Thursday, March 31, 2011

Parenting is Your Job, It Does Not Belong to Madison Avenue


Let me start off this post by saying this post is a bit of a rant, if you have a problem with that don’t read the rest. Stop here. Do no pass go. Do not collect $200. No, this post is not political, even though my friends know me to be somewhat vociferously loud when it comes to my political opinions; this post is basically about society, media hype and parenting.

What actually got me thinking about this topic was all the hullabaloo over the past few weeks concerning young women, girls, their role models, clothing and toys. Let’s start with the buzz about Governor Huckabee’s attack on Oscar winner Natalie Portman. He derided her for being a single mother. Yes, we all know that Huckabee is a minister and a conservative candidate for President of the United States.  So I suppose it came as no surprise that he would say something about Portman, as she was the center of a media blitz because of her Oscar win.

However, Huckabee went on to attack her as role model for young girls in the country. Portman is a single mother; she is not married as yet to the baby’s father. Huckabee said, it sends a wrong message to young girls who use her as a role model. (Of course, his latest book is all about how it takes two married parents to raise a child properly.) That she is successful, wealthy in her own right and competent did not matter. It was all about being married. Sorry not all marriages work out and being a competent parent does not mean always being married. He was attacked in the media and he did apologize and correct his statements. He said he did not make himself clear. (Bullshit. He didn’t expect the firestorm he created and expected more support from society in general.) By the way Huckabee didn’t happen to think it was great that Portman chose “Life” instead of an abortion. But we won’t go there now.

The reality is that while everyone was suddenly talking about Natalie Portman being an unwed mother no one actually hit upon the real issue. With all due respect to that talented young actress, why is she a role model for our girls? Yes, she is beautiful, talented and rich, but why is how she lives her life, part of how we raise our children? Why do we as parents allow media to dictate who our children look up to? Now, do not get me wrong, I have nothing to say about how Ms. Portman lives her life. But it is her life and her choices and she has a right to make them to suit herself. She does not have to suit anyone else. But on the flip side, we also do not have to allow our children to get caught up in the media hype and think that a celebrity’s choices are appropriate choices for them.

Case in point, Brangelina. Angeline Jolie and Brad Pitt are talented, rich and gorgeous people. They have a huge family, appear to do a lot of charity and lead very glamorous lives. But their relationship began as an affair while Pitt was married to someone else. Do we have to allow our children to think that that is just fine? No, we do not. We teach our children our values and our beliefs and how we think they should live their lives.  We do not have to allow celebrity to rule morality. Now does it mean I won’t see their movies? No, of course not. They didn’t betray their country or kill anyone. I just wouldn’t hold them up as paragons of virtue. But they are pretty to watch and their movies tend to be entertaining.

Why do we allow media to decide who our children’s role models should be? Isn’t that our job as parents? Listen I am not angry about screwed up values in society because I am not my children’s role model. First of all I am their mother and they are boys. They need to have a male role model. Yes it does my heart good to know that they look up to their father as a role model. Heck, who else should be their role model? He is the man who works, fights for them and gives his entire existence to making their lives better. Of course he should be their role model. By watching him they learn how to work hard, be honest, forthright and trustworthy. They learn how to love and be loved and they learn what it takes to be a good man, husband and father. They don’t need politicians, sports stars, celebrities and the media defining who they should be and how they should live their lives.

I think part of the problem is that parents themselves need to take a good look at their lives and how they teach their children. Why do we allow the media or so-called social-pundits tell us what we should think and believe? Who cares what everyone else thinks and who cares how they raise their children? You have morals. You have values. You have a set of principals by which you lead your life. That is what you need to hand down to your children. Since when did we as parents need to defer to Madison Avenue on whether we are good parents or not? Where is our self-respect? When did society allow celebrities to become the manifestations of right and wrong? I have nothing really against any celebrity. Talented, rich and leading glamorous lives. I am happy for them. Who wouldn’t want everything that money can buy- heck if we had that money what kinds of therapies could we provide for our children, right? But they are not necessarily the people I want my children to look up to.

Now what about clothing? There is this latest Abercrombie fad, no I will not link to it, a padded  bra in bikinis for 8-year-old girls. What is up with that? Who would even contemplate buying that for their child? Is that company just run by a bunch of pedophiles? Meanwhile, why are we allowing the fashion industry in general to sexualize our prepubescent children? What is with this slut look too- does it have something to do with what they term slut-feminism (which I am glad to say I find disgusting)? Why does anyone buy clothes that make their children look like whores? When did becoming a parent mean that you stop paying attention to the clothes you put on your child’s back because fashion, not appropriateness, is what counts? Are people too afraid to say “no” to their children?

Because little Sally’s mother buys it for Sally and Sally is popular so your Cindy has to wear those horrible clothing? When did parents forget that individuality should be fought for and that peer pressure may be something at times to fight against? When did being part of the “in” crowd become the overwhelming issue instead of self-respect? When did it become just fine and dandy for MTV to be the purveyor of all that children should be? When did it become a goal for your daughter to walk around looking like a whore instead of becoming a lawyer or a doctor? Let me tell you, if you think that a woman walking around dressed like a floozy is respected in any profession, don’t bet on it.

Listen I am not against sexy clothing. Heck, when I was in my twenty’s and had a great figure I could dress with the best of them, however not at work, and definitely not at 15 years-old and absolutely not at 8 years-old. I was taught that to be respected and to be thought well of you dress like a lady. That does not mean you run around in a burka. So don’t’ start saying I am akin to the Taliban. What it means is that if you want to be taken seriously in life you cover up your butt, your boobs and you don’t walk around with half a blouse. 

It’s the same for boys. Of course they don’t walk around with half their privates showing either, but this whole idea that their underwear shows and that they don’t have to wear descent clothing and that they can run around with more bling than what is in Fort Knox is just obnoxious. There are ways to dress for boys too; a clean shirt, proper pants/jeans and simple jewelry if any at all. And for heavens’ sake get them to comb their hair.

It is time for parents to relearn the art of parenting. I know that many here who read this blog do not have this problem. We face issues that the average family could not even contemplate so there truly is no question about any of us being responsible parents. But quite frankly we are still surrounded by people who are too afraid that their children will hate them. Actually heard that one day from a group of women at the highschool once, how they didn’t want to say no to their children, because they didn’t want their children to hate them. I told them that I do what I think is best for my children and don’t care whether they hate me or not.  They actually couldn’t believe I said that. They were totally stunned. These women are morons.

Unfortunately I am afraid that these mothers are more prevalent than anyone cares to admit. It’s why Abercrombie can sell sexualized bathing suits for 8-year-olds and girls are allowed to dress like Lady Gaga. It’s why people go on twitter and ask where they can buy descent clothes for their daughters, because there is none in the stores. If these items weren’t purchased the manufacturers would make something else. I think its time that parents in the United States take back their right to parent and use the power of the wallet to say no to the creeps that run the children’s fashion industry.

