It’s Going OK, I Think

The Boy went to band camp for three hours on Monday evening, and it went ok, I think. I never know for sure, because he isn’t quite verbal. But a friend’s son said he did “pretty good,” for which I thanked him – I’d have no idea without that concise report.

He was excited to go – gave me no problems leaving summer day camp, and was patient when the plan changed slightly (the band was not in the cafeteria when he arrived, as expected). We waited for them to finish rehearsal on the practice field, and then located his friend. I told him to hang out with him, he would show The Boy where to go and what to do, and then I left.

It was a weird feeling. We’re not used to this organized activity thing.

I went back to pick him up a few hours later, and was glad to see I wasn’t the only parent unsure of the protocol. Do we stand by our cars and wait? Do we approach the field as they are finishing up? Do we halfheartedly check Facebook in our cars while watching for our children out of the corner of our eyes?

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While I didn’t want to embarrass him, I ended up waiting until they were released and waiting by the edge of the field to make sure he remembered to grab all of his things.

And it worked out ok. He was happy, grabbed all of his stuff, and when he came home, practiced his tuba for a bit more, no doubt scripting the band director cues and admonitions (because incorrect articulations are an obsession, right now).

I hope this continues. I hope he can get the feeling of belonging that comes with being in a group like this. I hope we’ve worked out a decent compromise. I think it’s going to be ok.

 

Everyone’s a Jerk Sometimes

The Man is definitely not an auditory learner. I’ve learned this the hard way a few times lately. In the latest instance, he wanted to order a septic system doohickey for work, but doesn’t have a functioning laptop, and asked me to look up the item in question. After doing so, and me reading stuff I didn’t completely understand from the screen, he said, “Order it!” excited that he could maybe create a few more job opportunities using this doohickey.

When the doohickey came on Saturday, he was amazed at the size. “Well, you did order the 100 foot version,” I said. “I didn’t want that one. I wanted the 50 foot version,” he said. I thought, “What? I read you what was on the screen! What didn’t you understand about it being 100 feet long?” but I said, “Well, we can return it if you want. It would cost us about nine dollars to ship it back.”

“Let me think about it,” he said.

This morning, he threw the box away and attempted to use it at work. He called me and said, “They sent the wrong thing! This thing is a different type of doohickey than I needed!” (paraphrased)

I said, “But it says right here in the description that it is supposed to work with your other doohickey.”

He said, “Well, it’s not the right thing, and I have to buy this other thing which costs $37 and we just need to send it back.” He was clearly frustrated and quickly got off the phone with me (we usually say “I love you” and when he doesn’t, I know he’s ticked off, usually at me).

And I thought, “Well, that was kind of jerky. It’s not my fault you didn’t pay attention and the doohickey isn’t what you thought it was.” My feelings were a bit hurt. And then I remembered back to this weekend when I snapped at him when I couldn’t locate my debit card and he said, “You lost your card?” Ooh, I let loose a little on that one (the card was just in the wrong pocket in my purse, but caused an overabundance of anxiety for about an hour).

I apologized later for snapping, just as he will apologize later for “being a little short” with me. We’re all a little jerky sometimes. You can’t expect your partner to have a perfect record in the emotional management department, especially when you are a little shy of perfect yourself. As long as apologies are forthcoming, and there was no intent to harm, I think you’re doing quite well. You’re doing even better if you can recognize what’s going on and make a mental note to work on that emotional management stuff.

There’s Hope Here

I spoke with the band director about band camp next week. Originally, he had said he wanted The Boy there, which would mean a 12 hour day and missing the last week of Summer Day Camp. The Boy put the kibosh on that, but agreed to go after day camp. I asked him if he understood that meant a change in his routine – he would have no time at Grammy’s for the week, and would add an additional three hours to an already long day. He assured me twice that he could handle it.

When I spoke with the band director, I told him the schedule The Boy would follow, and he seemed to understand. I asked him about a few logistical details, and if there would be an upperclassman or someone who could help The Boy keep track of what he is supposed to do. He responded with the name of an adult supervisor who had helped The Boy’s friend last year, and would be very helpful to The Boy – he had already made arrangements for this, which impressed me.

Finally, I asked if it would be helpful for me to come in and talk to the kids about autism, and at first he said that the kids already had some experience with The Boy’s friend. I responded that The Boy is a different kid, and that we sometimes expect kids to know how to react when they really have no frame of reference. He really liked the idea, suggesting I come in after the school year has started.

So I have renewed hope for this enterprise. The band director seems much more open than the directors we’ve previously encountered. He has some learning to do, clearly (Rule #1 of autism: If you’ve met one kid with autism, you’ve met one kid with autism), but seems to know there’s room to grow there.

