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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Conversations

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Cell Phone rings 3:50 p.m.  It's the middle school.  Ugh!  I get that sinking feeling in my stomach.

"This is so and so at blankety-blank middle school.  You were supposed to return a transfer form for your son.  The due date is April 8th."

"My son is not a transfer student." (I told the same woman this 3 weeks ago.)

After further clarification she says, "I'm so sorry. Please excuse the call."

Thank God no one is sick, hurt or in trouble.  There has been no incident.

Five minutes later the cell rings again. Crap! This time it's the high school. Ugh!

"Mom...the bus is late.  Can you come and pick me up? They're like 40 minutes late."

I look at my watch, it's 4:10 p.m. School let out 15 minutes ago.  "I'm sorry son.  I'm at the grocery store.  I can't just drop everything to come and pick you up.  The bus will be there any minute."

"Mom...why do you always have an excuse."

"Do I always have an excuse?  You have a lot of excuses yourself."

"Mom...you're being selfish."

"Yeah...o.k. I have to pay for my groceries."  I certainly don't have the time or desire to listen to this.  As far as I'm concerned, he's on my time.  My time with him doesn't start until that bus drops him off.

"But Mom..."

"Good-bye Red."

The good news is...he wasn't yelling.  He kept his voice very calm.  Don't get too excited.  This is only because he was in the office at school.

O.K.  Here's one more for your money:

Tween conversation during carpool this morning:

"How did everyone sleep last night?" Mom says.

"Not good.  I had to get up at 6:45 this morning.  I'm still tired," says our friend.

"Well what time did you go to bed?" asks Blue.

"Like 10 something."

"Well that explains it," says Blue.  "You should go to bed at like 9 o'clock," says Blue.

"Dude...don't you know I'm lazy.  I like to stay up late and play video games."

"Ugh...that's not exactly something you should shout out --or be proud of."

Got to love that brutal honesty.

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A New Day

A certain young man I know who is 12 years old and lives in my house was named "Student of the Week" at his middle school.  He was recognized by his Social Studies Teacher.  "He is the first in class Ready to work. He is always on task , always prepared and an outstanding example to others."

This same star student slept in the bathroom last night in fear and anxiety over a possible thunderstorm ...which never happened.  He also woke up and totally reamed me for changing the clothes that he had laid out for school this morning.  I love him immensely despite this.

Another young man age 15, came up with the brilliant idea of riding the school bus to school today.  He says, "We just can't get along in the car.  I think I should just set my alarm clock and get up in time."

He did.  He set his alarm and was dressed by the time I stumbled out of my room.  Of course, he was sitting on the couch on the laptop.  (Note to self -hide the laptop before you go to bed tonight.)  He did make it out the door on time when the bus arrived.  Of course, he had not brushed his teeth.  Oh well...

When he arrives at school, the staff in his BASE room give him a big fan fare. "We're so proud of you!" High fives...the whole shebang.

My phone rings at 8:35 a.m. "Mom...I made it to school at 8:28 a.m.  Are you proud of me?"

"Yes son...I'm very proud of you.  Keep up the good work."

Later I call his teacher and ask, "Did you guys have a talk with him about being late?"

"Nothing new," she says.  "Just the same repetitive conversation we've been having.  With these kids, it just takes repetition.  By the way...I did get a not from the A.P. that he has time to make up because of so many tardies.  He can do it before school, after school or on Saturday."

"Did you mention this to him?" I ask.

"Yes."

Ah hah! Well there's my answer!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Make the Connection

How would you feel if I growled and snarled at you every time I look your way?  Would it hurt your feelings?  

If every time you pass your dad you growl at him...do you think he's going to turn around and  help you download a new program for your computer?

If you constantly say, "I hate Dad! He's unfair?" Do you think he's going to spend time and money to take you to Six Flags or anywhere else fun?  Why would he do that?

Why would I go out of my way to come and pick you up from school? When I dropped you off at school, you were kicking my glove compartment because you didn't want to get out of the car? You can ride the bus...sorry dude.

We have to put a roof over your head, food in your stomach, clothes on your back, and provide and education...beyond that everything is gravy.  It's surplus.  We Don't HAVE TO DO IT!

Why is it that you can show respect to people outside of this house, but not to the people who love and take care of you?

If you're not showing any respect...why would I hand you everything that you ask for on a silver platter?

You do know that doesn't add up...don't you?  Do you make the connection?

Do you just enjoy the script...the way it sounds coming out of your mouth, when you ask for things that you know that you're not going to get?

Why do you yell to the top of your lungs at us and then five-minutes later say, "I'm sorry Mom will you do thus and such for me?"

Do you realize you can't treat people like crap and expect them not to have any negative feelings about that...or you?

It's unfair that your younger brother has to endure your rants and your rages.

It's not fair that he works so hard, he goes to bed on time so that he can be up and ready to go to school on time...but you keep him up because you're bitching about something.

We will always love you...but we will not be walked on, walked over, slapped in the face and then give you a great big hug and a few extra dollars in your pocket.  It just doesn't add up.

I do everything within my power to make your life just a little bit better.  You require so much time and energy that I don't have time for much else.

I realize that you have autism...you're angry...you're depressed.

Hell...I'm angry! I'm depressed!  I don't feel like getting up in the morning -but I do!  I work through it.

I am sorry that you feel so miserable most of the time.

I am doing the best I can for you.

Why don't you get it?

Why don't you make the connection?

What's it going to take?



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Monday, March 28, 2011

I Stand Corrected

In a previous post Fun Destroyer, I tell a story about Red acting really ugly towards his brother on a family outing.

