Yeah, I’m pretty sure there are camera’s in this house after watching parenthood & seeing that the character Max is having an interest in girls because this is my life right now! I picked him up from school the other day & right off the bat, just looking at him wait for me to pick him up I could see a spring in his step. He jumped in the car & I knew something was up when I got an Adventure Time style ‘Heeeeeeyyy what uuuuuppppp” When I asked how his day was going he gave me a wink….that’s right a wink & told me it was the best day so here is the run down.
- Classes were good – All work got done in class & Organizational Skills period
- Band had a substitute so it was a movie day – How was the movie? It “Did not suck.”
- Both previous statements equal no homework at all
- “I have a crush on a girl, she’s a goddess”
- I talked with a kid about Dr. Who at lunch
Wait wait wait…Crush? Goddess? Holy crap. My first questions were of course who, how, & why. She’s a girl in a couple of classes, he just noticed her? & why? Listen closely guys because this one is going to melt your face off! “She’s just always really nice, not just to me but to everyone. She is always willing to help other kids. I like her personality & it just makes me smile to be around her” Yep! that’s right, my son skipped right over the ‘She’s so freakin hot’ & went all Mark Darcy on her ass! That’s how it’s done gentlemen, take notes. (In my best pirate voice) We are now officially in uncharted teenaged territory folks. The waters be rough & ever changing here, tread lightly.
This last week has shaken us all to the core. We have a very close family, my parents live on the same block as my grandparents. Everyone sees each other almost daily, thats just small town life. On Wednesday of last week my wife & I headed to Oklahoma City, about 30 or 40 minutes west of us, to hang out for the day (she has an addiction to the scones at sprouts). When we realized we were getting close to having to leave so we could be back in time to pick up the kids I called my granddad to see if he could pick them up from school. (While its out of routine the kids love this & always want to go over to their house) Things went normal & after getting home we headed over to pick them up. My youngest was so excited because grandma (in reality his great-grandma) paid him $3 to get under the table and dust the legs off. 9AM the next morning I got a call from my granddad asking me to come over and give grandmother a breathing treatment because she was having trouble, she has had a bit of a croup. By the time we arrived at their house an ambulance was pulling down their street. I went into the house to find her unresponsive & not breathing on the kitchen floor. I did CPR while the medics got in & while they started IV’s, pushed drugs, & did their best but after working so many years in EMS myself I knew there was a slim to none chance of her coming back to us. After being with the family for a while at the hospital we decided it was time to head to school to pick up the kids a bit early to break the news. The two youngest boys (6 & 8) really took it like champs but I had a feeling it was going to be rough on Jayden. How do you break that kind of news easy? I explained that she wasn’t feeling well & reminded him of how she said she was a bit sick yesterday. From there I just tried to explain & tell him about her passing away. An instant breakdown and his breakdown caused my breakdown & then my wife as well. The three of us just sat in the parking lot of the middle school & cried together for a while.
Flash forward to yesterday, our first day back at school. We took monday as a mulligan day. About 1 or so Jayden’s counselor called to let me know that after eating his lunch he went to pick up his lunchbox & couldn’t find it. He knows to check the lost & found as well as the office but had no luck. Someone told him that there was a lunchbox in the boys bathroom that someone has stuffed down a toilet. Yep, that was his! I was proud that he made the decision to go back to class after he had calmed down because he wanted to finish the day but as I pulled into the car line I could see him walking in circles. With any luck they will find who did this by review the security footage at the school but who knows. We don’t even know if someone did it because it was him or because they just saw a lunch box sitting there. Either way, its been a rough go these last few days. This morning he played the tummy ache card & I could tell he really didn’t want to go to school but we talked about it & with any luck it will go better today.
*UPDATE*: Today things went a lot better at school & while he was there we visited Amazon to pick up a special lunch box that is sure to make everything awesome! Check this thing out!!
Yes, My mother was a bad person & dress my brother & I alike despite our 4 year age difference! Thats me with the missing tooth.
Our run in mainstreamed public middle school up until now hasn’t been what you would call… how you say… good. First it was overstimulated and overwhelmed then it was home work getting the best of us with a little bit of ‘I don’t wanna do this work because it’s eating into my free time’. We have supported, punished, stayed on top of, & more. Nothing has really solved our problems. I’m not saying I thought it would all be smooth sailing but I am saying I had a false sense of how good I was at dealing with all this.
