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Friday, February 27, 2015

Pimp Slapped

I woke up this morning thinking, Wow! I thought the worst part was over. We made it through middle school. We made it through high school.  It was torture for him.  It was torture for me. It was torture for his teachers and administrators, but we made it!

I thought for sure the worst was behind us, but the reality of transition to adulthood has really just pimped slapped me in the face. Bam! This kid is kicking and screaming to hold on to childhood and it's just wearing me out.

According to Wiktionary.org this is the definition of pimp slap, in case you're not familiar.

  1. (slang, vulgar) A powerful slap to the face;[1]  [quotations ▼]

Usage notes[edit]

  • For some English speakers, there is a distinction between a pimp slap and a bitch slap, in which a pimp slap is backhanded (delivered with the back of the hand), while a bitch slap is openhanded (delivered with the palm of the hand). For most speakers, however, the two terms are synonymous, referring equally to either kind of slap.

Pimp slapping is carefully demonstrated here.

I sat in a meeting with his Job Coach, his Occupational Therapist, his Transition Teacher, the Transition Coordinator for the school district, myself and his father yesterday to discuss his goals for his annual I.E.P.  He sat there with this scowl on his face like we were all there to persecute him instead of help him. He balked, and disagreed with every suggestion and offer of support. 

I'm like wow! All of these people are gathered here to help you darlin', not hurt you! We all want nothing but the best for you. But the bottom line is you have to want this for yourself! We can't want it for you! 

We left that meeting after almost 2 hours and went to an appointment with his doctor. He ended up yelling at me in front of her, right there, in her office. She was quite disturbed ...shocked even. I was like, Honey, this is normal. This is just an average day. 

We had a third meeting scheduled after that appointment. This one was Person Centered Planning, another group of mentors getting together to help him work on short-term goals. I knew he wouldn't make it through that meeting without exploding. I had him contact his facilitator to postpone it. 

When we got home, I got him to settle down, take a shower and relax a bit. We walked through some of the scenarios discussed during the day. He was able to come to terms with a few things and actually took some action.  He actually contacted his job to open up his schedule with more availability for work. The busier he is, the less time he has to get into trouble. 

That's just one of the changes that we are about to implement for him. 

By the time I hit my bed last night, I definitely felt like I had been pimp slapped followed by a swift kick in the a**! 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Today this happened...

"Oh crap!" I thought to myself when I got the phone call. When there is even the possibility of ice on the ground the world stops in Austin. Today was a 2 hour delay because we were below freezing and their was a little precipitation.  For Red's adult transition program, this would mean NO CLASS today.  

To top it off, I have to drive him to therapy. It's gray. It's cloudy. This is going to be hell. Or so I thought. 

Then this happened...

While I was having my coffee and avoiding contact with Red, he posted a status on Facebook to the attention of close friends and family. 

"I've been feeling really guilty lately because haven't been living the true Christian life like I'm supposed to. I haven't been reading my bible. I haven't been praying that often. I honestly haven't been paying attention in church. I haven't been excited and on fire for God like I was when I got out of church camp. I feel like I'm starting not to care as much about anything but myself. And that is not good. 

I've been a selfish arrogant fool to my loved ones and those who care about me. I don't know what is real anymore. Sometimes there are days where I don't want to believe in anything but I can't let Satan win. I just hope that I never loose my faith because sometimes I feel like he's not there. The faith is still there and I just need to grow my faith and trust God and the people he has put in my life. 

I've been struggling a lot at home and it's been getting worse and worse. It's getting to the point where I can't live there anymore. My parents are about to kick me out the house and I cannot let that happen. I've disappointed a lot of people. I have a lot of apologies to make. 

Usually, life takes more than it gives. To my family members and loved ones, I apologize for my arrogance and rudeness over the past few months but all I'm asking for is forgiveness. To anyone who is reading this, I'm asking for your prayers for me and my family. Thank you for your acceptance and forgiveness over my blunders. I love you guys so much." 

*Reposted with his permission. 

To which I replied, 

"You are an excellent writer son. You should stop being afraid to take college classes. I think you could do great. You seem to have your mother's talent for writing.  Now if you could only live this. You're living your life in fear instead of trusting God's plan for your life. 

By the way ...we don't want apologies. We get apologies all the time. We want progress. We want you to stop fighting against all of the help that you have in your life. We want to be treated with dignity and respect. This writing and self-reflection is great, but action is much better."

Now I don't know how much of this is real. What is scripted thought he's picked up from a song, or what he's heard someone say, but I don't care. It is a step in the right direction. And today was a good day. 

The Lesson I learned? 

