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Monday, August 30, 2010

Facebook and the Autisic Teen

Wow! So Facebook is all the rage in our house -at least for me and my teenage son.  For me, it's a connection to the outside world that I don't get see all that much of.  It's adult dialogue with friends old and new, near and far.  Most of my friends are not near...they are all over the U.S.  It is way cool to communicate with friends from high school who are my age and have children who are the age we were when we met.  We're all on the other side of watching teenagers grow up.  It's a way to stay connected and know what's going on with your friends from day to day.  Who has time or peace and quiet long enough for lengthy conversations on the phone.  It's an opportunity to quickly share joys and triumphs as well as commiserate over difficult moments.  It's the water-cooler conversation for those of us who work at home.

On the other hand for my son who is socially immature -he can communicate with a number of people without having to worry about facial expressions and reading social cues.  He can chat online in the comfort of his room without being in some busy, loud, social setting, which makes communication for him much more difficult.  He has many more Facebook friends than real friends -meaning the ones you hang out with regularly.  It makes him feel more a part of the teenage culture.

On the other, other hand --he sometimes can be just as socially inept online, as he is in real life.  That would be the case on Saturday evening when he decided to write on the wall of one of his friends.

"Dude -why do you have to go out with L? I mean I'm so jealous.  I've known her for a long time.  We live in the same neighborhood.  I really like her. She's the only girl who is really nice to me.  I want to go out with her."

WOW! This is what he writes on this girl's boyfriend's wall for all the teenage world to see! Dude -I really like your girlfriend.  Can't you just stop going out with her so that I can?!  I mean -just hand her over! Give her up...don't you see that I need her to be my girlfriend.  You can have any girl you want, but my resources are limited -so I need this one.  She's the only girl I know who is nice to me and kind of understands me.

I was just flabbergasted when he told me so matter-of-factly that this is what he had done.   Luckily for him the dude didn't try to find him so that he could come and kick his a*#!  In God's infinite wisdom -this young man happened to be a Christian and decided to respond amicably.

"Dude -I'm sorry but L and I are going to be going out for a long time. So you're going to have to find someone else."

Then other teens chime in, "The way to find a girlfriend is just hang out with friends.  Become friends with a girl and maybe one of them will hook you up with one of their friends who is single."
"Dude -you gotta just relax about it.  Let the girls come to you!"

In other words, don't act so desperate!


I was actually impressed with the advice that these kids were giving him.  They actually were using the same words that I have said to him myself like a zillion times! But hey -what do I know?

His first reaction when the boy very nicely told him basically -Dude -it's not happening...was rage! He pounded doors and his bed!  Screamed, "I Want a F-ing girlfriend! IT's NOT FAIR!" He charged through the house looking for his little brother to pound on, luckily he was gone out.  When he came to his senses and reduced his tone -I asked him what happened to make him react like this.  He told me the whole scenario.

"Wow -you have a lot of nerve kid! I can't believe you did that!" He looked astonished. What...what did I do?  He had no clue how much nerve it should have taken to dare to post such a thing.  I painted the picture for him.

"What if  some old boyfriend of mine called up your dad and said, 'Hey dude...I made a mistake when I let your wife walk out of my life all those years ago.  I really haven't found anyone else like her and I don't think I will, so would you do me a big favor and just give her up.  I mean -haven't you been married to her long enough?  It's really not fair -I really want to marry her." Hey -it could happen!

He had that deer in the headlights look on his face -completely oblivious that was what he had essentially just done.  I encouraged him to apologize to the young man and the young lady.  He felt so bad.  He wrote, "Maybe I should just delete my facebook," on his wall.  He wrote that hoping that his friends would all feel sorry for him and beg him not to.

When I saw it I said, "Maybe you should delete your account if you're going to do such impulsive things."  That was the end of that.  He realized, that he should think a little harder before he acts.  That doesn't mean he will.

He made his apologies and they were graciously accepted.  In fact, -the next day he ended up going to church with the young lady.  She warned him beforehand that her boyfriend would indeed be there.  He trepidatiously agreed.  The three of them ended up having a good time together at church.  He looks forward to hanging out with them again soon -maybe going back to church with them next week.

I worry of course that he will become obsessed with this friendship.  I always worry about the next weird thing he will do with regards to friend, especially when it comes to female friends.  My mother doesn't think he's ready for a Facebook account.  Of course, neither she or my husband want me to be on it either.  Sorry...I'm a grown up!  