I have been told by Blue that Mean Jean and The Fun Destroyer are two different characters of the Unthinkables in the Michelle Garcia Social Thinking program.   Mean Jean's powers are, "Insulting others...he can be very bossy and hog all of the attention."  The Fun Destroyer is another character who looks like a basketball.  He apparently can get angry if he's loosing a game and spoil the game for everyone, thus destroying the fun.  So I stand corrected, and apologize for mischaracterizing Ms. Garcia's characters.

O.K. so I got my facts screwed around a little.  I still say, that Red can very often be a combination of these two characters.  He hates to see others having fun when he is making the choice not to.  Sometime he's just too depressed and when you are truly unhappy, it throws your thinking way off.  When he is in one of these moods, he will call his brother names and act ugly if he is not the center of attention.  This has been the case since they were very small.  He never wanted it to be his brothers birthday.  He would scream and cry if it wasn't all about him.  Sometimes he would sing, "Happy Birthday to Me!" on his brother's birthday.

He did surprise me this weekend.  We had a social group Meetup for middle and high schoolers with Aspergers at a local yogurt shop.  The group ate yogurt sundaes and played board games together.

When we first arrive, Red has this look on his face like either A) he is about to have teeth pulled or B) he is seriously constipated.  I thought there is no way he is going to "get" this board game, much less enjoy playing it.  With his Dad's help and involvement,  he did manage to have fun and he didn't get mad when his brother did the same.

Red -not frowning! 

Blue -sort of observing the chess game. 

I think Dad had more fun than any of the boys!

It was really nice to have a peaceful family outing for a change.  Now if we could have just kept those clouds away so Blue didn't spend the last hour pacing back and forth with anxiety over a possible thunderstorm. 


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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Funny Things

Looking with the naked eye, people with Aspergers can appear to be rude at times.   They can be brutally blunt, saying exactly what's on their mind, not thinking how it may make another person feel.  They don't always remember their social etiquette.  They may walk into a room and forget to speak to everyone.  They may walk through a door and let it slam right in the face of someone walking behind them.   That has happened to me, more than once in my quest to teach my young men how to be gentlemen.

Well...a couple of funny things happen as I'm dropping Blue off at school this week:

As Blue is getting out of the car we see an old friend of ours walking towards our car.  Blue gets out and says hi.  They walk towards the front door of the school.  Blue is leading the pack.  He opens the door and stands back, allowing the group of three to enter in front of him.  Then he turns around and sees a group of students approaching from a few feet away.  He waits and holds the door for the entire group.

I drive away saying, "YES! That's my boy!"  Wishing I had someone to give a high-five too.  That would be you I guess -my readers.

The following day we see a girl get out of the car in front of us.  She is wearing those little Daisy Duke butt cheek shorts.  She has long legs and isn't particularly shapely, but still.  I say, "I thought those kind of shorts weren't allowed at school."

Blue checks her out and says, "I guess she wants to be Playboyed."  

I crack up laughing.  What does he mean?  Does he mean objectified by boys like the women who display their bodies in Playboy Magazine.  What does he know about Playboy?

"Playboyed?  What does that mean?" I ask.

"You know...what's that word when boys make comments to a girl because she's wearing something showing her body? You know when they tease her and whistle...stuff like that."

"Oh...do you mean teased?"

"No...not teased."

"You mean harassed."

"Yeah...I guess I mean harassed."

Wow! Welcome to middle school!  This boy is becoming a man.  Thankfully he's too shy to do any harassing...I hope.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

"You Had Me At Hello"

This was one of those infamous mornings where my son did not want to go to school.  I finally got him out of the house and into the car and to the school parking lot, but he wanted to sit and listen to music, argue and whatever else he could do, in order not to actually go through those front doors.  He starts getting shall we say, extremely audible, so I roll the windows down so that he will be too embarrassed to yell.  I get out of the car and open the door for him and hand him his backpack.  I say, "Good-bye son.  Have a good day."

As I return to my side of the car, a young lady that I know and have known for years, the one whom Red has been asked to stay away from, crosses directly in my path.  I say, "Hello.  How are you?"  She smiles and respectfully says, "Hi! I'm Fine thanks!"  What the hell did I do that for?

After she walks away.  He goes off!

"That's not fair!  Why do you get to speak to her and I don't!  She's my friend!  It's not fair that I don't get to speak to her anymore!  I'm going to go talk to Mrs. H about that damn document they made me sign! It's not f-ing fair!"

He walks through the doors finally.  I follow.  He actually walks towards the vice-principals office.  His demeanor is much more calm by the time he reaches the office entry way.  He asks the receptionist to see his Vice Principle.  The V.P. obliges.  I follow.  She speaks to him very softly, very kindly.  I am grateful.

She tells him that he needs to get to a good place where he can speak to this student.  He needs to be able to stay calm and not be so emotional, (like he is right now).  He needs to be o.k. about who else she is friends with (boyfriend or otherwise).  "When you are feeling o.k. with all of that, and can show us that you are in control, I will be glad to revisit the agreement you signed.  It's not permanent."

"You shouldn't have to be an athlete or be ripped to have girls like you," he says.
"You're right.  And that's not a requirement.  Some girls like a guy just because he's nice...because he is kind and has a good personality," I interject.
"Not at this high-school," he retorts.

How would he know? He doesn't have a generally nice, open, upbeat personality.  But of course, he can't see that.  He can only see what he perceives that others have and how others feel.  His picture is seen through  a very narrow frame.  In fact, it's like he's looking into a tunnel and he can't see what's outside of that tunnel.  The sun could be shining out there, but he can only see what's in the dark tunnel we call his mind.

