Pranks and Autism

PranksThe Boy has had an increased interest in pranks lately, and has even gone so far as to persuade Grammy to purchase the old snakes-in-the-peanut-brittle prank from a joke shop for him.  She did, and brought it with her when they came to visit, and it was a big hit, at least with The Boy.  The rest of us quickly tired of trying to smush the “snakes” back in the can.  After a day or two, the novelty wore off a bit, and we were off the hook.

At school, The Boy chose a different prank.  An old-school prank that could actually hurt people: the old tack-on-the-teacher’s-chair prank.  And in a roundabout fashion, his ASD teacher discovered that The Boy was the culprit.

She handled it magnificently, understanding that at the root of this was his autistic self not understanding that the prank can be funny in cartoons, but could actually hurt people, and is so not cool or funny.  They discussed it, she told him she would keep his secret, and resolved to keep an eye on him, hoping that the talk did the trick.

And then he was caught being sneaky again.

He wasn’t doing the prank again, but he asked to get a drink and she followed him.  And he made several stops in vacant classrooms and hallways where he should not have been.  And he got busted.  He was unhappy, but she told him that she couldn’t trust him at his word anymore.  He values his independence so keenly, but that was what had to be taken away because of his actions.  They developed a plan to earn it back, and he will have to have supervision at the beginning of this week when he leaves the room, then the supervision will be gradually lessened until he earns his independence back at the end of the week, IF he has complied with the terms of the agreement: going only where he’s supposed to, no pranks, no sneaking, no meltdowns about the rules.

He’s learning – this is foreign territory and I am so thankful that he has a teacher that gets that this is an autism/social cue thing rather than a disciplinary issue.

All that’s left is encouragement that he can do this, he can earn his independence back, and hope that he learns from this experience!

Financial Guide for Single Mothers: A Review

Probably because I have posted a few times in the past about finances and divorce and all that seemingly intimidating but important stuff we ladies need to know, I was approached by Amit Eshet.  He has written a short ebook entitled Financial Guide for Single Mothers, and asked me to review it.  So in full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of his book to review.  But I got an extra for one lucky reader, too.  Read on…

Financial Guide For Single MothersAmit’s guide is only 44 pages, and is completely affordable at $2.99 on Amazon.  The book contains nine short chapters on topics ranging from scholarships and grants to how to deal with your bank and credit card companies.  I found his writing style engaging and informative and the information relatively easy to understand and follow.  I encountered some new resources and things I hadn’t considered as I read, which I think anyone who has to learn the hard way about finances as I did will inevitably learn in guides like this.  It is certainly not all encompassing – I don’t think anyone would expect that from a short ebook, but the tone is encouraging, and I think would be especially inspiring to any newly single mom.

I think the chapter on Money and Emotions is particularly relevant.  I can remember being in a gifted class in elementary school where one of our projects entailed watching TV commercials and understanding which type of pitch they were using to get us to buy things we didn’t need.  What valuable information to know as a consumer, and so many people have no clue that they are succumbing to marketing and emotions!

I also enjoyed the tips in the chapter about teaching your children about finances.  They were very specific and tailored to age levels, and included activities to get your kids thinking about how to be smart with money.

I think Mr. Eshet has a concise guide to inspire newly single moms to not be afraid of finances, and to investigate more about how to handle their money so that they can take advantage of what’s out there, and be smart about companies trying to take advantage of them.

And now for the contest!  Leave a comment about money: why it scares you, something you’ve learned about it, anything!  I will pick one commenter at random to win a copy of the Financial Guide for Single Mothers.  Comments must be submitted by Friday, May 3rd at midnight.

Good luck!

Spring

WaitingWe are sitting on the front steps.  He is folded over so his upper body is in my lap, his head facing east, eagerly anticipating his first glimpse of her.  I am folded over him, arms around him, my baseball cap brim shielding his eyes from the sun, my head resting on his shoulder.  We are waiting for the ice cream lady for the first time since last summer.  We can feel the warmth from the sun on our backs, and it is one of those moments you wish you could bottle up and re-live again and again in the future.

The Shoulds

should what? by 416style

should what? by 416style

Oh, I get so tired of The Shoulds.  I am sitting here, looking comfy and relaxed on the outside, but berating myself on the inside for all of the things I should be doing.  The Almighty List of Things to Do is being read over an over inside my head, in a clanging loop, and I just can’t reason with that voice.

Grammy and Poppy just left this morning for home.  They know I love having them, and we had a really, really great week – it’s been so long since they visited us up here!  But everyone understands, I’m sure, that it would be perfectly acceptable to revel in some alone (The Boy is of course here too, so alone-together?) time after house guests depart.  To just sit, do what one wants to do for awhile, enjoying the ambient sounds of a pretty-decent-outside-for-once Saturday coming in through the windows?

