Friday, April 29, 2011

Hat Trick: My Take on the Royal Wedding

Confession: I don't really care about royal weddings. My parents are British, and I still don't care. I didn't watch it. But then I saw some photos of the hats, and that shizz is hilarious.

How do they keep a straight face with those things on their heads? I'm baffled.

I like how the one on the left looks totally pissed, like she just realized it's not Crazy Hat Day during her high school's pep week.  And then the one on the right is whacked out on Xanax blissfully unaware.


Even the royal cars have little doo-dads on top.




Subtle.




I actually kind of love these two. These are clearly the fun aunts you go to the pub with after the wedding.




Hat trick. Also, kind of reminds me of the movie Heathers for some reason.  Now I'm scared.




I'm going to be honest here. Posh Beckham scares the bejeezus out of me. She always looks like she desperately needs a sandwich. She generally looks so pissed off and hungry that she might actually eat you if you're not careful.





It protects her brain from the aliens.





"You told me I looked awesome in this hat."
"I lied."

Outside the Box

We've been having a preschool problem.  In Texas, Little Dude was attending full-day preschool at our local public elementary school.  He had half-day PPCD (preschool program for children with disabilities) and half-day mainstream pre-K.  He had an IEP and it was a public school.

Here in Pennsylvania, our preschool options have been more limited (although it seems that our grade school options have been increased).  Little Dude isn't profoundly affected enough to qualify for state- or county-sponsored preschool.  He isn't potty-trained, so most private preschools can't touch us with a ten-foot pole.  And the private schools that are set up for autistic kids are out of our price range. 

Our early intervention team helped us find one private preschool that would take him, but we ultimately decided it really didn't make sense to put Little Dude in a preschool that isn't explictly trained to work with kids with autism.  It seems unreasonable to expect a regular preschool teacher to handle Little Dude and all his flailing, freak-out meltdowns unique needs.  Cookie and the Pork Lo Maniac went to a great preschool; the teachers were terrific and the class sizes small. But probably not small enough to deal with Little Dude.

So our plan was to keep trying story time at the library to give him some semblance of structured environments, and work with him on his self-help skills at home and in Speech and OT through Early Intervention. 

The skill I picked to work on is putting on his own jacket.  That seems like something that would be handy to know in Kindergarten.  The thing is, when you start explaining how to put on a jacket, it starts to seem wicked complicated.  The lay-it-down-and-flip-it-over-the-head thing is not working.  He ends up with a jacket stuck on his head and freaks out.  I'm already failing in my home-school preschool plan.

The other day, I dropped off my friend Sandra's little girls at their preschool.  It's where the Peanut Butter Kid went; it's a preschool in a high school.  It's part of an early education class for high school students that are interested in becoming teachers; they work one-on-one with the preschoolers.  Because the costs are offset by the high school, it is extremely affordable.  The Peanut Butter Kid loooooved it, and when Little Dude was a baby we thought we'd send him there eventually, too.

Obviously, it's a preschool for typically-developing children.  It is so completely not set up for special needs; toilet independence is understandably an absolute requirement.

While I was dropping off Sandra's girls, I decided to pick the brain of the teacher (the grown-up, not a high schooler) on how to teach Little Dude how to put on a jacket. 

She had no idea.  She only gets kids who already know how to do that kind of stuff.  But she was interested.  She offered to talk to the autism support teacher at the high school and make me laminated visual-cue posters.

Embarassed, I assured her I wasn't looking for her to solve our problem; I just thought she might know a simple trick to teaching kids how to put on a jacket.  We chatted some more about our situation, and then she made the most amazing offer.

She is letting Little Dude attend the preschool, with me in attendence as well.  Basically, I get all the resources of the preschool, and Little Dude gets focused, structured one-on-one time with me.  He'll also get to work with one of the high schoolers.  In exchange, I'll be coming in (without Little Dude) during some of the high schoolers' classtime to teach them about autism, special education, and special needs.

I am overjoyed.  The teacher?  Is gold.  She wants to learn more about autism.  I brought in some books about autism and sensory processing disorder (thank you, Hartley Steiner) and she was all kinds of excited to read them.  I will obviously now do anything for this woman.

And seriously?  The opportunity to teach budding teachers about autism is a-may-zing.  I can tell them that my wish is that teachers help kids in the areas where they need help, but also focus on what's awesome about them.  I can tell them how grateful we are to the first special education teacher Little Dude had; she set the tone for him to like school.  I can tell them that every single person with autism is unique, and that they are not all goddamned Rain Man.

The preschool itself is an opportunity to help him develop more tolerance to noise and commotion.  (It's a huge room, with 20 preschoolers and 20 high schoolers.)  It will give him a semi-structured something that is not in our house.  He'll get to work with a teenager.  It will also give his early intervention team a place to observe him "interacting with peers."  (Side note:  Bahahahahahahaha!  "Interacting with peers."  Riiiiight.)

I am so grateful.  Grateful for this outside-the-box solution that just fell into my lap.  Grateful that I am a stay-at-home mom, my other kids are in school, and I'm able to do this with him.  Grateful that a teacher wants to learn about autism and is willing to open her door to our family.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

He Knows

As Autism Awareness Month draws to a close, we had a little breakthrough today.  (We also had a few breakdowns, but, you know, whatever.)  The breakthrough is that Little Dude is aware of his own autism.

I'm pretty sure he's known for a long time that he was different.  I wrote a piece for Salon about Little Dude's description of how his brain works.  Even at age four, he could articulate that he knew other people's brains worked differently.

He never asked me why his brain was different.

We have always been open about Little Dude's Asperger Syndrome.  From the time of his diagnosis, we've never treated it like a secret, or something to be ashamed of.  It's just been there.  But I never sat him down and said, "you have something called Asperger Syndrome."

Today, our school district had an Autism Awareness Fair.  As we were getting ready to leave, Little Dude said: "Wait -- do I have autism?"

And I said, "yes."

As a family, we've talked about how people's brains can work differently.  The Pork Lo Maniac and I both have ADHD; Cookie and I both have anxiety.  It's just the way we are.  So it was easy for me to explain to Little Dude, "You know how people's brains work differently?  There's just a name for the way yours works.  It's called Asperger Syndrome, which is a form of autism.  It's part of why you're so awesome at math, and Legos, and video games."

Little Dude didn't say anything.  (However, an autistic person not saying anything doesn't necessarily mean they're upset.  For Little Dude, it usually just means that no comment is required.)

