Macbeth and Autism…Oh My

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Bottom line is the boy is sixteen years old.

SIXTEEN.

By now you’d think I’d be able to see these things coming.  You would think, after sixteen years, the gobsmacking would not still take me by absolute surprise and leave me speechless.  You would think this would be the case but…NOPE.

I will tell you that as of Monday, when your spectrum kiddo begins to speak of Shakespeare and Macbeth, it becomes something similar to a freeze frame moment where the mom’s brain freezes into a slow motion thing and then it takes a while for everything to really sink in.  It’s been sinking in since Monday…. ever since my sophomore-in-high-school, regular-ed-classes-with-NO-assistance-spectrum-kiddo and I had this conversation on the way to school on Monday….

Me: So what do you have going on today?  Tests? Quizzes? Anything special?

Him: Nothing really that I can think of.

Me: Okay.

Him: Oh wait.  Did I tell you what happened in English?

Me: No.

Him: On Friday my teacher told me I got the highest test on the Macbeth final.

Me: Wow? Really?

Him: Yeah, I got the highest grade in A-L-L of her classes.

I. Kid. You. Not.

And this is where mom goes into that gobsmacking, freeze frame, s-l-o-w motion, speechless, jaw hanging open kind of moment.  And, yes, after sixteen years you’d think I’d be better at this and it would not take me by absolute surprise and leave me gobsmacked but….M-a-c-b-e-t-h and S-h-a-k-e-s-p-e-a-r-e with thee and thy and thou and inferences and hidden meanings all mixed with autism and speech processing delays and a boy who has always held a general dislike of books.   Because we’re still trying to master new English and this is Olde English. And this is the same boy who does not do chapter books with characters and emotions, developing plots and keeping track of events.  This is the boy who only started reading library books in fourth grade when he discovered the scientific reference book section with books about spiders and reptiles.  Did I mention this is the same kiddo who had a “C”in English just a month or so back?  Yeah, same kiddo. So, of course, G-O-B-S-M-A-C-K-E-D, slow motion, freeze frame moment for the mom.

Me: W-O-W buddy.  That’s awesome.

Him: Yeah, but I’m not sure I made an A.

Me: Really?  I bet you made an A.

Him: Maybe everyone else just did bad?

Me: I don’t think so, buddy.  I bet you made an A.

Let that sink in, my friends.

 

ALWAYS.  ASSUME. COMPETENCE .

And, turns out, when I picked him up yesterday he let me know he DID indeed get an A on the Macbeth final.  Turns out the rest of the class did not do bad :). He just happened to do VERY well and when I contacted his teacher she tells me  it was an extremely challenging final that required a high level of recall and analysis and the spectrum kiddo set the grading curve for ALL of her classes.

Yeah, that’s an unexpected and delightful moment. I’m also even more convinced than ever that different is not less.

Sparkle On, Wonder Souls.

 

 

Papa John’s for the Win

Johns pizza

There are just so many moments that you don’t expect. For as many years as we have been on this journey, the moments still leave me gobsmacked.
This is what happened this weekend….

Me: Your brother isn’t feeling well. I’m going to run into the UPS store to mail a package to your sister. Would you two feel like eating a pizza?

Spectrum kiddo: Yeah. That sounds great. I can go order the pizza, Mom.

And that’s the moment.
That moment that becomes a combination of overwhelming pride swirling with a smallish rumble of anxiety that mix awkwardly as the waves of pride and anxiety crash together unexpectedly. It hits me hard but I also know he is watching me and waiting for my answer so I casually catch my breath.

There is no reason to tell him “no” and every reason to say “yes” but it’s something we haven’t done before so, after I catch my breath and readjust my thought process, I answer him. The UPS store is one store away from John’s Incredible Pizza and it’s a quiet day so I say the thing that still scares the mom in me.

I tell him without any visible hesitation, “Yeah, that sounds great.”

I hand him the money and I watch my son walk away…in the opposite direction of me… as though this is our norm. Every one in that part of the world could look at us and not know any difference. They could think this IS our norm but I know. I know this is our first time and I need to steady my mom nerves so I overpower any residual helicopter tendencies and let him walk away…on his own…just like any other sixteen year old boy. And, surprisingly, I keep right on breathing and the world does not even stop spinning.

And, just like any sixteen year old…. he orders the pizza, pays for the pizza and walks out of that pizza joint like a boss with the exact kind of pizza he ordered and change in hand…like this is something we always do. And I casually acknowledge the accomplishment on the outside because I don’t want to embarrass him but, inside, I’m screaming and smiling as bright and big as the whole darn sun.