Lastly, as just as an aside: People are making a big deal about the breastfeeding doll. Personally I think it is unnecessary, and at almost $120 a pop, don’t think too many are going to be buying it either, but it is not sexualizing little girls. It is teaching that breastfeeding is a valid choice. The problem is that anytime anything has to do with breasts in this society everyone goes bananas. Babies feed from the breast. That is life. Get over it. No I am not a member of Laleche League. I bottle fed my boys. I would do it again. But really, society does find the dumbest things to get upset about.

Until next time,
Elise

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Language Issue Continued...

If anyone tells you that your child's language could be delayed for any reason (that your child is a second child, a boy, a second language spoken at home so it is confusing to your child, etc) and it is developmentally normal, remember these twins...



Apparently the conversation wasn't over yet....



No it is not a discernible language to us at least, but they are communicating and they do seem to understand each other. Isn't that the point of language after all?

Meanwhile collegeman, like HSB, is still having trouble dealing with language issues and their social implications. Yesterday in his Holocaust class one of the other students didn't know who the Axis powers were during World War Two. Needless to say collegeman made a rather loud comment and ended up reprimanded by his para. He had no idea what he did wrong. After class they spoke with the  professor and she just told him he should not comment on other people's answers. Personally I think the professor thought the same thing about the other student as collegeman did, but it truly is not socially acceptable to admonish people in a nasty way, Simon Cowell not withstanding. It is definitely not the right way to win friends and influence people. This incident is just another step along the way of trying to teach the boys to not be the "jerk" in the room.


You see one of the nice things about having a classroom coach for collegeman is that we learn about these incidents before they get out of hand. The para wrote me about the event and I had a bit of a talk with collegeman before he left for school this morning. I told him that you cannot call people "stupid" in class just because they don't know something. "Yes, if they are taking a class on the Holocaust they should know who the Axis powers were, but you still cannot go around calling people names. It is not nice."..."Yes, even if it is true."..."One day you may say something stupid in class and how would you like it if someone called you stupid?"..."Yes, it's possible that you may say something stupid one day."..."How would you like it if they called you names?"..."Yes even if you deserved it."..."Yes, you would learn something then..."...."Listen just don't do it. It's not nice and you can get thrown out of school for inappropriate and demeaning language."...."Just don't comment like the professor said."..."Just go to school and keep quiet except if you are asking questions."

I am going to need to have another talk with that boy when he gets home.

Until next time,


Elise

P.S. Just in case...the Axis powers during WW2 were Germany, Italy and Japan. The Allied powers during WW2 were the US, Britain and the Soviet Union (Russia).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rethinking Autism and the Right to be Heard

Anyone who knows me knows that I have issues with some of the neurodiversity movement. I am not shy and I do not hold back on my opinions. (Had my share of disagreements.) However, you can't ignore something so powerful, poignant and moving as this video from Rethinking Autism...



I think that there are two major worries in my life when it comes to the boys, besides the everyday ones of course. I fear that once hubby and I are gone, there will be no one in the world who will love them. Love means more than just a relationship and a spouse (which is something that I hope and pray that they find. Not unlike all parents hope and pray that their children find as well) Love for the boys means alot more. The love I speak of is a parental form of love; an understanding form of love; a selfless love; a compassionate form of love that goes beyond romantic love. I suppose in some way when you have a good marriage or relationship that love encompasses all of these things. But if the boys cannot have the relationship form of love, I hope that someone will just love them for who they are. That form of love means protection and care for the entirely of their lives. It means they will never be alone. For even if they have each other, and I hope they will, as any parent hopes their children will be friends throughout their lives, they will not even have each other forever.

The other worry I have, which is always more immediate and right in front of you on a daily basis, is that  there are those who still will not listen to them and give them the respect they deserve because of their disability. We have been lucky so far at this college (with a few exceptions). But as I have written, the world is far and wide and vast and unforgiving and ignorant. Luckily I am still here to fight for them and to teach them to fight for themselves...But in the meantime as I teach mine to fight for themselves it is also important to remember to help those who cannot even speak for themselves. For they, as it says in the video, also need, and have a right to be heard, as well...

Until next time,


Elise

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Executive Functioning, the Reality Show

As I have mentioned many times, one of the hardest things that your child will have to learn is how to organize their world, i.e. executive functioning (here, here, here, here, here). We have been working with collegeman for years on this issue and he even gets extra support in organization from one of his paras. This week I told him that he needed to organize his room a little better so that the final weeks of the semester, with all the tests, papers and presentations, would come easier. He told me that he didn't want my help but that he would take hubby's support, aka the Wise Old Sage. Basically he told me that  I am annoying. (C'est la vie.) Well he had no patience to wait for his father and he went ahead without any help.

This is what he considered organized:






It is at this point, that hubby, aka the Wise Old Sage, stepped into the picture and helped collegeman organize and straighten his room. After a little yelling and drama, of course.




Much better and much  less overwhelming ...doesn't seem like everything is going to fall in on collegeman while he does his work. You will notice that the bed is made, the draws for each class, under the desk are organized and the materials needed to help with the studying process are on the shelves to the right of the desk. The desk itself is now clean and there is nothing in front of the computer. So much easier to access the keyboard when you can actually see where it is (go figure, an intriguing idea that had not dawned on collegeman). You will notice the huge container of fidget balls on the desk, it is our secret weapon in the war on anxiety (other than medication, cognitive behavioral therapy and exercise).

Below, by the way, is the completely finished product of the Murphy bed and its surrounding environs. In addition to building the the bed from scratch, hubby designed and added an attached table with sliding shelves for collegeman's phone, laptop, necessary cans of seltzer, and a place for a reading lamp. This is all hubby's own original design. Told him that if he ever wanted to stop being a lawyer he could always design and build handmade furniture. We would probably starve (how many people can really afford the cost of handmade furniture) but I am sure it would add some bit of calm into hubby's world. He always did like to work with his hands: gardening, building stone walls, fences and home repairs. (OK, the not being able to pay bills part would probably add quite a bit of tension, so maybe this could be a goal for retirement at least). The man does have a heck of a talent.



The Murphy bed before the additions:





Step, by step. Inch by inch. We make our way. Don't we?