Just because the ingredients are present, don't always assume it's going to be a recipe for the worse day ever. Be hopeful ...optimistic. You just may end up with chocolate chip cookies. 

Does that make any sense? Sorry. I have cookies on the brain. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blue 16

Dear Blue,

Sixteen years ago your unique, little soul came into my life. You were an easy, breezy baby. Curious by nature and naturally independent. You started trying to walk when you were 8 months old. You were successfully running by the time you were 10 months.  As soon as you started to get around, you were wrestling with your big brother.  I remember thinking, who taught this baby to do a headlock? 

You were a messy toddler, always climbing and getting into everything. You had an affinity for getting into things like lotion and baby powder. You once massaged my bedroom carpet with Vaseline. You were always climbing onto the counters and into my cabinets.  One time you climbed the pantry shelves and spilled the cooking oil all over the floor.

I always felt like an angel with wings followed you around because for all of your climbing, you never got hurt. One of the reasons you climbed is because, you did not want to ask for what you wanted. You wanted to get it yourself!

At 18 months, we moved up here to Austin and bought our first home. We put a gate on the stairwell to keep you safe upstairs, especially since you started climbing out of your baby bed.  I will never forget the day, you came to my room with a box of cereal. You had climbed over the gate, walked down the stairs,  climbed up to the top shelf of the pantry to get the cereal and then climbed back down. Then you climbed up the stairs cereal in tow, back over the gate and strolled into my room to wake me up.

Notice, you didn't wake me up to get the cereal for you! And that still hasn't changed. You continue to find your way through life.  No matter how much I want to and try to help you, you pretty much want to do most things on your own.  That quality will serve you well throughout your life.

You have always been a deep thinker, asking me questions about things that I've never even thought about. You have always had a strong interest in science and weather. You could be found, talking about politics while on the playground or in the swimming pool instead of playing. I remember once saying the words, "Stop talking about politics and go swim!" That was the year that President Obama was running for President. You and your best friend J, had some pretty interesting debates about that election.

That brings me to another point, despite your social challenges caused by autism, you have managed to connect to friends so deeply, that those friends remain in your life to this day.  You met the twins in pre-school. You all were 3 years-old.  Your friendship flourished over the years and in middle school it seemed to really take off.  Here we are 13 years later and you guys are still hanging. You're like brothers. And even through some challenging times in your lives, you guys have been there for each other, forgiven each other and continued to grow your relationship.

You met J. in the 3rd grade when you guys shared a class.  You advocated to help transport J. in his wheelchair to lunch and other activities.  Thankfully, he is stronger now and no longer needs to be pushed in a wheelchair. Even though the two of you are not in the same school anymore, you have remained close while going to different middle and high schools.  You made the effort to continue to call and make social plans with him on the weekends and throughout the summer. That speaks highly of your character.

You were always so different than your brother so for the longest, you went without a proper diagnosis. I knew that you had strong opinions and you really challenged some of your teachers. You were also insightful. In first grade you told me that your teacher didn't like you. That she never smiled at any of the boys in class.  She and I had to have a few chats and then I had to chat with her boss, the principal. By the end of the school year, you guys were pals. I saw her a few years later and she said, she still has your picture on her desk.

You frustrated the hell out of your 5th grade teacher. It was his first year teaching and you challenged him often. Because of course, you knew more than he did.

It was the years of fear and anxiety over thunderstorms that got me really worried about you. Do you remember hiding sometimes for days at a time, when there was even a threat of storms? By that time, your brother had been diagnosed with autism and though you were very different, I started to see some erie similarities.  I followed my instincts and had an evaluation.  We found that you too were on the spectrum.  It answered so many questions and it seemed to give you a sense of relief.  You wanted to read as much as you could about it so that you could understand why you felt so different.

You have made so much progress since then. The years of middle school that you found so daunting in the beginning, had you soaring through by the end. The fears and anxiety subsided tremendously! You began taking some advanced classes.  You started learning how to advocate for yourself with your teachers. By the time high school rolled around, you were ahead of the game having high school Spanish and Algebra under your belt.

The first year of high school was tough! But look at you now! You have started your very own club at school.  It has flourished to include those who just don't feel comfortable anywhere else ...whether they're on the spectrum, have ADHD or they just feel different. You include them and make them all feel that they are important.

You've built relationships with a number of mentors.  You seek out your natural supports and problem solve on your own! You are self-aware and set goals for yourself to work on your social skills.  You are your own advocate. No one has to tell you how to improve your life. You see something you want to change and you figure out a way to get it done. Many adults can't or won't even do that!

I know that you hate to hear the words, "You're so smart!" So I won't say that. I will say, that you demonstrate the skills of a young man who will definitely become a successful adult.

