Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘halloween

We’ve visited the same pumpkin patch for years now. Petting zoo, bouncers, slides, games, swings, reverse bungee, you name it. We’re a few days behind this year — crap week continues — and we expected the crowds that were indeed there. What we didn’t expect was that half the rides weren’t operating, the petting zoo wasn’t open, and the games weren’t being run. It pretty much left the bouncers and slide for ds, as he’s not one for the swings. The petting zoo has always been a favorite, so he was bummed from early on. It came as no surprise, after dh dropped $16 on 20 tickets, that ds had a meltdown. But let’s back up a bit.

First, ds ran to the bouncer. Last year, two tickets got you two runs through it; this year, one. Fine, we do it a couple of times then move onto the bouncer slide. After handing the guy a couple of tickets, the attendant tells ds he can’t jump onto the slide. So much for that ride, ds of course wouldn’t go on it again. Then he moves onto the bouncer, just a regular bouncer with only two other kids in it. Five minutes later, in which he was at least smiling, a kid bounced on him when he fell, and we hear him screaming “he broke my neck!” After apologizing to the mom because ds called him stupid — and mom, if you’re out there, thank you, you were nicer than most people I’ve seen in public in a long time and it is/was appreciated — ds had a complete freakout. Screaming, yelling, people staring meltdown. Dd and I walked around looking at pumpkins. (They had a 95-pound pumpkin. 95 pounds!) People were still turning and staring, but eh, bite me. Yeah, he sounded obnoxious, but he wasn’t hurting your night, and even worse, he wasn’t going home with you, so go find something else to stare at.

We head out, and I point out a family to dh to give the tickets to. “Pick them, Honey, they have three small children in that wagon, how cute.” Little did I know, until mom turned around, that we know them. Yay! Ds calmed down, but we still made him leave…there’s gotta be consequences for epic meltdowns, now that he’s aware enough to understand.

Next year, we may skip the pumpkin patch altogether. We can’t promise that the activities he wants will be there, though we understand. After all, they’re there every year otherwise, the booths are still there, who knew? Some days it really seems pointless to drag him to places he thinks he wants to go but can only turn into disaster…and I’m tired of disasters. Really, so very tired.

He’s upstairs making a loud mess with magnetics. (Yes, we still let him play with ‘those’ toys. He doesn’t eat them. And if he did, I’d, here’s a thought, supervise my child. He can choke on a piece of food, a marble, or any other item that a child should be supervised with, so I’m not going to scream that they be removed from the shelves.) He seems happy, though his fundraising toy that he waited weeks for broke after a few minutes. (Yes, I actually wrote the company for a replacement.) It’s always something.

If you head to the pumpkin patch with expectations, drive by first. Have a backup/alternative in mind. And don’t forget the camera!

And because I’m in a bad mood, here’s a mini-rant. Second-graders need Halloween celebrations..or if we’re being ridiculously politically correct, ‘harvest celebrations.’ It’s as important to the parents as it is to the kids. They’re kids only once. Let them party, let them have fun. When every other kid of the same age is carrying out caramel apples, sacks of cookies and goodie bags, it isn’t fair. It’s  not a big deal. Give them 30 minutes, give the parents time to spend partying with the kids and their class, and consider it time well-spent.

It’s been one of those weeks — actually, a ten-day span of one crappy incident on top of another, interspersed with fun things and relaxing moments…followed by another crappy incident. Today, it was going outside to pick up ds from school to find that something (someone?) had 100% shattered my driver’s door window, rendering it undriveable. Here I sit, a birthday dinner to attend in two hours, waiting on an auto glass repairman. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. But what’s another $210, right? (It’s got after-market tinting, so of course it costs more. Sigh.)

Anyway, I had one of those autism conversations last week, one where you wonder later if you should have just shut your mouth rather than actually share your opinion and help someone else see the other side. The kind where you wonder why you should have to be the one to cave dare we lest ‘offend’ someone, when in reality, I was really hoping to share something that no one may have shared before.

I’ll back up.

