Sunday, March 29, 2015

Everything is related – Toy Story

The second in a series of “Everything is Related” entries:

Everything is related; from an earlier post - Everything is related – Mary Poppins to New York City:
– Everything being related, many times, is the ability to relate one movie or actor to another. This has helped him to be more open to watching something that may not be Disney-based. This was not always the case, but now he can go and enjoy a movie with his friends or at an ARC activity without issue……..
-Everything being related, oftentimes just explains his love for a particular city, game, song or some of the many other things that he does or says.
Everything being related,  has, many times been used as a learning tool. “
This post is about just that…
DC as Woody and Candy as Jessie from Toy Story – Halloween

Again we start at Disney. Disney, Disney, Disney anything Disney. When the first Toy Story came out way back when, I wasn’t sure DC would really go for it at all. Yes, it was Disney, but it was not the Disney he was used to. There were no princesses, no castles, no Haley Mills and most of all, no music. Of course I know that there was music, but not the “Hollywood musical” type of music – characters would not be belting out a song at the drop of a hat. DC was never a “toy” kind of kid. He never really liked or played with toys, so the toys in the movie were nothing that he would be familiar with. But, to my surprise, he loved it AND the two that came after. This boy who does not like toys actually owned a Woody, Buzz, Mr. Potato Head and a Jessie. No, he did not want to play with them, he just wanted to own them.

Tom Hanks brought him to “The Polar Express” and of course “Saving Mr. Banks” (also related to Mary Poppins).

Tim Allen…..Tim Allen….. he loves Tim Allen. That love brought him to “Jungle to Jungle”, all of the Santa Clause movies, “Christmas with the Kranks” and “Home Improvement” (yes, woo hoo, an actual TV show)…. but there is more…..

When DC was younger, transitioning into a new school was never easy, but it did seem to be easier on him than some of his other friends (and me).  “School age” for Special Education here is 3-21 years of age. So there were many moves and many transitions during his time in the school system – kindergarten building to elementary, to middle school, to high school. The school handled these transitions very well. They started early with many tours of the new school, picture books with photos of the classroom and other areas of the school and a few visits (orientations) with parents. DC was always anxious about these moves but he always did rather well due to all of the work the school system and I put in to make the transitions go as smoothly as possible.

The number of children in SPED in DC’s age group seemed to be much larger that the kids moving up in previous years. This meant that the schools they were moving up to had a lot more students to accommodate at one time than ever before. We always joked that our kids always seemed to be the “test subjects” for these new or expanded programs. At times this did not go well.

When DC was in his junior year, I started looking at alternate programs for him to attend for his last two years of school. DC would walk with his class at graduation at the end of his senior year (at 18) and then either spend two more years in the high school or I could have him out-placed into a different program that focused more on getting him ready for the next phase – a work/day program and life. I already knew I did not want him in the high school for another two years and I was already leaning towards another program the next town over. Mid-senior year, the high school announced that they were creating a transition program of their own in conjunction with a local university. It would be up and running in time for our kids to start that September. The program they came up with sounded wonderful but, our kids would be the first ones through and again the “test subjects”. This worried me.

On the other hand, I was torn because it had only been over the previous couple of years that DC recognized “friends”. He had real friends. Not just the children of my adult friends, but real friends. People that HE considered friends. Friends that he did things with and wanted to do things with. DC had always gravitated more towards adults and with the exception of his friend of many years, BB, did not pay much attention to kids his age at all. I didn’t want him to lose that connection. I rationalized that “social skills” were one of his major issues and if I tried this program and really did not like it, I could always move him to the other program I was looking at earlier.

