Sunday, February 27, 2011

March Happiness Project: The Invincible Survivor

The actual topic for the March Happiness Project is work. Alright, I don't really have too much to talk about as far as work is concerned. We autism parents work 24/7, we know what that entails and I don't have to outline it here. If we had more hours in each day and more days in each  week, we would work then too to make life better and more manageable for our children. We fight the good fight to make sure that our beautiful offspring have the future that they are entitled to. We give them the tools and the education and woe be to the person or persons who stand in their way. What I would like to think about for March is more how we are the invincible survivors, strong, proud and on the march...

So let's get our Pat Benatar on...



Face the Eye of the Tiger....



And remember when we looked like Destiny's Child in those loin cloth bikinis...



Rock on my invincible posse of survivors...

Until next time,

Elise

Friday, February 25, 2011

Damn the Cliques, Full Speed Ahead: The Right to Define Oneself, Again

Do you know how the smallest things can touch a huge nerve? I read this rather short post on a blog that I enjoy. An observant Reform Rabbi, Frume Sarah, writes it. I do not know if she likes what I write (don't know if she has ever even paid a visit here) but I definitely like what she writes. Anyway, I left a comment to one of her posts, of course (anyone who knows me knows I generally have a lot to say) and she answered and now I wrote a reply. But once again it started me thinking about just who we are and who gets to define who we are.

As anyone who has followed me for awhile knows, I have gotten into blogging blows with many in the neurodiverity world because of my refusal to define my children by their autism. So this is not a new issue for me. But I think there is even more to it than neurodiversity or what defines you as a Jew or a Christian or a Moslem or an atheist/agnostic or as an American. I truly think it comes down to your own integrity and what you as a person feel is important in your life.

I also think that in trying to define yourself, it ends up being a huge fight against some rather large entrenched organizations that think that they have the authority to denote and delineate what constitutes being a member of their group. OK, most groups do tend to define themselves, but who is to say that you cannot deviate from the norm and still remain a member of the tribe?(Believe in entitlements you can be a republican-there happen to be many compassionate conservatives or be pro-life and be a democrat -have news too, there are quite a number of those as well). Its almost as if we are all back in middle school and the cool kids are deciding what constitutes which clique. Are we so afraid of standing on our own that we need to still have the approval of the “cool kids” when go out into the world?

Or perhaps it is society’s need to compartmentalize everyone and everything. I know that personally I have never fit into any category and I know the boys never had as well. We were definitely never the cool kids; not me, hubby or the boys…HSB even said that he wasn’t looking forward to his senior year because he was not a school celebrity, you know an athlete. The disability director at the high school used to say that collegeman was neither fish nor fowl…he fits in nowhere. Well none of us fit a mold in my household and I suppose we never will.

So is that what the reality happens to be? Do we fit in nowhere? I have generally lived apart in many respects from society as a whole. I did not have the typical childhood, where you were raised in the city of your birth with lifelong friends from nursery school. My father’s job in Jewish philanthropy had us moving quite a lot. It was a good way to grow up. I saw a lot of the USA and interacted with a lot of people from many walks of life, but there was never the group or childhood clique to belong to. You would never believe that I was a varsity cheerleader, national honor society and model UN member (Yes, I know it is rather humorous considering my politics now if you think about that). I should have been very popular, but I was anything but. In fact I spent my teenage years alone.You would think that that was ridiculous considering most of my peers at the time thought I had lived that teenage dream.

For hubby it wasn’t much different. While as a boy he did have friends and was a track star, there weren’t the parties or the hoopla surrounding his adventure through school. Luckily we did find each other in college. I tend to think that it is those shared experiences of being on the outs, when everyone thought we were on the inside that gave us something additional to identify in each other.

The boys of course were never in the cliques, any clique as a matter of fact. Collegeman never even had a single friend. As I have written before, children would get up from the lunch table when he would come to eat. His alienation and rejection did lead to a form of PTSD and it took years of therapy for him to open up to the idea that peers really could be nice to him. Luckily HSB never experienced too much peer rejection. In fact I would say that in many ways what he has dealt with is generally typical childhood issues: loosing a best friend to another group of kids, having issues with peers-basically who can be the bigger jerk (15 year old boy stupidity) and the recent bullying which was squelched quite well by the administration at the school. He is lucky. In fact, luckily he doesn’t even understand how lucky he is.

As adults hubby and I never belonged to groups or cliques. Honestly, I tried it on many occasions, joining a gym, working in the PTA, even volunteering at my Temple (where we no longer belong). Hubby volunteers in town and even joined extra-committees at his old law firm. I have to tell you that when someone told me once that I was one of the PTA mavens in town I nearly fell off my chair. WTF, was my reaction. It is funny how people tend to see you in a different light than you see yourself. They imbue within you something perhaps that they want for themselves so they think that you have accomplished their goal. They think you get to run the show and tell the school where to place your child and who their teachers could be (there are a lot of people in my town with major control issues)…again this family is generally a unit unto ourselves, no cliques, no games, no groups…just hubby, the boys and me. Oh yeah and the three dogs.

I guess the point that I am trying to make is looking to find the answer to the question: why do we need to be defined by a group and why do we need to belong to any one group? I know who I am internally. I know what I believe. I know that I have a good handle on right and wrong and empathy and compassion and that I taught these same ideals to the boys. I know that I do not need the approval of others to continue in what I believe. I have been an outcast from society in general for a large part of my life and I figure I probably will continue that way. I think the issue for me becomes when those who are part of the group decide because you do not follow everything they offer, hook-line-and sinker then you are not a part of them and can never be.It's all their way or nothing. They also decide because of a religion, a skin color or ethnic background what you should believe and how you should live your life.

Whether it is the neurodiveristy crowd who rejects how I raise the boys, as if that makes collegeman and HSB any less autistic; Or the neurodiveristy groups that have decided that the boys can only be part of their club if they identify themselves first and foremost as autistic. (Truthfully there comes a time that its up to the boys alone if that’s even an important part of who they are. But its no ones decision or business but the boys and they are not traitors to a cause because they define themselves without that autistic label); Or the community at large who resent the inclusion of special needs children in their school system, as if that means the boys will disappear; Or my Temple, which we just resigned from, because we did not believe in their politics, does not make us any less Jewish, well in the eyes of the Rabbinate maybe it does. Yes that little post touched a huge huge nerve.

