Turning it Around

Sometimes what makes me most proud of The Boy is when he is able to turn it around. Heading for a meltdown, but able to stop, relax a bit, refocus, and get back to work.

when the school calls...A couple of weeks ago, I was at my desk at home, preparing to go to work. I got a phone call from the school, and it was the counselor (not a usual person to call). She explained that The Boy was in her office because he had gotten upset in Language Arts, and had become destructive, throwing things, and sweeping things off of desks.  This is not typical for The Boy unless he is very upset.  The counselor said, “He thought maybe he should call you,” and I replied, “Ok…” I was sure he was going to ask me to come pick him up, which I don’t often do, as that would teach him that he can escape the tough stuff. Besides, I have to work, and don’t get paid unless I do, so there’s that.

“What’s up, Bub?”

“Today is the same as yesterday,” he said.

“Does that mean that Friend-Who-Is-A-Girl is not at school today?”

“Yeah. She moved,” he said, whining.

“I don’t think so, Bub. I think she’s just on vacation or has a cold or something.  But here’s the thing.  I know you’re upset, but throwing things and knocking things off of desks is not a good way to handle your anger, right?”


“And going to school is your job, and you need to be in class, right?”


“So what’s the plan? Are you going to take a breath and go back to class?”

“Yeah, I think I can do that,” he said, and handed the phone back to the counselor.  She didn’t sound at all sure that this was a good idea, but I know my son.  Once he has decided upon a course of action, he does it.  And he did.

The TA emailed me later that day to explain that there had been a substitute teacher in language arts, and she had been called away, so she didn’t want to leave him in class with someone who didn’t know him, and that after we talked on the phone, he had an excellent rest of the day.

I think many of us have a hard time “turning it around”.  It’s hard for me to focus on the positives of a situation that is making me tear my hair out, or to switch gears right in the middle of something.  But I am so proud of this young man being able to do this.  Proud and hopeful.

Screaming Children in Public Places

There seems to have been a recurring theme all summer, and it has now bled into the fall with the latest story of a couple of ladies who took it upon themselves to write a passive aggressive note to a parent at a restaurant. In previous cases, a restaurant owner balled out a toddler, and a woman had her check paid by a stranger.

It seems a pretty divisive conversation.  People do not hesitate to comment, and comment strongly, about WHAT THEY THINK.

I get both sides of the issue.  I really do.  And I was not there in any of these cases, so I personally do not know the extent of the “screaming”. There are times that The Man and I have been out to dinner, and been severely annoyed by a toddler allowed to run around the wooden booth behind us, and there are other times when a particularly enthusiastic child doesn’t bother me. A lot depends on the situation, the age of the child, and the parents’ attempt or lack thereof to control the behavior.

But here’s the thing. Public spaces are public. Kids are kids. Restaurants are open to all kinds of people. You cannot control your environment unless you are at home, and as soon as you try to, you infringe on someone else’s rights. Parents with rambunctious children have a right to go out to eat once in awhile.  And you may have to suffer through an annoying experience once in awhile.  That’s just life.  Unless you want to go off-grid and live like a hermit, you will have to deal with other people who are not under your control.

Also, how do you expect children to learn how to behave in restaurants if they never get the chance to go to one? What are we teaching children if we whisk them out of every public place as soon as they make a peep? The Boy is not whisked out of his classroom every time he needs to pace or starts to get upset, nor should he be.  He needs to learn how to manage his emotions and still participate in class, much like a small child should learn this as well.  They can only do that in situ.

This does all depend on the parent making the moment teachable, and monitoring when the behavior gets to be too much for the surroundings.

Judgy and opiniony.  It’s getting a little thick out there again.  Be nice, don’t judge, offer to help, and get over it.

Not Creepy, Just Different

If you watch Jeopardy!, you’ll know that the current champion has won about a week’s worth of games handily.  Matt Jackson has blown his competition out of the water, and unlike other winners of his ilk, is actually likeable.  The Man hates it when someone wins so much the other people don’t even have a chance, but this guy… he really kind of likes him.

It’s not because Mr. Jackson is very sociable or says clever things or is funny.  In fact, he’s not.  I have a sneaking suspicion he may be on the spectrum.  When it’s time to smile, he smiles, albeit a bit forced like every school picture that has come home with The Boy.  When he’s in the game, he’s impatient for Alex Trebek to read the next clue.  When he’s wrong, he blinks and looks like you just shot his puppy.