As for my son -he will have to tread his way upstream on Facebook just like he does in the rest of  his social life.  He will learn from his mistakes.  I can't protect him from that -nor should I.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kuddos

The boys have done an excellent job of holding it together at school this week and then came home and gave me holy hell, in one way or another.  Change is excruciating for the average teen and preteen, for them it's like someone shot them in the foot! We've been through the after school melt-downs, shouting matches and good, old fashion boxing matches between the two of them.  Me? I play the part of referee, ring master, animal control. We've been through torturous mornings trying to get the teenager out of bed.  It takes a good half an hour, full of water squirting, pleading, negotiating, trying my level best not to threaten or beat with a stick.

So I'm feeling like crap thinking what can I do to make this easier for them.  How can I ease the pain? I know I can not shield them from every growing pain that they will go through, including going to middle and high school.  That doesn't mean I don't wish that I could.  I put them both through the fire every day because I have no other choice.  They need their education and they can't get it from me.  I can not do it!  They need to develop a tough skin and social skills.  That won't happen with mom shielding them from everything difficult and painful.

Every day this week, I have received emails and phone calls from with the caller I.D. saying, "LISD", which means one child or the others school is calling.  Each time, my stomach balls up in a knot.  What now?  Two of the phone calls were, "Mrs. Weaver can you come and pick up your son?" One because, the oldest missed the bus on the first day coming home -two because -the youngest would not get on the bus because of the thunderstorm.   All of the other calls and e-mails were in fact positive, informing me of a basically good day from the high school special ed. teacher.

Now of course when they get home I say, "How was your day son?" With the ugliest frown they can muster I hear, "It was horrible! I HATE (long list of everything that they hate)".  I probe for something positive.  They just won't give it to me. I have to find out my looking at Facebook to read that the teenager had a better day.  He would never just share that with me.

The middle school special ed. teacher did call to let me know how impressed she and the rest of the team are with my son.  "He is self-advocating, participating and doing great! His teachers all just love him." The second call was from his Advisory teacher.  This is a special class that he was invited to be a part of where they work on leadership skills and special projects to get them to start thinking about their future in college and beyond.  When I met this teacher, I must admit, I was a little intimidated.  I thought, 'Oh crap...how will he get along with her?  Will she get him?' Well -apparently she does.  She called to say, "I am very impressed with his communication skills.  He worked through some difficulties and was the only child to volunteer to make a presentation in front of the entire class."  I was so thrilled to get these POSITVE phone calls.

What's more, the school Psychologist from his old elementary school made a special trip to have lunch with him this week.  Also, his social skills teacher offered to help him make his favorite chicken nuggets hot on Fridays if he makes it through the week in the cafeteria.  His social skills teacher from last year has e-mailed me on the first day of school to let me know that she misses him and to find out how things went. He sent her return email message to give her an update.

So despite the thunderstorms, meltdowns and fights here at home, they both seem to be holding it together well at school.  For that I am both happy and extremely proud.  I am also eternally grateful to all of the angels around us that are giving us such love and support!

We will make it  through the fire...there may be a little smoke inhalation but nothing that will kill us.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thunderstorms and Volcanos

The phone rings at 4:05 p.m. It's time to get on the bus to come home, but he can't because there is thunder.

"I can't do it! I can't ride the bus all through the neighborhood, waiting for these kids to get off the bus, listening to this thunder and looking at this lightening! I can't do it! Please Mom! Come and pick me up!"

"Son...by the time I get there the timing will be about the same as you riding the bus."
"Mom PLEASE! I feel safer in this strong building! Please can you just pick me up!"


So much for not having to pick kids up and take them to school anymore.  How could I not go pick up my panic stricken child?  The thunderstorm anxiety has grown bigger over the summer.  What was once a little seedling has grown into a full shade tree. We live in central Texas where thunderstorms are the norm and though we have never been truly effected by a storm, my son's fear is very real.  He doesn't like the sound, the vibration, and most of all the lack of control over the situation.  He attempts to regain control by hiding out in the bathroom -for hours.  And now he hides even at the threat of a storm -even if the chances are only 20%.  You just never know!  During the summer he would refuse to leave the house for days on end.


He would like to control EVERYTHING in his life if he could.  This is probably because there are so many things that ordinary people have control over, but he doesn't.  He can not control his emotions.  He can not control his thoughts.  He can not turn his brain off at night when it's time to go to bed.  He can not control his lack of control!