Putting this program together was a long process. Obviously there are many legal issues to address when creating this type of program. By mid-summer the other parents and I were beginning to panic that this program was not going to be up and running by September. Fortunately by August it was a go, but they had lost all of that transition time they would have had during the school year. We did get to visit a few times before the school year started and I did talk to him about it all summer. Some of my friends children have siblings that went off to college so in turn their children expected to go off to college too. DC doesn’t think like that. He doesn’t have any expectation of what should come next. He lives in the ‘now’ until the ‘now’ changes to a new ‘now’, but we were calling it ‘college’ for everyone’s benefit. “College, College, College” he was going to college. I was still worried, having missed all of that transition time.

Toy Story 3 had come out right around this time. We bought the DVD and watched it at some point during that summer. It didn’t even occur to me while we were watching it or even up to the point when DC was standing at the front door waiting for the bus on the first day of school, that he made a connection in his head with the movie…..

He turned to me and said “Mom, I am going to college, just like Andy in Toy Story”

….. and he was.

With that, everything was just fine.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Take the long way home……. #1000speak

Posted by

1000speak“FISH and the Bus Driver, FISH and the Bus Driver, CHICKEN and the Bus Driver” – The school bus was a torturous place.
“FISH” and “CHICKEN” were the names they had given the girl. I don’t know why. The chant began everyday as soon as the bus pulled out of the school yard until the girl got off the bus. It went on for weeks. It was not directed at me, but it did make me very uncomfortable. I felt bad for the girl, even though the girl was older and had been very regularly awful to me. She did not make my life easy and even though a small part of me looked at this as well deserved, most of me felt bad for her.  I sat there every day not participating in the chant, praying no one would notice that I was not participating, because these girls would turn on a person at the drop of a hat. Eventually they did move on, but we all lived in fear of who would be next. The bus was a torturous place and just about everyday someone was in the line of fire.

If you think the bus was bad, for me the bus stop was even worse – they could see you coming – you could not hide….  yes, lets put the fat girl in pea soup green polyester stirrup pants on gym day (you know, the kind that 60’s housewives wore). I was teased about my weight (“You look like Mama Cass” was always my favorite) and about the ridiculous clothes I had to wear.  This was a time when girls still had to wear dresses and/or skirts to school, except on gym day. This was also the time when boys sneakers were all the rage. I remember shoving my feet into my brothers sneakers that were two sizes too small so I wouldn’t be teased about my “skippies” – I could barely walk but if I had to be teased about the green pants, I might at least avoid the double whammy of the pants and sneakers. It wasn’t much easier during the non-gym days. Long after all of the other girls upgraded from ankle socks to knee socks, I was still made to wear the ankle socks because I was…. “too young to wear knee socks”. What kind of rule is that?! Of course I was also too young to shave my legs, so those were really super fun days for me.

Often I would opt not to ride the bus at all. There was a field right next to our house and when I knew no one at home was looking, I would cut through the field, head into the woods, take the trail to a park and continue to school on the road that I knew the bus didn’t take. This was about a 3 mile hike, but it kept me away from the bus stop and off the bus. I chose that route as often as I possibly could.
Finally when I became old enough to pick out some of my own clothes and saved money to buy more of my own clothes (the dress code changed as well. We were no longer required to wear dresses) I slowly got over the whole bus stop/bus ride phobia. I still took abuse and was teased relentlessly, but it was no longer due to my appearance, it was more about the neighborhood kids’ common dislike of someone related to me. Even though this had nothing to do with me what-so-ever, I was the target of  that ridicule. I took it, all of it everyday until they did finally move on.

As the years went by, I realized that most of the bullies I remembered, bullied just to make themselves feel superior or to draw attention away from whatever they could be bullied about. The only way they could feel good about themselves was by belittling others. It’s sad, really. Now, even as adults, we find bullies everywhere. We can’t seem to get away from them, but now I view them as pathetic more than anything else. I do now tend to react, and sometimes over react when I think someone is being bullied or taken advantage of. I tend to react (and over react) when I think that something-anything is not fair. It doesn’t have to be about me, but when I think someone is being treated unfairly, I can’t let it go. I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but it is my thing.