Personally, I can define myself as a Jewish (no branch specific)-American, female, independent, who has a lot to say, who likes to write, knit and take care of her family. A female who supports some feminist goals, but is not a feminist, (not 2nd wave, not 3rd wave, and most definitely not the present wave) believes in women’s rights throughout the world (including the Moslem world which is not a politically correct thing to think at the moment), who gave up a career in law because her children and family needed her and who cooks for her family only because no one else can and who hopes that there will be a bright future for her children (who is also terrified that society will remain as ignorant as they are today about those with disabilities and never even give the boys a chance). You see I do not fit into a box, a club or a clique, neither do my boys, and neither does hubby.

I suppose the one group we do belong to is the group called human beings…too bad that’s not good enough....too bad that that's not the only grouping that matters to society and the world at large.

Until next time,

Elise

P.S. For any of you that link to Frume Sarah's blog and read the discussion, the last reply to my comment was from someone who calls themselves "nudnik." Nudnik is Yiddish for moron, idiot, fool...no, I am not kidding.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's About Damn Time

So I thought I was going to make it through one episode of Parenthood without crying. Well they got me in the last minute....



They do present most issues about aspergers pretty well on this show (albeit with the Hollywood solve the issue in 30 minutes take on reality), hope they handle this one right.


Until next time,


Elise

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Typical College Student Perspectives

Remember when you hoped and prayed for the days that your children would do typical things? OK, it is really cool when it happens. I have to admit that the older they get, they do exhibit more typical issues. Now they have their aspergean issues that is certain, but there are so many things that they do today that would be seen as normal teenage behavior that I do look, listen and shake my head at times. The latest typical issue is the expression of that college ideology which states that at 20 years-old they have all the answers and that we, the older generation are a bunch of morons. The other day collegeman sent me this YouTube video (below). He let me know in the email that this is how he feels right now with everything going on in the world (everything is the fault of the greedy western democracies). He is such a 20 year old college student...luckily he promised me that he has not gone lefty-liberal on us, he is still an independent, but that he just thinks that there are things us older folks screwed up....oh boy...oh boy. Meanwhile hubby has started to refer to him as Mr. Liberal.



That view of money will last of course, until he has his own bills to pay, and gets that paycheck with taxes and FICA removed. That shock at "money reality" is also something everyone experiences. That typical awakening is something I am truly looking forward to. Can't wait, want to see his face...


Until next time,

Elise

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Glee Does Bieber; Oz Shows His Ignorance

This week Glee channeled Justin Bieber. Yes, I know teeny-bopper and tween idol. Hey its  a great song and yes, the boys (J.B. and the Glee crowd) are all so cute. But don't tell HSB I said so, he will have a meltdown. He loathes Bieber. Hubby and I are convinced that he is so pea-green jealous of the fame, fortune and of course the girls...lots and lots of girls (Yes, HSB is girl-crazy)...I mean what 17 year old boy wouldn't want hundreds of pretty girls throwing themselves at you...Someone has to tell me again how autistics don't channel their inner emotions.

Oh wait, unfortunately that stupidity did just happen again. Dr. Oz had a show about autism and of course they spent the entire time talking about vaccines, environment and diet. (No I am not going to link to it.) It's a huge waste of time and totally lacks any value. Nothing useful or uplifting or hopeful in that entire program. It was a terribly frightening program for the uninvolved and uneducated. The show completely reinforced a horrible amount of stereotyping. Of course, Dr. Oz started off by telling everyone how autistics lack a basic emotional underpinning. So I left a comment on his show's website stating that he needs to do a followup show outlining, therapies, medicines and supports that help and benefit those with autism. I also wrote about collegeman who wants to go to law school so he can save the world and fight injustice-not bad for someone without any emotional underpinnings.  Oh and needless to say, the Dr. Oz Show did not print my comment. Someone needs to tell Dr. Oz in no uncertain terms, he really shouldn't talk about things he knows nothing about.




Meanwhile Justin Bieber (following in the footsteps of the world's great superstars and world renown musicians like Elton John, Rihanna, and Macy Gray) is about to perform in Tel Aviv to a  throng of screaming Israeli girls. Without a doubt one of my favorite stories about the young superstar is that in his prayer circle before each show he says the holiest Jewish prayer the Shema, the Jewish affirmation of faith. He wanted his manger, who is Jewish, to feel comfortable in the circle. My 17 year old may have some unresolved jealousy issues, but this mom thinks Bieber is a mensch.



Until next time,

Elise

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Of Walkouts, Strikes and Telling a Child To Stop Being Intelligent


I know that this blog deals with autism spectrum disorders and how to help your children, but a recent event set me thinking about the average child’s issues and what they face at school as well. That event is the present walk-out by so many teachers in Wisconsin that the state basically canceled school for several days in a row. Now no matter which side of the debate you happen to be on, the issue actually is who is really suffering in this sick-out? The answer is, each and every single child that attends public school in the state of Wisconsin. Listen I have a father who is a teacher and a union member and my grandfather started the butcher’s union back in the day when the world was truly Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, so I am well aware of the benefits and the need for unions historically.

I have to say though that there is just something so hurtful about harming those you are sworn to uplift, in this case the children, no matter what the issues happen to be. In contrast,  the teacher's union in our district just gave back a lot of "givens" from their latest contract because they knew in this economy the town just could not handle the cost and it was give it up or drastic cuts would have to be made. These teachers understood that and I thank them for that. You see, they are smart enough to think in the long run, because they also know that a grateful public will be happy to grant them practically anything they want once the economy turns around. Good faith and a care for our children go a long way in garnering respect.

So how does this fit into my blog…let me tell you. I was thinking about the impact that a teacher has on a student. That when you send your child to school they look up to the teacher and learn from their insights. That a teacher is there to not only mold the development of information intake, but to help turn your child into productive and excited learners. Their job is to grab hold of your child’s instinct to want to learn and to produce by teaching them to be better than they were the day before. Unfortunately it doesn’t always turn out that way.

