Posts Tagged "school"

Turning Over A New Leaf

Posted by on Sep 7, 2016 | 0 comments

How is it that fall just suddenly appears? Spring comes gradually, slowly revealed as winter loosens her grip on the earth. Summer takes over little by little, until our days are mostly warm and beachy. Even winter creeps in, as the winds get colder and the days get darker.

But not fall. Something happens right around Labour Day, and even when I’m looking for it, I miss it. One day we’re at the lake, cooling off in the water and trying to eat our sandwiches around the inevitable sand, and the next, it’s cooler. The shadows are longer in the afternoon. Cravings turn to baked goods, apple cider, and, yes, pumpkin spice (which, let it be known, I only appreciate in pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread).

Fall just… falls on us.

Which is kind of how time has happened for me. I got my autism/Asperger’s diagnosis just over two years ago, and I took a bit of a break from here to regroup. And now it’s fall, in 2016, and it’s been two years.

Fall is my most favourite season, so it seems fitting that it serves as the backdrop to my return.

I started this blog/website in March of 2010 as a way to share stories about my hilarious, autistic, then-four-year-old son. I wanted to show the world a face of autism they may not have been familiar with, and a family that functions on a different wavelength.

I think I’ve more than accomplished that, and today this blog is six and a half, and my son is just about eleven. He’s still quite hilarious, and now very much a tween. I still have stories to tell and experiences to share, but now they include myself as well as Jack.

As the fates would have it, Jack is homeschooling this year (a story I’ll share in a separate post), so there will be a lot to tell. There is also a lot to share about myself, my journey to a diagnosis, and how I came to finally know myself completely.

I hope this post finds you well, and I look forward to a long future together.

Namaste

Share this: name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> Read More

The Dinosaur Gods

Posted by on Jun 15, 2013 | 1 comment

The Dinosaur Gods

My husband and I were both raised in religion, his was Judaism, mine was Presbeterianism (is that an ism?). I was baptized, he had his Bar Mitzvah. He even went to a Catholic high school, and took an educational trip to Israel. He is decidedly more well-versed in religion than I am.

Yet we have both come to the same decision: as far as our “formal” beliefs as adults go, the jury is still out. Agnosticism, atheism, there’s not quite an -ism for us. Not-sure-what-to-label-us-ism.

Either way, there is one thing that’s clear. We have never really discussed the concept of “God” with our children.

We have talked about death. Death and dying and the afterlife and all of the details therein ad nauseum. The boys are very aware that their Grandma Judi (my mother) passed before they were born, and for several years now they’ve been asking the whole gamut of questions.

Death is always a tricky one with children, but as usual, autism brings it to a whole new level. Jack’s phase of asking people about my mother’s death directly seems to have ceased for the time being. My father will be happy to hear that one.

Jack understands that my parents divorced before my mother died, and he gets where his Grandma S (my step-mother) fits into the picture. That didn’t stop him from looking my father directly in the eye and asking “is your wife dead?”

Yeah, that was an awkward moment. I had prepared my step-mom for the potential questions, since it had been a hot topic for Jack that month, but I had forgotten to inform my dad.

Sorry, Dad. He gets it now. I think.

So even though we have gone through the science and semantics of life, the universe and everything, we have not yet discussed the Big Guy in The Sky. Not for any specific reason, we just haven’t.

Until this week.

For some reason, Jack was discussing baptism with his special needs assistant (SEA) at school. She told him that baptism is, basically, where babies get a little water put on their head, and it’s something people do to show their devotion to God.

Yes, he wanted to know all about why you would possibly want to put water on a baby, but that wasn’t the first thing he asked. No, he had another query, one his SEA was wholly unprepared for.

“What’s God?”

I would like to formally apologize to Jack’s SEA. I remember the first time he asked about death, and the cold chill that went up my spine. My husband wasn’t home, and I was put right on the spot. What’s the right answer? *Is* there a right answer?

After taking a moment to consult her French dictionary, the SEA rallied.

“God is a supreme being that some people believe in, and they go to church to show their belief.”

Jack thought about that for a while. He’s been obsessed with space and all things science, so she expected a whole host of pointed questions.

He had only one.

“I went to dinosaur camp in a church. Do those people believe in dinosaurs?”