Having a child with Autism, bullying has become even more of a concern for me. Bullying, as bad as it was when I was a kid, is so much worse now. There are so many more terrible ways of bullying these days. We read about it every day. I really feel for the children and teens growing up in this environment. I have been fortunate that my son has not experienced this to any great extent. He does not understand it and fortunately he often misses it completely.  But when he did come home and actually TOLD me that his friends were laughing at him at lunch at the High School, I know he did understand and it did bother him.  It is very difficult getting information out of him under any circumstances. This particular time he volunteered the information.

He told me.

He knew.

It upset him.

These were kids that he liked. They were supposed to be his friends. They all have special needs of their own. He really wanted so much to be friends with these 3 kids. I did call his teacher, explained the situation and asked that he not sit with them at lunch anymore. They didn’t have a lot of other contact during the rest of the day. He did have contact with them at other activities outside of school and although he did not notice, I had actually witnessed some of this myself. Seeing him upset, having him realize that “his friends” were making fun of him just broke my heart. I do know he could have experienced much worse and for right now I am thankful that this was the only instance (that I am aware of) of him being bullied or teased or made fun of… to his face at least.

The one thing I am really thankful for is the fact that he did not ever have to ride the regular bus to school.

Back in the day and not very long after I had gotten over my fear of the bus stop and riding the bus, the bullies saw fit to turn their attention to my best friend.

So we did what only the two of us could do in that situation, what my son would not have the option of doing.

We set out on foot and took the long way home…..

#1000speak “Building from Bullying” – March 20, 2015 – To participate
Join: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Group on Facebook
Follow: @1000Speak on Twitter
Link: Add the URL of your blog post to the LINKY LINK

Share: a post on social media with the hashtag ‪#‎1000speak.
February #1000speak – post
And those whose names were never call when choosing sides for basketball – #1000speak

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What to share? That is the question…..

Posted by

The answer….. for me, not everything.

A few days ago I came across this post from Diary of a Mom – online privacy – part a million. Coincidentally  I had just had not one but two similar conversations just last week.
Yes, I do write about my son DC. Whether he understands it or not, I do tell him that I write stories about him. I do tell him what I am writing about. I try very hard not to write about anything that might embarrass him even if I believe he will not or does not understand it. There are so many topics I will not write about.

Good Grief ! I was so on the fence about writing a story about toilet paper that it took me two days to hit “publish” and when I did, I  had to disguise it as paper towels before I did:
In a post a few months back, I wrote that I do not buy paper towels and I do not, but just for the sake of this post, let’s just say that I do…….
I find it much easier to explain autism, HIS autism by telling specific stories about how his mind works, the things he does or says, the many things he is obsessed with, his likes, his dislikes and some of the issues we face. At times I will use humor to tell a story because at times he is funny, the situations are funny! He knows he’s funny. I tell him he is funny.

I have some very good friends, many of whom also have children with special needs. I am thankful for them. We are all somewhat in the same boat and even though autism is not the common diagnosis, we all seem to have many of the same issues. They are the people I can share the “Holy S#!T, how is this my life?” moments with, because at times we all just need to tell someone. They share with me as well. You really don’t want to be in the room when we are all together, trust me. We are able to discuss issues that I can only assume most NT parents do not and would not discuss with their friends (DC is my only child so, that is only an assumption on my part). Those conversations remain between us. They are not written about – ever.

Recently a few people suggested that stories about certain behaviors, “growing pains” and other such topics should become a part of this blog. They will not be…

I understand that people might look at this type of information as knowledge or what they may have to look forward to – I do, but there are plenty of other resources and blogs out there that will and do share this sort of information, some cringe-worthy (to me, maybe not to anyone else) and some handling the subject quite delicately but I don’t feel the need to do that here. I am not saying they are wrong. I am certainly not judging anyone – people have different views on the subject of sharing, this is just mine. It is not for me.