Cookie said, "it's why you're so awesome."

The Peanut Butter Kid said, "it's like another word for extra awesome."

Little Dude thought about that.  "That's probably why I'm so good at wrestling.  I can kick Daddy's butt."

That was that, at least for now.  And off we went to the Autism Awareness Fair.

Oh, and also?  The absolute best place for a kid to have a meltdown?  Is at an Autism Awareness Fair.  Seriously, no one even notices. 

The fair was decorated with balloons.  Balloons of Doom.  Little Dude hates balloons like I hate clowns.  I guess that's not a common autism thing, because if it is, I'm sure they wouldn't have had a Hindenburg's worth of balloons all over the place.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ADHD Meds: I Love This Stuff Like I Love Epidurals

I've been taking meds for my ADHD for a month now, and it's time for me to report in again.

Report Summary: I love this stuff like I love epidurals.

I get so much more done these days, because I'm not spending all my time going up and down the stairs for stuff I forgot. Also, for the first time in the whole history of ever, I feel reasonably organized.

That is no small thing; I have been carting around boxes of loose papers for the last two moves. I had to make 32 new file folders to get it straightened out.

I also had to purge about forty pounds of files. (So glad we paid by the pound for those moves.) See, it turns out that you don't actually need to keep every single tax return you ever filed, starting with your junior year of high school.

To deal with the forty pounds of files, I have dubbed next weekend "ShredFest 2011." Because I am paranoid about identity theft, I will be shredding the files, then burning them, and then using the ashes as kitty litter. If someone wants to try to reconstruct my social security number after that, they can be my guest.

Before my ADHD diagnosis, I would often think about organizing my files. I would walk past the boxes of papers, and feel guilty. The guilt would morph into stress, and anxiety, which would actually make my ADHD worse, and before you knew it I was rocking in the corner clutching my mug of self-medication coffee.

This is me before the ADHD meds:



This is me after the ADHD meds:

OK, well, maybe I'm not Martha.  She must smoke a vat of ADHD meds every day to do everything she does.  Or maybe she just has a staff of hundreds of assistants.  Whatever.

Lest you think I've gone all June Cleaver on you, here's a short list of stuff I've messed up since going on ADHD meds:

  • I left my van at the mechanic to be inspected, and Little Dude and I walked home. It's less than a mile, and lovely exercise. When we got home, I realized that my house key was still on the keychain with the car keys, at the mechanic. Fortunately, my back porch was unlocked, so I was able to use my own ladder to break into my own house through an unlocked window. I am so good at breaking into my own house, I should probably steal my own TV soon. I should point out that Little Dude did not find this little adventure to be amusing. In fact, he covered his eyes while I climbed through the window and didn't open them back up until I opened the door for him. I should also point out that no one in my neighborhood noticed and/or cared that someone was breaking into my house in broad daylight. Organization / parenting / neighborhood watch FAIL.  Awesome, all around.
  • I scheduled my cholesterol and blood sugar work-up for the day after Easter. Yeah. Good planning. Because two pounds of ham and ten pounds of chocolate surely won't mess with any of my numbers, right?
  • I failed to pack sweatshirts for the Pork Lo Maniac and Cookie for their two-night Girl Scout trip. I almost forgot to bring their duffel bags completely when I brought them to the meet-up point, so the fact that they had anything to wear at all is actually kind of a win.
  • I forgot to bring birthday presents to a birthday party. I had the presents, and they were wrapped, we just didn't bring them.  Given the fact that we had four birthday parties to attend during a five-day time span, I should have gotten the routine down.  However, I'm giving myself a pass on this, because the fact that I remembered to get my kids to all four parties is a triumph.
  • I forgot to give one of my kids lunch money, which was ridiculous, because we almost never buy school lunch, so it was this whole big deal that one of the girls was going to buy it. And yet she had no money. She came home with the elementary school equivalent of an overdue electric bill notice.
I still make mistakes and forget stuff, but it's minimized. I still don't get everything done, but it doesn't stress me out as much -- because usually, I've actually made decisions about what to do and what not to do, not just forgotten to do stuff.

Oh, I should mention some side effects I've had, so you don't think it's all sunshine and lollipops. I've been able to cut back on caffeine significantly, but I'm a schmuck and haven't yet mastered the art of replacing the Diet Coke and coffee with water, so I'm constantly dehydrated, which gives me headaches.

Also, my blood pressure is up slightly. My blood pressure was previously on the low side, so this is fine for me. But I would be remiss not to mention that Adderall is speed and therefore raises your blood pressure. I'm on the lowest possible dose of Adderall, and it works for me.  But lots of people need a higher dose for it to work, and that could definitely cause significant blood pressure concerns.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Things That Freak Me Out: Special Easter Edition

As you probably have noticed by now, there are many, many things that freak me out.  At the top of the list are antique dolls, clowns, and America's Funniest Home Videos, because obviously.

Another thing that freaks me out is pretty much any mascot-type costume.  And the very worst of those costumes is the Easter Bunny.

Now, I love bunnies.  They're adorable.  They look like this:


You know what bunnies don't look like?  This:


This fear undoubtedly stems from being forced to have my picture taken with scary-ass Easter Bunnies as a kid.  They all looked something like this:


Our nation seems to have a long history of forcing children to sit on the lap of evil bunnies.








You know what would be awesome?  Combining my fear of creepy Easter things with creepy antique dolls.  Oh, goody:




Happy Easter.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm Even Steven

There was a Seinfeld episode where Jerry realizes he’s “Even Steven”: George finally gets a job; Elaine is unemployed. When Elaine throws Jerry’s $20 bill out the window, he finds one later in a jacket.

I’m Even Steven. When one kid has a fabulous day, another one falls apart. Yesterday was one of those dizzying, nausea-inducing, roller coaster days.

Yesterday, Little Dude had a Hollywood moment. We returned to Target, the scene of last week’s escalator-related meltdown. One of my readers had suggested carrying him on the escalator, so that he could get used to the feeling.

So today I picked him up and said that I was going to carry him, so that he could ride the elevator without feeling scared. He thought that was a great idea, and had the best time sailing down toward the produce department. To make things even more awesome, we had one of Cookie and the Pork Lo Maniac’s best friends along. Little Dude adores this girl and plans to marry her someday.

As we headed back to the escalator to go back upstairs, Little Dude announced that he wanted to try again. Groaning inwardly, I chirped, “great idea!”