Yes, yes they do.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

dinosaur gods

Share this: name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> Read More

On the Defense

Posted by on Dec 16, 2012 | 3 comments

On the Defense

I’ve  been on a kind of hiatus for a while now, while I was pregnant and had my fourth child.  A fourth boy. I’ve been ready to come back for a few weeks, but got caught up in the holidays and boy #3’s birthday and more holidays and life. I have stories for you, tales of Jack and his new brother, Jack and his fascination with horrible weather events and historical vehicular disasters (both air- and sea-borne), Jack and his new love of making gifts for everyone. Stories about how we need to find an ABA or someone who can help me now that Jack’s older, anecdotes about how Jack is doing in school.

Life has, as is its wont, interceded in my plans.

On Friday, twenty children died.  Twenty mamas lost their babies. Twenty families were wrenched apart at the very time of year we, regardless of religion, tend to gather our loved ones closest. Those charged with keeping them safe died as well, in the course of doing that very job. There are older mamas missing babies tonight, too.

Why should this affect me, other than the fact that two of my children are the same age as those who were lost? Other than the obvious devastation one feels when something horrifying transpires? Other than the unbearable sadness at the loss of innocents? One word.

Autism.

There have been rumours and speculation that the individual who destroyed twenty-seven lives is on the spectrum. Nothing concrete, but enough for the mainstream and social media to grasp in their hot little feeds and run with. I have seen comments on my friends’ posts about how “the shooter has autism and that’s why”. I watched Piers Morgan, on CNN, say that people with Asperger’s are “missing a piece of their brain” and can’t feel sympathy.  I have felt the bile rising in my throat for three days.

Everything I’ve worked for with my son is teetering on a fence now. This situation could go either way. People will come to their senses and understand that ASD is not the cause of a massacre, or they won’t, and I fear for what happens then.  I’m girding myself, because people have notoriously and stubbornly, as evidenced by our last election, refused to be sensible.

Why should this bother me? My child doesn’t have rage issues. My child would never do this. My child isn’t in danger.

I’m sure there are many parents out there tonight who thought the same things and were wrong.

I don’t know what the future holds for my child, or how his ASD is going to affect him in five or ten or twenty years.  I can only hope that with early intervention and constant, loving support, he’ll be a contributing member of society. A happy person with nothing more on his plate than he can handle, and the sense to reach out for help when he can’t.

What I do know is that all of a sudden, instead of telling people that my son has autism with a sense of pride (because I am damned proud of my son), I am defensive.  I feel the need to explain.  He’s high functioning.  He’s really empathetic and loving. He’s not that person.

I don’t want to be defensive about my son, and I don’t want him to ever feel defensive about himself.  Especially not because some other person who may or may not be on the spectrum had more than he could handle and made some seriously bad decisions. I want him to be as proud of himself as I am, always.

Someday I will tell him about the babies who were lost, and why.  And we will talk about it, and we will probably not be able to understand, ever. And I will continue to tell him that he is loved and supported, even if he’s angry.  Even if he’s angry with me.

Mental health support is vital. The village cannot survive without it. I’m doing my part.

Namaste.

Share this: name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> Read More

A Follow-Up…

Posted by on Mar 13, 2012 | 8 comments

A Follow-Up…

I’ve had a lot of responses to  yesterday’s post about Jack’s “new” diagnosis, and I’ve been thinking about what it is that’s bothering me the most.  A comment this morning hit it on the head:

“It sounds like your son has adapted to may things and so those who tested him determined his diagnosed could be ‘updated’. I think the autistic traits remain, the kiddos just learn to blend in to what is expected of them socially, etc.”

I read this and it struck me.  I’m afraid, because, in my mind, Jack hasn’t evolved out of autism.  I believe he’s every bit as autistic as the day he was diagnosed, he’s just older.

Jack is a brilliant product of Early Intervention, which means we threw all kinds of therapies at him as quickly as possible.  And you know what?  They worked.  But he still has autism, and that means several things.

It means that while he keeps up with his peers in school in terms of schoolwork, he simply cannot function in a school setting without constant supervision (he has a full-time SEA).  His teacher is out for the rest of the school year due to surgery, and I fully expect Jack to backslide until he gets used to the change.

Jack is easily overwhelmed by stimuli, and we have to plan our lives around that.  We rarely do things after school, as he needs that time to decompress from his day.  There are many places we cannot go, because of various things that bother/irritate/terrify him (like the buzzers at the hockey rink adjacent to the indoor playground).

He is hyper verbal, to the point that he thinks every conversation is directed at him, and if he has something to say, he will do anything, including screaming at the top of his lungs, until he gets the floor. We’ve recently realized that giving him simple math problems will buy us enough time to finish our quick discussion about what to get at the store.

