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Friday, September 28, 2012

"Easy to Love..."

A month or so I was asked to read and review the book "Easy to Love but Hard to Raise."  I thought, How exciting...my first book review and giveaway for the blog! I forgot about the fact that I haven't been able to complete a book this entire year because my life is so hectic between the boys, my husband, my mother, my dog, the blog and my "Confessions" Facebook Community.  So, I read this book in pieces...which is easy to do because of the way the book is written. There are many short essays that tell the tale of a parents experiences in raising challenging kids.  The size of the essays are small enough for a busy mom like me to read before falling asleep, after getting the boys in bed.

Of course...I can relate in some way, shape or form to ALL of the stories, even though the diagnoses varies from ADHD, ODD, Tourettes, PDD and other combinations.  They are are all somehow about me and my experiences with my own children.  The words are all are all thoughts that I've had inside my own head or have even written about at one time or another.  If I had written one of these essays, it would probably be titled, "Easy to Love but Not Always Easy to Like" especially, when they become teenagers (because that's the snarky kind of girl I am).

Seriously, it is so important to our mental health as parents, to have a community to reach out to and be comforted in the fact that we are not alone in this journey.  This book accomplishes this goal phenomenally. I thoroughly enjoyed the essays and the expert advice that follows each.

Let me give you an example of just a few of my favorite quotes:

  • "Why had our parenting seemed so natural and effective with our two older children and yet felt so inadequate with Sarah?" -Rachel Penn Hannah says about her daughter who is diagnosed with ADHD.
For me what worked with my stepson, Slim ...didn't work at all with Red.  Of course, at first we place blame and convince ourselves that their behavior is all our fault.  It must be something we are doing wrong.  I even blamed myself when my boys were both speech delayed.  When the truth is of course, that these kids are just different.  Therefore, so must be our approach to parenting them.

  • "There is something inherently wrong with the system when, in order to receive a correct diagnosis and effective treatment, a parent must know more than the doctors." -Robbi Nester says in one of my favorite essays, "The Virtual Village". 
In my own paranoia, I always think that my friends and family wonder, "What the hell does she do all day? The kids are in school now.  Why doesn't she go back to work?"  They have no idea how much time I spend, reading and researching medications, their side-affects, treatments and therapies, much less carting them around to all of these appointments.

How many average parents have to go into doctors offices and tell them, although they have years of schooling and experience,  that you do indeed know more about your child than they do?  "No, I do not want to try this medication. I've read how this combination works better."  I research medication classifications, because I know based on experience how my boys will react to certain medicines.  I should be awarded an honorary Pharmaceutical and Nursing degree!

Not to mention having to know more than the teachers, administrators and special-education professionals, about the Individual Education Plan for my children, because the will often do the bare minimum or not even tell you what programs and modifications are available.

Another of my favorite parts of the book is the Q&A with Jean Winegardener, a.k.a. Stimey author of Stimeyland.com about the role of social media as a support system to parents of special needs children.

Jean says, and I will paraphrase here...

  • "Having a child with special needs can be extremely isolating. Friends who don't understand what you're going through as a parent...may fall away.  Some days it's just too hard to face the stares and judgments...so parents end up staying at home. When there is no one in your life to turn to in the middle of the day, Twitter is there. When you want to know what others' experiences', blogs are there. When you just need some adult contact to take your mind off of all that is so difficult, Facebook steps up."
My blog, Confessions Facebook Page and virtual Autism community have been my saving grace.  I have felt so much less alone since becoming involved with other parents who "get it."  Not only do they love, support and understand me...I get so much more from giving and sharing information with them.  Sometimes, I just give them something to laugh about in an otherwise funky day and they do the same for me.  Nothing makes my day more than some one thanking me for helping them feel a little less alone and crazy in this journey.

Here's the fun part..

Comment below leaving your name.  You have to put in an e-mail address to leave a comment.  I will draw a name next week to give away a copy of the book "Easy to Love by Hard to Raise"! 

You have until Friday, October 5th to enter.  Good luck!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you just can't wait for my give away.  You can purchase the book here on Amazon it even comes in Kindle format and I get a little Amazon associate credit to help fund the blog and help with my kids therapies!

