Late Morning

There’s nothing quite like waking up from a deep sleep to a cry of horror.

Apparently, my alarm clock didn’t go off this morning.  After a late night.  On a school day.  The results are predictable, right?

We have a system at my house in the morning (of course we do).  My son’s awarded points for 1) being dressed and 2) having eaten breakfast (no prompts, he has to do it on his own).  This means, in theory, that he’s ready to go to school by the time I wake up.  Since he’s part rooster (no other explanation), he rises with the sun, while I most emphatically do not.

Anyway, he usually manages breakfast, being a hungry pre-teen, but getting dressed eludes him at times, depending on how absorbing his book-of-the-moment is.  He’s not yet felt any urgent must-get-ready-for-school on his own.

Until today.

This morning, as I shot out of bed to his cry of horror, he realized for the first time that everyone did actually have to be ready for school on time.  Ready, and out the door.

He happened to glance at the clock a full hour after school had started, you see.  No Mom had awakened to ask him about 1) being dressed and 2) having eaten breakfast.  No Mom had mentioned putting the book down.  No Mom had made his lunch, kept an eye on the clock, and gotten him to school on time.

It was a tragic moment.  Fraught with horror and the awful realization that he could have woken me on time if he’d thought about it.

Which meant, of course, that it was a wonderful moment for me, the parent.  So while my son is babbling about hurry-hurry-hurry, I’m delighted that he’s had a revelation.  He’ll be a little late, but that’s not the end of the world.  In fact, if he learns from the experience, it’s well worth it.

After dropping him off and watching him tear off for class (much calmer after the car ride), the receptionist and I exchanged amused glances.  She’s seen it all, obviously, every permutation of late-for-school.  Plus, her heart when out to him when he gabbled out that he could have woken me in time… but didn’t!

My son’s made another step toward individual responsibility.

I have no doubt that he’ll be up and ready tomorrow morning.  I have no doubt that he’ll be quivering and ready to go on time, having already 1) gotten dressed and 2) eaten a good breakfast.  He may even throw in extras like piling food on top of the lunchbag (like he did this morning while I got dressed) and gasp! combing his hair.

The question is:  just how long will he let me sleep tomorrow?  Will I be rising with the sun, or long, long before it?

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Newly Diagnosed Smorgasbord

A friend of mine recently – as in this morning – pointed me toward an article about Asperger’s Syndrome, written by a terrified mother.

As she warned, it wasn’t one of those good articles.  It was a scary one full of desperation and misunderstanding.

There’s a lot to learn and a lot to cope with when first hit by that cataclysmic diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome.  It’s confusing, demoralizing, scary, and expensive.  And of course we blame ourselves right off the bat for everything under the sun from not catching it earlier (and starting therapy sooner) to poor parenting.

But the truth is your child is lucky to have you, if you are caring enough to seek help and find solutions.

Here are some (hopefully) helpful links to parents of the newly diagnosed.  If you have any questions or need encouragement, feel free to send me a comment (mark it as private and it won’t be shared), and I’ll do my best.

Remember, Asperger’s Syndrome is not the end of the world.  Far from it.  It has a number of positives, and creates truly unique, interesting people.

A Syndrome For Success (Newspaper article – also in Recommended Reading list)

Posts by me (that might or might not be relevant to your child):

Before Diagnosis

What Are These Therapies

You Are Heroes

Letters To Schools

Asperger’s Syndrome: Not A Monster

Ten Little Things

A Calm Place

How To Help On The Sly

Volunteering At The School

The Joy Of Handwriting

About That Special Topic Of Interest

Can We See Asperger’s At A Young Age

Clubs, Groups, Activities

Removing The Surprise

Hi Hello How Are You Doing

Teachers And The Breakdown

Snapshot Brochures For Teachers – Part 1

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Touring the School

It’s back to school time for us. Again.

Today, we underwent the joyous process of picking up the 7th grade schedule (they always post them right before school starts, so nobody can complain), and then locating classrooms.

My poor son.

He’s just not used to crowds or school anymore.  And middle school is like a crowded shopping mall.  Lots of noise and activity.  Add to that the excitement of new classes and schedule, and all sorts of interesting behaviors (some coping mechanisms, some panic reactions) begin to emerge.

A lot of you out there know what I’m talking about.

For instance, our encounters with the teachers were of two varieties.  Either he paced around the room, bombarding people with information , or arrowed straight for something of interest (in one room it was a fan) without noticing anyone (or their greetings) at all.  It looked like he was ignoring them, but of course that wasn’t it; he never saw or heard them at all.

As I said, he was overwhelmed.