I am grateful for the patience and the kindness of the Vice Principal we spoke to today.  I am prayerful that Red will come out of the tunnel into the light and see what he can do to make his situation better.  I pray that he will let others guide him into the light.  I am prayerful that he will be open to help himself.

At the end of the day, I get an e-mail.  He went to the lunch room, saw this student, got upset and decided to leave the area and go to his safe place...of his own accord.  He returned to his social skills classroom and talked out his feelings.  This is good news!  This is a huge step for him.  My prayer is being answered.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fun Destroyer

The flowers and trees are blooming, the grass is greening up, there's a warm breeze blowing, the sun is shining.  It's Spring -one of the most beautiful seasons of the year.   You can get outside and enjoy nature again.  You can go for a nice hike, a jog, a bike ride or a walk outdoors.  The cloudy days of winter are gone...but not for my boy.  The clouds are still hovering over his head.

For some reason, this is always the most difficult season of the year for Red.  It is historically noted that by the time March and April roll around --he is done with school.  He's ready to check out for the year...go home and have a nice long vacation from stress.  This time of the year gets more stressful at school.  They are preparing for state testing.  Curriculum in classes is reaching a climax and getting more rigorous.  Work at school is climbing the mountain while he is retreating back down the hill.

I pick both boys up from school so that we can get Red to his Social Skills Coaching appointment.  We have a little time to kill.  I had heard good things about Bull Creek Park here in Austin and it's very close to where we are going.  I decide to check it out.  It is awesome!  There's a great creek that runs through a hiking trail.

Blue and I get out of the card to check out the scene.  Where is Red?  He's in the car...screaming, "What are you doing!??? Where are you guys going!? Come baaackk!"  We keep walking.  Blue and I decide to climb down into this little cove where we can put our feet in the water.  Red can no longer see us from the car.  He decides to get out of the car to come and see what the hell we are doing.  We are in heaven experiencing the beauty of nature.  Blue tells me that we are sitting on limestone.

"Limestone can grow plants out of it.  That's why you see these plants coming up."

We start to chuck rocks into the deeper part of the creek.  We're just chillin'.  Red vacillates back and forth between thinking that this would be a really cool place to video, while at the same time hating the fact that Blue and I are enjoying ourselves.

He starts to call Blue names.

"You look like a girl!"
"You look like Mindy." (A girl who used to be in his class)
"And you act like her too."
"Mindy. Mindy, Mindy."

Blue and I splash around in the water.  He ignores Red.  It kills him that he's not able to push his buttons.  When we get in the car he says, "Why isn't Blue getting mad?  He always gets mad when we're at home."  If Blue could only have the strength to ignore him more often, he just might loose his determination and will to annoy him.

When we get to his Social Skills coach, she tells me that Michelle Garcia, of the popular Social Thinking
has these characters she calls "The Unthinkables."  Apparently, Red was busy being "Mean Jean Destroyer of Fun."  His super powers are, "Insulting others...he can be very bossy and hog all of the attention."

Oh -so you mean...it's not just Red.  There are other "Destroyers of Fun" lurking around in our universe.  Red is becoming mean and ugly to us, because he's tired of school.  We love him.  We are a safe place to take out all of his frustrations.  Lucky us!

So now we just have to figure out how to beat "Mean Jean -Destroyer of Fun" at his own game.

Any suggestions?
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Fight

For some reason folks from all over the world google this post.  So I thought I would feature it today.  I hope you enjoy it...
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I was battling and fighting with everyone in my dreams last night.  I had to wake myself up because I was so tired of fighting.  Right now I can't remember who all I was fighting with.  By fighting I mean arguing mostly.



I went to bed last night in a bit of a mood for that very reason.  I'm just so tired of the fight -the fights between brothers over anything and everything, the fights between father and one son or another.  Fighting to get them to behave.  I am the official referee when they are all fighting.

Last night my mother weighed in on the fight -the constant battles in our house.  I had taken her out for dinner and cocktails an in her inebriated, relaxed state, she felt free to give me her unsolicited opinion.  We had just gone to a movie.  I would have preferred to talk about that instead of how I raise my children.  I was feeling rather relaxed myself by the martini I was drinking.  She instantly killed my buzz.

Red -who had reached his goal of getting what he wanted, only to find out that it isn't what he thought it would be, thus -he is not happy.  Thus -he is being ungrateful and already asking for something else.  Thus -Dad is totally done with him.  Thus -he is being a pain in ass to everyone in the house.

When I come home -buzz already killed, Red pounces on me verbally about what else -why what he has isn't working the way he thinks it should and why he needs something else to make it better.  "I can not help you with that," I say and then retreat to my room.

Blue accompanies me.  We lock the door behind us.  We want to close out the rest of the world for a while. We watch a couple of family comedies on the DVR, "The Middle" and "Modern Family".  He gets it. We laugh together.  He says to me, "I'm glad that made you feel better Mom." I thank him for hanging with me and for caring about my feelings.

This morning I play possum, pretending to be asleep when Red enters my room, uninvited, and stands over me and says, "Good Morning Mom". 

It's Sunday.  I want a peaceful day, I'm am not ready for another day of the fight.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Let's Talk About Sex

12 year-old Blue comes through the door after school today fresh off the school bus.

 "How was school today," I ask.

"It was fine.  Me and Justin were talking about sex on the bus.  I told him there is no way! I can not be a father!"

