Autism and College

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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.

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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.

 

 

Stress Eating/Mental Health Nightmares

I started my diet to lose 20 pounds at 6:00 a.m. It is now 11:30 A.M. and I have downed two pieces of fudge, drank another cup of coffee that is mostly milk and devoured a bag of moon cheese. All within 30 minutes.

I had good intentions. Truly I did. And I was sincere too in the belief that this week would be the one I got off my kester and set to work reducing my waist but at this point my resolution appears to be a waste… for life got in the way.

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It all started yesterday. I drove home from Las Vegas after Gracie’s dive meet where she took a first in one event. So proud of that kid. Anyway, after driving 6 hours I was met at home by an angry teenager. Paul was fine while we were gone but seems he and Gracie got into it the moment she came through the door.  An hour later I was holding him while he melted down and cried. Damn you autism and mental health challenges!!!!

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After those difficult and emotional moments it appeared things were better until I decided to spoil myself with a nice warm bubble bath.  And therein lies my first mistake…actually thinking that I could do something nice for myself without being interrupted.  For as I lay in the tub I suddenly heard very loud shouting and a slamming of a door that shook the entire house. As I jumped up and wrapped a robe around me I heard uncontrollable crying coming from Paul’s room. I walked into a mess caused by a kid who had dumped, in a rage, the contents of his desk all over the room and he was sobbing. I went over to him and he yelled at me to leave him alone. Now I don’t know about you but when I hear those words spoken with the tunderous roar of a fighter jet I know that I am needed more than ever. I also know I need to change into my Green Beret mentaility to succeed in turning things around despite the odds being against me.

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What ensued was not easy. I ended up on the floor while this child both raged, hyperventiled and talked scary stuff. I held onto him like his life and mine depended on it. This went on for almost an hour until at last he wore himself out. His words broke my heart. His pain broke my soul. And his anger touched a place in my brain that I never want to visit again.

Later, after going down to the kitchen I realized what the problem was. While I was gone he had not taken his medicine and B had not checked his box to make sure that he had. Two days without meds in Paul’s case is a disaster. He becomes a tsunami of emotions that threatens to wipe out anyone nearby and the result is anger that cannot be contained.

I worry about my son. I worry that one day he will rage at the wrong person. I worry that while “out of his head” he might get shot by police or hurt himself. I worry that in his anger he may seriously hurt his siblings instead of a kicking a hole in the door that is a reminder of when he got seriously mad. Sometimes I worry that his mental issues will engulf us all and carry us down the mountainside with him broken and  buried under tons of stone. I know my marriage has been effected by Paul’s issues and that we all suffer in different ways when he is off-balance and out of control.

This morning, I packed everyone’s lunches and drove each one to their school. I proceeded to the gym in order to kick my diet into high gear. As I was nearing my goal of three miles I received a phone call. Paul was having an anxiety attack at school and could I please come and get him?

He’s sleeping now. His face soft and relaxed. Quiet breaths making his chest rise and fall in a slow steady rhythm unlike yesterday when he sobbed so hard he chest was moving mountains. I look again and my heart fills with love for my son; this boy who feels others emotions so intensely and takes them on as his own. This boy whose face I first saw on an adoption site. Right now, he looks like an angel which is what I am afraid that he might someday be. For unless, we can find a way to teach him to control his emotions I am afraid he will be hurt and possibly killed. By a stranger, The Police. Or himself. Either way, our path is a hard one and we are scraping our knees as we once again escape the sharp edges of the precipice which is our lives.

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Drama- 10 Minute Poem Challenge

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The fog is so dense today.

It blocks your vision as if you wearing a scarf over your eyes.

So that you are blindfolded to all that is around you

So that you stay unknowing/unaware your entire life

Often times I think that most people live their lives this way

Seeing…but not

Hearing..but not

Everything muddied and jumbled

Unsure of what is real

Or just an illusion

Is this me? I wonder

Am I blind too?

Unable to see what is directly in front of me?

Do I try to push aside the fog

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As if parting a heavy velvet curtain

Used to keep performers and audience

Away from one another

And which hides what is backstage…

Those things that are meant to be unseen

If I were to peer past your costume

If I were to see you as you really are

What would be there to greet me?

Would there be those things I am comfortable with

Or would there be things that would surprise me

Maybe even make me uncomfortable

Is yours a Magic Show?

Or the tale of Othello?

And what is my role?

Am I a major character in your drama

Or a bit player who has

But a walk on part in your life?

And more importantly

Does this story have a long run?

Or have the critics pronounced it

Dead.

 

 

 

Fast Pitch

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Well the condo is looking pretty good these days…wish I could say the same about myself.

It all started when I was on a ladder in the shower painting (a lovely shade of very pale gray, if I do say so myself.) Because laziness is a basic necessity while painting; I tend to stretch and paint rather than go up and down the ladder creating unnecessary stress on my knees. It would appear at my age that this type of thinking is a big mistake. For as I was reaching far further than the span of my wings; I fell backwards off the ladder and as I did, my armpit went over the door frame to the shower, while my body went forward. Ouch! Okay, it felt worse than ouch it was more like OUCH!

