Thursday, May 30, 2013

911 Nights

It's a Sunday afternoon.  Hubby has taken Blue to a day at the car races.  Red has gone to church.  My mom is out of town and I have the entire house to myself. I am completely enjoying the peace and quiet until ...Red bursts through the front door.

After months of not attending this particular church because of not getting along with a friend there, he finally went back to say goodbye to the Youth Pastor, who is moving away to another church.  He had finally stopped perseverating on the lost friendship and his focus in attending this church was simply to say his goodbyes.  He has never had an outburst of anger in a church environment so we believe this is a fairly safe move.  Apparently, we were wrong. 

As soon as he sees his old friend, he was instantly triggered into negative feelings and anger all over again.  This friend in particular, is also on the spectrum.  He is very high-functioning, making good grades, driving, and he has a girlfriend.  As far as Red is concerned he is also "popular" because he knows a lot of people. People say hello to him and he has good enough social skills to engage in a small-talk exchanges with a lot of people.  Red looks up to this kid because of his ability to overcome the many limitations of his disability.  Because this boy has been involved in the church extensively for a number of years, he receives a great deal of attention there.  Red was quite frankly, enamored by this, and became rather fixated on the friend and wanted to be "like" him.  This of course, made the friend feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed to say the least.

Yes -this friend has a lot going on and is functioning very well.  He does however, have Aspergers and a great deal of anxiety.  Although he may appear to have it all going on, he still has his quirks and it appears to me that one of them is that he likes his friends ...but some of them he would like to keep at a comfortable distance.  He doesn't want to hang out all the time.  Sometimes, he needs to just decompress and be alone.  Red does not know how to handle this.  He takes it all personally and feels rejected and angry.  While being a very nice young man, Red has pushed and pushed him into a corner until he reacts in a manner that is not exactly nice.  Remember, he has Aspergers too ...not a whole lot of filter and when your back is against the wall, there's no telling what you may say.

When Red bursts through the door all pissed off and ranting...I put on my active listening ears for a while and then, I try to help him slow it down so that he can see all sides of the story.  Finally after an hour or so, he seems to calm down.  To get him to completely forget about this for a while, I offer to take him out to lunch. I'm starving and he has given me reason to want a margarita...stat!

Over lunch, he begs me to take him to an electronics store.  "Mom PLEASE!!! I'll do anything.  This will help me keep my mind off of this situation."

Amazing mom that I am ...or complete idiot (you choose) I indulge him.  He has been begging to go to this store for weeks.  I have turned him down every single time.  Today ...I give.

I send him inside, while I wait in the car for him to look around.  I actually fall asleep while I'm waiting.   Over an hour passes when I wake up and realize he is still inside.  I start calling his cell phone.  No answer.

Finally, he comes out.  He looks like he is livid!  What??? I waited almost 2 hours in this car for him to look around in this store, which is supposed to make him feel better and he comes out, looking more unhappy than he did when he went in! Now I'm livid!

What happened?  While inside the store he started thinking about said lost friend and decided to give him a call.  They had words ...unpleasant words.  Why? Because he pushes and pushes and bangs his head against the concrete trying to fix the situation, but ultimately, makes it worse.

What do I do? I lose it!  When he starts ranting about this conversation he had, I cut him off.  "You mean to tell me I waited for 2 hours in this car for you to look around in the store, which is supposed to get your mind off of things and instead, you call this dude and come out even more upset!!! What the hell? Will you EVER learn? Everyone has talked with you about this situation and everyone is telling you the exact same thing! Me, your dad, your therapist, your pastor, your REAL friends and you just don't f-ing get it!!!"  Oh yeah ...I was real supportive.

By the time we get home ...he agrees with me that he WILL NEVER get it!  So guess what? He decides he may as well just die right now.  He makes an overt threat to harm himself and is not backing down no matter what I say.  I hesitate and try to bring him back to reality.  No luck.  I end up calling 911.

Officers show up.  They talk to him.  They process this situation with him as another set of officers had done a few months before.  It's becoming a routine of sorts.  I think by the time he leaves my house, I will be on a first name basis with the entire police force of our small city.  Isn't that pathetic?

Yep ...when the officer comes in Red asks him, "Do you know so and so and so and so? (Other officers on the force.) Yeah, they're friends of mine."  In other words...I have connections.  Don't take me away. 

It's almost like an attention thing ...a positive reinforcement.  He gets a whole audience full of people to listen to him and tell him everything will be o.k.  I really didn't want to call them for precisely this reason.  But then, if something happened and he really did harm himself, I would feel like absolute shit for the rest of my life.  It is my job to protect him ...even from himself.

