Sleepovers: Spectrum Style

Last Saturday, we invited The Boy’s best friend over for a sleepover.  He is on the spectrum, too, and is in The Boy’s program at school.  They get along really well together, share the same interests, and this boy just seems to get it when The Boy doesn’t answer a question or doesn’t want to do the same thing he does.

The two spent the morning at our Autism Society’s chapter’s “Friends and Fun” party, during which everyone who celebrates a birthday for that month gets to come to a church youth group center and hang out for a couple of hours.  Presents are given by the chapter, and there’re cupcakes, so it is a great way for the kids to get together without the pressure of a formal birthday party (and figuring out whom to invite).

Then I picked them up and brought them to the beach trailer that The Man and I are renovating… Have I told y’all about that?  Not yet?  Another post entirely…

They waited patiently while I put in a new window…

window work

And then The Man, the boys and I walked over to McDonald’s for some lunch and some much needed sweet tea.

Next, I drove the boys up the way a bit to a bowling alley that we had heard also had an arcade.  After getting lost twice (thank you, iPhone!), we found the place and proceeded to spend quarters on slightly beat up machines that didn’t always give us tickets.  The boys had a great time playing foosball and air hockey, and ended up with some fantastic plastic slinky bracelets that promptly broke within the next half hour.  But it was fun ;)

foosball

We stopped at Target to see if the Halloween costumes were out yet, which they weren’t, but we had a good time poking around the legos and stuff, and they were patient with me while I poked around in the office supplies, ogling washi tape.  We picked up a couple of toys for Raphael, too.

On the way back home, we stopped at a Halloween superstore, as The Boy’s friend seems to have an obsession with Halloween and the haunted house he and his parents create in their garage every year.  This superstore actually had a small haunted house setup through which you HAD to walk to get into the store.  The Boy’s friend seemed to like it and be scared by it at the same time, while The Boy was just scared.  We checked out the costumes, and I think The Boy was most traumatized by the fake boobs in one of the aisles.

We headed back to the beach trailer to see The Man’s progress and then headed over to one of the piers with a restaurant (and a great view), ate dinner, and walked out on the pier after dark.

pier at dusk

We headed home and let the boys do their thing with DSs and iPads and computers – oh my!  As The Man and I headed to bed rather early – he tired from the physical work of putting in new sub-floor by himself, and me tired from entertaining two preteens for the past 9 hours.

Let’s just say I’m glad it doesn’t happen every weekend, but I am SO glad The Boy has a friend to be able to do this with.  It’s a small slice of normal for him, and he loves it.

A Wonderful Visit

This post was drafted in August and I realized I hadn’t posted it yet.  :)

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Our one and only Fantastic Babysitter (and her mom and baby) came to visit this past week.  She sacrificed a lot to come, and The Boy was so pleased to have her here, as was I.  We spent a long day at the beach, and worked around the baby’s schedule with relatively little problem, able to eat out a few times, and experience the area, thanks to some wonderful weather.

We walked out on the long fishing pier that extends out to the ocean, and Fantastic Babysitter, being afraid of heights, began to get a little nervous, expressing a wish for a hand to hold as she progressed over the beach and then over the waves.  The Boy slipped up behind her and picked up her hand, impressing everyone with his empathy and sensitivity.

Later, he sat on the couch next to me, and we held the baby.  He began to play with her feet, saying softly, “I’ve got your tootsies,” and then “Am I doing it right?” to me.

I watched him as he took every opportunity to sit next to Fantastic Babysitter, sometimes putting his head on her shoulder, recognizing the beautiful relationship they continue to have, even across the miles.

I was so happy to see them together, and was truly sad to see them go.  On their first night here, he began begging to go “back home,” and I realized that we may have to make that a reality before too long.  A visit next summer may be in order, because there are lots of people there he misses, and some I miss, as well.  We have been so happy here, but this visit brought some strong feelings to the surface, especially on his part.  And I don’t want to ignore those.