But not those nagging, mean-as-hell Shoulds.  They are reminding me of the house showings coming up this week, that looming deadline to get the monumental task of making the house look respectable. Oh, and also the usual chores of the weekend.  And the million-and-one things I have yet to do before our big move in oh-my-God-seven weeks…

I hate The Shoulds.  I hate it even more when they’re right.

A Wonderful Night

Lugging the instrument...We had another concert tonight, and The Boy performed was excited, performed well, and made us proud.  I didn’t have to ask more than once for him to get dressed when it was time to go, he lugged his baritone out to the car without being asked, and had no problems once he was dropped off with his classmates in the designated room.  When it came time to perform, he went to his spot, and played well, often without having to look at the music (how does he do that??).  He maintained his composure during a piece where some of the other kids in the band had to stomp and scream (although he was struggling not to collapse into a fit of giggles), and was proud to stand for pictures after with his grandparents.  Then we went for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, and he shared his brownie sundae for dessert.

A non-routine evening is often great fodder for a meltdown, or at the very least, is a source of anxiety, but tonight was pure excitement, joy, pride, and satisfaction.

And since this type of night is my kinda thing, I’m an extra-proud mama tonight.

I Wanted to Sing from Here

Last night was The Boy’s Choir concert.  This is his second year in the choir, and he has been less enthusiastic recently, I think in part because the time of the rehearsals changed to before school, and he would have to miss Kids Club.  Also, his voice is changing dramatically.  He has been missing so many rehearsals, I had emailed his teacher thinking he wasn’t going to participate in the concert.  But she assured me that he was expected, and they would love to have him there, so I made sure he was ready to the best of my ability.

These concerts, from a parent’s perspective, can be challenging.  In our community, parents are hyper-involved.  To the point that you want to tell them all to just go home.  The first day of school is absolutely chaotic, because every parent wants to escort their child from the parking lot to the door of their classroom.  When you have 800 elementary school students, and at least two family member accompanying them, you can imagine the scene, and hopefully you can understand my eye roll.

Concerts are no different, except there’s a twist.  Not only do both parents come, but the entire extended family comes, complete with expensive florist bouquets for their little star.  And they save seats.  What are we, in second grade ourselves, at the lunch table?  And not just one or two seats.  The family in front of us last night had seven seats “saved”, and turned away several families looking for seats.  There have been several years when I had to stand because I wasn’t going to haggle for a place to sit.

In any case, it can be tense, and it can be difficult to enjoy.  But this year was an exception.  We went early, made sure we had a parking spot and didn’t need to hike six blocks to the school.  We got good seats, got The Boy settled with his classmates after walking the halls for quite awhile until there was adult supervision in his room, and were ready for the show to start, feeling apprehensive about the screaming babies, and the seat-savers, and the woman with extremely big hair in front of us.

choir concertThe choir was first, and they were great.  I don’t think they’ve had such a big choir in a long time.  The Boy sang, and fit right in for the first two songs.  And then the third tune came, complete with all kinds of “moves”.  And of course, The Boy didn’t have much of a clue because he hasn’t been to rehearsal.  But  it turned out to be adorable and funny, and just the type of thing we could expect from him.  All the kids would turn around, and he was the only one facing front, and he’s not hard to spot in a crowd of fifth graders because he’s taller than 99% of them!  But rather than be embarrassed, we laughed because it was so him, and I was proud that he wanted to be with his friends and participate.

The rest of the grades were cute (how can you not enjoy a bunch of kindergartners singing??), and then all the kids came back in for the finale.  Just before the (planned) encore, The Boy slipped away from his classmates, and zipped across the front of the auditorium.  My mom nudged me, and before I had time to panic, he was making his way down our row, heading for the empty seat next to me.  He sat down and explained, “I wanted to sing this one from here!” and I couldn’t have a problem with that.  He did sing, and it was really cool to hear him up close.  It may not have been typical, but so what?  I’m a proud mama anyway.

Jobs and Autism

I posted a story on the Simple. I Just Do facebook page yesterday about a carwash in Florida that was developed to run entirely with autistic employees, (and was started by a family with an autistic son, no less).  And I encountered a staggering statistic – an unemployment rate of 90% for those with autism.

Food Barn pin from first paycheck job. / c. 1989 - Nate Hofer

Food Barn Pin – Nate Hofer

That is a very scary number.

The article by Doreen Hemlock of the Broward County Sun-Sentinel quoted Michael Alessandri, director of the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Diseases, as saying, “Most people with autism can work. They can be very successful when given the right support. There just aren’t enough job opportunities with the right support system.”

