 Mar

Today, I share with you the prologue of a fictional book that I have been working on over the last couple of years. Read it and tell me: would you want to read on?

At last they’re all gone.  They took forever this morning, and I thought I’d never be alone. Cass’s hairdryer broke. Leah couldn’t find her track shoes.  The coffee machine spilled over.  Daniel accidentally spilled a full box of Cheerios all over the kitchen floor.  I yelled at him and then felt like a piece of shit, so I atoned by making him pancakes.

I love them all, and that’s why I am always so edgy until they’ve left in the mornings. I don’t want them to see the bleakness and desperation in my soul.  When they’re here I have to be cheerful.  I have to pretend everything is OK.  I have to make sure no-one can see the cracks in my life, and it drains my energy.  By the time we’re all eating a breakfast that makes me feel nauseous, I’m exhausted.

But now they’re gone, and I can relax. I’m by myself, so I don’t have to hide anything. I can let the anxiety consume me, I can let the knot in my stomach expand until it chokes me, I can let the trembling take over.

I watch the children disappear around the corner on their way to school, and then I go into the living room and lie down on the couch.  I run my fingers through my hair, no doubt making it stand up every which way.  I’ve tried all of those man-gels that are supposed to make hair lie flat, but none of them work. I once had a brush-cut in an attempt to tame it, but Cass begged me to grow it out. She says my unruly locks are sexy.

I dig my hand down behind the seat cushions in search of the remote.  Daniel is always stuffing things down there when he has nowhere else to put them.  Cass once found an entire little toy army under there. I root around for a minute and find the remote.  I turn on the TV and immediately wish I hadn’t bothered.

The news is on. As usual, the anchor is going on about the economic meltdown engulfing most of the civilized world. Stock market indices have hit rock bottom. Two major companies have posted massive third-quarter losses.  The real estate market is in freefall.  Another thirty thousand people are expected to lose their jobs in the next week. Small businesses are being forced to close up shop by the dozen.

Join the fucking club. Knowing that I’m not the only guy to go out of business doesn’t help.  There’s no comfort in being part of a sad statistic.

As screwed-up as it is, losing my business is the least of my problems. I cannot believe how stupid I’ve been. If I had told Cass the truth ten months ago I wouldn’t have this unbelievable mess to deal with now. But she was so excited about finally getting her promotion and I didn’t want to burst her bubble. I thought I could sort everything out myself, without dragging Cass and the kids into it. I’ll have to come clean now, though, and that will be so much harder. Cass will stand by me, I know she will. But my heart constricts when I think of the look of hurt I will see on her face when she discovers how I have deceived her.

I have to cut the crap. I got myself into this. I don’t deserve sympathy from anyone, least of all myself. I have to bite the bullet and fix this.

Today I will make the phone call, the call that will set the wheels in motion to put everything right again. I picture the slip of paper in my wallet that has the number written on it, and I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. But I have to do it. I will do it. Today.

There. I’ve made a promise, a commitment to myself and my family.  If I break it, I’m scum. I have to do the right thing, and I will.  There’s no way to fix this without dragging Cass into it.  But it will be so much worse if I don’t. Hopefully we can keep the kids out of it.

I head into the kitchen and put on another pot of coffee.  My nerves are about to spontaneously combust. Caffeine is probably not what I need right now. But it’s that or whisky, and it’s not even nine in the morning. My life’s already fucked up, I really don’t need a foray into alcoholism on top of everything else.

I go upstairs and take a shower and pick out something to wear. Usually I don’t give a rat’s ass what I put on in the mornings, but today is different. It sounds dumb, but I need to look respectable when I make this phone call, out of deference to the person I will be talking to. I put on my new black jeans and a dark blue button-down shirt. My hair – well, there’s not much I can do about that. I’ll probably have to cut it off at some point out of respect for due process. When this is all over I can grow it back, and I’ll never hide anything from Cass again.

I pour myself some coffee and sit at the kitchen table. I try to distract myself by thinking of this weekend. Mom and Dad are flying in from Vancouver tomorrow for the Thanksgiving weekend. Tom and Mike are driving up from Boston tonight. I think they’re both bringing girlfriends. Drew and his family may live just twenty minutes away, but they’ll be at my house for most of the weekend. This place will be a madhouse for three days, but maybe it’ll keep my mind off things.

OK. Focus. All I have to do is make one phone call.  After that it’ll be all out of my control.  Surely I can make one little call. I pour more coffee and find my wallet. I slowly extract the small scrap of paper I’ve been saving since the spring, and for a long time I stare at the name and number scrawled on it.  James Hutchinson. Local number. I don’t really need to look at the paper.  I’ve had the number memorized for months. I could probably just throw it away, but instead I put it back into my wallet. I rehearse the upcoming phone call in my head and try to calm my shattered nerves. This James Hutchinson will help me. I’ll tell him everything. It will be OK.

I take a deep, shaky breath and pick up my BlackBerry.  My hands are shaking so badly that it takes four or five attempts for me to unlock the keyboard. This is it. Barely able to breathe, I start entering the number. I suddenly realize that I have no idea what I’m going to say.