When I arrive, he is pacing back and forth in the hallway near the front door --so focused on the storm he almost doesn't notice that I'm there.  He is shaking...oblivious to how he may appear to his peers.  It is what it is.  There is no chance of him putting up any pretense.  He is authentically SCARED!

We make it home with a blanket over his head and his fingers in his ears to block out the sound.  He rushes straight to the 1st floor restroom where he finds asylum from the noise and the vibrations.  He asks me to bring in his supplies, his IPOD Touch, two pillows, a blanket, and his ear plugs.  He turns on the Jackson Five loud to further drown out the sound.

You add the anxiety of the storm to the anxiety of starting a middle school and you get spontaneous combustion.  Then you throw in the mix of a pain in the ass brother who is also anxious and angry about his new school situation and you get volcanic eruption.  Then you take away Dad who is out of town for the week, and you're left with Mom and Nana who have to coral the circus. Neither Nana or Mom are intimidating or strong enough to break up the physical confrontations, which on the outside are over something as small as, "He's touching my juice box!"  But it's really about my life feels like it's totally out of control and you're not making things any better!


They both have therapists one of whom seems to be somewhat effective, the other one is a joke.  I called my health insurance plan and we arranged that they see the same therapist, to help them to help me to help all of us!  I also found out, because I asked, not because anyone volunteered the information, that I have an additional "Autism Benefit".  Which means I can actually get some in home behavioral therapy, as well as social skills training paid at 90%.  Wow! Thanks for telling me.  I am getting on that train today!

In last nights rant...my youngest son told me that I gave birth to him and I did a terrible job of 'making him' because he has too many problems.  Crying -he went on for 20 minutes telling me why it's my fault that he is the way he is.  All I could do is ache for him and when he let me, I held him and told him that I love him and I'm sorry for what he is going through.  I promised that it would get better.  I massaged his back hoping to rub away his pain.  I implored him to take deep breaths and let it all go.  He did...for the moment.  I turned on a funny movie, "Mousehunt," (thank God and HBO).  I took immense pleasure in his genuine, enthusiastic laughter.

Before he went to sleep I told him that despite how difficult this adjustment to middle school is, he is really doing well.
"Your teachers think you're awesome and smart. They really like you.  You ask intelligent questions, you participate and advocate for yourself.  They are impressed!  I am proud and I know you're going to be fine."

He gave me a half smile and a real hug.  That moment lightened the load in my heart.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Looney Bin!

It's day 3 of back to school or should I say, starting new schools.  The transition has not exactly been a day at the beach.  I was surprisingly optimistic after meeting with the Special Education staff at the high school.  They really seemed to have their sh*t together, which is more than I can say for either middle school my son attended. The program he was in was more like glorified babysitting than making sure he got the absolute best education in the least restrictive setting.

The high school's goal is to get my son in regular classes as much as possible to ensure that he gets the best education so that he can go on to make a positive contribution to society.  We are hoping that he can use his interest in video editing, film and art to have a career in that arena.  His options are diminished if he doesn't finish high school.  They are diminished if he doesn't develop coping and social skills to deal with people.  High school is the obstacle course he has to make it through, in order to move forward with his life, and most importantly...to get out of my house!

He has come home complaining every single day about how he HATES high school!

"No one talks to me! I feel lonely!"
"Only the weird people talk to me!"
"The bus driver can't drive! He almost flipped the freakin bus over and the assistant acts like she's drunk!"



I think this is code for...the driver and his assistant seem a little weird.  They are a couple -husband and wife.  I will admit, they are not exactly the most warm and fuzzy people I've ever met.  They're not exactly friendly and I know they have no "special needs" training. They don't appear to be very educated...period.

This morning he flat out refused to get on the bus to go to school. They did show up early as he was still eating his eggs.  He had not brushed his teeth or put on his shoes.  How dare they show up early knowing full well that I don't feel like going! Of course, he had taken his sweet time waking up and getting his breakfast.  He also had to take time out to call his brother a few names. 


How can I keep doing this for the next four years?! He's twice my size.  Iit's really getting past the point where I can make him do anything.  His father who is more intimidating in stature and demeanor, is traveling half of the time for work.  If I am forceful and take away privileges, he melts down -yelling and screaming and wreaking havoc on the entire house.  Homeschooling is not an option for me.  I would loose what is left of my sanity -not to mention, he needs to develop social skills and he can't do that at home in his room.  If I travel down the road of  taking him everyday, instead of riding the bus, I then own the battle of getting him to school on time.  Why should he rush to be ready for me? He doesn't rush do anything else I ask him.  It will be just one more thing for us to fight about.