We attended a Halloween party on Saturday. Family-style, with kids running all over. As usual, it was a blast. Lots of activities for the kids, and accommodations for my little guy so he didn’t have any (as many?) meltdowns. While sitting with some other parents, a woman married to teacher was telling me about vaccinations. I (mistakenly? stupidly?) shared that my friend had just experienced a vaccine reaction in her child, quite a severe one. Pretty banal comment actually, as we’d been talking about kids needing help in school. Well, the ‘teacher in the family’ light went on, before I even had a chance to realize it. Apparently this woman’s husband doesn’t believe in the GFCF diet, doesn’t believe in anything biomedical or anything, basically, outside of school- or doctor-provided therapies. Okay, fine, sad, because I have seen it work firsthand, but you don’t have a child on the spectrum, so it’s understandable she’d have no experience because she’s not living it daily. But, here’s where the enlightenment comes in. Turns out, her husband was outright angry at parents who do believe the diet because he doesn’t believe in it, and instead believes that the improvements in the child must be from the work the teacher does; in return, when a parent claims that their child is improving, it somehow takes away from the work the teacher is doing.

Thankfully, the games started so we were interrupted. I had no intention of getting into a heated discussion, so it was a welcome interruption. For me, it was enlightening — I had no idea before why teachers didn’t want to cooperate with the diet. I’d always thought it was the extra work involved. It never crossed my mind it was something as petty as resentment. Aren’t personal feelings supposed to be removed from the equation when it comes to teaching children? I mean, I know they’re not, but wow, the vehemence, the irritation towards the diet or anything biomed that could help the child. But, I don’t feel she was, and hence, he was enlightened. Instead, I think there was just irritation that yet another person felt that the teacher wasn’t the primary reason for improvement in an autistic child. And that’s just sad. It speaks volumes about why the different sections of the autism community can’t get it together and just agree to work together, letting each do their part and cooperating with only the benefit of the child in mind.

There are some great teachers out there, but until they all agree that we parents still know our child best, that they only see the child a small portion of his life and therefore need to listen to us, and that we are entitled to making the decisions about what a child needs and receives, there’s still so much work to do. There’s no place for resentment, irritation or hurt feelings when it comes to doing whatever it takes to improve our children. Even if something only helps one child, who is ANYONE to say it’s not a proven success? Isn’t that one child a success? Does a success have to be 100% of the time to count? 50% of the time? Who determines success? Would teachers be cool with us telling them how to raise their children? They’re there to educate our children, not raise them — vast difference. As long as school is mandatory, we’re a team and any good teacher will acknowledge that.

The more I think about this whole conversation, the more it worries me. We parents are supposed to be openminded and entrust our children to virtual strangers all day, but some teachers don’t trust us in return. It really does work both ways. Unless teachers are willing to truly listen and try to learn, we’re going to be butting heads for years to come. Don’t take it personally if parents don’t thank you for the GFCF diet improving their son’s bowel habits or removing rashes or stopping headaches; those aren’t your realm. A chid that feels better will behave better and may speak. It makes sense. You’re one important part of a big picture — if we can make it a co-op, we’ll all benefit.

If a parent talks with you about something, you don’t have to agree, but at least remember that you’re not dealing with the child 24/7. The parents are. They’re paying the bills. All of them. The diet, the biomed, it does more than help things that you’ll ever even see or hear about. Those hours with our child, it’s just a portion of the day.

I think we’re really, really lucky. We have an excellent teacher for our son right now, and we did the last 1.5 years. She works with us, and the more stories I hear about things friends deal with, or conversations I have like the one explained above, I thank God. Seriously. So to ds’s teacher, thank you. You are a blessing.

Where to start?

Last Friday, we took ds and dd to Disneyland. We’d postponed it twice over the two weeks prior, due to one of us being sick, and even though I still had a cold, we couldn’t postpone again. After all, Jack Skellington is at Haunted Mansion!!!

