Category Archives: Autism Days

I cried on the way home

It happened last Friday after picking up my daughter from school.

Every day when I pick her up, I ask the open-ended “How was your day?” when she hops in the front seat. Unlike Jacob, who promptly gives me one word utterances when asked such preposterous questions, Emma knows what I want to know. Well, to be fair, Jacob also knows what I want to know, but chooses not to elaborate.

On Friday, when I picked Emma up, we exchanged the usual niceties. But when she got to sharing about her European History class (another post for another day), she told me there had been a substitute that day and they had been assigned an essay to complete during class time.

She said she was busily trying to complete the essay during the time allotted, but was finding herself distracted by a group of three boys in her class. I asked what they were doing that was so distracting.

“Well, Mom, there is this boy in my class who I know has some special needs. He reminds me a lot of Jacob actually. A lot. His name is Alex.” *

“In what way does he remind you of Jacob?”

“Well, he talks to himself a lot like Jacob does. And he gets really upset sometimes, like when he misses something on a quiz. He will bang on his desk or be flipping though the pages of his textbook saying, ‘That’s not fair! That wasn’t in the reading!!’ or something like that.”

“Yeah, that does sound a lot like Jacob back in the day.”

“Yeah, well, it wasn’t Alex who was so distracting. Today, these other boys in the class were being really loud talking to each other and one of them was all the way across the room. And, well, they were making fun of Alex, Mom.”

<Insert the sound of a record scratching and the world coming to a screeching halt HERE>

“They were what??”

“They were totally making fun of him. I guess I never noticed it before because Mr. L is always talking or we are having a class discussion.”

“What do you mean? What were they saying?”

“Stuff like, ‘Ooooh, watch out! I bet Alex is gonna get all rage-y today’ and then, Alex got up to sharpen his pencil and when he was walking by, they said, ‘Oooh, I hope sharpening his pencil doesn’t send him into one of his rages!’”

Here is where I started to lose it.

I was so upset at the thought of this happening. I know bullying goes on every day in every single school setting (and non-school setting) in this nation. Not only to kids with autism but also to scrawny, nerdy, overweight, effeminate, unpopular, shy, or <fill in your own adjective here> kids.

But, y’all, this hit me in such a tender spot.

That could have been Jacob.

It could have been your kid. Maybe it is your kid. Maybe it was you when you were a kid.

I could feel myself going off the deep end.

“That is just so wrong! Do you think Alex heard them? Do you think he realizes they are making fun of him?”

“Yeah. He was kinda glaring at them as he was at the pencil sharpener.”

I was totally weeping now and babbling incoherently about Emma needing to tell those guys that they were a bunch of ignorant jerks and needed to cut it out. And how if she didn’t feel comfortable doing that, that I would email Mr. L and tell him myself.

Emma was giving me the “uh-oh, Mom’s really lost it this time” look.

And I think I had lost it.

“This, THIS, is why I will never, ever regret not sending Jacob to that place!” I said through my tears.

My heart was breaking, knowing that, without the one-on-one assistant Jacob had in public school from third grade through eighth grade, it would have been him. He would have been relentlessly bullied. I know it. Regardless of my mama bear interference.

And my heart was breaking for Alex.

A boy who is obviously capable of doing AP European History level work. Who has as much right to be in that classroom as those other boys. Who doesn’t deserve the treatment he was receiving.

I wondered if Alex’s mom was aware that this is happening. I wondered if it had been Jacob, would someone have spoken up for him? I wanted to go punch those three jerk-y kids in the throat.

But then, I know that ignorance and insecurity drive kids to say and do such things. And my insane knee-jerk behavior would not be the right response.

And so, I haven’t taken any action—yet. But for six days I have not been able to get Alex out of my mind.

I just keep asking myself, who will speak for Alex? WHO?

This past Sunday morning as we were worshipping in a church we have visited a couple of times, I noticed a family walk in just a couple of minutes late and and get situated on the front row. Emma looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Mom, that’s Alex! That’s the kid in my history class!”

My eyes started welling up again. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I fought to regain my composure as I watched Alex.

I do not believe in coincidence. Though I did not meet up with Alex and his family that day, I am thinking our paths will cross again.

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We—collectively—have a responsibility to these kids. Both the bullied and the bullies. The bullied need to be loved, protected, empowered and encouraged. The bullies need to be held accountable and taught how to love themselves and how to respect others who are not like them. We have a responsibility to love on them both and to teach them about what love is—about WHO love is.

Bullies definitely need to be held accountable for their actions. They also need to be shown that there is a different way. I ask you, who will love the bullies enough to hold them accountable? Who will love them enough to tell them they don’t have to be that way?

We have a responsibility to teach our kids to friend the friendless, to stand up for the ones who can not or will not stand up for themselves. We must teach our kids to speak truth, to stand up for truth and for what is right. If enough kids do that, then the voices of the bullies will be silenced and kids like Alex will be more free to be who God created them to be.

*name has been changed

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Change is good. Days 11 & 12

30 days of thankfulnessIt is safe to say that I am not a fan of change. (Really though, do you know anybody who is??) I like to know “the plan”. I like when things go according that plan.

Now, that is not to say that I can’t roll with change when it happens, because I can, and do, on a daily basis. But that does not mean I am thrilled about it. I simply don’t love it.

Some changes I can totally get behind, though.

The recent time change is one of those things. I am a big fan of that! No, I don’t love that it is dark at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, but I DO love that it is beautifully bright and shiny at 6:50 a.m. when I am driving my daughter to school! It really does something for me.