It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there.  But I know that if I was under a lot of pressure (say, a deadline), phones were ringing, bad music was blaring, five people were talking to me at once, AND I had to concentrate on a task… well, then I’d probably get close.  Eventually, one has to shut out the extraneous just to be able to function.

And he did manage to get the job done.  He found every one of those classrooms.

Of course, water fountains became “checkpoints.”  I knew, when he stopped at them, that he’d be stopping at them again at exactly the same point during the school day.  Done with Science?  Well, then, head to Checkpoint one and get a drink.

He also developed something new.  Never, ever, has he shown an interest in efficiency.  But now, suddenly, he was a race car driver.  Every circular turn had to be as close as possible to the inside, for efficiency (except for brick walls – friction slows you down).  Never mind that traffic was going the wrong way.  If hanging right was fastest, we needed to do that!  Every second matters!

All I could do was murmur about fish swimming against currents, and even that was chancy.  If he’d been a porcupine, the quills would have been sticking out in every direction.

Halfway through our trip he started to go along with the traffic.  Thank goodness.  And I was proud of him for opening up and not stubbornly clinging to his idea.  Not that our kids are ever stubborn about their own ideas.  Or us, for that matter.  Nope, I’m never stubborn.  😉

Once we’d been through the schedule once, fighting crowds, typos, and figuring out efficiency factors (this staircase, Mommy, not that one.  And it’s stupid to stay right when left is more efficient!), we had to run through it all over again to help establish the habit.

When we were done, he announced that we’d visited exactly seventeen doors.

Comments like these make me love his mind.  He’s barely hanging on, humming and shutting out what he can just to function, and yet he counts the doors.  What an amazing thing the brain is.

I know, it’s a soothing ritual.  Counting, humming, and the like.  But it’s still fascinating.

I did manage to smile encouragingly at teachers when they shot me looks full of questions.  Snapshot brochures were handed out.  A school map – a map! – was lying on a table and I managed to snatch it up before anyone else could.  Haha!  My precious!

It’s only one o’clock, and already I’m bushed. As for my son, I’m giving him a pass for the rest of the day.  Want some gatorade?   Sure!  Time alone?  Yes, take as much as you need!  Wii, Xbox, DS?  Yep, enjoy!

Good luck to the rest of you out there who are facing the oncoming school year.  I hope it’s a good one for each and every one of you!

Related Posts:

Snapshot Brochures for Teachers Part 1

Snapshot Brochures for Teachers Part 2 (Middle School)

Preparing For Back To School

Volunteering At The School

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Home Improvement

So last week, as I was getting ready to sit down at the computer, I had the bright idea of moving some furniture first.  You know, typical no-clue-what-to-say-so-I’ll-do-something-else-first behavior.

As my son and I heaved the old bed up and out of the room (long overdue), we noticed that the carpet was wet.  And the pad underneath soaked through to the concrete.

This was Not Good.

To make a long story short, everything had to come out of that room.  Everything.  And now all that stuff – and wow, we packed that room full of odds and ends – is piled up in the dining room, in the living room, and lining the hallways.

So the whole house is a mess.  Naturally.

But my two boys thrive on clean, white walls and minimalism.  Clutter clogs their brains with too much visual information.  They get moody, preoccupied, and more easily frustrated.  I work hard to keep my house clean and neat, not because I’m tidy, but for them.

So far, they’ve been handling it pretty well.

Sure, my husband’s adopted a new evening ritual.  The empty room must be checked on at certain times.  And yes, my son’s tics (currently sniffing and snorting) have backslid a little.  But they’re soldiering on like champions, even better than I could have imagined.  Nobody even had a meltdown when I broke the news to them, which was astounding.

No, they’re fine.  I’m the one going crazy.

I try to laugh about it.  I try to appreciate how patient and understanding they’re being.  After all, we have no choice.  New carpet takes time to install.  There’s choosing the carpet, measuring, estimates, and finally the actual installation.  Plus the waiting time in between these steps.

But I’ve come to realize that caring for people can take odd forms.  Some people feel a need to express their love with words.  Others give gifts.  Yet others need to hug or touch their loved ones.  Sometimes it’s a combination of the above.

And sometimes, we need to do things for our loved ones.  Like cook favorite dinners, or wash cars, or… clean house.

Man, it’s disappointing to fall into a category.

So Tuesday I shrugged off – to the best of my ability – the feeling that I wasn’t caring for my family properly.  I bought some paint and tried to focus on action instead of remaining a waiting-for-carpet victim.

It helped.  A lot.

My son got to solve problems with tools (always a good thing).  Paint cans, after all, aren’t opened in the usual way.  After artfully leaving a long, flat screwdriver on the floor (so sly), I let him handle the can and think about what he needed to open the stubborn thing.