Until next time,



Elise

Friday, March 25, 2011

Words, the Universality of Language: Crap Another Issue


Remember when your children were little and you couldn’t wait for them to talk? For most of us with children on the spectrum that wait for them to talk, lasted well beyond what is considered normal developmental milestones. But then they do learn to speak and learn to communicate and another issue arises: How do we teach them to use language and how do we teach them that words have meaning and implications beyond the moment. We have to teach our children that there is another level to what has to happen when speaking. Basically they need to think before they speak. We need to make sure that our children do understand the universal society that they live in. Granted considering so many with autism, and adhd for that matter, lack the needed mental filter that is necessary in modern society, does not mean that they cannot lean this skill. It just means that it may be harder for them to learn to keep their mouths shut and not say inappropriate things at inopportune moments than for their peers. Another issue why not?

As usual, HSB is a case in point.

The other day when I picked him up from school, he looked a little down when he got in the car and I asked him how his day was. Now in typical teenage fashion his response is usually a grunt or a “fine” or a “same as every other day.” However, this particular day he let loose with a barrage.

They had been watching a film in economics class and he happened to make a comment about the single-mother character, that she was stereotypical because she had so much debt. They were studying about credit and debit cards and budgeting. Apparently the para got really angry with him and told him that she was going to report to the special ed teacher what he just said. He was beside himself. He had no idea what the problem was and no idea how he had gotten himself into trouble.

Also earlier in the day, he had had an exchange of words with a boy that seems to like to push HSB’s buttons. They had had a tete-a-tete earlier in the year and in true HSB fashion, HSB just did not let his disdain for this boy go. Now this means every time the child breaths HSB has an annoying look on his face or makes a sigh. Of course, this boy who is somewhat of a troublemaker and the argumentative type, decides to have fun and push my son’s buttons as well. He will start up with another child and HSB will chime in coming to the other child’s rescue. HSB told me about an argument they had earlier that day and how when no one was listening the troublemaker said something that HSB thought was anti-Semitic.

“What did he say,” I asked.

“Something, like God-damn Jews,” HSB answered.

Yeah, I told him pretty anti-Semitic. Since no “Jews” heard, the troublemaker told HSB that it was just fine what he said. HSB couldn’t figure out why he would say that it was fine to say that part about no Jews hearing him, considering troublemaker knew that HSB is Jewish. (By the way that seemed to bother HSB more than what was actually said.) I had to explain to my son, that the troublemaker was trying to upset him by saying anti-Semitic things and not acknowledging that HSB was Jewish (considering my son wears a Star of David around his neck and the troublemaker actually alluded to it at times, that boy knew exactly what he was saying and doing.)

Needless to say, momma-grizzly went into action. I polished off one heck of an email to the special ed teacher. What was wrong with the para? Why did she pick on HSB? Single mothers are grossly in debt and that the majority of them live below the poverty level. This may be stereotypical in the movie but it is also true. What was her problem? I have no patience for politically correct crap and HSB knows a few things about reality….etc etc etc

Then I also mentioned the anti-Semitic incidence and how I have had enough of this troublemaker and him picking on my child. I want it stopped and stopped now.  With only ten weeks to go in his highschool career enough was enough with this other boy and I want my son protected. I do not want this child near HSB and that I do hold everyone responsible for his safety. I of course had heard that this child was prone to starting fights.

The teacher emailed me back a.s.a.p. and let me know that she always protects HSB, which I did know, she is his biggest fan. In fact you couldn’t want a better special ed teacher for your child. She is a combination of teacher, mentor and momma-grizzly herself. Takes no guff from anyone when it concerns HSB and takes no guff from him too. (Want to take her to college with him, but alas I can't.) She told me she forwarded my email to the Vice Principal, so when I heard from her I was not surprised.

Well here is the entire story about what happened:

So they were in economics watching a movie about debt and credit. Periodically throughout the movie, HSB would shout out his thoughts on the matter being discussed along with a long diatribe about the President and how everything that is wrong with the country is his fault. They would discuss it with him, redirect him and go on with the movie. Now if you think HSB’s disdain for Obama is bad, try mentioning Jimmy Carter and you can watch HSB have total apoplexy. Just think what he would be like if he was allowed to watch the news. By the way, he hates Fox News, so he is not overdosing on Hannity or O’Reilly…just saying.

Now the teacher and the para do understand him and are able to control and monitor his outbursts for the most part. They get his humor and his take on the world. No one in the school actually tries to stop him from talking or thinking as he sees fit. In fact he engages the teachers and other children in dialogue and quite frankly, from what I am told, can hold his own quite well. (Much like collegeman can do in his classrooms. The intellectual challenge that the boys present seem to be appreciated by professors and teachers alike.) However, this last time, with the single-mother clip, it was a little different.

The single-mother on the screen was a woman of color and HSB’s para is a woman of color. She did not think HSB was making a racist remark when he said that the portrayal was very stereotypical, but she thought that others could take it that way. That is why she told him it was inappropriate what he had said. The problem was that she didn’t explain it to him. She just told him not to say that.

The Vice Principal was trying to tell me the story so I wouldn’t be mad at the para. I told her I wasn’t mad at the para at all. That this was not an indictment of how she supported him. That the truth of the matter is that she should have just told him that the way he said what he said could be taken by those that didn’t know him as racist. That it is important that he think through when he uses words. The Vice Principal thought the young woman was reticent to explain it to HSB because she didn’t know how we would take it. The Vice Principal tried to explain to me the town I live in where parents don’t like when you correct their “perfect” children, as if I didn’t know that already. I tell you, it can’t be easy being a teacher in this school district at times, with all the entitled people that live in our little quaint village.

The truth of the matter, the para probably had a visceral moment herself and probably didn’t know how to explain it to HSB. The more she thought about it she realized that he didn’t mean anything.  Whether when talking to the Vice Principal, she was trying to cover up something she felt she did wrong or trying to process what happened herself is not important. I think this became a learning experience for all of them, HSB, the para, and for the entire school for that fact.

I told the Vice Principal that we talk about this topic all the time at home. That language and how you use it is very important. That the way you say something is just as important as what you say. In society you need to be careful and think about the people who are around you. You are obligated to try to not hurt others and think about them when you speak and make yourself clearly known. This entire episode could have been avoided if the para had just explained to HSB why someone might think that what he said was racist and why. She should not be afraid to talk to him about it. It is important for his future. It is important that when he goes to college and people do not know him and his humor that he think through what he wants to say when others are around him. It is important if he goes out into the world, whether it is a restaurant or a store that he realize that there are other people there too. It is important that he hear this from someone other than us. Truthfully the idea that he has to stop and think is not a bad thing.

We talk about that all the time too. Hubby actually will ask HSB; can’t you control your mouth at all? This is usually at dinner after he has annoyed collegeman for the umpteenth time, and has started a bit of a verbal altercation with his brother. The reality is, that I think at times HSB can’t control his mouth and truly has no filter. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t work on the filter, watching what he says and understanding how it aggravates and hurts other. OK as far as his brother is concerned he may actually understand the fact that he is annoying him and pushing buttons. That is part of the fun of being the younger brother after all.

