Autism Watch: 2007

So much to say, so little time..

Posted on: April 2, 2009

First, today is World Autism Awareness Day. I wish there was a way to roll the word ‘advocacy’ in there, but a website url can only be so long and be remembered. Bumper stickers only so big. Headlines only hold so many characters. Check it out at: http://www.worldautismawarenessday.org. It isn’t the end-all, be-all for autism, but I’ll take it. If it gets just one more person to learn about autism, that’s a success in my eyes.

So much going on lately. No, no major illnesses, traumas, situations, just a lot of stuff. Just a ton of stuff. I bought a new car; I figured driving an 8-seater SUV we bought when we had all the kids younger with us regularly no longer was necessary now that I’m driving just a couple around. I also hated parking The Tank on regular errands, and my dh either took pity on me or got tired of hearing about it, so he decided the time was now. I got my ‘dream car’ for all intents and purposes and in today’s economy, got one heck of a deal that makes it completely affordable all the way around. (And to fill a tank on $35 — who knew you could do that??) Getting the alarm/bluetooth installed took FOREVER to get resolved, but the dealership was spot-on solid about customer satisfaction, so thumbs up to them despite me having lost almost a week of my life that I’ll never get back.  We also went camping and half of us ended up with the stomach bug. Work got busier, and the cockatiel noisier. (You’ll see why that matters later, I promise. I may be weird but I usually make sense.) And there’s ds.

The last few weeks, something’s been off. He’s had a lot of headaches over the last six weeks, resulting in the need for a panel of blood tests and an MRI. (Or as he keeps calling it, an “MRD.”) He’s been tic’ing a lot, this gulpy breathing tic that bothers me more than it should, way more than it bothers him. His temperament is completely unpredictable; he’ll be great one minute, inordinately angry the next, and crying a few minutes later. Then there’s the lips. And that’s where the problems get worse.

With the headaches/migraines, ds has had a hard time finishing a full day of school without a visit to the nurse. We try to get him to stay the whole day, but if his head hurts, he can’t. Yet, if I keep bringing him home, he’s got too many absences. We’re waiting on our follow-up neuro. appt., but that’s not for two more weeks. There’s no way to get him in there sooner, and even that will require him to miss some school time.

Attendance at school is not as important as we’re led to believe. As a past homeschooler, this I know for sure. I may not know everything about autism, but I know that autistic kids interpret stress and other things they can’t identify in ways we don’t understand. A headache could be anxiety from having to sit still too long while waiting for other kids to finish their work, a problem he tells me about frequently. (He chose to up his RSP time to help with that.) A tummy ache, that could be stress from trying to get along while the buzz of the fluorescents and the breathing of the bumping child next to him distracts him. We all get these things, but as non-autistic people, we find ways to get by. Our kids? Not so much. These are things not easily remedied in a school setting, but if we bring them home, not only are we showing them they can get out of an unpleasant situation and skip learning proper coping skills, but we have the dreaded lengthy list of absences.

So it puts the parent in a difficult situation. Unwinnable. You can’t necessarily make their illness go away while they’re at school, but if you bring them home, where they will feel better, then you have a whole different problem. What to do?

I’m giving my son a pep talk every morning. “Don’t go to the nurse’s office unless you are completely sick and can’t stay.” I don’t want the poor thing struggling through a day with a migrained, but where do you draw the line? How do you know? And how do you improve communication skills so the real problem shows through and isn’t masked in some aching body part?

Lately, he’s complaining about his ‘friends’ at school again. I say the word ‘friends’ lightly, because, in my opinion, friends invite each other to their birthday celebrations. Friends don’t ignore you when you call their name, and I’m not sure if it’s even called ignoring when the kid looks directly at your child and then keeps going. Friends don’t play right in front of you and pretend you aren’t there. I feel sorry for today’s kids in sort of a big picture notentirelymybusiness kind of way. (And if this doesn’t apply to you, disregard.) Kids won’t necessarily have manners, compassion and know how to treat a friend if they’re not taught. This is where parents come in. It’s not the school’s responsibility. (But, I would expect teachers to address it when they’re seeing it.) Parents need to teach their children how to not treat someone else badly just because they’re different. Not to ignore someone who calls their name. To be nice to someone when that person’s not harming them. How is a kid supposed to learn if mom tugs the little girl’s hand away as fast as possible when your child says hello? How is a kid supposed to learn if mom says “stop!” to her own child (and worse, yours) when they are playing nicely, for no other reason than she doesn’t want her perfectly neurotypical child playing with your non-infectious ‘different’ kid.

See, here’s where I differ from a lot of people. I haven’t shared my son’s diagnosis with the classroom and students at large. I don’t feel I should have to, nor do I feel it’s in his best interest. I’ve considered it. (Well, “we,” as in dh and I, but I’m the blogger, so I’m going to talk about me. It really is all about me.) But, the judgmental attitude I experience with some parents wouldn’t magically disappear. Many parents would just change from “you poor kid, you don’t have to subject yourself to playing with the different little boy” to “you poor kid, I won’t force you to play with the kid who can’t control himself.” Yeah, I have a bad attitude…today. Or often? Hard to say, but I am still wondering how my son is supposed to fit in, or learn to fit in, with other kids his age when few give him a chance? We expose him to as many groups of kids his age (and older/younger) as we can, but his differences make him stand out, and few people want to take responsibility for having to deal with it voluntarily. So, he’s been invited to two birthday parties in the whole last year, and two friends have him over. And I know, we are more blessed than many by having those two friends. Thing is, my son’s not that much of a handful. He is a handful, yes, but there are times when he just needs to be a regular little boy. But, I digress. See? So much to say, so little time..and room.

It’s after 1pm my time, and no call from the school yet. He has an awards ceremony in an hour, and I will be there in the front row, or I’ll have to show someone else out of my reserved (ha) seat. He’s getting two awards. I can’t wait to see the smile on his face! People often underestimate the importance of praising a job well-done. They don’t realize that so many autistic kids want to do well, they want to be a part, to be accepted, and to be proud of what they’re doing. They’re proud of it, so they don’t see why others aren’t. My son will float for getting awards. Such power in saying “good job.” Such positive motivation to say “I like the way you xxx” instead of saying “Why did you xxx.” If only we could teach everyone that.

So what did you do for World Autism Awareness Day? There’s still plenty of daylight ahead, so what’s your plans for the rest of the day? My respite nurse has a sick child, so I won’t be using my respite tonight, which scratches out my plans, but on the other hand, I’m going to take my little guy to Borders to buy Jenny McCarthy’s newest book, Healing and Preventing Autism, and we’ll hit up Seattle’s Best while in there. (Grab her book if you can! She and Dr. Jerry Kartzinel did an amazing piece on GMA this week, despite all GMA’s “experts” refuing what they said. The proof is in our kids though.) Then we’ll come home, make some pizza, and snuggle as the clouds and rain rolls in. Works for me!

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