Anyway, I think everyone who had a pass but didn’t have tickets for the Halloween event at Cal Adventure was there. I haven’t seen the park this busy in years – and we go a lot. We always get my son’s special assistance pass and then make a beeline to Tower of Terror. Apparently, they were so busy this past Friday night that the Fastpass line was the only one open. When I showed the attendant my son’s special assistance pass, I was told, basically, ‘too bad.’ When I shook my head and tried to clarify, “No, really, where are disabled people being let in line?” He said there wasn’t a line. “Okay, seriously, you have to have a disabled or handicapped access. Are you saying you don’t have one?” I couldn’t believe it when he said “That’s right.” There were no words. I turned around, tried to placate ds with a spin by telling him we could now for sure fit in California Screaming AND Toy Story Mania before the park closed. Okay…sort of.

The rest of the Cal Adventure visit went great. We ate in the Mexican food restaurant (aka beer garden) over next to California Screaming (there’s got to be a reason they put it right there) and headed to Disneyland. The wall of people in line to get in should have clued me in that we’d chosen a bad night. But hey, we have a stroller for ds and passes, what can be bad, right??

We make our way around, only to find that Woody’s Round-up was closed. Wahhh. And ds had a meltdown, too. Took 20 minutes to get him remotely interested in anything else, and we forced him on the Haunted Mansion, where their handicapped option was really long, too, but at least there’s a lot to look at. Leave there, head for Indiana Jones, only to experience a repeat of Tower of Terror. What the heck? I love Disneyland. I’m a huge fan. In fact, we just renewed our annual passes, but I was really disappointed. I don’t expect the park to turn upside down for disabled guests, but to be met with blank faces totally lacking empathy or interest in helping us was a surprise. So un-Disneylike. (So was the 20+ minute wait over at the Matterhorn, in the handicapped line…only two people in front of us, and still over 20 minutes. One day, I’ll actually remember to stop and ask Guest Services exactly why that ride is so bad — are they told to make people in the handicapped line to wait? Or do the line attendants just all figure if we are still breathing, we can wait like anyone else?)

In the long run, the visit was still a good one. Ds loves his ice cream and the chance to walk through Mickey’s house over in Toontown. As a daily player at Toontown.com, he loves to sit on the trolley and talk about Cogs. And we have another trip planned in a couple of weeks, during the week, so we can avoid the massive crowds. Have to visit Woody’s Round-up, you know! (If you haven’t gone there yet, you won’t understand the attraction, but at Halloween and Christmas, they have these huge sugar cookie kits you buy for about $6, and it comes with frosting and sprinkles to decorate. Major fun for my little guy, and a ‘must do’ for every holiday visit.)

Onto the costume fiasco…..

Last week, my son saw a costume in a Party City ad that he just had to have. HAD to have. HAD TO. Nothing else would do. Yesterday, after school, in the throes of a migraine, I took him to go buy it. They had one left in his size, and the mask was missing. Long story short — after an offer of a 15% discount to buy it without the mask, an idea to buy a different costume, or an offer to go to a distant store where they’d hold one for us, we chose driving to the distant store. This wasn’t without a meltdown — he began to cry in the checkout when they said “no mask.” (This, after we’d been shuttled to four different people who all supposedly had the mask.) The woman behind us couldn’t stop staring as though my son was some spoiled brat. (My daughter had a mean, but great comment “Keep walking. He’s not a doughnut.” See, she was rather large and had her mouth completely open. Yes, I know it’s mean, but after a while, you get tired of rude stares and sighs.) The other Party City had it right there waiting for us, and we grabbed it and ran, without the hassle of the other store. (One cashier actually told me “It’s not our fault people don’t put the masks back on after trying them on.” It’s not? Then who’s is it? And a 15% discount? Come on, you can’t sell it without the mask anyway, so why not a bigger break? It was ridiculous, though most people were nice there, just ridiculously disorganized.) So ds has his costume. He’s thrilled, and he ran around the house in it for a while when we got home. That alone made it all worth it…even though I was virtually without makeup and had on those same holey ripped shorts I had during his infamous meltdown at school. You’d think I’d learn to never wear them again, but in the end, really, who cares?? I had bigger priorities, and I had a migraine. So if you’re the lady who stared at me because he was screaming while standing in front of the cash register and slowing down your rush to buy those Halloween decorations and candy in your hands, get over yourself, you’ve still got three weeks to decorate and eat store that candy for trick-or-treaters.


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