We have our moments of wanting to probably punch each other, or at least give each other a good smack upside the head.  You think you know so much more than I do, so that gets on my nerves. I know that my constant humor gets on your nerves, but it has helped you develop your own sense of humor.

Really son, I could not be more proud of the young man that you have become  and I can wait to see the adult that I know you will be.

Happy 16th Birthday!

I love you!

Mom

If Blue's story has inspired you over the years, please tell him how below. It can be your birthday gift to him. He also likes cash.

*Blue's birthday was actually February 17th. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

I Got This

He didn't come home on the bus. He didn't call to say he was staying after school. He was just a no show. When I called to find out where he was he said,

"I'm sorry. I forgot to call you. I was upset. I got verbally attacked today by this girl."

Turns out he stayed after to process through what happened with his Computer Science, teacher Mr. M., who also just happens to have Aspergers.

As many with Aspergers, Blue has a tendency to debate with people ...a lot. His views are almost always oppositional from the mainstream. He hates modern pop music! Rap music is disgusting in his view. Today's artists are not really talented. They all use autotune and sing about nothing important.

We live in Texas where football is everything. To him, football is a pointless game and all jocks are assholes.  Don't even bring up Country & Western music.  This is just a small sampling of how he thinks.

He's also a bit of a police officer of right and wrong and must inform everyone when they are wrong. It doesn't matter who it is -a teacher, another student, a good friend, a parent. We're all equal opportunity ignoramuses.

A certain girl who happens to be in a number of his classes, has the need to call him out ...often, on his oppositional views.  She just can't stand his argumentative ways and she feels the need to constantly attempt to put him in his place.  As I've told him in the past, who knows what her issues are. I'm sure she has some.

On this particular day, this young lady (and I used the term lady loosely) went off on an entire rant  about Blue in front of their whole Computer Science class, after Blue disagreed with the teacher.  The girl was not involved in the conversation.  The teacher was not offended, but she was.

When he came home, he was still pretty livid. As we approached bedtime he started to spin himself up about what had happened. "She's just a real b*tch! I hate her! And what's worse is she's smarter than me. Her class ranking in higher! She doesn't even work hard. Everything just happens naturally for her."

In the middle of his spin-up, in walks Red, the perfect target to dump his anger on. Before I know it, he's shouting at his brother,  Red posts up like Mr. Toughguy and the two of them are wrestling on the floor.  The same thing happens the following morning before school. These two big-ass boys are talking crap to each other, wrestling and they toss each other onto my couch! They're lucky it didn't just snap.
"I don't want to go to school!" Blue shouts.
I haven't heard that one yet this year.
"I don't want to have to deal with these kids! They think I'm stupid!"

On our way to school in the car, I suggest that he talk to a counselor or a Vice Principal about this ongoing issue with the peer.  If the girl is making him feel uncomfortable and not want to come to school because of behaviors that have to do with his autism, he needs to let someone in authority talk to her and tell her to mind her own business.

He yells, at me! "I can't do that! That won't help! You don't understand! I get on her nerves too! She will say that I can't mind my own business!"

I give several suggestions as to how he could remedy the situation. All are met with, "You don't get it mom! I know what I need to do."

I get back home and e-mail his Case Manager letting him in on what's going on. Blue told me he wouldn't be able to talk to him, because he had a class that morning. I was concerned because the girl would be in his second period class.

No sooner than I sent the e-mail, my phone rings. It's Blue. "I'm just checking in to let you know I have the matter resolved. I had a sit down conversation with the other student and my Computer Science teacher. We explained Aspergers to her and now she gets it. And it turns out she doesn't hate me."

Scratch the record! There was no reason for me to get involved. He's got this. He is going to be 16 years-old next week.  He is his own advocate. He doesn't need his mommy getting involved to solve his problems. Lesson learned.

Dear Mom,

Please mind your own business.
Within moments of him making me feel like an idiot, for trying to come to his rescue when he doesn't need me to --I get a text from his brother. "Mom I forgot my medicine can you bring it to me at the Community College?"

"Um no. Your medicine is your responsibility. Instead of playing with the dog this morning, you should have been taking care of your business. You will have to survive without it."