"Well...yeah.  You're definitely not ready for that," I say.

"No I mean I can't be a father  --ever."

"Why not?"

"Because I have autism."

"People with autism...especially as high functioning as you, can be parents.  They can do anything that anyone else can do when they are adults and decide to get married."

"Yeah well...I'm not having sex."

"Well, that's good...for now."

"Yeah...Justin said if you have sex with the wrong girl your penis can fall off," he says this as if he's telling me what he had for lunch.

I laugh hysterically.  Sorry...couldn't hold it.

"Well, that's not true.  You can get a disease if the girl has something, but your penis will not fall off."

"Justin actually used the D word for penis.  The conversation was really inappropriate -but I laughed."

You just gotta love that pure unadulterated honesty.

BTW...the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Notes from Readers...

"Mom...why do you have a blog about Aspergers?"
"So that people can learn what it's like to raise two boys with Aspergers -to help create awareness so that more people understand it better. What if there's a kid out there who has Aspergers, but his parents don't really get it yet.  Maybe they will read my blog and see that they can get him help at school, or social skills classes, or take him to see a therapist to help him."


"Oh...o.k." 


Hear are a couple of recent e-mails and comments from readers.  This is why I blog:


"I have spent the afternoon reading through your blogs...My son will be 12 in a few weeks and I swear you have been living in my house! It is a releif to realize someone else is going through the same challenges of the rude, depressed, ungreatful, mean attitudes, the good days and the bad, the challenges with the schools and getting them to follow the BIPs they put in place or meeting the goas of the IEP."

"Thank you for boldly and candidly talking about your challenges. You have verbalized many of the thoughts I have had. It is a huge relief to realize I am not the only one and I am not alone!"
Lora

"I have 14-year-old daughter with Aspergers, I felt like I was reading a daily journal of what goes on in my house.  Between hormones and ASD they are hilarious and trying at the same time.  I wanted to tell you how incredible you are for your courage to be so honest, it is powerful, you are educating the world on ASD.  People don’t get it.  We all know the “bad parent” label and “what a rude kid” or “that kid is a trouble maker” label scenario we have all lived.  I could go on and on, but you know this journey, you are living it."

"You sum up what all of feel and fear but often are too afraid to say or think. I appreciate your honesty in your whole blog, want you to know you aren't alone and there is another mom here in Texas going through similar things!" 

God Bless You!"
Bonnie


These touched my heart deeply. Thank you readers. 


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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Social Skills 102

Red is participating in a Social Skills group for high schoolers with Aspergers.  It's Spring Break so one of the parents planned a bowling and lunch activity for the group.  It wasn't a drop your kid off kind of situation.  Parents had the privilege of hanging out and watching the excruciating pain of their children trying to socialize.  Maybe I'm the only one who found it to be painful.  Everyone else seemed to be having a pretty good time.

Red isn't very coordinated...but bless his heart he tried.  One of the boys is in a bowling league, so he was very good.  This was a good thing.  The young man did his level best to give Red a few pointers.  So did his mom, so did I.  He scored very few points, but he did hang in long enough to play 2 rounds.

As the group congregated around the table, Red stood off to the side a good distance away.  I continually nudged him to sit near the group so that he could join the conversation.  Luckily, there were two nuero-typical kids that joined the group --a sister and a cousin, both female.  They were very friendly and open.  One of them didn't bowl very well either, but she didn't give up and kept a smile on her face.  They all tried to engage Red from time to time.

He would respond if someone talked to him, but he did not initiate any conversation.  He appeared to be pouting for the most part.  I told him he looked like he was at the dentist office about to get teeth pulled, not at a social outing with a group of peers.  This is what he's been saying for months.  "I  don't have any friends.  I only have one friend. I want to hang out in a group."

I know I shouldn't expect miracles.  It's going to take time and he may never socialize the way that I would like him too.  (This is the son of a girl nicknamed "Social Butterfly" and a father who never stops talking and doesn't meet any strangers.)  He has to ease into it,  really become comfortable with people and be in the right mood in order to let go and become the charming person that he can be.   He says he wants a big group of friends, but the truth is he does better in one to one situations.

We went to lunch after bowling.  That decision  within itself was pretty hysterical.  A group of teens with Aspergers all with very different pallets, quirks and rigid thinking, trying to come together on a decision on where to go for lunch.  Finally, one of the parents had to step in and make a decision and everyone would have to come to terms with it.  That is part of the dynamics of dealing with a group.  There has to be give and take and not everyone will walk away totally satisfied.

Red started off lunch with the sulking face.  He didn't like the choice of restaurant.  Once, we all sat down and he sat in the middle of the group, (near the girls), suddenly he became animated, full of life and conversation.  He managed to smile and talk.  I have a feeling if I wasn't there, he may have been like this the whole time.

Baby steps are better than no steps at all.






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Friday, March 18, 2011

Your Moral Obligation

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Run Forrest...Run

This Blog gem was previously posted.  I hope you enjoy it...
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"Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're gonna get," especially in our house.  

What I have found since we started Blue on this new med so far is that he still falls apart, but it's a little easier to put him back together.   

After such a fun day on Saturday, Sunday morning Blue tried the whole hiding in the bathroom routine because when we woke up there were clouds.  As he was cursing God for hating him and making his life miserable...the sun was already starting to burn through the clouds.  God must have heard him. 

He refused to notice the sun coming through.  Instead, he proceeded to tantrum verbally, telling us all off with a few choice words.  My mom chimed in, "That boy needs a good spanking."  Of course, I ignore her.  It got underneath my skin, but I kept it there.

