Thursday, April 28, 2011

public enemy number 1

Tonight I decided that Charlotte should try sleeping without a diaper on. She is completely potty trained, but we have been too lazy to bother trying to get her to stay dry through the night. In preparation for sleep, I asked her to sit on the toilet and try to pee.

Charlotte had a fit. Apparently, this was the dumbest idea ever.

She screamed that she wanted her father, that she didn't want to pee.

I finally convinced her (after many threats) to sit on the toilet and she shut the door behind her. She wanted nothing to do with me.

Unbeknownst to her, I stood outside the bathroom door to ascertain whether she actually voided her bladder.

This is what I heard:
"Mommy is so mean. I don't want to pee. I don't like mommy. I want daddy."

Then came crying:
"I didn't pee! No pee is coming out of my butt!" Sob, sob, sob.

I'm thinking maybe if she has an anatomy lesson, this potty training thing might go smoother. Something to consider.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"The Family Garden" Record Review

Guest post by Bil, my loyal lackey and husband and phonolog-head. (He's big into music, folks, so you can trust his review!)


Billy Kelly is a household name around these parts...ask anyone who remembers seeing the St. Louis Cardinals play in 1910. Oh wait, dangit, that's the wrong Billy Kelly. Ahem. Billy Kelly was actually an Irish Boxer from Derry in Northern Ireland who won the British Featherweight title in 1955, and passed away in his native home of Derry... oo gosh, can I just start over here?

The Billy Kelly that I want to tell you about is a really great musician who recorded a really great album called "the Family Garden".

Nowadays people call this stuff "kindie rock", but in the intelligent assessment of Seymour Stein, there are only two types of music: Bad and Good... and Billy Kelly? Definitely Good.

Why will kids and parents like it? Because they will agree, that it's funny, and fun.

Admittedly, I'm the type of listener that can be very forgiving of even the most amateur, sloppy, or juvenile of efforts, provided it carries that which is most precious, the most precious of all musical ingredients: Sincerity. The Shaggs, Daniel Johnston... Like a stereogram, it's arbitrary noise to the casual listener -- unless you make the effort to perceive the hidden truth of it.

So when a record like "The Family Garden" comes along and is BOTH sincere AND is totally enjoyable to listen to? I'm sold.
It starts off not with a four-count, or even a song, but a couple goofy non-sequiters ("Hey, get this man a Stromboli") and then the magic begins: a stew of family fun, childlike wonder, patriotism, friendship, revisionist history, false song endings, the 80's, and of course, a generous helping of doot-doot-doodly-doots.

Some of my favorite moments:
"It's Close Enough", a hilarious retelling of why some of the great monuments are imperfect (see song title.)
"We Could Be Pen Pals", I mean come on, where Molly Ledford is involved, you know it's going to be good.
"The Invention of the Straw/Revenge of Straw", I'm afraid I'll ruin it if I say anything about this gem of a song, so I will say nothing at all.
"That Old American Flag", a great patriotic ode to Betsy Ross' fine needlepoint work.
and "Rock Lobster", a faithful, spunky rendition of the B-52s' hit song.

Oh yeah, and an added goody for those of us who have a refrigerator covered in kids doodles, who remember days of sitting mesmerized at the edge of the bed staring deeply into the jacket and the liner notes... the CD is completely bathed in tiny little doodles and hand drawn notes to be discovered and enjoyed.

Billy Kelly, thanks for "The Family Garden" and the labor of love that it is.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review of Joanie Leeds' "What a Zoo!"

What can I say about Joanie Leeds' new kids' cd "What a Zoo?" besides, it's got a good beat and you can dance to it? In fact, if you happen to have a kid like Charlotte, it's pretty much guaranteed that you will dance to this cd if it is playing within earshot. My one complaint is that whenever we play this album in the house, I never get any work done, because my daughter insists on dancing with me for every. single. song.

So, if you are interested in a kids' cd that is rocking and that will get your heart rate up, you've come to the right place!