I just texted my friend, mom to The Boy’s friend and his twin brother who will be in their second year of marching band this year, asking if they would save him a spot at dinner, which is just about the time The Boy will arrive to band camp each day. She said The Boy’s friend and his brother have already indicated that they plan to “look after him,” which warms my heart and gives me even more hope. Maybe this will work our after all…

 

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P.S. The ex actually sent me a check to pay for band camp… Will wonders never cease!

Inclusion Starts with “Hello!”

Thursday night, The Boy and I ventured to one of the marching band rehearsals from which he has been excused, due to logistics and conflicts with summer day camp. We wanted to just stop in and possibly say hi, meet some people, help with the transition. I made arrangements to leave work early so I could pick him up and get him there before it was over. We arrived and discovered the brass section in the band room. I told The Boy we would wait until they were on break to enter, so as not to disturb them. After waiting for a good bit with no break, he wanted to find the woodwind section to see how many of his friends from last year were in attendance.

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He loves it so much..

We found them in the library and were welcomed in by the band director. We sat and listened for a bit, and decided to head back to see if the brass were on break. They were, so we walked in, and The Boy’s middle school director was at the front of the room. I can’t quite describe the look he gave us when we walked in, but it was not pleasant. He didn’t say anything – not, “Hello,” not “Hey,” – nothing. No welcome, and no introduction for The Boy to this room full of kids who didn’t know who he was, save for a few. The Boy, oblivious, walked over to one of his friends and gave her a hug as she sat, and then I suggested we leave again, as our presence certainly did not seem to be welcome. We went back to the library and the woodwinds were being released back to the band room for a full rehearsal. The high school band director greeted The Boy again, and The Boy talked his ear off the whole way back to the band room. We listened for a bit to the full band play, and suggested again that we leave before everyone was released, and The Boy agreed.

He may be oblivious, but I am not.

While thankful the high school band director at least had the sense to appear welcoming, I’m sad that none of the high school students had the wherewithal to introduce themselves to The Boy. I’m disappointed that not one of the three drum majors, students in high levels of leadership, recognized their duty to welcome a member, albeit a non-traditional one. I’m livid that a professional educator who taught my son for two years cannot even greet him, and would go out of his way to make him feel unwelcome.

And right now I’m at a loss. I knew this wasn’t a terribly inclusive group to begin with, based on The Boy’s friend’s experience last year, who is also on the spectrum, and lacked a single friend in the group even at the end of the season. I knew I wouldn’t gain any friends by forcing our way into the group, even with the weight of the law and human decency behind us. But I have not been so uncomfortable, and made to feel so incredibly unwelcome since I encountered mean girls in my own middle school experience. It was that palpable. Do I try to educate and advocate? Do I engage outside help either from school administration, the autism society, or the state band directors association?

Or do I give up?

Is this really worth it?

I don’t know. All I know is that this shouldn’t be.

Nice to Hear

Yesterday, I emailed the Amazing Camp Director, new member of The Boy’s tribe, to let her know that I would be picking him up today so I could get him to the tail end of marching band practice this evening so he could show his face and begin to make some connections there. I also let her know how much The Boy appreciates her, because I think it’s important to let people know when they’ve touched your life.

She responded: “The Boy is awesome!! Seeing him puts a HUGE smile on my face!! He re-supplies the bubbles & he’s doing a fantastic job! His counselor left early today & won’t be in Thurs or Friday … He was great about asking who his counselor would be, I loved that he didn’t allow the uncertainty create anxiety (he may have been anxious but he knew to ask!!!) I explained it’s always so difficult because everyone wants to spend the day with him but (the substitute counselor) was the lucky one this time😀 he gave me the biggest smile & hug!! He truly brightens my day!!”

I’ve written before about what a mystery my child’s day is to me because he isn’t so verbal about what happens at school/camp. Notes like this not only warm my heart (he really does make fans of everyone who gets to know him!), but give me a glimpse into his day, his thoughts, his personhood. Notes like this are also a sign of a great educator and a wonderful person.❤

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You Need a Village

Yesterday was a classic Monday.  One little change to our routine made me about five minutes behind, which ended up with our leaving The Boy’s lunch on the counter, and my breakfast behind. The night before, we had also realized that we had left his swim trunks and rash guard at Grammy’s the previous Friday, which meant she had to throw them in the dryer so he could change into them when he arrived to her house.

Needless to say, Grammy made sure he had dry swim clothes and a full lunch for camp on Monday. Without her help, we would have encountered major interruption to the day, and in all probability, a meltdown to go with it (maybe two, if mine count).

While I don’t have a ton of friends down here to rely on, I do have my parents, and we need them. Everyone needs a village. When we lived up north, I relied on friends and The Boy’s tribe. There are times when you can’t do it all, when things fall through the cracks, and when you just need a damned break.

