After three nights of whining, Chris politely asked if I would read him a story. By "politely" - I mean his first response was, "Go get a book to read to me." Eyebrows arched, direct look in his eyes-I sternly said, "Excuse me. What did you just say? I don't believe that's the way to get me to read a book to you." Next thing I knew, he was bounding from the bed and said, "I will get a book for you to read." The book he chose- I Wish I Had Duck Feet, by Dr. Seuss. Never, in a million years, would I think this book would show me the analytical nature of my son and the conceptional of mine; these are the two aspects in which create or break a bond with our children.
Chris had a few attempts at choosing a book on his own. He failed miserably. First one: too long, he would get bored, and I would never stop hearing how "I should've never....(blah blah blah) - sour grapes-sour grapes. Second one- only good for teaching children about history and not what he was looking for. I knew what he wanted three days ago. He wanted me to be there for him. He wanted "mommy". The problem was- his approach to get "mommy time" was not conducive for that atmosphere. We will get into that at a later time. Right now, keep focusing on what he wanted- mommy time- and his choices on books. Finally, I helped him to the correct shelf- bedtime stories. He picked the one he probably knew from start to finish- just by looking at the title.
When I read, the artist in me shows. The story is not read for him to learn, but to enjoy. If you are not familiar with this story- I can give a brief summary. A boy is not happy with who he is; therefore he dreams up ways to be the "cool kid" or beat a bully. There is always a great reason for changing himself, but then he understands there's a consequence to being something/someone else.
The main character of this story conjured himself to have : duck feet, a whale spout, a tiger's tale, an elephant nose, and deer horns. It was the deer horns in which my son showed his analytical thinking.
If I had deer horns,
I would never
get a ride.
I could never ride the school bus.
I could never get inside!
I was almost finished reading the next line, when Chris said, "He could turn his head and duck." I finished the four other sentences, stopped, and said, "You're correct. He could've." I then finished the story - having Chris say, "That was good."
Finally he's sound asleep, happy with mommy time, I begin contemplation. Why? Why out of all the things did he pick this one? All the things this character had were impossible for a child to actually obtain. The conceptional thinker understands the book's bigger picture -" it's best just to be you"-not what others want you to be, how to be cool, how to beat a bully etc. Just be you! My son, though, picked the deer horns to be an analytical thinker.
Before I digress, you must know the difference between conceptional and analytical thinking. Conceptional sees the bigger picture but also the intricate parts that make it so. Kind of like picking out a bedtime story with a special need child. I know what the ultimate goal of the child is. I respect and understand that. My son, he didn't know he wanted "mommy time". He didn't know the words to express his feelings. I did - which allowed him establish the correct action and to pick a book conducive to his needs.
So, why did he pick the deer horns? The one time to be analytical. Well, analytical thinking basically means you see a problem- have a step by step approach to solve that SPECIFIC issue. If you know anything about that Dr. Seuss's book, you will know the deer horns DIDN'T deal with other people. The boy in the story couldn't get a ride, or go on the school bus. So, again- Why, Chris, who never liked riding the "special bus" when he attended school and doesn't understand about "hailing a taxi"- use the deer horns to show his exemplary analytical skills?!
That's when I understood. This is when you should as well. He picked the deer horns aspect because it had nothing to do with another human being. A bus and a ride are not people, but things. All other issues this character faced dealt with other people.
You know what this shows my "conceptional self"- Chris is wanting to expand into the social world, yet understanding it's complicated. Probably too much so, Chris chooses not to analyze people, but the functional aspects of items. If it doesn't have a heart beat, Chris will analyze and probably resolve the issue. He has emotions, but understands his limitations. He won't attempt at analyzing people's feelings. He can understand them- regardless if he approves or not. He will never be a psychologist.
Chris is not a conceptional thinker. Doing so, would mean - he would have to analyze everyone's feelings (including his own). He would have to understand, regardless of his personal feelings. That will never happen. He will never be the character in "The Good Doctor".
Chris is analytical. Be it robots, games, or books- this is my son. I love him the same. Sometimes, by being a conceptional thinker- I forget that not everyone is me. Why, if they can't understand one aspect, can they not consider them all? Then, I think about the "bigger picture" again. Does it really matter how they contribute? Does it matter which one knows more in one area than another? Do all the positive, negative, and neutral aspects of life contribute to another? Yes......yes they do.