The cd is sporting a zoo theme, obviously, so all the songs are about animals. Not necessarily an original theme when it comes to kids' cd's, but Leeds puts a decidedly original spin on the songs. This cd is not full of mundane songs about dogs and cats, but boasts ditties about tofurky, mosquitoes and manatees.

My favorite song in the whole album is "Tofurky Song" that is yes, about tofu turkey. That someone would include tofurky on an animal cd wins immediate points in my book. Can you get any funnier? I mean, how can you not smile at these lyrics: "Tofurky's not a turkey. It doesn't run or fly. Looks a little mushy, doesn't have a turkey tushy, but I'll give it a try."

Bil's been singing this tofurky song to Charlotte so often that she has all the lyrics memorized, and it never ceases to crack me up when I hear her singing this song to herself.

"Froggie Went a Courtin'" takes an old favorite and jazzes it up with a hip hop/rap bridge from guest artist Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, which totally freshens up the song and makes it memorable.

"Happy as a clam" includes all kinds of fun animal metaphors or as Leeds calls them, "animal-isms." The entire song consists of different animal colloquialisms that we use in our everyday speech, like "puppy love," "busy bee," "silly goose," and "has the cat got your tongue." And that's just the beginning; in the entire song, she never repeats an animal-ism.

I thoroughly enjoy listening to this cd. The songs are catchy and you never feel like you are listening to a kids' cd, which is a major selling point for me. The lyrics are clever and the songs catchy and fun. But the real test of the cd is that Charlotte just lights up when I put this it in the stereo. She loves the funny and silly imagery and she can't help but dance to the songs.

Come to think of it, neither can I!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

LEGO Social Club

If you've been reading my blog for very long, it's likely that you know how worried I am about Danny's social skills. There is one social skills group in our area, but it is over 30 miles away, which cost a lot in gas money and got us home very late on a school night. Also, I felt like Danny needed more in-depth help with social skills.

Over the last several months, I have thought and prayed and worried about this subject. Danny's biggest difficulty is in interacting with other kids and making friends, a difficulty that is only getting tougher the older he gets.

After writing a post for Hartley's Life with 3 Boys about LEGOs, I started thinking about how cool it would be for Danny if I started a LEGO social skills club. He is absolutely obsessed with those blocks, so why not use that to our advantage?

Shortly after this thought occurred to me, a friend forwarded me a website for the Center for Neurological and Neurodevelopmental Health, a center that just so happens to have started a LEGO social skills group, based on lots of research.

After contacting them, I discovered that though they are in New Jersey, they could provide me with training and certification through DVDs and the internet. The only catch? It would cost me close to $1,000.

I decided to forget the training and set up my own club, but my husband came up with an even better idea. He knew that through the Pepsi Refresh program, I could apply for a grant. I had only 24 hours before the application deadline, and we made it.

So, now starting on May 1st, I just need to convince every person I know and every person they know to vote for my project throughout the month of May.

Here's where you can help! I set up a facebook page for my LEGO club and would so appreciate it if you would like it. I will be sending out reminders and instructions on how to vote through that page. And if you're not on FB, never fear, I'll be posting information on my blog.

I don't want to inundate you, but I would be forever grateful for your help in this matter. I feel very strongly that this club will help not just Danny, but the other kids who will be involved, in ways that could potentially change their lives!

Friday, April 22, 2011

a quota

Since becoming an adult, I've had this sort of subconscious philosophy that there should be a quota of bad things that can happen to one person or family. Deep down, I guess I believe that the universe should be fair in its distribution of tragedies. If one family is suffering with a terminally ill child, for example, the parents should not become sick themselves. Or they shouldn't have severe money troubles that lead to bankruptcy. The illness of a child is more than enough for one family to deal with. Why not pass the money problems on to a family that seems to have no real problems?

About 5 years ago, I had a lot hit me at once. My parents separated not long after my grandmother died. We were gearing up for a meeting with a pediatrician who we were sure was going to diagnose Danny with autism. Then, my mom was told she had cancer.

It was devastating. Those months were the very hardest of my life. I was completely shaken; my confidence in the world was broken. If all these things could happen at once, I realized, I was no longer safe. Anything bad could happen and I would be powerless to stop it.