This time however, the officer wasn't quite as warm and fuzzy as some have been in the past.  I told him straight out some of the crap that was coming out of Red's mouth before they got there, because of course, by the time they came he was a model citizen.  The officer told him sternly, "You are 17 year-old and in the state of Texas you are considered an adult. You can be held responsible for the things you say, even in anger.  Saying, XYZ can get you arrested or you can end up in the hospital and then you, your mom and dad lose control of the situation.  Trust me don't want that to happen." Imagine that.  My 17 year-old son who acts like a 13 year-old boy, being considered an adult by the state.  Ludicrous! 

Red admitted after the fact, that what the officer said scared him.  I can only pray that it scared him enough.  There are no guarantees when it comes to this boy.  None!

We followed up with his therapist the following day.  The therapist explained again the permanence of such a decision and how it would effect all who love and care about him, and that is a big group of people.  There are so many who love and care about Red.  There are so many family members and mentors who are heavily involved in his life, who would be devastated if his life was lost.

I don't know how I will handle this situation the next time...hopefully there will not be one.  I am human.  I reacted emotionally.  I just get so tired of doing, doing, doing --everything I can to give them an ounce of happiness and sometimes if feels like all for not.

I wrote on Facebook that day as I sat in the parking lot, "What kind of mother sits in her car for hours and ends up taking a nap while her kid looks around in an electronics store?"  Answer.  An idiot!  I sure feel like one for going above and beyond for them when in turn, they don't think about me or how I feel.  Instead, they are thinking about some idiot person who doesn't want to be their friend anymore.

For all of my frustration I know that their journey is full of excruciating pain.  I ache for their lost childhood happiness and innocence.  It has been stolen by autism and the depression that has come along with it.  So I keep marching on ...doing what I do the best way that I can on any given day. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Smiling Manipulators

Editorial Note: This is an open letter that may or may not be real.  The names may have been changed to protect the innocent or the guilty.  The point is...children with disabilities are being manipulated by predators who may come in the form of smiling-in-your-face students who walk the hallways of their elementary, middle and high schools. 

We as parents need to be vigilant in talking to our kids about spending money, buying things, or giving away toys to people who are supposed to be their friends.  A true friend does not continually ask you to spend your money on them or give them things that belong to you. If a peer is asking you for money, and they have never returned the favor, chances are you are being used.  Real friends don't ask you for money, toys or gifts.  

Dear School Administrator, 

I overheard his conversation with my two sons and their friend, who also has a disability, the other night on our way to church.  The young man was telling my boys that he is being asked to buy a certain young lady small snack items, sending him back and forth to the lunch line first to buy cookies then later to buy chips to give to or share with her. After which she says, "Oh...You're so sweet! I love you."  He of course was thrilled by her show of affection.

Both of my sons are on the autism spectrum, however they could both see that he is being used only because this has happened to Red before with another young lady there at the high school.  I personally taught him the lesson of people trying to use him.  People with disabilities are often desperate for friendships and can not readily see that they are being manipulated. 

The young lady involved this time is the same young lady you had my son sign a "Stay Away Agreement" from.  This kind of manipulative behavior is despicable and shows the true character of this young lady who was a part of major drama for my son.  It makes me believe that a lot of the things that happened were over dramatized and that she did play a part in the going back and forth, yanking his chain, being his friend one day, and telling on him like she is deathly afraid of him the next. 

Red told me back then, that you guys are only listening to her ...only listening to the person without the disabilitiy and that no one cares about those who do have one.  This is a part of his anger with Assistant Principals at the high school.  

When my younger son, who is still in middle school heard this young man telling this story, he told him right away that he is being used.  "She is not your friend."  His  reply was that, "I had the money, so I didn't mind." 

I spoke with the Special Education Social Skills teacher about this the following day.  He said he would give a social skills lesson about manipulation and reading cues.  I also spoke with my sons tracking teacher because of course, he was upset that this young lady is continuing to get away with taking advantage of kids with special needs.  My son felt like it was his job to stop it, because administration would do nothing about it. I of course, told my son I did not want him taking matters into his own hands. 

I feel like this matter needs to be investigated. This young man doesn't want to get the girl in trouble.  In fact, as I said, he doesn't even realize this is happening.  My son tells me this kind of thing happens to his friends all the time.  It is the job of the administration to protect ALL CHILDREN, not just the ones who complain the loudest and have the cognitive ability to be manipulative.  When I think about the fact that I have turned my son's schedule completely around because of these kind of situations, with typical students, it really makes me angry. 