And damn if he didn’t just get on the escalator. Sure, he had my hand in a death grip, but he got right on. When we got to the top, he got off, with only a minor stumble.

Woot!

But then the day kind of went to hell right after that. The Pork Lo Maniac seems to have outgrown her dose on the Adderall. Over the last three weeks, her ADHD symptoms have been slowly getting worse, and she’s frustrated, sad, and explosive. In various ways, this affects everyone in the family.

And then Little Dude totally fell apart, too, because we had been to two stores and had a friend over and he had ridden the escalator and it all became completely overwhelming.

And then there was a scene between the Pork Lo Maniac and her younger sister the Peanut Butter Kid, and there was crying, and more crying, and then crying by me, alone in the kitchen making dinner. There is only so much drama and trauma I can handle.

By dinnertime all I could think about was an early bedtime for everyone, and yet that fell apart, too, and we ended up getting the kids to bed a half hour later than usual.  I have been putting kids to bed for more than ten years now.  You'd think I would be better at it by now.

Things come together, things fall apart. I'm Even Steven.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Works for You


Once upon a time, I had premature twin babies.  I tried to breastfeed them.  I pumped for them.  The pump was industrial farm equipment a top-of-the-line, hospital-grade machine.  Every two hours, I would nurse one baby, and then the other, and then they would both need bottles (half formula and half pumped milk) because they had a suckish little preemie suck, and they didn't have to work as hard with the bottles.  And then I would pump.

This two-hour cycle repeated itself for six weeks straight.

After six weeks, my husband noticed that I was going stark. raving. mad. ... but not in the fun way I am now.  He gently suggested that it might be okay to wean to formula.

I wept.  Not because I felt like I was a failure, but out of sheer relief.  I had come to hate the pump with a strength of feeling not usually associated with inanimate objects. 

I weaned gradually, over the course of a week of so.  I felt good about the decision.  But then the day after my last nursing, my hormones went all to hell and I lost my freaking mind.  I called a lactation consultant who happened to also be a member of my mothers of multiples club.

Slobbering and blubbering, I explained that I thought I had made a terrible mistake, and that I needed to re-lactate.  Although I didn't really want to pump any more.

Because she the kindest, most understanding lactation consultant on the face of the earth, and as a mother of twins herself, she said to me, "you weaned over the course of a week.  It sounds like you put  alot of thought into this, and that it's what you want to do.  You have to do what works for you and your family, and it's okay if you don't want to pump and breastfeed any more."

Epiphany.

You have to do what works for you and your family.

As it turns out, this is the unwritten motto of my mothers of multiples club, and this is why, although those babies are now ten years old, I still love to go hang out with the women in this club.

You have to do what works for you and your family.

What's that?  You're breastfeeding one twin and the other gets formula?  You're feeding both babies.  Good job, Mommy!

You say you can't get your twins on the same nap schedule?  Awesome, now you have one-on-one time.  You do have them on a schedule?  Also awesome, you should totally take a nap.

You're scheduled to get an epidural the second you think you're in labor?  Good job, you're a planner.  You've arranged to have Tibetan monks chant while you deliver in a baby pool in your back yard?  Good job, you're a planner.

We need to apply this same motto to parenting autistic children.

Homeschooling? Public school? You've taken out a third mortgage and eating a ramen-only diet to pay for private school tuition? Woot! Your kids are getting an education! Good job!


The gluten-free / casein-free diet works for you?  Epicsauce.  We spent years eating rice flour products due to our kids' allergies, and we'd definitely still be doing so if it made a difference in the world for Little Dude's Aspie behaviors. Doesn't work for us, but knock yourself out with that GF/CF goodness.  Plus, those GF frozen waffles are kinda awesome. Can I have one?

By the same token: You're a raw-food, organic vegan?  You let your kids eat peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because you simply cannot fight that particular battle?  You have a cabinet full of nutritional supplements?  You're exhausted and picking up Happy Meals on the way home from work?  All also epicsauce.  Yay you!

Applied Behavioral Analysis 24/7?  Sensory Diet?  Something involving a balance board?  Private therapy, public school occupational therapy?  Special ed classroom?  Mainstream?  If you've found something that works for you, keep on keepin' on.

And then there's you.  How do you handle the stress?  Running marathons?  Praying really hard?  Knocking back a glass of wine with dinner?  Writing a snarky blog?  Congratulations, we will not be calling Child Protection Services!  Keep up the excellent stress-management techniques..

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Break! We're *Just Like* MTV

It's Spring Break! Our Spring Break is *just like* Spring Break on MTV. Except my kids don't even need a beer bong to get naked and pee themselves. They're just wild and crazy like that naturally.

Also, instead of being exhausted from stumbling from one bar to another, my kids will be exhausted from child labor helping me lay mulch in the garden.

Even without the "voluntary" garden assistance, my kids are going to be pretty tuckered out this Spring Break. Normally, our Spring Break agenda goes something like this:

1. stay in jammies
2. eat
3. play
4. sleep

It's great.

This Spring Break, however, we have an insane amount of activity scheduled. Tomorrow alone we have two doctor's appointments and a birthday party. I should note that the birthday party is at our house. It's the double-digit, double-themed party for my ten-year-old twin daughters.

It's unclear to me why I scheduled two separate doctor's appointments on the same day as their party. Probably some of this scheduling happened before I started taking the ADHD meds. As I've noted before, the Adderall doesn't retroactively fix the stuff I messed up prior to being medicated.

Cookie and the Pork Lo Maniac's party is one of four parties my kids will be attending in the space of five days. I find it annoying that their social life is so much better than mine. I would schedule some social activities for myself, but I'd probably have to subtract sleep from my schedule in order for that to happen. So, you know, never mind.

One of the parties was this past weekend -- a sleepover birthday party involving six fourth-grade girls. The giggling went on until the wee hours for most of the girls.  Not so much for Cookie, because Clonidine really drowns out the giggling, apparently.  But the the Pork Lo Maniac was by turns weepy, cranky, and punch-drunk the entire next day.

Ah, Spring Break.  Who needs Cancun?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Top Ten Things You Should (and Shouldn't) Say to The Parent of an Autistic Child


If you're the parent or caregiver of a child on the autism spectrum, Autism Awareness Month is not for you.  You are already aware of autism.  Like, really, really aware.  Aware that you need another cup of coffee, a Xanax, and possibly an advanced degee in Education Law.