~Love, Karen 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Dog Has Aspergers


Harry is our now 5 year-old Maltese.  The longer Harry lives with us...I am convinced that he (like all of the other boys who live in this house) has a touch of Aspergers.


 Here's why:

1. He interrupts my conversations.  If I have a friend over, or I'm on the phone, he yaps and tries to get all of the attention as if he is the most important person in the room.

2. He has no sense of personal space.  If I'm sitting down, he can't just sit accross from me or next to me, but he has to be touching some part of my body. Red has told me there's no such thing as personal space.  Harry apparently, feels the same way.

3. Everytime I pull out my laptop to type...he comes over, stands on two legs and puts his paws on the keyboard, as if to say, "What about me? Pat attention to me! Don't you know it's all about me all the time?"

4. As soon as I get busy doing something, like sitting down for breakfast or lunch, all of a sudden he needs to go potty.  He's like, Hello!...Focus  on me please.  I'm over here!  I need you right now! What you are doing is not as important as me. 

That's the exact same thing Red says to me when he comes into my room and I'm watching a show or writing.  "Stop looking at that t.v. Look at me!" Even though he just came in to repeat something to me  that he's already said about 25 times that day.

5. Harry is impulsive. Even though he knows better than to run across the street -if he sees something or someone that he just has to talk to...off he goes. (Luckily we live on a quiet street.)  He comes back humbly, knowing he was wrong and that  he is in trouble.  You know the infamous, "I'm sorry." Like Red says when he knows he's going to do the exact same thing the next time.  That doesn't keep me from giving him a bop on the nose and a time out!




Harry and Oliver (brothers) from the same litter


Young Harry

I don't mean to paint Aspergers with a broad stroke.  Every person with Aspergers is different right down to the two children I gave birth to.  I do see these traits in both of them, some more in one child than the other.  However, the essence of these traits can be found in both of them.  Maybe it's not them, maybe it's me. Maybe I have spoiled everyone in this house so much, that they all want my attention all of the time.  Maybe it's just the air we breath in this house, but probably not.

Blue and Harry, 2009

Aspergers or not...I love Harry, as I love my Aspergers boys.  The good thing about Harry is that he never gets mad at me.  He accepts discipline humbly. He is always happy to see me and sad to see me go.  Best of all -he's the only one in the house that doesn't talk back! 

Editorial note: This was previously published here on "Confessions" a few years ago.  It still holds true today.  There is no such thing as personal space in this house! Right down to Harry sniffing at the door when I'm using the bathroom!

Support our Walk for Autism Speaks by clicking here: We Walk for Autism Awareness

Friday, September 21, 2012

Autism Kids on Autism Speaks


Blue is a lot like me.  He's a crusader.  He wants to help others...and by others I mean anyone OTHER than me...his mother.  Tomorrow he wants to get up in the morning and walk for Autism Speaks.  On a Saturday --at 8:30 a.m.  Now even me ...his autism-advocating, saving- the-world-mother, doesn't want to get up early on a Saturday morning to walk for anybody.  Me and early mornings just don't get along very well these days.  I mean we tolerate each other --kind of like being in a bad marriage. You know you have to be together, but we don't have to enjoy every minute of it.  Of course, like everything else in my life ...I will get up and walk to help teach my son the lesson of giving, and sacrificing for the greater good of the community. Yada yada yada. 

During the carpool this morning...Blue is trying to convince his best friend to join him on the walk for Autism Speaks. If you follow this blog you may know that I drive a carpool with 3 middle school boys on the autism spectrum.  Now as much as I no longer like getting up early --I do enjoy the ride to school with Blue and his friends.  Their purity, innocence, honesty, bluntness and sense of humor are refreshing.  Usually at this age --everything is a secret.  You don't want your mom all up in your business.  But these boys talk as if I'm not even there, about girls, friends, video games ...whatever --with no edit button.

