Saturday, June 28, 2008

Free to be Me, at the Spree

Well, it was Spree time in dear old Livonia, MI this past week and weekend. The Spree is always highly anticipated by Bill and I, we've had a lot of fun there over the years. He being a Livonia native, grew up with the Spree, so it brings out his little boy side a bit. The Spree is a large festival basically that celebrates the city of Livonia's birthday every year. They have a midway full of rides for the young, and young at heart. Games and food of course are part of it too. Casey has a great time every year as well. He especially enjoys the musical acts they have on the "main" stage at night. Mom and Dad can sit back with a cold beverage while Casey dances. The dancing usually looks something like this (note: Casey is the white shirted fellow who walks "rhythmically, and then suddenly boogies)

He has no fear about getting out there in front a great deal of people and tripping the light fantastic. Most of his moves haven't changed for a long time. It's great excercise for him, and he comes back often to refresh himself.

This year, something hit me during our time at the Spree. Our little boy is still a little boy in so many ways, but it seems his physicality is beginning to draw so much more attention to his Autism.

Casey is tall for his age, about 5ft, 100 plus lbs. His gait is unusual, always has been but seems to be more pronounced since he's hit the 5ft mark. He still stims as he walks, arms bent, stretched in front of him, moving to some internal beat. He claps a lot still, usually out of excitement over something he sees or is thinking about. He still holds his ears, sometimes to block out sounds he doesn't care for, but mostly so he can hear himself talk, which is something he does, alot, to himself.

He's done all these things for years, but I notice people staring a lot more now, which is something I wrote a whole blog entry about. But I can't say that I blame them, they're probably wondering why this big kid is doing what he is doing. And his dancing in front of the people is becoming something I've considered stopping in the years ahead. I really don't want people wondering why this giant kid is up there (who knows how old they think he is ) dancing like he is, holding his ears. Worse yet, are they looking at him going "Oh, he must be mentally challenged, God bless him!". Doubt it.

The "screw you" side of me says who cares, he's not hurting anyone, and he clearly doesn't care what people think (ah, what a freedom he's blessed with). On the other hand I want people to not think of him as "challenged" or "disabled" either, or simply "weird".

Maybe, short of putting him in a straight jacket when we go out, and roping him to a chair if there is any music to be danced to, I should just throw caution to the wind, let people have their thoughts, and as long as Casey isn't hurting anyone, and no one is hurting him that we know of, enjoy the show. As for the walking, well geeze, who knows! Guys gotta walk right? Maybe Bill and I will take on his style! There's power in numbers.

Now for all the rides that say they are only for kids that are 54 inches, well, that's another story!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Metaphorically Speaking

My son's listening range never fails to amaze me. Case in point, the other day was his first day of summer day camp. I picked up a red cheeked and clearly tired boy, overwhelmed I'm sure, cognitiviely and physically from all the newness of the people, the space, the activities, the routine change.

When we got home that afternoon, he couldn't even finish his dinner, so tired was he, and retired to the quiet of his room and proceeded to take a 3 hour nap. Completely out of the norm for Casey. It even knocked me for a loop, I almost didn't know what to do with myself (although I used the time no problem! :0) )

The next day, we arrived again at the little historical one room schoolhouse his camp is stationed in. He bounded into the room, doing his regular circling of the permiter of the room. I jokingly asked one of the counselors "What did you do to that kid? He died when he got home last night. He slept for 3 hours!". She laughed and said she did the same.

Later that afternoon, I once again picked him up. Settled in the car, he began to beg for me to get him some fast food. Teasingly, I said "I don't know, you couldn't even stay up long enough last night to eat!". He thought for a minute and then responded "But I didn't die last night! I want fast food!". It took me about 20 seconds to get over my shock of the comment and recall the use of the metaphor I used that morning pertaining to his exhaustion. I hadn't a clue he had heard me, and really taken aback at his apparant misunderstanding of it. I felt bad and explained as best I could what a metaphor was. I remember someone mentioning that metaphorical speaking is very difficult for naturally literal Autistics to wrap their brains around (there I go again). He seemed to understand after I gave him some examples.

