Autism and College

Unknown

We have worked hard for this moment.  All of us. When your child has autism the old adage is really true…it does takes a village.

Our family has spent years going to therapists, doing nightly neuro-therapy, hippo therapy, social skills classes, ABA therapy, special autism programs and attending IEP’s galore.

And then one day it happens…it all pays off.

Today, Andre received his first acceptance letter into college. Frankly, it feels like a miracle. All the sacrifice. All the sleepless nights. All the arguments about taking pride in what you do. All the school calls about his behaviors and going there, not to bring him home, but to force him to clean up the school yard if he wouldn’t cooperate and listen to the teacher. No rewarding bad behavior here!

Admittedly, there were days we weren’t sure if we would make it….all of us…parents, kid, and teachers. For Andre, an uncovered classroom window meant watching the birds instead of listening to instructions. His life consisted of figit boxes, weighted vests, and mechanical pencils of a particular type or he could not concentrate in order to do his work. Autism combined with ADD makes sitting still incredibly hard, listening very difficult, and organizing darn near impossible. His narrow list of interests and the thought he shouldn’t have to learn what he didn’t deem important made his teachers want to pull their hair out. But still he persevered and so did they.

Four years ago he received Boy Scouts highest award…The Medal of Honor…for saving an  elderly ladies life. Last year he became an Eagle Scout and immediately stopped going. Most of the time he stays in his room drawing characters for the novels he has been writing for the past several years. And not because I am his mom, but because it is the truth, his books are really good.

I don’t know if Andre will go off to school come fall. He might delay leaving home for another year so that he can finish his Associates Degree that he started working on in high school and allow himself the time to mature another year. Sometimes I think he might be ready. Lots of time…not…especially when I realized he has not showered for a week, brushed his teeth for days, changed his underwear since he last showered or remembered to take his medicines since I last reminded him. Frankly, he is several years behind his peers maturity-wise so he has some catching up to do but then again sometimes the birds that soar are the ones that are kicked out of the nest missing a few feathers.

images

As I look back over the years the times of despair were many. The worry was great. The uncertainty was sometimes crippling. Sleep was lacking. But Autism didn’t defeat us then and it won’t in the future. The village has got this but more and more it’s up to Andre now. And you know what…he can do it. For autism no longer defines Andre… he defines it. With a little help and understanding my son will reach his full potential. It may be a life that is different from what I envision or what I would want for myself but it will have meaning for him, purpose and joy. And that is what really matters anyway.

 

 

“FOR YOUR OWN GOOD” List

I don’t know about you, but there seems to be an exclusive list that it handed to each woman during the heat of labor which is promptly and conveniently ignored until the first child heads off to school. It is then, during Kindergarten Round Up, that you realize that every parent in the building decides what kind of person you are after watching your child interact for exactly 4.2 seconds and he is doomed to be a social pariah for the rest of his educational career. It is then, at that exact minute of total mom failure, that THE LIST suddenly re-emerges only to hang over our heads for eternity, flapping in that empty space that our brains used to occupy.
Every mother knows about THE LIST. It consists of all the things our kids must do at least once so that we can check the box that verifies to the world that we ARE A GOOD MOM.
Trying new food. The latest…brocollini….images-1
Yearly pictures at Sears…oops missed that one…but now that I am aware of that fact so by next Tuesday it will be done…semi-check.
Playing the piano and while he may not ready for Carnegie Hall, he does know where middle C is located…images-1
Now B is the sports minded one in our family but because two of our three children get crazed if something as small as an ant touches them, trying to knock out athletic activities…well… it’s a challenge. If I had my druthers I would just scratch that whole section off THE LIST because several family members consider high quality endurance sports akin to laying on the couch and dipping ruffled potato chips into a savory dip. (the endurance part comes when you have to turn the chip around and dip again being careful not to double-dip)
But I have to admit that I do have a fear that scratch outs might just not get you into heaven so I persist in introducing my kids to new sports, knowing in my heart of hearts, that is what all GOOD moms do. That feel-good, doing-the-right-thing, going for Mother Of The Year, attempt is what lead us to the Broken Leg Ice Skating Rink yesterday afternoon where the kids tried ice skating for the very first time.
 I will admit that sometimes it seems as though it takes a while for my kids to get comfortable with new activities. First, we have to check out each and every toilet in the entire facility. If the seat is comfortable then my kids might give it a try. If not, we are OUTTA there thanks to Andre’s unrelenting complaints about the lack of high-quality plastic engineering.
Next comes the vending machines. Anything that has hidden ingredients that make one of my kids break out in hives is considered an immediate success and suddenly every one wants a buck to insert into the machine as they rapidly make their way towards anaphylactic shock.
Finally, throw in a 16-year-old cashier who is making minimum wage but will answer every one of the 20,000 questions thrown at them about the history of said sport…the equipment used and the rules of the sport, then participation is a definite maybe because all bets are on that they can continue with the questions until the place closes for the evening. Better yet, if the cashier can quote numerous safety statistics; then its a go-home because no sport is even safe enough for my boys. Yes, even contemplating sports can be an exhausting endeavor.
So after spending one half- hour tying and re-tying the skates, using the bathroom…for the third time… and learning to walk on blades; the time had come for the kids to make their way onto the ice. If, as the old adage goes, you can smell fear; then the fumes around our family was like the pungent odor that follows us around for three hours after eating grandma’s chili. We just couldn’t shake it. As we left the bench, feet started going every which way but forward and the sound of our bottoms slapping the ice…HARD… reverberated throughout the arena. To top it off, I pulled my back out trying to hold up one child while falling down with another. Mom was done and judging from the little faces surrounding me, the vending machine owner was about to become a very rich man. AGAIN.
Yet, we persisted. Paul put his game face on and after one trip around the rink fell and got a bloody nose that spurted ten feet.  Gracie whined until her daddy escorted her like the princess she is around the rink. But I knew all was lost in regards to Andre when he spent ten minutes making it half-way around the rink with his toes turned in towards the wood paneling the entire time. Never have a seen a child so happy as when he took his blades off of the ice. His face actually beamed so brightly he was in danger of melting the ice.
Later, after exiting the rink, Andre looked up at me and said, “Well, those were absolutely the worst minutes I have ever spent in my entire life!” And needless to say, his assessment didn’t get any better despite being bribed with hot chocolate by B.
On the way home, Andre talked about the experience. His take?
“Well, I am glad that is over. I did it once, it’s a no-go and thank goodness I will never have to do that again. Now, mom, what else can we cross of your list of things I have to do?”
images-1
“What list?””You know, the one that you have that makes me try everything for my own good even though we both know I am going to hate it. But still you try. Again and again. Pushing me to be a better kid so you can feel better about yourself as a mom. So really, if you think about it, this list is really about you and your feelings of inadequacy. Frankly, I think a therapist for you would cost a whole lot less than this “contrived family time.” I think that is something you need to seriously contemplate before one of us dies during these little mini-olympics of yours.”