Before this, I think I thought that if one bad thing happened, I would probably be safe from another one for a while. Like, if my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I shouldn't also have to deal with autism or my parents' separation.

I still believe this should be true, though I know it's not.

This week, I found out that a bloggy friend's young autistic son was diagnosed with cancer.


The kid is three. And he has autism.

See, in my mind, the fact that he has autism should have protected that family from this sort of terrible, nightmarish tragedy. The autism should have filled that family's quota for mind-numbing, stress-filled, terrifying crises. At least for a while. I know autism isn't necessarily a tragedy to many people, but it does cause much in the way of stress and difficulty.

I know life is not fair, but sometimes it seems so cruel it takes my breath away.

And I just don't think it should be this way.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reasons I have not yet typed up last week's PTO minutes

~~I've been too busy catching up on two weeks' worth of "Dancing with the Stars." Who knew that my first love, Ralph Macchio, was so smooth on his feet? I guess they weren't lying in all those Tiger Beat magazines when they cited slow dancing and walks on the beach as his turn-ons.

Sadly, I think I have aged much more than Ralph has in the last 25 years. The man looks almost exactly the same as he did when he first stole my heart in the movie "The Outsiders." Oh, Johnny Cakes, you're just as cute as ever.

Except for the hair. That's a touch on the weird side. I'm thinking toupee. What do you think?

~~I'm passive aggressively procrastinating because I am resentful of the passive aggressive manner in which I was recruited to be the PTO secretary. Real mature, huh?

~~Danny came home sick Monday and I let him stay home Tuesday as well, partly because I was afraid he'd puke again at school and the teacher would think I was a bad mom and partly because I am a bad mom and didn't want to get up early to take him to school. I also didn't feel like dealing with his homework, so I figured letting him skip one day would be the ticket to freedom.

~~I spent the better part of an hour today helping Danny with all the math homework he missed while he was out sick. Apparently, now that he's a first grader, he's expected to make up missed work. Wish I had known that before I spent yesterday letting him play hooky. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

~~Why haven't I typed up the dratted minutes? I just don't want to do it.

~~Nobody reads them anyway.

~~Every time I have one second to myself, my toddler comes up to me begging for yogurt. Shoot. Did I say that aloud? Oh, great, here he comes again. If he hears the word mentioned, he goes into overdrive, demanding that I drop everything and serve him the nasty stuff. The kid's a yogurt fiend. He's going to have Yoplait running through his veins if he keeps this up.

~~I'm thinking if I procrastinate long enough, the end of school will be here and everyone will have forgotten all about the meeting.

~~I've been spending all my extra free time concocting good excuses to get me out of this responsibility.

~~There have been an inordinate number of messes and loads of laundry to clean up this week. For some inexplicable reason, Charlotte has had many accidents the last few days. I don't know if it's because we are putting her to bed without a diaper on; obviously that accounts for the night-time accidents, like the times that she has woken up, pulled her pants off, peed on her blanket, redressed and went back to sleep. Seriously, talk about the ultimate in laziness.

What it doesn't account for is the midday accidents. Apparently, she is forgetting to stop and use the bathroom. What's even crazier, though, is tonight's accident. Before bed, I instructed her to go to the bathroom. When I walked in on her, she was sitting on the toilet on top of the toilet lid in a pool of pee. She explained that she "forgot to put the lid up."

I will never, ever, ever have it easy in the potty training department, will I? *sob*

~~I've been eavesdropping on my kids' conversations and alternately laughing and cringing to myself. Here's one snippet:

Charlotte: Hey, get your butt out of my face!
Danny: Get your face out of my butt!

Cue maniacal laughter.

Many thanks, Jerry Bruckheimer, for that gem of a movie, "G-Force" and all it is teaching my kids.

Think the PTO president will think any of these excuses are legitimate reasons for shirking my responsibility?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Water Safety

Compliments of Autism Asperger’s Digest
Water Safety: The Ultimate Life Skill
By James Ball, BCBA-D
Excerpt reprinted with permission from Autism Asperger’s Digest, July/August 2010 issue.