I guess despite my explanations, I need to need to me more careful about my terminology that I use with him, or anyone he's within earshot of hearing me talk to!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Reading

I've been a little bummed that Casey is showing no interest in reading so far this summer (I wish I could just read a book all the way through). Every time I attempt to get him to read, he says that it's for school and he doesn't have to. So much for the summer reading program at the library.

Last night I was cleaning up, listening to his television playing "Toy Story" Extras for the 800th time when an idea hit me. I wondered if the script from "Toy Story" would interest him. Thank God for the internet, for lo and behold, a search directed me to the full on script. Ninety pages later and and an ink cartridge and a half, we had a copy. I hole punched it, placed it in a binder, printed out a "Toy Story" picture to put on the front and the rest was magic. I handed it to him and explained what it was. When he opened it and started reading, he couldn't stop. He placed it carefully on the floor under a light and began reading outloud each page, giving the correct intonation to each characters line the he's heard in the movie. I set up all his characters in front of him so he could "read" to them.

He continued in this manner, taking breaks to recite some "Toy Story" creation background, for over an hour, and I finally had to make him take a shower and go to bed, promising he could return to the script tomorrow. He slept well after that, his brain probably being exhausted from all the reading/acting.

Case woke this morning asking for the computer, but when reminded about his script, returned to his bed, cozied in and started reading.

Hey, whatever it takes!

Friday, June 20, 2008

update to whoever

Boy, over 10 days since I've written. I've gotten a bit lazy.

So much has been going on sorta. Case had his last day of 4th grade on the 10th. It was bittersweet. Yet again he is moving to another school, another situation. It should be interesting next year, I was happy to hear that his new teacher is a very experienced speech therapist, that can't be all bad.

Other things are happening that are kinda interesting that I can't talk about because I am not sure who reads this and unfortunately, I really don't want to reveal certain aspects of the excitement. So if you really wanna know, contact me privately. It's Casey related by the way.

We've been trying to work and get in time with Case and all that that entails for the past few weeks until he goes to camp which starts next week. It's a day camp for kids with all sorts of disabilities and I think he's going to have fun. I debated whether it was a good thing for him to be at such a camp but honestly, I don't know how much he would get out of a typie camp and it seems the program is centered around kids like him. Just fun, not too complex, not too sporty, lots of field trips. So, hoping that goes well and I can get rid of some of my guilty about him not being with any kids this summer so far.

He might got for a week in July to stay with the Indy Aunties. I am a little nervous about being at home without him for a full week, but I think if I keep busy, the time should fly, and I know he'll have fun. His one aunt is an OT! Free camp!

And that's about it so far, I hope to blog more regularly as the summer progresses. I have so many specific things I want to address.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Little Surprises

I am a huge flower lover, and I have really tried to establish a nice, showy garden in my front yard. I go after the colorful varieties, your ganzanias, your lobelia, impaitients, etc. So a few years back when I came upon a Columbine at a nursery, I was really excited. I had seen beautiful photos of Columbines (regretful name though) in my gardening books and they look like thisor this

or this even

Beautiful right? I waited 2 years for this thing to do it's thing and grow some flowers. More than likely I was doing something wrong, but this year, I was elated to see some buds early one Spring morn! Well, they've bloomed, and guess what....

they're white, pure white. No color whatsoever. In fact here's an actual photo of my Columbine.

Yeah, it's lovely, but it's white, sorta dull, sorta boring. As I studied my photo I began to notice the little deep inset concave areas in the flower that are really quite interesting but here's what really stuck out after I cropped to get a better view

I got a little grasshoppery thing taking up residence in my boring Columbine! He's still there after 2 weeks too! No, he's not dead!

Many may not, but I just found this interesting. What a nice little surprise!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Corny Autism Analogy Occurred to Me ......

We ventured out today to see the latest installment in what I feel is a very mediocre line of children's feature films as of late. In fact, I feel everything since Nemo has been s&*#, but that's just my adult opinion.