And after the show, when the contestants stand on the stage in a semicircle and talk to Alex, he stands furthest away and says little.

Who knows if the guy is on the spectrum or not.  I certainly don’t know him as a person.  He may just be a bit socially awkward, as many Jeopardy! contestants have been.  But I’ve been rooting for him because I find him charming.  Not ever having been too socially adept myself, I always root for #teamquirky, because those are the people in this life who will not bullshit you.

So when I read a friend’s FaceBook post where he said he liked Mr. Jackson, found him creepy because he doesn’t blink, but liked him, and saw others responding with comments like “he has a very creepy smile. Something just seems off,” and more comments talking about how he will likely murder Alex Trebek in his sleep, my heart hurt a little.

You assume someone is psychotic because they are not socially adept? People who are different from you make you think something is “off”?

Maybe I would be saying those things, too, if my son weren’t on the spectrum.  But I doubt it. Because I was that kid who only thought of the right thing to say after someone walked away.  I was that kid who hid my teeth when I smiled (and probably looked a bit creepy).  I was that kid who wore a big yellow fuzzy coat to school and got mocked for it (even though it was so cool).

I get so tired of the meanness, the pettiness, the judgy. They say it comes from insecurity. They say it comes from ignorance. I think it comes from laziness, bad habits, mediocrity, and the fact that people just don’t grow up anymore.

I said and did stupid things when I was a kid. I was a kid. Then I grew up.

There’s a whole lot of different people on this planet.  You can either be open to that difference, or you can be closed to it.  Guess which one is more fun?

Under the Surface

Kiddos on the spectrum process emotion differently than us neurotypicals.

“Duh,” you might say. And I would agree, but sometimes I forget how deeply this runs through my own kiddo.

Last week, I got notification from Fantastic Babysitter that they were most likely going to have to put their kitty down.  She was getting old and not feeling well, and not getting any better, and she was worried about The Boy.  I was too, because sometimes the death of an animal seems to hit him harder than the death of a human being, which is typical for those on the spectrum (“kitty” was his first word, after all).

One of our old kitties who is in kitty heaven now

One of our old kitties who is in kitty heaven now

I approached the subject with him and let him know that the kitty in question would probably be going to kitty heaven soon.  He asked why, and I explained that as animals and humans get older, their bodies fail them, and they start to get sick.  Sometimes, when animals get so sick, we put them to sleep so they can go play and run and chase mice with their friends in kitty heaven.  We talked about how it would be cool for Fantastic Babysitter’s kitty to go play with our old kitties in heaven, and that she would be happy there.  He had some questions, and I answered them to the best of my ability.  He seemed a bit bothered, but also seemed to handle it with grace.

I reassured Fantastic Babysitter that The Boy was ok, and we were sad for her. It’s never easy to let a pet go, but we had been through it a couple of times, so it shouldn’t be too Earth-shattering for The Boy.

And everything seemed ok.

But then, some other things went wrong in The Boy’s world last week, and the death of the kitty seemed to come back up to the surface and tip the scales, sending him off the edge.  You see, taken by itself, the absence of his friend-who-is-a-girl on Friday would have been upsetting, but not on-the-verge-of-a-meltdown all weekend.  But add the death of the kitty (which obviously affected him more than I could tell on the surface), and it gets to be too much to process.

Everyone is leaving him, he thought.

And for a kid that actually has been left behind by a parent, any dumba** could see the potential for meltdown.

I’m glad I have enough perspective to be able to understand in hindsight what contributes to his frame of mind. Maybe someday I’ll be able to predict a bit better to help him head off some of these catastrophic feelings.

Always a process, always learning.

The Ex, Fall Plans, and a Boy Growing Up

DCP_0407When the ex cancelled his summer visitation, he said he planned to come and visit The Boy this fall some time, and then asked about Christmas.  At the time, I reminded him that he had had The Boy last Christmas, which would mean he would have him for Thanksgiving this year, instead, and then possibly the week after Christmas if we could work it out. He agreed, and said he would let me know about fall plans.

Tomorrow, October begins, and I doubt the visit here will happen. In fact, he texted the other day to explain why we hadn’t received child support in a month, and to reiterate that he was “working on” Thanksgiving. No mention of the previous plan to visit here sometime this fall.

