Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘science

Lately I shared with you how much I enjoyed the new book, The Autism Revolution, by Dr. Martha Herbert. This book is truly a whole-body approach on helping your child, in layman’s terms, with resources and realistic recommendations. If I had my way, every doctor, therapist or teacher would read this and use it to help their patients and parents. It is *that* good.

Courtesy of Harvard Health Publications and Dr. Martha Herbert, I have two copies of it to give away!

To win the book giveaway, you can do one (or more!) of the following three things — each thing counts as one entry, max of 3 per person.

1) Respond to this entry with a brief answer to the following question: what area are you working on with your child? (Such as: anger issues, verbal skills, potty-training, eating problems, stomach pain, behavioral, etc…)

2) Follow me on Twitter (@autismwatch2007) and come back and respond here to let me know your Twitter name and that you’re following me.

3) Follow my blog and post to let me know that you did!

Thanks for playing! 😉  (And this book is so worth the time it takes to enter!)

I’ll close out this giveaway on  Sunday, May 20 at 9pm EST and randomly choose two winners. I’ll then email you for your mailing info, so keep an eye on your mail. (I’ll also announce the winners here!)

I live in a small town. A four -stoplight kind of town. (Wow, I never saw that coming given that I’m from the busy ‘burbs of California.) Our library means well, the staff is nice and they have some great offerings, but as far as books, it doesn’t house the new stuff. (Unless it’s a book on the south or a fictional southern-based drama, but I digress…) To get something new, I have to utilize their intra-library loan system and sometimes get on a wait list.

Last week, I was uber-surprised that a) the county library system had the new book I was looking for, and b) that there was no wait list.

I didn’t expect for a new book on autism to make it onto their shelves, in an area where the word often gets you the “hmmm, I think you just need to spank him” response. I should not have been surprised at all though that there was no wait list. That was the California part of my brain, where I am used to there being a lot of people who research autism, acknowledge autism, and read the latest and greatest books on it. Sigh, I’m digressing again.

Here’s the book I’m talking about: The Autism Revolution   Check it out.

One week later, I’m two-thirds done and I have learned SO much, but more importantly, I’m stuck on “Someone gets it!!! Finally!”

Dr. Martha Herbert gets it. She not only gets it, but she puts it out there in an awesome book so the rest of us can get it, too. I want to hug her. (If I ever am lucky enough to go to a conference, I want to at least tell you the major thanks I am feeling. I did meet her about five-six years ago, but I highly doubt she’d remember me.)

I want to give this book to every doctor and teacher I know. (The cynical part of me thinks most teachers wouldn’t read it. After the years of hassles and hardships at schools, I don’t know if BB will ever go back to a public school. In an ideal situation, he’ll be attending a magnet school for computer skills, a perfect world for both of us.)  This book breaks down, in no uncertain terms, how autism is a whole-body issue. The brain and body work together. If one is affected, the other will be affected. Someone gets it! Finally!!

It also highlights what so many of us parents have seen but not so many doctors acknowledge: autism, in a high percentage of kids, includes a list of medical issues that are frequently treated as ‘just a coincidence,’ unrelated to autism, yet so many of our kids experience. When BB was young, he was a medical puzzle. Chronic diarrhea. Years later, encopresis and constipation. Skin rashes. Frequent ear infections. Swollen lymph nodes. Reflux. Food intolerances. The list goes on. The first 15 pages alone of this book sucked me in, and I had my husband sitting down to read it. (And this is a guy who doesn’t want to sit and read books — he’ll be the first to tell you, read this book.)

I’m not done yet, but I’ve already made a trek to the health food sites and ordered B-6, magnesium and more probiotics. DHA (fish oil) is next, but I’m a big believer of one new thing at a time, so if there’s any difference — positive or negative — you know what to attribute it to. Someone gets it! Finally!!

Get a hold of this book and take notes. It’s well-worth your time to read a book that will prove invaluable.

 

I left for a while. Okay, a long while. Things were busy. Things were *mostly* good. We began homeschooling and BB is thriving. We took a trip. Dogs are doing well.

Truth is, I ran out of things to say. Re-hashing my day with BB was losing its appeal. As he does better, which is what we hoped and prayed for, there were less autism-related issues to share. I also got tired of using my blog as a place to re-live irritations by sharing in the hopes that a) others could relate and maybe shed some insight on what to do, and b) maybe the irritations would stop happening.

Ha.

