Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘california

So I’ve been gone a while. Took a break. No real reason other than living and breathing autism 24/7 was too much. I would turn on Facebook and see an overwhelming number of status updates about autism: articles, stories, news, etc. It was all I saw on some pages. That’s nothing bad about those people — but it’s just more than I could do. We’re in the midst of this move and BB is having issues at school. Keeping on top of all that was enough…or more than enough. Neighbor issues with little guy, meanies out and about, and I just wanted to move on.

The holidays were good. We had a lot of gatherings, and I also was fortunate enough to be able to fly out to the Carolinas to help my sister-in-law after her surgery. I was gone nine days — I was having a “can you really do this without me??” moment…or several…but it’s husband’s sister, and he really wanted me to go, in a non-pushy kind of way. “You’ll like this. You can bond. You need the break. You can help while having fun.” And in one of those “man, I hate to acknowledge it, but…” moments, he was right. I did like it. We did bond. I did need the break. I think I helped, and I know I had fun. It reaffirmed my feelings about moving out there, and it allowed me the opportunity to just live out there — driving my niece to school, shopping, getting gas, and working. (I worked all but one day of that time. Saving my days off for the move.) I got to know my niece and nephew much better (I miss them!), I checked out the local places to shop and found that the Wal-Marts of the south are nothing like the hellholes crowded whiny employee dirty buildings I’ve experienced out here. I learned how to put gas in a car, even if it was an old-timey nozzle that we actually had to TOUCH, and I enjoyed working while looking out at trees that were changing color, with nature making its beautiful sounds. Gorgeous. Just driving to school in the mornings, I loved seeing the Christmas decorations all over. They do it right there! None of this political-correctedness of SoCal, where saying “Merry Christmas” can earn you a nasty look. In fact, I came back and challenged anyone to hassle me when I said it, loudly and often. Not a single challenge! I felt better, ahhh.

Anyway, I returned a few days before Christmas and jumped full-bore into celebration mode. I’d finished shopping and was able to just spend the time with the family and friends. Cookie-baking, Christmas light tours, fun dinners, open-houses, all that stuff and more. Little guy did wonderful at the holidays and only had a few meltdowns. He’s working harder to be aware and we’re working harder to not flip-flop on how we handle him. We did a lot of fun things while on vacation — like cleaning out BB’s desk, decluttering the rest of the kitchen cabinets, putting away Christmas gifts — and also threw in a New Year’s Eve bash. And by bash, I mean bash. So many items were bashed in the trash can at the end of the night..everyone left happy and safe, and quite a few slept here. We get to leave California on a high note!

And on that note, the For Sale sign is in the front yard. The realtor is assured the house will sell quick. Phew. We also experienced an amazing blessing that words can’t quite convey. Several months ago, a dog trainer for service dogs visited our therapy group. We listened to his talk with much interest, but that interest turned into disappointment the next morning when we learned just how expensive they are. We don’t begrudge the cost — the dogs are beautiful and take a lot of time/equipment to train — but it was money we didn’t have. Then stepped in a woman with a huge heart and a  beautiful soul. She donated a dog to BB, a trained dog. Therapy and service-trained, he is so darn cute. BB is thrilled, but learning how to handle him while handling himself. It goes hand-in-hand, as the dog is a calming device. He’s cuddly, loving and a re-direct when BB’s upset. And, just for fun, we threw in a Yorkie; we’ve never had house dogs, and now we have two. We don’t mess around!

I don’t normally whine about my health, or at least I try not to, but I got the MRI results for my back: two herniated discs, and two bulging discs. Then, just for fun, I had to get an ultrasound on Christmas eve because they found a lesion on my kidney. Great. It’s really cut into my running time, which has kept me feeling healthy, but I managed to get back on the horse today and run a 5k in under 31 minutes. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.

School’s back in session tomorrow, and BB is nervous and anxious. He is concerned that his one friend there won’t be allowed to play with him anymore; we tried to invite him over the holidays, twice, but each time he was busy “all week long.” Then he’d show up playing at another boy’s house in the neighborhood. Two moms get together, one blabs and a little boy with a disability pays the price for others’ ignorance. At least we’re moving soon!

It’s time for Family Movie Night now. Another Scooby-Doo movie is on tap. I’m ready to fall asleep after a late-night yesterday — BB’s friend celebrated his birthday, and BB was his guest for the night. Wahoooooo! He did wonderful, not a single problem, and we went out to lunch, shopping, dinner, and saw Avatar. Amazing movie, though I did doze for about five minutes early on until the pace picked up. Then I was glued. Go see it. Just plan your potty breaks well and settle in for the long-haul with shoes that haven’t caused blisters. Taking off boots during the movie, with people walkin back and forth to the snack bar and bathroom, is not something you want to have to do. Trust me.

Happy new year!

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.

We have a little game we play here. We call it “Guess the Earthquake Magnitude.” See, I’m deathly afraid of earthquakes, and I live in Southern California.

I don’t scare easily, but there’s nothing like your house shaking side to side, things falling down, and the rolling thunder sound…accompanied by every dog in the vicinity barking. We live close to a couple of fault lines, so they typically come fast and hard, no slow build. BOOM. Then you feel the slight aftershocks for sometimes hours afterwards.