Instead of spanking him as prompted by my mother, I follow him up to his room where he is laying on the floor crying.  I begin to pray with, for and over him -aloud,  in a very soothing tone of voice. 

"Lord, please help him to feel the love I have for him in his heart.  Give him peace.  Give him strength.  Help him to see all the love that surrounds him -the love of his family, the love of his friends, the love of the teachers who help him.  Help him to feel the support that he has.  Please give him peace in his mind, in his heart and in this home.  Help us all Lord.  Give us strength. Please give him peace.  Let him feel peace."  
With that, his tears stop falling.   His body relaxed.  The tension melted like butter.

Do you believe in miracles? 

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Can Sing!

This was originally posted in July, 2010.  Thought I'd repost this gem...

Today the boys were arguing tooth and nail about Red's singing talent, or lack thereof.  Let me just note that listening to him sing is a huge delight for me.  Not because he's the next American Idol but because first  if he's singing, he's not talking, or complaining.  Secondly because singing makes him happy (or at least gives that illusion).

Blue can not stand to hear his brother sing.  In fact,  he absolutely HATES it.  Of course, Blue has the ears of  a dog.  His autism makes his ears super sensitive to sound.  He can hear Red singing in the shower upstairs when he is downstairs playing a video game.  Every time he hears him, he starts to go into this act of convulsions, like he going nuts.

"Mom...Please! Help! Stop him!" He performs as if he's being physically assaulted.

Part of this is just plain old sibling rivalry.  You know, "Mom...he's looking at me!  He's touching me!, etc."  But my kids take it to a whole new level.  I mean they will come to blows over this.  I have found Blue who is about 4ft 9, 100 pounds on top of his brother who weighs twice as much, trying to choke him to death because he is singing.

Red on the other hand is bound and determined to convince Blue that he really is a great singer.  This WILL NEVER HAPPEN! At least not before I'm old and gray! (Oh, too late).  So the funny moment was when Red says to Blue "There were 200 people at the camp last week who loved my singing. They were standing and clapping.  They said I was the best!"

To that Blue replies, "There are thousands of people who think the Jonas brothers are good.  That doesn't mean they are!"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Love not Like...

As a mother, I always love my son...but I don't always like his behaviors.   It is especially hard to feel the love when I go out of my way to do something nice for him and he's being painstakingly ungrateful.

For the past week or so, he's been doing a really good job of getting up and getting ready for school on time.  He has also been making a strong effort to get along with his brother.  I want to reward that so that hopefully we will see more of this positive behavior.

I take him to Best Buy to purchase a DVD that he has been wanting.  While we are there of course, he sees something else that he wants.  Not going to happen! Instead of being grateful for what he is getting, he's complaining about what he's not getting.  He can't even see how inappropriate that is.  He can not see that his lack of gratitude makes me more hesitant to reward him in the future.  Not only that -it makes me not want to do anything that I don't have to do for him.

It's Spring Break.  Why would I want to take him across the street, much less on a trip or somewhere where I have to spend extra money?  The flip side of that coin is that I can't take Blue on a trip because of his brother's behavior.  That really sucks.

Dad is out of town this week.  Blue, Mom and me are sitting in the living room watching "The Bachelor" (pathetic I know...but I'm not the only one) when we see Dad's number show up on the caller ID.  We have a cable phone so the caller ID shows up on the television screen.  Red is talking on the phone with a friend.  He sees no reason to click over even though his dad has called twice.  He honestly believes that his trivial conversation with his friend is more important.   When I tell him to hang up with his friend and click over he says, "But I'm talking!"

Have you lost your freakin mind?  I think, but do not say.  I do say, "Do you pay for this telephone?  The man who is out of  town working to pay for this phone and everything else in this house, is on the phone calling his family to say good night before he goes to sleep.  Do you honestly believe that your conversation with your friend is more important than that?"

His answer, "Why are you being mean to my friend? He doesn't understand that and he's going to be mad."
Do I care if his friend is mad?  I give less than a damn.  His friend does not pay any bills in this house.

"I'm sorry if he doesn't understand.  I'll be glad to explain it to him if you like."

At this point, he is tired.  It's almost 10 p.m. He starts getting belligerent about me being mean to his friend.  I tell him to take his tired ass to bed.  He finally does.  He's out like a light within 10 minutes.

I swear sometimes I want to throw this kid out the window.  That would be a little hard since he weighs twice as much as I do.  A girl can dream...

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dad to the Rescue!

After months of without business trips, Dad was back on the road this week.  Don't ask me where he went.   I can't remember.  I think it was Oklahoma.  All I know for sure is that he wasn't here. He says I don't even see him when he is here, but he is wrong...I do.

We may not have this hot and heavy romance thing going on a daily basis.  I mean who has time for that? A day doesn't go by without a hug, a kiss, a miniature back rub...something. If I'm really in a crappy mood, I may totally dis him, but not that often.  I don't have a perfect life and I can't always be the perfect wife.  There are days when I just have nothing left after dealing with the stress of raising these boys.


The truth is, I so appreciate what he brings to the table.  We are excellent partners.  He has strengths where I have weaknesses and vice-versa.  He handles finances...I hate finances.  They make me nervous.  I know what I need to know.  How much can I spend?  He does the heavy discipline.  I come to the rescue when he's being too harsh.  I'm the soft touch -new school, while he's the tough and ready -old-school.  He hyper-focuses on work while I hyper-focus on our kids.  They connect on the geekiness front, where as I totally don't get it. He gives me a break when I really need one.  