So I’m back. BB is still much better, and each day, we see more and more of him coming out. He amazes me with his humor and just yesterday, a computer animation he put on YouTube surpassed 9,000,000 views. For reals. He’s got a bright future ahead.

I’m still going to share the good and the bad..and unfortunately, in addition to the good, I have some bad.

Some days, when I’m out and about, I run into people who impress me and inspire me. I see kindness in strange places. But sometimes, I see ugliness. I see close-mindedness and “This is my way, so it’s the right way. The end.” I try to remember that not everyone is this way, but when you’re already tired, stressed, or just plain burned out, it’s easy to let the bad outweigh the good, even temporarily.

Last week, I took my son to a long-awaited night at a museum event. We spent the night, along with a slew of other kids that he didn’t know, except one. He was oh.so.excited. They had a presentation and he asked a lot of questions. He likes to clarify rules — maybe it’s irritating to some, but I don’t know, I’d rather he get the clarification he needs rather than just wonder and break a rule, which would have far worse consequences. He also likes to punctuate rules with “Wow. Okay.” or “What?” It’s not disruptive, it’s not over the top, it’s just a far cry from the kid who wouldn’t go to a public event or speak up if he did. I’ll take this BB over the BB of several years ago. If I’d been next to him, I’d have nudged him, but to make a scene by ‘excuse me..excuse me..excuse me..’ to walk up the only aisle, in the middle of the seats, to get to him and tell him to hush? Humiliation and more disruption. I was in the back, where parents usually sit, again, trying to do the right thing.

In comes one of those women, you know, the kind who has perfect children that would never speak out. The prodigies. The kids who can break rules in other ways, and we’re supposed to overlook them.  The kind of woman who sits with all the kids rather than with the adults, oblivious to the fact she’s blocking the view of kids sitting behind her, the kind who thinks the event is solely for her kids and the other kids are just in the way. Come on, we’ve all seen them. Maybe some of us don’t care about their existence, and maybe some agree with that kind of behavior, but I don’t. My child is just that: my child. If I’m there, I will guide. I will discipline. I will nudge. I am in charge, other than the teacher. If you don’t care about their existence, maybe it’s because they’ve never poked your child on the shoulder to say “Stop interrupting!” or because you are easily irritated when others’ kids do something you find misbehaving so you speak up. (If you’re one who speaks up to strangers’ children, here’s a thought: mind your beeswax. If it’s not your house or you’re not the teacher, restrain yourself. If you can’t control your behavior and reactions, don’t expect your children, or others’ kids, to control theirs either.)

This put a big damper on the event. It took me two hours to calm him down. He was angry. He doesn’t like to be touched by strangers, and in my opinion, he has a right to feeling that way. Yes, ideally, he’d be able to better handle it but right now, I have bigger fish to fry. The fact that I got him to an overnight event is a big deal! I can’t downplay that, or let anything else do it either. And I was angry. All the work I’d done was about to get flushed away, all because someone else was irritated by something small and not necessarily even legit. She got to go hang out with her friends and smiling kids, and I was left with an angry child unable to enjoy the cool stuff all around him, a kid who spent the rest of the night trying to block out the sounds because the overstimulation (both physically and emotionally) had him super-sensitive to sound.

No, I didn’t approach her. Should I have? Yes..but to do so would have meant I would have had to dredge it back up in front of him, and that wouldn’t have done any good. Instead, I suggested that we have some type of awareness program as a co-op offering, and that was shot down because, well, it’s acceptable to tell others’ kids to shut up, and if I want people to not do it, or not touch him, he should wear a shirt announcing it. (Okay, so I’m exaggerating a little bit with the shirt bit but the gist is the same.) The response was that I should pre-emptively tell everyone, talk to the leader, and somehow foresee anything that *might* happen and cover it with a list of Do’s and Don’ts.  I’m still amazed that I should know that someone might butt in my business and touch him and/or tell him to be quiet. I mean, really? Maybe I’m naive and people do that all the time…but keep in mind, my son was a stranger to this woman. He was familiar with this outing as we’d gone to many daytime classes there, and he felt comfortable. There goes that! Now I am supposed to sit with him..and by the way, let’s not forget that the teacher isn’t in charge, any parent around has the right to step in, duh! What was I thinking?

/rant off

We experienced a problem, fixed it on our end and tried to advocate so that we didn’t experience it again in the future nor did anyone else. But advocacy is often unwelcome. People don’t necessarily want to hear it. They want us to not bother their perfect worlds or to come out in public where we can teach our kids what they need to do. People don’t want to be inconvenienced. Opening your mind or being willing to show tolerance — which is pushed all over the place in this political campaign, to everyone except the disabled — is not something everyone’s going to do, regardless of how hard we tried.