When I was in 5th grade, I was given a book about the history of Jews in America. Now this was way before there was any interest in ethnic pride or identity politics, which my conservative friends will pooh-pooh, but which I can understand being a minority and all. Well for a young Jewish girl growing up in the deep bible belt of the south (My sister and I were the only Jews in our school) the idea that there were Jews who contributed to the American experience even before the rush of immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century was just amazing. I can even feel the pride right now as I remember how that little ten-year-old girl felt reading that book. There was even a section in the book that surmised that Christopher Columbus may have been Jewish (or at least descended from Jews). This of course was before it was decided that Columbus was an evil-imperialistic SOB.

I was so excited I ran up to the teacher and showed her the book. Now instead of trying to garner my interest, instead of making feel that it was a possibility or something that could have been, she made fun of me in front of the entire class and sent me back to my seat. Her response was “Well you believe what you want and I’ll believe what I want.” I remember that the boy sitting next to me actually told me that everyone in class heard what happened and I responded that I didn’t care. But of course I did and I immediately told my mother when I got home about what the teacher said. My mom, being the terrific lady that she is, promptly made fun of the teacher and her ignorance. Since then anytime you act or think like a fool in our home, we just use the line “Well you believe what you want…” To this day, over 40 years later, we still use that memory to denigrate the ignorant and close-minded.

The question becomes what would have happened to my desire to learn and explore if my mother hadn’t belittled that teacher and her ignorance. It was a hard choice she faced because she wanted me to respect the teacher and behave in school. But she felt that my self-esteem was more important and that she knew that I could handle learning and secretly thinking that the teacher is a moron. (By the way we are talking light years ago, during the civil rights movement and shortly after the Rev.Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. This school event actually took place in Memphis, Tennessee. We moved there one month after Dr. King’s death. You can  bet I have some more interesting stories to tell, things you just wouldn’t believe in today’s world.)

I also was reminded of another interaction with a teacher, this time with the rabbi who taught history when I went to school in Israel during my sophomore year in high school. I was part of a wonderful program called The High School in Israel. You spent a marking period learning and living in Israel and were taught by American teachers on an Israeli campus. It was and is a terrific program. The interesting thing about it was that it was not limited to just Jewish students. We had a huge group of Christian students who took part in the school and it was quite interesting to see their reaction to walking in the footsteps of Jesus, as we walked in the footsteps of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, and modern history as well……(It is one thing to study history it is another thing to touch it, smell it and let in envelope you. It is why one of most favorite things to do is the Freedom Walk in Boston. You stand at the birthplace of the United States and you marvel at the bravery. I remember visiting Washington D.C. and going on a tour of the Capital building with the boys; we were able to stand in the room that housed the original House of Representatives. On the floor is marked the place where Abraham Lincoln’s desk sat. I stood over that star and just never wanted to leave. We also saw the original room where the US Supreme Court met. I swear you really could feel the presence of all those beings from so long ago. I can understand those who travel to Gettysburg and sites all over the Untied States. I definitely understand historical reenactors. Listen, the reality is that not every decision a nation decides is a correct one as we all know, but it makes us as a nation who we are today. Our history truly is our glory and it is our soul. Embracing it gives us an idea of where we come from and where we have yet to go.)

Well anyway the point of the story about studying in Israel is that as a child who loved history I had read and learned everything I could about Jewish and Israeli history before I went on the program. So I knew so much before it was even taught. I would raise my hand all the time and ask alot of questions. Unfortunately the other students had no idea what I was even talking about most of the time. The rabbi who taught the class took me aside one day and told me that I needed to be more humble in my knowledge. Yep he told me I talked too much and made others feel bad. That he understood being humble in the face of learning because he had studied Talmud (the Jewish book of laws) and it had taken him years to just read 150 pages (It was such an event  I even remember the number of pages he had told me he had read through). He told me I needed to not be so upfront and in your face with what I knew. Now as a young teen, enamored of the adventure that I was on, thrilled to be on my own without my parents, I took what that man said to heart. I remember catching myself when I went to offer an answer or ask a question. I remember becoming very timid in my desire to learn for the rest of the trip and changed whom I was and what I thought I could accomplish.

Now as a woman of 50, having my own children and quite a bit of education under my belt, I realize that that teacher was many things, but a rabbi was not really one of them. For anyone to tell a child to stop being excited about learning is a sin. For anyone who is supposed to shape and build the self-esteem and the mind of a child to tell the child that they need to be more humble and not try to be so smart is ignorant and shows an inadequacy in that teacher (I do wonder if he would have said the same thing to me if I was male). I obviously got over the idiot Rabbi. Went on to higher education and graduate school. But it still sits there just because I remember that 15 year old girl half way around the world, who had was told by someone she was again supposed to respect, that quite frankly she was just too excited about learning. What a frakin’ moron that Rabbi was.

Actually you would think that things like that wouldn’t happen in this day and age anymore. Unfortunately I heard a very similar story from one of HSB’s classmate’s parents years ago. Apparently there was a boy in HSB’s 5th grade class that was so very excited about learning that he constantly asked questions and wanted to know more and more. He was drawn to school. Just reveled in his education. Well the social studies/homeroom teacher actually told him that he asked too many questions and that he was to stop talking in class and just write the list of questions for after school when she would answer him. The mother undoubtedly was beside herself. I told her that I really didn’t think there was too much she could do other than complain to the principal of the middle school. I think this is one instance that if he had been a special education student that there were alternative avenues that could have been taken but that nothing existed for regular education students.(An issue that is not regularly discussed or recognized.)