Students should be taught tolerance and acceptance of those with differences, instead of having those with differences be punished for their lack of ability to handle certain social situations. 

I will appreciate your investigation into this matter. 

Thank you,

A Concerned Parent 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

LaUnia Hinton

I was driving down the street the other day checking my phone at a stoplight, as I am a bit obsessed, when my grandmother, La Unia popped into my mind.

The memory ~

We were at brunch one Sunday with my mom, my sister, sister-in-law and some of my girlfriends.  This was back in the day of pagers, not cell-phones.  I was a Real Estate Agent at the time and so was my girlfriend Glenda.  Glenda's pager kept going off while we were dining at the table.  Of course, she would pick it up and look every time it went off.  It was then that my grandmother said, "What do you do with that thing when you're having sex? I'm just wondering because you check it every five-minutes!"

Everyone's mouth dropped open and we laughed and laughed.  That was La Unia --no edit...just real. I guess that's where I get it from.  A good sense of humor and a taste of smart-ass runs on both sides of my family, maternal and fraternal.  So I have it honest.  Things just fly out of my mouth that are funny, honest and real on a daily basis.  My kids can't stand it,  but that's just too bad. It's who I am. I am thankful to Grandma for that.

As a matter of fact, I remember my fraternal grandmother for much of the same thing.  She would tell you off in a heartbeat.  There was nothing warm and fuzzy about her.  As the sign on her vanity table said, "Don't go away mad.  Just go away!"

Ida V, as we called her my father's mother one day, kept calling me Carol instead of Karen.  When I corrected her saying, "My name is Karen! Not Carol."  She retorted, "If you don't want me to call you Carol...I won't call ya nothin!"
Me and Grandma La Unia
On this Mother's Day I am thinking of my grandmother, La Unia.  I know she is smiling down in awe of the mother that I have become.  She probably would have never imagined it.  She would have loved my husband because he takes such good care of me and he loves to talk as much as she did.  They would have a talking good time together.

You see when she died...I was still in my mid twenties and I was a finger popping, partying, diva.  Sure...I had the steady boyfriend, whom she also loved.  I was a great Auntie to my little nieces and nephews, but a mother? No! Not even on the radar.

Grandma would come and spend months at at time with us.  She lived in St.Louis.  We lived in Los Angeles.  She was there for all of the important moments in my childhood.  She was there for Prom and graduation from high school.  She was there to see my first apartment.  Yes, she came and spent  the night at my apartment even though now I know she was devastatingly ill at the time.

La Unia got on my nerves, just like my mother does now...but I loved her madly.  My grandmother was a professional cook for a living.  So whenever I would attempt to cook, even something as simple as a hamburger, she would tell me how I could do it better.  A hamburger?  Really Grandma? You think I don't know how to make a hamburger? At the same time, if I asked her to make me an apple pie...she wouldn't hesitate.

She never held her tongue.  I don't think she knew how.  If she had an opinion, you can bet she was going to share it with you, whether you wanted to hear it or not.

My mother who now lives with us is the exact the same way.  My kids ask ME a mother answers it.  I'm like -Hello he is talking to me! She gets involved in every conversation and argument that goes on in this house -and there are a lot!

My mother and her mother would fuss, fuss, fuss at each other.  Yet, they couldn't stand to be away from each other for long.  I remember my grandmother looking out the window, waiting for my mother to come home from work each day.  She couldn't wait for them to start fussing at one another!
La Unia Hinton & Beverly La Unia
Grandma and my mom
My mother and I can be the same way.  For many years, I lived here in Texas, while my mother was still in California living with her husband.  I missed her so much.  Yet, we would get into it every time I visited.  She would say or do something to piss me off.  Yet, I would cry every time I drove away to drive to the airport when it was time to come home.

When I would see daughters, and mothers out shopping or having lunch together heart would ache.  I was so sad that I didn't have my mother close enough to do those things with on a regular basis.

A memory~

My mother would call me and my grandmother Jezabels because we loved big, colorful jewelry and loud, vivacious lipstick and makeup.  My mother was ultra conservative.  We didn't care.  Grandma and I would get dressed up and go to lunch and to the movies, with our bright red lipstick and our dangling earrings thinking that we were too cute for words!