I will admit, I cried last night. Frustration that I tried and was rebuffed so ‘sorry, too bad.’ Sad that these people walk around, head held high, completely ignorant of the people around them. Upset that instead of making the situation better, who knows if people will single him out now in the future. And if I find a parent went to the venue management? Possible legal involvement. I don’t mess around. Invisible disabilities are discriminated against on a daily basis, and I’m at a loss as to how to change that. Oh, wait, I was told to start a support group. Uhm, yeah, great, where a bunch of us can sit around and talk about how we’ve all been rebuffed? We can come up with all these perfect plans we want, but in reality, they each rely on the rest of the world showing compassion. If we can’t even rely on people to mind their own business or be nice, how can we place bets on compassion? I won’t let it happen to my child again though. No, I won’t go around telling everyone ahead of time — he’s entitled to his privacy and BB’s now at the point where he wants no one to know. I told him that means he has to be on his best behavior, and he’s trying. We’ve also worked with him on responding properly when someone corrects him and/or touches him. There will not be a repeat occurrence.

I’m not of the belief that children collectively belong to a community, or that their feelings/thoughts are any less important than ours. I get that things happen, and that in groups, he very well may be disciplined again by a, ahem, well-meaning adult, but it had better be someone that knows him and has implied permission..not someone whom he just happens to be sitting near for the first time.

Onwards and upwards, I hope?

In a perfect world, our children would go without nothing. They’d get every treatment and/or service they need, and we’d not have to pay anymore for it than anyone else with a disability or medical concern, regardless of income. However, as we all know, treatment for autism is still considered ‘experimental’ in many forums, other than ABA, and services are most readily available for those with unlimited bank accounts. For the rest of us? We hope and pray that someone will provide something, anything, and we become the world’s biggest advocates in order to make that happen.

Being an advocate can make an introvert a public speaker. It can give a shy person who doesn’t like to talk to strangers an eloquent speaking ability. It will make a low-key, laidback “go with the flow” mom get on the phone each day and push, in a way she never has before, for answers, and she won’t settle for anything but the right kind of answer.

This is good, right? Well, yes — because if we don’t advocate for our kids, no one will. But, there is a reasonable limit and no matter how desperate we are, I think we need to realize when we’ve reached it.

Today in a group I belong to, someone asked what kind of help they can get on vacation: could they require the hotel to provide a chemical-free room? Could they require the hotel restaurant to provide a nut-free environment? Could they require the state to find a place to find services for their child while on vacation, as in speech and O.T.? And my favorite, could they require the state to provide respite so the parents could go out alone.

You could have heard a pin drop.

No one answered.

There was a couple of coughs and throat-clearing sounds, but no eye contact with the woman who asked the question. It was clearly a mix of “I am at a loss for words” and “I can’t speak for fear I’ll say something I can’t take back.”

In the end, a calm person spoke up and said “Good luck with that. You’re on vacation, something most of us would give our right arm to take, so if it was me, I’d probably be super-glad I could take vacation and sacrifice the week of services.”

Other responses popped in my head: “It’s vacation, no one’s making you take it, why should the state be liable for anything? If you don’t want to miss out, don’t go.” But I didn’t answer.

Somehow, the conversation quickly changed to “Vacation? Cool! Where are you going?”  At first, I was relieved, ahh, re-direction, now she’s changed the subject, no one has to address it, and it was done so politely, she can’t take offense. Then as I thought more about it — and got irritated at her question — I realized that the goal of at least one other parent was to say exactly what I’d been thinking: vacation, an optional thing you don’t have to take, enjoy it, let your kid be a kid while you’re out, and if you don’t get a night out alone, oh well, it’s vacation!!

Then surprisingly, two  moms started making suggestions — call this number, ask this place, etc. There was obvious discomfort that we’d gotten back to the topic. Some people were “mutter mutter, I wish I could afford a vacation,” which was totally off-topic, and others were “Why are we helping her with this when we’re talking about VACATION? We’ve got people here who can’t figure out how they’re going to get through the next day because their child is still in diapers at 14 and the self-injurious behaviors make it so they can’t leave the house to run to the store, much less go on vacation.”