Blue and his friends are the very definition of spectrum ...they are very different.  Blue wants to know all there is to know about autism.  He wants to create awareness so that others understand it.  He will talk about being on the spectrum almost immediately after meeting someone.  You may remember he actually read an essay about it over the P.A. system at school last year called, "Freaks Geeks and Aspergers"
His best friend is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.  At this point, he doesn't want much to do with autism.  He doesn't want to talk about it.  He doesn't necessarily want people to know he has it.  He definitely does not want it to define who he is.  He wants to slide under the radar, fit in as best he can and not be identified as the "kid with autism."  It is more than o.k. for him to feel this way.  This is his journey --his life and he is entitled to define it as he sees fit.
His twin brother is in another place on the spectrum.  He spends a lot of his time in his own universe and he's pretty damned happy right where he is. He is not all that aware of what other people think and I don't think he really cares.  When you think about it...what a great place to be -knowing and being happy with exactly who you are.
I love these boys as if they are my own.  They are lights in my life.

So here's the conversation....

"Do you want to walk with me tomorrow for Autism Speaks."
"No thanks.  I don't really like walking."
"Dude, come on! It's a walk to help kids with autism."
"Help them do what?"
"Help them get money to help with their autism.  That's what Autism Speaks does."
I stay out of the conversation just to see where it will go.
"I don't understand.  I'm confused.  What do they do?" asks his friend.

I think to myself...you're not he only one who doesn't really know what exactly what Autism Speaks does other than raise awareness, and fund research, which is important.  However, I would like to see some of that money raised get directly into the hands of families who are actually struggling with the high COSTS of autism for therapies, summer camps, etc.  Of course,  I'm not going to go down this road with the boys.  For once, I'm going to keep my 2 cents to myself.

We have been doing the walk for several years. Even Aspergers Dad is involved and is raising funds with his family and co-workers.

"Basically..they help kids like us,"Blue says.
"So you walk and you give them money and other people give them money...to walk?" His friend asks with genuine skepticism...trying to gather and process this in his mind.
"Yeah...something like that," says Blue.
"Um....If I'm going to raise the money for kids with autism...I think I'd rather keep it myself."
I laugh cynically to myself thinking ...the kid does have a point.

Here is the link if you would like to help us meet our goal: Walk For Autisms Speaks -Our Family Goal Page

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Morning Scene -Take 999

Editorial Note: This was originally published in January of 2012.  Since then, Red's meds have been adjusted, he has grown and matured.  He has been on time every day of the current school year.  Still, the first line out of his mouth every morning is, "I'm EXTREMELY tired!" to which I reply, "So am I." 

7:00 a.m.:
Mom hazily rises with the help of the alarm on her cell phone.  It's still dark outside.  She grumbles something or other to herself, but still she rises, goes to pee, grabs her cell and her best friend (the laptop) and sits it all on the coffee table in the family room.
7:10 a.m:
The phone buzzes again. She takes it into her son's room and lays it next to his head.  Groggily, he opens his eyes and shuts it off.  
"Come on son...it's time to get up."
"I'm too tired.  I don't want to go to school," he grumbles. 
Mom runs her fingertips lightly around his face, eyes, ears, nose, hairline.  She imagines it tickles a bit.  
"Stop!" he says.  

Mom doesn't care.  She wants him to wake up.  She walks away giving him the chance to process and wake up.  Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter are calling.  She has to see what the crew is up to.  It appears that a number of autism parents were up at 3:30 a.m....their kids waking them for some reason or another.  She counts her blessing...at least no one woke her up in the middle of the night. 

Ten minutes pass...her 16-year old son is still not up.  It looks like it's going to be one of those mornings.  This started the night before with the announcement, "I'm too tired to go to school tomorrow!"  His actions this morning are a manifestation of this.  

She goes in again...gently prodding, trying to wake him.  His eyes open, he turns over, "I need more rest!" he screams.
"So do I," she says..."but I'm up."

7:20 a.m:
She leaves his room.  Enters her younger son's room, turns on his light and gently prods him.  "Time to get up."  He opens his eyes and turns over, the gentle sound of jazz music is playing from his IPOD speaker.

Then another stop in older brother's room.  This time Mom resorts to turning on the water in the bathroom, wetting her hands. She sits on his bed and gently touches his face. "Mom!!! Stop!!!" 
"You know...we need to wash these sheets today."  She takes the cover and top sheet off of the bed.  
"Mom!! I'm cold!"  
"Well...get up and put some clothes on."

7:30 a.m:
At this point, mom realizes there is no way he's going to make the school bus today.  She calls the transportation department to alert the driver not to stop by.  
13 year-old son is up and dressed...also tired, he lays on the couch.  
"Mom...can you make me some waffles?"  
"Sure son."