My son will contribute being an analytical being. I suppose God gave me conceptional thinking to lead the way for him. Jiddu Krishnamurti said many, great ideologies. I tend to side with what Tenzin Palmo said, "The Buddha himself said, I still use conceptual thinking, but I'm not formed by it." There's also a piece in Romans 12:2. No matter what belief- or science you chose to believe in; our children were placed here to show us a different way of thinking. We have to find the pieces of the puzzle to see the "bigger picture". Regardless of which type of thinker we are.
I had noticed my son, Chris(age 4), was growing more aggressive as the days passed. Cool down times had increased by an hour. Aggression was seemingly consistent. For the first time since my son's birth, I was worried Autism was taking hold of my son, and was never going to let go. It's an odd feeling. One that can only be described as watching the Exorcist. Here, is your child. A beautiful soul one day, and in an instant- they are unrecognizable. You cannot convince, coddle, or take the pain away. You stand there, perplexed, feeling as if the floor was just knocked out from underneath. There is a sadness that surrounds the situation - meanwhile anger is just a few screams away. Anger that your child has to endure this pain inside the brain. Sometimes, even anger directed towards the child-not understanding it's the fear of the unknown. It's also the feeling that you, the parent, is a failure. I remember this feeling as if it were yesterday, not six years ago. I remember because it was the first time I decided to make "that call". The call to the hospital.
My oldest daughter -age 14 at the time, was visiting family in another state. Chris, was used to her being around. I had noticed the regression and other behavior aspects, but I figured with my determination and hard work, we would pull through this just fine. I awoke like any other day, not knowing the whirlwind that would befall my family before dinner. Alex being gone was a change in Chris's environment. I knew it was going to be hard on him, but never did I realize to what extent. Until the explosion happened. Within the two hour "cool down" time, my son managed to defecate on the floor, break a window, and almost tear a door from it's hinges. Yes, this is a four-year old I'm talking about. What did I do to prevent those things from happening? At that time, I would've said everything. Looking back on it now, I did nothing.
As my son began defecating while I was holding him, I allowed him to finish. Why? Imagine a child screaming and trying to flail around- placing them on the toilet, mid poop. There is no way, any of that was going to be a pretty scene. So, I took the lesser of two evils, and allowed him to finish. Now, came the clean up time. At least it was contained within the four walls of his room. That was the one and only blessing I was receiving that day. After cleaning him, I then began to clean up the area with bleach and water. Doing so, meant I had to let go of him. Within that couple minute clean up, he was trying to open the door. Since I was inside the room with him, I wasn't worried, until I heard the crack sound. Quickly, I ran to ensure the door wasn't going to come down on him. Holding the door with both hands, pleading with Chris to calm down, he picked up the bottle and threw it against the side window. Another cracking sound. It wasn't until he leaped up onto his bed, and headed to the now cracked window- I dropped the door and grabbed him.
A few hours later, I was making the call that I would soon regret. I could tell you how poorly the hospital handled my child. How a security guard almost broke my son's arm. How the "trained staff" made my son feel even more uncomfortable than he already did, ensuring a higher level of aggression. I mean, who takes a child into a room, strips them down with a stranger and puts scrubs on him that are meant for a teen. I could also tell you how they injected his leg with Benadryl to sedate him. Or how I had to sleep on the floor with my infant daughter (breastfed) because when I left, the hospital could not calm him down. Or how the psychiatrist came to talk with me at 4 a.m. and within three days, did nothing for my child.
The moment I watched my son, face down in a bed, hand behind his back- as if he was a criminal, was the first time I'd exploded being a parent of a special need child. My yelling was fierce, direct, and in truth- felt good to get out. In a weird way, I knew at that moment how Chris felt. I watched, waited, and listened to everyone else-for absolutely nothing. All this to have my son tormented and hurt to the point where I could see him in true physical pain. It was as if four years of holding things in, came out within a few minutes. I had finally gotten the hospital's attention. Unfortunately, it had to come down to me almost kicking a guards ass, before the entire floor understood, "I meant business." I also, think it was at that moment, Chris realized there are no boundaries for me, in protecting him. Needless to say, I received the release papers for him and had a different guard bringing my things to my car. They are truly lucky I'm not the suing type.