I'm reading this new book called, "The Explosive Child!" written by Ross Green, Ph.D. Basically he tells you to collaborate with your child to solve problems.  Don't simply impose your will upon them.  Come up with solutions together, so that he feels like his voice is being heard. That all sounds great in theory, but what the hell do you do when his voice is saying, "I am  not going to school! I want to be home-schooled!" And let me add, at a very high octave. 
 
His best friend is homeschooled, so he thinks that's the magic answer.  He isn't in the same place as his friend.  He is "high-functioning" with Aspergers, not bi-bolar with ADHD.  He has a specific skill set and a high degree of intelligence, that will be developed further by being in school.

After 10 minutes of refusing to get on the bus, I finally told them to leave.  I called the school and talked to his Special Education BASE teacher to tell her what I was dealing with.  He asked to speak to her and suddenly had a reasonable tone of voice.  He quietly voiced his concerns to her.  She told him to come on in and they would come up with a viable game plan.  He agreed -brushed his teeth, put on his shoes and I took him to school.

They say God doesn't give you more than you can bare.  All I can say is he must think I'm awfully strong in order to handle these children.  I guess he's right.  I haven't gone to the looney bin yet.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"...just go ahead let your hair down."

Last night I went to see Corinne Bailey Rae one of my favorite singing artists at this little whole in the wall venue in downtown Austin called La Zona Rosa.  It was standing room only.  I don't think I've been to a "standing" concert since I was in my twenties.  We arrived early and I staked out the perfect spot up on a miniature stage made of wood.  The rest of the warehouse like structure had concrete flooring...I mean like concrete you find in the middle of the street.  I thought the wood would be a little more forgiving than concrete.  At the end of the night my feet were thankful.  The joint did have top of the line Belvedere vodka at the bar, to which I added cranberry juice and a splash of orange.  Yum!

She comes out on stage, a presence of  beauty, grace, youth and energy, looking like a teenager at the age of 31.  Yes...I was envious! (Smart cookie, must have no children.)  She starts to sing, her voice so smooth, sultry and pleasing -I was transported to another place.  I danced and swayed with my eyes closed, arms swaying, hips twirling like I was the only person in the room.  It was a natural anti-depressant. My high wasn't just the vodka or the amazing music...it was the thrill of having a real, live, adult moment in time.  Moments like this make all the details that I have to endure each day, just a little easier to take.  I danced because I was happy.  I danced because I was free.  I was an individual, a grown up...with a life, not just an Aspergers mom.

This was a culmination for a week that I got to be a grown up on three different occasions.  First I went to a movie premier of  "The Dry Land" an independent Sundance Film, written and directed by a local Texas artist, Ryan Piers Williams, and executive produced by his fiance America Fererra.  This was a script to screen event where we had the opportunity to speak with them after viewing the film.  I actually had the opportunity to ask the last question of the evening and speak directly to Ryan and America.  We had a positive exchange and shared a few moments of laughter.  For that moment I felt like, hey, I'm not totally brain-dead.  I can actually have a productive conversation with these young artists.



A couple of days later, my husband and I had an evening out with another couple, where we had drinks, hors· d'oeuvres and pleasant adult conversation about a variety of subjects, sans interruption from children who are wondering why they aren't the center of your universe every waking moment of your life.  

My exuberance at the concert last night was about the realization that my life has its difficult moments, however I am blessed.  I have a husband who loves me and stands by my side even when I'm not likable, which is often.  We can still have a good time together, forgetting if just for the moment, what an arduous task we have in raising our children. We can still get our groove on!  We have to make a concerted effort to find the simple things in life that will bring enough pleasure to mitigate the pain.   


Thank you Ms. Rae...I let my hair down and it meant more to me than you'll ever know.





Monday, August 2, 2010

By the way... (Hell Broke Loose afterthought)

On that day when "Hell broke loose." I saw a movie that I loved..."The Kids Are All Right" isn't that ironic? They were still alive when I got home.  I took my mother with me to the movie to get her out of the house.  She was embarrassed and grossed out by the amount of Sex in the movie.  It didn't bother me at all.  I got my laugh on and was glad to be out of my own life for just a couple of hours. The leisurely lunch/dinner at the Cheesecake Factory included cocktails, of course.  I was feeling no pain and numb and oblivious to what was going on just a few miles away with my kids.  I was so glad that I was unavailable for the missed calls. I won't count how many.