I stayed quiet. I knew no good could come of my contribution then, but I’ll share it here because the more I think about it, the more I think I did a disservice by not speaking up. Sure, it may have been seen as “tsk tsk! She deserves a vacation like everyone else!” but come on, let’s be realistic — no one ‘deserves’ vacation. Yes, everyone deserves to be able to relax, but a vacation is indeed a luxury. The state is not required to jump through hoops to keep your child’s services at three days a week if you voluntarily choose to leave the state; nor are they required to provide you a babysitter so you can go out at night.

Before I had BB, I took vacations. We have three other children, and as BB is six years younger than the youngest of the sibs, we always had children along with us. We didn’t get a night out away from them — a hotel babysitter, IF available, was cost-prohibitive. Plus, we were already on vacation, did I really need to have that added luxury? Nah, I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me to come back and do things I can’ t do with kids along.

This is where I think our requests take a nasty turn. We are definitely in the right when we request things that keep autism services on par with the rest of the medical-needs community; however, when we want MORE than others get, when we see ourselves as more deserving or require things that make life easy instead of just being necessary, we are not only taking money from an already too-small pool, but we are becoming one of those parents, the kind that make people say mean things and it makes it harder for the reasonable requests to be granted.

Flashback to a couple of years ago, when I spoke about a friend of mine complaining that she had to take her son to school each morning. “I have to get dressed!” Wow, poor you. So she made a huge stink and got the local district to bus her child to school each morning to the school she insisted he go to, even though there were many schools closer. Not only was her son on a bus for 40 minutes, but she negotiated it that on days she decided to get dressed and drive him, she’d get paid for every mile. Wow. On one hand, kudos, you must be a heck of a negotiator and the school is a pushover; if they agreed to that, then it’s their problem. On the other hand though? Come on, you are responsible for some normal parenting things and if you choose to move so far away from the school, why is it the school’s problem?

Those are the parents that give others a bad name. I want to be seen as an advocate, not a ball-busting bitch. I want to come to the negotiation table with people who aren’t defensive just knowing they have to meet with yet another parent; I’ve had them tell me before, on our first meeting, “Thank you for being reasonable. We do the best we can, and while it’s not always enough, we appreciate that you’re not yelling at us.” It always amazes me, because I don’t leave that room until my son gets what he needs — but it’s about him, not me, and I think sometimes we forget that. Parents of kids with cancer, heart problems, CP, etc., they don’t get free babysitters, zero co-pays and no deductibles; they have to drive their kids and if they go on vacation, they choose it around appointments or they don’t go. Why are we any different?

“But my son has special needs!” It’s not a weapon, and it shouldn’t be used like one.

Autism, ADHD Share Genetic Similarities: Good article by Fox News.com and the title gives you a big clue what it’s about 😉     I saw this one in a news feed earlier today, so I googled it and found it’s referenced in quite a few blogs, so you may have already read it. That search then made me realize, I haven’t done a news entry lately, so here you go.

Autistic Maple Grove Boy Wins Battle for Treatment Coverage: a StarTribune article that’s inspiring to see as it’s a success story, but my first thought was “Why are we as a community still having to fight for this??”

Progress slow but sure in fight against autism: The Inquirer and Mirror writes a piece that makes me say “Really?” Where is this hope at the end of the tunnel? My son already has autism. We already get zip for help from any foundation or organization that all these funds raised go to, and because I work, we don’t qualify yet we can’t afford all the therapies out-of-pocket. I don’t want my son “cured.” I just want him happy and learn to regulate, and that won’t happen without services that the average person can’t get.

Missing Middletown Teen Reunites With His Family: Killingworth-Durham-Middlefield Patch article (whew, way too long of a name there). Feel good piece, as too often, these missing kids are found too late. SO nice to hear of a positive ending! For those who think Asperger’s and/or ‘high-functioning autism’ isn’t so bad, ahem, it’s still autism. Speech doesn’t necessarily cure much.

Autism Makes Multi-Tasking Difficult: ThirdAge.com article. To whoever did that research and came up with earth-shattering news? Thanks, Captain Obvious.

That’s it for today. IEP now set for next Tuesday…can we make it the remaining 3 days??

It’s day 4, and we almost didn’t make it to school this morning. After yesterday’s headache, he was ‘off’ all night. Edgy, easily irritated and seemed unable to focus on one thing for too long. At bed time, we had a major meltdown on our hands. Apparently his service dog hasn’t slept well the last two nights and it’s keeping BB up at night. I knew about this, but I didn’t know it was to the point of near hysteria that he’d have a third night like this and keep BB up again. After 15 minutes of him yelling and crying, hitting himself and us having to stop him and try to talk him down, he decided to listen to some of our suggestions for keeping his dog happy at night, thereby allowing him to sleep.