All week my shoulder and arm hurt but I kept thinking it would feel better soon. The next weekend I decided to be playful and tried to wrestle my husband on the beach. He promptly flipped me over like a grill master with a hamburger and as he did he accidently pushed down on my shoulder. OUCH!

And so for the past two months I have been in pain. Pain sleeping, when putting on my seatbelt, when reaching up, etc. Constant unrelenting pain that I have grinned and bared with grace.

Finally, I decided to go to the doctor who promptly sent me for an MRI which confirmed that I had a slap tear to my bicep. This would be fine except for the fact there is nothing that they can do but surgery in which they cut the bicep in the back, place a screw in your shoulder and re-attach the muscle into the screw. If you choose not to do the surgery, eventually that tear starts fraying and ” sawing” into other areas in the vicinity creating even worse damage resulting in a more comprehensive surgery with even more down time. As it is I will be in a sling for 4-6 weeks as this muscle kind of grows into the screw.

Surgery is set for November. The same weekend B and I were to go away together. Instead, I will be snoozing, with the help of some pain pills, in bed by myself. Another weekend shot. But I am okay with that because I am “re-inventing” myself and plan on telling everyone that the injury was due to my incredible 100 mile-per-hour fastball pitch which sounds much more impressive than falling off a ladder.  Even better, I will be stronger both mentally and eventually physically after mending and maybe this ole’ dog might even be able to learn some new tricks!

Life is good even when its not!

Slow Death

 

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I have swallowed dirt

As you have drug me

Down this road called DIVORCE

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I have eaten pain

Which is razor-sharp

For Breakfast

Lunch

And Dinner

Stabbing and slicing

My mouth bloody, gums raw

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I have swallowed my pride

As I have attempted

To be that confident 20 something woman

I once was but am no longer

The one who gave you fireworks with each kiss

But now just lights an occasional Sparkler

Which burns out

Just a fast as a child’s temper tantrum

In the face of a Hershey’s kiss

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I have drunk in the distaste

You have for me

Like vomit…

It stinks and is rancid

Eating up my insides

As it slithers down into my gut

Which now lives in perpetual

Anxiety

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I have tasted your anger

For past deeds done to you

That I had no idea hurt

Because you were never truthful

About the feelings you had

That are now erupting from you

Like all the acid ash released from a volcano

That covers me with sadness, distaste and dislike

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I have choked on all that you expected of me

The changes you wish for

That smother my free spirit

And are against all I stand for

Things I cannot agree to

No matter what

You still feast upon my body

And soul

Saying you have no passion

Which strips away my dignity

And tears my confidence to shreds

Right now you have the power

But slowly I am beginning to grab mine back

And when I do

The Phoenix that rises from the ashes

Will breathe fire

As I claim all I am

All that I hope to be

And leave you will the shell

Of that person you destroyed

I will then be whole

And you will be left with my dust/bones

To bury inside your unconscious mind

And it will be too late

To make up for all you have done

While creating something

So much stronger

Than you

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Mom Revenge

After I had children I began to understand why some animals eat their young. Those animals are smart creatures because they know that one day their offspring will grow up to become a mouthy, sulky, nasty, mean, cranky, selfish, thoughtless and reckless teenager; so they nip that problem in the bud.

Teenagers breed contempt. They make you question your sanity. And there is nothing worse on God’s green earth than a snotty-know-it-all sixteen-year-old.

Last Saturday evening, after a particularily difficult week with our collective teens, my girlfriends and I got together for a drink…or two. I am not sure where the idea came from nor the precise number of drinks that been downed but suddenly we were compiling a list which we have decided to use against our offspring to teach them a lesson should the need arise. We called it MOM REVENGE and does it ever feel sweet. And since we are all in this together I thought I would share.

    MOM REVENGE

  1. When you drop your kid off at school yell out the window “And if you don’t pee your bed again tonight I will give you another dollar.”
  2. Fill your son’s bed with stuffed animals just before his friends arrive
  3. Pack a sippy cup in your sweetie’s lunch box
  4. Post naked baby pictures on their Facebook page
  5. Yell out the car window “Remember the babysitter will be at the house waiting for you when you get home from school.”
  6. Text your teen “Honey, you forgot your blankie. Do you want me to bring it to school for you?”
  7. When your teen’s friends are over come downstairs with a box of head lice killer and tell your daughter that the salon called and wanted to let her know she has lice.
  8. Download ice cream truck music on your cell phone and blast it on your stereo as you pass their high school.
  9. Put a Barbie doll in your teens backpack.
  10. Buy a recordable card and record your own personalized message that awaits in their lunch box.

Doughnut Daze

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There are times in life in which you want to just down a couple painkillers, get back into bed and drift off to sleep. This is one of those times.

Saturday night while minding my dreams and sleeping peacefully; I was awakened by someone screaming. Turns out that person was me. For as I was dreaming away, my knee locked; and when I moved it something very bad happened but what that very bad thing that happened is; I will not know until Tuesday when I see the doc. Getting old sucks.Period.End of story.