And with that he was done.
But I’m not.
I want to know… how he knew about… THE LIST?
images-2

Eat Chocolate Cake

images

The school called today

Andre didn’t turn in his homework

He said he burned his book

I don’t think so but…

I eat chocolate cake while I contemplate the situation.

The other school called about Paul

The teacher tells me there is a group issue

Paul is missing assignments

I will check and let you know….but first

I eat chocolate cake before digging around in his room

I go to the school to discuss the situation

I let all involved know

That Andre will be staying after school in the tutoring room

Everyday until all the assignments are done

He clings and claws at me

He baby talks and pouts

I escape and walk around campus

And eat that emergency piece…

Of chocolate cake

That I tucked in my purse

Really this is getting too much to manage

Maybe I should turn to booze

And give up the chocolate cake

We get home

Paul is upset because I insist that he does his chore

That he did not do before he went to school

Man, that chocolate cake looks good…tastes better than it looks

Two boys with autism

One deep dark chocolate cake

Almost gone…

Autism makes you fat!

Mother’s Day

Back-to-School

Today is the first day of school and it is about as good as a man getting down on one knee and slipping a diamond on your finger. For moms all over the world this day sparkles and shines like no other.

I remember each of my children’s first day of Kindergarten. Everyone was excited and a bundle of nerves, parents included. Now it’s old hat as I go through the list that is burned into my brain like a branded cow.

“Do you have your…lunch, notebooks, backpack, pencils, school schedule?”

“Where are your shoes? Did you change your underwear? (yes, this question MUST be asked in my household) Go put on your socks! Hurry! or you will be late!!!”

” You didn’t brush your teeth. Go do it. Andre…the hair…brush your hair! Wait….you didn’t shower, Andre. Don’t argue…DO IT! Paul, go wash your face and put on your medicine. Make your beds!!! What do you mean you don’t like chicken salad…since when?”

And so it goes until all questions have been answered to my satisfaction and off we go, kids slightly nervous and me, the calmest I has been in months with a smile plastered on my face that is wide as the Grand Canyon and remains with me all day. Yes, this feeling is better than any happy pill that has ever been invented!

“You sure sound chipper,” remarks my dad.

“You look great,” another mom comments.

“You have a glow about you!” says the grocery clerk.

And they are right. After a summer of sibling arguments and hearing “I’m Bored;” I have the eau de parfum Ode To School #5 floating about me, the fog has lifted from my brain, and I am glowing more than I ever did when I was pregnant. For today is the first day of school and I happily refer to it as… Mother’s Day!

c4b0c260920539a7_200329956-001_1_.preview