Once home, Chris seemed to appreciate being there -even with his sister not being there. I believe he had to go through this ordeal to understand. Kind of like - he chose the lesser of the two evils; being at home without his older sister or being at a hospital where he knew no one. A place where security took on a whole other meaning.
Although hospitals are trying to formulate areas designed with ASD children in mind, not many have. They are not equipped to handle specific situations and will decline services for many reasons. This is not against the law. Ironically, a law can also be the reason your child doesn't get to leave-once admitted. I got lucky. How? If the security guard hadn't almost broke his arm, he was looking at being transferred to a mental hospital 3 hours from where I'm from. Based on his reaction to this hospital, he would only regress further - and my son would've been kept in isolation. As they say, "for his best interests". What they really mean is: Your child is showing signs of a serious mental health crisis and is a danger to himself and others. We are going to lock him up until he isn't. In my son's case, he probably would still be there today. Chris was a danger at that moment, but the hospital's actions and lack there of, worsened his behavior.
It's reported, that over 11% of children with ASD have been placed in some form of a psychiatric hospital before age 18. Also, as the age increases, so does the possibility they will enter one. Although there are many reasons why, I have listed the top five based on a study that was concluded.
1. Aggressive behaviors
2.Coming from a single parent home
4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
5. Self Harming behaviors
If you are wanting more -detailed information, feel free to read what I have. I'm posting one of the more reputable and thought provoking PDF. It's a long read, but will give more insight into understanding the complexities of the system. http://mmcri.org/ns/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Siegel-Gabriels-Inpatient-DD-Hospital-Treatment.pdf
As a parent who has seen the "worst" my child can be, I know the sinking feeling in the stomach. I know those questions that bang around in the brain. I've also lived it first hand. I cannot say to everyone what they should do, but I know in my personal opinion; I will never make that phone call again. In a weird way, I'm glad it happened. That was the jump start Chris needed to understand what he would face without me by his side. On the flip side, it has never been forgotten by him or I. It's also something I would never wish for anyone to endure. I suppose if you have exhausted all other possibilities, then by all means, make the call. If you haven't, then don't even think about picking up that phone.
Andrei Lankov once said, " To not have your suffering recognized is an almost unbearable form of violence." When I ponder this statement- in relation to my son that day, this is the reason I say, "I did nothing". I knew that a change in his environment would bring out the worst in him. Unfortunately, I didn't know until that day, what his "worst" truly was. He tried showing me without getting that violent. I, just didn't want to admit that ONE CHANGE could affect him to such great lengths. To the point where I felt the remake of the Exorcist, was within my domain.
I should've addressed the issues with Chris. I should've been more prepared to handle his meltdown. I should never think for one second, we can get over this- because he might not be able to. The last time I saw the same behavior creeping up, he was going back to school. It was because of our past together, I was able to notice the signs and take all necessary actions to ensure my son didn't bring the Exorcist back again. Don't mistake what I'm saying. We had issues. It was a rough two weeks. Good news...there was no broken windows, doors, and together we worked through his suffering.
What is the 'KeyS To Me' series?
This series helps children with disability/Autism understand themselves, gives parents conventional & unconventional ways of helping their child, and allows other children without a disability-to learn about them.
It originally developed years ago when my son was born. I knew he was different. He wouldn't smile unless I touched his face. He didn't seem to have the bond my other child had with me. He ate an immeasurable amount of food & every little noise had him screaming as if he was being beaten to death. He had tics and never looked directly at me, unless I had a phone to my face-hiding my eyes.
Since writing poetry allowed me to truly analyze my feelings-I went that route. Truly, it was just a way to understand him. As we grew together and many hurdles prevented me from working in my field of expertise (babysitters couldn't handle him)-I decided to work from home. Babysitting and after school care isn't hard. Although I helped people to a certain degree-it wasn't enough.
Later, I uncluttered my life by getting rid of old papers. Wouldn't you know it-my old poems dropped out of a folder. There they were-the beginnings of my new life with Chris-my disabled son. As I read through them, I realized how far we have really come. Since I enjoy being an advocate, I decided to make these poems into stories-to aid others. I also wanted other people to understand.