No tempers were lost.  After abandoning the can opener idea, he solved it beautifully.

This may sound silly to most of you.  However, handling tools properly is a common autistic issue.  Not everyone has it; my husband never had a problem with a tool in his life.  But our son would hold a hammer every way possible – ways that would never occur to the rest of us – to try to hammer a nail into a child’s wooden project.

In a way, this is good.  It shows what creative, out-of-the-box thinking he has.  In a way, it’s rough.  It means that simple things are more difficult to master.

He also got to figure out how to draw nails out of the wall with a hammer.  And yes, I kept my eyes wide open.

Another success.  Another proud smile.

He helped me paint, and it was lovely not to worry about ruining the carpet.  Of course, he used the roller in interesting ways (wow, the paint patterns on the wall), but hey, that’s his way, and he’s still learning.

Today, I almost don’t feel bad about the mess (which really isn’t my fault, even though it feels like it is).  I feel like we’re tackling problems and learning.  My son’s enjoying home improvement (although he’s announced he hates home improvement stores), and our house is actually improving.

Today the house, tomorrow the world. 😉

Note: Hopefully, next week we’ll get the new carpet installed.  Oh, and my computer will be put together once again, and lose its Humpty-Dumpty look.  Internet withdrawal is not a pretty sight.

8/11/11 Here’s a pic of the room – pretty much the same spot as the above pic – after new carpet (installed Tues).

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At The Movies

When my son was younger, the movie theater was just too intense for him.

The screen was huge, the noise piercing, and the action so very intense.  And, of course, the previews capture the most action-packed, exciting parts of the movies, so he’d end up huddled on his chair, hands clapped over his ears, eyes squeezed shut, completely overwhelmed before the movie even started.

There’s nothing quite like the movie experience, is there?

I’d known, of course, that movies were hard on my husband.  He completely refused to attend them on a Friday or Saturday night.  Often, if he really wanted to see a movie in the theater, he’d plan it for his day off, a rainy day, or late on a Tuesday or Wednesday night.

But he loved the theater experience.  It was the people who got to him.

For my son, it was a different story.  His senses – sight, hearing – just couldn’t handle the assault.

Since these same senses, in addition to an extreme sensitivity to touch, were causing him to shut out the world and turn inward all of the time, this was a big deal.  We had to help him learn to cope, or he wasn’t going to have a normal life.

We’d already been told, of course, that he couldn’t handle school.  That he could no longer be considered “mainstream,” and that he’d have to attend a different school the next year.

Here’s where my son turned around.

To this day, I don’t know for sure whether it was all of our help, various therapies, or whether his brain was just plain ready.  For all I know, he needed a combination of the three.  I think it’s impossible to know these things sometimes.

In the fifth grade, he opened up to the world around him to an extent we hadn’t seen before.  He heard his name when teachers called on him.  He noticed his surroundings, not as often or to the extent as other children, but he noticed them.

It was an amazing time.

And he was able to attend a normal school.  Oh, he had issues; of course he did.  About half his teachers loved him and the other half complained and couldn’t wait to get rid of him.  Of course, none of them had seen him the year before, so how could they have known how far he’d come?  Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond current challenges to the wow! of progress.

Sixth grade brought even more growth and change.  He made actual friends for the first time, and noticed things in his environment that even I didn’t see.  His eyes changed from dull and unfocused to sharp and intelligent.

So yesterday, when we went with the grandparents to see the last Harry Potter movie – in the theater – it felt wonderful, like an affirmation of all the progress we’ve worked so hard for.  A complete turnaround from overwhelmed and shut down to alert and eager participant.

We even sat through all the ads and previews.  And he still loved it.

We don’t always take the time to remember the progress.  Sometimes, it’s hard to rise above today’s frustration and issues to see the growth that’s occurred, the tremendous strides that have been made.

But yesterday, sitting in that freezing movie theater next to my son, it was lovely to remember and savor the moment.  To feel the pride and wonder at how far we’ve come.

Oh, yes, and the movie was fun, too.  😉

Related Posts:

TV & Movies: Keys to Conversation
Difficulties With Sound
Tactile Sensitivity: Ack, Get It Off!
A Calm Place
Visually Busy

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Microwaves and Killer Wails

It’s amazing what one learns about one’s spouse when appliances break down.

For example, I learned that my husband didn’t really know how to use the microwave beyond pushing the one-more-minute button.  When the “stop/clear” button stopped working on our microwave, that meant those unused 13 seconds had to be patiently burned off and then the microwave re-set to whatever time I needed to steam those veggies.

Oh, yes, and he learned that I’m not so patient when it comes to the microwave.