It took a while, but with some furniture rearranging, we moved the carpet over to one side and angled BB’s bed so that the service doing, who we’ll call “C,” was only able to roam one side of the room, and with the carpet there, BB wouldn’t be able to hear his nails on the hardwood floor. C’s bed was over there, and BB could still be near him without the noise. We then watched Dragon Ball Z Kai together (not the world’s best show, but he loves it) and he went to sleep, 30 minutes later than normal, but it was barely dark out. He insists on being in bed no later than 8:30, some nights as early as 8:20, so I was worried this would upset his sleeping pattern but he seemed fine.

Fast forward to 6:15am, when I wake him for school, and I hear him moaning as I walk down the hall. He said he’d woken up about 30 minutes prior with a ‘super bad’ headache. I get him a pain reliever immediately, massage his head, offer him water, and do all I can to get him to be willing to go to school. That’s where I felt like a really bad mom, because I don’t want to leave my bed when I have a migraine, yet the schools out here have the world’s most ridiculous policy for attendance. It doesn’t conform with the state’s policy, so we’ve pushed it a bit as the state allows for 10 days of unexcused absences, and four that you have a doctor’s note for, which is fair — I really do believe kids need to get to school and it’s important to make rules — but what’s not fair is that our school starts threatening truancy at day four and makes you attend an attendance meeting. You quote disability laws and they state that we have to have a document on file. Uhm, I think the IEP and medical diagnosis of autism and migraines should suffice, yes? But no, we have to have a note each year on file and even then, they want to make sure we’re ‘being truthful’ and not taking advantage of that. So you end up taking your child to a doctor for a mild cold that’s given them a temp of 100, not enough for a doctor to do anything more than write a note that you were there and enough for you to pay the bill and expose your child and yourself to even worse illnesses.

I digress.

I finally got him up and moving this morning and got him out the door..a few minutes late and with him being oh so slow that it was really hard not pushing him to move faster. After all, tardies count against the 10! We have to weigh the balance between being a mom not making your sick child go somewhere that he’ll only be in pain, and the school hassling you. I partially think it’s the area — we’re ex-homeschoolers and we believe that while schools are important, they’re run by humans and parents have the utmost choice, and people locally tend to believe what school staff says without question. I also think that I’m just burned out on years of expectations that are unfair. He’s sick, he shouldn’t be at school where it’s only going to make him worse. If school is making him this anxious, it’s not up to me to just continuing to increase his medication, but to them to find out what they can do to decrease the anxiety.

So I sit and wait for them to call and give me an update. I’ve already spoken with the nurse first thing, but it’s up to the teacher to let him go to the office if his head hurts, and if she doesn’t let him..well, I’ll be there in the office first thing, but that won’t fix the day for him. For him, when he has a problem with something once, he’s put off from ever trying it again. Let’s just say that the day that It’s a Small World at Disneyland broke and we were ‘trapped’ for 15 minutes, five years ago, assured that we’ll never ride it again. I liked that ride.

For those of you dealing with anxiety, what do you do? BB’s headaches were far less frequent over the summer, in the environment without bright lights, too much noise and stress. Now that he’s back at school, we can see him getting stressed and anxious, and we feel the headaches are a side-effect. We want to try something to help — biomedical is the first goal, followed by medication but only if absolutely necessary. How do you handle autism and anxiety? Where do you see it cause the most problems?

Two weeks ago, I took my son in for his yearly well-child checkup. (I still want to keep referring to it as a well-baby check-up. I am in denial that he’s now ten.) I got the dreaded news that he failed his eye test. Actually, I figured it out as he was attempting to guess what letters he was seeing and my jaw kept dropping further and further as I saw how bad it was. How did I not notice this sooner?

Fast forward to yesterday, when we went to pick up his glasses. He’s so.darn.cute. He chose his own glasses, and I was super-thankful he chose a pair that was not far out of the range of what our eye insurance covered. (Does it ever really cover frames 100%? Everywhere we go, the frames are always priced outside of what the insurance coverage is.) For his first pair, I didn’t want to break the bank in case he broke the frames. It’s a habit to get into, being careful with them, removing them when you need to, remembering where you put them, and putting them in the case. Cleaning, all that stuff. I was concerned but he has, like he usually does with challenges, risen to the occasion. He loves his glasses, says life is now in HD, and is thrilled that he can see nature so clearly. That’s my barnacle boy.