When I worked in EMS on an ambulance and we would have what was affectionately called a ‘Come To Jesus Meeting’. These aren’t religious talks at all. Kids from the south know what I’m talking about, if mom says she’s going to give you a come to Jesus meeting it is a lot like an attitude adjustment. They could range from a sympathetic ear to a confrontational soapbox speech depending on what the person needed. After realizing my bag of parenting tricks was not only empty but it was inside out with a hole in it we figured we would try something new. Trust.
One type of homework he never minds doing is band homework
When I picked him up from school, just the two of us, we talked about responsibilities & what they mean. We have these talks all the time but this time I tried to concentrate on my responsibilities & what the cause & effect was of me living up to them. Decide to work today like I’m supposed to equals money equals more income for the family equals the ability to vacation, buy video games, etc. After that I spun it in his situation as school work is done on time & turned in equals trust equals more adult like treatment. He was very receptive to this & after explaining that if I could trust that he did the right thing, the appropriate thing, the expected thing then that would equal adult treatment such as a cell phone & having a cell phone would equal the ability to venture on his own at times when the family is at the store & he wants to go look at electronics or something to that effect. (I’ve been fighting this thought in my head but I’ve also been encouraged by the fact that he at least wants to get out of the house & go places – small victories!) Just thought I would mention that since we are so close & sometimes he, I think, even blurs the line between us being best friends & father son (until something goes wrong & discipline is delved out anyway) I also put it out there to him that I wasn’t upset or mad at him but I was disappointed in the way he was letting me down by not trying harder to do what was expected of him. How he was being selfish & not thinking of how his actions at school effected his whole family. I wasn’t sure if that was in vain or not but I threw it in none the less.
This went really well but I’ve thought that before & have been slapped in the face by reality. A couple of days ago he brought home his progress report & much to my surprise from the day we talked he had turned in all of his assignments & got great grades on them. While talking to my wife she said something to the effect of ‘It seems like you have been doing a lot better lately’ & he replied ‘I’ve been doing what we talked about & I’m in a much better place at school’ (heart swelling… ego growing… Parenting LEVEL UP!)
Needless to say:
We started him off with a pre-paid Trecfone to be safe & leave room for improvement. Not only is it an instant gratification because it wasn’t a situation where, like in the past, he has had to stay golden for an extended period of time but now that he has it he is excited about it. Excited not just about the phone but we talked about how this phone just does talk & text so if the good behavior continues, the expectations are continually met, & get even been then so does his adult like responsibilities. Translation in to dad terms: keep doing good & we can maybe upgrade to a smart phone or do bad & I have something to take away as a punishment.
We will see! I’m sure all of you with kids on the high functioning end of the spectrum have been in this same place; feeling great about a parenting win like your on fire & then here in a week it will all come crashing down but HEY! If I’ve learned anything from autism parenting it’s that I’m gonna sure as heck enjoy the first week of that parenting win feeling for now & we will cross that sky is falling bridge when we get there! 🙂
TV has a lot of really bad shows that are just mindless but sometimes you run into one that really strikes a chord. Before my son was diagnosed with Autism we had our suspicions. He had always had his challenges & difficulties. He had always been a bit odd or different from the other kids but in small town Oklahoma not only do you not know what to do about it you can’t find anyone who knows anything about it! The turning point was NBC’s show Parenthood, one of the kids was diagnosed with Aspergers on the show. After watching we realized that it fit how our son acted with a shocking amount of accuracy so that was our breaking point, we sought out someone who was familiar with Autism Spectrum Disorders & made his appointment or evaluation.
CBS’s The Big Bang Theory is another one of those show that just hit the nail on the head! So after watching a run of episodes these last couple of days I’m realizing how accurate they really are & how shows like this that not only humanize people on the spectrum but also put a positive or humorous spin on it and it really does help with awareness & acceptance. I’ve already tried my hand at identifying cartoon characters that I think are on the Autism Spectrum, view that blog post here. In honor of one of my favorite characters on television, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, I thought I would share some of my favorite parenting skills that I have learned from Sheldon about raising a kid on the spectrum.
- Pick Your Battles – “My Shirt Is Itchy And I Wish I Were Dead!” Pants are the wrong texture, the collar of this shirt lays on my neck wrong, I can’t wear green today! You learn to not only pick your battles but you learn what real battles are! This isn’t even worth fighting over for me. He has a whole closet full of clothes in there so lets just find something that is going to be acceptable. As long as its not a silk button up shirt with cats & wizards on it I’m totally happy! PICK YOUR BATTLES PEOPLE!