I'm learning!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hours

Guest post by Angie Craft


I don't regret any of my youthful
indiscretions
and adventures
and heartbreaks
that occurred before the age of 36, when my husband and son found me
The hours 
and hours
and hours
in college
the hours
and hours 
and hours 
at work
because at least I have memories of when I used to be a "real" person with
income 
and interests 
and a social life
Now, when I feel like a burnt out shell of a human that exists on routine and caffeine, 
I can drift off to my memories 
and remember how it used to be
When I was an educated 
social 
working 
"go getter"
When that grass gets too green, 
I remember the deep hole of loneliness that work couldn't fill
The longing for something more
And I don't miss the restless lack of purpose
The hours 
and hours
and hours
of boredom
The hours
and hours
and hours
of loneliness
because at least, now, I have real love in my life
It's no longer pretty, sweet, warm fuzzy love
but in
small
     bits
          and 
              drips
I see that little boy who won my heart years ago
And I remember
that same little boy
is now a young man on the brink of adulthood
experiencing
The hours 
and hours
of heartbreaks
The hours
and hours
of loneliness
He is not having 
youthful indiscretions 
adventures
and social outings
He likely won't go 
To college
Or work 
50. hour. weeks.
I remember this burnt out shell of a person that I am 
is what keeps him from completely giving up every day
So I drift to the memories
drink the caffeine
start the routine
And continue living
The hours
and hours 
and hours
And hours.....


Angie Craft -is a married, full-time step mom of a 16 year old son with autism and a few other diagnosis along for the ride. She is a Mental Health Social Worker on hiatus. Now using her skills and talents to advocate for her son. She is a lover of comedy, coffee, conversation and cats. 

Editorial Note: I read this and was instantly captivated by her words. She is me and so many of you. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Check Please!

Once upon a time, I could never imagine what happened yesterday. Blue started out like many with autism being a very, anxious, picky eater. So picky in fact, it was difficult for him to be around other people who were eating what he deemed to be "disgusting food," with all of the colors and smells that came along with it. Throughout most of elementary school, he had a little office set up for the cafeteria, which was a three panel cardboard file that he would sit in front of him, blocking his front and peripheral view, so that he could sit at the end of the table, alone, to eat his hand packed lunch, while blocking out the sensory input from what everyone else was eating. He did not care about socializing during lunch. He just wanted to eat and get out of that cafeteria as soon as possible. 

Cut to today, age soon to be 16, he has become a real foodie. His palate suddenly opened up when he hit middle school. This may or may not have had anything to do with the fact that he started taking medication for his anxiety. Now, he is willing to try anything! He loves to go to restaurants. In fact, he would eat almost every meal out, if we would let him. Although, he also cooks quite a bit here at home and not just for himself. He will make breakfast for the entire family. He has a good, balanced diet which includes many fruits and vegetables, even salads. Unlike his 19 year-old brother who is still pretty stuck on just a few basic, very plain, very boring foods. 

So, there’s a little cafe around the corner from our house. It has Cafe in the name, but I think that’s just a nicer word for diner in this case. Blue went there with his dad for breakfast one day last week. He obviously enjoyed it, because yesterday he woke up and decided that he wanted to go back. This time, he didn’t feel like he needed me, his dad or anyone to go with him. 

Yep! So he took a shower, got dressed, headed out around the corner, down two blocks and across a major intersection (with no stoplight) to have breakfast in a restaurant …alone! I don’t think I dined in a restaurant alone, where there were actual waitresses who took your order and you had to leave a tip until I was in my twenties! 

He ordered. Ate. Paid his bill, left a 15 percent tip and then walked back home (back across that major intersection). Alone! Like a boss! Major accomplishment! Big. Huge! And yes, I am proud!  


There is hope people! Never give up! I’m even still hopeful that someday, Red will actually eat a more balanced diet. Hopefully, that will come when he has a wife to boss him around and tell him what to do. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Versions of the Truth

It’s been the best of times. It’s been the worst of times within my four walls lately. I’ve written about much of it here on this blog. I stress that I have written much of it, definitely not all of it. My writing is my personal form of therapy. I write for others who are on a similar journey and for parents who will be facing similar issues in the future. The parents who come here and read our stories honestly appreciate my candor and honesty. 

There are plenty of warm and fuzzy blogs out there in blogosphere, if you want the fluff. My life is not all floating on a cloud of flowers, happiness and love. I am raising boys. Easy to love, hard to live with, boys. My original reason for writing this blog was so that my family and friends would realize exactly what our family is dealing with on a daily basis, in hopes that along the way, I might show others exactly what our flavor of autism is. 

I do get the occasional hater who comments telling me what I need to do differently. How I need to just kick Red’s ass to the curb like yesterday. Quite frankly, many of the people who leave the most judgmental comments are often on the spectrum themselves. Then there are those who don’t even have any freakin’ kids! Yet, they still consider themselves somehow an expert on my child and my situation. 

"Haters gonna hate. I just love, love, love." to quote Theresa Guidice, who is now in jail. 