One more thing about this incident…I told them that he shouldn’t be allowed to call out that way. It is inappropriate and I know they do not want to stifle him, but it is not proper behavior for college and he needs to be reigned in now. I do not want him to have issues like collegeman did at the beginning of college.

Then we went on to talk about the troublemaker boy. The Vice Principal did assure me that the boy is NOT violent and that he argues with people all the time. Yes, it is for attention. Sad really that at this age he still has the need to garner attention in such a negative fashion. She also did not seem surprised that he said the anti-Semitic statement, it seems he is known for saying “inappropriate” and “controversial” things to get people upset. The kids in school know that he does these things to just get a rise out of everyone and usually avoid him and his shenanigans. The teachers do keep a watch on him and try to curtail it whenever they see it coming. As far as what he said to HSB, I am not sure that there will be a consequence for the boy, she didn’t say. But we did talk about HSB and his buying into the situation.

HSB being who he is will jump at the chance to argue with this child and will allow him to push his buttons. The troublemaker seeing this will push all the buttons he can. For HSB the trick is not to watch what he is saying in this situation, but to not take the verbal bait, walk away and keep his own mouth shut. HSB needs to learn to let things that are said go in certain situations and that he needs to move on.

As I have told my children time and time again,  “ Wherever you go in life, there will always be one asshole. The trick is to not be that asshole.” Of course when I mentioned this to the Vice Principal I substituted “jerk” for “asshole.” Didn’t want to be called into the Principal’s office myself.

So for HSB there were two profound lessons about language learned in one very overwhelming day. ONE what you say needs to be thought out clearly before you say it. You need to think who your audience is and how it may affect them. This is not politically correct nonsense, this is being able to live in the real world and get along with people. It is a social skill not unlike being able to take turns, be appropriate at school or a job and actually live and function in the world around you. TWO there are people in the world who are total jerks and who you need to ignore. That no matter where you go you will run into them and it is a learned social skill how to deal with real life trolls.

I did tell HSB though that if the troublemaker ever says anything anti-Semitic again to go right to a teacher. Don’t wait. Don’t pass go and definitely don’t worry about whether it is what you think it is. Anti-Semitism and racism generally are very straightforward and very in your face.

By the way, HSB did ask if someone like the troublemaker could be considered a troll, like from the Internet. I told him absolutely and like those trolls on the Internet you ignore him and move on. “Ok,” he said and he went away.

Learned from the Vice Principal that it seems he was just checking with me to make sure his vernacular was correct. Apparently in his argument with troublemaker, HSB called him a troll as well an asshole. Guess maybe I really should change the wording in my saying to the word “jerk” before we all get in a little bit of trouble in the future. “Troll,” I think I will leave that one alone, however, personally I think that that was quite descriptive of the troublemaker and quite apropos. Ah words…


Until next time,


Elise

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

World Autism Awareness Day

                         The fourth annual World Autism Awareness Day is April 2, 2011 





Join World Autism Awareness Day on facebook.

What are you going to do? Write a blog, wear a t-shirt, attend an event? Click here for some ideas.

Until next time,


Elise

Relate to Autism
UPDATE: I just learned that one of our guests from The Coffee Klatch Relate to Autism has a world wide survey about  World Autism Views. Join the survey and learn about autism around the world. It is eye-opening to say the least. Also join us on The Coffee Klatch blogtalk, Tuesday March 29, at 9 am est, to talk to Kat Houghton, the creator and founder of Relate to Autism. We will discuss her survey, her web product and her work with children on the spectrum.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Matisyahu for The Friendship Circle

One of our amazing guests on The Coffee Klatch was The Friendship Circle. Now in honor of their world-wide inclusion programs, the reggae-hip-hop-hasidic "aka ultra-orthodox-observant-Jew" (not kidding) singing sensation Matisyahu has created this song for them. It bespeaks of the humanity of those with special needs. It is my new favorite song.




By the by, the singers totally rock a  Stars of David Israeli keffiyah. Read about it at Jewlicious...


Here is my old favorite song by Matisyahu....




Either song actually sends a very powerful message.

Until next time,

Elise

The making of the Matisyahu/Pure Soul video for Friendship Circle:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Self-esteem

It is very important to note that happiness and self-esteem have a direct correlation. Here are two of my favorite blogs on helping your child build their self-esteem:

Self-Esteem, It's not a Trophy It's Reality  written by yours truly


 Happiness Is A  Blessing by Seraphic Secret 
                Radio personality Dennis Prager gave a lecture in honor of the author's 21 year old son who passed away from cancer. If you get a chance click on the link in the blog sidebar listed as lecture June 13, 2010 and listen to  Dennis Prager's complete lecture on happiness. It may not lead to an epiphany but it will definitely make you think. Meanwhile here is the 5 minute version of the discussion.







Until next time,


Elise




Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Potty Training My Non-Verbal Autistic Daughter

The following is the first guest post on this blog. It is written by an incredible young woman named Natalie Aguirre. She is the parent of seven children, four of whom deal with varying degrees of autism spectrum disorder. This is her story about potty training her daughter Elaina. It is an amazing read of strength, determination and tremendous patience. Natalie will also be our guest along with Elaina's teacher, Toni Lyn Vidro, on Sunday night at 9pm on The Coffee Klatch's blogtalk radio show.  Please join us for this very interesting and enlightening conversation.

Until next time,


Elise

   

       When I decided that I wanted to try to potty train my daughter Elaina the first place I thought to look for advice and support was online.  I googled it, the same way we find just about anything on the Internet.  Well, I could not find anything that I could apply to my daughter.  Elaina is completely non-verbal and functions at the level of a 6-12 month old baby, even though she was almost 5 when I desired to attempt potty training her.  I found so many articles on potty training autistic children but they were so irrelevant to my child.  Some suggestions were use rewards, draw out charts, use sensory tactile toys to keep them on the toilet.  Well, if I use candy for a reward my daughter will simply arch her back, scream on the top of her lungs, and throw herself to the floor hitting and flaring her body in contortionist positions until she received her candy or until she ran out of the bathroom.  If I draw out a chart my daughter would simply destroy it and not understand the smallest bit of it.  Give her toys while she is on the potty, good idea, except she only drops them in the toilet almost as if to say “go fishing Mommy”.  So I posted comments about trying to potty train her on my facebook page and found out that most parents of severely autistic children who were on my friend's list did not have their children potty trained.  Some were trying and others had all together given up as the crap smearing finger painting was to emotionally overwhelming and unbearable to handle.  This I can relate to and fully understand. 