The 16 year-old is now sitting on the side of the bed not moving...still complaining. "Why can't you just let me sleep?  Call them and tell them I'm sick.   How do you expect me to function today?  I'm extremely tired!"

"Come and get some breakfast, take your medicine and you'll get some energy.  Come on let's go," says mom. 

The 16 year-old finally makes it down the stairs.  "What?!!! You didn't make me Cream of Wheat?!!!"  
"Nope...I do that on mornings when you get up on time.  Not today...sorry.  Pour yourself some cereal," Mom says calmly, trying to ignore his disrespectful yelling. 
"What??!! That's not fair!" 
Really? And it's fair that I have to listen to your bullshit? I could make you a long list of what's not fair in my life!

8:00 a.m:
13 year-old moves on to the teeth-brushing, face-washing, hair-brushing routine.  
Mom puts in a  text to her carpool partner.  
"Can you please take the boys this a.m.? I'm dealing with Red?"
Her partner agrees to take the middle schoolers.  
The high-schooler is going to obviously be late.

8:30 a.m:
13 year old is waiting by the door for his carpool driver.
Meanwhile, 16 year-old eats cereal.  Mom begrudgingly prepares toast and eggs.  He takes meds and puts on shoes, but...sits down again claiming that he is super tired
At this point, mom is upstairs, not wanting to give him an audience to talk to and move slower for.  
She shouts downstairs, "Did you brush your teeth?" 
"No!  I really can't do this.  Why can't you respect the fact that I'm tired?"   
"I respect it.  I understand it...but you still have to go to school." says the mom.
He goes on refusing.  Finally, Dad steps in.  
"That memory for the computer I spent $130 dollars on this weekend...I'll be taking it out of the machine today," he says in his very deep, manly voice.
"Noooo!!!  Mom! Stop him!"
"Um maybe he'll stop if we hear that water running," Mom says.
"O.Kaaay...fine!" 

9:00 a.m:
Teeth get brushed.  We head out the door.  On the way to school he starts in.  
"I still don't get why you can't respect the fact that I'm tired."
"It's kind of hard to respect and believe it when you announced that you were too tired to go to school before you even went to bed last night."
"I'm still really tired."
"Every student in that school this morning is tired and didn't feel like getting up this morning.  When you have a job...your boss isn't going to say,  'I respect that you are tired this morning.  You go ahead and sleep.'  He's going to say, 'You're fired!' Everyone has to get up and get moving in the morning.  You are no different," says mom.
"I guess the answer is we're going to have to send you to summer school this year, because you obviously have too much trouble transitioning after breaks from school." A passive-agressive threat. 
"That's not going to help," he says. 
"Maybe we'll have to find a nice residential summer camp where you can learn some coping skills."  She says giving him  more food for thought.

9:10 a.m: 
They arrive at school.  He is now 25 minutes late. He refuses to get out of the car.  His class is in the portables, so luckily Mom can pull up right outside the door.  She gets out of the car, to which the boy strongly protests.  "Don't get out of this car!  You're going to embarrass me!"  
"Well, you can get out of the car yourself and save yourself the embarrassment."  

He doesn't move...she does.  She gently knocks on his classroom door and opens it.  A young, beautiful milk chocolate-brown-skinned teacher with an adoring smile and dazzling eyes comes towards the door.  "Hi there...you have a student who is refusing to come into your classroom.  He's sitting outside in the car," says the mom, feeling frumpy in her sweat pants and no makeup.  The teacher looks slightly confused, but she comes to the door and outside.  She sees that it is Red.  She turns back to the mom and says with a soft voice, "Oh...it's so nice to meet you.  I love your son.  He never gives me a moment of trouble.  He's very compliant."  Well gee! How nice for you! No wonder...you're young and beautiful!  He'd never give you a hard time. Wish I could say the same.

"I'm sorry you're having a tough time this morning Red.  It was hard for me to get here this morning too," says the teacher to the boy.
"Yeah, I'm just really tired," he says with flat affect. 
"Well come on in.  We can get some tea or hot chocolate to help get you going!"
Hot chocolate...tea?  Really???  Damn! I want to go to her class! 
"Wow Red!  You are so lucky to have such a great teacher in your corner," says Mom. 
He pops his ass right out of the car and goes with the lovely teacher. 
"Have a nice day.  Make good choices!" says Mom.
And then she burns rubber out of the parking lot...