I suppose the stories beg the real question, which is how does a teacher do that to a child? How does a teacher dash the desire to learn? How does a teacher think nothing of the child in front of them and decide that the child is too much of a bother? By the way, that was one God-awful year when HSB was in 5th grade, between the social studies teacher’s idiocy and the special ed teacher’s incompetence, I lived at that middle school. I have to tell you that I so do not wish that on anyone as long as I live, especially a child. I remember a talk with the vice-principal of the middle school in discussing this social studies teacher and the issues with the special ed teacher. These two did not get along and their fighting ended up hurting the students. I told him that the two of them were acting like children and that they needed to grow up. He just smiled at me as if to say, if I could do that with the two of them I would. Well, luckily that social studies teacher did leave the school system even though she had tenure and the special ed teacher was told to leave that she did not get tenure. But still why we all had to suffer at the hands of those two highly inadequate individuals is beyond me. (Sometimes teacher contracts are not a positive thing.) I actually lost track of HSB’s classmate, but this being a highly competitive school system I am sure he did just fine in the end. By the way, that mom of his was really pissed off and I am sure the vice principal got an earful from her as well.

I suppose the point of this post is to try to understand why some people become teachers when they obviously have no love or care for children. Why do they waste our time and our children’s futures when they truly care nothing for the children they teach? Do they really think its all about civil service benefits? It is sad really; so many teachers are wonderful thoughtful and hardworking people (like my father). They truly have a calling to educate the next generation. It is hurtful that all teachers should be lumped together with those teachers who are useless and selfish morons. But ultimately it is sad that any child, regular or special ed, has to deal with those who actually don’t take their obligation to mold and shape the minds of the future seriously. Something truly is wrong with some people's perspectives, purposes  and responsibilities associated with becoming  an educator. We, as a society, do need to find a way to fix it.

Until next time,

Elise

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bullying Update; Cap and Gown Measurements; Nintendo 3D and the Corruptness of Corporations


I thought I would give everyone an update about the bullying incident involving HSB. The story continues that not only did the Vice Principal visit the classroom unannounced, but also that while HSB was out of the room; she read the class the proverbial riot act. She made it clear that picking on, bullying or making fun of another student for any reason what so ever will not be tolerated and that there will be repercussions. Also, HSB told me that the main bully was continually staring at him in another class; however, he said that that seems to have stopped as well.  HSB’s special ed teacher did try to tell him to ignore that particular student and I am not sure how much HSB could actually do that, but it seems that this episode may be over. I did find it creepy that the bully would stare at HSB so I did make another call to the school and spoke to the Vice Principal. They assured me that this child has no history of violence and was for lack of a better word, just a jerky kid who liked to be the center of attention by doing stupid things. Unfortunately he decided to be the center of attention by picking on my son and that was not going to happen anymore. Hopefully the bully has learned his lesson and will just ignore HSB from now on.

Of course, if he doesn’t hubby has devised an entire plan on how to ruin the boy’s family. He even spent a night googling the family and finding out what the father does for a living. Hubby is in no mood to have someone pick on his son. In fact, HSB has been really lucky that he has basically escaped unbullied from school (only a few minor incidents), unlike so many of his aspergean fellows, including collegeman. Now hubby was just not going to let some kid, ruin the last four months of HSB’s high school life. He has been doing too well this year and quite frankly is so much happier than he has been in such a long time, so hubby was on a lawyer’s warpath. I could see the wheels going and the legalese threats begin to appear in his brain. If we were in a cartoon with thought balloons you could actually see them pop-up over hubby’s head. You so don’t want to mess with one of his boys. And as I have mentioned before, it has been a really hard couple of years and hubby has no patience for nonsense of any kind from anyone.

I did have an interesting exchange with the Vice-Principal though. We were talking about how HSB does have to learn to deal with people that are jerks. I told her my philosophy that I teach the boys, “wherever you go in life there is going to be at least one asshole. The trick is to make sure that YOU are not that asshole.” Not sure she appreciated my colorful reference to the anal sphincter but she definitely liked the life lesson. The truth is that HSB does have to learn how to deal with mean people. There is always going to be someone somewhere who will try to make your life miserable if you let them. He needs to learn the emotional defenses against that. In some respects he has been very lucky in that he never had to learn those defenses, but on the other hand he really doesn’t know what to do when people are just not nice (Except when its his brother withwhom he usually gets into a fight). He doesn’t understand it when people are mean and he definitely doesn’t like it. Now he does handle it better than when as a freshman some idiot upperclassmen stole his backpack from the locker room (kept wondering if those students were morons who can’t read since his name was on his belongings…HSB doesn’t really get the idea of practical jokes and why some people think they are funny. You can rest assured that he just feels people who like these jokes lack any basic intelligence.) Honestly I didn’t like the joke either. Since HSB’s name and picture were in his backpack along with his housekeys, and alarm fob, I had to have the house rekeyed and the alarm reset besides having to buy a new backpack, and school supplies. Needless to say I kept the bills for a rather long time just in case I ever found those stupid children and was going to hand the bill to their parents.

Well, this recent incident is behind us and so far so good with HSB. He even said he wants to go to graduation now too. They did come to measure for caps and gowns last week and it seems that little by little HSB is getting used to the idea that there is a next step in his life. College does seem to be an ok idea, even though it’s only more school and he is steeling himself for the transition. While on the phone with the Vice-Principal we did discuss the possibility of him attending the graduation. Oh not that they would keep him away, but the reality that HSB would sit for hours and listen to speeches without interjecting is not something I would really want to chance. Yes, I know that he needs to learn to handle his impulses to yell at people he disagrees with but the time to learn is not at the graduation ceremony. Meanwhile he finally did attend a school-wide assembly and the para did mention that he did interject during the speeches (even though he was generally just loud enough for those around him to hear but still you don’t want that during graduation). So we will discuss exactly how to include HSB in the ceremony without taking away from anyone else. When graduation does get closer, we are going to put our heads together to come up with a way for HSB to enter towards the end of the ceremony, so he could be called up to receive his diploma like the rest of his classmates. Of course, the upside for me is that I don’t have to sit through all those horrible speeches.

On another front, HSB was welcomed into the world of realistic economics. As I have mentioned before the boys earn money to put towards their video games by doing chores in the house. Of course, they don’t have to buy video games with the money; they can buy mangas, music, and yugiyoh cards, basically anything that is not a necessity or needed for school (these things we buy). So we were in Game Stop and HSB was turning in older videogames for money to put towards a new game that he wanted. (It’s actually a really nice program. Of course Game Stop makes out really well, but on the other hand, your child learns that things cost money and that there can be some kind of exchange of goods. Basic and simple economics but it is a beginning.)