No one will ever know -unless you have a unique child yourself, how many times I was asked, "What's wrong with him?" For me, there was nothing "wrong" with him, he just didn't know how to express himself and make sense of the world he was placed in -through NO FAULT OF HIS OWN. Ironically, I've had more children ask me politely or want to understand -more so than the person raising them.
These are the reasons I do this. I'm underpaid and overworked. There are times I feel like, "Why am I doing this? No one truly cares." It is at that moment, God sends someone to say, "Great work" -"Love what you do" "Thank you, it's helped me and my child a lot". Like the day I met the boy who loved my signed copy of the first book-he brought it in for show and tell. Words cannot describe the warmth that surrounded the embrace. I was no one in the world, but to him-my books were his world.
When I say I'm an advocate for Autism/disability- sure my corner is with the children and parents who live and breathe this life everyday. But, being an advocate doesn't mean you stop where you're comfortable. An advocate isn't just someone who supports a particular cause or policy! Although, this is the dictionary's definition-it's not mine. I will embrace and shout out for anyone who needs help. As long as they are willing to work with me, not just covering up a gushing wound with a band -aid. I will help you find the doctor to give the stitches needed-not give you a month's supply of band aides and pray for healing.
As I have watched this page blossom from 10 people -almost 2k; I have to stop and ask myself with each email, why? Is it because they thoroughly support what I do? Do they, themselves have these issues? Do they truly need aid? Do they want to become an advocate themselves? If I can't answer "yes" to one or all- I'm sorry, but you are wasting your and my time being here.
Due to me having very limited time to do all the things necessary for my son-my life-and everyone else- I don't have time for small talk or "getting to know you" or helping you with a break-up. I don't send pictures -or want to see your parts. I feel for your situation and if only loneliness was a disability. Unfortunately, it is not. Maybe that's your sign to divulge into something bigger than yourself. Sometimes, by helping others-one doesn't feel so lonely in the world. You feel a part of a whole universe.
I asked Andy the other night, "What's the worst thing you had to worry about today?" Of course, there is some long drawn out story about this person or that- I said no- simple list.
He said - work.
My reply, "At least that is all you have to worry about. You have a job and you are worried about what crew you're on. What dillweed won't pull his fair share of work. There are people who don't know if their children or other's they've taken on will eat tomorrow. They don't know if they will wake up to find their child dead. They don't know which "worry" is more because there are too many of them. Ironically, not 1 WORRY IS ABOUT THEM- it's about someone else."
Every night you go to bed- I want you to ask yourself something, "What was your biggest worry today?" See, if your worry is truly something to worry about. See if it's all about you- or was it about someone else your responsible for. It is then you know - you're either an advocate or not.
So, today my son is grounded from the tablet, computer, and phone. As we all know, taking an electronic device from an Autistic child is like running a car into someone's garage-then walking away saying, "Hey deal with it." Yah-they aren't having that.
Yet, as a determined parent, I will remain steadfast against all opposition. The whining, the crying, the pleading with 'please' even gets annoying after the 200th time. The "promise to listen" or the "I won't do it again", but within the same sentence says, "I hate you. It's because of you I can't play on the computer. I want to have it- I should because it's mine." Once I shot the mommy face of disapproval, the tune changes to, "I'm sorry - I didn't mean that. I was just kidding."
Of course what I said vs. what I thought were two different things. My THOUGHTS were, not necessarily in this order:
1. You were grounded BY me not BECAUSE of me
2. Go ahead and get on your computer- oh I was just kidding. How does it feel?
3. I have no idea why I feel like having a drink right now at 3pm-while rolling my eyes
4. Yours...lol..I paid for that 1500.00 computer and 300 tablet - I own that shit. I give it and I can taketh away.
So, what DID I SAY? Obviously not that above. It went more like this-exactly in this order :
1. Chris, you did the crime, now do the time. (relating it to Roblox game/Prison time that he understands) You didn't listen, were disrespectful, and didn't want to follow instructions. You put yourself in jail, now your good behavior has to earn freedom again.
