All Quiet on the Northern Front

On Father’s Day, we were up north, but I made sure The Boy called his dad. He spoke with him briefly, spoke to both of his uncles briefly, and spoke to his grandpa briefly. The call lasted 7 minutes.

I tried to think back to the last time they had spoken, and couldn’t think of a time since he had dropped The Boy off with us in January, at the end of his winter break. I checked my phone bill and I was wrong.  He did call once in March, and they spoke for 9 minutes.

For those of you keeping score, that’s 16 minutes in 6 months.

There hasn’t been any attempt to get any time with The Boy for the summer break, and there has been no discussion of when the next visitation might occur. Maybe it’s because I told him unequivocally in January that The Boy flying alone on a plane wasn’t going to happen any time soon. “It’s not a good idea,” were my exact words.

Is this the beginning of the end? One initiated contact in the past 6 months?

I don’t have any words. Just sadness.

when the school calls...

Tracks

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See the tracks in the picture? The ones heading toward the swing on which The Boy is perched? Look like tire tracks, right?

Nope.

They’re from The Boy himself. From walking and stimming as he does when we are home. And apparently he does it in such a repetitive fashion that you can now discern his route. The track on the right is for leaving the swing area, and the track on the left is for heading to the swing area.

Ever wonder why some of our kiddos get obsessed with train schedules and maps? With routines? Have wonderful memories for directions?

Makes me want to geotrack him…

Remarried Life

The Man and I celebrate three years married today, and I feel so much more competent at being married than I ever have. It really helps to have married the right person. I think the perspective from being married previously (to the hopelessly wrong person) helps, as well.

From the beginning with The Man, I saw us as a team. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, she reveals that marriage in the early years of western civilization was actually an act of civil disobedience against the all-powerful church (who preferred that individuals be married only to God), and became an “us against the world” partnership.

This coincides nicely with the advice I picked up somewhere that suggests you should never speak ill of your spouse to others. It’s all too easy to complain to friends and family when you feel like your spouse is being unfair or overreacting to something you did, but I have really tried to hold my tongue and keep any issues we may have with each other where they belong, between the two of us.

Here are a few other perspectives I have picked up along the way:

  1. The “never go to bed angry” line is nonsense. You don’t have any control over your emotions and how long you will feel the way you feel. You don’t look at the clock and say, “Oh, it’s 9 o’clock so I need to stop being miffed now.” But do go to bed together. It means that you are still in this thing together, even if you aren’t agreeing right now.
  2. Try not to let the little things drive you crazy. There are times when I fantasize about big heavy cast iron pans when the snoring has gone past its usual 20 minutes, and the TV is still on and he’s asleep. But there will come a day when there won’t be any snoring and no TV to keep me awake, and I’d much prefer to have him there next to me, even if earplugs are required.
  3. Show it don’t say it. Those three little words lose their meaning when repeated so often. Offering to do the dishes when he’s tired, not pointing out that he’s complaining too much, and letting him listen to Conway Twitty on the car radio go much further, sometimes.
  4. Being right is overrated. I come from know-it-all stock. I used to wield my intelligence like a cudgel, at times. Now I know that it’s ok to let my husband think he’s right about the mouth-being-a-very-clean-place-actually-because-he-heard-a-story-about-it-on-NPR.

The Man was nervous about getting married. His first experience wasn’t such a good one, either. But he knew it was important to me, and so he proposed. After about a year of marriage, he told me he was a convert – he hadn’t realized it could be so good. I hadn’t either, but I believed in us, in our team of two.

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Savage-ry

I started this blog just about four years ago, and in that time, I have avoided politics as a rule. This is amazing for me. If you were a friend of mine on Facebook, you would have a crystal clear picture of where I stand on most issues. I’m in the political minority where I live, and it’s uncomfortable. Others like me speak softly in restaurants, and are resigned to the fact that if you dare put up a yard sign or a bumper sticker on your car, it will be ripped off at the very least. My husband and I aren’t as afraid, and will stay what needs to be said, and loudly.

But here, I try to ignore the political divide as much as possible, because if you read this blog, you care about your kids, and at the end of the day, that’s what is most important.

Now, when the country is as divided as it has ever been, I need to speak my peace for the very kids we all care about. Never has the country put forth a candidate that is downright dangerous for minority populations, especially dangerous to the special needs community.