The Man and I have discussed starting our own business a great deal.  Part of that, I think a large part of it, is that if we are the owners, we can create our own opportunities for The Boy to be employed.  And just like many, many families with autistic kids are turning to homeschooling so that they can tailor their child’s education according to his/her individualized needs, I think many, many families have or will turn to entrepreneurship for the same reason.

I love it.

I am so inspired by all of this.  The world isn’t ready for this influx of people with autism?  Well, let’s make it ready, one kid, one family, one family-owned business at a time.  Bring it.

Don’t Knock Awareness

autism awareness ribbon

I keep seeing facebook and blog posts, and tweets stating that awareness is just not enough.

Of course awareness is not enough. Acceptance would be lovely, access to therapies, respite care and services would be grand, assurances that my child will be cared for after I am gone would be divine.  And of course, those of us who have the energy will continue our fight for these basic needs (and yes, they are basic needs, as any family touched by autism can attest).

But, we can’t do it alone.  We need armies of people to help us demand that these basic needs be met.  And we don’t have armies, yet.  We can’t even get our own rag-tag assemblage to march under the same banner — we can’t even decide what our banner should say!

So I say we continue with awareness, and not just some event with a puzzle piece on a poster that says “Autism Awareness Night”.  Puzzle pieces, posters, literature, and every autism family in a 50 mile radius in attendance, so those NT attendees can glimpse the spectrum in all its glory: the sweet smiles, the small victories, the hand-flapping, the meltdowns — all of it.  We cannot rely on large national nonprofits to do the work for us.  We have to get our kids out there.  We have to make our presence the norm.  We have to be unapologetic.  We have to use every teachable moment.

Doing all of that creates awareness.  And awareness is where armies are born.

The Show Must Go On (Without Us)…

The Stage

The Stage by Luminitsa

My parents are in town for a bit, for The Boy’s choir and band concerts this week (and also because they haven’t seen him since Thanksgiving and were missing him big-time!), and we went to a musical put on by the district in which I work.  The Boy even dressed up in his dress-up clothes to attend.  We arrived, purchased our tickets, as well as flowers for PITA, who runs the show, and finally raffle tickets for some baskets of goodies.  We found our seats, and enjoyed the first half.  At intermission, The Boy and I got up to stretch, and buy a small treat.  We purchased our M&Ms, walked around the lobby while we ate them, and returned to our seats.

Before the end of the intermission, they did the drawings for the raffle baskets, and that’s when things started going wonky.  Remember that The Boy has only had a few experiences with raffle baskets, and luckily for him at the time (but not so luckily for us at it turns out), he has won virtually everything he has attempted to win.

But today, we didn’t win.

And even though I had prepared him for this possibility (taking pictures of the baskets, assuring him that we could always purchase the contents on our own), he began to melt.  And we had to leave.  Luckily, I was prepared for this, and had even scoped out how far we were from the aisle, making sure we wouldn’t cause too much disturbance if we had to leave.  I have learned from past mistakes, it seems (why is it always at a play??).

The Boy is still upset, wanting to have a “funeral for our luck” – clever even while not comprehending the larger concepts, here.  And he will probably be in a funk for a little while.

So while we had planned to go to the show and then for dinner afterwards, we’re all quickly shifting to plan B.  Thank God for take-out!

Baby Steps to Adulthood

Tonight, I had everything prepped for Hummus-Crusted Chicken, went into the fridge to get the hummus, and… no hummus.  How can you salvage that recipe?  Um, you can’t.  I know I bought some on the previous grocery trip, but somewhere along the line, the hummus jumped ship.  So what to do?  I needed to run to the store.

I offered to The Boy the option of staying home, as I have a few times before.  He has always said no, a little afraid of the responsibility, and convinced he isn’t old enough.  But tonight, he was contentedly watching Spongebob videos, and responded that, yes, he would like to stay home, while I took five minutes to run to the store and back.  I reminded him that he could face-time me from his iPad if he needed anything, and I took off.

The whole time, I felt like I had a weight on my chest, but I drove carefully, moved quickly and efficiently into and out of the store, and face-timed him on the way home.  “How ya doin’?”

“Fine.”

“What’re ya doin’?”

“Watching Spongebob.”

“I’m on my way home.”

“OK, Mom.”

“See you in a minute!”

“OK, see you in a minute.”

“Bye!”

“Bye, Mom.”

Movin' On UpAnd a minute later I was home.  “Are you home?” he said when he heard me come in the door.  I responded in the affirmative, told him how proud I was of him for being so mature and responsible, and he was visibly excited and proud of himself.

Will I be taking off by myself to the movies anytime soon?  Hell no.

But this is a proud mama moment for me.  This is a baby step toward adulthood for my little man.