9:30 a.m.
Mom arrives back home.  She pours herself a cup of coffee...she adds Bailey's.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Active Listening

We have the same conversation nearly everyday after school and you guessed it ...it's about girls and the mighty quest to get a girlfriend.  This is the current fixation...perseveration that we are living with.  It makes me want to jump in my car and keep driving until I make it to the Pacific Ocean ...or at the very least --to my favorite margarita joint.  Some days I avoid being at home when he gets there after school, because after a day of being at school and "having to watch all of those couples in the hallways" he wants to come home and release his frustration...and yes, I am the lucky winner who gets to engage in the same conversation every-single-day.

I find errands to run in hopes that he will come home, start watching Sponge Bob and forget to have the conversation.  Maybe he will get on the phone and have the conversation with his friend instead of me.

He even gets on facebook to have this conversation....
"It really sucks that all the hot girls only like the buff guys!"
"It makes me so angry when I see girls with ripped guys! They're douche bags!"
"Why are girls in high-school so shallow?" Yeah...this one is a real winner.
"I hardly have any girls who are even friends."
"Why do you have to be ripped to get a girl?"
And the fait accompli...
"Someone told me I have to go for ugly girls first before I can get a pretty girl. Really?"
Yep...that one is going to score tons of points with any female who is reading it.

So one of the moms on my Facebook Community, (thank you Jessica) suggested that I just become an "active listener" instead of trying to advise him on a problem that we can not readily fix.  There is no answer (at least not one that he is willing to really hear).   The suggestions from me and anyone else he knows just go around in circles --in one ear...out the other...down the street, around the corner and back again.  It never sinks in...he never agrees.  He just wants to talk about it.  He just wants to be heard.  He just wants EVERYONE to know how frustrated he is.

I decide to try just listening, saying things like, "I understand how you feel. Yes, I'm sure that must be frustrating." When he asks a question, I say something like, "I don't know...what to you think?"  It works for a while.  I am less emotional.  I am not so invested because he isn't taking my advice.  I am divorced from it...or at least legally separated.  The conversation goes on for a good 45 minutes or so.  I'm really tired of it at which point comes this question...
"Do you think I would have a better chance to get a cheerleader if I were a football player?"
"Well lets see...you're in 11th grade.  Football season is already half-over.
Do you like to work out?  Do you like to run? So do you think you can suddenly become a football player in your Senior year?"
"I dunno."
"Well then I don't really think there is any point to this question...is there?"
"Just answer it!"
"Well...what do you think?" I ask.
"I just want you to answer it?"
"I want you to answer it for yourself."

This goes on for about 20 minutes.  He gets louder and louder because I just can't do it.  I can't...won't...whatever.

Now maybe I'm being a bitch here.  But I have answered this question already 9 zillion times.  He knows damn well he is not about to become a football player.  He knows that if he did ...yes it may ever-so-slightly increase his chances at getting a cheerleader.  But getting a cheerleader is so far off the mark from where he should even be looking.  I mean why doesn't he just ask Jennifer Lopez to be his girlfriend?

He knows...he should be looking for friends...female and male.  He knows that he is the one being "shallow." He knows that his focus should be on getting his education and building his future.  He knows that establishing good friendships is the key to finding someone who really understands him and loves him for exactly who he is.  He knows all of this because I have told him this ...over and over again.  Everyone he knows has told him this.  Relatives, friends, his brother, his father, his Pastor, friends at church, his Facebook friends...everyone!

Now he may not know exactly how to go about this...friend making of the opposite sex.  He does have some deficits in social skills and conversation starting.  But the biggest part of his problem is the tunnel vision.  He seems unable to take a 360 degree view of the world.  He only looks through a narrow tunnel at 1 or 2 people who are difficult if not impossible to get.  With his black and white thought process...he is stuck on girls are either ugly or hot...two words that I have come to absolutely loathe when it comes to describing young ladies.

"So if I can't get a hot girl...you're saying I have to get an ugly girl."
To which I vehemently reply, "There are no ugly human beings!"
I hate that word ugly! Did I say that already?