Meanwhile HSB wanted the new version of the Nintendo DS that is coming out because lo and behold it is going to be 3-D without glasses. So we took the money he garnered from the returned games and put down a deposit on the handheld. Well as we got back to the car, I told him that he had a month to get the rest of the money together by doing chores. He looked at me as if I had lost my mind. For some reason he had not thought that he was going to have to put his own chore money toward the new system as opposed to using the money to buy new games. He was so not happy with me to say the least. Yelling, name-calling and basic infantile behavior did ensue, however, I did stick to my guns and guess what he decided that the system cost too much money.

He decided that there is no reason to have to spend so much on a new system when his works just fine and that Nintendo is a corrupt corporate monstrosity. He railed against the corrupt corporate giants and their hidden agendas. He decided that corporations have no feeling for the average person, especially in this economy and that it was an abhorrent abuse of power. My conservative son suddenly sounded like he was at a Communist Party Rally. (I have to tell you, I figured out why Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto, his mother told him he would have to pay for whatever was the hip-kid fad of the mid 19th century.) Needless to say, we got the deposit back without a problem and HSB has bought several games with his chore money. Also not to worry, he is back to his old capitalist ways, trying to hold me up for more allowance, because he is doing so much better at school this year. (4 A’s and 2 B’s for the first semester…yes this time I gave in.) OK, he still gets allowance too…after all if it is tied to school he is earning that money. Except I also use allowance as a tool to get him to do things he would seem to forget, like use his braces rubber bands every night and pick up his dirty clothes and put them in the hamper. No rubber bands, loose $1 and no clothes picked up loose another $1. Let me tell you considering how lazy he could be, those no pick-up your clothes dollars adds up really quickly.

In many ways I suppose that this too is a lesson in economics. Just because you receive money for a job well done, doesn’t mean something isn’t going to come along the way and take your money from you before you get a chance to spend it on what you need or want. Take care and protect your money and yourself by doing what you are supposed to in this life. It is a little life lesson, but on the other hand, hopefully he can extrapolate it and apply it to other situations in which he will find himself. Listen he learned that just because you may want something doesn’t mean the older version isn’t just as good and that you have to make choices in life on what you have to spend your money on. Of course we haven’t gotten to the part where he has no disposable cash to spend on games because gas, food and electric bills are inflating while your paycheck isn’t growing, but that is a lesson for the future. The truth of the matter is that he is still allowed to be somewhat of a kid and not have to have grown-up financial problems. Those will come fast enough in his lifetime and once they come they really never go away do they.

Until next time,


Elise

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

This is How a School Should Handle Bullying

So I was sitting in my car waiting to pick HSB up from school, when my cell phone rang. On the other end was the Vice-Principal. Now I had not heard from her all year and was really getting used to not talking to her all that much. Not that I don't like her or that we don't have interesting conversations, but these talks were usually precipitated by HSB not functioning at all during the day. Now the only time that I had seen her this year was right before Labor Day to get things in order for HSB and to make sure that his supports were in place. But other than that, nada, nothing, no phone calls, no issues, no problems. So of course when I heard her voice on the other end of the phone, my first instinct was, "oh crap."

You see, earlier in the day, HSB had failed to show up for his physics class even though hubby had dropped him off early for school this morning. He and I had discussed that he would spend the time in the computer lab or the Learning Center reading before class began. I figured he didn't need someone calling and reminding him that when the bell rang, you get yourself to class. It really is not a new concept to him. So when his special ed teacher called this morning that he had not shown up I was kind of concerned, but I also thought the stinker probably got involved in a computer game or reading one of his websites, so he just decided to not go to class. A few minutes later she called me back to let me know that he finally showed up. I am sure she had a bit of a talk with him later about getting to class on time and I mentioned it to him really quickly today when I picked him up.

The reality is that the school had been puling back on HSB's support and allowing him to get to his classes on his own and basically giving him a lot more independence. It is normal for a 17 year old to want to be on their own and do things on their own, and HSB is no exception. I am pretty sure that his teacher basically told him if he pulls a stunt like that again, the support goes back. I'm not really sure that it would, I don't know if they have the coverage, but I am going to emphasize the independence factor when I speak to him again about it.

So anyway, I figured when the Vice-Principal called he either had a meltdown when he got called on the carpet for being late, or he had tried to dodge another class. They had warned me that he would try to pull nonsense like this and that its typical behavior for 17 year old seniors in high school (you know the things that give us the hardest trouble -see preceding post). Truthfully HSB has had senioritis since September. I think that he may be the only senior who started off the year ready to end the year (or maybe not, I haven't really taken a poll on the subject), so the fact that he is having such a great year does come as a little bit of a surprise. But maybe the secret is that he doesn't really care anymore or that he is not as anxious about school and having already been accepted to college has helped. OK, he is not so excited about college. It is just more school as far as he is concerned, but  he is adjusting to the idea slowly and surely. Hopefully by the time he takes a summer class at the college this July, he will be ready to charge ahead. But in the meantime, heck the child is pulling practically straight A's, behaving appropriately and being very outgoing and charming (except to me of course).

So being a little taken aback, disappointed really, with my jangled nerves I asked, "what did he do?" The vice-principal answered that he is alright. She always does that especially when he got into trouble, but she continued on assuming that I knew the underlying story, which apparently I really did not. Once she realized that I had no idea what happened, she started from the beginning.

It seems that some boys in HSB's film class, noticing that HSB has issues with sounds, as do most people with auditory processing issues, thought it was funny to make sounds that would upset him. In fact the more upset he got, the more noises they made. Unfortunately there was a substitute in the class and he wasn't quite up to speed about HSB, even though the para was sitting there with him. I guess the sub thought it was no big deal, when 17 year old boys act stupid. It is taken as a given within society that if you are 17 years old and male, acting idiotic is your raison d'etre. Additionally, the film class is very laid back to begin with and there is always a lot of hi-jinks in the group.