Thank God...he provides the example for them of what it means to be a man,  a diligent worker, a responsible citizen, a good husband, and an excellent father. 


I take care of all of the details of running a house, the shopping, the medical appointments (including his), the therapies, household maintenance, school, teachers, IEP's, all things autism and all extra-curricular activities.  (I could go on...but I'll spare you.) 


I have the added responsibility of caring for my 71 year-old mother.  Well -she mostly takes care of herself, but I have to cart her around, and help her manage her life now that she lives with us.  


I provide an image of what it means to be a woman, a good wife, a mother and a citizen of the world.  As far as being the female image for them...let's just say whomever they marry will have a lot to live up to.  They are totally spoiled! 


Blue really missed Dad while he was gone on this trip.  After a few days, I just couldn't do anything right.  I definitely could not resolve any conflict between he and Red.  Red has really been trying to get along with everyone, including Blue for the past few days.  Blue wasn't having any of it.  He did not trust that Red means anything that he says.  Like when he says, the infamous, "I'm sorry."  For a while there, we thought "Sorry" was his middle name, he says it so often.  Then he proceeds to turn around and repeat the same behavior that he is supposedly sorry for.  


Red tried over and over to be nice.  "Good morning Blue," he says when he comes down for breakfast.  This is huge for him.  He usually comes down and says something nasty like, "What's wrong with your hair?" or "Why are you wearing that?" 


I implore Blue to acknowledge his brother's effort and to try to forgive him, to no avail.  



Blue says, "I don't trust him, so I'm just going to ignore him."
After 3 days of Red trying to be nice and being rejected, he finally lashed out, said something rude and nasty.  There was a miniature explosion between them.  


Luckily by this time Dad was home.  He goes into the room and has quiet little pow-wow with Blue.  The two of them come out, kick me out of Red's room and they all pow-wow together.  They kick me out because according to dad, "I always talk for everyone."  He wanted them to talk for themselves.  Apologies were made.  They both promise to try to get along better.  All is good in the universe.  


I had been trying the same thing for 3 days.  It's amazing what happens when Dad comes to the rescue! 


Dad is leaving again tomorrow and it's Spring Break.  It will be a break from having to get up early in the morning and deal with the stress of getting ready and going to school.  For me...it means extra peace-keeping duty.  What the hell am I going to do? I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it. 
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

SHORT ORDER COOK

7 a.m.:  I pull my self out of my dream state of consciousness and I hit the snooze button.  Of course, I would prefer to stay in this dream state.  It's so much more fun than my reality, but hey...I have responsibilities. Ugh!

7:15  a.m.:   I wake the boys gently and ask what they would like for breakfast.

7:20 a.m.:   I am sorry I asked this question because of course, they want 2 different things.  Blue wants oatmeal.  Red wants Cream-of-Wheat.

7:30 a.m. I find myself standing in front of the stove wondering...What the hell am I doing? What am I a short order cook?  Why am I dirtying two different pots to make two different kinds of hot cereal? Of course, I couldn't possibly make it in the microwave.  It may come out too lumpy.  We can not dare have any lumps! 

Well...here's the story:

Blue is on a food escapade right now and I am strongly encouraging his venture into trying new, healthy foods.   Oatmeal is the latest conquest.  It's so much better than sugary cereals or waffles with syrup, so of course I indulge him.  Besides, this kid is so darn good.  He does whatever I ask, with little complaint.  He takes care of his business and is such a good student.  He deserves a hot breakfast in the morning from his mama.

Red...of course is another story.  He just got into Cream-of-Wheat a few weeks ago and he loves it!  At first the two of them were eating it together (only one pot to dirty).  Then, Blue ventured into oatmeal, and Red so far, is not willing to come along for the ride.  I continue to make him Cream-of-Wheat because it gets him out of bed in the morning!

I say to him, "Come and get this while it's hot or I'll have the hot breakfast, while you eat cold cereal."
"NOOOOO!" he screams.

He's downstairs dressed and ready to go within two minutes! He's been on time everyday since I started making it.

Oh did I mention, they also want two different kinds of toast to go along with their hot cereal?

Welcome to Karen's Diner.  We open at 7 a.m. May I take your order?

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oh No You Didn't Eat Those Veggies!

For those of you suffering with kiddos on the spectrum who refuse to eat vegetables...I want you to know there is hope.  Every since the boys could utter the word "NO", we have fought the vegetable/fruit battle.  When we sit down to family dinners, and I actually prepare a balanced meal, the policy has always been...eat just a few bites, even though they act like they're choking, or I'm trying to poison them or something.

I love fresh fruit, especially in the spring and summer -strawberries, cherries, watermelon, fresh pineapple, grapes.  I mean fresh pineapple is like natural candy! They have never liked any of it.  They really don't like too many foods that are served cold other than ice cream and cereal with milk.

Blue was always the exception to the rule.  He likes yogurt and would occasionally eat an apple or an orange if you cut it up and take off the skin.  However, he has always been at least willing to try new foods even if he doesn't end up liking them.  Or sometimes he like them for a while and then burn himself out of liking certain foods.

If there is a food featured in a children's movie -all the better.  After the first "Madagascar" he started wanting steaks.  After "Garfield" we began eating lasagna.  "Kung Fu Panda" brought us into trying asian noodles and dumplings.

In this past year or so food has become somewhat of an adventurous hobby for Blue.  If he's bored -he easily suggests, "Why don't we go out for lunch?"  To which I usually reply, "Do you have any out-to-lunch-money?"  How nice of you to want to go out to lunch on my dime. Of course, I love to eat too...so most of the time we do indulge him.  Blue and his dad have made it their goal to find the best breakfast restaurants in town on the weekends.  No thanks...I'd rather sleep late.