According to the National Autism Association, drowning is the #1 cause of injury-related deaths in children with an autism spectrum disorder. In 2005, 14 children with ASD died from drowning, when these children wandered off and were attracted to the water. Children with ASD do not fear “death” the way we do. At early ages, they do not understand the finality of death nor are they afraid of those things that could cause death, like water.

We know:
- Kids drown without a sound.
- It takes approximately one inch of water to drown in – a frightening statistic.
- 90% of drowning deaths occur while the child is being supervised.

Therefore, it is critical that, right from the very beginning when our kids are young, we teach them water safety and how to swim. Learning this lesson too late can be tragic and heartbreaking.

Teaching Water Safety and Swimming

Sensory Issues
A significant proportion of kids with an ASD have sensory issues, which complicates how we teach them to swim. The old-fashioned way our parents did it (throw you in and see what happens) just doesn’t float. (Yup, that’s what my father did, and I’m lucky I made it!) Kids with an ASD may need to ease into the pool and get used to the water before they are able to enjoy the experience enough for concrete lessons to start. Others may love the pressure they get from the water and just jump right in, not cognizant of drowning as a danger. It’s important we make the experience enjoyable from the start. From there you can teach them what they need to do once in the water.

Teach Swimming
The same teaching strategies that make kids with an ASD successful in the classroom will also make the child a successful swimmer.
- Minimal Distractions
Make every attempt to minimize distraction while the child is in the water. If there are a lot of people in the pool turn the child around, so she can’t see what is going on at the other end of the pool. Also, pool areas echo, so be prepared if the child has any vocal “stims” and try to redirect the child back to the swimming. Or schedule lessons on off times, when less people are present, or, if needed, do private lessons.
- Use of Visuals
Use pictures to show the child the steps involved in swimming. Combing the visual with your explanation will give him multiple ways of understanding the sequence of steps and your expectations. Laminate the pictures and bring them in the pool. You may also want to show the child a video of swimming prior to getting in the pool. Video modeling is a great way to teach new skills. If you can’t find a pre-packaged teaching video, create one of your own using a neurotypical sibling or friend as the “actor.”
- Consistency
Whatever approach you decide to use (there are tons of examples on the web) make sure you use it consistently every time. Spectrum children learn through repetition, and lots of it!
- Task Analyze
Break down the steps to swimming and teach each one until the child can do the skill with little or no guidance. Do not overwhelm the child with too much information all at one time. Just putting his face in the water may be a huge accomplishment in and of itself!

Teach Water Safety
Swimming and water safety are not synonymous. They are different skills and should be addressed differently. All children, whether or not they ever want to put their little toe in the water, should be taught water safety skills. And the #1 rule is this: unless an adult is present, the child should never go into any body of water, be it a kiddie or adult pool, a fountain, a stream, a pond or lake, or the ocean. They need to be taught this very specifically and concretely.

The more able child: Many children on the autism spectrum are highly rule driven (sometimes to a fault). In this instance it is a great thing! Make specific rules around water.

- You do not go near water without an adult with you. You may even make it more specific, adding distance to the water, how near the adult should be (i.e., an arm’s length away, in visual sight, holding your hand, etc.) and/or citing specific people, like Mommy/Daddy/Grandpa).

After the rule is established, practice it. Don’t assume the rule on paper makes complete sense to the child in a real life situation. Take the child around water and see what happens. You want to know if there are loopholes in your thinking and make necessary adjustments in your teaching. Each time the child follows the rule, heap on the praise and reinforcement.

The less able child: We still use rules for the less able child, but we may break them down more concretely and use more visuals to teach them. For instance, the rule might be something like this: “You do not go into the water without a familiar adult holding your hand.” Have the child take your hand, walk to the pool and jump in with you. Every other time the child is around a stream, pool of any sort, lake or ocean, have her take your hand, walk to the water and go in together. Again, reinforce the child when he follows the rule and does what is expected.

