Thursday, March 6, 2014

Really, it's Great to have a Teen with Autism!

As these frustrating, challenging, and often rewarding teen years pass with Casey, I try to reflect on the "rewarding" part more than anything. You know the ol' saying, "You gotta laugh for cryin'." ? Well, I do that a lot, and along with laughing, I also try to be a glass half full kind of gal.

Call me delusional, call me unrealistic, but don't call me late for dinner! There are definite advantages and rewards to having a teen with Autism, and as hard as that is for many to believe, I think by the time you read this post, you will want to adopt one!… Ok, now I am being delusional, but hear me out. Let me just share these advantages with you!

First off
- Clothing! This is a biggie. Clothes are exceptionally important to teens, boys and girls a like. Sometimes, I see teenage guys verging on being mini metrosexuals, and it's charming and creepy at the same time! From what I hear, a certain brand of t-shirt can cost upwards of 30.00 bucks, and that's all a kid will wear! Skinny jeans only please, and of course footwear is outrageous, and must be a specific brand, or your frieds WILL disown you.

But not with Casey! I can go to Walmart and grab a stack of $7 t-shirts, and as long as there is NO TAG, he's good with them. Jeans? Who needs jeans? Well, Casey would look dashing in some, but having trouble with the button and fly kinda forces me to seek out the coolest sweats I can find. "Cool" and "sweats" dont' really go together, but I try, and you can get 'em real cheap, and Casey doesn't care! He also doesn't want his pants to hang on purpose, thats a huge bonus! My only clothing challenge is finding things appropriate for his 6'4, 240 lb frame. That's enough, fashion and trendiness be damned.

- Taking and Picking up! Not a lot of that going on at all, thank GOD! Casey has a small group of people he calls "friends". There are kids in his school I believe he considers friends, one or two imparticular he's known his whole scholastic career. One his oldest and dearest comes over after school once a week and they hang in his room playing their various devices. I hear conversation but not much, but they are happy. He doesn't ask me to take him and a group to the mall, no one is calling to have Casey over to their house so I'm not running him over to anyones and picking up. This may sound sad to you the reader, but, it is what it is, and because of it, I'm not tearing my hair out planning with other parents who's taking and whose picking up. From all accounts, this sort of activity can be a bit much, and I'm glad I don't have to deal.

- Friends in general. Would I give my left arm if Casey had some good friends to do things with? Yes! I'm not fooling myself, a normal social life is something that I quietly long for for him. But, I don't think he longs for it himself, in fact I'm sure of it. Casey is happy with he, himself, and his. DOn't get me wrong, he gets a kick out of seeing kids he knows at various events, and as mentioned, at school, but his homelife is his, and he's much more of a loner, like a lot of "typical" people I know. He doesn't get hung up on not getting invited to events, he doesn't get sad because someone didn't call him, or a friend talked to another friend about him. He doesn't care if so and so is getting together without him. He is a happy kid, and the interactions he has seem to satisfy him. I hope to promote more in the future, if he's down with it.

-Boyfriend/girlfriend stuff Aaaccckkkk So glad I don't have this to deal with, currently anyway. Although Casey does ask questions about things of a sexual nature here and there and has asked me if I was his girlfriend, thats about it. He isn't texting girls, no one is "sexting" him. No little snotty chick is cursing him for not acting a certain way to her, no one is breaking his heart, at least not right now. He just doesn't get the whole thing, and seemingly, doesn't care.

-Cell phones! Casey doesn't want a cell phone. Ok, let me take that back. He wants MY cell phone in the car to watch youtube videos. Casey doesn't want to text, and he definitley doesn't want to talk on the phone, at least not for very long, try giving him a call (but call mine, because, as mentioned, he doens't have one). I don't have to worry about lost phones, huge bills, and all that come with teen cell phone use. Nice!

-Maturity level and innocence. Now, this may come off as the most pathetic or sad part of this post, but hear me out. How many times have parents of teens bemoaned the fact that their kids have grown up, how they miss that little kid they once had? Well, in some ways, I still can enjoy the childish innocence that seems to vaporize the moment they hit thirteen. Casey is still very immature, he still watches "Sprout", he's comfortable not being cool, he wants to sit on my lap (which ain't happening), he still needs me at night to lay with him so he can go to sleep. I still get those lovely kiddie moments, even into his teens. I know they will go away eventually, but, I get to enjoy them longer. He still calls "mommy" at fifteen. Sniff sniff… I love that!