I also love to see my kids grow and change.

Jacob, nearly 18 and a home school senior this year, went to a PARTY this weekend. If you’ve been around here for any time at all, you know that Jacob has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is part of the autism spectrum, and he is not a super social guy. So, to say that he went to a party, well, that is saying a mouthful! He has come so far.

Four years ago, due to his severe sound sensitivity, there is no way he would have gone to that party.

No way, y’all. 

But my Jacob of today, my child who has worked so hard to grow into the young man he is now, decided he would go. So, I dropped him off there. And when the Hub and I arrived to pick him up, he was standing around the bonfire with about six other teenagers. Laughing. Talking. You know, doing regular teenager-y things.

As we walked up, one of the girls saw us and said, “Oh, no, you don’t have to go now, do you, Jacob?” <secret mother smile here> We did not leave right away and as we stood around, we watched one of the girls tossing marshmallows in the air for Jacob to catch. We watched one of the other boys jam a crazy number of marshmallows in his mouth just to see how many he could get in there, while all the other kids were egging him on and cracking up. And while he’s doing that, in my mind, I’m trying to figure out how I would clear his airway when it got blocked with all those marshmallows. <Oh, so THIS is what typical teens act like? Okay, then.> Jacob had a great time.

Today, I got an email from Jacob’s doctor: the amazing woman, who is a child/adolescent psychiatrist, and one of the instruments God has used to help Jacob deal with his anxiety and sensory challenges. She was just checking in and wondering if we might schedule a yearly appointment with her. 

What? It’s been a year since we saw her? No, wait, it’s been more than a year, in fact. Things have changed that much. Things are going that well that we haven’t even thought about needing to go visit her.

In her email, she said this about Jacob: “I use his success as an example when I am talking to folks that have hearing sensitivity.”

Whoa.

Jacob’s story could possibly encourage another person who is suffering like he was? God-willing! Yes!

My heart is filled with so much gratitude. Thank You, Lord! Thank You for using this thing, which was so horrible for Jacob and for our family in those darkest of moments, to give hope and encouragement to someone else!

Thank God that He allowed us to find this doctor who was able to help us—not just Jacob, but our whole family.

I am so thankful that Jacob persevered and went to go do those hard and scary things so that he could get through them, and then each time he did go to Wal-mart, or a movie, or a restaurant, or the fair, or classes at the co-op without earplugs, it got progressively easier.

I am so thankful that, by the grace of God, I have been able to step away and let some of those hard and scary things happen. MAN, that is so, so hard! Just call me El Presidente…that is, Presidente of the Helicopter Moms Society! Yes, it was hard to take a (huge) step  back. But so worth it. And it gives me so much hope for the future for my son.

There was a time when I could never imagine that Jacob would be where he is today. Oh, I never lost hope and I believed it could be, but I could not imagine it.

And yet, here we are.

Yes, change is good. I can’t wait to see what is next.

 

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” -Andre Gide

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November again. Day 1

November arrived this morning. I know I shouldn’t be surprised; the rest of this year has somehow managed to fly past in a crazy speed of light kind of way.

With November comes the bloggy time of year I like to call, 30 Days of Thankfulness. I try to write each day about the things I am thankful for, and I love it, not only because I am living in a gratitude state of mind, but also because I get back into the habit of writing…a habit which has been lacking of late!

Yesterday was Halloween. We have always participated in this holiday, mostly for the fun of coming up with creative and fun costumes, but let’s be for real…it’s really for the candy haul, of course.

Maybe you are aware that my children are 17 and 14. They still love to dress up. And I am glad. It helps me feel like I can still cling to something of childhood. (Yes, I struggle with letting my babies grow up…)

Unfortunately, this year, they both said they were not going trick-or-treating. Yes, friends, the days of trick-or-treating are apparently over en mi casa. <sad face here> Emma said, “Mom, I think I’ll dress up and just stay home and give out candy.”

Um, okay.

So, that is what we did. And by we, I mean, Sherlock Holmes and Katniss Everdeen and Hubby and me.

Halloween '12 Sherlock and Katniss

It’s always a little hectic when Halloween falls on a weekday. We are rushing around trying to get the costumes on and the candy in the bowl and the pumpkins carved—major fail on that this year, by the way.

In the midst of all our final preparations, I heard the doorbell ring. Jacob headed to the door to greet the little kiddies. I was still in the kitchen and I heard him open the door. I could hear voices as he opened it. Jacob likes to withhold the candy until he hears the magic words: Trick-or-Treat!!! Obviously, Jacob did not hear what he wanted to hear and the transaction was not going as expected. Then, I heard a kindred mama’s voice say about her sweet child, “He doesn’t understand. You see, he’s autistic.”

There was a pause and then:

“I do understand. I have Asperger’s.”

It was Jacob’s voice.

My precious son, who never talks about his autism, spoke these words to a mama who had probably taken a lot of time to prepare her little boy with social stories and lots of practice about what to expect when trick-or-treating  and practice saying “trick-or-treat” and “please and thank you” and  lots of anxiety on her part about how the evening would go.

Been there, done that.

“Oh, okay.” I heard the other mama say. And I could hear the smile and gratitude in her voice.

Jacob gave the little guy some candy.

My heart swelled. My eyes welled up.

My boy.

He is coming into his own. He understands himself. He is growing up. He related his own struggles to the struggles of someone else. Wow.

He is amazing.

I am so thankful for the incredible gift of my son.

Halloween '12 006

 

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV

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