Water is an awesome sensory experience for children with an ASD. It can foster language, social skills, and fine/gross motor development. It can also be a place where tragedy can strike at any moment. Remember, enjoy the water, but also respect it. Teach your child what to do around water and how to be safe. Then go out and have a wonderful summer!

Find more information about swim instruction at one of these websites.
American Red Cross.
NCPAD Swimming Resource.

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Jim has been working in the field of autism for 20+ years helping children, teens and adults with ASD. An author and requested national speaker, Jim runs JB Autism Consulting Services, working with schools to find success in designing programs for students with autism/Asperger’s. Learn more at

Copyright © Autism Asperger’s Digest. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, April 15, 2011

sometimes stranger anxiety is just stranger anxiety

Ever since the long-winded and incredibly expensive developmental pediatrician told me that my youngest child has a 1 in 20 chance of being diagnosed with autism (because his older brother has it), I have been hyper vigilant for any possible symptoms in my baby. I have worried that somewhere along the line, Tommy would start showing signs of developmental delay.

This anxiety has colored every milestone in his life for me. When Tommy started walking on time, I celebrated, but worried that he wouldn't talk when he was supposed to. When Tommy did start talking, I was concerned that he seemed to be echoing everything he heard. Could he have echolalia? Once he started speaking in sentences and I became convinced he does not, in fact, have echolalia, I prayed that his obsession with Thomas the Train was not a sign of Asperger's Syndrome.

If there is a symptom of autism spectrum disorder, you can be guaranteed I have been watching for it in my poor baby, zeroing in on any aberrant behavior like a heat-seeking missile.

I am pretty sure he is fine developmentally and I do not believe he has autism. Still, I worry.

And because this is on my mind all the time, and because I worry in a way I never would have had I not already had a child on the spectrum, and because I am slightly neurotic, I have a tendency to maybe be a touch on the sensitive side if someone even remotely suggests that my 2 youngest kids might not be 100% developmentally perfect.

Yesterday, I took Charlotte in for her kindergarten screening. When we got to the site, the school social worker (who knows my family because of her work with Danny) suggested I take Tommy in to the Early Intervention screening while I waited for Charlotte. She informed me that children as young as birth can be screened just to make sure they are on track developmentally. She must have forgotten how intimately familiar I am with the EI system.

So, there I was, being strong-armed into taking Tommy into a room with some early education lady to see if he's on track. Just for grins. You know, in case I wasn't already worn raw from the dozens and dozens of evaluations, screenings, and tests I have had to subject Danny to in his 7 short years of life.

I didn't want to do it. I just didn't. It's not that I was afraid they'd find something wrong with Tommy, though I would be lying if I said that this irrational idea hadn't crossed my mind. I just didn't feel up to the examination, the scrutiny, and the indirect, if unintended analysis of my parenting and teaching ability. Because I don't care what anyone says, there is an unspoken implication that the parents are either to blame or responsible for what her kid can and cannot do.

It's true.

I have spoken with so many parents who proudly bragged about how well their kid did on some evaluation, believing in their hearts that it was a reflection of how well they prepared their child.
And I have heard other parents abashedly explain that little Jimmy can't button buttons because he has no darn buttons on any of his clothes. And Susie doesn't know where her knuckles are because her mother was too busy keeping her fed and reading her books to even think about teaching her such an obscure body part. These parents come away feeling inadequate, like they somehow have failed their kids. And that just sucks.

On top of that, I just knew, I KNEW that my delightful 2-year-old was not going to go along with what this smiling scary stranger wanted him to do.

The kid may not be developmentally delayed, but he IS stubborn.

Against my wishes, I allowed myself to be ushered into a classroom where I poured myself into a child-sized chair while holding a crying toddler on my lap. Right from the start, alarm bells went off in Miss Early Intervention's mind about my child. The first question out of her mouth was, "Do you stay home with Tommy?"

I couldn't help feeling like she blamed Tommy's crying on my decision to stay home. Especially after she asked the question again not 10 minutes later.