So, we saw "Kung Fu Panda" starring Jack Black. Casey showed mild interest in seeing so it was a must, even with mild interest. And is most of our experiences at the cinema lately, he talked too loud to himself during boring parts, and asked to go to the bathroom twice in the first 40 minutes. Oh, and then there was the M&M debacle where I forgot to smuggle in a second bag I bought prior to arriving at the theater along with the first that he finished in the first 5 minutes. He was not happy that I had forgotten it in the car, and made it known, quite loudly....

As the film progressed, I found myself being mildly entertained, and quite impressed by the animation, they've come so far with it. What really struck me though was the storyline itself, which was predictable, but interesting in a certain way.

SPOILER ALERT!!!! Don't read on if you are 10 years old or you really don't want to know what happens in the movie.

Basic premise, a big fat panda loves kung fu, in a twist of fate, becomes the chosen one to become the Dragon Master, or something like that (my details are so sketchy that this might not even be considered a "spoiler"), and has to study under a master who has trained the elite 5 kung fu characters. The panda is a cute slob who loves food, and is sorta lazy and not at all experienced in Kung Fu. He is looked down upon by the Kung Fu experts and his master, but the master must train him. The master can't figure how to teach him, until he realizes that he must use the panda's high interest to train him, and he uses food, since he likes to eat a lot. And lo and behold,by integrating food into the pandas training he becomes a kung fu expert and of course fulfills his destiny and saves the day and blah blah blah.....

So, in other words, using a person's or in this case panda's high interest, one can be successfully taught a skill!

Gee, wish Casey's regular ed teacher who gave us a lousy report about how he just didn't seem to want to particpate with the class and said she wasn't sure he even got what she was teaching went to see "Kung Fu Panda". Maybe she would have learned something!

Just a thought.....

Cute movie!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Is Eye Contact Really Painful or Just an Unexpected Treat?

One of the big "symptoms" of Autism is lack of eye contact. I've heard this one since Case was a tiny Autistic being. It drives my hubby crazy when his son won't look him in the eye (I think Case knows that). I personally can relate to not giving eye contact although I don't believe I'm on the spectrum (if you know me and think otherwise, leave me a comment). I almost get hypnotized when having a conversation with someone while trying to stare them directly in the eye simply so they think I'm listening. I often feel that if I could just look down or away, I would get so much more out of what is being said, but this is socially unacceptable.

I have to wonder if lack of eye contact is really bad, if one isn't looking at it from social perspective. And, I have to wonder if people with Autism are better listeners on some level because they don't make eye contact.

Oddly, I have really never had an eye contact issue with Casey. Tonight was a great example of this. We were at the pool, and usually he is in his own little world moving through the water, self-talking, and just loving the aquatic life. Fortunately for me, it seems he is much easier to engage in the pool, perhaps because of the movement, his relaxation level, who knows. Tonight, he took it upon himself to engage me.

For some reason, he suddenly wanted me to go under the water. Usually, we are at the pool at the end of the day, and I still have my makeup on so I don't want racoon eyes, and I don't want my hair all wet and goofy. So, I never go under, and usually he doesn't mind, but tonight, he was quite certain this was something I had to do.

We moved about the pool, debating on why I should and shouldn't go under, he saying "It will change your life!" (who knows where he got that one), and me saying "No, I don't want to look gross!". All the while, he stared directly into my eyes, so much so that it was almost uncomfortable, I wasn't used to it. But I suppose he felt so strongly about what he wanted, that in his mind, eye contact lent to the seriousness of his request. It was bizarre and awesome at the same time, almost like having a wild animal that would never come near a human take a piece of food out of your hand. I felt sorta privaleged to get so much eye contact, I savored it, and I tried to stretch out getting it as long as possible. Finally, I returned the gift with allowing him to "dunk" me. Mission accomplished, he was happy.

I was happy too, because I have to start believing lack of eye contact isn't a symptom of Autism, but the choice of an Autistic person.