I’m halfway through punching in the number when the doorbell rings. My heart leaps out of my throat and the BlackBerry slips out of my grasp and clatters on the kitchen table.  For a wild moment I think that James Hutchinson is at the door. That’s ridiculous, of course. James Hutchinson doesn’t even know I exist.

I open the door, irrationally hoping for redemption and instead seeing my worst nightmare. As I look into my visitor’s eyes, a knot of excruciating fear grips my stomach. I need to get out of here. I need to run as fast as I can without looking back, but I find myself rooted to the spot. I feel like an invisible hand is wrapping around my throat, constricting my breath, choking the life out of me.

It’s OK. All I have to do is get through the next five minutes.

Then I will make that phone call.

How Organization Creates Chaos

28 Jan

This morning I took my Christmas decorations down.  Yes, I know that it is January 28th, and that the 12th day after Christmas passed some time ago.  I have a history of being very last-minute where this kind of thing is concerned, and this laziness is, in fact, the reason we have an artificial Christmas tree.

When you have a real Christmas tree dropping dead pine needles and crap all over your carpet until February, things can get very messy.

The thing is, it’s always a bit of a hassle, not only to take the decorations down, but to put them up in the first place.  You have to dig out boxes that are buried under eleven months’ worth of crap in the storage room, then you have to clear a space for the Christmas tree and figure out how to make your home look festive without being tacky.  Let’s face it, I ain’t Martha Stewart.  I always envy those people who can casually throw a rug over a sofa and make it look like a designer item.  I can spend an hour arranging the rug on the sofa and it will still look like the results of the room throwing up.

Taking the decorations down is worse.  I mean, when do you get the time?  You’re so busy trying to recover – and get your kids to recover – from the remnants of the Christmas season.  You’re trying to catch up on work that’s fallen behind because no-one was at work.  You’re trying to figure out how the kids’ new toys work so you can show them, and you’re trying to figure out where the hell to put all of this new stuff.  With all of this going on, it’s no wonder my Christmas decorations stay up for so long.

This year, I have had an extra excuse, and its name is Autism.  You see, George’s autism hasn’t really affected the comings and goings of the Christmas decorations before, because George has always been pretty cool about things changing.  I always used to think that for a kid with autism, he was pretty adaptable.

That has all changed.

About six months ago, a fear of routine changes reared its ugly head. Now, understand that I’m not just talking about a dislike for or a resistance to change.  I’m talking about actual anxiety fear near-panic that sometimes gets intense enough to make George throw up. We had such an incident recently involving a mirror, and in that case, Gerard and I felt that the best thing would be to restore the mirror to its rightful place to ease George’s anxiety.

So today I took the day off work, with the intention of making a few changes while George wasn’t around.  They were necessary changes that included taking down the Christmas decorations and getting my scary mess of a desk organized (cluttered physical space translates to cluttered mental space and all that).  The kids went off to school, I took a brief moment to relax, and then I started working.  I got the Christmas decorations down and put away, and then I had a major decluttering session.  All of the boxes that were under my desk are now stored more appropriately, meaning there’s room to put my feet.  My filing cabinet has been rearranged, so my files are actually in the cabinet instead of in a broken plastic container on the corner of my desk, which now boasts two stacking trays instead – one for incoming mail, and one for the kids’ homework and school forms and stuff.

When George came home from school, World War III broke out.

First it was the Christmas tree.  Kiddo was insistent on the restoration of the Christmas decorations, and went so far as to start dragging boxes of decorations out of the storage room.  I firmly took said boxes from him and put them back.  He kept mentioning the Christmas tree, but I don’t think it took him long to realize that he wasn’t getting his way with this one.

My desk proved to be the bigger issue.  The broken plastic box that I had discarded?  George wanted it back.  George wanted it back so badly that he was almost panicking.  The poor boy was looking directly into my eyes – something that he only does when he’s feeling emotionally distressed and is desperate to impart a message to me.  Those eyes, those eyes… They had such pain and fear in them.  They were brimming with tears as George begged me to put the box back onto my desk.

I had to say no.  I’m always one to pick my battles with George.  If it doesn’t matter, I don’t make an issue of it.  I let George get his way from time to time.  But sometimes the battle does matter, and this is one of them.  I need for my home office to be organized.  I always have so much to do, so much admin to keep on top of.  The way I was going, I was paying bills late for no reason other than the fact that the papers were getting buried.  I had to arrange things so that I could keep up with everything.  This is definitely a battle I needed to win.

I felt so conflicted, though.  My friend Amy went through the heartbreak of burying her child yesterday, and here I was, with my child alive and well, and I was allowing him to be sad and fearful and distressed.  What kind of mother was I being?

Even with this conflict going on, though, I knew that I was right.  I knew that this was a storm I would just have to weather.  I needed to rearrange things on my desk, and George needed to see that things could change and he would still be safe.

The storm appears to be over – at least for now.  George was upset for a long time, but gradually calmed down.  He started walking around without looking suspiciously at my desk out of the corner of his eye, and he started jumping on the trampoline, making the kinds of sounds he makes when he’s happy and settled.  When he said, “Charlie is a girl” (with reference to Charlie the Unicorn), I knew that he was OK.

Sighs of relief all round.

At least for now.