Things Are Looking Up

This morning, I start my new job. I am thrilled, relieved, and excited.

When we moved almost three years ago now, this is the type of job I was sure I would find. It just took me three years to get there. Great pay, great hours, benefits, only two other people in the office, and job duties I know I can handle. The other great part is that it is a salaried position, so my hours are flexible as long as I meet the expected number of hours. This is ideal for the parent of an autistic child who may have IEP meetings or random meltdown rescues to handle in the course of a year.

It is in a tax office, and so the next few months will be hectic. But I’ve done hectic, and I can handle it. I know I can, which lends credence to the idea that even if you aren’t in the best situation (my previous, high-stress job), you’re still learning.

This great news, along with the receipt of our building permits (finally!), and a report card for The Boy that has all 90s on it means I want to shout from the rooftops, and dance in my pajamas this morning. It’s one of those feelings you want to bottle for darker days.

As always, thank you all for your continued support. Good things come from being kind, looking out for each other, multitudes of patience, and support from a great community.

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Preparing for High School: Update

high schoolI had heard a lot of things about special ed in our high school, the different tracks, what they can take, where they can go with the different diplomas… I wanted to meet with people who could tell me definitively. And I got some answers.

In essence, we will have to choose a track by this spring, which will determine whether or not The Boy ever goes to a four-year college. That’s a tough decision for any parent of a fourteen year old, I think. And I think if they made general ed parents do this, there might be a bit of “education reform” down here.

There is an “occupational” track, designed for kids who are cognitively impaired, and have IQs in the 50s-70s. They are taught in special ed classrooms (segregated from the rest of the gen ed population), and the coursework focuses on work experience, heavily. If we choose this path, he cannot use his diploma to ever go to a four-year college. He may also not be able to take band, depending on when the core classes are scheduled.

Then there is the “future ready” track which is the general ed curriculum. They have a special ed teacher available to be in some of the 9th and 10th grade core classrooms. There is an elective study hall that special ed kids can take to get homework help. And that’s it.

We could start him in the “future ready” and move him to the “occupational,” but we couldn’t do the opposite. It almost feels like they set them up for failure in the gen ed track with little support, and then when they fail, funnel all of the special ed kids into the “occupational” track.

Everyday, special ed kids are denied taking electives in schools across this country, simply because of their disability. But because most parents don’t care about electives, and don’t fight for their kid’s right to equal access to the curriculum, nothing is done. But this is a smaller issue.

This setup, this all-or-nothing choice we have to make… this is something else entirely. I have a friend whose son is more academically age-appropriate than mine, and he is in the “future ready” track at this high school. His teachers don’t know how to modify his assignments, and he has to stay after everyday to get help from his teachers, on top of the “study hall” he gives up an elective for, so that he can have a special ed teacher help him do his homework. Is this really all they can do? Is this really all there is?

Yep, this southern state sure has opened my eyes to the reasons people homeschool.

UPDATE: I just shared an email exchange with The Boy’s former program teacher who said that the part about never, ever being able to go to a four-year college was absolutely untrue. Good news. But makes me wonder what other information the “transition coordinator” screwed up…

My Rigidity

Routines are key in an autism household. If The Boy knows what to expect, we avoid confusion and meltdowns. But it’s a fine line, and you have to feather in some opportunities to learn how to be flexible. Because that’s real life.

Nothing new there.

As I get older, however, I’m finding that I am becoming more rigid. That my anxiety dramatically increases when the routine is disrupted. We had a two hour delay for no apparent reason last week, as none of the east coast brouhaha was headed our way. But I sort of flipped out a little. That meant I had to get two people ready and out the door at the same time – something I used to do with aplomb, but now is not part of our routine. I couldn’t even wrap my brain around it, and was in quite a state until we were out the door. The Boy? He was just fine, of course.

Is it age? Are the routines we have becoming too ingrained? Have I rid my life of so much stress that I can’t handle even a little anymore?

I’m not sure. It can be unsettling, though. And I’m not sure how to “fix” it. 

If you’ve experienced something like this, or have any thoughts, please share. I’m listening. 

Big Stuff Coming This Year

2016 is going to be a big year for us. I’ve already set up a meeting with our autism specialist and the transition coordinator for next week to talk about The Boy’s transition to high school. Yes, high school.

yikes.

high school

In our state, there are different programs in which a special education student can enroll for high school, and you kinda have to pick which track you’re going to pursue before you even start. The Boy could try to do the full curriculum, but with deficits in math and language arts, I’m leaning toward the track that is labeled “occupational,” which emphasizes work skills and experience. If he wanted to, he could attend a community college with this type of diploma, but couldn’t directly enroll in a university. That’s where I’m leaning, knowing what I know now, but that’s why I want to meet. I want to know the details and make an informed decision. I also want to include The Boy in some of our decision making.

We are also looking forward to building our house which will allow The Boy to go to the high school he is planning on. We’re several months behind due to some unscrupulous contractors (I think they are rather requisite for any home-building project), but are excited to be filling our building permit applications this week. And I can finally start visualizing our new home.

Big changes coming our way. And this little mama is doing what she does best – planning, and planning, and planning…

The Angry Ex, 8 Years Later

numbers-time-watch-whiteIt’s been just about eight years since The Boy’s dad walked out and I filed for divorce. It’s been so long since The Boy’s dad lived with him, I wonder just how much he remembers from those years. He was only six, after all, when his dad first decided to live downstairs, and then decided to move four states away.