    There were little subtle signs that my daughter might have the potential to potty train which if they were not there I may not have had the determination myself to potty train her.  Around the age of 4 and a half she started to bring me her diaper from the bag of diapers I always had lying around.  She wanted to be changed.  She constantly pulled poo from her diaper and finger painted.   She started to remove the diaper when she soiled and then finger paint.  One day which really set in my mind the fact that I had absolutely no choice but to follow through with potty training her, I saw her take a wipe and start to wipe her own bottom because I had refused to do it since she was not soiled.  I suppose something was irritating her down there and she wanted it clean!  But I searched and searched for some advice and I was hopeless when I found nothing that was close to relevant. 

    On top of desiring to potty train my daughter I was in the middle of a large dragging battle with the school to hire a teacher with autism experience and to make an autism classroom at my children's local elementary school.  Well, I received a phone call over the summer break from a lovely sounding woman, Toni Lynn Vidro, who was to be Elaina's new teacher.  Toni had more experience then I could ever have imagined and she gave me a wonderful feeling just speaking to her for perhaps an hour.  I discussed my desire to get my daughter potty trained.  I also told her that this was my last time negotiating with the local school district, if they did not follow my wishes for my daughter and fully attempt to assist me in potty training I was going all the way to court next time and have my daughter placed in a private school for autistic children.  Toni assured me that when Elaina started in September, after a couple weeks time to get adjusted, she would start a potty training routine for Elaina.  Little did she know that the school was not going to be thrilled about it. 

    Well, since I was having complete failure at home I decided to wait until school started back up in September and work with Toni to start a routine for toileting with someone who perhaps had more experience then me.  We discussed for hours how to approach Elaina.  I told Toni that when Elaina takes her diaper off she can go hours without bringing me a fresh diaper so Elaina has outstanding control of both urine and stool.  One of my biggest issues was the timer that so many professionals swear by.  Most special ed teachers start out taking the child to the bathroom every 15 minutes or 30 minutes, and having them sit for 15 minutes.  That would be ridiculous for a child who only urinates once every several hours and stools once a day!  When I tried the timer system I was overwhelmed with how much time I had to spend in the bathroom trying to keep my daughter on the toilet and she was fighting me the whole entire time.  I also had 5 other children at the time, including and infant and 3 other autistic children and I could not be in the bathroom all day!  Not to mention, the worst part of the timer system for a severely autistic child is they lose the focus and point of what the bathroom is supposed to be for.  I believe they start to relate to the bathroom as “oh the room I get Doritos on the toilet” or “the room I get to splash in the sink with my sensory toy”.  I believe that when they get the wrong impression of why they are really in the bathroom we are actually backtracking and not making progress. 

    So what would be more perfect then for us to have some sort of idea of when Elaina actually had to pee or poo.  Well, she takes her diapers off when she is soiled and I leave the bag of diapers out in my living room fully opened so that she can easily grab herself one to bring to me when she wants to put one on.  Of course, she did NOT always do this, it was random at best but becoming more consistent.  And yes, I was certainly still cleaning up my fair share of pee and poo from different areas of my home.  But we have a sign, as small as it may be.  We have what we needed!  Her signal and the only way that she ever let on that she may have a full bladder, was that she would grab a diaper from the open bag.  This is not a small revelation, this is huge.  I cannot tell you what figuring this out meant, this meant we had a way of actually knowing when she had the urge to relieve herself!  I requested that the teacher also have a diaper out on Elaina's desk when she was in school so that she could hand it to the teacher as the signal of needing to use the restroom.  Toni thought it was a great idea.

    Even when we had this all figured out.  We had our fancy communication potty training journal and we knew how we could tell when Elaina needed to go you would've thought we were going to hit the ground running!  We were going to take off and it would be a piece of cake, right?  WRONG.  I seriously underestimated the complete stubborn will of a severely autistic child.  I will tell you honestly, I never thought I would meet my match when it came to stubborn women!  But Elaina took her toll on me, on all of us.  I took her diapers off, refused to ever put one on her again.  She refused to ever let a single drop of urine or stool fall into that toilet.  We were butting heads hard.  We were in a match like no other, and even though I hated how unhappy my daughter was I knew in my heart this was what was best for her.  No one deserves a life in diapers if it can be avoided.  Elaina would get a diaper from the bag and I would take her to the toilet.  She would scream at me and yell and cry to be let out of the bathroom and eventually I would cave.  Then she would bring me a diaper again and I would take her back to the toilet.  It was a nonstop nightmare and it would go on for hours.  The worst was when she had to go so bad but flat out refused to sit on the toilet and she would squeeze her legs together to try to hold it until she would have an accident right in front of the toilet.  I felt like, “she just won't get it in the toilet because she knows that's what I want her to do and she just wants her diapers back”  She could not handle or comprehend why she could not just stick to her routine of her safe, soft, warm diapers.

    The same thing was happening at school.  She was grabbing her diaper and wanting the teacher to put it on her.  She was taken to the bathroom.  She refused to use the toilet.  The teacher always gave her Doritos to try to calm her down.  She would sit and sit on the toilet but refuse to go.  We constantly wondered how she could have such control.  She would strain and strain to not let it go in the toilet.  The school nurse was being called to clean the mess and clean my daughter if she did poo in her clothes.  The school nurse was not happy about this at all.

    There was another meeting just after Christmas.  And yes, I mean just after Christmas, as in January, this struggle was still going on!  My daughter was approaching 5 and a half years of age now.  The school brought in the autism consultant who in fact looked younger then my 27 year old self and did not receive the time of day from me.  The school nurse was also present.  I had been snippy with the school nurse on several occasions when it concerned my autistic children but this meeting would be my worst case of snippyness with her.  Toni, as always, would behave incredibly diplomatic, but always has the best interest of my daughter at heart.   The school nurse complained again about the sanitation of the classroom, with my daughter having no success with the toilet and urine seeping into the carpet.  I had heard this complaint numerous times and wanted to make sure that it was the last time.  I responded coldly and basically told her that Elaina is a severely disabled child, that this is the medical care that she requires, and that since the school does not want to pay the tuition on a private school for her it was up to the school to provide her with everything that she needs, including cleaning up any and all accidents my daughter has, and if they do not want to do their job without burdening me with constant complaints they could send her to a private facility.  Also, I finished up my rant with a comment that no classroom I had ever stepped foot in had a stinking carpet so maybe they need to invest in some new flooring.  She perhaps left that meeting with hurt feelings,and I like the school nurse a lot so being so cold towards her is not always easy for me, but I wonder if she new how much she was hurting my feelings by referring to my daughter as unsanitary.  Or how making complaints about the toileting could have actually deterred me from toilet training her and really negatively impacted Elaina.  