Blue is now 12 years-old.  A few months ago, he suddenly got into trying to eat healthier.  We started to talk about protein versus carbs, and including more vegetables and fruit into his diet.  He started eating dried mangos, apples, and he loves those little Clementine oranges.  There are still textures that he doesn't like ----no peas and corn for him please.

Last week, I thought I was in the wrong house when he filled his plate with everything on the menu at one of our Sunday dinners.  Roasted chicken, collard greens, potato salad (which I don't even like) and stuffing (with celery and onion chopped extremely fine).  Then he asked for left overs the next day! Who is this kid and what has he done with my son?

If you've been reading this blog regularly you know he started eating cafeteria food a couple of weeks ago.  One day last week he chose...drum roll please...a baked potato and steamed broccoli, for lunch -at school, with no prompting from anyone!  I can't believe this kid! He is amazing if I must say so myself!

Sorry to say, his brother, who is 15 years-old has not jumped on the bandwagon yet.  He still only eats vegetables if you're holding a gun to his head.  His palette is still so limited.  Of course, his first answer to any question is -no, but that doesn't mean I will stop asking and insisting that he at least tries a few healthy things.

So don't give up hope on your child eating vegetables...you just never know what's waiting for you around the next corner.

Blue's Latest Drawing of the Roman Coliseum
Yes...I mean to Brag! 

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Monday, March 7, 2011

The Non-ARD Meeting

It's good to take a deep breath and a day or two of rest before you write something...especially when you're angry.  I'm still not exactly happy, but I had a fabulous weekend.  I had a day of rest with my best friend and my god-child --to include shopping, a few hours relaxing at the spa, dinner out with cocktails, a nice chat and dozens of laughs at the expense of our crazy life challenges.  We also enjoyed a girls sleep over at the Four Seasons Hotel (her favorite) and a lovely Sunday brunch.


Chillaxen with my God-daughter
Sunday afternoon our family had a wonderful gathering with friends.  We collaborated on a delicious, ecclectic meal, wine, desserts, music and dancing.  Grandmas and grandkids danced to Al Green.  Forty-something year-old adults pulled out old-school rap songs in reminiscence of younger days of partying, sans the responsibility and worries that come along with having children, and bills to pay.

I used this weekend to distance myself from the big pow-wow, non-ARD meeting last week at Red's school.   It has taken me a few days and glasses of wine to help digest everything that happened or didn't happen in this meeting.  I came out with some small...very small victories for Red, but I'm not done yet.  There is always more work to do -seeing as he is definitely a work in progress with ebbs and flows, highs and lows, peaks and valleys.

For those of you who are not familiar, ARD is an acronym for Admission, Review, Dismissal.  Basically, this meeting is to put together a plan for the year for your special needs child's education.  This includes establishing an Individual Education Plan (IEP, with goals and accommodations as needed.  In many cases there is also a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).

The reason I am calling this particular meeting a non-ARD, is because we did not accomplish any of the objectives like changing his IEP or BIP.  First of all -they only scheduled an hour for the meeting.  Really??? An Hour?  What do you think we can accomplish in an hour other than a basic run-of-the- mill, in and out, rubber stamped, superficial meeting?

They really didn't want to talk about the incident which occurred two weeks ago which in my opinion brought us to this point.  Talking about this incident and changing his plan would of course take more than an hour.  In fact, they didn't seem to see how the incident that took place was intricately woven and connected to the changes that need to be made to his plan.

I realize that Red's behavior during this incident was scary-looking to other students, and totally inappropriate.  Did it need to be addressed? Of course.  Did there need to be consequences for the behavior?  Yes -natural consequences.  Natural consequence: you freak kids out with your behavior, don't expect that they will want to continue to be friends with you.  You yell and scream in the hallways -don't expect that you will be able to roam the hallways without supervision.  Don't expect that saying I'm sorry...will always be enough.  Some people could care less that you're sorry, especially people who are not really your friends in the first place.  They are teenagers.  They do not understand or care that you have special needs.

Does he need to understand that this kind of behavior is unacceptable?  Definitely.  Should his consequences have included signing an Administrative Directive in the presence of a police officer, without the presence of one of his parents? I don't think so.  Is he cognitively aware enough to understand the implications and ramifications of signing this document? No.  Have they seen his test scores, evaluations or watched how slowly it takes for him to process information? Well they got a glimpse of this in the meeting. 

Did he make it to a "safe place" without assistance, force or coercion from an adult? Yes he did.  Once an adult in authority began talking with him, he immediately calmed down and apologized for his "angry" behavior and words.  Did he know that he was wrong? Yes.  Was that enough to stop him from acting impulsively?  No.

The small victory that we came out with, is that the document he signed does not go in his permanent record.  Supposedly, it will be destroyed at the end of the year.  They can not release this document or anything in his records without my permission.  Although, I still wonder what would happen if his file was subpoenaed by a court of law.  I plan to get an answer to that question.  (See...that's why writing is so cathartic.  It helps me think.) The document is being used more as a disciplinary contract to concretely let him know that this behavior is unacceptable and that he needs to stay away from the students that he "freaked out".

The whole ordeal and the way it was handled, still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  It feels like the way it was presented, criminalizes autistic behaviors.  The other thing that I'm still regurgitating is the fact that I had given them fair warning of his mood and thought process just 3 days before this incident, and yet enough precautions were not put into place to prevent it from happening.  Where was the administration when they had been asked to keep a more "watchful eye" on Red just days before? No one at this meeting could answer this question.