I took a business trip this week, and was away for two days. I missed him all the time, but let’s face it, a break is a good thing at times, for all moms and all kids. (And if you say it’s not…I think you’re not being honest or you’ve never had a break and relished the uninterrupted time to ponder the little things in life that slide by in the rush that is parenting. Trust me on this, as a mom of four, time away is good for you AND for them.) I shared photos on my FB page, and was glad when one inspired a friend of many years ago to respond because I’d traveled to a place she’s always wanted to go.

I didn’t know it, but my friend works online now and is enjoying being able to work at home as opposed to heading to an office each day. For years, she tells me now, she didn’t realize that working from home was/is a job like any other, with supervisors to report to, accountability, and deadlines. Now though? She gets it in spades. She was a journalist for a local paper when I met her, and now manages a small staff of writers for an online publication, and while she loves it, she’s found she’s struggling with parts of it as she adapts. She had to miss a child’s performance. Having to say “Not now, I’m working” makes her feel selfish. Then she was asked to release a writer, and it was her first time. I virtually held her hand as she dealt with the guilt and the fallout in the last three days, and felt for her. Been there, done that, and it’s awful. Of course, the writer was unhappy and blamed her, though like in any company, my friend didn’t make this decision on her own and was just the messenger. It’s not a fun place to be, because she can’t really do anything about it nor say anything as she is contractually obligated to direct them as she’s been told to direct them, and to zip her lip otherwise — she of course can’t even tell me details — and she’s still talking about how she hates to be the bad guy. I felt her pain, because when you aren’t seen in person, it’s easy to be misunderstood when in reality, you’re doing your job, even the hard parts no one likes. It’s something learned in our years dealing with autism. I may not like what I hear in an IEP or from a teacher, but people are usually doing what they’re told so getting ticked at them, and then holding onto that anger and bitterness takes away energy from focusing on your child; I tried to remind her of this while giving her the much-needed hug, so she hopefully was able to take it for what it was, understand the writer’s feelings, right or wrong, and move on while hoping the writer did too. (If you’re wondering how that ended up, the writer blasted her on FB and now wonders why she’s having a hard time getting another gig. It’s sad all the way around. So much negativity, sort of like in high school when someone steals your boyfriend and you vow to never talk to them again, and you tell others bad stuff about them, true or not, and then you grow up and realize that life’s not all black and white and maybe you weren’t a good girlfriend anyway.)

I think we’ve been able to upgrade our friendship based on a new shared thing in our lives: working from home while managing an autistic child. See, she too has an autistic son, and while he’s a couple of years younger than BB, we met when our kids were in a social event but had little else in common. Now we can support each other through not only autism-related issues, but the different world that you live in when you work at home full-time and don’t have the same type of day-to-day life you do when you’re in an office and I don’t have any other physically-close friends who work at home. We wouldn’t have met without the autism connection, and while I’m sure both of us would rather not have that, the reality is that we do and because of it, we’ve been able to make new friendships that add so much more to our lives in other ways. It hasn’t been long since we reconnected, but I think it’s going to be a lifelong relationship. Life works in mysterious ways.

Autism may not feel like it initially, or even years later, but it’s expanded my eyesight. I see much more than I used to. My life is expanded, not limited. I lost friends during the early years of diagnosis, but I have gained many more as time goes on. My son’s eyesight is expanding now too, and we all see clearer.

Can I scream that any louder?

Maybe I’ve been dealing with autism for a long time, or maybe I’m just hanging with the wrong people, but there are days I want to block myself from anything and everything that is autism other than something related directly to my son. Ever feel that way?

What inspired my rant is when a parent I have known forever has an adopted son with autism, and he’s not enjoying ESY. (Extended-school year.) I don’t blame him, is what comes to mind. If he’s that unhappy and throwing tantrums each day, grabbing onto mom as he goes out the door and there’s no real ‘school’ during the summer, maybe staying home with mom is more beneficial. But I don’t say this. I can’t say this to this particular friend, because she is mired so deep in her child’s mild autism that she doesn’t realize that each and every conversation is about her son. His tantrums. His sensory issues with bright lights. His hate for clothing tags and his dislike for food that is square. His obsession with neatening up all the books on her office shelf every day. You know, the same types of things most of us deal with every day, so I can relate. But what I can’t relate to is her incessant negativity. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve heard anything positive about her beautiful red-headed green-eyed boy who, like BB, has a vocabulary that stumps some adults and who can tell you each and every thing about military aircraft. I don’t hear about how he just had photos accepted into a gallery in their town (as dad shared his photos one day with the owner, so his son is the youngest artist on display there ever!) or how his school teacher is cooperative and easy to work with, or how he can dive off the diving board into the pool barely making a splash. If you talked to her for a long while, chances are you wouldn’t hear any of the above unless you talked to her husband too, as I did to learn all the above, but you’d know how he’s still not potty-trained completely and how he doesn’t sleep at night. Oh, and he has an obsession with flicking his nose. (Not picking, flicking it in this odd way that’s completely eccentrically cute though I don’t know how his nose isn’t sore! Thing is, she sees it as one more thing she has to fix, and while I relate, come on, give the kid a break already.)