Now the boys that were aggravating HSB, also did not know him as they are a year behind and have never been in a class with him before, however, it seems their antics are well known to the administration. Now HSB did get upset and he did get overwhelmed, and it took some doing to keep him in check. But he did it. He didn't yell at the boys. He didn't meltdown. He stayed in class. What he did was make really angry faces at them (which I am sure in that 17 year old boy alternative universe was the best outcome these nasty kids could have wanted out of HSB).

But one of the things they didn't count on was that they were reported. The para figured out what was happening as any adult would have and reported it immediately to the Vice-Principal. The Vice-Principal immediately pulled the leader of the pack into her office and with another Vice-Principal (there are three in our high school) basically read the child the riot act and threatened his future carefree existence in the school. Will it help? I don't know, but what I do know is that the administration didn't pooh-pooh what happened, they jumped right on it and put everyone on notice that making fun of HSB or trying to get him upset is not going to fly. That there will be consequences and those consequences go on your permanent record. (Permanent records are very important in this town, as everyone applies to college.)

The Vice-Principal continued that she did go to check up on HSB in his next class, which was Shakespeare and he was fine. He didn't see her, he was facing front, but his para came out to talk to her and said, once he got to English class he was fine. It was as if nothing had even happened. The Vice-Principal also told me that she is going to check in on the film class on Friday to make sure the boys are behaving. She will not announce it, she will not be sitting in the room, she will just happen by and see if those boys are being jerks.

So many things happened to day and I actually say it was a good experience, no not the bullying part, but the part where HSB was able to calm himself down and go to the next class. He was able to participate in Shakespeare and not obsess about those moron boys and at this moment couldn't care less about them.  In fact I told him, that he needs to pay them no never mind (basically ignore the asshats), including no angry faces. Bullies keep at it when they get a reaction, don't give them a reaction and they will stop. (Now you and I know that that is not always so, but in this situation I think it just might work. On top of the fact that the adults in the room already took the proverbial bull by the horns and are on the lookout for 17 year old morons).

Honestly, I also think that one of the reasons that HSB was able to calm himself down for the next class is simply because  HSB just loves Shakespeare. I definitely think that helped a lot. When he was in eight grade his class performed A Midsummer Night's Dream and he got to play Puck. Oh my, HSB is so Puck. He is a comedian and a scamp and if he could get you to laugh he would spend his day telling jokes. He constantly sends me links to Cracked.Com and hysterically funny videos he finds on You Tube. He has such a dry and highbrow sense of humor (with the occasional slapstick antics thrown in) that many of his contemporaries just don't get it. In fact, when the class went to see Midsummer performed at a local college, even the paras fell asleep, but not HSB. He was enthralled beyond belief. So now they are studying The Taming of the Shrew. I can see Petruchio in my future (Actually Collegeman has already played that part, to great applause, I might add).

Of course, HSB took my little bit of advice about how to handle the bullies under advisement and continued on with his day. I am sure that it is stored somewhere in the recesses of HSB Land. It may see the light of day again or it may not. We will just have to wait and see. But there was no talking about the boys, no thinking about the boys, no issue about the boys. What he has done is to conveniently procrastinate in doing his economics homework and has even procrastinated with his exercising. He thinks he is going to do his homework during study hall tomorrow and as far as exercising his butt is on the exercise bike right now-finally.

So all in all, I do think it was a fairly successful day. I will let you know what happens Friday when he has class with the morons again.



Meanwhile let Puck bid adieu:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends..


Until next time,


Elise

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's the Typical Stuff That Finally Gets You


One of the more interesting aspects of raising kids with “issues” is that you tend to blame everything that they do or say on their disability. Now that is not to say that you allow them to get away with anything inappropriate. You just chalk what ever it is, up to the fact that they have a disability and that their actions, no matter what, are just another manifestation of their issues. In fact, on many occasions it doesn’t even dawn on you that what they may be doing is quite frankly just typical behavior.

I think that stems from the day-to-day experiences with the fact that our children are not developing at a typical pace so we never really think that they would be doing anything that their neurotypical peers would be doing. We are so overwhelmed at times with therapies, IEPs, speech, OT, PT, psychiatrists, psychologists, life skills classes, social skills groups, neurologists and generally getting our children to function in the real world, that we don’t have the time or patience to try to figure out what is causing some issues, we just deal with them. Whether the issue is “fart” jokes of an eight-year-old boy, or the discovery of the opposite sex in the adolescent, or the desire to belong as a teen, we never really think too much of whether this is just par for the course.

I actually never think too much about any of it really. I honestly just take each episode as it comes. Whether it was HSB refusing to sit next to girls in first grade, and even getting in trouble for hitting one when she dared to sit next to him on the school bus, to him turning around and being somewhat girl crazy by the time he hit 15. I just looked at the way he dealt with daily living as a manifestation of the aspergers. Honestly I used to joke about the girl issue in first grade by saying that when he discovers girls, I am going to have my hands full. Of course that did came to fruition, but I decided that how it was manifested was part and parcel of the aspergers. It never dawned on me that in fact these things were quite typical and the way they presented themselves was really just as typical.

I suppose that in my life I have been so used to everything that the boys do being on a different level than their peers, whether its their emotional development being behind or the intellectual development in some areas being so far advanced. The truth of the matter is that I wouldn’t even know what a typical teen would do at any given moment. Neither of my boys are typical and truthfully, I can’t remember that far back to my own teen years. (As I have mentioned in other posts, I turned 50 this year, so menopausal forgetfulness has set in…hey if I have to go through nighttime hot sweats, I can try to use this menopause crap for something, like getting out of any conundrum that I encounter.) So how the typical boy-girl interaction occurs, or how the typical male obsession first with fart jokes and then penis jokes as they hit puberty are all manifested, is not something I readily remember.

The reality is that a lot of what our children go through has nothing whatsoever to do with their autism. In fact a lot of the issues are quite typical but it’s the intensity of the problem that may be more acute. Because our children can get easily overwhelmed, issues that are minor for most children can be blown into a huge hullaballoo for ours. So I always prepare for the events of life by making sure that I am prepared for everything to be very very dramatic. So many of these issues become so overblown replete with meltdowns, yelling, temper tantrums and an awful lot of drama. Heck, even not knowing to not say inappropriate things in school leads to a call from the principals office; most typical children would know enough to not use swear words when they are in the classroom.  However, yours just doesn’t get it, so again something gets blown way out of proportion.