We have our good days, we have our bad days and I almost always learn something from the bad days. I may sometimes write about or mention the bad but not in specific detail.  I will just about always write about what we’ve learned or have been able to figure out from both the good and the bad. I hope I have not written anything that would embarrass him, I don’t think I have. I do hope that in my almost two years of blogging you might by now have a small snapshot about DC, HIS autism, his triumphs, the progress he still continues to make, the way his mind works and most importantly that he is a happy guy who loves his life.

I’ll leave the rest to others…….

 (This post was written a while back and as I mentioned in an earlier post, I try not to post more than once or twice a week, so it  was bumped in lieu of a few others and was in jeopardy of being bumped again. Once again, here is another post from Autism-Mom along the same lines that has been published since; PROTECTING HIM ONLINE – be sure to give it a read.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Secrets, Surprises and Pizza…………

Posted by

Yesterday‘s post,  a re-posted portion of an earlier post with some additions touched on DC’s inability to keep a secret and/or the real possibly that he really does not understand the concept at all. The portion that I did not post yesterday delves into the subject a bit more.

Because I do not like to post more than once or twice a week, I was saving the second part of the original post for next week. Today is my birthday (it is official – I am OLD!) and DC, being DC just could not contain himself. The events of this morning ran right along the same lines as the post I was saving, so I am posting it today.

It is all he talked about it all week. Just to be clear, he is not really excited about my birthday, he is excited about the prospect of going to dinner. Today he is getting lunch and dinner as I am going to meet him at his job for lunch and then out to dinner later – and we wonder why I can’t seem to lose any weight….seriously.

His official birthday observance activities started yesterday with a phone message, that of course he had help with (video at the end). He loves doing things like this. He loves the praise he receives and yes, he does love it when something he’s done makes me happy.

The moment Doug left yesterday, DC began telling me about the “Cards in the Drawer surprise for tomorrow – Mom’s birthday“. Apparently they had hidden birthday cards in the coffee table drawer. Then he decided to show me the “Cards in the drawer for tomorrow”  – He put them back, I suppose so he could “surprise” me with them today.

The first thing he did this morning after saying “Happy Birthday, Mom!” was to give me the surprise cards. There were two – one from DC and one from Doug. I am not sure that Doug had intended for me to have them already and I didn’t want to phone and wake him at 6am, so I opened the card that was from DC. I told him that I would wait for Doug to open the other. As I said, DC loves praise and loves to give me gifts so after I thanked him for the beautiful card and gift, he presented me with a gift my friend at work had given me the day before. (more praise, please). I am sure he will continue to present me with random items from around the house for the rest of the day as he did on Valentine’s Day after I finished opening his gift.
A secret or surprise is never safe with DC and he will be taking credit for any and all gifts or cards that I receive.
And tomorrow (actually, probably tonight as soon as we return from dinner when in his mind my birthday is officially over) … he will begin to obsess about our trip to New York the day before his birthday next week (with best friend “BB”) and the Winter Guard show in New Jersey ON his birthday.

Below is the secrets and surprises portion of the original post I mentioned earlier:
Secrets, Surprises and Pizza…………

We were asked to write a memory for his Winter Guard Director’s Birthday. It was a surprise. I worried that he would give the surprise away before her gift was presented to her 3 weeks later.

Just what is a secret?

A secret, is DC whispering in a raspy voice louder than his already very loud voice.
A secret is pizza for breakfast.
There are times, not often, but there are times, when we have left-over pizza in the house. When there is left-over pizza, DC loves to have it for breakfast. This happens all of once every couple of months, but I know my son. If anyone were to ask him what he had for breakfast, he will answer pizza. If someone should ask him the next day, he will answer “pizza”, not because he had it again, but because 1) That is what he would have wanted to have 2) It becomes a standard answer because he is tired of answering questions 3) That was his favorite breakfast that week so that’s his answer and he is sticking with it.
Not wanting people to think I give him pizza every morning, we decided to call it “Secret Breakfast”. Well…. as I said, DC doesn’t understand the concept of a secret, so anytime we go out with friends for pizza, or we are at a party where pizza is being served,  he always begs for “Secret Breakfast” – at which time I have to explain what “Secret Breakfast” is to my friends or other parents, (because of course, they ask – wouldn’t you?) completely defeating the purpose of the secret part of “Secret Breakfast”. At this point “Secret Breakfast” is just something we call pizza, people now just ask him if he wants to take some home for “Secret Breakfast”, and yes, they also call it “Secret Breakfast” when they offer.