Boys in the Bathroom

The Boy has had his first encounter with bullying at school.  I should say teasing, because bullying is really defined as a repetitive, targeted behavior, and I have no evidence that this has been going on for any length of time.  Truth be told, I was very happy with the way the school personnel handled it, and took some responsibility, as well, because we kind of knew this particular instance might happen.

Let me explain.

When we first moved south, The Man noticed that anytime The Boy went into a public bathroom, he had a tendency to “drop trou” to go pee, meaning he would drop his pants in order to do his business.  Apparently, this is not typical male behavior in a restroom – I would not know that, having never been a part of this particularly male experience.  When The Man told me about it, and explained that he just couldn’t do that, I didn’t have an answer as to how to fix it — this is not something that I am equipped to teach him.  And having hit puberty, The Boy was certainly not going to let me anywhere near him while he was anywhere near peeing.  This was clearly a dad’s job, and you can understand why a step-dad may be less than comfortable with the responsibility.  We ended up urging The Boy to use a stall when possible.

Fast forward to the second week of school, when I got an email from The Boy’s program teacher explaining that The Boy had been teased about doing just this, and talking to others while peeing, as well.  Another group of boys reported the teasing directly to one of his team teachers, for which I am grateful and appreciative, and that teacher actually had another teacher cover his class that same day so that he could take the offenders to the teachers lounge and “read them the riot act” over the incident. “We just don’t tolerate that here,” he explained via email.

I called The Man and we decided The Boy needed a lesson in how to pee in a public bathroom, and that The Man would be the one to do it.  He didn’t balk, he didn’t hem or haw.  That evening, he said, as calm as ever, “Hey, I need to show you how to pee,” and The Boy said, “Alright.”

The Man and I exchanged a look, complete with two pairs of raised eyebrows…

The Man pretended our living room wall had two urinals on it, which The Boy liked, with his toilet obsession and all. The Man then proceeded to break the process into steps. “You put your thumbs here in your waistband, and pull down,” and they practiced as they faced the imaginary urinals on the wall. He explained the whole process, and explained that the reason boys do it that way is so that they don’t show their butt to everyone else, so it can be more private.  The Boy paid attention, and seemed to understand.

The Man and I were relieved that The Boy seemed so willing to take instruction, and we can only hope he is using his new-found knowledge.

In any case, I was proud of them both.  Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Re-training

plannershot1The downside of having a son with autism in secondary school is the sheer numbers of teachers we have to re-train each year.  And I’m only half-joking.  Most of the teachers we have encountered since the Big School Switch of ’13, have been accommodating and flexible, and have fallen in love with The Boy relatively quickly, wanting to do anything in their power to help him succeed.  But here we are at the beginning of a new school year, dealing with stuff that is very clearly spelled out in his IEP, and the teachers are not yet implementing.

One of The Boy’s IEP goals directly relates to his use of the agenda, speaks to his difficulties in this area, yet within the first two weeks of school, we still only had one teacher ensuring he was utilizing it in his class. Then the homework hit the fan this week, when I had no idea two assignments even existed before they were due in science and social studies.

I emailed the teachers last night, basically copying and pasting from last year’s introductory email, explaining The Boy’s need for help with communication, planner use, and the dire need for them to let me know what the hell is going on, but stated in much more genteel language.  And I got some nice responses.  Yet in today’s planner entry, there was clearly still some misunderstanding from whoever-it-was that was writing in the planner (clearly not the teacher – an aide? a substitute? Who IS this person telling me that his assignment wasn’t finished and needed to be finished by tomorrow??).

And then there were the assignments we had busted our butts to make sure he got done, that were returned in his planner this evening without having even been turned in.  Yet another area of difficulty, yet another area in need of training.

After several emails, I finally got some traction and his program teacher has agreed to meet with his teachers tomorrow to review this stuff so we can get him going on the right track before he gets too behind. Thank goodness I don’t have to re-train her every year! She’s worth her weight in gold. :)

Pets and a Big Dose of Mommy Guilt

Thursday, The Man and I decided to rescue a cat that had walked into his worksite as if he owned the place.  In fact, we surmised that the previous renters did abandon him there and he was just too sweet of a cat to leave to the whims of fate.  We struggled for a couple of hours with the idea of the commitment and what it would mean to The Boy, and in the end, I brought him home in the car.