-Hanging out. Now what I mean by "hanging out" is being with friends in situations that aren't supervised by ME! And not to say that kids are always up to no good, but they do things and they try things when you aren't around. I never have to worry about Casey calling me up from a friend's guaranteeing me their parents are home when they aren't. He isn't going to lie to me and tell me that he's going over to Fred's when he's really going over to Betty's. He won't be in that pack of kids I see at the rec center every Friday night, picking fights and doing stuff with eachother that would make their parents hair stand on end if they had hidden cameras on the walls. I always know where he is, and who he is with. Yeah, it may be sad to you, he has no "life" so to speak if this isn't happening. I tend to disagree. This is luxurious to me!

So, have I sold ya? Do you believe me when I say there are rewards and advantages to having these rascals in your home? Well, even if you aren't ready to run out and grab your own Autistic teen, at least I have mine, and I wouldn't give him up for the world!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

He's Such a Teenager

I'm not going to wax poetic about how long it's been since my last post! In my head, my last post was yesterday, but I just didn't type it out. I always have fodder for this blog, I compose it in my brain, and then it drifts off like a gentle fog into the dark crevices of my psyche. This morning I have a few extra moments to actually take the time to type and I'm gonna!

Casey is fifteen now. FIFTEEN! He is 6'3 or 4 (he's probably grown an inch since I dropped him off at school), he weights 226 lbs too much... I'll allow you to finish your gasp...and he is every bit a teenager now.

Where shall I begin my litany of how much a teenager is he? Shall we start with school? Yes, lets.

He's a Sophomore now and his Sophomore year started out bumpy, despite my attempts at making his day as pleasurable and easy breezy as I had the power to make it. First issue, he HAS to have some academics in his schedule! So unfair! (I am saying this all fasciously, in case you the reader aren't used to my dry wit) My goal was to bring back the days of preschool la la land for him in some way, just so he would want to go to school! But just as I can't keep him from growing an inch a week, I also cannot make every part of his school day happy dappy do! He can do academics on some level, but to me most academics serve him no purpose, so why put him through the strains of having to sit through academic classes? But, since he can't take gym twice a day, academics were added to his schedule. Whatever!

So, he has three "academic" classes. Math, which is extremely remedial and more life skills oriented, the class that he seems to act out the most in, but it's the first class of the day. Science, which is taught by the bubbly girls track team coach. And Basic Computers, which he excels in, but finds himself in a bit of trouble occasionally due to his social endeavors with the other students. In addition to those classes, he has music, gym, and a course called Peer Connections where they do video modeling and soical group activities. Oh, and did I mention he has a one on one parapro all day? His own little grandma away from home no less? Easy breezy indeed!

Despite all of this cush, there are always issues, there's always arguing about going to school in the morning, there are always fights at night about going to bed, there is always backlash at doing the little bits of homework they send home because he didn't finish it at school. There are always at least 4 battles a day, despite his seemingly smooth schedule.


And these battles are just the school oriented ones! Don't get me started on the battles over computer time, getting him to work out, getting him to bath, getting him to wash his hands after peeing, getting him to.... sigh, the list goes on.

Casey is in the deep murky mire of teenagerdom.

And do get me started actually, that way, I will continue to type thoughts instead of brain farting them away! I have so many, and they're pretty entertaining!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Like Comparing Apples and Oranges....

Despite our sadness, shock, and anger over the horrendous massacre that occurred in Newtown, CT. this past week, Bill and I find ourselves watching the unending news coverage, usually later at night after Casey has gone to bed, when there's not much else on to distract us. CNN seems to be the channel of choice for our viewing, with Piers Morgan berating gun supporters and Anderson Cooper shedding a genuine tear after reflecting on one of the twenty little kids that lost their life. So depressing. We ask why we watch, but we do.

Anderson Cooper has made a big point of not discussing the shooter, Adam Lanza, out of respect for those whose lives he stole, and so that the desperate people who might be in his same mental zone won't feel any sort of admiration for what he did. Any over discussion of this guy could backfire.

In light of reports that this kid was Aspergers, he's been getting a lot of thought and attention in my brain, and in the Autism community. Letters have been published from various Autism groups explaining that people with Autism are more likely to be victims of violence rather than be the creators of violence. I have to believe his issues didn't stop at the supposed Aspergers speculation. Bipolar? ODD? Who knows. The Aspergers has made the news.

We are told he was a loner, played a lot of violent video games, and was homeschooled later in his life. His family was split, parents divorced, as a result of his issues, I don't know. His mom didn't like leaving him alone yet she did, in a house with guns easily accessible. All these elements, the alleged Aspergers, the love of violence, family unrest... how did they affect this kid? What did it all do to him to cause him to crack as he did, in such a horrific and tragic way?