Dad really did an awesome job of handling this one! We're not completely on the same page yet, but at least we're in the same book, and almost the same chapter.

Thanks Joyeleven!

Hell broke loose...

It was a guys day -Dad and all of his boys, including his nephew who was visiting from out town, went to the movies.  Even our eldest son '22' tagged along to see the rated G movie. I had been with the crew for most of the week while my husband was on a business trip, so I welcomed the break.  I took the opportunity to go out to lunch and see a movie myself.  I accidentally left my cell phone at home.  I love that quote, "There are no accidents.  God is just remaining anonymous." Well, thank God, I wasn't able to receive the phone calls. 

When the movie ended -'14' promptly stood up and said, "Let's go!" Everyone else remained seated to watch the out-takes and extra scenes that rolled during the credits.  Dad instructed him to sit back down.  He did not comply.  Older brother asked him to sit down.  He refused and began walking out of the theater.  Older brother followed him, and ensues a confrontation where he verbally threatens his younger brother.  This does not go over well.  You can bet on a meltdown type of situation when you make someone with Aspergers feel like their back is against the wall.  The over-stimulation is off the charts and they don't handle it well.  Meltdowns are part of the Aspergers condition.  Sooner or later, they are going to have one.  All we can do is try to avoid situations where we know that they will.  

Now...I have to say that older brother had recently, and successfully I might add, diffused another situation wherein if '14' had followed a simple direction, it would not have turned ugly.  This one involved me.  He was given the choice to leave the room, or go outside to join his brothers at the neighborhood park.  Instead, he chose to beat on my door until I would come out and talk to him about why he didn't want to go play at the park.

His aggressive behavior during meltdowns is beginning to get out of hand.  My husband and my oldest son, are extremely concerned about the way that he treats me.with utter disrespect.  I do not feel threatened at all Agitated, aggravated, stressed? Definitely. Yet, they worry because my teenage son is so big, and I am so small.  They worry that he will take the aggressiveness to another level while having a meltdown.  I am his mother and my instinct tells me that he will not go there.

The verbal altercation that took place between my two sons was a result of things that had taken place over the past several days.  All hell broke loose...22 cursed at and threatened 14, therefore 14 cursed back.  I wasn't there thank goodness, but I know it wasn't pretty.  Dad was able to coral all parties and to get them calm before anything too bad happened. 22 was quickly able to see that he had handled the matter in the wrong way, that aggressiveness only leads to more aggressiveness.

Dad was spent, physically and mentally by the time they all returned home.  It was a very upsetting, embarrassing situation.  Some of it did take place in full view of my younger son and his visiting nephew.  Surely this news will travel and spread throughout the family back home.   Questions will be raised, "What the hell kind of parenting are you doing?  Things in your house are totally out of control."   I understand his concern, but people back home probably do not fully understand the breadth of what it means to have a teenager with Autism.  Raising teenagers is hard! Our neuro-typical teenage son wasn't a walk in the park. He's 22 years old and still doesn't make the best choices.  So you can multiply that by 10 for one with Aspergers and by 20 for having two siblings with it in the same house.

I can't worry about judgments from others.  I don't think anyone out there is the perfect parent with all the answers.  Every person's situation is unique and we all have made some questionable parenting decisions.  We are all just trying to do our best with the knowledge and love that we have for our children.  I don't know a parent out there who has made it through the teen years totally unscathed.   I mean, don't they all just LOVE school?  Oh and dating and sex when they are totally immature, yet hormonal isn't that fun? Let's not leave out the fact that they all think they know everything and we know absolutely nothing!   Aren't all siblings just totally in love with one another singing "Kumbaya" every night by the fire?

14 has received a consequence as a result of not following directions.  Asperger's training tells us not to punish him for the actual meltdown itself. Meltdowns can not be completely avoided.  All we can do is try to reduce the damage. Punishing someone with Aspergers for a meltdown is like punishing someone for swearing when they drop a brick on their toe.   However, what led to the meltdown was not following a simple instruction.  Personally, I don't think it's easy for him to follow instructions when he has something else in his mind.  Many of his actions and the actions of our younger son are an attempt to control their world where so many things are out of their control and don't work the way they think they should.  Unfortunately, their father does not  share this view.  They live in the real world where rules are expected to be followed, whether we like them or not.