When I went to pick up The Boy, he was overjoyed once he understood what was happening, and was jumping up and down with excitement.  I, too, was excited, as I had missed the thought of a little furball to cuddle with in the evenings, someone to come home to…

We bought the requisite pet stuff, and I caught The Boy laying on the floor with him more than once, just petting him as they lay parallel to each other. It was incredibly sweet.

Raphael

And then yesterday, reality caught up with me, and reminded me why I hadn’t had cats in the house since The Boy was in preschool… My allergies reared up and smacked me in the face. I was miserable. And then to make matters worse, our bedroom overnight was probably in the 80s, temperature-wise, because we have to keep the door closed so the cat won’t be in my face, making it impossible to breathe.  And when the door is closed, the antiquated A/C cannot physically push any cool air into that room.  Miserable upon miserable.

And before you say, “Just get Claritin/Zyrtec/Allegra/whatever-OTC-med-most-people-take-for-allergies,” there’s a funny story about that… I’m allergic to allergy meds.  They make me break out in hives.  Yep, I’ve been on this merry-go-round before and it is not fun.

And I am KICKING myself for getting myself into this all over again because now I have broken The Boy’s heart.

Thank you monthly hormones, for amplifying this crazy mommy-guilt to an inhuman level.  The Boy is actually doing OK with the probability that we will have to find “Raphael” a new home.  He’s processing, but he is not being dramatic and blubbery as I kind of expected.  He’s actually trying to offer solutions, albeit not entirely rational ones.

And I am sad because Raphael really is just the sweetest cat, and he and I could have really gotten along well together if my immune system didn’t believe he was killing me.

Now I just need to find an adult cat a new home (easy, right?) and make things better for my autistic son who obsesses about cats, and has for years (also a no-brainer, right?), while reassuring myself that this situation can’t be helped (while I just *smh* at myself inside my head).

*sigh*

Bathroom Videos: No Tolerance Update

A couple of weeks ago, The Man and I had to put our foot (our feet?) down and say no more bathroom videos.  I was extremely worried about the suddenness and severity of our decision, but there was no going back — I could only hope for the best, and merely wonder how we would handle anything else.

You know what?  So far, so good.

He hasn’t tried to sneak the iPad in anywhere, and in fact, has dropped the habit of bringing it along everywhere, except to Grammy’s for his weekly sleepover.  He will still head straight for the bathroom whenever we stop somewhere, but that’s completely fine as long as he’s not recording anything.

The obsession with toilets themselves is still alive and kicking, but has abated somewhat, replaced to some extent by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I can’t complain about that a bit.

I’m more than a little surprised at his response, and cautiously hopeful that this will not return to bite us.  Here’s hoping!

A First: Saying No to an Obsession

Obsessions are a part of autism.  And most of the time they are at least benign (like Sonic the Hedgehog), if not something we parents wish to encourage towards a future career (like computers).  Usually, we tolerate the obsession until we ourselves become experts, learning about every type of car dome headlight that is made on the planet.  Sometimes we have to limit the time we talk about cats for our very sanity.

But I have never before had to say no to an obsession.

363px-Decorative_toilet_seatSeveral years ago, The Boy had an obsession with toilets.  He went through a period where he learned just about every brand of toilet, and would watch YouTube videos of toilets flushing all day if we let him (and yes, there are lots and lots of YouTube videos about toilets, if you didn’t know).  And after awhile, as most obsessions do, it petered out, replaced by something else.

And after his visit to his dad’s this spring, The Boy’s obsession with toilets resurfaced, as obsessions sometimes do (especially after infrequent visits with his dad).  But this time, he graduated to an obsessive (almost compulsive) desire to experience real live toilets.  He would spend hours in the toilet aisle at Lowe’s (if we let him), and at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  He began to take his iPad into the bathrooms at home and at Grammy’s to videotape them flushing.  And then he began to take his iPad into public restrooms, when empty, to videotape them, as well.