The Boy has been through this enough to know that what his dad says will happen rarely does, but he still hopes. When I remind him that we’ll have to wait and see what happens, “I know, I know, I know,” he says, and goes right on hoping. Usually.

Fast forward to this past weekend. It was a rough one, because the girl upon whom The Boy has a crush was absent Friday. As you well know, when someone is absent from school, it is a sign that the end is nigh, and we all run around screaming at the sky because she has moved away, we will never see her again, and why bother doing anything because there’s no point.

The Man and I were doing our best to cheer him up, offering fun things to do, and being generally silly, when suddenly, The Boy piped up from the backseat of the car (always conversing in the car), “I have an idea!” Usually this means he is starting to come around, starting to make everything ok in his own mind, but this time it was actually a real idea. “We can go to Myrtle Beach and ride the go-karts, and I don’t mind missing school to do that.”

Wait, what?

Did he just say he was ok with missing school? This kid? The one I have had to beg and plead with doctors and dentists for the past eight years just to find appointments close to the end of the school day so I wouldn’t be reminded fortnightly of that one day in February of 2006 when he had to miss school??

But he wasn’t finished.

“And if my dad can’t have me for Thanksgiving weekend, we could even go then!”

He actually vocalized himself that his dad’s plans would most likely fall through. And made a back up plan of his own to deal with it.

I think my little boy is growing up.


The Spirit or the Letter

This post is almost an addendum to yesterday’s. I got a progress report from The Boy’s science class. He has a B-. Great! Except it’s not.  Here’s why: he received 100 percent on every assignment, and a 95 on the one project they have done this quarter. Why a B-? Because he got a 67 on a test last week.

Again, as a teacher, I would look at this student’s grades and say to myself, “Something doesn’t add up here. If my assessment (test) was a true assessment of whether or not this student knows the material, it is not reflecting that accurately. Why not?” In this scenario, either the grading of the homework is not a true reflection, or the assessment is not a true reflection.  And when you add in that the project (which more often shows what a student really understands than a multiple choice test) received a 95, you begin to think the fault lies with the test.

quizAfter investigating, I found out the test had been modified. Great! Except it’s not.  It was only 15 questions. This is a major flaw in test design.  If the teacher made it fewer questions to modify it, she has effectively made it harder to earn an A. That’s a problem.

There’s no easy answer here, and I know in this case, at least everyone is trying to help. But. If my son knows the material, a 67 shouldn’t stand in the gradebook. According to the “letter” of grading, he earned it, but according to the “spirit” of grading, it’s not accurate, and something should be done about it.  I wouldn’t have let it stand as a teacher (you do have the ability to throw out a test and re-do it…), and I’m not sure what to do about it as a parent, except talk to the teacher, and see what we can come up with.  I don’t want to come off as I-know-more-than-you-about-assessment, but at the same time, I’m a stickler for fairness.

What do you think?

New Planner for 2016

When money gets tight, you tend to re-evaluate the things you buy on a regular basis. Do I really need this? If the answer is yes, Do I really need this kind, or can a get a cheaper kind? I find myself doing this a lot lately. And I just noticed my Erin Condren planner is about to expire in three months.

How much would I have to change if I went with a different type of planner?

How much would I have to change if I went with a different type of planner?

If you are at all familiar with Erin Condren, you know that they are expensive.  No bones about it.  Yes, you can rationalize the cost with the fact that you use it daily over the course of a year or 18 months. And the sheer fact that it is expensive is a motivator to many (myself included) to use it on a regular basis. This is the one I like, and now they have a horizontal option for the daily planner, which would fit my planning style better, I think.

But now, when the purchase of that planner (including shipping) would equate to at least a couple of days of work, I begin to re-evaluate… And research. I’ve found that their customer service seems to be sub-par. I’ve never had a problem personally, but there are so many unhappy customers out there, and it worries me that you spend that much on something and there is no telephone number to use on their website, anywhere. I don’t like that.

I’ve found Plum Paper Designs as an affordable alternative. Still a bit pricey, but nowhere near what an Erin Condren planner is. Customer Service reviews seem great. They have some really smart add-ons that EC doesn’t offer, and product reviews seem to get high marks, too. (If you need a 10% discount code, let me know in the comments and I can give you one!)

And yet… I cannot make a decision. I have a product in a cart on both websites, and just cannot commit.

Do any of you have an opinion?  Please share.