    Well, the school nurse was not the only person who did not agree with my determination, I was constantly reminded at home.  Elaina would come home from school at 2:30 and it would start at home.  I was pregnant again and very exhausted.  My wonderful husband did not have any support for me when it came to potty training Elaina.  He thought the house smelled disgusting no matter how much I cleaned out the carpets, and he did not believe that Elaina would ever potty train.  He constantly fought with me to put her back in diapers.  Elaina's preschool disabled teachers had told me the same thing.  “Elaina could not be potty trained.”  And then came a big blow when I was called back into the school in late February to discuss a report that the “autism consultant” had written about the potty training in regards to my daughter.  The autism consultant felt we were going about it completely improperly and that Elaina was being hurt because she was holding her urine and stool in for long periods of time.  I should put her back in diapers!  Could you imagine?  All these months just thrown away?  Tossed in the trash just to have to one day start over.  I told the teacher, principle, and superintendent there was no chance of me putting her back in diapers, I would sooner pull her out of the school, and that no one has ever 'hurt' Elaina.  Elaina is hurting herself, which she does constantly by scratching and throwing herself around.  Should I stop potty training Elaina just because Elaina is hurting herself by holding in her urine and stool?  Absolutely not!  That would be as senseless as rewarding her every time she took a bite out of someone!  Perhaps next time she digs her nails into my hip or takes a bite out of my thigh I will give her a damn snickers bar!  Seriously.  As I said before, first impressions are sometimes right on.  Under-experienced, good for nothing, way to young for your job, autism consultant! 

    Everything was stacked against her.  Except her mommy and one teacher.  Oh Lord, I think if it had not been for Toni I may not be typing this tonight.  And none of the staff at school new that I was struggling with my husband throughout this process.  I would never give them the satisfaction of knowing that someone agreed with their ignorance.  Would Elaina ever quit fighting, relax, and just relieve herself and all of us on the toilet?

    One Monday morning in the first week of March I was bathing Elaina alone as I usually do because she loved to pee in the bathtub, not in the toilet I just sat her on, so I won't put the other girls in there with her.  I washed her up and dressed her.  Feed her, brushed her, finished up her journal stuff and sent her and her 4 other brothers and sisters off to school.  I expected to have pretty much the same Monday I always had.  Nothing special, nothing different.  Elaina came home at 2:30 that day, like always and the van driver, who is a friend, says to me “did you notice that Elaina is in the same pants she left the house in?”  No way, no way.  I could not even begin to put it together.  Had Elaina actually used the toilet?  No way.  I can't believe it.  All this hard work I have been doing I could not even believe it.  So, I took her in the house celebrating and applauding her and I read her journal.  She had peed on the potty!! One time and she had not gone again since.  I was secretly thrilled but then I actually decided that I would not think about it anymore.  I could not bring myself to get my hopes up, what if it was just a fluke?  I just can't do that to myself.  So I took her to the bathroom.  She was not successful.  I waited for her to bring me a diaper,  she didn't.  She snuck into private areas of the house and had accidents all night.  Good thing I did not get my hopes up.

    Wait a minute, Tuesday morning I was going into school to talk to the superintendent, who is a great guy, for something, to be honest I don't really remember what it was.  He asked me 'did you hear about the party in Toni's class?'  I responded 'no'.  He said, “ they did not tell you that Elaina used the toilet yesterday?”  I said, “ oh of course,” he did not realize that I detached myself so far from the one success on the toilet because I did not want to be disappointed that I had actually forgotten.  Not to mention being pregnant, having a half dozen kids, things slip right out of my brain.  I told him this much.  He then informed me that she used the toilet again this morning and my heart skipped a beat.  One time, a fluke, but two times in consecutive days with a nonverbal autistic child who would not ever break her routine.  Do you actually know what that means!   She has got it!  She is potty trained at school.  I don't know why she did it at school first, I sometimes think she just had to give me a little sting for putting her through so much with potty training, but who cares!  Elaina is toileting!  This is a Hallelujah, drop to your knees, praise Jesus and praise your child moment.  This is total relief, and satisfaction.  The most rewarding feeling you can have at being the absolute best mother you can be moment.  The greatest gift to a parent is the success of your child.  I spoke to Toni and it was true.  Toni knew it was not a fluke.  This confirmed the feeling of success.

    When she came home that day I was determined that she would carry it over to home.  She was determined not to.  Well, when she brought me a diaper for the first time we went to the toilet and we sat there and she made her noise and tried to get up but you know what, in just a short amount of time she released.  She urinated in the toilet at home.  She did it and we celebrated.  We rubbed it in Daddy's face, (not the urine just the fact that he was wrong!) we partied and praised her.  We blasted music and she rocked along with the music, stark naked, just the way she prefers to be.  

    Of course, she still has accidents.  It was difficult to leave the house for a very long time because she would still urinate in her pants.  But once we started to have success on the toilet she started to take off.  As hard as it was to just get her to use the toilet, she started to be able to do other things to build onto her toilet training.  Eventually, she started entering the bathroom herself when she needed to go.  She started to turn the light on herself.  She started to attempt to get her own pants down, sometimes she still requires assistance.  She actually tries to wipe herself, but still needs some backup on those number 2s.  All of these extra skills that she acquired secondary to the toilet training were just icing on the cake! 

    I actually have another nonverbal autistic daughter who is similar in her lack of communication to Elaina, but different in many ways.  Her name is Eva and she is 4 and a half.  About a month ago Toni convinced me to try to toilet train her.  I thought Eva was too young and she did not show me diapers or any signs of needing to use the bathroom but I agreed.  Eva is easy going and generally has a more pleasant disposition then Elaina.  She has not been very aggressive towards others but will abuse herself if she is upset enough.  So, I agreed to remove Eva's diapers, though I was not sure how Eva was going to do.  And unbelievably we started to have success with Eva in the first 2 weeks of potty training.  Eva is almost 100% potty trained and she is a severe nonverbal autistic.  I believe that the fact  Toni and I are a fabulous team is why we saw such tremendous success.  We work together and have good communication.  She is so dedicated to my daughters.  It takes a team to succeed with autistic children.  Both sides have to be determined to give everything they have to these children.  If one half is weak, the child cannot be expected to succeed and it is unfair to these wonderful autistic children.  If you do not have this type of relationship with your child's teacher I would suggest requesting a meeting to discuss the lack of open communication and dedication that you are getting from your child's teacher.  This relationship I have with my daughters' teacher and also with their aid is the reason why my daughters' are doing so well.  But also, my biggest fear as a parent was sending my beautiful daughters who cannot communicate with me out into the world.  Having these two women, who I completely trust to take care of my girls when I am not has given me the feeling of safety.  Being an anxious overprotective mother, having a place where I feel my children are safe has been so beneficial for my mental health.  Another reason I am so thankful for these two wonderful ladies.