In the meantime I am laying here, half-conscious, in pain, and worried about how this is going to play out weight-wise. Because I have lost twenty pounds in the past two months by going to Pilates and walking with L in the morning and B and night. And I am finding I love to do these things. But no walking for me yesterday or today and when I stepped on the scale this morning it was up THREE F****** POUNDS. That’s right…not one…not two…but three…all in one day which according to my calculations means that in precisely one week I will have gained back every pound I have lost… and then some.

So after this morning’s fiasco on the scale I realize I need more than I originally anticipated.images-1

I need a greater number of painkillers along with something for depression if I am going to make it through the day. And a doughnut…definitely a maple creme one. SIGH.

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Brain where social behavior occurs is different for those with High Functioning Autism

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In a new study released yesterday, researchers at UCLA determined that areas in the brain that are associated with social behavior were less developed and lacked sufficient networking in high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) individuals as compared to their neurotypical peers.

The study noted that ASD subjects showed an increased blood flow in the frontal areas of the brain which is linked to higher oxygen metabolism in those parts of the brain that are used to navigate social situations. This is opposite of individuals not on the spectrum whose blood flow is reduced as they mature. According to scientists increased blood flow suggests that in persons with ASD there is delayed neurodevelopment in these front areas of the brain that are responsible for social-emotional cognition. The study is consistent with MRI findings of enlarged brain size due to a lack of pruning as the brain develops.

The study also found a lack of long-range connections between the front of the brain and the back. This apparent lack of connectivity means that information is impaired between distant areas of the brain leading to a decreased social responsiveness in persons with ASD.

Researchers hope that in utilizing information gleaned from this study that in the future scientists may contribute to developing an even earlier way to diagnosis and perhaps treatment ASD. And that would be great for families who have young children and are just starting down this long and often challenging road. Because if I am completely honest, and I could have given my sons pills to alter their autism so that social-emotional dealings would have been easier for them their entire life; I would have done it in a minute. For as a mother you don’t like to see your child suffer by being the outcast, being teased, being rejected and being bullied day in and day out. Sometimes the lengths to which people will go to hurt and embarrass others are just mind-blowing. Never mind having to fit in with the other kids, ASD kids often are surrounded by adults who unintentionally/intentionally contribute to their ostracism and loss of self-esteem leading to a high rate of suicide in this segment of the population.

Yet, at some point as people with ASD mature they come to recognize what is unique and wonderful within themselves and these future “treatments” no longer appear to be the miracles that they might be considered to be when a child is two years old. Both of my sons say they are happy being who they are, autism and all. Both do not see a “miracle” pill being part of their lives. And I am happy that they feel that way but as their mother also know that no child or family should have to go through what they have gone through to get where they are now. I find nothing noble in suffering and my children were not put on this earth to be the moral compass and recipients of those without ASD practicing their seven virtues to buy their way into heaven. So while I welcome advances in ASD medicine, I will do so on the side lines. But I will cheer on and support those parents of the future who may be presented with opportunities to change the lives of their children in ways that are most likely for the better. For everyone deserves to be able to reach their full-potential which is something many with ASD are denied.

Limitations We Place On Ourselves…309 Days To Fix This

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I’m not a half-full or half-empty glass kind of girl. I go flowing between the two like water washing over coarse sand as my moods dictate. In stormy weather my glass tends to be half-empty while a walk on the beach on a sunny day makes that half-full glass appear to be the size of a champagne magnum. In this vein, I recently saw a video on Facebook that showed a grandson talking about visiting his grandfather who had just lost his wife of 65+ years. As the old man relates to his grandson the changes he is going through with this wife’s passing, his grandson replies, “Grandpa you always make me see the glass as half-full.” And his grandfather replied, “It is a beautiful glass.”

It was in that moment that I realized that I want to be the person who sees the beauty of the glass itself and not the person who sees the limitations of the vessel and what it can hold. As I reflect over my life a see a person who thought she had to choose between the half-full half-empty scenario and I grew up believing those two ideas (half-full and half-empty) were the only choices available to me. Now I see that there are more options than I ever dreamed possible.

I want to wake up everyday seeing possibilities not possible problems, sunshine not clouds but mostly I want to appreciate the beauty of the glass as it reflects my life within it, including the good the bad and the ugly. I think it is important to realize that there is value in all that makes up this reflection of myself even if the glass sometimes distorts and twists what I see.

The beauty of the glass is really what is important so make it be the glass you want to see with your favorite colors, phrases and shapes. Enjoying the beauty of the glass is what we should strive for while we try to put away the notion that we have to determine whether it is half-full or half-empty. In the end, it doesn’t matter anyway because the glass was always beautiful and what it was holding was irrelevant… unless it was a superb 40-year-old Tawny Port….in which case I would need to empty the glass to see it’s true beauty.

(somehow this post has gone from a life affirming one to a narrative about booze. The hell with the glass…let’s contemplate the bottle!)

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