It is common knowledge by now that Donald Trump openly mocked a disabled reporter. He claims not to have done so, but the Pulitzer Prize winning site, PolitiFact has deemed that he did, indeed, mock New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski. And if you watched the video with your own eyeballs, you probably came to the same conclusion.

But he has mocked just about everyone from Mexicans, to POWs, to women. Many, many women. That, in and of itself, is not dangerous. His views on autism are dangerous (he believes that vaccines cause autism, a theory that has been debunked multiple times). And the people he would look to for advice on national health policy are dangerous. In an interview with incendiary radio talk show host, Michael Savage, Trump said that he thought that putting Mr. Savage in charge of the National Institute of Health would instill “a lot of common sense” into that institution.

If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Savage’s “work,” you should be (the following is directly quoted from this article):

  • On Autism: “A Fraud, A Racket … In 99 Percent Of The Cases, It’s A Brat Who Hasn’t Been Told To Cut The Act Out.” Savage claimed in 2008 that autism is “a fraud, a racket. … I’ll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out. That’s what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.'”  [Media Matters7/17/08; ABC News, 7/21/08]
  • On PTSD And Depression Sufferers: “Weak,” “Narcissistic,” “Losers.” Savage pushed junk science by accusing those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, including military veterans, of being “weak,” “narcissistic,” “losers.” Savage added that “we’re being laughed at around the world. No wonder ISIS can defeat our military.” [Media Matters10/21/1410/26/14]
  • On Liberals Like Sen. Bernie Sanders Who Have Been Driven To “Insanity” Because Of Seltzer: Savage theorized that he thinks seltzer and “the little bubbles of carbon dioxide” have poisoned liberals’ brains. He added, “If I had the time, I’d go back to my scientific background and I would do an epidemiological study of the use of seltzer and liberalism and the insanity of liberalism.” [Right Wing Watch, 9/16/15]

If you need more reasons to be afraid of this man becoming an adviser to anyone, read this.

I already fear the unknown future for my son. I don’t need additional reasons to worry about him being considered only a “brat” who need to “straighten up” by his own government, the people who are supposed to help him and protect him.

If you know or love anyone on the spectrum, folks, this is really a no-brainer. We can’t let this happen. Share with those you love who may actually still be considering their choice.

 

The Trip Recap

The Boy and I just spent a long weekend visiting old friends and relatives up north. I had promised him three years ago when we moved away that we would visit. This year, I made it a goal to make good on my promise. When an airline opened up a new, cheap, nonstop flight, I jumped at the opportunity.

I encouraged The Boy to make a list of places he’d like to go and people he’d like to see. I coordinated with people on Facebook who wanted to see us, and planned our trip in morning-afternoon-evening chunks, allowing for travel time via rental car. Fantastic Babysitter put us up, even though she was out of town for a couple days. It worked out beautifully as The Boy was comfortable in her house, a place he had been many times, and we saved money on a hotel. The bonus was that the weather was gorgeous, and she lives in a quiet neighborhood, allowing us wonderful downtime at the end of each jam-packed day.

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❤ She hadn’t seen him since she was 3, but asked to hold his hand in the parking lot 

Most of our “places” to visit were really restaurants (um, yeah… we like food. A lot.), and we made a point to eat at places we just don’t have back home. Even better was the company. Every single visit with friends was a joyous, picked-up-right-where-we-left-off extravaganza. The Boy had even prepared three PowerPoints (unbeknownst to me) to share with his former ASD teacher at lunch on Saturday.

The Boy was simply amazing. At our favorite eclectic arcade on Friday, one of his favorite games had been removed, and I didn’t even realize until after the fact, when he explained to me a few times that it had been moved (I put two and two together because of the perseverating on the same point). But he didn’t get upset about it. The only thing that really did upset him was that he was reminded about the glory of the ice cream truck, something we just don’t have where we live, but a treasured memory from living up north. We glimpsed one a few times during the weekend, but didn’t end up realizing his wish to purchase ice cream from one, and that was a tragedy by Sunday.

I could see fault lines forming by the time we got to the gate on Monday to get back on the plane to go home. His laptop was not charged and would not charge. It got a little hairy until I enlisted the help of the gate agent, who allowed us to use her outlet behind the desk. The rest of the day, The Boy was a bit “tetchy” about everything. He didn’t want to come home, but was mollified by a stop at his favorite arcade in Myrtle Beach before heading back home.

It was a huge success, a wonderful time, and I was incredibly proud of The Boy. The people we visited were not the only ones impressed by how much he has grown in three years.