Tommy, as predicted, wanted nothing to do with Miss EI and her reindeer games. He wasn't interested in her boring two-piece puzzle. That kind of thing was old hat for Tom. He wasn't about to give in to her interrogation and answer her questions. He kept his lips glued together, not deigning to answer any of her questions.

Miss EI looked at me with concern and started grilling me. Does Tommy spend time with other people? When there are other kids around, does he play with them? If there are other people around, does Tommy go off in a corner by himself?

I mentally rolled my eyes when despite my every effort to reassure her that Tommy was actually quite a social little boy, she encouraged me to call her in three months if I had any concerns. Even after she conceded that Tommy's speech was advanced (he did finally start talking, but still refused to answer her questions, instead choosing to speak about his own topics of choice), she persisted in voicing concerns over his stranger anxiety.

Which is when I informed her that my oldest has autism, that I was well aware of the warning signs and I had been watching for symptoms for the last 2 years.

I know in my heart that Tom is fine. I know he most likely has Sensory Processing Disorder, but I am also convinced that autism is not a diagnosis he will ever receive. I am convinced he is right on track developmentally.

Still, sitting in that room, being grilled by a stranger who knew nothing about my son, made me doubt myself, made me worry I was wrong. Never mind that I am the kid's mother. Never mind that I have a Master's degree in education. Never mind that I am probably much better informed about autism than Miss EI is. And never mind that I know she was only doing her job. She wasn't necessarily saying Tommy was autistic. She was just bringing up issues that she felt should be raised.

It doesn't matter. I still doubted myself.

And this is why I detest these stupid screenings, though I know they are important and serve a purpose: because I allow them to make me doubt my judgment, which is no one's fault but my own.

NOTE: I don't intend to criticize the Early Intervention worker. She was just doing her job, and was doing it right. I think it's important to ask those questions, to make parents aware of autism, so they can get their kids diagnosed early. I am completely supportive of that. It's just that the whole process is less than pleasant for me. Because I'm cranky and PMS-ing and super, super sensitive.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review of Asperger's in Pink and Giveaway!

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, April's Best of the Best is a Book Review and Giveaway Bonanza. Check out S-O-S Research to see a list of all the many bloggers who are posting reviews of books dealing with special needs, like autism, SPD, ADHD, etc. Plus, many of these bloggers are hosting giveaways, so be sure to check them out!

I decided to post a review of Asperger's in Pink that I wrote for OUR Journey THRU Autism, who hosts an amazing book club every month, which you should really check out!

Don't forget to read to the bottom of the post to see how to enter this giveaway and have a chance to win your very own copy of Asperger's in Pink by Julie Clark!


If you happen to have a child with Asperger's Syndrome, chances are it is a boy. According to statistics, there are 4 boys with Asperger's to every 1 girl who has the disorder. It's no wonder that parents like Julie Clark experience doubt and resistance when others find out she has a daughter, Kristina, who has Asperger's Syndrome.

Time and again, people have questioned Kristina's diagnosis. Even teachers and other professionals have expressed doubt and disbelief and have even pushed her to get another opinion. Clark is sure, however; Kristina definitely has Asperger's Syndrome.

It's not just that more boys are diagnosed with the syndrome, though. Boys and girls often have different symptoms and react differently to the world, which just adds to the confusion.

This is why Clark decided to write a book about her family's experience with Asperger's. Her goal is to share her experience in the hopes of possibly educating other people about Asperger's in girls. Asperger's in Pink, this month's OJTA book club selection, chronicles Clark's family's journey into the world of Asperger's Syndrome.

Asperger's in Pink is labeled as a must read for "raising (or being!) a girl with Aspeger's." But I wouldn't stop there. As a mother of a son with high-functioning autism, I learned quite a bit from this book. Clark includes lots of information and insight on how to work with school officials and teachers to get your child the services she needs.

She also discusses many daily challenges facing those on the autism spectrum, including difficulties with transitions, challenges with being flexible, and of course, the problems many face with social skills. Intermingled with the advice is a great big helping of personal stories--many of which will make you smile as you relate to Clark and her challenges raising her daughter.