I kinda hate when people personalize such events, make it all about themselves. I'm not trying to do this here. But, the Autism aspect of this situation causes me to speculate and worry.

What about our Casey? He's not "Aspergers", whatever that really means nowadays, if it means anything anymore as some reports have sited. But, his Autism sparks thoughts and concerns that I didn't have before all these people were killed.

He's fourteen now, and he's hormonal. He has outbursts of anger sometimes that are a little scary. He can get a little physical, which can be scary too, considering his height and girth. His frustrations lie in, I believe, his inability to find the words sometimes to express how he is feeling in the moment. I hate to see it, especially since he's always been a mild mannered kid. Lanza was only twenty years old. Had he been violent as a teen as well?

Casey's social life is less than wonderful at school. He tells me that kids tell him to "back off" and "personal space, Casey!". When I asked him what one of his lunch mates and he talk about, he said the boy just bosses him around and tells him to eat his sandwich. FUN, huh? Casey's social skills are lacking to be sure, but he wants to have friends. Walking up and smelling peoples hair, getting in their faces, as he tends to do, but not in a forceful way, and trying to touch their ears don't really go over well. We work on these things constantly at home and at school, but in the moment, abstaining from such actions don't occur to him. The one boy he has taken a liking to has reportedly decided not to be friendly anymore, even though Casey, in his sweet way, won't accept it. I'm betting Adam Lanza was the same. His loner status confirmed by many can almost guarantee that. How did Adam's lack of friends and social life affect his brain, how did it play a role in his breakdown? How will it affect Casey someday?

When horrific things happen, your life can't stop. I can't stop sending Casey to school because I'm afraid of copycat events. In the same vein, I must not over analyze Adam Lanza and freak myself out about Casey's future.

I must take solace in the fact that Bill and I aren't divorced, like Adam's parents, nor are we planning on being so. We are a strong and supportive force in Casey's life, usually on the same wave length, and helping the other get their heads straight when one of us is out of sorts on things (this is usually Bill helping me get my head straight). We have never let Casey play with guns or play video games with shooting. He doesn't have any interest anyway, thank God. His violent tendencies, if you want to call them that, only come about during moments of frustration, usually with me trying to get him to do something he doesn't want to do. He's even started to tell me he needs to ride his exercise bike during such times, taking it up on himself to regulate his feelings the best way he knows how, and it almost always helps. We involve him in many activities that lend themselves to social interaction outside of the school setting. We try to do as much as we can to help in this area. We do the best we can, and that's all we can do.

I hope that we are doing everything and more that Adam Lanza's parents didn't.


Friday, August 31, 2012

I'm Done, I'm Done, I'm Done

I believe I have said "I'm done, I'm done, I'm done!" at least four times a day for the last two weeks, to whoever is listening. It's usually Casey, or one of three felines in earshot. None of them seem to understand, or care.

What brings me to repeat my mantra of negativity, either under my breath, or occasionally at the top of my lungs (purely for effect of course)? I can say with confidence, it is this two week lull between camp and school's start!

I am quite aware of the overall angst and irritation many parents of both children lacking in Autism and those who are heartily full of it, are feeling at this point in time. It's a long summer.

I have had to totally rearrange my work, which really translates into, working odd hours and weekends, and taking the rest of my vacation time. I don't mind this, especially the time off, but... but, well, it's hard sometimes.

I've always been down on whiney Autism parents, which is nasty and mean on my part. I know people have struggles with their Autie kids, a lot worse than mine, but in the minds of the majority, even my problems seem gargantuan, and as such, I never liked to give into the potential for pity. So, I never make a big stink about Casey's issues on a regular basis with regular friends and acquaintences.

However, indulge me for a moment, while I wallow, and I'll say it again! It's hard sometimes, time off I mean, and I have to say that Autism makes time off twenty times harder!

I know at this point anyone with an Autie kid is saying "Amen, sista!". They can relate. Anyone reading this with "normal" children are saying "Oh come on, we have our troubles too!" I'm not trying to be elitist in my Autism specific angst, but it's harder. Take my word for it!