2. What did I say? No, not today. Chris you're grounded from the tablet, computer, and phone.
3. Yes, I'm a mean mom. I want you to understand rules.
4. Repeat #1
5. Repeat #2
6. Chris, apparently you want to be grounded another day-like tomorrow? No, ok, then, let's find something else to do.
7. Repeat #2
8. Repeat #3
9. Repeat #6
This continued like such for about seven ..eight...oh who am I kidding. It was about 20 times today. Not once did I say anything I thought. Not once did I walk away and try to ignore. Just kept on like a broken record. I swear it's like he tries to run me down. As if he does things enough, I'm going to give in. Apparently, he has forgotten, I don't ware. I strengthen.
As the night winds down and it's time for bed, Chris did the coolest thing ever. He asked, "Mom, can you lay with me for a bit and talk?" How could I possibly say no?
He begins talking ....some things that make sense, others that don't. I found myself helping him understand some fears. In the end, wouldn't you know it.....he might have just found his calling. He prattled on about if his stuffed animal had this...or if these fake crutches did that..While he talked, I found myself engulfed in his world. Seeing his imagination - the beauty and awe of his childlike demeanor yet an entrepreneur who hadn't tapped this understanding. Almost like watching a repeat of "BIG", yet my son is 10 with a 3 year delay, but speaking so passionately, I was moved.
Moved enough to tell him we will begin working on these projects or "toys". Realizing, I'm going to be spending sooooo much money. He was so excited to be doing this with me....he said, "So tomorrow, when I get my computer back-we can look all this stuff up, right?" He even said, "Well, for Christmas, how about we go halfsies on Roblox cards and to make the robot?"
Sometimes,it is the understanding of another that makes things happen. Sometimes, it's about listening. Sometimes, though- it's about giving respect before you get it. Showing them that no matter what- you're still willing to listen.
Being grounded and a plush alligator toy should not, in anyone's NT world, led to an entrepreneurial adventure. That's what makes my son's world awesome- those two things-did.
I am furious. For a person to call themselves a parent, you need to have earned that title. Although the definition means a caregiver, to me it means so much more.
I have held many titles as a parent: photographer, nurse, engineer, cook, maid, teacher, therapist, referee, best friend, disciplinary committee, gardener, and that list goes on and on.
Aside from providing the basic needs, I also have to empower, understand, empathize, love unconditionally, have patience, and overall be like Jesus reincarnate to be a mother to my children.
As most of you know, my son is Autistic and has many other ailments. He, is not the easiest child in the world, but as with all things, it's a working progress.
A couple days ago, a neighbor came to me and showed me a letter that she thought Chris had written. I laughed because:
1. My son can spell at a 4th grade level and definitely his name.
2. He doesn't use hearts over I's or bottom of exclamation marks
3. He has yet to write me a letter, let alone show anyone how he really feels.
4. He wouldn't even attempt at drawing stick figures. He is more of an abstract drawer -if any-to say the least.
This letter -as one can see above, shows maybe a 1st grade spelling level. His name is misspelled. The only time I have ever seen hearts used or big bubble circles is by a female.
Not only this, but the letter was in an envelope and had a stamp on it, which guess what- I own not one of those things.
Another aspect, is the girl(s) who made this letter thought Chris couldn't spell. Which goes to show the IGNORANCE of the situation. My son is exceptionally smart and can memorize better than any child I've met, however; he has hiccups in math and doesn't write. This isn't due to his "intelligence" level but an actual term in which his brain prohibits him from doing 2-3 step processes. I don't make him write, considering college makes you type everything anyway. Which he is very proficient in.
Since there have been two girls in the neighborhood, that consistently act like the movie, "Mean Girls", I figured it was one or both of them. The other reason is because of what I had to deal with the weekend before.
The weekend before : I took my two children -plus one I was watching and another girl (whom I was not, but wanted to come) to the store. Aside from it being Saturday (worst day to go grocery shopping)-I now had 4 children to take 3 of which were girls.
Before I was even out of my driveway, the girl I was watching, gets up from her seat, because the other neighbor girl didn't sit there. Chris was. It was at that moment, I decided I was going to have to ask the little girl I didn't have to watch to leave. I was not going to have them gang up on Chris as usual. Ironically, the little girl I was not watching, apologized and moved up to the seat the other one had left.