The good news is...I didn't get emotional this time.  I didn't answer the question.  I made him answer it for himself.  And today when he comes home from school.  We will go through the same routine...again.

The other good news is that I also found him a new "expensive" therapist that specializes in Aspergers, adolescence and dating.  He can talk to him too. Too bad it's only once a week and not everyday after school.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Literal Finance 101

As a part of my job duties as Personal Assistant to the four people I live with, I regularly pick up prescriptions from the drug store.  On this lovely afternoon, the young, blond, female clerk says to me,
"That will be $59.00 Mam."
I looked her kind of like she was crazy.  I knew right away it was an odd amount.
I ask, "Are these name brand or generic?"
"They're generic."
"Well that can't be the right price."
"Oh...do you have insurance?"
Hell yeah...I have insurance. Lucky for me! 
This was the first time I have used this particular pharmacy for my husband.  Not because I like this pharmacy.  I am actually forced to use them by our lovely insurance carrier.  They don't have the insurance on file for hubby, who hardly ever gets sick and even less...actually take medicine.
I hand her my insurance card and the price comes out to $10.00
Now that's a lot more like it!

Instantly, I think of my boys.  If that had been one of them...and the clerk had made the same error...they would have fumbled around and paid her the $59.00...no questions asked, or they may have walked away without the medicine.
The boys take what people say at face value and don't question it if they seem honest. Why would an honest looking person lie...or make a mistake?  They're an authority figure.  They are the professional.  They must know what they're talking about right?

Another example:
Blue really does try to be independent.  The other day he wants to go inside and order his own pizza at Little Ceasar's....or as I call it, Little Yucky's.
"It's only $5.00 Mom!"
 He had it at a birthday party a while ago and now he swears by it.  I give him a $10.00 bill.  I say explicitly, "Pizza and soda...that's it!  No extras."
He comes back with pizza, soda and breadsticks and only $1.00 in change.
"What happened?" I ask.
"They said I have to get the special.  It would save me money."

These little common sense financial decisions are the things that freak me out about their future.  You can't believe every advertisement.  You can't trust every body and take what they say at face value.  You have to always be thinking and be quick on your feet, otherwise you can be duped out of your money or spend needlessly.

They don't teach everyday finance in school.  They don't teach common sense.  This leaves it up to us.  The parents.  I don't know about you...but my kids hate learning anything from me. Of course, that doesn't keep me from trying and dissecting these financial common sense matters, in order to keep them thinking and hopefully learning a thing or two.

Recently, I  felt a little more reassured about Red's future when his Video Tech mentor said this about his most recent project, "I have worked with college interns that are not this talented!  He could get an assistant editing job right now paying $20. to $30. an hour.  And the best thing is that he is self-taught.  Which means he can teach himself on the job.  Employers love that!"
(By the way...this lovely woman has a son with Aspergers, so she gets Red and better yet, she won't let me pay her for her time! How blessed are we?!!!)

So alas...there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe...just maybe, I will get this boy out of my house someday! Now we just need to finish high school with out going totally beserk about not having a girlfriend!  And...figure out a way to teach him some common sense.

Blue...I don't worry about as much.  I can totally see him going to college.  I can see him driving and eventually being very mature and responsible.  The literalness and believing everything that people say...I hope will get better with time and maturity and experience.

Yesterday, I read the funniest blog by Aaron Liken.  The post is titled "Anyone Can Be Fired". It's about the literal mind of an Aspie.  I felt so guilty for laughing so hard that tears were falling, about what he thought as a child about people getting fired.  He accurately describes the literal thinking that many people on the spectrum experience.  It's a must read.

There really should be a high school class on Literal Finance 101, where they teach you how to spend money wisely and not waste your precious dollars.  Money really does not grow on trees or get magically dispensed from the ATM.  Heck ...my 24 year-old is not on the spectrum.  He could still use a class like that...and he's in his last year of college!

You can support my blog and buy Aaron's Liken's Book, "Finding Kansas"  by clicking here. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Happy Go Sucky

We were on a positive vibe a few weeks ago leading up to the start of school.  Once it started, the reality of it all started to show it's ugly face for my high schooler.  He is light years ahead of where he was just two years ago.  He has a few "real friends" now and a few close associates.  He has a huge support system, both in and outside of school.