What makes summer lulls and general time off harder for Casey, and me? Friends, or should I say, lack of, friends for him. I don't think I'm the only one here that can say this. Sure, at school and camp, Case has "friends" that he interacts with, and talks about at home. But, he doesn't get calls from these friends, he doesn't get invited to overnights by these friends, or invited to join them on family vacations. He doesn't have a couple of buds to go out and cruise the neighborhood on foot with, or ride their bikes together to the rec center for basketball or a swim. Geeze, I don't even let him scooter around the block by himself yet. I am his friend, and my husband when not at work is his friend. Yeah, I could set up social situations, but damn, it would nice to have something happen organically, not orchestrated and monitored. Having friends makes all the difference. Hell, I would love if he could have friend over without me having to facilitate interaction. But, that's not happenin' right now.

What else is making this summer lull so tough? Casey in general. I love him with all my heart, he is the light of our lives. But he is almost fourteen. He is hormonal, he is tall, he is strong, he is overly touchy and wants to smell me, ALL THE TIME (yes, I said smell me). He is stubborn, he is demanding, he is picky, he is moody. He is addicted to computer, something we battle with him about a lot. He is naughty, but in a way he would be if he had guy friends to sit in someones basement with and joke about things with, parent free. But I am hearing these naughty things, and I'm not enjoying them at all, coming from the mouth of my once little, sweet boy. Case has a lot of strong points too, but I'm wallowing, so I don't feel like extolling his virtues right now.

And so, four more days linger between my buddy and I hanging out and the beginning of his journey into high school, not that I'm counting. Despite all I've written here, it's really bittersweet for me right now. I'm trying my best to keep him entertained, without killing him, or a cat, and yet as the minutes tick by, the thought of putting him on a bus full of high school students for the first time sickens me with worry. I'm in a soup of emotion, and that doesn't help matters one bit.

And with new lulls, and worries, and joys forever in our futures, I will end this self indulgent rant with my positive mantra. "This too shall pass."

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rising to the Occasion

Another school year has come and gone. It seems looking back on my blog that the last days of school seem to be a popular time for me to write an installment, probably due to the emotional nature of what the end of the school year represents.

Sadness, for me, that my once little boy has now made it through yet another year, this being his eighth grade year. Pride at the thought of him being on the honor roll his last 2 years of middle school in some capacity, almost every semester. Happiness because of his burgeoning social skills, that I feel have been a product of his being in a cross categorical classroom as opposed to an Autistically Impaired room. Relief that I don't have to hear him gripe in the morning about not wanting to go to school for at least 3 months. Anticipation of the fun he'll have this summer at camp. It's just emotion city around here, for me, and him.

Casey will be going to high school next year. He's not happy about it, not at all. And despite our attempts at making him familiar with the school he'll attend, and making him aware of the fact that he knows so many of the kids he'll be with, he tells me almost daily that he doesn't want to go to high school. His anxiety has never been higher.

It doesn't help that he had a wonderful parapro, again, this year, who he loved. He came off the bus after his last day, teary eyed and I knew it was because he had to say goodbye to his beloved Mrs. D.. He grew attached to many of the kids in his class, who, unfortunately, are 7th graders, who won't be moving on with him (and trying to tell him or show him that they'll be there in 2013 doesn't help now in the moment). And on top of everything else, it's another transition. I can tell you, that he was probably just getting comfortable with his middle school mid year of 8th grade. I'm sure it takes him that long, and now, it's done, and everything will change for him again. Although he's pretty resilient for having Autism, I think changes in the big picture are the hardest for Casey to deal with, and a big change this will be.

In situations like this, I always recall Kirstin, his teacher from preschool, saying to me, "Casey will always rise to the occasion." That line has popped into my brain so many times. She'd be a rich woman if I had to give her a buck every time it did! But it's somehow become a mantra for me, and it has held true in so many situations, be it starting at a a new school, participating in a circus class, or taking a trip to the dentist or the barber.

And now, I have to repeat that mantra, each time my tummy ties in knots at the thought of him getting off that bus in front of a giant high school in September for the first time, or thinking of him walking the halls amongst bigger, older, typical kids. I have to say it to myself even when he gets upset about his friends not coming with him, and how he hopes Mrs. D. will be there (even though I'm pretty sure she won't be, although there always a minute chance such a thing could happen).

Yes, I'll have to repeat this mantra over and over this summer. I have to make myself realize that he'll find new people to become interested in, reunite with old ones, hopefully charm the teachers the way he always has, and be the best he can be, with my help and that of others, that I have to trust will be there for him. He'll rise to the occasion as he always does.

But for now, I'm just gonna let him enjoy his first free day from school and only think about what we'll do later and over the weekend. High school is in the distant future, and his last day of middle school is in the past. Now is now, and we're going to rise to the occasion and enjoy it!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Another Year, Come and Gone

We're having our transitional IEP today. This means, I'm coming together with Casey's present school staff, and his future high school staff, and blindly making plans for his next scholastic year.

