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?

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.

I Must Have Jinxed It

Everyone knows that when things are going well, you jinx it by actually stating how well things are going, right? Remember when I posted about how hopeful I was for 8th grade?

Now I’m nervous.

Went to back to school night last week and found out the teacher I left work to meet with the previous week, who would kind of replace his ASD teacher who was leaving the school would in fact NOT be teaching him anything.  He also didn’t have art on his schedule, and no one knew who his homeroom teacher would be.

You think kids with autism have a hard time with change, we autism moms have a hard time, too.


Monday, The Boy started the school year, and for the first time since he started school in kindergarten, I felt like I didn’t have a teacher to contact who would know what was going on with him.  No one who really had a good idea of the whole package – his IEP requirements, what classes he should have, triggers, calming techniques, how his overall day went… everything.  He seems to have a couple of teachers who have a partial picture, and that doesn’t sit well with me.

When he came home, I asked him if he had art, which was supposed to have been added back to his schedule.  He said no. And now I’m asking myself, “Is the second day of school too soon to go into That Mom mode?”

There’s so much going on right now, I’ll probably just wait and see before I panic. I sure hope I’m wrong.

He’s Like a Hemorrhoid that Just Won’t Go Away

The nightmare continues.

The mobile home park owner has retained an attorney to write me a nasty letter saying the ADA didn’t apply to him or his road (which it does), and that I probably lied about contacting an attorney (and tried to catch me in the “lie” by cc’ing her on the letter), and that my son’s use of the park is a nuisance, which will be remedied by legal action if it doesn’t stop.  Of course, they still insist he is running in front of cars and lying down in the road.  Funny thing is the Chief Deputy Sheriff observed him walking in the park last week, observed him getting off the road when a truck passed by, and went and told the owner face to face that The Boy has every right to walk in that park…

Law enforcement didn’t bow down to him and do what he wanted (in fact, did quite the opposite), so he figures he can buy the last word by retaining an attorney.

But the law isn’t on his side. Now we just have to figure out how far we want to take this…

I have a headache.

Oh, and Happy First Day of School!

The Bigot Just Doesn’t Know When to Quit

If you have followed this saga, you can probably gather from the title of this post that the poor excuse for a human being has upped the ante.

Last week, he called the sheriff’s department with a complaint, purportedly out of concern for The Boy’s safety.

Applies to AllThe Lieutenant knocked on my parent’s door, asking them about The Boy and his activities while he stays with them.  Grammy gave him the whole background. She said he was polite enough, and after he left, she called me to let me know he may call me.  He never called. Not knowing if this visit was legit or not, The Man and I decided to head to the sheriff’s department the next day to request a report from the previous night.  If no report existed, it was not a legit visit, and we were up against a good ol’ boy network.  If it did, we could see who made the complaint, and go from there.

Sure enough, there was a report. And sure enough, the poor excuse for a human being was the one who complained, stating that The Boy “runs around the park constantly” and “refuses to get out of the way of cars,” both utter lies. After reading the report, we requested an appointment with the Sheriff himself, and acquaintance of The Man. He was unavailable, but we were able to see the Chief Deputy, second in command, right away.

I had come prepared (what special needs mom wouldn’t), and had copies of both the letter he had given my mom, and the one I had sent in response (“Well-written letter!” the Chief Deputy commented). I gave him the whole story, he jotted notes as we went along, but I didn’t have to get very far to notice I had won him over.  Just about to the point when the pathetic excuse for a human being told The Man to that we needed to keep our retarded kid inside… yeah, that was about the point he chose sides, and got a steely look in his eyes. He reiterated several times that The Boy has a right to walk wherever he wants. And even if he was constantly running around the park, he has a right to do that, too. He said the next step would be to get a restraining order against the pathetic excuse for a human being, and that sometimes that ended things, but other times that just escalated the situation. He recommended speaking to our lawyer to see what she recommended. We discussed setting up a chance for The Boy to meet a deputy in uniform o that he would feel comfortable, to which he was extremely accommodating (“Anytime you want to set something up like that, just give me ac all and we will make it happen,”), and we inquired about the training his deputies have in autism, to which he said they were all trained in CIT (Critical Intervention Training) which encompassed dealing with those on the autism spectrum, as well as other disorders that might prevent someone from responding to them in an expected fashion.

We walked away heartened and relieved. We are moving forward with a plan for The Boy to meet with a deputy at the mobile home park. I also plan to get in touch with an attorney, even if it sets us back a little.


Apparently, this guy doesn’t often have people stand up to him and his bigotry. Unfortunately for him, he has chosen my boy to bully. We’re going to drag this pathetic excuse for a human being into the 21st century, kicking and screaming if we have to.

An Open Letter to Kids’ Cable Channels (I’m Looking at You, Nick)

Recently, you changed the schedule. Spongebob had been coming on all summer at 7am.  And then all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

Can I just ask one thing?

Why is it that you give adults all kinds of warnings when you are going to move an adult show to a new night or time, but you give absolutely no warning to the kids?

TVMaybe your test-markets are saying to try something new.  Maybe you think kids actually want to watch some cheesy disney-esque sitcom at seven in the morning.

All I ask is that you give us a heads up.

When you don’t, we spend a week dreading mornings.  The Boy refuses to go to camp or school, or quickly packs up his stuff and takes it out to the truck, insisting that he and The Man leave an hour early because Nick changed the schedule, and Spongebob isn’t even on anymore.  Ever.

(And could I even hope to try to find it on On Demand? Nope.  Then after a week, it suddenly appeared on On Demand, but 2 of the 5 episodes were in Spanish… So helpful, Time Warner Cable.)

Miraculously, Spongebob came on again at 7am after about two weeks. And then… just as fast, it wasn’t anymore.

All I know is that if NBC did this with Grimm on Fridays in season, or if AMC had done this with Mad Men, they would have a riot at their doorsteps.  Why is it fair to do it to kids?  Especially kiddos on the spectrum who depend on their schedules to help them make sense of this world.  When you change things on them, when they can’t count on Spongebob to be on at 7am like always, this world can be a scary place.

All those child psychologists on your payroll, and not a single one of them could figure this out? You’ll have a much more lasting impact on your audience if you actually treat them like real people.