Thank you, Papa John’s Pizza for an unexpected milestone in our life. The person at the cash register probably never knew the sale was anything out of the ordinary and they treated my spectrum kiddo just like they would anyone else…with kindness and understanding…just like it should be. It was simple and profound and a moment I will not ever forget and perhaps the beginning of a whole new level of his independent life.

‪#‎neverforgetthefirst‬
‪#‎PapaJohnsforthewin‬
‪#‎screamingontheinside‬
‪#‎thebeginningofhislife‬

Sparkle On, my friends.

On the Bright Side

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I get that not everyone sees autism as a blessing.
I don’t agree necessarily but I get it and I believe everyone feels what they feel based on their own experience.  For me, I can only speak for our journey.  I do believe autism has been a blessing and a gift.

What concerns me most is that if you go about your journey, seeing autism as a negative and not a blessing, you not only lessen the grace, value and blessing of the autistic individual but, while you are bundled up tight in your blanket of pity, deep inside that fog of woe-is-me, you might just miss the good stuff.

I think we can agree…the sparkles don’t always announce themselves in neon.

Sometimes they quietly tip toe in and hope someone is looking on the bright side.

If you expect and see the worst, I’m pretty darn sure you’ll find it..BUT…if you look on the bright side you just might find the sparkles will surprise you.

Which side are you looking on?

Sparkle On, my friends.

The REAL Joy of Yosemite

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This trip we took to Yosemite was amazing and beautiful and stunning… not only because Yosemite is a series of natural wonders but, honestly, because my boy, once again, left me gobsmacked.

As you might recall….
My boy at three did not speak.
My boy at three was expected to have significant delays and his outlook was not going to be rosy according to his medical eval.
My boy at four was labeled difficult and impossible and defiant by the psych at the elementary school who was trying to evaluate him.
My boy at seven was offered a spot BACK in SPED because he was not easy or simple or perfect.
My boy, in those elementary years, rarely had a smiley face day.
My boy at eight screamed for two hours under a desk while the class was evacuated and I was called because the principal and teacher could not resolve the issue (that’s a whole other post.).
My boy at eleven was not expected to remain independent as he transitioned to middle school.

I promise you, this journey has not been simple or easy. This journey has not been filled with a line of people waiting to support or embrace us. It has been a fight and a struggle from day one to raise expectations and goals so that my boy could grow into the man he has the capabilities to be…if others would open their eyes.

He is different NOT less.

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Today he is 15 and, in Yosemite, do you know how much he needed my assistance? NONE.

  • It was the first night we’ve ever spent in a hotel where my boy simply WENT TO SLEEP. No drama, no ultra-awakeness, no agitation.
  • In the very cold weather, he explored…no complaints, no tantrums. Just a boy in the woods.
  • When the chili on his chili dog was not mine AND extra spicy, he never once complained.
  • And, in the morning at the very fancy Ahwahnee, we sat down in the fancypants dining room for breakfast…a buffet. A b-u-f-f-e-t. And when my boy said he wanted to get more pancakes, I had this gut reaction moment when I was going to get up to go with him…but I stopped myself..and I held my breath a bit…and I let my son go like any other 15 year old boy.
    And you know what?
    Along with all the other people, in the line going the right direction, my boy dealt with life in the buffet line ALONE…with no bumps or stumbles or corrections from the public.

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Just my boy…being the man he is becoming.

He is needing me less and less and although those apron strings are hard to untie, it’s very, very good to see him becoming this man I wasn’t sure he’d ever have the capabilities to be…but he does and he is and I am darn proud.

Wonder Souls…don’t ever forget…Who they are at two and three and four and seven ISN’T who they’ll be at thirteen and fifteen. This journey is a process…just keep teaching and supporting and loving.

Sparkle On, my friends.

Autism, Apologies and Spiced Rum

Clever lives in my home.

It does and if I didn’t always know this before, I am coming to understand lately just how immense the levels of clever really are that surround me.  What I learned today, with one apology letter, is that clever and resourcefulness walk hand in hand with autism.

As I told you several weeks back our family has,despite all kicking and screaming, gone “electronics free” this summer.  Sounds simple but it has been a bit more eye opening than I’d expected when I first reclaimed the electronics in my house and decided to ask my teens to reinstate their social skills and actually interact with people once again.  Once upon a time, when kiddos were younger and mom declared our lives electronics free, GREAT things happened.  Kids played, kids built, kids explored.  It was beautiful.  Not so much this time as, sadly, teenagers are different creatures.  Electronics-free-lives are NOT easy to live and teenagers without electronics are a whole other level of parenting.  I truly believe that a “free-and-unrestricted-use-of-electronics” parenting policy is the easy way out.  I now FULLY understand why no one EVER declares their teens lives electronics free.  It’s NOT pretty, my friends.