Jack has to be constantly engaged at home or he gets restless.  This can mean anything from doing laps of the house to throwing his brothers down the stairs for sport.  His aggression has increased with his age, and in a house full of boys, that’s a scary prospect.

Jack does not understand social boundaries. He will hug and touch complete strangers, and not grasp why it’s wrong.  This particular behavior really scares me.

I honestly don’t believe Jack is “out of autism”.  I think he’s smarter than the ADOS.  I think he had a “good” day for his assessment.  I can tell you if they had assessed him based on his behavior on the way home, there would have been no question.

I identify with autism because I am an autism mom.  Yes, my child is high functioning, but he still has autism.  Every day brings a new challenge, and every day is exhausting. Jack and I both need the services he’s getting, and then some.  I’ve been waiting patiently for a year and a half to re-start his home-based ABA therapy, and the prospect of never getting it wrenches my stomach.

I realize now I’m clinging to the autism label as a lifeline, because that’s what it is.  I know my child responds to therapies, that part is obvious.  The prospect of facing a future without support, though, terrifies me.

I feel exactly the same way I did when Jack was initially diagnosed, except now there’s an additional layer of panic. I cannot let autism be taken away from us.  I just can’t.

A delicate balance.

Share this: name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> Read More

Autism by Any Other Name…

Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 | 11 comments

Autism by Any Other Name…

What’s in a label?  I mean, really?  I know the whole “a rose by any other name…” spiel, but I also know that sometimes labels are there for a reason.  Sometimes the label helps you to understand what’s inside the package a little better.

It’s been four and a half years since we first had Jack assessed by Early Intervention in Los Angeles and we took the first steps on this journey of a lifetime together.  It’s been three and a half years since he was formally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, autism or ASD for short.

At the time, I had mixed feelings about my child being “labeled”.  I knew that with a formal diagnosis of autism the doors of opportunity would magically open for Jack, and he would be supported both at school and socially, at least through early adulthood.  I also knew that for some people in his life, a label served to “explain” Jack a little bit, and made it easier to understand him.

On the flip side, labeling a child for life can be a harsh thing.  Jack will forever carry a stamp on his forehead, or so I thought at the time, that will cause people to judge my child before he has a chance to show his true self.  This reality shattered me and broke me to my very core.  No parent wants their child to suffer, especially for something he can’t change.

I had no idea how we, he, would reconcile these two very different aspects of the one little word, autism.

What I, we, discovered, is a whole new world just waiting for us with open arms.  People who helped us see the beauty in the chaos, the light in the sometimes profound darkness.  Therapists, teachers, professionals, parent, people who have been walking the same path for a while, and those who have just begun.  People who understood the strangeness that is our reality now, and don’t think it’s actually that strange.  People who cheer things others take for granted.  People who laugh with us at the absurdity of it all.   We found community.

Launching this site definitely helped me.  I started it with the intention of sharing my deliriously funny child with the world, and got so very much more in return.  The inkling of an idea I had in the beginning was reinforced in spades: autism is a gift.  For Jack, for me, for our family.

So, four and a half years on, we are at peace.  Autism is still quite often a daily struggle, but it’s also an integral part of our family.  There are so many experiences and people and perspectives we might never have been exposed to had autism never entered our lives.  I have said it many times before, and I will say it again now: I will go to the ends of the earth to alleviate the things about autism that are painful, hard and stressful for Jack, but I will not wish for him to be “normal”. Jack is the person he is because of autism, and he is beautiful.

A leap into the future.

We are at peace.  Well, we were.  Not now.

We moved to Canada a year and a half ago, and we love it here.  The children are happy, mama and daddy are happy, the family is happy.  It was a good move.

When we got here, Jack was immediately taken in by his new school, and once they assessed his situation, he was given full support.  He transferred to the school near our home this year (he had been on the wait list), and they welcomed him with open arms and a full-time SEA (special education assistant).  He is in the grade one French Immersion program and doing really well.  He’s had no support outside of school, though, because that requires funding from the British Columbia provincial government.  In order to get that, Jack needed to be diagnosed again by a Canadian doctor.  Not a problem, we thought, the only issue is a possible year-long wait list.

We had no idea the wait would be the least of our problems.

The clinic in our area that does the autism assessments contacted us a couple of weeks ago and I began a conversation with a wonderful caseworker.  She requested copies of many of Jack’s reports, IEP’s, etc., so I started scanning and emailing forms.  I think I sent well over a hundred pages out of my four-inch-thick “big book of Jack”, which includes every report, letter, IEP and piece of paper concerning autism that I’ve collected since we started all of this back in August of 2007.