He seemed to understand that it was not OK to make videos when other people were in the restroom, but that necessitated our waiting until the coast was clear, which was not always easy.  And then the obsession intensified so that he would need to see and/or video every toilet at every stop we made in a day (and if you’ve read the blog at all, you may remember that The Man stops in quite a few convenience stores in a day to refill his diet coke or to pee, the only vice he has).

And then a few weekends ago, we spent $50 to take a ferry ride to a nearby National Park site (The Boy’s idea so he could “visit” the toilets there), which resulted in a meltdown and another ferry ride back within the hour.  I didn’t even get to the beach.

I began to plan a reduced amount of time where he would be allowed to do this, which I knew would be painful.

And then we had another incident this past weekend. And we had to just say no more.  No more videotaping of toilets in public restrooms.  We were in the car a couple of hours from home, so he couldn’t run away, and couldn’t really rage too much.  He is a better listener and communicator in the car. He wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t comfortable with the complete elimination, knowing it would be a very difficult transition for him.  But he seemed to accept it by the time we arrived home.  “I can take pictures with my invisible camera and save them to the cloud,” he said.  “Or you could take them with the camera in your mind and just remember them,” I offered.  He seemed to like that.

The Man and I were cautiously hopeful.

The next day, the Boy expected to be able to go videotape some bathroom again, and again I told him we weren’t going to do that anymore.  He still didn’t like it.

“I guess I’m not interested in that anymore,” he said angrily.  And my heart broke a little.

I know his interests are a part of him, and by saying “no more” it is hurting him.  But he is a big kid now, taller than me, and people out there are not as patient with tweens as they are with the cute little ones.  I just don’t trust that someone won’t call the cops on him for being creepy.  We have explained that to The Boy in the simplest terms, and I hope he is starting to understand, but there’s really no way to know.

So far, it hasn’t been a daily battle, but I think it will be tougher on the weekends, when we are out and about.  I know we need to try to “replace” this obsession with a new one, too, but that is much easier said than done.  So this will be a struggle for us, and we’ll just have to see how it plays out.  It’s a first for all of us, and no fun for any of us.

When Work Sucks

I love my job.  I love being busy, I love having some responsibility (and a title).  I love being a leader in the office.

But there are aspects of my job that are really just too much, sometimes.  I have quite a background in educational leadership and administration which actually isn’t a far cry from business management.  Simply put, a good leader is a good leader, and good management practices are good management practices.  And it is still easy for me to identify examples of bad leadership and management practices, too.

I work in a culture of blame, and I hate that.  Good leaders use mistakes to help guide people to better work, and to help create better procedures.  Poor leaders point fingers and end up making good workers wonder why they work so hard, or even quit.  Two people walked off the job this Sunday.  Two, of an office staff of six.

Today, I busted my behind, trained two new employees, handled a million phone calls, and even booked some private charters.  I went home feeling pretty good about the productive day I had.  And about an hour after I got off work, I got a phone call from my boss, asking me about something at work which he clearly felt was a mistake I had made.  I had not made a mistake, but in his mind, he had to blame someone, so it was me.  And instead of feeling good about being productive and working hard today, I end up with a sick feeling in my stomach this evening about his perception of my fault, even though none existed.

More and more, every single day is stressful, and that means I have less to give when I get home at night, which is absolutely no good.

Jobs are hard to find.  In five months of searching last year, I got very few calls for interviews, and only one real offer.  Do I consider leaving?  Yes I do.  Definitely on evenings like tonight.

How do I deal with it?  My boys.  I spend time with my family and they make me laugh.  It may sound clichè, but they remind me why I am really on this planet.  It’s not for other people’s kids, and it’s most certainly not to take reservations for boat trips.  It is to love and spend time with my guys.  Yes I need a job to pay the bills, but my job is the small stuff as compared to The Boy and The Man.  Remembering that is how I deal with the rest.