    So, why go thorough all I did with Elaina?  Why not just leave her in diapers?  Well, I have loved her from the moment she was conceived.  That is not accurate.  I have loved her from the moment my husband and I talked about becoming pregnant again.  I had cherished and worshiped the idea of my first daughter for a very long time.  I had her name picked out while I was pregnant with our sons who came before her.  I pushed her into this world and I smelled her, touched her, breathed her.  Her milky skin, her perfect face.  Her chocolate eyes, and her brown hair.  Her surprisingly odd sounding cry, her milk allergy.  I have so many dreams for her life and I can honestly say that I still do.  But I have different dreams for her.  I have dreams that she may be able to grocery shop with me as an adult, and brush her own hair.  I dream that I will be able to call her name and she will come running.  I     envision her going to autism camps, which you cannot do in diapers, and swimming amongst the autistic adults having the time of her life.  I see her using a device to be able to talk to me!  I don't care how she speaks to me I just want to hear her.  I even dream that one day she will say mommy and it will be the most beautiful word in the world no matter how forced it sounds.  I love her and respect her life as much as any parent has ever loved their child.  I want her to have every opportunity I could afford her.  I continued to have children even though I knew of Elaina's autism because Elaina is perfect in our eyes.  I would've changed her diapers until the day I died if that is what I had to do for her, but how awesome is it that she won't need that? 

    Still, she cannot communicate with me and either can Eva.  They sleep in a custom made safe room because they wake up at night and wander into danger.  They cannot communicate at night when they need to use the bathroom so occasionally at night time I find myself scrubbing the walls and carpet of their bedroom after they finger paint me some of their stinky artwork.  But that is small potatoes.  We are working on it and eventually we won't have nighttime accidents either.  Until that day comes I have put a down payment on some laminate wood flooring for their room and will hopeful have the other half of the money soon so that I can just wipe up the infrequent accidents.  I am secretly hoping that the cold hard floor will give them the incentive to sleep on their beds! 

    I am the mother of 7 beautiful children, 4 of my children have autism, and 2 are nonverbal severe.  I felt obligated to sharing our success story with other families who are struggling with the extremely tiresome complicated task of caring for an autistic child.  Having all of our children using the toilet, except our infant of course, has had such a positive effect on our lives.  This may sound silly, but getting our daughter, Elaina, who is now 6, potty trained actually gave us a lot more hope for her future then we sometimes had.  All children are  capable, it is just so hard and it seems impossible.  If I could just reach one parent struggling with the task and let them know that they are a great parent it was worth sharing our story. 


Natalie Aguirre

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Pi Day

Pi, that ubiquitous number so necessary for existence is celebrated once a year on 3.14....here it is represented in a crop circle...so cool!




Until next time,



Elise

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Life Imitating Art or Vice Versa


One of the things that I enjoy is watching my life unfold upon the television screen. Every week we watch the four geeks and the beautiful girl of The Big Bang Theory navigate their interesting relationships and lives. Invariably however, their issues and their sense of reality gets in the way of well…functioning on any level what so ever. Such an event took place yesterday between hubby and HSB.

As I have said before HSB earns cash/points that he can use against the purchase of video games and computer games by doing a variety of chores around the house. Now HSB has been keeping track of what he earns on his own and quite frankly I felt that he was doing a fairly good job. He did not lie about what he earned. He wrote down the proper amounts and subtracted when he spent money. There really wasn’t a problem until Friday.

HSB decided that he didn’t have the patience to do any laundry, but I was not supposed to do the laundry because that would take away form his projected income. However, I did make him take the laundry up the stairs from the laundryroom to the bedroom. He didn’t want to fold it or put the laundry away, which was part of the bargain. He basically decided though that he should get paid for bringing the laundry upstairs. I told him that that was only part of the chore and that he didn’t get paid for just schlepping things upstairs.

Well holy hell broke loose. He did not like that answer at all. I wouldn’t say a full-blown meltdown occurred but we definitely had the makings of a major tempter tantrum on our hands, complete with name-calling (he calling me names), foot stomping (when a 5’9” 200 pound 17 year old stomps his feet going up the stairs, the entire house shakes) and generally very poor behavior. So when hubby came home from work, in order to clarify what HSB gets paid for and when, he sat down with HSB and devised a plan how to categorize each step in the chore process. All of this was to be written down on a white board so there would be no arguments or misunderstandings in the future. (By the way if you think that tantrums are just the purview of autistic children watch this clip of Robin Williams discussing his 17-year-olds reaction to the word NO.)



Once these discussions began it is at this time that we entered an alternate universe. Not sure who the two of them were that morning, or which comedy show they were auditioning for, but if I could have filmed their interactions and sent it to the writers of BBT there would be a very funny skit about to be filmed in Hollywood. 


Saturday morning, they sat together and wiped down the white board from HSB’s office and proceeded to create a chart that he could keep track of his earnings and expenditures. Easy right? Wrong. Arguing ensued, replete with verb tense battles, grammar innuendos and definition debates. They continued on for several hours arguing about:

*The configuration of the chart itself.
*How HSB wanted it to look, as opposed to how hubby needed it to look for his purposes.
*The steps that were to be written down. (Including each part to each individual step)
*How much each step was worth.
*How HSB was to keep track of each chore (lines with dates, number of chores done a particular date, whether he was to change the count by Arabic numeral or roman numeral counting -  I kid you not).
*How HSB was to subtract when he used some money (whether he was to put the date in, the object purchased or just subtract).
*What each column stood for and the purpose of the chart in the first place.
*Why there has to be a total line at the end, when HSB only wants a total column.
*What color pen is to be used for which purpose.

I had to leave the room. I was getting a headache.


The problem was two fold I think. Hubby wanted the chart because he felt there was too much miscommunication about what is expected of HSB. HSB was happy with the chart he had and thought that I was just trying to change the rules on him and that I was a pain in the ass. No, he didn’t say that in so many words he actually used more colorful language when he didn’t think I could hear. Someone really needs to stress to autistic children that even if you are in another room when you yell, people in the rest of the house can still hear you.

Well eventually they did agree on a chart, its purpose, and even what color marker to use when and for what purpose. Yes, there was a protracted argument about green versus black markers and what HSB would use the green marker for. Of course green was for the amount of money he earned. Here it the finished product….


By the way, there is still a huge pile of laundry that I agreed not  to touch, and we are quickly running out of clothes.

Until next time,
Elise

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Empathy


Empathy, we hear it all the time that persons on the autism spectrum lack empathy for their fellow human beings. The"experts" have decided that our children can neither understand nor process emotions of others; that our children cannot understand when someone is cruel or mean or hateful. Yes there was a study done recently refuting this belief, unfortunately the lack of empathy mantra is widespread, nonetheless. I guess these so-called experts have never met HSB.

