Friday, May 27, 2011

learning to ask for help

I suck at asking for help. I'm not all that good at speaking up when someone hurts my feelings, either. I have been known to let people take advantage of me and help them out to the detriment of my sanity. Instead of standing up for myself, I'll mutter passive aggressive comments under my breath, eventually exploding from resentment when it gets to be too much.

These are terrible traits for a mother to have, I know. And parenting my son with autism has only highlighted my deficiencies. Ironically, I am the one charged with teaching my son how to express his emotions appropriately, how to ask for help rather than getting angry, how to say “no” when something makes him uncomfortable. Yes, me, the person who is quite likely the worst role model of these traits he could find.

I’ve been working on it, going to counseling, reading books, and stretching my assertive muscles, so that I can better teach my kids not to be a doormat, like their mom.

Still, even after therapy, the best lesson I have had was recently when I decided to start a LEGO social skills club in my town. The training for such a program is very expensive, so I applied for a Pepsi Refresh grant, which requires that people vote for your project. In the $5K category, to win the grant, your project needs to be in the top 20 out of more than 130 applicants.

I want to get this funding and start this group so much I can practically taste it. My son is obsessed with all things LEGO and is in desperate need of a decent social skills group in our town. When I found out I could combine teaching social skills with LEGOs, I knew I had found the perfect combination for my son.

In order to make this vision come true, though, I needed help. Lots of it. I have had to solicit everyone I know and everyone they know and ask them to vote for my project. I have had to send reminders to family members, old classmates, former sorority sisters, church members, acquaintances, and past coworkers, asking them to take a minute and help me out.

I absolutely hate imposing on other people; I feel unworthy of that help and hate to bother people, even if it is just to ask them to take a couple minutes and click their mouse a few times. It doesn't matter that many of these people are my friends and family--I still hate asking for things. I suppose there is a part of me that fears possible rejection. What if they say no to my plea? What would that say about me and what they think of me?

But I did it. I asked everyone I knew and even went further than that. I asked friends and family to post fliers at their workplaces and I asked them to spread the word to their Facebook friends. Occasionally, I apologized for bothering people and I worried that I was being annoying, but I soldiered on, knowing that I had to help my son no matter what it took.

Through it all, I have made some amazing discoveries about myself and others.

I learned how generous some people are; family, friends and strangers alike have flooded me with support and help. My cousin sent out an amazingly heartfelt email to all her friends and family. In it, she detailed how I babysat her newborn daughter full-time for about 6 months while I was in college, how my caring for her baby eased her mind and made it possible for her to return to work without having a nervous breakdown.

Other people sent out similar pleas, making me realize that these people really care about me and appreciate times when I have helped them. Friends like my BFF from high school and another from college who want to donate money and supplies to the group. And there are friends, like my husband's good buddy from Vegas (who I have only met in person once, I might add) who has done everything humanly possible to get his friends to vote for my project. (Thanks, Dan and Heather!)

Then, there are the strangers who have helped me, like the man in my town who donated some LEGOs when he heard about the group. Or Lisa from AutismWonderland who let me guest post and write about my project on her blog.

I can't even begin to list all the people who have graciously helped me. All the people who have somehow been affected by autism and who have tweeted, voted and facebooked for me. All the blog friends who have helped. It's been wonderful to see the power of a community that roots for each other and helps when possible.

And then there were the people who were less than helpful, people who I assumed would be onboard, but who, for whatever reason, weren’t all that supportive. People who refused to vote or spread the word on Facebook, and those who just ignored my pleas for help. Friends who I thought I could count on, but who let me down. People who rejected me. My biggest fear: rejection!

Though the rejection has stung, it didn't hurt nearly as much as I thought it would. I was able to see that their unwillingness to help wasn't a reflection of who I am or whether I'm worthy of help. It's merely a reflection of how far they are willing to go for their friend: me. And that's ok.

So, though my worst fear came true--some people did in fact say no--my wildest dream was also exceeded. So many people have made big sacrifices to help my project, people who know and love me, people in my community who want to make a difference here, and people who are complete strangers and who will in no way be benefited, but who know that helping one cause and group inevitably helps all of us.