He’s her son, not mine. I don’t know what it’s like in her house 24/7, and neither of us know what he dealt with the first 18 months of his life before he was hers, so I am here for support but one day, I may just either bite the tip of my tongue off or lose it and ask what good thing he did today since I don’t want to have to call her husband to find out. (And in case you’re worried, she isn’t on the internet so she won’t find my bloggy story. In this day and age, it amazes me that I know three people who still really don’t participate online in any way. No email, no blogging, not even internet research or online bill paying! How does one do that?)

Next time BB’s having a bad day, I know I’ll likely have a lot of venting to do or I’ll share my displeasure in some way, but if I make an entry where I say nothing good about BB, let me know. My son is way more than autism. He’s a musical savant. He can do math far better than me. He knows HTML and designs video games. He’s drawn up a business plan and knows what he wants to be as an adult and how many kids he wants. He makes me laugh with his outrageous questions, and has far more wisdom than many of my peers, and even more than I have some days. When you talk with me, you probably won’t hear about autism unless you bring it up. He’s BB, and BB just happens to have autism. He also happens to be the cutest, most adorable, and most amazing kid I’ve ever met, and that’s what I focus on every single day. Even on the rough days, when I’m exhausted after he goes to sleep, I watch him and am thankful for what a gift he is.

Recently, I had a discussion with someone about how my advocacy style was so different from hers. She’s gung-ho about telling everyone she meets about autism, blogs about it frequently and does it without the protection of anonymity, and most conversations end up including autism to some extent. Me, on the other hand, I don’t mention it so much. Not only does my husband not care for it when I tell a random stranger, even for the purposes of perhaps helping one more person understand our kids, but I am tired of getting the ‘huh? uhm, yeah, okay’ response. I blog with anonymity, referring to my beautiful son as Barnacle Boy, a childhood nickname due to his attachment to me (still) and don’t want him ever reading this when he grows up. I also don’t want the people that I run into to feel like they aren’t going to be open with me for fear of showing up in my blog someday. (I know people who’ve found themselves the subject of a negative blog entry or comment, and being the social outcasts we autism moms already frequently are, why up the number of people who don’t know how to talk to us?) I also try to not include autism in every conversation — let’s face it, after almost seven years of a diagnosis, my friends know what life is like, they understand when I’ve had a bad day, and I only need a few words to convey what’s really going on. Saying “school called again” with a sigh is enough. Or just saying “it’s been a long day” suffices. They get it.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact I’m not immersed in treatment 24/7 right now. I used to be. I had to be. My BB would bang his head on the floor in pain and/or anger and frustration, and he’d pull out his eyelashes. He’d bite himself, and us, tags and normal clothing textures made it hard for him to get dressed — and stay that way — and crying babies would throw him into a tailspin. His communication skills were off, he had no eye-contact, and the random stranger touch freaked him out. And then there’s the running away, the sensory issues, the other behavioral issues, and the social skill deficits. In many, many ways, there’s been vast improvement. Most people would look at him now and wonder why we’re so worried. But those would be people who didn’t see where we’ve been. They didn’t see us with bitemarks and bags around our eyes from lack of sleep or worry. They didn’t have to sit with us through a blood test to check his blood sugar level that was too high during last month’s physical (which was a wreck itself, because he hates being touched by strangers and of course, the doctor wants him to be almost completely undressed and that doesn’t fly with BB) nor go with us to the dentist, which was only two months ago that we had to switch because he bit the guy and caused him to novocaine his own hand.