When I fixed my tea and headed out to sit on my patio swing this morning, playing I-Spy was the farthest thing from my mind.  It’s not something we do anymore.  My children are teens and one tween and they no longer indulge mom’s remember-when kid-kind-of-games.  So, sitting on my swing, I found myself reluctantly engaged in an unexpected game of Solitaire-I-Spy.  Yeah.  I was playing I-Spy alone.

Innocently swinging with my chai tea,  I was watching my boy scootering by at a distance beyond the pool and this was supposed to be the zen part of my day. Reluctantly, the I-Spyer in me spied what appeared to be a rectangular shaped bulge in the right front pocket of his hand-me-down Volcoms.  Please remember all rectangular metal devices have been confiscated by the mom and are bagged up and in the top of MY closet…or so I thought.  Apparently, with the level of clever that surrounds me, I should have bought a lockable safe.

Discovering I had not chosen my hiding place well at all went something like this:

(I refrained from any “I spy with my little eye” verbiage because the boy is now 14 and that would only irritate the moment even more)

  • Mom: Buddy, is there something in your front pocket?
  • Spectrum kiddo: No there isn’t.
  • Mom: Buddy.  I can see from here there IS something in your pocket.  Let’s think about this before we start digging our hole deeper with a lie.  Is there a Nintendo in your pocket?
  • Spectrum kiddo: No, Mom.
  • Mom: Buddy.  You need to empty that pocket.  Please tell me you didn’t take your Nintendo out of my room.
  • Spectrum kiddo: Well how is it stealing anyway when it already belongs to ME?

He then pulls the Nintendo out of his pocket.

Wonder Souls, never doubt that electronics are an addiction.

All of this is simply back story for this apology letter my boy was asked to write.  Let me say in his defense, his writing suffers when he is angry and he was angry that he had to write.  And, in my own defense, as many of you know, I’m not a drinker but I AM a baker and I make an excellent bread pudding with rum sauce but that bottle has been in that top cabinet for four years.  Let me also say, the spectrum kiddo is apparently quite skilled at getting the last word in AND changing the subject.

Skill level= MASTER.

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I personally blame Martha:

http://www.marthastewart.com/286017/bread-pudding-with-rum-sauce

Lessons learned this week in my home: Clever lives in my home, electronics ARE an addiction, and I apparently hide the rum about as well as I hide the electronics.

Sparkle On, my friends.!

A Love Letter to Nintendo…

Game On

I understand there is a very popular philosophy these days that says electronics and video games are evil and that Nintendo and wii are ruining today’s youth. Yeah, I don’t always agree but I get it. I personaly wonder if the grown-up-blame-throwers ever calculate how many hours they themselves spend in front of screens texting, Facebooking, and all day binge watching multi seasons of television shows . Kids are no different than adults, in my opinion, their screens are just smaller.

But…here’s the thing…

I seriously need to send Nintendo a thank you note. No, really, a ginormous thank you.

For years, nearly a decade, my boy and I have battled over electronics.  My wanting him to get outside and play and him wanting to stay in the cool house and play Nintendo and wii.  Don’t worry, I always win because, as the adult, I can confiscate the electronics.  But, after many years, you get tired of having to force the child to go outside.  It gets tiring to always be the bad guy, always being the one to take the electronics away or severely limit them.  After a while, you’d like to not fight about electronics.

And that is why I am writing today.  I honestly need to thank Nintendo for bringing a new found peace to my home and to my parenting game.

It appears, in a crazy turn of events, that Nintendo’s games, Sonic Generations and Street Pass, actually require “play coins”. Play coins!! And do you know how you get “play coins?” You have to play!!! Yeah, after my glue-the-face-to-the-screen-while-sitting-on-the-couch boy went outside to “scooter” in the SUNSHINE for half an hour on three different occasions, I asked him what was going on. Not that it bothered me but, after years of couch sitting and mom having to force the outdoor play, I will admit it confused me.  So, like I said, I asked him what he was doing.

My boy then informed me, “I’m scootering to get play coins.”

Thank you, Nintendo.

Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. You didn’t have to write that into your game program but parents everywhere are thankful <3. There IS method to the madness <3.
Sparkle On, my friends ❤