Autism Awareness Month is for everyone else.  To help out, here's my Top Ten Things You Should (and Shouldn't) Say to The Parent of an Autistic Child.

10. DON'T SAY: "Wow, your son is great at math.  He's just like Rain Man."

      DO SAY:  "Wow, your son is great at math."


9. DON'T SAY: "He should probably be in a special class, so other kids won't make fun of him."

   DO SAY:  "We should probably be teaching our children more empathy."


8. DON'T SAY:  "You should try giving your kid more discipline."

    DO SAY: "You should try these brownies I made for you."


7. DON'T SAY: "Wow, your kids all seem to have a lot of problems.  Have you ever heard of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome?"

    DO SAY: "Wow, you're really on top of things for your kids.  It must be hard, but it seems like you're doing a great job."


6. DON'T SAY:  "You should change your child to an astronomically expensive, all-organic, gluten-free, casein-free diet of locally-grown organic broccoli and imported, cruelty-free snake oil capsules."

    DO SAY:  "Please sit down and rest while I make you some bacon-topped meatloaf and pour you a glass of wine."


5.  DON'T SAY: "I think autism is over-diagnosed these days. They're handing that label out like Mardi Gras beads."

    DO SAY: "I am alarmed by studies that show that autism spectrum disorders are actually under-diagnosed in girls and minorities.  Excuse me while I e-mail my legislator about my desire that he or she increase the fundng for autism research and education."


4. DON'T SAY: "Isn't he getting a little big for diapers?"

    DO SAY: "Here, I picked up this case of diapers and some extra Febreze for you while I was at the store."


3.  DON'T SAY: "I wish my kid was getting free extra help in school like that."

     DO SAY: "I wish I had remembered to mention to my legislator my desire that he or she stop slashing the budget for special eduation services like they're freaking Zorro or something.  Excuse me while I go send another email."


2.  DON'T SAY: "You look exhausted."

    DO SAY: "How about if I play Lego Star Wars with your kids for the next four hours while you take a nap?"


1.  DON'T SAY: "He's fine / it's no big deal / he'll grow out of it / all kids are like that."

     DO SAY: "It's so great that you got the diagnosis, even though he's obviously awesomesauce exactly the way he is."

Eeeee! My Big News

You know how I totally stalk admire mom-actress-autism activist Holly Robinson Peete?  Yeah, in my head we're total BFFs.  The show she co-hosts, The Talk, is dedicating the entire month of April to Autism Awareness.

I adore the show The Talk because they cover parenting issues honestly, and look at the news from a mother's perspective.  Also, sometimes Sharon Osbourne randomly says things you don't expect a mom to say, and that shizz is funny as hell.  There's something about a British accent that makes a blowjob joke even funnier.

Anyway, I'll be appearing in a pre-taped, 23-second clip promoting Autism Awareness on The Talk tomorrow, Friday, April 15.  (The Talk is on CBS at 2 p.m. Eastern, 1 p.m. Central and Pacific.) 

I've never done any kind of video stuff like this before, and I feel like a mega-dork promoting my 23 seconds of fame, but I'm still pretty excited.  I used hair spray and everything.


The awesomesauce ladies of The Talk.


The Worst PR Pitch Yet: Revised

As a blogger, I receive daily emails from random spammers fine Public Relations people, hawking their stuff.  More specifically, they are trying to weasel free advertising.  Usually they offer me some kind of freebie in exchange for a product review.

Once I was even offered a coffee maker.   This seems like a good fit, because I do adore self-medicating my ADHD with coffee.  But it was one of those coffee makers that requires its own special, special coffee.   I declined, because what the hell?  I'm going to write about some coffee maker that requires its own brand of coffee?  First of all, I can't afford the special coffee that goes with the special coffee maker.  Neither can 99 percent of my readers.  Also, I already have a coffee maker that kicks ass, and I don't want to disrespect it by bringing some tarted-up trollop into my kitchen.  So, no thanks.

Several times, I have received pitches offering me chocolate.  This sounds awesome, except the chocolate comes wrapped in Bible quotes or something.  So I think in this case, the PR company missed the part in my "About Me" page where I explain that I am a heathen.  Chocolate Easter bunnies are about as religious as I want to get with my chocolate.

I have tried to help the spammers PR people by providing helpful guidelines on my Contact / PR / Ads page, in which I explain that my readers do not want to hear about insane stereotypes of mothers the latest in toilet-scrubbing technology, for example.

Up until today, the worst PR pitch I had ever gotten was the one trying to get me to review a toilet training program for cats.  I mean, seriously.  I can't even potty-train my kid.  I certainly am not going to attempt to potty-train my freaking cats.  If I had even a moment left over that might be spent on the cats, it's going to be spent napping with the cats.  You know what I have done instead?  Trained my older children to scoop out the kitty litter boxes.  Problem solved, and it didn't involve seeing my cat squatting on the toilet.

This was the worst PR pitch yet, but it has lost that honor.  At least I actually have cats, so somewhere in the realm of possibility, existed the chance that I might give a crap about their product.

Today I got a PR pitch for some iPhone app for the magazine that touts itself as "the definitive luxury lifestyle brand."  The app can give you invites to exclusive "black card functions" that may be attended by executives from top luxury brands like Aston-Martin, Tiffany & Co., Bellagio, and more.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

This is so far off the mark, I don't even know where to begin.  I'm not sure what a "black card" is.  Is it like a maxed-out credit card?  If so, I might be able to attend.  Usually, I am invited to functions that may be attended by small, sticky children, and I drive to these functions is a minivan full of empty juice boxes and smashed Goldfish crackers.

Confession: I don't know what Bellagio is.  It sounds like a delicious cheese.  I don't even care enough to Google it to find out what it really is, because I already know that even if it is a delicious cheese, it's a delicious cheese I cannot afford.

Speaking of Googling, I cannot imagine what the hell this PR person was smoking and/or Googling to come up with my blog as a suitable site for a luxury lifestyle app.  I tend to write about ramen noodles and wiping butts.  Maybe the post I wrote called My Weekend Shopping: Vodka, Enemas, and Untamed Va-Jay-Jays. That one had a graphic of Skyy vodka, so perhaps one might think that I embody the luxury lifestyle.  'Cause, you know, I was shopping.  And bought vodka.  Of course, I also bought a pediatric enema.  Soooooo luxurious, I know.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sometimes Autism Sucks Big Hairy Monkey Balls


Note: This post has been edited and re-posted to correct some errors noticed in the light of day and with all my meds firing.