I am also convinced that its not always you or your child that blows issues into the stratosphere, it’s the people around them that get freaked when they don’t follow the straight and narrow path. Listen because your child says inappropriate things to the teachers, doesn’t mean they can’t be taught the right way to talk to people and it also doesn’t mean they are going to end up being serial killers either. There was one episode where collegeman in highschool kept telling everyone how much he hated me (typical teen would have kept that to himself) and then would study crimes because he was doing a report on The Innocence Project. Well the teacher in school wanted me to know what he said and that he was reading about different ways to murder people...I kid you not. Needless to say I called the vice-principal and had a long, rather annoyed and frank talk with her about the teacher's need to get "the head out of the butt" and help my child with what he needs help with and stop making crap up. You do get used to the drama. In fact when there is no drama I get worried what is brewing. Yep I’m always waiting for the next shoe to drop. Sometimes these things just are what they are. The reality is that I am generally prepared for everything and anything.

But then again, somethings are not what they seem either. The other day HSB and I had an argument. He was gong to wear a dirty shirt to school. I told him he had to change. You can’t walk out of the house unclean. You have to be as fastidious about your clothing as about your hygiene. In fact clean clothes and hygiene are one in the same. Well for whatever reason, probably because I told him to change HSB had a complete meltdown, (he does tend to have these meltdowns whenever I tell him to do anything). He went into overdrive to say the least, about what a shallow person I am and that I only care about appearance. Now if you know me you know that I run around in old sweatpants, with my hair in a ponytail, no makeup (but nice face cream to keep my skin healthy), old Uggs and an old North Face jacket. In fact on that particular day, I even had on a pair of hubby’s old sweatpants that had bleach stains on them. Yep, ironically, on that day I was even grungier than usual. You can really rest assured I am not running around in Louboutins, a Chanel suit with a Hermes birkin bag on my arm to run him to school. I may like fashion. I may know about fashion. But a fashionista I certainly am not.

Well, I finally got him to change and I took him to school. It was such a scene that I felt I had to tell his special ed teacher before I left him off, so I went in search of her. Just thought he was going to be a pain-in-the-ass that day and they should have a heads up. I found her in her office and then regaled her and another teacher with my mornings going on. Of course they laughed at the part where he said I care only for appearances, but then they laughed even harder at my dismay about his behavior. I the autism-mom, who can handle anything that that disability can throw at me, was completely and unabashedly dumbfounded on how to handle my teenage son’s typical teenage behavior.

You know, once I figured out that his being a stubborn, ornery-mule-like human being was more in keeping with him being a teen than in keeping with him being a teen with aspergers, it didn’t bother me so much anymore. It’s his need for decision making versus my job in needing to keep him on the straight and narrow, including not being too lazy to change your dirty shirt. You see, I had forgotten about the jacket episode from the year before and his refusal to wear it simply because I told him he should.

Still not sure how to figure out when its typical-age-related behavior and aspergers-related-behavior for a lot of what happens now in their lives. It used to be a lot easier, only if when they did typical things, like lie, I knew how to handle that and did secretly enjoy when they had their typical moments. But the typical moments in the life of a teen are not always that much fun and quite frankly it’s downright difficult. But I shouldn’t really complain, typical behavior is what we have been aiming for. OK, I am secretly glad too. Not for the yelling, fighting and door slamming. But to see that all those years of therapy, support and angst are starting to really really work. I just wish that he would learn to hide his teenage disdain for his mother from me, his mother. It’s that eye rolling, my mother is an idiot shoulder slump and the under the breath huge sigh of “can she get any dumber” that drives me up a wall.

Well, at least I now have something in common with all mothers of adolescents worldwide….

One of the funniest comedians, Robin Williams, was interviewed on Inside The Actor's Studio. In this clip he talks about his 17 year old son Zack's reaction  when his request to borrow the car was denied and what also happens when your children use inappropriate language at the most inopportune times...it starts at 3:55...enjoy


Until next time,

Elise

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Wise Old Sage and Amazing Carpentry Skills

As I mentioned in an earlier post hubby, aka the Wise Old Sage, decided to try to build collegeman a Murphy bed so we could turn the main office into collegeman's room. Now he did order the main mechanism on line and it did come with blueprints on how to build the bed. Hubby cut all the wood, and assembled the bed all by himself. He basically  built everything from soup to nuts just like they do on Extreme Home Makeover, which by the way use the same mechanism and blueprints in their show. He worked on the bed over several weekends and in the evenings when he came home from work.

You see, the boys have decided that they need their own space. You really can't blame them. Being that they are youngmen they would like to have their privacy, especially from each other, never mind us. In deciding where to put collegeman and how to configure the room, hubby decided that it would be better if he made the bed himself rather than order something from a furniture store. I personally think hubby just likes to create things. It gives him a huge sense of satisfaction. It's probably why hubby also loves to build our stone walls and fences in the backyard and do all the gardening too.

Well these are pictures of the finished product. Collegeman has been sleeping in his own room for two days now and we have our livingroom/den back (it's been almost a year). Now all that's left is to organize things a lot better but I think this has been an amazing success.

Good lord how I love a multi-talented man, don't you.

Until next time,

Elise

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Time Warp Baby

It may be a repeat, but it brings back those highschool memories...