It’s a difficult thing to find and build your village, but it’s very necessary. I just don’t know how I could do it without some kind of support (besides my wonderful husband – sometimes even the two of us need additional hands!). And I don’t pretend it’s easy. The very nature of a special needs household may preclude being social with other families on any kind of a regular basis. But there is always a way. Don’t forget that I found Fantastic Babysitter (who is now one of our dearest family friends, and was/is a huge part of The Boy’s tribe) on Craigslist…

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Be Nice

I thought I’d post a reminder about my policies.

Up there, fourth tab over, 3rd bullet point down: “Be nice to each other and to me.”

If you choose to comment here, and leave only negative, disparaging, judgmental comments, they either will not be approved, or they will be deleted. I have no problem with someone disagreeing with me, what I write, or the actions of others about whom I write. But if you can’t be civil, you are not welcome here. Move along.

For now, I have set my comments to only post with approval. I will re-set them to more lenient settings when I am sure the nasty person who prompted this post has, indeed, moved along.

 

Thanks, as always, for your support!🙂

New Member of The Boy’s Tribe

The Boy adores his new summer day camp. They go swimming at the community pool three times a week, he has friends from school who attend, and they play Wii bowling – what’s not to love?

He also has a new member of his tribe. The camp director is a high school special education teacher from another school in the community, and she is amazing. Wanna know how I know? The Boy gets a huge smile on his face when I mention her, and he doesn’t do that for everyone.

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As I mentioned yesterday, he’s having some anxiety over absences again, exacerbated by one of his close friends being ambivalent about camp and intermittent with his attendance. Not only did the camp director figure out a way to entice his friend to come to camp (allowing him to do a few magic shows at camp), she has figured out a strategy to alleviate some of The Boy’s anxiety. She reasoned that his anxiety stems from not having control over whether or not others are absent, so why not allow him a little control over something else?

She said he is always letting her know when supplies are low (which is great because the staff does not), so she could have him do a daily inventory of supplies (and even campers!) with a clipboard. By allowing him input in tracking, it may alleviate some of his anxiety.

This, THIS, is the sign of a great teacher. One who actively thinks about her students and their needs, even outside of school (or camp) hours, and devises needs-based strategies to help them with their daily functioning and emotional state.

So, welcome to the tribe, Camp Director! The Boy can spot the good ones a mile away. Now we just have to get you to come over to our high school😉

Waiting for Sunshine and Roses

It’s been a tough week.

Somewhere there’s a list of life events that can bring you to your knees and if moving isn’t at the top, it should be. Moving into almost-finished new construction with only two adults, a pickup and a Hyundai wagon. In 90 degree heat. When one of the adults considers the other “a hoarder” for having stuff… Yeah, “stressful” is one word for it.

(Thank goodness for Poppy’s mad vacuuming and cleaning skills, and Grammy’s mad Boy-entertaining skills!)

And you’ve accomplished this monumental thing, moving an entire house in two days on top of constructing said paid-for home from the ground up, but you are surrounded by boxes and missing shower curtain rings, and where-the-hell-am-I-going-to-put-that stuff. (I swear I’m not a hoarder!)

Then comes an unexpected, HUGE bill in the mail to take the wind right out of your sails, and evaporates any semblance of excitement you had left, and you wonder how anyone ever gets a leg up…

Then one of The Boy’s best friends decides he doesn’t want to go to summer day camp anymore, and his absences begin to trigger meltdowns and anxiety every night and morning. The Boy lashes out and threatens not to go himself, even though he absolutely adores it.

And you’re supposed to go to work and do work things correctly when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in over a week, you haven’t eaten since you opened that huge bill, and you’ve taxed your body to the limit. The worry and overwhelm seem to be taxing your brain even more.

Everyone around you is worried, too. Either about the same things as you, or about you, and there’s nothing to say or do. You just keep going. There’s no time or money to do anything else. And crying gets old. Deep down, you know this too shall pass, so you just continue to be until it gets better.

My Reflection

This morning, pulling out after dropping The Boy off at Grammy’s, I actually thought, “Why do we always have rough mornings when I am the most stressed?”

I must be new here.

Autism knows no time schedule. It doesn’t take a break because I have a million things to do between now and this weekend, and not enough hours in the day to do them. Nor does it sit back and say, “Your right. This is completely irrational and poorly timed.” It is what it is, whenever the hell it wants to be.

But there’s more to it than that. The Boy doesn’t get upset and wound up in spite of my stress. He gets upset and wound up because of it. There’s no lack of empathy – that’s a complete myth. There is an overabundance of it. The Boy picks up on my stress, nervousness, anxiety, and mirrors it right back to me.

For some reason, this is a lesson I find myself having to re-learn again and again. Someday I’ll catch on.

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