Yes, I have written on many occasions about collegeman and his need to make the world a better place. Whether it was his speaking out about Darfur, working for Habitat for Humanity or helping at the local food bank, collegeman has always shown an understanding and a need to make the world a better place. HSB has done his bit for charity as well. However, it never actually seemed to come from his heart, as opposed to us making him do it because it is something a person should know they are obligated to do. Charity and good works is part of the legacy we wish to give to our children. It is not something anyone learns by rote, it is something that needs to be taught no matter the family.

Now a little bit more about HSB. HSB is quite the contrarian on many issues. He will not watch certain TV cartoons, because he has decided that they are a rip-off from other person’s works (Seth McFarlane you are on notice). He will deride you if you watch any of these shows and he will not watch certain news shows, in fact any news show because they are all biased. He has even taken to not watching this season of The Big Bang Theory because he said they have lost their initial intellectual comedy and have just gone down into the most common denominator cesspool of “sex” jokes (don't ask). He will watch cds of older BBT shows however, they are on his approved list. Considering that HSB loves film, acting and gameplay, I pity the entertainment industry if he becomes a famous critic. He will readily destroy anyone’s career if they do not meet his standards of intellect, technology, originality and most of all equanimity. When it comes to talking down to the masses, HSB does not “suffer fools” lightly.

HSB is also quite different politically from the mainstream. Like the rest of us in this family you really can’t categorize him at all. For all of us, it depends on the issue, not a particular party platform. In reality I would have to say that HSB is an old world progressive. Not a 60’s progressive but an early 20th century progressive. As he says, his favorite President is Teddy “McBadass” Roosevelt. He loves, loves what Teddy stood for and how you can be a strong President, “speak softly but carry a big stick” and yet understand the responsibility towards making this nation a better place to live for all  its citizens.

So what does this all have to do with empathy? Let me tell you what happened last week. HSB was in his learning center class, what they used to call resource room. He was doing his work and in walks a student that is not regularly present. Now this student has issues of his own, as do quite a lot of students who are classified in school. What this particular student likes to do is start fights. He decided to start a fight with HSB.

Now it wasn’t a knock down drag out fight, only because the teacher intervened in time. A physical confrontation is what the instigator was looking for. Yes this other child has terrible emotional problems. But that doesn’t mean we make excuses for his nastiness and that HSB has to get caught up in this child’s web of cruelty. Unfortunately, HSB did become upset with the intolerant things that the other student was saying about gay people.

HSB believes in gay marriage as do we all in this house. I did not bring up the subject or actually ever discuss it as a major issue in this house; he like his brother decided this fact for themselves. This younger generation seems to truly understand certain aspects of life and if you ask them about the issue, they will look at you quizzingly trying to understand why you don’t see gay people as well, people. They don’t get it. It’s not a liberal thing, as far as they are concerned it is a human thing. (They also don’t even understand how this is a political issue, when there are real concerns in the world.) Perhaps it comes from the fact that for so long others did not treat them like humanbeings, so they understand intolerance when they see it. They also don’t buy into the religious notion that it’s against God’s law. As I said collegeman rejects religious authority and HSB doesn’t care what religious authority says when it comes to something he considers wrong. They decided that there are many things that God would want us to be but hateful towards other humans is not one of them. (You can believe anything you want from a religious point of view, but this is our opinion in this house. Don’t write comments pointing out Leviticus, just figure out if you follow every Biblical rule to the letter yourself. Don’t tell us we are going to go to hell. Jews don’t believe in hell, we have enough problems here on Earth proper.)

So anyway the story goes, that HSB got into a verbal argument with this nasty boy until the teacher intervened by telling them both to do their work. Of course, HSB sat down and started to do his math. He was able at the moment to pull back and continue on. However, the other child wouldn’t stop. He kept going on and on about the issue and saying some rather disparaging things from what I understand. (This is actually interesting, because the one time that the school thought that HSB was doing something disparaging against a gay student, which he actually hadn’t, the school as it sometimes does misinterpreted the situation, hauled HSB into the Vice-principal’s office a.s.a.p. But nothing was done with this instigator child until I actually called. Honestly, when I called, I hadn’t even known what the argument was about until days later. I was more concerned that this child was going to harass HSB.)

The resource room teacher finally told the instigator to shut up and sit his butt down. But by this time HSB was truly upset. He had to be taken out of the room and the speech therapist was brought in to try to help him work through the situation. Now the speech therapist is great with HSB. They have a wonderful relationship and she can get him to talk through issues and helps him figure out a logical and unemotional way of dealing with issues. He feels safe with her, as he feels safe with his resource room teacher.

Unfortunately it did not help. HSB just could not process the horrible things that that other child had said. It ruined his day and the next one too. He just couldn’t get past the meanness and the cruelty. As I have said before, collegeman tries to understand and intellectualize these things. It makes it easier for him to understand. HSB just rejects them, but has no way of working through the inhumanity. It actually carried over into the next day in school and not until he was able to talk to his therapist did he seem to calm down.

HSB was actually weepy from it. It overwhelmed him. As a child HSB could not read books that had any hatefulness in it. He rejected the Lemony Snicket series and had to be helped from class in middle school when they read a book, which contained animal cruelty in the story. I think it’s why he will not study about the Holocaust. He could never read any of the Holocaust based books the other children read like The Devil’s Arithmetic (video). It hurts his soul just too much.

During the session the therapist did practice and work on things that HSB could have said to the instigator child. The therapist of course, made sure that it didn’t involve put downs but basically told the other person to go away. (You can’t win an argument with someone who is trying to start a fight. You can’t win an argument with someone who won’t listen, who is stupid or emotionally troubled.) The therapist did talk with him that he can’t fix the entire world. The therapist did make him feel better and helped him realize that he is a good person and that its OK to be upset that other people are horrible. The therapist also helped him see that he can't let this other person's meanness overwhelm his right to be happy and have good experiences in life.

HSB finally calmed down and processed the event.  I did tell HSB that I spoke with the school and that they are going to make sure that the instigator child doesn’t bother him anymore.  HSB has had a rather pleasant experience in highschool, unlike collegeman, and I would hope that his last four months in the school district would be productive and happy ones. But in the end I am really proud of my son. He stuck up for his belief in the humanity of others; I just hope he learns to be able to handle other people’s cruelty a little better. There is a lot of meanness in the world and we must learn to work through it. Yes it takes a lot of effort and a lot of time to learn to be able to do just that but it is a survival skill that all must learn. Emotional survival is something that HSB is going to have to learn. It will not be easy for him. This is his challenge. He cares too much. Not empathetic my ass….

Until next time,
Elise