Autism Watch: 2007

Summer Achievements

Posted on: August 3, 2009

These last couple of months have been a busy time. It’s summer, and whoever said ‘lazy days of summer’ didn’t have young children. There’s always something going on, even when there isn’t. We’ve had some negatives — having to increase his meds a bit instead of decreasing them, social events that don’t work out, plans that go awry — but it’s been overwhelmingly positive. See, as the parent of an autistic child, I’ve learned to appreciate things in a different light. When my oldest (now almost 21) was this age (8.5), she was diving off the diving board. I was so impressed, so proud, even if it occurred mainly at our pool at home. Look at my daughter! So exciting! She can dive!

But with a child with autism? The ‘normal’ achievements don’t necessarily occur at the normal aka socially acceptable time, and our goals are a bit different. Some moms want their children to win spelling bees. Mine would fidget and dance and tic all through a contest on stage, but he can outspell and out-vocabulary (my made-up word, deal) most kids years older than him. Thing is, he will tell the kids that and then not understand why neither they nor their parents like that, and tell me “but mom, I was just saying the truth.” Years ago, we put Barnacle Boy in swim classes, with disastrous results. Mommy and Me classes became Mommy and Daddy and Big Sister and Me, and the other moms weren’t quite sure how to react to the three-year-old, the oldest in the class, who cried every time he got wet and refused to go underwater without a huge tantrum. (And, if I were to be completely honest, neither did Mom or Dad or big sister. BB hadn’t yet been diagnosed, and we were just starting to get an inkling that things were more off than what could be attributed to him being a premie after a tenuous pregnancy.) Each summer, even after the diagnosis, we tried swim classes. Moms and Dads (and grandparents and aunts and uncle, none of which my child has ever had come to anything like that) are cheering their kids on for laying on the kickboard or jumping in the pool while staring at mine for licking everything and everyone and refusing to put his head in the water. Some days, he wouldn’t even get in the water. When he did? We cheered like he’d just won a Nascar race, with people staring like we were fools. And we could care less about their stares.

Yep, autism makes you appreciate their accomplishments so much more than other kids. And I can say that as the mom of three other children, too. I cheered them on, was proud and celebrated but this is different. When my son overcomes something that’s more than just a normal challenge, my heart almost hurts because I get so excited. It’s hard to understand or explain unless you’ve been there.

This summer was a summer of changes. First, we took a trip to South/North Carolina, then decided to buy property there. Property bought, now we’re planning a permanent move. Pretty big change, moving from SoCal to the Carolinas, but BB is so excited and wants to go now. (So do I, but that’s a whole different story.) He told me, “Mom, I want to move right away. Everyone here is mean to me, except for xxx, and I have only one friend. I am tired of it. I want a new place to start again.” Who can argue with that? True words of wisdom.

We also made the final decision to change churches. We use to love our church family, but as time went on, the feeling of “shouldn’t ‘family’ be more than this?” continued to grow. BB was never invited to any social events, at least one parent was telling others about how difficult ds is, we were left out of things because of ds, and he wasn’t getting the social interaction that was a big draw in the first place. It got to the point where BB was constantly asking us to stay home, and the one friend that did play with him invited him over less and less. (Social interaction, imo, needs to be reciprocated.) Other parents pointed at him, talked, or whispered, about him, and a few took it upon themselves to discipline him, even if we were right there in the room. Autism is vastly misunderstood, so each year, we gave a lesson during teacher training, and we made a notebook, plans which the pastor approved of. Yet some of the volunteers couldn’t tolerate him, and others disregarded what we wrote entirely. Acceptance and the love that’s supposed to be shown to fellow humans, by Christians, waned. I guess it’s okay, he’s just a kid…not.

And there were good changes, the achievements we are so happy about. One was that ds can almost swim! He can do small spurts across the pool, and last night, at a friend’s pool, I taught him how to blow air through his nose so he didn’t have to plug his nose and swim with one arm. Woohooo!!

Another huge deal was a surprise to us. A week ago yesterday, he learned to RIDE HIS BIKE…without training wheels!

Next up on the agenda? Tying shoes so the new tie vans we bought him a couple of weeks ago can officially be his new school shoes. And he can do it, I have no doubt. Never underestimate a child just because they can’t communicate like society says he should, or because he has meltdowns that make the Grand Canyon look like a a divot on a golf course.

He starts school on Monday. New teacher, new room. Same aide at least. More changes, and there’s a lot of unknowns. He worries about having friends, and so do I. He worries about people picking on him. So do I. I also worry about how long before the first time the school calls because he doesn’t feel right, or if another parent will not be able to stand him and therefore tell the teacher. But, it’s temporary. We’ll be, hopefully, moving within a few months, likely after the holidays. The loss of our best neighbors, the nastiness of another neighbor and the overcrowded, overtaxed and underbudgeted state is on our nerves. (That and the fact you can’t even merge onto the freeway from the onramp without having to shove some uncooperative person out of the way or drive on the shoulder, but I digress.) We have no church family, which isn’t a huge change as we didn’t have much support there anyway, and we aren’t jumping in to join a new church with a pending move. The move will bring BB closer to his cousins, one his same age/sex, and he’ll get to roam our five-plus acres with dogs, wildlife and trees to climb. I really think a slower pace is going to make a world of difference.

As I write, BB’s at his friend’s house. Bless his mom and dad, truly. Ds does well there, but I think a lot of it has to do with them not being stressed-out people who can’t deal with him. They don’t sweat the little things and he doesn’t feel under pressure. And their sons? Wonderful kids, not to mention adorable. They are one of the few friends we will miss. BB is spending the night!! His first overnight, and I’m probably almost as excited as he is. (And my house is actually quiet enough for me to find time to blog, something that doesn’t happen as much as I’d like it to.)

Dh is cross-country right now, working two weeks in a city so small, he’s got one restaurant within 15 miles of his hotel. To his utter delight (I don’t use that word often, but it really fits in this instance), he drove a bit further and found a Cracker Barrel, a favorite restaurant that’s not available here in CA. Not so great for someone who eats really healthily daily and just dropped 25 pounds, but he’ll at least be able to use the hotel gym and vary his choices. He misses BB so much but thanks to Bluetooth technology, my latest favoritest thing, I can take a lot of photos on my cell and bleep them to my laptop and email them to him. We also use texting way more than Dh ever thought he would. Instead of the “what in the world do people have to text about all day long?” I used to hear, now I hear little commentary all day long that cuts through the physical distance.

Think happy thoughts that BB makes it through the sleepover without any issues. He has a tendency to sleepwalk or have night terrors at times, like his brain won’t shut down entirely while he’s asleep. But, they don’t happen every single night, and he was up and around last night, so I think tonight will be fine.

I’m off to enjoy the quiet evening. I can stay up late and work on my list of “Things I’d Do When I Get Free Time” and look forward to seeing BB in the morning.

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