I think it's natural to want to protect ourselves from rejection; we want to avoid being vulnerable so no one has the power to hurt us. But what I have learned from this experience is that when we open ourselves up to rejection, we are also opening ourselves up to acceptance and love, the likes of which will most certainly amaze us.

And when we break down and ask for help, we may just learn that there are fleets of people who've been waiting for a chance to assist us all along.

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If you are interested in voting for my Pepsi Refresh project, there are a few days left. The grant money will pay for my training and supplies to start a LEGO social skills group in my area. Thanks for your support! Just click here or click the image below.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Signs you may be stressed


~~~For the life of you, despite being a relatively well-read, articulate woman, you cannot seem to spit out the appropriate words for the most banal situations. Can't remember the word for that wonderful device that cooks and reheats food in a manner of minutes?

Yeah, you're probably a touch on the stressed side.

That, or you're coming down with Alzheimer's.

Sorry, that probably doesn't help your stress levels much, huh?

~~~Your kids have to remind you to use your inside voice because your volume default for stressful situations is scream.

~~~You are consuming so much chocolate you have forgotten what vegetables taste like.

~~~When you try to exercise--because you know what a stress reliever it is--you have to stop every five minutes to complete some task that has come to mind and that can't wait. For the life of you, focusing on exercising is next to impossible.

~~~Your poor husband doesn't remember the last pleasant exchange you have had, but he vaguely remembers your honeymoon being nice.

~~~You're super sensitive to people's comments, especially if they are anything about your kids. Even comments that normally might make you smile, you find suspect, like when the acquaintance says, after meeting your child on the spectrum, "Wow, I would have never even suspected he had autism!" with a broad smile. You think, "What's THAT supposed to mean?" and get all paranoid.

~~~You run around your house trying to do about 74 things at once and just end up spilling apple juice and half cooked spaghetti all over your freshly washed floor.

~~~You forget your friend's birthday and actually feel irritated at HER. Why did her birthday have to come when you are so stressed out? Couldn't she have been just a touch more perceptive and pushed it back a week or two? I mean, seriously, the nerve!

~~~When the Red Cross calls to schedule your regular donation appointment, you feel giddy with excitement at the prospect of 30 whole minutes during which no kid could possibly interrupt you or talk to you or demand anything of you. You only wish the staff at the Red Cross would be less efficient and would keep you waiting at least 20 minutes. You'd relish the time to read outdated issues of Redbook and Good Housekeeping just because of the silence.

~~~At least once a month, you proclaim that you are quitting everything. You are DONE with the PTO, church, babysitting for friends, helping at school and will never, ever, ever, ever do another thing for someone else again, while your husband wisely nods and keeps his mouth shut. He knows it's PMS, but also knows he'd be taking his life into his own hands if he were to mention that fact.

~~~Did I mention you're probably eating enough chocolate to feed a small Third World village? And when you run out, you dsperately scrounge through 6-month-old Halloween candy, almost breaking a tooth on a stale Tootsie Roll, and you hate Tootsie Rolls.

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Check out the SOS Research Blog for more posts on stress. And if you missed it, I also wrote a post entitled "Signs Your Kid Might Be Stressed." Go read it and then reassure me that you understand where I'm coming from. Please, I beg you!

Signs your kid might be stressed


~~~When your uncle benignly asks your kid about his recent, wondrous trip to Legoland, your sweet son screams, "Quit talking to me, you crazy guy!" and runs away.

~~~He's so scattered and frustrated that he cannot even complete the most mundane task like pulling down his pants, a task that he typically does with no problem at all--especially at times most likely to embarrass you.

~~~He spouts off gibberish that no one can understand OR he quotes movies without stopping and if you interrupt, he has to start all over again until he finally calms himself down which can often takes upwards of an hour.

~~~Eating is out of the question. Totally. It doesn't matter what you try to entice him with--cake, cookies, ice cream; suggesting these delicacies will only piss him off more when he's over stimulated and stressed.