Until next time,

Elise

Of Groundhogs, Snowstorms and Planning for the Future


So as I sit here at my desk and stare out the window looking at the sixth major snow storm that we have had since Christmas, I have to say that that darn groundhog better not see his damn shadow tomorrow. I can’t tell you how tired I am of snow, ice, sleet, cold and a generally feeling of blah. I am sure it has something to do with seasonal affective disorder, so I take my vitamin D pills and try to exercise several times a week. But what I really need quite frankly is for it to be April. You see February is brutal here and March can be kind of iffy so I look forward to April because once the forsythia starts to bloom, there is that ray of sunshine and hope for warmer weather. Listen, it’s not that I don’t know what a really cold winter happens to be. I was born and raised in this neck of the woods, but this year is ridiculous.  It’s not just winter, it is WINTER…I have officially decided to rename where I live The East Coast Tundra of the United States.  The snowdrifts are so high they reach up to your butt and the dogs disappear into them. Of course the dogs are happy rolling around in the snow. Listen, the Wheaton is eleven so I am chalking his antics up to a form of old age dementia and as far as the Labradoodle is concerned, he is just plain batshitcrazy, but in an adorable, very loveable sort of way.
My batshitcrazy labradoodle

So here I sit, kvetching my spoiled heart out to those that will listen and as they say blogging is cathartic, so I am really beginning to feel better. Getting this out has really started to help with my overall disposition. Of course, I just heard that another storm is rolling in tomorrow and instead of snow we are getting a major ice storm…oh goodie goodie goodie. Possibly up to half an inch. If you don’t hear from me for awhile, its because the electric decided to take a staycation.

The truth is that sitting here watching the beef stew cook; I have been contemplating the next adventure to start in our life, HSB’s entrance into college. Interestingly just the other day hubby, that Wise Old Sage, reminded me of some things that he feels is important that families with younger children need to actually pay attention to as their children get older. He told me that whenever he meets a parent with a young child on the autism spectrum these are the things he wants them to be aware of:

1)   Trust your instinct. If things are not right, they are not right. Whether at school, or just in general.

2)   Don’t listen when the school tells you how great they are doing socially, academically or emotionally. Watch what is really going on, don’t just take their word for it. Children make improvements sure, but are they really improvements that would allow them to be independent when that yellow bus stops coming to your door. The schools also provide terrific support, but their job is to only make sure that your child gets through school. Listen a lot of them are wonderful people, the boys would not have made it without so many of them and their incredible hard work, but once your child walks out that door, the school has no obligation to your child anymore and their attention is about the next child they need to get through 12th grade. The next step is all up to you and you alone.

3)   Have a plan in place for when the children are adults. Make sure years before that you know what is out there for them and how to go about accessing the system. Make sure what information you have to have at the ready and how long it takes to get registered. Don’t assume that you can walk into a social services agency the day after graduation and everything will be set. I know people who years after graduation are still trying to get their children into programs and get the state support that they need.

4)   Remember that each step and growth and development is a major transition, just because they could function in their little classroom or in the school doesn’t mean that they will be good on their own in their next environment. Prepare.



5)   Research independent of all the experts what your children can do with themselves once they are either 18 or 21(this depends on your state's age of majority). Find out about employment, educational programs and opportunities in your area or state for those with disabilities. Find out about training and vocational programs as well as post secondary college (community or 4-year). Find out the supports available in these programs and what is and is not allowed. There may be some basic concepts for post secondary education but each post secondary program can make up their own accessibility rules and what they will and will not permit.

6)   Do not count on social security or Medicaid either. Whether these social programs will be here in the future or not is not the issue, what is the problem is that just because you feel your child is disabled enough for government support doesn’t mean the government will provide them with adult support (standards are very different when dealing with the government on an adult level). So prepare that they will receive no help and be glad if they get some backing.

7)   Get a good estate attorney who knows about special needs trusts, even trusts in general and wills. Find out about becoming an adult child’ s guardian and making sure that all papers (living wills, healthcare proxies, etc.) are signed when they come of age. Just because you think you can tell the doctors what to do with your child when they are 18 or older doesn’t mean the doctors have to tell you anything or even listen to you at all. Heck the college wouldn’t event talk to us if collegeman hadn’t signed a piece of paper saying that they could, even though they know that he has aspergers.

8)   And most of all, this is something the Wise Old Sage finds so very important; stash as much money away as you can. I know it’s hard when you are also spending a fortune on therapies as they are young, but see if you can do it. It is money that will help your child when they are adults, whether its hiring classroom coaches, life skills coaches, more therapists and support personnel. Don’t expect the state or anyone else to do this for you. As expensive as it is when they are younger we had no idea how this was going to set us into a whirlwind. Hubby turns to me all the time, and says, we should have been smarter. We thought everything was gong to be fine by the time they were 18. Who would have thought that things would have gotten harder financial, OK the recent financial meltdown didn’t help to say the least. But we thought we had all the time in the world, yet you really don’t. It is so unreal that in so many ways the boys actually need more supports as adults than they did when they were little and so much more disabled. Or quite frankly so much more of the support, in fact all of it, is on our backs.

So when we started out on our journey oh so many years ago, it never would have dawned on us that over 15 years later, we would still be fighting and learning and doing. We had no idea what the future truly was going to be and we had no idea how much we should have prepared. So I tell you to prepare, make sure that you have those ducks in a row.

In just a few months my baby graduates from high school. There will be no more support from the state for him anymore than there is support for collegeman. Yes, the college is wonderful. They allow any supports that the boys need. But it is all financially on us. If we couldn’t afford the classroom coaches, neither boy could go to school. They can’t handle it on their own and the school cannot handle their issues, and quite frankly they are not legally bound to. I don’t blame the school for not being able to handle the boys’ issues. You must understand your own child’s neediness and work with the school so your child can learn, grow and be a viable member of post secondary education, while not inhibiting someone else’s education as well. College is different. And as we are finding out law school, heck the damn law boards alone, are an eye opener into more of the “real” world for the boys. Just something else to have to prepare for. Also don’t assume that the fights will be over by the time your child gets to adulthood 15 years from now. Some of the issues we are experiencing for collegeman especially have been going on for decades and remain unresolved.

So here I am once again thinking about stress and obligations and making myself maudlin. Shouldn’t really. There are a lot of new adventures to come and quite frankly things are looking up. A lot of good things are happening right now. It is one of those rare moments in time where everyone is happy and healthy. I am going to blame seasonal affective disorder.  Honestly, if that darn Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow tomorrow I am going to make myself some groundhog stew.

Until next time,

Elise

P.S. Just watched the Groundhog's Day ceremony and Phil DID NOT see his shadow...woohoo...we are expecting an early spring. So I will need to find something else for dinner other than groundhog stew.