Has this Happened to You?

You are at some school or other kid-related function, and a parent begins talking to you as if they know you. She or he prattles on about their child by first name, and your child by first name. But you’ve never met them before in your life.

IMG_4054-0I suspect this is common for those of us with kiddos on the spectrum, at least those of us whose kiddos are not-exactly-verbal. In my experience, The Boy becomes a kid at school that everyone knows, or at least knows of, but because we have limited social interaction with the same students outside of school, I know none of these kids. It is also due to the fact that The Boy is fairly nonverbal about anything that happens at school.  This is why I try to go on at least one field trip per year, so I can put names with faces.

The latest occurrence happened at an Autism Society Friend and Fun event, and I met a mom and her daughter, a girl who is a year behind The Boy in school. He’s gone to school with her for two years, so her mom assumed I knew her daughter, or at least knew her, but I had never heard her name mentioned before, and had never seen her before.

I’m clearly at a disadvantage when this happens, and never quite sure how to respond without seeming rude, and I really should come up with something to say. I would love to know more of these kids and their parents. It would be great for both of us to make more connections, but it’s almost as if he is a celebrity and lives a double life.

Apparently, what happens at school stays at school, and the first rule of school? Never talk about school.😉

Paint Chips

The Man and I have both been trying to get The Boy to do a little more around the house. We finally completed several of the Independence Challenge prompts, getting The Boy to plan a meal that he would make for us (pizza, what else!), go grocery shopping for supplies, follow the directions, prep the ingredients, and cook the meal. But it took a lot of prompting.

While at the new house the other day, The Man was working on getting The Boy to water the newly planted sod. He needed him to stand there and soak the same area for a couple of minutes, and even that was difficult for The Boy to attend to for too long.

It’s a struggle, and I often worry about his future in moments like these. Will he have the patience to follow directions at a job? Will he be able to work independently without someone hovering, saying “No, it needs a few more minutes of soaking”?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/vanhoosear/24787619731/in/photolist-DLp2KZ-5xuioL-4eT3U-4W8ov6-cAxrbA-attWhH-97iCs8-ny7zGA-h4EMTf-aiF3Gc-c5aE2A-aC675a-6oE9kA-6Rg68S-bwT7eM-9E1W1R-8AnZD8-ftHg8g-pzSyRq-aC67kP-46FHiq-6fAwKJ-6Rc33V-uVWLG-97gpEp-4W8oHK-qs84Wn-7YNfA6-dLSzms-aCUMBY-mSAkXk-ecdUN2-c9gPfo-95seiy-4QsLC7-9ijb8D-atJ7Md-dUNmfn-9vu83H-61zeUH-qfXTXe-8cmoop-cyjKzy-7PKT9S-7di6cE-9vG7Jo-qGF3v-8FPySB-6Rc3Jr-8ivZMh

Paint Samples by Todd Van Hoosear

We are in the midst of painting the interiors of the new house, and struggled to find the right color, buying five $4 samples before we found the right one. Many trips to the home improvement store, sometimes with The Boy, but often without. We stopped after I picked him up from Grammy’s one night to get a fresh batch of paint chips for possible colors, after the one we had thought would be perfect was much too yellow. I was trying to be quick because we had groceries in the car and it was hot outside. Suddenly, I looked over at The Boy, and realized he was sorting the paint chips into the right slots and straightening them. No one had asked him to do it. He saw that it was kind of a mess, and he felt compelled to bring into some semblance of order.

It gave me hope. I’ll never have a definite answer to my questions about his future until the future becomes the present. But moments like this allow me to see the possibilities, and that’s enough for now.

Band Plan

I met last week with the high school band director who had attempted to tell me that he didn’t think marching band was a good idea for The Boy, based on the experiences of a boy on the spectrum that had been in it last year. By the way, that boy is a friend of ours and busted his behind for that group, and found it very difficult to make friends in this marching band, but I digress… The high school special education teacher was there too, and I’m so glad she facilitated. She looks like she will be a rockstar for The Boy, and unfortunately, he needs a strong advocate in his own school system.

Shockingly, the band director had changed his tune a bit, although he did point out that the middle school band director also thought marching band would not be a good idea for The Boy, either. “But I’m not closing the door…” he said. Kinda hard when my foot is wedged in it, huh?