Now my mother, Beverly LaUnia lives with me.
We go to lunch and have margaritas at noon on a regular basis.
She sends back her food, if it's not piping hot,  and served as ordered.
I have taken up her love for wine to help soothe the nerves most evenings, although she can still out drink me! And her mother could out drink her! I can't keep up with either one of them in the drinking department.
We go to the occasional movie together, where she complains about how cold the theatre is.  Sometimes, she complains about the amount of sex or cursing in the movie, although she can curse like a sailor herself!
She stays all up in my business, never holding her tongue.
At the same time, she helps me keep my head on straight --reminding me of every detail that I forget.
Apparently, I did not receive her organization gene.
I'm sure my unorganized house drives her nuts.
You see...she has nothing else to do besides mind my business.
She cooks for our family on somedays that we would otherwise have cold sandwiches, or wine for dinner. For this I am eternally grateful.
She also has those days, where she sits and waits for me to feed her like my 4th or 5th child.
She helps me with my laundry.  In fact ...I can't keep up with her in getting it put away.
She tells me like it is when I am being mean to my husband.
Some days, I am still like her little girl.
"Are you going to clean your room before your husband gets home?"
"Your husband hasn't eaten today.  Aren't you going to feed him?"
"Your closet is a wreck! You need to spend the day in there cleaning it up!"
 Stay out of my damned closet Mom! 
She reams me everyday about how much time I spend on my computer.
While I get on her about how much time she spends sitting on her butt -watching that annoying Judge Judy!
Me and Mom -Girls Night Out
Having her live here with me, I can see the dynamics of our relationship is just like the relationship she had with her mother.  They fussed and fussed and loved each other madly.

When we lost Grandma, I thought that my mother would completely fall apart.  She did not. She was much stronger than I ever imagined she would be, although she still misses her to this very day.  But now, we think of Grandma with nothing but happy thoughts and laughter.  Thankful to her for the gifts that she gave us while she was here.

When the day comes, that I loose my mother and I hope that day comes, much later than sooner.  I will think of her, smile and laugh about all the things she said and all of the gifts that she has given me.

Loving you La Unia Hinton, and Beverly LaUnia on this Mother's Day and always...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Blue -A Boy with Aspergers

This boy's sadness is breaking my heart.  
Why can't I fix it?  
Why is there no magic answer? 

Written by Blue...14 Year Old Boy, 8th grade 

Why can't I sleep? 
I've been thinking, about stress in my life, and starting a relationship with a girl. 
My anger and depression is following me everywhere, and my Anxiety is increasing day and night. 
I'm feeling really... different, too different to be accepted by other people. 
Very few of my friends listen. Only the close & loyal friends, which I have very few. 
Other kids have more friends.
It's like I'm invisible to some kids. 
I can't help the fact that I'm different, or how I have a stressful life, even though I'm a good person. 
I can't even talk to kids because the people who are athletic, musicians, or very intelligent is what everyone wants (especially girls.) 
I don't have value to anyone, even though I try to help people and fix life.
I can't control it. 
I mean, I'm going to high school next year, and I want to engage with more people (mainly girls.) That's why I have not been able to sleep. 
I'm sorry that I've been so angry and down on myself, but I'm in a stage of sadness. 
The only thing anyone can do is to listen to me and care. 
This is who I am, the boy with Aspergers.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hope -Guest Post by Elena de Beche

I have a best friend and kindred sister that I've never met in least not yet.  We met through this blog a couple of years ago.  We became Facebook friends.  We e-mailed each other privately.  She started sending me these wonderful blessings --very uplifting messages that she writes and sends out to a large e-mail group of people that she has met along her path of life.  Her writing is filled with love, wisdom and humor.  I feel warmth in my heart and a sense of peace after reading anything that she writes.  She inspires me to be a more loving being. 

I encouraged her to turn her blessings into a blog.  You can check out her writings at "My Cloud of Peace".  