For a time, we were both angry. Then I lost interest, and he remained angry. But even if time doesn’t heal all wounds, it does mellow you out, a bit. I’m not going to say he still doesn’t have flashes of angry – it was only a couple of years ago that he cancelled the night before a visitation because he suddenly didn’t like our drop-off arrangements. And I wonder what will happen this spring when he realizes I really mean it that The Boy will not be flying by himself. I saw a flash of the old fire in his eyes when I told him that at drop-off a few weeks ago.

The truth is, probably nothing will happen. He may get annoyed, he may even get angry. But he probably won’t shout at me on the phone or send me a nasty text – both of which he loved to employ in previous years. Maybe he has reached a stage where he is indifferent, as well.

In any case, most of our dealings are what you could call “cordial”. Of course I wish he would make more of an effort with his son, but I realized a long time ago that I have no control over that, and it isn’t worth my energy. As long as it stays that way, “cordial” is just fine by me.

BuJo and ASD

I mentioned recently that I have begun bullet journaling, and it has helped me put one foot in front of the other to get past some pretty dark, helpless feelings this fall. I also belong to a fantastic facebook group with over 14,000 members who also bullet journal, and it has connected me to people across the globe. One of those fabulous ladies is an autism mom in the UK who shared that her son was helping to set the table, and began by making a list of “supplies” he would need – five plates, five forks, etc. – on his iPad. Then, he gathered his materials and put them in the appropriate spots on the table (while shouting loudly what each was). She remarked to him about his list. “Why did you make a list?” He said, “You remember everything, Mom, and you make lists in your journal all day long.”

This story got me to thinking. The reason many of us bullet journal is because it can get overwhelming relying on our brains to remember everything. I, personally, am the type to need to get things on paper, because if I don’t, I will remind myself to do that one thing at least six times in one day – how exhausting, and how almost perseverative (is that a word? it is now…)… Overwhelmed… Perseverating… Indeed, one of the most relied upon strategies for coping with autism is the social story (a list of sorts to describe what will happen), and another is “first, then” (First we will do some homework, then we will have some m&m’s).  Maybe, just maybe some kiddos, young adults, and adults on the spectrum would benefit from bullet journaling.

I may try this with The Boy. But my primary purpose with this post is to share an idea, a connection, a possibility. This may be a strategy that could help you or someone you know. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

BuJo

The Caretakers

My dad had a stroke in the wee hours of New Year’s Day, and thankfully, as mom put it, I didn’t have to hop on a plane with an infant this time. It was still a series of trying, worrying days. Dad has recovered quite well, but is definitely requiring more care than before.

Poppy and The Boy

This time, I stepped up to make some phone calls and communicate with family. Invariably, it was a woman on the other end of the phone, as we are caretakers by nature. But for each generation, for each branch of a family, it tends to fall on one person’s shoulders. I spoke to my cousin, and my aunt, and before them it would have been my Aunt Mickey, and my Great Aunt Rosie. There are those in whose arms the rest of us seek comfort and care.

I am already a caretaker, and have been since the minute my son was born. I became an even stronger one the day he was diagnosed with autism. I knew when I married a man 17 years my senior that someday I would be his caretaker, and being an only child, I know that I will be taking that role with both of my parents, as well. This is not being a martyr, this is not being a nurse – I’ve already warned all and sundry that I will not do diapers again. I’ve done my time. This is being a steward for the care of others when they are not very able to do it for themselves, and I take this transitioning role on with open arms, a full heart, and a laser-sharp mind, honed by many years already dealing with hospitals, therapists, and educators.

There’s no one more qualified, ready, and willing.

—–

Are you a caretaker? What insights and advice can you share in the comments?

It’s OK to be Offended

It’s funny how much our culture is influenced by the young. It’s probably our obsession with youth and inability to age gracefully, but whatever the youngsters are into is what you’ll see on TV, in the stores, and in the comment section of anything you read.

Have you seen the term “butthurt”? Yeah, me too. I hate that term. It’s part of this prevailing attitude (thank you, hipsters) that if you get upset or heaven forbid, offended, you are part of the problem. “Everyone is so sensitive these days”. “Everyone has to be so politically correct”. “If you don’t like it, just keep scrolling,” they say.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s ok to be offended. It’s ok to be upset when someone says something mean or crass, or that is derogatory to someone else. It means you have a strong sense of values, and that you are brave enough to speak up either for yourself or for others who are not able to stand up for themselves.

Do you need to fight every battle? No. That would get overwhelming. As the great Mama Fry from Autism with a Side of Fries says in her latest post, “I’d rather on doing something else than having the same exact fight again and again.” She is referring to a troll who is continually poking the bear to get a rise out of the autism community, and I wholeheartedly agree with her. There are times when people do this crap for attention, and because they think it’s funny to see a bunch of people to get pissed off. This world clearly needs more therapy.

But don’t be bullied into thinking that you shouldn’t give your opinion, especially when people are being mean or derogatory. Don’t be mocked for reacting negatively to bad stuff. We need to stand up to that or it becomes commonplace, and we lose our values in this society. I’m not sure how it got to be so cool to not care about a damn thing or anyone’s feelings but your own, but I’m done with that attitude.

Besides, I’ve never been cool, so why start now.

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