The Joy of the Fall Aparts


Not everyday with autism is a good day.

It’s just that way.  We have our ups and downs.  Don’t get me wrong…my boy has his strong points.  He is a funny guy.  He is sensitive, he loves snakes and spiders, he is good at electronics, a guru with Legos, a wiz at Nintendo, an ace with the IPod he saved up for and the boy has a memory like a steel trap when it comes to movies and directors and the voices of actors from animated flicks.  He is good at lots of things.

That said, he is not so hot in the outdoor arena. Getting hot and sweaty on purpose?  No thank you.

Though we do have the bug area conquered, the great outdoors, playing sports, being competitive, playing with other kids socially is just not our long suit.  It is who we are.  As a parent, I have tried to reel in the electronics and force the outdoor adventures and, I will admit, some days are better than others.  I find that bartering works quite well.  Electronics become incentives to be earned through good behavior while outdoor activities become the “alternative” activity when the good choices are not embraced at school to earn electronic minutes.  It’s not a perfect system but it is working.

So, under the heading of Marilyn’s quote, “Some things fall apart so better things can fall together,” Monday was one of those “fall aparts.”

It goes like this…On Monday, autism won.

We have fought hard to be where we are…in regular education class, full time, with no pull out or resource minutes.  I will say it has not been easy.  We did not start out there.  We started out in special ed, full time and with no one urging us to set our goals on anything but special ed for the rest of our life.  There have also been some choice moments, after leaving special ed, when administrators wanted us back there but, we persevered and we have remained steadfast in regular ed.  I’ll give you the short version for now and just say last year was not a very good year for us academically, socially or behaviorally but, as we do, we hung in there.  This year, after some major battling, has been better and most days this year has even, dare i say it out loud, been quite pleasant.  But, as it is with autism, some days are just better than others.

Yesterday was one of the less better days.

Math class was our nemesis yesterday.  In math, my boy chose to not show his work on paper (because he does it in his head instead and then ignores the teachers directives to show how he got his answer), he then chose to read his Garfield book during math after the teacher asked him to put it away, and after finally putting the reading book away he dawdled around another fifteen minutes out of his seat, blowing his nose and sharpening his pencil.  To say the least, his teacher was NOT impressed.

Let me also mention, his teacher is a fabulous man and an amazing teacher so when I finally get an email home…I knew my boy had pushed a whole load of buttons on the poor man.  We own those moments and I try hard to find incentives to turn our behavior back around.

And, so it went…and when my boy got home we had the obligatory talk about why he would not be visiting any of his electronic friends until he made some better choices.  There have been moments when those conversation have not gone well but Monday went fairly smoothly.  No melt downs, no tantrums, no fits.  He knew it was coming and, as he has matured with age, he took responsibility for what he had done.  It has not always been that way so after I held my breath, I jumped for joy and smiled from ear to ear…inside my own head of course.

The moment then presented itself where the boy would have to fill his non-electronic time with some unpreferred alternative activity which is sometimes a bit of a challenge.  In warmer weather, the pool is a no brainer since he is a good swimmer.  All those Medina Rec Center pool hours on snowy days when he was three to enhance his verbal abilities paid off in spades with great swimming abilities.  The warm water is starting to leave the pool and Monday was indeed sunny but the pool water is not quite warm enough to put a body into.

As he and I finished our conversation, his little brother ran out the door to join the fifth grade group of neighborhood boys who had assembled on our street and he quickly rode off on his bike as other typical kids would do on a sunny day.  And, then, as I pondered what we would do next, my seventh grade autism spectrum son, as nonchalantly and out of character as can be, asks me, “Can I ride my bike, Mom?”

I had to catch my breath and remember my words, as well as hide my shock, when I answered, “You betcha, buddy.  Hop on.”  I tried to pretend as though I was not concerned as I watched him grab his unused helmet, hop on the yellow Hummer bicycle that his Poppy bought him four years ago that is still in mint condition, and roll his wheels into the street with the other boys his brother goes to school with.  And, just as normal as can be, he began to ride up and down the street with eight other children as though it was just another day on the street with the neighborhood kids.  And, thankfully, the other kids could not feel my nervousness and they simply rode along side their friend’s brother as though it was just another day in the neighborhood.

I took a deep breath and I sat back down in my drive way chair and I tried not to fall into one of those mom puddle of tears. I tried to be just another mom on the street watching her kids play in the sunshine.  Inside I knew this was a God moment.  I knew it was a gift.  It was one of those moments that I would always cherish.  It was one of those days when it all had to fall apart so something better could fall together….and fall together it did.  And, truthfully, if you get too stuck in the falling apart part, it’s hard to allow the better stuff to fall together.  Autism is like that for us.  There are moments when the world seems dark and if you get too mired down in the muck you don’t allow yourself to notice the ray of sunshine that is forming on your own horizon.  There are going to be fall apart days but they are just another avenue or window into something else better and more brilliant that is trying to fall together.

Today at school was a good day and the boy earned his electronics.  The really terrific thing is that even though he earned the good stuff, he still came home and immediately joined his brother and the neighborhood boys on bikes in the street.  I am not sure if this will hold out.  I do not delude myself but I sure am enjoying watching him blossom socially and physically for now.  I realize he is still an electronics guru but I appreciate that he is enjoying this new experience.  I am also trying to be thankful for the fall apart days and remember that the dark moments have light too.

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