OK, so here's the easy part. In order to enter the giveaway, you just need to leave a comment here on my blog. For a chance for a second entry you can follow my blog as well. The giveaway will run through Monday, April 25th.

Here are some more reviews of amazing books about autism and SPD. I highly recommend each of these books!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Creative? Who, Me?

Last month’s issue of O Magazine is dedicated to developing your creativity. My first instinct was to cast aside the magazine and finish reading the SPD book I’m reviewing. After all, I’ve known for years that I’m not the creative type. I can barely draw a stick figure, and my flute playing has always been mediocre at best. I’m not much into decorating my house and my scrapbook layouts often look like they were designed by my children.

I read magazines to entertain myself, not to feel like a failure, which is why I always skip the fashion sections. I was not in the mood for a lesson in creativity. I had a to do list a mile long; adding oil painting to it was not going to happen.

Still, my curiosity got the better of me one morning. The kids were playing nicely together and I actually got to eat my breakfast in peace. Not knowing what to do with myself, I opened the cast aside magazine.

I turned to an article entitled “The Creation Myth” and–though I’m loathe to admit this–I would have to say I had an “Aha moment.”

I'm over at the SPD Blogger Network today, so click here to read more.....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Punishment gone awry

This morning I uttered a phrase that I now regret even more than I regret eating all those cinnamon rolls at lunchtime. And believe me, the stomachache and lethargy that come from major carb gorging ain't nothing to sneeze at.

We were, as per usual, running late this morning. And as always, the more I snapped at the kids, the more they slowed down. I told Danny and Charlotte to get dressed and I foolishly continued doing whatever chore I was busy with.

When I heard the sound of Legos bashing against each other, I decided I should investigate, because unless Danny was somehow able to construct pants out of tiny, colored blocks, (and considering his major tactile aversion to anything but sweats) it was obvious he was not getting dressed.

Sure enough, neither of my kids had made any progress in dressing themselves, which is when I decided to issue an ultimatum.

"If you do not get dressed in 3 minutes, you will be in big trouble. No for Danny and no videos all day long for Charlotte."

Almost the minute those words were uttered, I knew I had made an enormous mistake. It all happened in slow motion; I could almost see the words in a conversation bubble over my head. I tried to take them back, but to no avail. I was going to have to see this one through.

Thankfully, Danny, from experience, knew I wasn't bluffing, so he quickly got dressed and brushed his teeth in the most angelic and cooperative manner imaginable. He wasn't prepared to go through withdrawals this afternoon. Smart kid.

Charlotte, on the other hand, looked me right in the eye with a defiant glare and said, "I don't want videos."

My first thought was, "Crud, what am I going to use for punishments now if videos no longer hold their sway? She must have lost her appetite for mindless entertainment. What will I do to get some peace and quiet around here?"

I should not have wasted a moment worrying.

Within minutes of returning from taking Danny to school, Charlotte started nagging me for a video. I gently reminded her of the punishment that had been issued, seriously, maybe 15 minutes before, but it did nothing to calm her down.

She ramped up from nagging and started begging. When that didn't work, wailing and gnashing her teeth ensued. I showered with Charlotte knocking on the bathroom door, shrieking, "I want a MOOOOOOOOOOOOVIE!!!! Mommy! Gimme a MOOOOOOOOOOOOOVIE!"

Then, my clever little girl, who appears so sweet and cherubic, but who at times I swear must be possessed by an evil spirit, upped the ante yet again, and spent the next 30 minutes mercilessly torturing her little brother, knowing full well that mommy has a very low tolerance for the screaming of toddlers and babies.

She's nothing if not smart and determined.

Luckily, she was distracted by the arrival of her friend, so I got about 2 hours of peace, but immediately after lunch, she started in again.

And hasn't let up since.

I think at this point she doesn't even care about the movie. No, now it's a big game to her to see how miserable she can make me. To prove to me that issuing this kind of punishment is a big mistake.

And believe me, I have learned my lesson.