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled "Hooray for Autism" Autism Awareness programming to bring you this important message:

Sometimes autism sucks big hairy monkey balls.

It isn't all high math scores and charming quirks and Dustin Hoffman counting cards in Vegas. 

I wrote recently (in a post called Top Ten Things I'm Aware of About Autism) that I know we're fortunate that Little Dude falls on the high-functioning end of the spectrum. One of the comments on that post, from the writer of the blog Autism and Oughtisms, really hit home.
"My son has 'classic autism,' and I am sick of people dealing with much higher-functioning kids trying to say how beautiful and special autism is. My child is beautiful and special, his autism is not. I always soften my opinion about how much I hate the hell out of autism, because when I speak my mind, the higher-functioning come along with their happy-clappy opinions, never having experienced just how bad autism can affect a child (and I know many are worse than my son too)."
One of the things that worries me about Autism Awareness Month is that we'll go a little too far with the happy-clappy and people will be all if autism is so awesome, why do I need to be more aware about it? And more importantly, why should I give a crap about funding autism research?

Yes, Little Dude is incredibly gifted at math and spatial relations, and he is freaking awesome at all things Lego-related. I love him, exactly the way he is, so much that it takes my breath away. However, admitting that his autism is, in fact, a disability does not mean I think he is any less awesome or mean I love him any less.

Here, then, is a little snippet from yesterday's suckishness. It isn't even that big a deal, and Lord knows that parents with nonverbal, more profoundly-affected children are dealing with way worse. But it's a good illustration of the day-to-day crap that autism hands to my son.

Little Dude had an out-and-out, full-blown Aspie meltdown at Target yesterday. It wasn't because he wanted a toy I wouldn't let him have, or because he wanted junk food, or because he was tired, or because he wasn't feeling well. It was because he desperately wanted to go down the escalator, but was terrified of it.

He could not figure out how to step onto the escalator while holding the moving railing. Yes, he is awesome at spatial relations, so you'd think he would be able to do this, but he has limited motor planning. It's not that he can't step onto the escalator; he literally cannot figure out the steps involved in doing so.

There was probably also a sensory issue at play. He was hyper-focused on the moving stairs and I'm pretty sure the visual was overwhelming. Couple that with the vibration of the escalator. Add in the noise it makes that I don't even notice, but I'm sure exists.

He wanted to ride the escalator. He sees the people sailing up and gliding down; he knows his sisters love to take the escalator. He also knows that I won't let his sisters ride the escalator when we're all together, because Little Dude can't handle it, so we all stay together and take the elevator.

They have never once made him feel badly about this. But he knows.

He also has some significant emotional development delays; his frustration tolerance is about the same as a two- or three-year-old. This is why, when he is upset, it goes so full-blown, so quickly. This is also why, when the meltdown comes, I can no longer reason with my normally super-rational, uber-logical child.

Even once the crying, screaming, hopping, spinning, and jacket-throwing at stopped, it was hard to bring him around to reason.

"Well, how about if we take the elevator? You can press the buttons."

"I don't want to be here."

"We can go home, but then we can't buy the cookies we came here for. The cookies are downstairs."

"I don't want to take the elevator."

"Okay. But I think that's the only way we can get downstairs. If you don't take the elevator, we can't get cookies."

Silence.

Hopping.

Mumbling.

When Little Dude is upset, his speech is even less clear than usual. I have to kneel next to him to understand what he is saying.

"I want to try the escalator again."

We then repeated both the escalator attempt and the ensuing freak-out, except this time the meltdown was shorter.

Silence.

Hopping.

Mumbling: "Mommy.  Can we get just the cookies and then go right home?"

"Yes."

We took the elevator. It wasn't a magical, heartwarming breakthrough over his fear of the escalator, but was a victory nonetheless. A victory of getting back to rational thought: the elevator may not be as exciting as the escalator, but it still leads to cookies.

Target isn't crowded on a rainy Tuesday morning. There weren't any people swarming, waiting to get past us. So when the meltdown happened, there weren't too many spectators. If anyone stared, I didn't notice, because I was focused on my child.

I have, at some point, carried each of my four children screaming out of a store. This wasn't the time for that. I let the meltdown unfold and end on his time. I didn't have anywhere else I needed to be but right there with my son.

Watching his stress level go through the roof like that made it clear to me that yes, sometimes autism does indeed suck big hairy monkey balls.

Autism doesn't suck because my kid can't ride escalators. It doesn't suck because I didn't get the shopping done (except the cookies). It doesn't suck because my five-year-old has the emotional maturity of a child half his age. It's not about what the autism means to me.

Autism sucks because Little Dude often experiences the world as an unbelievably frightening, overwhelming, and stressful place.

Autism sucks because even if he eventually masters the elevator at Target, it doesn't mean he'll be able to use other elevators, because he has difficulty "generalizing skills." This means, for example, that after teaching him for years how to take off Velcro-strap sneakers, he finally got it. And then he outgrew his sneakers, and he couldn't transfer the skill to the new sneakers. As another example, after spending years teaching Little Dude to pee on the potty, and finally having some success, we moved. And we are starting at Square One because it's a different potty.

These things suck because he knows he could take off the last sneakers. He knows he could pee on the last potty. And it makes him frustrated and sad that he can't seem to figure it out.

Little Dude continues to grow and mature. His frustration tolerance is better than it used to be; he no longer throws things. Well, he threw his jacket today, actually. But on a regular basis, we're no longer getting beaned in the head with Lego sculptures. So yay for that.

I'm proud of him for 1) attempting the escalator, 2) attempting the escalator a second time after the first disaster, and 3) making the decision to get on the elevator instead of going home.

Plus, the second meltdown was shorter. That's progress, in my book.

And, we got the cookies.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Today, special guest writer Donkeys to College brings us a response to my freak-out about the impending teen years.

........................................
Smells Like Teen Spirit

Really, it's more like Smells Like Teens. End of sentence. But, we are not here to discuss teens/children/husbands and their smelliness. That's a whole other topic.

Yesterday, stark. raving. mad. mommy. told us she is worried about the advent of the teenage years. She is still enjoying watching her kids play outside and hates the thought of all the innocence and cuteness disappearing. I decided I would offer some thoughts on navigating these waters. I have a 13 year old girl and a boy who will be 16 in May. While I am clearly not a parenting expert, I do play one in my head, so you should read closely and probably take notes.