What is a surprise?

A surprise pretty much runs along the same lines as a secret. If we buy a gift, and I tell him not to say anything because it is a surprise, the very first thing he will do when he sees the person that we bought the gift for is:
– Go over to that person, point at them  and says (to me) “Don’t tell anyone, surprise, shhh” and many times he will even announce just what the surprise is. I suppose because he is addressing me and not the person, he thinks he is not giving it all away.
Knowing all of this, I should have realized that the next time we went to Winter Guard practice, he would ask about Mrs. F’s birthday – by practice day it was still two weeks away. I was worried that if he mentioned it in front of her she would know that something was in the works. There would be no other reason for DC to know that her birthday was coming. I reminded him over and over and held my breath for the next two weeks. Fortunately he did not give it away, not for lack of trying though –  he did mention it a number of times at practice but luckily she was not close enough to hear it.
Historically there has never been a gift or a surprise that has not been revealed early by DC. Most of the time I opt not to even tell him, but in cases like this when he plays a part in the surprise by either choosing a gift, or writing a card or in this case, drawing a picture, it can’t be avoided.
We just got very lucky that all of his “Don’t tell anyone, surprise, shhh” (‘s) all happened out of earshot of Mrs. F.
My Birthday Phone Message:

(and just a thought…. it’s my birthday, wouldn’t someone love to come and clean my house? Just once… I don’t ask for much. Or the car…. the car could use a wash….. anybody?)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March Flashback -“A Little Bit of Faith” and Happy Birthday, Mrs. F!

March is normally a very busy month for us. DC and I are both March “babies” and as you may (or you may not) know, DC views his birthday as if it were a National Holiday – I admit that I might be a bit guilty of planting that thought into his head ….. just a bit.

Other than the birthday observations/festivities, the theater season is in full swing so he is volunteering there more often than he does the rest of the year.
We are also right in the middle of Winter Guard season.
Winter Guard season runs from January through mid-April with an additional show in June at the Special Olympics Summer Games Opening Ceremonies.
The friends and family show is always the first show of the season. So far this season at least 3, possibly 4 practices have been cancelled due to the never-ending snow we have been cursed with this winter. So many rehearsals were cancelled that the team was still putting this routine together 15 minutes before this show began on Monday. This team and their coaches were still able to pull it together and put on a great show!  This show will continue to evolve and change right up to the last show  in June.
(This video was cartooned (cartoonized?) to ensure the anonymity of the participants)

Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

You wear it well...


DC and Jay McCarroll (Season One "Project Runway" winner)
DC and Jay McCarroll (Season One “Project Runway” winner)

I have touched on DC’s clothing issues a bit in earlier posts,  but I’ve never really written about the whole shebang. Last week I was reading a post by Mother O’ Jim (What not to wear: Rules for dress, according to Jim) about just this subject. It was funny how different and the same some of our kid’s issues are with clothing

I’ve touched on buttons here:
Buttons: If there is a button there, it needs to be buttoned. Years ago I thought I was being sneaky by removing the top button on all of his shirts so he would not insist on buttoning everything right up to his neck. I discovered I was not as slick as I thought I was one day when DC brought me one of his shirts to have the button removed. He knows there should be a button there and knows I’m cutting it off, but for some reason this is alright with him. Leaving it on and not buttoning it, is not.
Tags and holes as well:
Tags: All tags must be removed from all clothing. If he should find the smallest rip, tear or string, he will proceed to shred that article of clothing. It may take him all day, but he will make sure it can never be worn again. Just recently I mistakenly bought him a pair of jeans that had ready-made tears in them. When I realized, I was sure this would be a disaster, but for some reason, it was fine with him. He wears them quite regularly…….. figure that one out. I can not!
“Nice soft pants”:

For quite a while in middle school and some of high school,  DC was obsessed with fleece pants from Old Navy – elastic waist of course. The problem being he wanted to wear them year round. It took quite a while to get him into jeans or any non-elastic waist pants.

 We’ve traded his “nice soft pants” – many of them anyway, for nice soft pajama pants so he is probably the one kid in the world that is absolutely thrilled to get pajamas for Christmas. Wearing them at night seems to take away the sting of having to wear “real pants” during the day. Did I say “night”? Well I really meant as soon as he gets home and knows or hopes that he does not have to go anywhere else. This could be at noon on some days.

When he did finally make that transition from nice soft elastic waist pants to jeans and regular pants he refused to unbutton or unzip them. He could somehow pull on and take off all of his pants fully zipped and buttoned. I don’t know how he managed this but he did.

Zippers, hats and gloves:

It is always a battle to get him to zip up his coat (I am not a coat “zipper or buttoner” myself ). He does not like to wear hats and gloves either. He works in a greenhouse so these are a must.   He will wear his Dr. Who hat – it
hashad long tassels that hang on either side. DC was insistent on tying these tassels like a bonnet. I explained to him many times that they are not made to be tied. Finally one day last week, I got a note home from his program that he pulled both tassels off of his hat. Why didn’t I think of that? He is now perfectly happy to wear his hat – at work – with out the tassels. He still does not want to wear gloves. I have to insist. I do suspect that they come off as soon as his transportation leaves the driveway.


DC loves tee-shirts – not all tee-shirts though. I am still in the dark about why he absolutely hates some and loves others. I do know that they can not have pockets. Lately he has an aversion to white tee-shirts. I can not get an explanation for this either. Grey was just added to his list of colors he will not wear. When I asked him why, I was told emphatically “White”! Apparently grey is the new white – all the same to him.

The funny thing about all of this is that DC loves to dress up. He loves wearing a white dress shirt (with buttons) and a tie. He loves wearing a suit. He seems very comfortable all dressed up.

When DC was young, he loved wearing shorts. Switching from shorts to long pants in the fall was quite the battle. Now-a-days he would rather not wear them at all. Again, he works in a greenhouse, it is hot. He goes to camp, it is hot. He doesn’t care. I have often thought that DC does not feel heat and cold. He sleeps with a heavy comforter in the summertime. He will not have an air conditioner or a fan in his room. Fortunately the AC in my room will cool his room a bit so he doesn’t over heat. In the winter he pushes the sleeves up his shirts, jackets and winter coats.

The latest clothing quirk – he has begun rolling up his short sleeves – like the guys that carried their cigarettes in their Tee-Shirt sleeve back in the day. In addition to that, he likes to roll up his pants, just enough to make them “high-waters”. It looks very stylish with the white sweat socks. <sarcasm>

A few weeks ago, DC had a Valentine’s Dance to attend. It was scheduled to begin at 5PM. I knew I would not make it home from work in time to get him into the shower, get him to change his clothes and still get him there on time, so I asked Doug if he would come over to help him get ready and drive him to the dance. Knowing DC and Doug very well, I was not going to leave it to them to choose his wardrobe for the dance.  I laid out clothes for DC in the morning before I left for work…….

Best-laid plans…………

DC came walking in the door after the dance wearing the clothes I had laid out but with his pants rolled up, white sweat socks and his black dress shoes.


“You may now leave the runway….”

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

DC Speaks – Doug’s 153rd Birthday and why Mrs. H is just so jealous.