There's about 3 and a half hours to bedtime. Think I'll make it?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

open mouth, insert foot

You know the really insensitive or thoughtless remarks that come out of people's mouths about any number of personal issues? You know, like stupid comments about an acquaintance's announcement that she's pregnant? Or the dumb things some people say when they hear someone close to you has died? Or the extremely inappropriate questions that sometimes get asked when you're thinking of adopting?

Well, I have made them all.

Seriously, I have.

I once stupidly referred to my sister's adopted children's birth parents as their "real parents." (I didn't mean it like that. Really, I didn't, and I feel terrible!)

I accidentally used the word "retard" in front of an acquaintance whose sister I later found out has Down's Syndrome. (In my defense, this happened like 15 years ago, but I still cringe at the memory.)

And one time, when an acquaintance told me she was pregnant, I asked if they had been trying. (I know. I KNOW! I have no idea why that question left my lips. There is no defense besides I am really, really stupid, especially in social situations.)

And frankly, these are not even the worst of my experiences, but I am too ashamed to share any others.

Despite these mortifying examples to the contrary, I am a relatively sensitive person. I try really hard not to hurt people's feelings and I feel like I am moderately successful at reading people and anticipating comments that might offend them. And most days, I can make it until bedtime without uttering any of them.

Still, I have made more than my fair share of social faux pas.

I have also been on the receiving end of more insensitive remarks than I can even remember, especially with regards to Danny and his autism.

Like people who insinuated that perhaps it wasn't autism, but just a discipline issue, and who then proceeded to list the many parenting errors I make regularly.
Or the people who tried to comfort me by saying, "It could be so much worse. You're lucky he doesn't have cancer/cystic fibrosis/more severe autism, etc."
Then, there were the people who said, "Yeah, I'm not surprised. I've known he had autism for years now."

People have said any number of crazy, upsetting things that have alternately hurt me deeply, embarrassed me, and angered me. How could people say such things to me? How could they be so insensitive?

Now that the wounds are not so raw, however, and now that I have had time to rationally think about them, I see these experiences in a different light. What if those people in my life who made less than supportive comments regarding Danny's autism, what if they were really trying to be helpful, but just didn't know how? What if they were acting the same way I have in so many regrettable instances in my life?

Haven't we all been the idiot making a thoughtless remark? Surely, I am not the only imbecile out there whose mouth is not always connected to her brain. Most people try so hard to be helpful, but let's face it, not many of us are completely gracious at hearing bad news. Most of us have no idea what we should say, right?

Sometimes we are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that we say nothing at all. Other times, we frantically try to fix the problem and we don't realize that we are either insulting someone or disregarding their need for validation. Still other times, nervousness takes over and we listen in horror as our mouths take over with no help at all from our brains.

Since April is Autism Awareness Month, these topics have been on the mind of many of my friends and acquaintances. I have read posts on Facebook and blogs and have talked with friends who angrily report comments that others have made about their child's autism. As I listen to these remarks, I am reminded of the numerous moronic things that have come out of my mouth.

And I realize that had I not had a kid with autism myself, I could have so, so easily been the person who said any of these remarks, most probably completely oblivious to the damage I may have caused.

Because I am human, and because I wouldn't have a clue. And maybe also because I would be nervous and when I'm nervous, oh, wow, the crap that comes out of my mouth!

This little epiphany of mine has made me realize that those comments people made? Well, maybe I should rethink them. Maybe, just maybe I was a touch sensitive at the time. Perhaps people were trying their best to make me feel better. Can I really blame them that they didn't succeed, since at the time the only thing that would have made me happy would have been a call from the doctor saying they made a mistake?

As I think about Autism Awareness Month, I think of all the things I'd like people to understand about this disorder. I think about how I want people to give Danny the benefit of the doubt. I want them to take the time to get to know him, not just his quirks, but who he really is. I want them to understand how hard he is trying and to throw him a bone now and then. I hope that they will remember who he is, that he is a kind, loyal boy, and when he says something insensitive, I hope that they will forgive him and remember that he means well.

And if that's how I want people to treat my son, shouldn't I also be treating others that way?