Microwhale?We both learned how much popcorn he really eats.  And how many little things need the microwave.  Like vegetables, leftovers, snacks, and so on.

It’s been an informative few weeks.

Thankfully, we both have a sense of humor, except, apparently, when it comes to leftover wasted time on the microwave (really?  You needed to set that at one minute for a 10 second snack?!?  Now I have to burn off 50 seconds!  Aaarargh).

I don’t know why he tolerates my craziness at times.

In the middle of this spouse-growth-time, my husband decided to take a week off work.

Don’t get me wrong; he deserves a break.  It’s hard for him to tolerate all the noise and people and smells that cubicle-land so thoughtfully introduces to the human existence.

And that’s even when you’re not sensitive to such things.

Also, we love to have him around.  But to my son a week with his dad home calls for additional rejoicing.  More tv, more video games!

Oh, and total disruption of routine.  Of course.

We discovered years ago that my son follows a pattern – sometimes I wonder if I follow it, too, which scares me – of completely falling apart about the third day after a break in routine (which tends to fall on a Wednesday).

So microwave-crazed spouse (talking about me, here) plus disruption boy meant for one very interesting week.  Oh, and did I mention lack of normal bedtime?

Today, by the way, is Wednesday again.  And it’s that third day back to normal routine, which isn’t normal anymore.  Although my son was showing signs of cracking yesterday, today is full-blown and has been full of jokes about whales.

Whine and cheese jokes are so yesterday, you see.  So now it’s all about the killer wail/whale (yes, I’m groaning with you).

Oh, and we now have a new microwave.  For some reason, my husband thought it a good idea to go ahead and approve the purchase of a new one.  Can’t imagine why.  😉

Who says real life isn’t interesting?  Excuse me while I go read some relaxing novel full of “hair-raising” adventures.    After the past few weeks, it’ll be sure to put me right to sleep.

Note: As my son is very proud of his “killer wail” joke, I’ve heard it about five times today, and will be sure to experience it for at least the rest of the week.  So it’s only fair to share the agony.

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Both Sides Of The Coin

Recently, a young woman wrote to me concerning her relationship with an AS man.

I know, I know, anyone who has read about relationships with Asperger’s partners hears a lot of venting and bashing and blaming.  It’s human nature to vent a little, and to slant things toward our own point of view.

But with this young lady, this wasn’t the case at all.

She sincerely – like many of us – wanted to understand her partner.  To make his life better, and know whether he could adjust to new situations.  To deal with issues that come up when one lives and deals with Asperger’s Syndrome every single day.

People like this are out there.

For those of you who cynically view the world and believe that people are only out for themselves, take a moment and let a little bit of light in.  Not everyone is built this way.  There are many caring and understanding people out there, people who are willing to go the extra mile to make things work.

Now, it’s understandable how a lifetime of teasing and bullying, of being made fun of and treated poorly by others, can lead to a cynical outlook.  It’s terribly sad, but understandable.

All the same, good people do exist.

And yes, they can deal with a little oddity (who wants normal and boring, anyway?).  They can deal with the occasional meltdown.  They can handle a few ritual behaviors (needing to check things, wash hands, whatever it is), respect the need for privacy, and provide a quieter, scent-free atmosphere (okay, it may hurt to part with that favorite rose-scented – or stinky, depending on viewpoint – shampoo, but it can be done).

We exist.

And while we may struggle from time to time to understand, we recognize that, hey, we’re not all that perfect ourselves.  We have issues, too, every single one of us.  Nobody comes without baggage of some sort.

Daily, I’m thankful that my husband puts up with my problems.  They are many, and not always easy to cope with.

So whenever those uniquely AS issues – whether it’s about fear of change, anxiety, becoming overwhelmed, needing quiet, specific clothing requirements, social difficulties, reluctance to join a family gathering, and so on – come up, please remember that we’re learning.  We’re willing to learn, and we’re wanting to understand.

You have a lot to offer.

In return, please recognize our value and treat us the way you would like to be treated.  Hear us out (I know it’s hard), and try to be flexible when possible.  We really do appreciate the sacrifices you make for us, and know that you put up with noise when you’d prefer quiet, handle people when you’d rather be alone, tolerate conversation when you’d rather escape, and agree to nonsensical and ridiculous things just because you know it matters to us.

Oh, and don’t forget to always dodge that trick question about the way we look. We always look good, regardless of hair or clothing style.  At the very least, we always look like that fantastic person you love.  😉

Good luck out there.

Note: Kudos to those of you who go that extra mile, no matter which side of the relationship you represent.  Even if things don’t work out, you’ve brought a gift to that other person that may affect and change him/her for the rest of his life.

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