In the interim, I was hearing horror stories from other local parents about how their children had been misdiagnosed with ADHD or not diagnosed at all for years.  Parents who finally, in desperation, paid thousands of dollars out of pocket to hire private clinics to take a closer look at their child and give a more accurate diagnosis.

I was nervous, but held firm to the belief that we’d be fine.  After all, Jack was formally diagnosed by not just one, but two doctors, completely independent of one another.  He has had years of occupational therapy and speech therapy, spent three years in collaborative preschools with special education teachers, had a year of in-home ABA therapy, and has always had a full-time support person in school (Behavioral Interventionist in the US, SEA in Canada).  He has been supported by the Lanterman Regional Center, Working With Autism (for both BI and ABA support), several independent occupational therapy centers, and the Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD). No less than 22 full-time professionals in the last four years have worked with and for Jack.

Every one of these people have and continue to support Jack (including several in Los Angeles, who I consider to be his “team”, and I consult before any big decisions, like putting him into French Immersion).  My husband and I have worked hard.  Jack has, and does work hard.  It’s an ongoing job, and it’s paying off.

Evidently, too well.

The wonderful woman I was in contact with at the clinic here in BC thought of us when a cancellation came up last week, and we scrambled and made the appointment, mere hours after she called.  It was a simple assessment, just another ADOS.  Jack didn’t have school that day due to a teachers’ strike, and he was excited to go play games and work puzzles.  He was engaged.

The doctor’s verdict shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did. She said he “barely met her parameters” for autism, and she was more inclined toward PDD. My heart sank, tears welled in my eyes.

In California, as with many of the United States, PDD does not count as “real” autism.  Close, but no cigar.

All I could think was that all the years of hard work led us to this.  There is no cure for autism, but I guess if you’re close enough to “pass”, you can fall off the spectrum and get shut out of the community.

Both the doctor and caseworker were very quick to assure me that in Canada, PDD and ASD are treated the same.  They both receive the same funding and the same designation from the government. There was still some discussion as to whether they would push for a speech evaluation and more thorough psych exam, but for the moment at least, I was assuaged.

I slept on it for a few days, and became less so.  I realized that I was not, in fact ok with this new diagnosis.  I am very far from ok with it.  My child has autism, not PDD.  I know this.  Everyone who knows Jack knows this.  How can all of the people who have worked so closely with him for so long be wrong? I thought of all the things I didn’t mention in my part of the interview, all the obstacles he’s overcome, all of the “bad” things we’ve dealt with.  I wondered if perhaps I had gotten too cocky and Jack had had too “good” a day.  A perfect storm of neurotypicality, if you will.

After a sleepless night hashing it over in my mind, I sent the caseworker an email asking, politely, that they pursue the additional assessments.  I explained that I understand their position, but in my mind, autism just doesn’t disappear.  I don’t know how much influence I had in the decision, but within a day I got the call that they would, in fact, be going ahead with the evaluations.

I felt some relief, yet a nagging voice in my brain just wouldn’t quit. “I’m not ok,” it said. “I need it to be autism.”

Why?  Why am I so afraid of losing autism?  Why am I afraid of losing what is essentially just a label?  Jack will still be the same person he’s always been, whether his file says “autism” or “PDD” or “purple-winged boogie monster”.  He will still be my hilarious, socially-challenged but eternally endearing, beautiful boy.  Jack will not change without autism.

Or will he? In my mind, he, we, will lose identity.  Community.  Future. When Jack was first diagnosed, I took a deep breath and told myself “here we go, this is his/our life now”.  I never dreamed that would change.  Sure, I expected and hoped for him to adapt and learn and in some ways acclimate, but I never thought for a second the autism would go away.  That just doesn’t happen.

And there it was.  I need autism now.  It’s a part of me. It’s who Jack is, it’s who I am as Jack’s mama, it’s who we are as a family.  Autism joined our family the same day Jack did, and it’ll be with us just as long.

And I suppose if the official diagnosis stands at PDD, not much will change.  Life as we know it will roll on, and Jack will continue to be hilarious and socially-challenged and endearing. And I will stubbornly cling to the name of this website.

In the end, it’s just another stop on our journey together.  Autism really is a trip.

The family that autism built.

*************************************************

**UPDATE**

I had a few more thoughts on this, so make sure you read the follow-up here.

Share this: name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> Read More