He belongs to a very small church that he found through one of his friends.  He has become close to the Pastor and even calls him up when he's going through a really rough day.  Talking to his Pastor seems to soothe him.  He listens and calms down ...at least for the short run.  He also attends a youth group at his friend's church on Wednesday nights.  It's a little more lively with more teens than his own church. He really seems to enjoy it.  But no sooner than he crosses our threshold, does everything he learned at church seem to fly out the window.

He is no longer isolated in a behavior program.  This school year, we are giving him even more flexibility to have lunch in the cafeteria and roam the hallways, being shadowed by staff and administration.  They all know him by name and their eyes are always open.  He is a big tall, good looking black dude in a sea of mostly white and brown.  He does stand out in a crowd.  That has always been the case in whatever school he's been in.  He is popular alright...but not in the way he would like to be.

Red has this pattern of thinking, perseveration and fixation right now on a particular group that he would like to become a part of.  Even more in particular, there are a couple of young ladies in this group that he thinks are the only "hot girls" on the planet, even though I have pointed out several others who he agreed were attractive.  "I want to be popular!" he yells at me, as if I can make that magically happen in an instant.  Even though I have talked to him till I'm blue in the face (and that's a feat because I'm black) about how interpersonal relationships work.  Even though, his Pastor has talked to him, his brother, my nephew, his father, his uncles, his cousins...he remains stuck in his out of touch with reality thinking.  He even said to me, "Everyone keeps telling me the same thing.  I'm beginning to think I'm the only one who thinks this way." YA THINK! He is so not ready for a male/female interpersonal relationship, even though that's all he can think about.  He doesn't have a clue about how they really work.

One of his good friends who is also on the spectrum,  is affiliated with this group, but it's more of a "on the surface" affiliation.  This friend of his is just a friendly person.  He says, "What's up?" to damn near everyone and a lot of people know who he is, partly because of his friendliness, but also because his family is well known in the community.  It doesn't mean he has deep, meaningful relationships with all of these people.

Whatever the case may be...Red has his focus on this group to the point of blindness.  I tried to illustrate this to him by putting a solid book in front of his eyes and asking, "Can you see everything that's going on in the room?"
"No."
"Well...this is what you're doing by focusing on this group.  You can't see all of the other people around you who you could be connecting with.  People who you actually have more in common with.  People who will like you for exactly who you are."
I may as well have been talking to that book.  He didn't hear me any more than the book did...at least not enough to change his rigid thinking.

He can not see all of the opportunities to meet and become friends with people whom he could have more meaningful relationships.  He wants what looks good to him on the surface. The blindness extends to not even seeing what he already has, in the couple of close friends.  He doesn't seem to soak it in and feel the blessing of it, because he is too busy yearning for what he doesn't have.  It has to be an extremely frustrating head-space to be in --to never, ever (well hardly ever) be satisfied or happy with what you have.

We at home get to deal with the brunt of that frustration.  He is angry, agitated, argumentative, annoying, irritable...combustable.   It's like he wants to share the love of his misery with all of us.  NO ONE in the house has the patience for him or what he is going through right now.  I feel like the chief-referree of all fighting...constantly running interference, trying to keep everyone from blowing their top.  Meanwhile...I'm loosing it!  I can't keep the wine flowing fast enough!

I try my best to keep it calm with him.  I try to use the extremely low, calm voice to get his attention and often take him out of a hot bed situation.  But I can only stay calm for so long.  I feel like a rat trapped in a maze...of craziness and I can't find my way out.  It's not a fun way to live...AT ALL.

I am working on getting him into the right therapist.  We had an emergency session with his Psychiatrist today.  She believes everything we are seeing now is behavioral ...not chemical.  So, I'm off to get him into the right therapist, which of course is not on our insurance plan, so I have to go through a few hoops to make it happen.

I used to look forward to aging.  I wasn't afraid of heading towards my late 40's and 50's.  Age does have some benefits.  I definitely am more comfortable with who I am and I will be damned if I let the opinion of others change me.  I know what makes me happy and I will not give up on the few things that I have that give me happiness.  However, I thought age would mean that I would be closer to the finish line of raising these kids.  I thought...as they get older,  become teenagers heading into adulthood, I will have to do less and less for them.  This will mean I'll have more time for myself.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

Do you feel me?