Most of the time I just laugh at the pure audacity of the judgement. I laugh pretty hard when people try to tell me how to live my life. If I didn’t laugh, oh my God, I would be locked up in white padded room somewhere. (Although, I’ve heard those rooms are blue now. Blue is supposed to be a soothing color.)

Other times, I find myself being a little more apprehensive about what I write because I don’t want to hear what the critics have to say. Well pardon my language but…fuck that. 

I have to remind myself that there are far more people who benefit from my writing than there are who detract from it. Besides, most of the time when people try to tell you how to run your life, they aren’t all that successful at running their own. In fact, most of them are a hot mess.  I also remind myself that they are judging from their own perspective and their own life experiences which has nothing to do with my reality.

There is a big divide in the autism community between some adults with autism and neuro-typical parents who are raising children with autism.  I can understand some of the animosity and disdain for us. I don't believe that it is mean, spiteful or even personal. Their feelings about us are based on the way they see the world. Their perspective is likely based on their perception of their own childhood experiences. I say perception, because if you ask their parents or their siblings the way things happened, they would most likely have a totally different point of view. 

Blue and I were doing some research last week on John Elder Robison, the author of one of my favorite books "Look Me in The Eye". Our research was for a project he was doing for school. We found that John, his mother Mary Robison, and his brother now known as Augusten Burroughs, ("Running with Scissors") have all written memoirs of their years growing up. For their mom she wrote the years she spent raising her children. All of their stories are different. This doesn’t make any of them liars. It’s just makes their stories their version of the truth. 

In the article that we found on NPR.org Lee Gutkind, a professor at Arizona State University and a specialist in creative nonfiction, said this about the memoir, “It's your story, that's what a memoir is. It's your own personal truth, and it is not necessarily factually accurate, and it's not necessarily the truth that other people have possessed."

I know this from personal experience. In our family, if any of us were to tell the story of life in our house, each story would be totally different. Red would say, how much we all worked hard to piss him off! We never did anything to make his life better. He had the most god-awful childhood you could imagine.  

Blue would say, his brother sucked the air out of the room. That he never got any attention because we gave it all to his brother. But all in all, he had a pretty darn good childhood, with the exception of not getting nearly as many things as all of his friends had. 

My mother would say, I had the patience of an angel with my children. Another day she would say that I needed to knock one of them upside the head and that they took complete advantage of me. There would be no tales of her part in agitating them and not being able to keep her mouth shut, ever. 

My husband would say, I was the best mother to our children, but I didn’t gave him enough time and attention as my husband. For all of them, their stories would be absolutely true. It may or may not be factual. 

The truth is, I really do not share everything on this blog. On Saturday, I made what I would call a film documentary of a day in my life. If I shared in total the insanity that went on in my house that day, the mental hospital would be knocking on my door asking me why haven’t I checked in yet. It would be …just way too much information. It would be unbelievable. 

That’s why I would never do a reality show about my family. It would end up being edited to tell the story that fits someone else’s agenda. And trust me, our story could be quite entertaining to other people. It would be a hit! We’d be rich! Hmm! I could pay for all of the best therapy in the world, which we all desperately need.  We could just move in to a family sanitarium. 

I have our true reality documented on tape. The reason I taped it was because, I was seriously considering looking into a therapeutic facility where Red could have his meds assessed. I thought it would be good to show the actual behavior to doctors so that they would know, I’m not making this shit up! He is acting way off! Kind of off the charts! I am wondering how much is anxiety and what could be related to the medication that is not working, or the mixture that is working against each other. I felt like perhaps he could benefit from being rebalanced out and in a safe environment sans all of the triggers that we have at home. 

Then again, the truth could just be that he is conspiring to drive me completely nuts, or subconsciously trying kill me from stress. kidding. Sort of. 

The bottomline is that I have to follow my instincts as my children’s mother. No one knows them and what they need better than I do. No one walks in my shoes. No one is privy to everything that goes on behind our closed doors. (Well, except my neighbors, because ometimes it spills out into the streets.) 

I am not the perfect mother. I have made my mistakes with them and I’m sure I will continue to do so. However, they are my mistakes to make. This is our journey, our path to follow, hiccups, missteps and all. I know for sure, that God lights our path. He is showing me the way. My impulses and inclinations have served them well so far. They end up getting exactly what they need. And so far, they are two phenomenal human beings, even with their flaws and imperfections. 

They both have an unbelievable support system because I know their father and I can not do this alone. It takes a village and ours is extraordinary.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Speaking of John E. Robison,  his wife Maripat and I are both featured in the Winter, 2015 Edition of Zoom Autism Magazine. Go check us out!