On the way to the store-I had three girls singing, two of which are tone-deaf. Listening to how one child loved the song -while another hated it. Finally, I was there. I gave 5 rules before going in.
1. No game playing
2. No being mean to anyone
3. Don't ask me for things
4. If you want to help -great, but don't tell me what I should get
5. Stay in the isle and close to me
Wouldn't you know it-every rule was broken. Ironically, not by Chris. Three girls(mine included) decided to make a conga line. Aside from the fact they blocked people's ways, were the loudest thing in there-they also wanted to meander onto other isles, where I felt like a broken record saying, "girls, please". I also got to the point where I finally broke down and used a child phrase, "really?"
Finally, the girl I was not watching said she was done. I was smiling ear-to-ear, thinking it was done. Nope. I thought wrong. Two of the girls carried on. It was at that moment, Chris decided to join. It was also at that moment, the girl I was watching stepped to the left-shoved his hands off her waist- and said, "I'm done". Meanwhile, Chris was choo-chooing along and tripped over her feet. That is also the moment she decided to say, "That's why I don't like playing with him."
Now, the social worker in me said, "Julie, remain calm." On the flip side, the parent in me wanted to reprimand that girl until she felt as bad as my son felt at that moment. Of course, I chose the higher path.
It wasn't until we were in line, that Chris decided to break one of the rules himself, asking, "Can we all get a candy?" He included all -by saying "we". Due to me being impressed by wanting to include the girls, and the fact the girls started playing and not following 3 out 5 rules, I said "yes". I suppose I need to find a new word, "no". It would save me a lot of grief.
Everyone put up their candy and with Chris beaming ear to ear how he just made everyone happy, one of the girls begins singing. The one -I have to watch-the tone deaf one. Remember, it's Saturday and the noise, commotion, and now this girls singing has finally caught up with Chris's high sensory issue. He now begins making a sound to try and drowned it out.
Without missing an ill-toned note, the little girl (I have to watch) says, "shut up chris" as she rolls her eyes and then proceeds to say, "you are so annoying"-emphasis on the "so". Next thing you know, two other girls (mine included) are about to say something to him, also.
Parent was back in full force. Clearing my throat, I said, "Don't even think about it." The two girls lowered their heads. Wouldn't you know it, Mrs. Janet Jackson wanna be decides she will still continue. "God, Chris, get away from me". Parent was now gone and officially "MOMMY" was in full effect.
"Listen here. Chris has Autism and has done excellent up until now. His noises are to drowned out all the noise-including your voice. Truth be told -it sucks."
Of course, this is while loading the bags into the cart, the cashier asking for coupons, and me swiping my card. I'm sure she thought I was the biggest bitch in the world, but truthfully-I don't care.
Once home, the little girl I don't have to watch-left. I shooed my children away and sat down with the little girl -who I was watching and said,
" Now. Personally, I don't care if you can sing or not. My point was-your voice was annoying to me in the entire 20 min. car ride to the store and when checking out, however; I didn't say one thing until you decided to say how "annoying" Chris trying to calm himself was to you. I know you don't care to be here because you find the very presence of "Chris" annoying like another neighboring child who has a little brother, but you also come over to play when everyone is mad at you."
I then began to ask her, "Do you know why people get mad at you?"
Of course everything I said was "No" or "don't remember". I finally told her- asking her to remember something she got in trouble for telling my kids. Her mom was mean to the little girl who had left , and one night my kids prayed that her mother 'wasn't so mean to that little girl'. I said, "Either your calling your mother a liar, or this did happen and you are going to tell me, 'you don't remember."
Six hours later, her mother comes to get her and I relate the "good-bad-ugly" of it all.
Which brings me now back to why I figured it was one or both of the girls who had their fun at Chris's expense that past Saturday.
So, of course...I want to track down the children who did this. Even though I would've been elated that my son wrote the letter.
1. It would show more progress than anyone can fathom.
2. He would've gone out of his way to do something correctly-out of feelings.
Unfortunately, due to it not being him-I understood that the culprits wanted to make Chris look even more weird than he already does himself. I mean, c'mon-a 10 year old wanted to make out with a 60 year old. That is definitely weird.