When earthquakes happen during the day, dh always calls me right away. Sometimes, phone lines are down but they were unaffected in this quake, and dh was home so he only needed to run to where I was standing in my master bath, arranging a phone cosmetic containers that suddenly starting shaking on end. Nice. Great. A quake. Then BOOM. 5.0, about 10 miles from here. Yep, our lovely fault lines are still in business.

Anyway, onto my point. My little guy usually isn’t too affected. But, I don’t usually yell like I did this time. Before I could catch myself, I was AHHHHHHHH. Smart move, Mom. Barnacle Boy is saying he’s afraid of going to sleep in his room because we might have an earthquake. He wanted to know all the mechanics of how earthquakes happen, and he’s so full of questions, you can hardly respond because he’s five steps ahead of you. Out come the laptop (which, btw, we had no net access for a while due to the quake) and when I could, I found us earthquake animations. Now he is fascinated, and playing Magic School Bus Earthquakes on his computer. Phew. A little knowledge IS power.

Never understimate these special kids!

When I am out-of-state, and I tell people I’m from California, I usually hear something akin to “Ahh, sunny California, must be nice!”

Well, let me tell you, this non-California-Native is not loving California on a good day but right now, if someone asked me where I was from, I’d say “windy hell.”

To back up a bit, I was raised back east. I grew up with snow in the winter, beautiful leaves in the fall, rain in the spring, and tolerable temps in the summer that made us appreciate the sun. But here? One day looks like the next, most of the year. For example, it’ll be Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks; we were wearing shorts and the temps were pushing 90. Hottest “fall” on record. Normally, we’re in the 70s now, lower temps at night, and enjoying some long sleeves.

Contrary to popular belief, not all of California is sunny 24/7. And not all Californians want it! I thoroughly enjoy cooler temps, sweaters, gloves, wearing my heavy coats, boots and turning on the heat or using the fireplace. I moved to my location years ago, and one reason we like it here is because it is more of the ‘burbs, with mountain views (we’re in the foothills) and we experience more seasonal weather than we’ll find in many areas of SoCal…except when it’s blazing hot, 115 or so, days on end in August, and electricity bills are $500 a month or above. I’m not here because I love this state, but because this is where our support system is. Our friends. Our doctors. We’re considering an out-of-state move, and one huge reason? NO wind like what we have here. Seasons. Changing leaves. The kids can play outside without worry of getting knocked over by 75 mph gusts weeks on end, without worry of embers blowing around or the air quality causing asthma. They can enjoy the snow or the rain and Christmas feels like Christmas.

So, back to windy hell. And fires. Yet again, another batch of days on end of Santa Ana winds. All my plants were brought inside. Our patio furniture — heavy wrought iron — is affixed to the concrete. Our natural gas barbecue unplugged and moved to a safe location. (And it easily weighs 100 pounds.) Trees blown over everywhere you look. Trucks on their side on the nearby freeways. Crappy air quality, and you can’t enjoy your backyard, the school playground or a walk from the car in the lot to the door of the store because you literally are blown sideways, and even sturdy people have difficulty standing in a real gust. Day after day after day of this gets old — and we’re lucky in that there’s no fire in our area.

That said, you can see the Corona/Yorba Linda fires from our front windows. The air is a nasty grey-orange, and it smells bad. Yet, our homes are unthreatened so we’re fortunate. (Flashback to the 2003 fires when we could see them out our back windows, on our own foothills, and we had to evacuate.) But it still sucks. Fires not only kill people, and hundreds of homes are gone with their families displaced, but the crap in the air, and the stuff they drop out of the tankers isn’t stuff you want to be breathing.

Knowing how fortunate we are that our home isn’t threatened by a current fire, I still am so tired of this. When you can drive and point out various fires, even seeing flames, it’s just wrong. My heart goes out to those whose homes are damaged, those who are evacuated, and those wondering. The TV coverage is riveting, walls of fire and clouds, it sucks you in and it’s hard to turn away yet hard to watch at the same time.

What does this have to do with autism? This is an autism blog, afterall. Well, on one hand, it gives me an opportunity to clarify to those who’ve wondered that the fires aren’t near enough to us to be a threat. (I do have some amazing photos from the upstairs windows, I just wish I knew my D-SLR Nikon D-80 enough to do it justice.) On the other hand, fires usually cause regression in autistic children close enough to be affected. Those who have to evacuate are taken away from their routines, their special items, their comfort zone. Those who aren’t evacuated but still can smell the smoke often regress for no obvious reason. We’ve speculated that the electricity in the air during strong winds does it, as my little guy often has more mood issues when fires are close or when winds are bad. Winds have been bad all week, yet he’s holding steady and I hope he stays that way.

If you’re of the praying variety, add the fire victims and evacuees to your prayers. I’m sure there will be donation drives coming up, if you’re able. Many of these people weren’t given much time at all to get out of their homes, and I cannot imagine what it must be like to sit in an evacuation center waiting on news of your home. Heartbreaking. And for those with children with special needs, even moreso.

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