But we know. And that’s why I continue to advocate, but in my own way. I focus on educating those that have direct interaction with BB, or those that ask me because they want to know more or know another family dealing with autism. I still throw out info to the random stranger sporadically, but I figure that unless there’s a reason, I don’t need to necessarily give them our story when I don’t know what they’re dealing with at home. Years ago, a woman felt the need to chastise me in public for telling my kids, while I was writing a check in a crowded store, to quiet down.  “You are so blessed to have them, you should remember that.” Uhm, okay? “Yes, I am blessed, I know that because of fertility issues that required a lot of fight to get my family size to where it is today, which isn’t your business anymore than telling me to not tell them to quiet down. Thanks and have a nice day!” Moral of that story? You never know what that other person already has dealt with, or is dealing with, so pick and choose who you give the autism story to. My feelings are that advocacy is most successful when used judiciously. Sometimes we are advocating for ourselves — it makes us feel better, but just makes the other person feel worse, and it is no longer advocacy.

My goal is to advocate for my son in a way that helps him, and the autism population at large, but without constant intrusion or sounding like a broken record. I have three other children, a full-time job, and a husband. I only have so much time and energy to go around, and for my sanity, I need to move on to other topics. My friends need me to move onto other topics. They need my listening ear, and to do that properly, I need to be able to focus on them; the time will come when I need them, again, and the friendships I’ve kept while on this autism rollercoaster are more valuable to me than I can possibly ever convey to them. The few strong solid friends who I will call friends forever are worth more to me than the many that I lost because they couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get through a five-minute phonecall without hearing BB cry or get upset in the background; they couldn’t deal with my being unable to go out to their house without BB having a meltdown or they’d get freaked out when he’d hide under a table; they couldn’t risk their child having to witness mine crying because he was again left out of a game or because I wouldn’t let the other kids call him names; mainly, they refused to understand autism and my son’s odd professorial-type of vocabulary fooled them into thinking he was just a brat and we were bad parents, with the fact that we had three other children, all older, who weren’t ‘brats.’ The list goes on, and there are times I wish I could really give those people a trip through time to show them what life was like, what we’ve been through, and most of all, what my amazing brilliant son has gone through, and how far he has come.

Our children are the epitomy of courage. They don’t give up. They are examples and should be seen as the brave people they are and that’s where I want to focus my advocacy efforts for now. I don’t want to raise money to go in some administrator’s pocket or tell me what gene my son has that’s not right, nor tell me some other reason why it’s my fault he has autism. Sure, I want to know the reason so we can prevent other families from going through this, but I also think money rarely goes to the families who need it the most — those dealing with it now. One-income, two-income, ‘rich,’ poor, it doesn’t matter. It’s too hard to get help, and as a result, we learn to do it ourselves, and that’s advocating for our child in a way no one else can do anyway. So even when we’re not publicly advocating, we’re privately advocating, and that’s enough for me.

 

If you’ve been a long-time reader, you know my posts run the gamut of vents about daily life with autism, frustrating school run-ins, interesting (or scary) autism news articles, and opinions about the world of autism. If it’s about autism, it’s in here somewhere. Like any parent of a child on the spectrum, I’m a 24/7 advocate. That said, I still ramp it up during Autism Awareness Month. My house is surrounded by blue lights — not to represent or advocate an organization, but to get the word out on autism. (Believe me, the blue stands out and gets questions.) I carry more autism cards to hand out, I talk about it more in general, and in specific, I suggest other businesses celebrate Autism Awareness Month. I work with anyone available to get the word out, because the more the word is out, the more understood my son will be. The more understood the neighbor’s son will be. The more understood my nephew will be. And the more understood those children we walk past in CostCo, the library and the child melting down at Disneyland will be. And the undiagnosed? Their parents may see the signs earlier. With enough awareness, maybe one day autism will be a thing only pre-existing children/adults have, and it won’t occur anymore. I can hope, right?

Please look around your community and see what events are occurring. For us, we’re taking place in this walk on Saturday. A bit of a drive, but it goes towards Dogs for Autism, and as my son has a service dog, we know that you can’t put a value on it, and every child with autism should have that special opportunity.

Put a ribbon on your blog. This BloggersUnite page is full of resources and has a ribbon and autism awareness badge available.

Write up a blog entry about the month, even if your blog isn’t about autism. Do you know a family with a child with autism? Offer to babysit so the parents can get out for a couple of hours. Have your child set up a play-date for the child — I tell you, that’s one of the best things someone could do for me. Our kids have social issues and are frequently left out of parties and other gatherings. A lot of places ask for financial donations, but there are other ways to make a difference.

I’m off to find some notes about BB to share for my upcoming school training. Wish me luck!


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 34 other followers

Twitter Updates