~~~No matter what you ask him to do, he screams, "NO!" at the top of his lungs. You could be offering your kid an all-expense week-long trip to Legoland--the one in California, the mecca of LEGOs, the place he wishes we could move to--and he'd still refuse adamantly.

~~~The most minor incident can move him to tears. A kid who is normally immune to most pain, he will bawl after bumping his arm and won't stop crying until you administer all manner of antibiotic creams and band-aids.


How about you? Tell me your kids do some of these things too.... Please!

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This post is part of the BoB series on stress and anxiety.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Courage

The wonderful Lisa from Autism Wonderland has allowed me to guest post today. Check out my post here.

And before you do, please let me take a minute to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support with my LEGO social skills idea. We've been in number 2 for over a week now, and I have you to thank for it! Keep voting!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pickles

I'm over at The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism today, sharing the story of when a Subway worker was kind to Danny on the day of his autism diagnosis. Check me out, if you have the time!


And thank you so much for all your support of my Pepsi Refresh project to start a LEGO social skills group. Please keep voting here!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ain't too proud to beg!



Look at this kid.

Is this not the face of a child who NEEDS a LEGO Club?
Please help us by voting on Pepsi Refresh for our LEGO social skills group idea. We need your votes, so Danny can start building with LEGOs and making friends!

Click here to learn more about voting. And consider voting for my partners (They are listed on the page that will pop up when you click on the link: http://vote.torefresh.me/lyc (--dead link now--))!

And if you're so inclined, I would be eternally grateful if got all your friends, neighbors, acquaintances, servants, and dogwalkers to vote as well! Do whatever it takes: bribery, extortion, threats, flattery, blackmail. Whatever it takes, but nothing illegal, ok?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

No longer in denial

Since Danny was diagnosed with high functioning autism over a year ago, I have wrestled with denial.

On good days, days where Danny is superbly cooperative and pleasant and easygoing, I wonder, could Dr. M have made a mistake? Did I maybe answer some questions incorrectly? Could Danny actually just have severe SPD which looks like autism? Is there a chance he's been misdiagnosed?

Most days, our regular days, you know, the days where even the most mundane aspects of our day (eating, dressing, using the toilet) are a struggle?

Those days I have less difficulty believing that Danny does indeed have autism.

Still, the doubt has lingered and I vacillate between wondering about the accuracy of his diagnosis and being mostly convinced of its validity.

Until Tuesday.

While at our local ice cream stand, we ran into a classmate of Danny's from last year. Claire greeted Danny excitedly, but until I prompted him, Danny said nothing. He was excited to see her, however, and launched into a one-sided conversation from several yards away. He could tell she wasn't listening, but it was obvious he had no idea wh
at to do about it.

It didn't occur to Danny to come closer to Claire so she could actually hear him. He didn't say her name so she would realize he was talking to her, nor did he realize that asking her a question could ensure she was part of the conversation. And never in a million years would he recognize that the topic of LEGOs is not necessarily everyone's idea of a scintillating conversation subject.

The result? A very one-sided, unsuccessful interaction. In fact, "interaction" isn't even a valid definition of what took place, as no interacting happened at all.

It almost broke my heart, mostly because it was obvious how much he wanted to connect with Claire. He made attempt after attempt to engage her, but until I guided them both a bit, his attempts fell completely flat.

As I sat there and watched Danny try to interact, it hit me like those huge anvils in a Roadrunner cartoon. Danny does have autism. There's really no denying it.

The certainty took my breath away.

My son, my wonderful, loving, funny boy has autism.

No more denial to buffer me from reality; autism is now our reality.

And I think I'm ok with that.

More or less.

But that doesn't mean I've given up. I'm still going to do whatever it takes to help my son as he navigates this treacherous world we live in.


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Vote for Effingham Lego Social Club Now
Please take a minute of your time and vote for my Lego Social Club project on Pepsi Refresh. I'm applying for a grant to fund my training and supplies to start this awesome social skills group in our town for kids on the spectrum or those who have any social developmental delays.

Danny can't wait to get started and neither can I!
And we need your help!

Click here to vote!


Thanks!