Elena is the mother of 3 fascinating, very special boys, two teenagers who drive her nuts, and her youngest, G3 is now a 4th grader.  All of the boys have these wonderful names that start with G.  G3, is diagnosed with ADHD and Aspergers.  
I've never met G3 either, but I have come to love him as one of my own because of his beautiful, brilliant mind,  his keen sense of humor, and his fearlessness. He is going to be one of those people who changes the world someday, in fact he already has changed my world.  He is already following in his mama's footsteps.
I bring to you my friend Elena...
When Karen said, “You should be a guest writer for my blog”, I was cracking up… what could I possibly write about that would be as fabulous as the things she writes? … She suggested I write about the new school program that G3 is in… hmmmm? I still wasn’t convinced... the program is so wonderful that there is nothing eventful or funny to write about.. I have no communication with the school or the teachers… except for the little slip of paper G3 brings home daily that gives a conduct “grade” for the day… that’s it.. no phone calls.. no emails.. no drama… nothing…
It took me an entire year to get G3 evaluated… every time he was sent to the office and written up and suspended, I requested an IEP, but nothing would ever happen…. He was suspended 47 days and was failing 3rd grade.. fortunately, in Florida, they have a State-wide test called the FCAT that assesses whether a student has learned everything that he needs to know to pass… so, technically, a kid can be an “A” student and still score poorly on the test and would have to take remedial classes to pass… OR.. as in G3’s case, a kid can have “F’s” on their report card and score 3 (it’s a 1-5 scale with 1 being the lowest) and be promoted to the next grade… well, G3 scored 4.. so, he was on his way to the 4th grade.. hurray!! .. NOT... he needed help, I needed help, but no one was helping us.. all they kept saying is, “he is so brilliant, we don’t understand what the problem is..” .. really? You don’t understand? He has a diagnosis from a Neurologist that says he has ADHD combined type and Aspergers… what’s not to understand? He needs accommodations.. “Oh, okay, well, we have to document that in order to request an IEP… we’re going to tolerate his behavior during the evaluation period and not suspend him ..” ….. “really? Gee, thanks” …
So… that’s exactly what happened…. And we endured the torture…. he was doing everything possible to get suspended.. and I was listening to the “play-by-play” of how horrific he was behaving… how none of the other students were able to learn anything with him around… how it was just totally unacceptable.. how he was depressed.. how I wasn’t consistent with him.. how I was too “free-spirited” … and on and on… but, we sucked it up and got the IEP meeting… I couldn’t stand these people already… I didn’t want to hear anything they had to say about my kid… and they had a lot to say…. And all the while, my child with his hoodie on and his head down listening to “their” assessment… all I kept thinking to myself was how lucky they were that I was tired of fighting them… I just wanted him out of that school…
Another teacher joins the meeting towards the end… like an “Ambassador of Goodwill” … she explains this “special” program to us… the kids are held accountable for their behavior… they work on a “point” system that fluctuates like the stock market… there are 2 teachers and an aide for the 9 students in the class… I’m thinking, “Stop talking woman.. of course we are going to that program and like right now, please!!!!.. There are only 2 elementary schools in Miami-Dade County that have this program… we chose the school where the District Psychologist visits so that G3 wouldn’t feel as if he was totally “alone” at his new school.. at least he would know her.. and he liked her, which was a plus…
He, of course, was apprehensive, but when he arrived to a classroom of 9 boys, who all love “Assassin’s Creed”.. well… He was in heaven!!… Yeaaaay!!! …. I, of course, was apprehensive, but when I picked him up and he wouldn’t stop talking about all the “points” he received for his good behavior... and how cool his “new” friends were… and how he loved his THREE teachers… YES…… Amen. Amen. He was finally where he was supposed to be…

Anyway, I decided to write this because tomorrow, May 2nd, is “Take your kid to work day” (oh that’s…. let’s be real.. it’s a day off for every one…. I get the field trip form and I say, “G3, you can stay home with Papa… he would love that..” “sure, Mama…. I can play games all day” … (That was last week) … Yesterday, I ask him if he turned the field trip form in and he said, “No, Mama.. I am going to school because only one friend will be there and I don’t want him to be alone.” ……… Hmmmm… well, alright. Today, when I pick him up, I comment it to his teacher and she said, “Well, NO ONE turned their field trip forms in… G3 convinced them ALL come to school… I feel so blessed… lol” …(I think she was being sarcastic) but I responded, “Oh, Ms. May... I feel so blessed, too… my child loves you so much that he WANTS to come to school and WANTS all his friends to come, too…. Last year, at this time, he cried every day because he NEVER wanted to go to school… so, thank you for all that you do… you have made a huge difference in his life…” …. She just kind of stared at me for a moment and then said, “You know, I really love what I do... thank you for reminding me.”
Wow, I have written a lot… and I guess all I really wanted to say was… There is hope… do not give up… everyone has a place in society… and with determination, you can help your child find their place… there are good people and teachers and other kids who will “get” your kid… and they will love them… and they will want them to succeed… your child can be happy.. you can be happy… I know it’s hard to imagine… and believe me, not every day is an “A” day, but the slate is wiped cleaned… and the next day, everyone begins with the same opportunity to have an “A” that day… the program works… since G3 has been in that school, he has received the “Perfect Attendance” award for two grading periods!!!
Last week, I met a woman at tumbling that was having the same kind of issues with her son’s school … I gave her all the information about our new school.. all the contact information for the District Psychologist… all the email addresses.. everything that I could to help her… and at the end of the week, she said, “Thanks.. I’ve made some calls… I written some emails… and I have HOPE now.” ….

Awesome, right? That’s what it’s all about for us…. HOPE!