IMG_5331I had come prepared with a list of applicable laws, just in case, and a list of modifications and alternatives. Turns out, I didn’t need the laws (since he wasn’t “closing the door”), and when I suggested the first alternative, they both seemed receptive. After hashing out some details, we devised a plan: The Boy will play at Friday night football games only, and will play his sousaphone in the “pit” section, which is where the semi-stationary percussion instruments like xylophones and timpani are. This will allow him to participate without having to learn the “drill” (complicated moves), and without having to rehearse after school every day. He will be in the marching band class, but if they are not rehearsing music, the band director may send The Boy to English with the special education teacher, where he can work on any homework he may have, or get a second “dose” of a subject in which he has deficits.

And he will be in concert band in the spring, regardless of whether or not there is a second, “lower” band.

So, we have successfully shoved that damned door wide open, and created a place for my kid in their program. See how much can be accomplished with open minds at the table?

To the Trendy Boys Being Catty

There was a story circulating Facebook a little while ago about a woman who had given a note to some mean girls she had overheard at a Starbucks. I read it, as well as all of the armchair quarterbacks chiming in on whether or not they would have done the same, and who the hell was this woman, anyway?

Well, she happens to be an author of a book about middle school relationships, and has developed a curriculum for social leadership in schools, so she kind of knows what she’s talking about. I knew plenty about middle school girls being mean, from my own experience, and from teaching middle school for so many years. I did not chime in and become yet another judge like so many choose to do these days. I read the story, thought about it, and moved on.

pexels-photo-87835Last Friday, The Man, The Boy, Grammy & Poppy, and I went out to eat as we are wont to do at the end of the week. We decided to go to a place that is a bit trendy, but also has good food, reasonable prices, and is a favorite among the hipster-ish crowd in the area, small though it may be. The Boy likes it because they have a tabletop multi-cade video game that he can play, and in fact chooses to eat at that table while he’s playing. As we’re eating and enjoying each other’s company, I watched The Boy get up to get more lemonade. And I watched as two boys waiting in line watched him, as well. They seemed to make particular note of his footwear (crocs), and begin making comments to each other.

As I said, I spent many years teaching middle school and high school aged kids, and as a teacher, you get a sixth sense about when food fights are about to go down, when a young couple has broken up, and when someone is getting talked about.

In the article I linked above, Michelle Icard, the woman who “spoke up” at that Starbucks had this to say to critics who questioned why she told the girls they were “pretty”:

“I think it’s an important part of the story,” she said. “I think that’s a way a lot of girls hide their bad behavior, by fitting in perfectly physically.”

And Heidi Stevens, Chicago reporter adds:

“I think that’s true of grown women as well. Heck, men and boys too.”

I know that’s true of boys, too. Down here, it manifests itself in wearing the right shoes (and shin-high socks, apparently).

Did I say anything to the boys? No. They were with their parents, I hadn’t heard anything concrete, and this is the South, after all. One of the boys was wearing a Coors Light ball cap, after all. I doubted Mom & Dad would be too receptive to whatever I had to say. If I had been alone with The Boy, I might have gone over to them and said, “I noticed you admiring my son’s crocs – they’re hard to find these days!” or something along those lines. But I was with my family, and they clearly wanted me to focus on something else.

I can only be thankful that The Boy was oblivious. And I am more certain that this cattiness crosses gender lines, and needs to be addressed more often at home, at school, and by perfect strangers at a Starbucks.

The Math Muddle Update

The Senate Committee has sent the bill to the Senate, but has modified it to allow students the choice of taking integrated math classes, or a more traditional set of discrete math classes. They have also re-instituted the provisions which allow students with disabilities to substitute classes in order to earn a diploma.

We, personally, have dodged a bullet, but the teachers may now be left scrambling, trying to figure out how to offer completely different classes concurrently, and the senate committee members comments were basically summed up as, “suck it up – you’re teachers and you can figure it out.”

Why, oh why do they meddle in a profession about which they have no clue? Do they issue mandates on how medical professionals examine their patients? Do they issue bills requiring dentists to fill cavities according to a proscribed set of guidelines? Nope, just the educators get the benefit of their omniscient wisdom.

It is no wonder we parents of special needs parents have chronic stress and anxiety, when issues like this face our kiddos. When their very futures hang on the whims of pompous know-it-alls who have the power to change policy at a moments notice. I avoid being political here, but voting is necessary. We need to ensure that level heads prevail with our children’s futures on the line. Vote out the bad, and vote in the good. That is our only power, and it’s on us if we don’t use it, or if we throw it away.