To start with, I wasn't sure whether to give it to you straight or sugarcoat it. I don't want to be like one of those women, who when you're pregnant, tell you every horror story imaginable. That's just mean and once you're pregnant, there's not a whole lot you can do to avoid giving birth. But, I want to help you be prepared, so I will start by painting a picture for you.

This is the "before" picture.  The "after" picture has blood.

Here is what it's like to be the parent of teenagers. Picture yourself walking along someplace beautiful. You are smiling and happy. You are thin and well-dressed. Your hair is perfect. You feel you have your life under control. Things are peaceful because you have finally mostly figured out how to be a parent. Ahhhhh, lovely, right? Now picture, as you are walking along, out of nowhere, something flies by you, punching you in the side of the head, knocking you to the ground. And scene. Welcome to the world of being a parent to teenagers.

But never fear, you and your teen can make it through. And remember, all of us are here because as teens we didn't do anything so stupid that we got ourselves killed nor did we antagonize our parents to such a degree that they took our lives. You just have to remember that you are the adult and the boss and you DO know what's best. Your teen will argue with you every step of the way, but if you stand firm it will got better for you.

Just remember the saying "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig." Same goes for arguing with teens. Let them do the work. They are much less tired then we are. If they want an exception to a rule, let them list for you the reasons why instead of you explaining the reasons why not.

Make it clear that being safe, healthy and happy are your goals for them. In that order. That is not the order they think is correct, but it is. Your teen cannot be happy or healthy if she is not safe. That means your teen needs to know that you will not tolerate drinking or taking drugs. Explain what you mean by that. No drinking at all. Prescription drugs count. Make sure the consequences are clear and you follow through. Like criminals, teens respond best when punishment is certain, severe and swift (I remembered this from my criminal justice classes - finally came in handy).

It is very hard when every sentence you utter is answered sullenly as if talking to you is the most disdainful thing that has ever happened to your child. While you should call your teen on it if they are being outright rude, remember not to take it too personally. I know this is difficult when you spend the bulk of every day trying to make someone's life happy and easy and they spend the bulk of their day acting like you are annoying.

My final tip for today is that your teen still needs love and affection. They will shun it like it's homework or spinach, but they need it and want it. Everyone needs hugs and kisses. I personally am able to get my hugs and kisses in with my son at night when I go in to his room to say good night. He says he doesn't like it and won't hug me back, but he lets me get my love in and will even say "I love you too" sometimes before he can catch himself. That's how I know there's still hope that the delicious little boy I remember is still in there somewhere.

Oh, I forgot to mention that all these things work a lot better if you are not against drinking a lot or getting your doctor to give you a prescription for Xanax.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Teen Drama

Dudes.  I'm over at Donkeys to College freaking out about the fact that my twins turned ten last week.  Do you know what teenagers are doing these days?  Sniffing foul-smelling crap and shooting up animal tranquilizers.  OMG.

The writer of Donkeys to College has actual teenagers, who appear not to be whacked out on animal tranquilizers, so I'm hoping I'll get some advice from her soon.

Hop on over by clicking here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Have You Always Wanted to Know About Autism?

That e-mail I shared with you earlier this week?  The Best e-Mail in the Whole History of Ever?  The young woman who wrote it has agreed to let me do an interview.  Here's the best part: y'all write the questions.

My new BFF, who we'll call Kim, is 20 years old, about to graduate college, and has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  If you read her letter, you know that she is very bright and very well-spoken.  The poor girl already can't get rid of me.  When she's thirty I'll probably be emailing her questions about Little Dude getting his driver's license.

Now, obviously, she doesn't have a magic wand.  Or if she does, she hasn't mentioned it.  So I'm not expecting her to answer questions like "how in the hell do I get my autistic child to poop on the potty?"  Yes, it's a pressing concern for me.  But, again: no magic wand.

Speaking of not having a magic wand, unfortunately, she probably can't tell us what your nonverbal child is thinking.  On the other hand, maybe she can.  Maybe she knows what's going through Little Dude's mind when he's hyper-focusing on Lego minifigures, spinning them through his fingers.  You know what, let's ask her.  The worst she can say is, "look, you crazy lady, I agreed to be interviewed, but I am not a freaking psychic."

Also, obviously, she can't speak for all people with autism; she can only share her own experiences.  Here's an example of what she can answer:  I already asked her if she remembers being told that she has autism.  She said yes, and that when she was diagnosed, the neurophysiologist had explained that her brain is wired differently.  Her brain isn't bad, just different.  She wrote to me that "having a word for it was like 'oh, there's an explanation for what's been going on.  Neat.  That's a relief.'"  She also remembers a conversation with her mom where she learned that it's not polite to call the other children neurotypical.

See?  That kind of advice is gold.  We're not keeping any secrets here, but I've never sat down and had That Talk with Little Dude, either.  He's only five but he's wicked smart and I know I need to work it in soon.  And I will totally explain that it's not polite to call other people neurotypical.  Gold, I tell you.

So, what have you always wanted to know about having autism?  It's okay if you're not a parent of an autistic child.  It's autism awareness month, so if you just have a random question, we're all about raising awareness.

Leave your questions in the comments.  I'll sort through them, edit, and e-mail her a condensed list.  She's in college, so she has other things to do besides answer a hundred questions from us.  Although she's probably not at the frat parties because she still hates loud, crowded places.  (Oooh, yet another bonus of autism from a parent's perspective.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dear American Pharmaceutical Companies,

Dear Makers of These Fine, Fine Pharmaceuticals I'm Taking,

I've been taking medication for my own ADHD for a grand total of two weeks now, and figure it's high time I report back to you on how things are going.

It's pretty freaking awesome.

I can focus and get stuff done. Important stuff, like paying bills, picking up my kids from school, and getting refills on all the medications this family takes. The best part is that I have less anxiety, because I'm not forgetting to do stuff / losing stuff / going into a frantic, yet inefficient, caffeine-fueled tailspin.

You wouldn't think that amphetamines would be soothing, but they are.

However, they're meds, not magic beans. It's not like I can suddenly find paperwork I misplaced three months ago. And it's not like the bottle of pills quietly fills out my tax returns for me while I'm sleeping.