I know this isn't a perfect world -and Red has a tendency to present his very best self to the adults there at school.  The problem is when he gets away from those adults, and finds himself in a stressful situation, he can react the way that he did.

I am his mother.  I know him better than anyone.  I get to see the good, bad and the ugly much more so than anyone else.  So when I tell you -you need to keep a watchful eye on him, you have to trust that.  Now -they know.  Unfortunately, he is the one who is paying all of the consequences.  The good news and additional small victory for Red, is that the next time I tell them that he needs a more watchful eye than usual -THEY WILL ACTUALLY LISTEN!

There is more work to be done.  I will be going through his IEP and BIP  and will work with the staff to make the necessary changes.  I requested a current Functional Behavior Assessment so that the BIP is appropriate to deal with his current behaviors. We will have to come together again to have the real ARD-Meeting to make appropriate changes.

One of the things I noticed in the meeting was the downplaying of the BIP.  One person stated, "This is just a piece of paper. We don't take this out and read it every time we deal with Red.  We are a team of human interaction and response."  To that I say -well that's all wonderful and good.  So why do we even have a BIP?  Because when the shit hits the fan -you better have something in writing to make sure that your child's best interests are protected.  Staff members come and go...teachers vary from class to class.  When in doubt, they should be referring to these documents, in writing to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do for the child.

All things happen for a reason.  These bumps in the road happen to teach us something.  I have learned that you can not be passive when it comes to educating and advocating for your child.  You can not be afraid to ruffle a few feathers if it means that things will be better.  I am not done ruffling or working out the kinks.

Of course there are three sides to every story, my side, their side and the actual truth.  They have to write their own side to the story.  I have to write my own truth.  Hopefully, somewhere in the middle where the natural truth lies, RED will benefit from our work together.

Keep reading to see our work in progress.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

God is With Me...Who Can be Against Me?

I'm a lover not a fighter.  I hate confrontation.  I don't like making people feel bad, or calling them out. (Of course my husband would totally disagree with this statement.)  I don't like being angry and out of sorts.  I don't like that heart-racing, palpitating rush that I feel when I'm upset.

But every day isn't coming up Roses, and everyone doesn't always do what they are supposed to do.  They don't always do what's best for your special needs kid.  Sometimes they do the best they can.  Sometimes they do what's convenient or easy.  Sometimes they do what's in the best interest of other students.  Sometimes, the school system of things for Special Education just stinks!  So although I don't like to fight...I HAVE TO ADVOCATE for my child.  If not me than who?

This was too funny not to use! 
8:15 a.m. The phone rings, "I know you are rushing to get Red to school on time for TAKS testing, but I have a quick question for you," says the school Psychologist. 

Actually, I wasn't rushing.  Actually, I had no idea testing was today.  I have been to busy dealing with his explosive, angry behavior since the events that took place at school a week ago.  I've been an absolute, stark raving lunatic! I've been too busy trying to get his emotions under control.  I've been totally preoccupied with  preparing for my upcoming emergency ARD meeting.  

He did make it to school for testing.  However, he was late. (What else is new?)

The latest in this drama -Red comes home from school on Monday and blasts me with a rant,"You don't love me! You're the worst parents ever!"  You know the regular drill.  It reaches it's climax...just as we're getting ready to sit down for dinner.  I put dinner on the table for everyone else.  I coerce him to his room where I get him to calm down.  We talk. When he gets to the point of being rational we can actually have an insightful conversation.

"Can you tell me why you're so angry?"
"I'm just so depressed because of everything that's been happening at school.  You know how 6th grade was a really rough year for me?  Well...this year is kind of like that."

Hmm...two transitional years -lots of changes, adjustments, getting to know new students, teachers and administrators.  Change is not easy for a kid on the autism spectrum.  This is a rare moment of clarity from him.  It's amazing how much better he can actually think when he is calm and rational.

"I've been taking it out on my family, but I know that you guys love me.  I take things out on Blue because I hate that he's so smart and I'm not."

"You are smart.  How can a person that's not smart get commended on a TAKS test?  You're capable of making A's and B's.  You're not failing anything (besides Art at the moment).  You just learn differently and work slowly.  That doesn't mean you're not smart."

"Well I'm just upset about everything that's been happening to me at school.  Today, they changed my schedule around for two of my classes."

They did what!?  How could that be?  I wasn't notified or consulted! Jesus! When does it end? He's been screaming and blowing up with me because they changed his schedule!  Note the key word CHANGE! CHANGE IS DIFFICULT for kids on the autism spectrum.


"Now I won't know anybody.  I'm gonna miss the friends I have in those classes.  And my health class is a whole new teacher, in a different room and it's LOUD in there."

The whole reason he's been depressed and acting out is because he is sad, lonely -feeling like he doesn't have any friends.  They changed his class so that he wouldn't be in class with a boy he's had an issue with.  They told me they were just going to move his seat and have aid present.  I am not happy!

But that's o.k. because the stars are aligning.  I can't be more specific until after I have my actual meeting.  (Who knows who is reading this? They may have secret spies reading my blog.  I certainly hope so!)  Let's just say -everything is coming together.  I will be well prepared going into this friendly meeting with the powers that be.

Through this experience I am learning.  Through my pain, anger, heart-racing and palpitating, stomach gurgling, sleepless nights and tears, my son will be helped. I will make things better for him. Subsequently, I will be able to help someone else. 


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