I will be making a purchase within the next week or so, and I will do a review post on my purchase when it arrives (probably in a month or two). Decisions, decisions…

Modifications and Accommodations

A friend contacted me after dinner last night in a panic. Her son has just started 9th grade and has been failing math, in large part because he doesn’t understand the homework. He is on the spectrum, and is more than capable of handling academic work, given proper supports. But his homework hasn’t been modified, and I doubt the tests and quizzes have been either.

I don’t understand why teachers don’t do this.  Do they not realize that they have to? If a teacher saw a child in a wheelchair at the top of a staircase, unable to go downstairs, would they turn the other way and say, “That’s not my job, that’s the special ed teacher’s job”? Probably not, but because some of our kiddos on the spectrum “seem” capable, that instinct that all teachers are supposed to have to help children succeed just isn’t there? I just don’t understand.

simple modificationI still consider myself a teacher (especially with all of the modifications and accommodations I’ve been providing for my own son for the past two years), and helped my friend’s son via text. They would send me a picture of the problem, and I would set up a chart of the information to help him process it into an equation and send it back.  And guess what? They went from full-on meltdown mode to feeling much better about the math homework.

Now why in the world should this mom have to go on facebook, beg friends for help, and even offer to pay someone to help her boy with his work? No, I’m sorry. This falls in the realm of the duties of that math teacher.  She is failing at least one of her students.  That grade is not his, it is hers.  And if she can’t see that, someone needs to show her.

If you are a teacher, I strongly urge you to learn how to provide some basic modifications and accommodations (and while you’re at it, look into this thing called “Universal Design for Learning“). We’re supposed to help our students succeed, and if you are too tired or busy to only concentrate on the “normal” ones, you have a problem.

New, New, New

I’ve written recently about how many changes The Boy is handling at school (and at home) and how well he is doing with all of it.  His school schedule has been sorted, relatively, and his TA is growing into her role as the point of contact at the school.

I, too, have been handling some big change.  I left my job and got a new one, and even though it presents new challenges due to being a little less than full time, I think it quite possibly saved my sanity.  I look forward to going to work again, and learning new tasks with a new crew of people who are not constantly gossiping, backstabbing, and sabotaging.  Even though I work with people much younger than me now, the maturity level is infinitely higher than the workplace I left.

We also closed on the sale of our house and moved into our temporary home while we build on our lot.  The house was left fairly dirty, and the walls were a goldenrod color (seriously??), so we had to clean and paint before unpacking completely, and I was about ready to tear my hair out, but it’s been about a week, and we are finally settling in. I love being on this side of town, and we are so close to The Boy’s school, that The Man is now taking him in the morning, alleviating some of our morning anxieties. The Boy loves it because he gets to sleep in later (ha!).

And everything kind of happened at once. Autism families recognize this as having great potential for disaster, but (knock on wood) we are all adjusting quite well, and much that is positive has come from this round of changes. I guess change is inevitable, but sometimes we get scared. Life is too short to be miserable and afraid, though, and taking risks can result in positive things. It’s good to be reminded of that.


Hating Homework

Homework is an issue.

In the past, The Boy has put up quite a fuss about doing homework, but would usually end up doing it grudgingly. I sometimes made executive decisions about how much we would do, and whether or not we would do it, based on how meaningful I thought it would be.  Luckily, teachers over the past couple of years have been fairly understanding.

by .pstThis week marks our third week in school, and we have had very little to do, thankfully.  But on Thursday last week, The Boy dug his heels in and simply refused to write a paragraph for social studies, due the next day. I took away a privilege and wrote an email to his TA and his social studies teacher to give them a heads up.

The next day, we negotiated. We talked about promises, and what it means to give someone your word.  He then promised he would do his paragraph 5 minutes after dinner on Monday. We reminded him all weekend about his promise, and he seemed to understand and expect what we had talked about would happen.

Then Monday came.

After dinner, I brought my computer to his room, and the complaining began (“I wasted my time!” is a common refrain). I wheedled and cajoled, reminded him of just how serious it was to give someone your word and go back on it. I asked him how he felt when someone broke a promise to him.


I failed.

I told him I was not going to argue with him about homework all night, but that he had broken a promise, and warned him that the next time he needed me to trust him, I probably wouldn’t because he broke his word.  And I sent another email to the school.

This is a common issue in autism households.  However, I don’t think I will be able to persuade an IEP team to eliminate homework entirely. Which means I have another nine months of this to look forward to.

Tomorrow’s another day.