- Doing ‘Stupid’ Things – Okay, I’ve learned that this is a pretty big one. There are things that we do in this word that are stupid or silly when you think about it. Case in point? Easter Eggs, Valentines Day, little white liess, Elf On The Shelf, the list goes on & on but what most people don’t have is the pleasure of having a kid that will be happy to point out how stupid those things are & you know what..? Sometimes I can’t really sum up with a single reason why we do the things we do but we have to & yes it may be stupid but we have to do it! We all have family, little brothers, moms, school teachers, & others who have expectations & the while I expect the world to be accepting or accommodating of my son, I expect my son to learn to be the same with the things he doesn’t like or understand. “Let’s do this stupid thing” for a kid with High Functioning Autism or Aspergers is the same as when other parents say to their NT kids “Because I said so!”
- Manners – “If you don’t mind, I’d like to stop listening to you & start talking.” How many of us can hear these words coming out of our own kids mouth? Then again, after thirty minutes or so of listening to the technical breakdown of how something works in Minecraft I am pretty close to saying something along these lines as well. I find it funny that if these words came out of my sons mouth he would probably think it was still considered acceptable manners because he said it politely instead of just starting to talk right over you. Everything is a work in progress! 🙂
- Celebrate The Small Things – If my son would eat a slice of pizza I would probably throw a party! Probably not a pizza party but a party none the less. I have bribed, threatened, tricked, lied, & my way to making him try new foods & you know what? None of that ever works. You have to just present opportunities for expansion of foods & reward/celebrate the small victories. Even if that victory is that you, the parent, made it through the day & the small celebration is a glass of wine & a bowl of ice cream from the pint you had hidden behind the mini corn dogs in the back of the freezer so no one else in the house would jack it from you… not that I know anything about that!
These first days of middle school have been rough to say the least. Problems were written on the board for them to copy down & answer. He copied the first one down & answered, then the second, then the third, then class was over. Did we copy all the problems down first then go back an answer them? Nope! Already we are having a mix of homework misplaced, not done, or hidden as to not have to cut into his personal time at home.
After finding some of the work hidden in the back of his binder & him coming clean that he hid it as to not have to do it we had a little bit of a blow out & that included punishment but after that it seemed as though we were doing good. That is until I found work as well as a weekly progress report showing missing work with a note from his teacher that didn’t make it out of his bag. Its so hard because I know some of it is Autism & some of it is 11 year old boy but those two mesh together so much its hard to tell what is one or the other. So needless to say we came to blows (put down the phone, stop calling DHS, not those kind of blows!) There was an unabashed conversation about his inability to carry much of any of his own responsibilities, there was a calling out of his failure to do work that is required even if he thinks he shouldn’t have to do it, & there were tears! Whats the last thing you want to do to a kid with autism before you send him to middle school… pretty much everything I just said I did but what are you going to do!?! At some point you see him getting older & realize he is that scary in between that terrifies me! He is so high functioning that he can do these things but he still has flippin’ autism so these things are sometimes ridiculously hard for him to do or understand but again at the same time he has to be prepared for high school, college, life, a job, & an unforgiving society that in most cases would rather eat him alive than cut him a break.
When he got home we backed off a bit & tried to just help with work but give lots of support. Trying to stay consistent in our approach is one of the hardest parts because with any other kid you would be like
‘okay, this isn’t working lets switch it up’ & that will just confuse this kid. I knew this was all coming, I knew that autism was a rock, middle school was a hard place, & we would eventually get stuck in-between them but I just didn’t think it would happen this fast. All this I can handle! All these things I can swallow! All these things you have just read we can overcome. That is after I’m able to get over what we founding his school folder:
Let me tell you, I sat & watched them Emmy’s last night just to see if they called my name because I feel like I should get some kind of award for me performance as ‘Dad who comes at the situation with an even hand despite their heart being ripped out of my chest’ My wife handled it better than I did but we had a talk about hate, parents, self pity, responsibility, growing up, & more. With any luck we’ve made some progress but you can’t know until you let it ride to see. I know the kid doesn’t hate me. I know that we will get through all this. I know that he will be able to take on all this new stuff but knowing all that doesn’t mean any of it comes easy.