It seems like just yesterday, I was nervously planning for him to go to his middle school, in a cross categorical setting for the first time, changing classes. And now, he's moving on after what we feel were two rocky but clearly beneficial years there. Casey has come a long way in certain ways, gone back in others, stayed stubbornly the same in some, and has many skills yet to emerge.

I feel a little ashamed that I don't have a legal pad page full of ideas, demands, and thoughts to bring up with me today. But then I've always been a play it by ear sort of mom. I do have the tremendous crutch of my dear friend being there with me today; she is a very experienced advocate who knows the laws and rules up and down, and how to play the game. Maybe that's why I haven't gotten too nervous about this one. And if I think from the perspective that my main goal is setting him up for success, it makes things a lot easier.

I know for sure I'm going to demand physical activity beyond gym class be part of his IEP. It's a must for this boy, who only sits still if he has a computer or some other electronic device of interest in front of him. Casey needs walks, jumps, whatever kind of good propreoceptive input he can get, and it seems this need gets stronger the older he gets. Sitting in a classroom for 45 minutes at time just isn't in his makeup. Sometimes I have to wonder if it's in any kids, and those that seems to be able, how much are they really taking in?

I also feel he still needs a one on one para. Someone not there to hover, but to make sure he doesn't disrupt class because he's not getting the aforementioned movement breaks. Someone to steer him in the right direction. Someone to make sure he comes out of the bathroom and doesn't walk down to the cafeteria when it's not time for lunch. Little things like that, someone to work on an individual basis with him. This is another necessity.

I might throw out too the need for an Alpha Smart, although they seem to poo poo this every year, but I think I'm going to take a stand on this one this year, siting his ability to get his thoughts out much better via keyboard then struggling to write them. Yes, for sure the Alpha Smart.

I'd also like to bring up that I want him to be happy, anxiety free, not bullied, have all the kids act nice to him and include him in everything they do, get really good grades, take in all that is presented to him, behave at all times, participate readily in class, and get straight "A"s....

Yes, I know, dream on. But if I'm lucky, and if we do things right, I don't know why some of that can't come true!

PS Now that he's 5'10, and he's only thirteen, perhaps the bullying isn't even a consideration!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bus Brewhaha

Casey came home from school today just full of conversation, which is always a joy! However, today's conversation was troubling to be sure, and his sudden disconnects after telling me a few tid bits and stating a few thoughts doesn't help matters.

First came the revelation that the kids on the bus told Casey they were going to church after he got off the bus, at least according to Casey. Also, he said they then told him that him they were all going back to school after that. He wasn't sure why, and he seemed confused. I'm pretty sure these kids were screwing with him, or, they were talking amongst themselves being silly, and Casey overheard their conversation.

Hoping the latter, I couldn't help but think back on the stories my wonderful friend and neighbor told me about her oldest son with Aspergers, and how the kids at school would mess with him, him getting into trouble because they coercsed him into doing things he didn't know were wrong, all for the sake of being part of a group of friends.

It made me think, that, if in fact the kids on the bus were messing with Casey, telling him tales out of school, how easily lead he was, and how scary that is. It made me angry too, especially when he continued on.

"I don't want parents to die! I like it when my parents aren't dead!". That line hit me like a punch in the stomach. "Who said that to you Casey, the kids on the bus? Did they say that your parents would die?" I inquired immediately, feeling foolish after the words came out, knowing sometimes you can totally sway his answers with your questions. "No. I don't remember!" he replied, hugging me tight as he said it.

My conspiracy theory mind envisioned the little brats on the bus telling a sweet and guilable Casey that his parents were going to DIE! Little BASTARDS! I then took a deep breath, hugged him back and told him had nothing to worry about, ending my inquisition about the bus brats. I knew I had reached our conversation threshold, and he was ready for some computer time and a snack.

This experience probably isn't the first for Casey, but it is the first time he's relayed so much info about it to me. I'm glad he did. I find it hard to believe the bus driver didn't try to stop such shinanigans or at least let me know it was going on when I got him off the bus. Then again, it's kid stuff, kids do this kind of stuff, especially Middle School kids. Plus the kids on Casey's bus also have impairments, disabilities, learning disabilities, whatever you want to call them. The average maturity level is even a bit lower than that of typical immature Middle Schoolers.

So how does one stop this sort of thing or make sure it doesn't get out of hand, short of taking him off the bus, whihc he seems to enjoy? Well, tell me! I don't know!!!...

Ha, you thought I would have an answer didn't you!