I've had to have conversations with Cookie about why her anti-anxiety medication doesn't take away her anxiety completely. "They're not magic beans," I tell her. "We still have to, you know, actually do some work ourselves."

"Bummer," sighs my ten-year-old, anxious daughter.

Obviously, I would like you to make me some magic beans. You've done a bang-up job with the speed I'm on, and you know I adore the anti-depressans I've been knocking back for more than a decade, but I'm looking for a little something more from Big Pharma. Now I want magic beans.

Ideally, the magic beans would:

* Sort through the various messes I made before I started taking ADHD meds. This would include, but is not limited to, the three file boxes of random receipts, documents, school photos, report cards, unopened mail, expired coupons, and straw wrappers. The file boxes have a cute striped pattern and mock me every time I walk past, like mean girls in junior high.  One of the boxes was moved from our old house in Pennsylvania, to Texas, and back to Pennsylvania.  Unopened.  I would throw it out but there's probably baby pictures and Social Security cards in there.

* Failing that, maybe the magic beans could give me some sort of extra-sensory perception to know where the hell I packed the tax documents?

* Magic beans should let my daughter Cookie fall asleep when she is tired, instead of worrying about the fact that she is not falling asleep. We can get into a mega-spiral with this one, and once she actually didn't fall asleep until four o'clock in the morning. I wish I was joking.

* It would kind of be nice if the magic beans for myself and my other daughter, the Pork Lo Maniac, wouldn't wear off so dramatically. We both take medication for ADHD now, and around five o'clock, we both turn back into pumpkins. Spacey, forgetful pumpkins. It would be funny if I didn't still have to burn some fish sticks make a wholesome family dinner.

* We could also use some magic beans for when everyone is freaking the hell out at bedtime.  Yes, I know you've given me Benadryl already, and I'm grateful for that.  Benadryl is a gift from the gods on so many levels.  I hear it's even good for allergies.  But seriously, when one kid is worrying about falling asleep, two are having meltdowns, and another just remembered that she forgot to do her spelling homework, we need something heavier than Benadryl.  Like maybe one of those dart guns they use at zoos to knock out the lions before they clean their fangs, I don't know.  You're Big Pharma, you figure it out.

* Yes, I did just imply that I would be willing to chase my kids with a dart gun full of heavy-duty narcotics.  It's a humor blog, people.  Work with me here.

* One more things that magic beans should do: I should be able to slip a little something into the coffee of the nice people at early intervention to speed up the process of getting Little Dude's services set up.  Yes, I know they're totally under-staffed, over-worked, and up to their eyeballs in caseloads.  But maybe if they had a little speed in their coffee, they could just ... I don't know.  Work 24 hours a day or something?  When my husband and I were both working full time and going to night school, we used to say "sleep is a crutch for the weak," and "I'll sleep when I'm dead."  Perhaps some magic beans could be used to make that the new motto for the early intervention folks.

* Ooooh, even better.  Let's slip some magic beans into the coffee of our legislators who are, right this very minute, slashing education and special needs services out of the budgets.  Perhaps some magic beans could make them see the penny-wise, pound-foolishness of this?  And then maybe we'd have enough staff and money in our early intervention department that we wouldn't have to wait so long for services.

That's all, American Pharmaceutical Companies.  I know you're busy coming up with new and better ways to give our legislators old white men erections and everything, but maybe you could take a few minutes to work on these issues?  That would be awesome.

Thanks so much,

stark. raving. mad. mommy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Best e-Mail in the Whole History of Ever

I received an email yesterday from a most eloquent young woman. It almost seemed to good to be true, but she's for real. I have withheld her name for privacy, but have her permission to share this with you here.

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Dear SRMM,

I don't know how many emails you get from people without kids, but I thought you might appreciate hearing from someone who appreciates what you do!

I'm 20, about to graduate college and spend a year abroad studying Russian in Central Asia. (If you ask, I can name all of the former Soviet satellites.

I also have an autism spectrum disorder.

I could not have done half of the things that I have done without the help of my loving family. They had me tested, sent me to therapy and worked with me on all of the things that I needed to know how to do in order to help me become very successful.

Time and again, my mom went to bat for me over 504 plans from 3rd grade through high school. I have never seen someone defend me so well. Time and again, my father would show up dressed in his uniform to a meeting because a teacher had been unwilling to listen to the plan that had been developed for me.

They spent hours with me looking at different facial expressions and practicing them with me. They came and picked my up from lunch when the sound of the lunch room would fill my head and drown out my own ability to think. (To this day, I avoid loud, crowded places.)

Without them, I would be sitting in a corner, picking at my hair.

So, I just wanted you (and by extension, the other moms with non-neurotypical kids)  to know that we can be successful.

We can go to college and live away from home.
We can go backpacking.
We can ace tests.
We can write 20 page papers and turn them in on time.
We can play sports. (Just usually not the ones involving tackling or balls.)
We can learn to talk to people.
We can make friends.

What you're doing makes a difference in the lives of your children.

Thanks for sharing your insights into the lives of your kids and I wish them the best of luck with their lives.


....................

I know. I totally want to hang out with her and her obviously amazing parents, and just bask in their awesomeness. But for now, I'll just savor this letter, and know that our family is on the right path.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Available Information About Autism: a very scientific chart

Hey y'all. I made this handy graphic to illustrate the information that's out there about autism!  It's super-scientific, as always.

But He Doesn't *Look* Disabled

In amongst the comments on my last two posts were two that stood out to me.

On Friday's post, The Top Ten Things I'm Aware of About Autism, a commenter wrote:
Anonymous said...
I think that autism is diagnosed too easily...I really don't think social-awkwardness is a disease...some people are just a little different...
April 3, 2011 12:45 AM
On my previous post, Bittersweet, a commenter, probably the same person (note the times), wrote:
Anonymous said...
I've been reading your blog for quite a while now...and from everything you've written about Little Dude, he seems like a normal little kid. Yeah, he might be a late bloomer on some things, but every kid is different... What makes you positive he has autism? From what I've read, he just seems like a regular little kid that's maybe just more sensitive than the 'norm'... Everyone has anxieties over school, friends, relationships, homework, etc...That doesn't mean something is necessarily 'wrong' with you, or that you need medication..Everyone has to deal with life, and what life throws at you, that's what growing up is all about....
April 3, 2011 12:23 AM
I did at first, wonder if they were a joke.  I mean, really?  Or that possibly this reader is confusing some of my posts about Cookie, who specifically has anxiety, with some of my posts about Little Dude.  While I don't take these comments personally, I can't just shrug them off.  To me, they highlight exactly why we need Autism Awareness Month.


School psychologist, Qui Gonn Jinn.
 Despite anyone's doubs, Little Dude has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a neurological disorder on the Autism Spectrum, by two different medical professionals: a pediatric developmental neurologist, and a school psychologist.  (The fact that I referred to them as Dr. Orville Redenbacher and Qui Gonn Jinn doesn't change the diagnosis.)  Little Dude has subsequently been seen and evaluated by a host of professionals: pediatricians, therapists, and special education teachers, and at no point did anyone say, "hey, that's what growing up is all about."

Then I wondered if I am romanticizing our situation in my writing.  I often write about Little Dude's awesomeness.  I don't need or want to write post after post about his flapping hands or the fact that he can spin a Lego guy between his fingers, rocking back and forth and making the same noise over and over, for an hour.  I don't want to relive it every damn time he freaks out from being in the smallest crowd, or our inability to go to places that other families take for granted because it will trigger a panic attack.

I don't want to write it.  You don't want to read it.  Many of you are living it.

Parents of kids on the spectrum are so deep in our awareness of autism that we forget that there are people who haven't personally been touched by this disorder.  Depending on a person's attitudes toward parenting, mental health, and modern medicine in general, not everyone is going to see that autism is all too real.

Plus, you have to factor in some other issues:
  • We don't know what causes autism.
  • We don't know how to cure it, nor can we agree on whether autism should be cured.
  • No one single technique or group of therapies helps all autistic children.
  • Two words: vaccine debate.
So now you've got this big ol' mess of facts and myths, quackery and science, inconclusive studies and anecdotal evidence.  The big news in autism, as newspapers and magazines keep pointing out, is that we know f**k-all about it except that the diagnosis rate is skyrocketing.

And then you've got my kid having what appears to be a tantrum on the floor of the waiting room. 

And, you know, "he doesn't look disabled."

He looks like a kid behaving badly.  I get it.

Short of putting him in a t-shirt that says "I'm not misbehaving; I have autism," I don't know what to do about that.

Autistic people don't, as a matter of course, look different from neurotypical people.  Unless he's in full-blown Aspie mode, rocking and making his little noises, he pretty much looks like any other goofball kid his age.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  Of course it's great that he can "pass" for neurotypical.  On the other hand, sometimes I wish there was something about him that signalled to other people to be more understanding, more patient, more tolerant.

To the anonymous commenter, and to those out there who see autism as the diagnosis du jour, I say this: while I hope that autism never touches you personally, I ask for your open-mindedness about what's happening in my family. 

Failing that, you can bite me.

We are doing our very best to help our son function as best he can, and to help his experience of the world be less stressful for him.  Autism spans a range of behaviors; this is why they call it a spectrum.  We are fortunate that our son is very high-functioning in most ways, and is even very gifted in some areas, but he will always struggle in other areas.

He is autistic, whether you see it or not.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Top Ten Things I'm Aware of About Autism

Happy Autism Awareness Month! It's going to be a month-long fiesta of wearing ribbons and making Facebook status updates and watching special education and other support services fall prey to sweeping budget cuts. Awesome!

We're still less than a year into Little Dude's diagnosis, but I'm certainly far more aware of autism than I ever wanted to be. Here are, in fact, the Top Ten Things I'm Aware of About Autism.

10. We are incredibly fortunate that Little Dude's form of autism is a very functional Asperger Syndrome. It's kind of like when I had twins, and singleton moms would be like, "I don't know how you do it!" And all I could do was bow down to my friends with triplets and quads. I bow down to the parents who are struggling with more severe forms of autism.  Our son is verbal.  Many children with autism are not.  That pretty much sums up how lucky we are right there.

9. Autism never travels alone. It brings lots of little friends to the party: sensory processing issues, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, allergies, gastrointestinal issues. I'd also like to point out that no one knows why there are so many "comorbid disorders," or how they tie in together, or really anything at all for sure, except that the number of autism diagnoses is growing alarmingly.

8. Autism is expensive. Would Little Dude be doing better with private occupational therapy for his sensory problems? Yes. Can we afford it? No. Most of the sevices he needs have been provided through state services, but some issues, like Sensory Processing Disorder, don't qualify for services. Plus, there's always the knowledge that more therapy would be better.  There are, here and there, private school for kids with autism.  One of my good friends has just started her son in a school like that; it's wonderful.  Although now she jokes that she's performing, um, "services" in back alleys to pay for it.  And that's just one child, one family. The national and global cost of autism is astronomical.

7. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable when people post on Facebook that "people with autism aren't looking for a cure, only acceptance."  You know what?  I think that's true of some people with autism.  But I know that there are other people who feel differently.  And while I love my son exactly as he is, I hope that some day other parents won't have to go through what parents are struggling with today.  Instead of putting up a Facebook status post, contact your legislator and encourage him or her to fund autism research and education.

6. Even when you're expecting it, being told by a medical professional that your child has autism? Sucks.

5. Even so, it's not the end of the world. Life goes on after the diagnosis, and in fact life gets better. Little Dude's diagnosis helped us understand him, and the way his mind works. We are able to be better parents to him. Also, the diagnosis was the key to getting him help.

4. There is some hidden awesomeness with autism. Our son is ah-may-zing. He randomly builds Lego structures that bear a surprising resemblance to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. His ability to focus on one topic is sometimes maddening but its power and intensity is always awe-inspiring. His inability to understand some social nuances also means that he completely cuts through a lot of the social b.s. that we think of as "normal." It's kind of like living with a small, non-swearing George Carlin.

3. There is too much we don't know.  Other families have very different experiences and histories than ours, but Little Dude has always been autistic. It is, very clearly, genetic in our case. (I mean, have you seen the diagram of my DNA?  There's a reason I call it the "Double Helix of Crap.")  But what about the kids who appear to be typically developing, only to withdraw and lose skills? 

2. Awareness and sensitivity come in the most unexpected places. A guy working at GameStop blew my mind this week with his knowledge of Asperger Syndrome and his ability to engage with Little Dude. Conversely, not everyone who should know about autism does. I have met public school teachers who blew my mind by knowing literally nothing about Asperger Syndrome.  As in, did not know of the existence of Asperger Syndrome.  Never heard of it.

1. Although the struggles are hard, the successes are that much sweeter. 
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