I also took it as a personal insult that a child couldn't just understand the depths of their brutally mean demeanor towards him. How hard was it to "suck it up" that you are being a "mean girl"? Apparently, very hard.
So, then parent kicks in again and I text both parents of the children as such:
I don't know if (name of child) had something to do with this- but I would probably say yes, based on her laughing and being disrespectful. I told you the issue over the weekend when she was here-not the first time, also.
I understand about children from my degree as well as being a mother myself, however; I don't approve of the things I have seen the kids doing and how they act.
I will not allow Chris to go there and play and would appreciate it if (child's name) do the same.
I then went into what the "this" was -the letter. then I proceeded to say
This letter-even as a joke-is rude and disrespectful to not only Chris but to me as a parent. To act as if Chris would like to kiss a 60 yr. old woman-ensuring he looks even more weird is absolutely appalling. He does a fine enough job himself-showing is "different" or as I like to say-unique.
This last part was to the child I "had" to watch that Saturday.
Your daughter thought it was funny as well as being rude to both kids as we waited for your husband to return to see if you had the same stamp that was on the envelope. I don't condone this disrespect from my children, so I definitely will not from a child that is not mine.
Wouldn't you know it- her response shows me the lack of parenting in that household. It also shows me that the lack of concern for any child to be disrespectful to an adult -especially I, one who has and been making her mark in the world-who has worked with special needs, vs. this woman has no understanding of what it means to truly be "a parent let alone understand the hypocrisy of her actions (mean girls mom)
"You should get your facts straight because it wasn't (child's name). She hates writing and spelling and will barely do it for school let alone go out of her way to write a fucking letter for the fuck of it. Furthermore, I don't own envelopes OR stamps...I live in the 21st century and do everything electronically. But I will MORE than gladly keep her the hell away from YOU. If you wonder where Chris gets it, look in the mirror.
HERE IS WHAT I HAVE TO SAY TO THAT
1. I already know where my son got his Autism-through genetics we have eliminated me, but since my mother's brother had a form of MR, it is safe to say it came from my mother's side.
2. Might want to look in the mirror where your daughter gets the notion to be disrespectful to others.
3. I -unlike you don't say things in front of my children -to where they think I am mean to other kids-as mine have prayed for you to not be so mean.
4. As a parent, one shouldn't speed knowing other kids could dart out in front of the car-apparently you don't care.
5. I will be glad to take the fact I care and deeply troubled by this, over a mother who called another child, "A slut in the making". Don't worry, I won't ever tell the mother what you said-unlike you I don't enjoy making waves.
6.The kid who wrote the letter, obviously couldn't spell-didn't your daughter get held back a grade?
7. My son didn't seek out your daughter nor anyone else..they came knocking on my door.
8.Since no child wants to come forth and show what they are capable of (as I have seen it)-it is easier to keep everyone away.
9. Living in the 21st century doesn't mean you don't have stamps-last I checked, they are still being sold and bought. I do believe being the 21st century-stamp prices have gone up.
10. This letter wasn't written for the "fuck of it"-obviously it was made from spite-vindictiveness-revenge-and plain old being "mean".
11. It's a good thing you want to keep your child away from me-lord knows I might teach her a thing or two about respect, empathy, understanding, caring, and above all LEARN HOW TO TREAT A SPECIAL NEED CHILD AND QUIT BEING A LONELY CHILD SPOILED BRAT.
THANK YOU- UNLIKE YOU, I KNOW ABOUT ME AND MINE-THE GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY.
As I was an only child-as your child is- I never treated people like this. Actually, as some people on this page already know, if someone was being made fun of-I became their friend so others would leave them alone. Also to show that not everyone is an asshole in the making.
I have earned my title-------clearly -you are still a working progress.
Please note, the child I DIDN'T have to watch -who can sing a tune, came with her mother later that night. She told me how they (her and the other girl whose mother responded as such above) were about 50/50 in writing it. Unfortunately, I only heard her side as to why it was done- she told me, "Chris wouldn't share his computer".
That mother and daughter is worth their salt. The other ones-NOT AT ALL.
As many of you know, Chris, my son, is Autistic. One of his many endearing traits is latching onto a subject and not letting go until another subject peaks his curiosity. Like a lioness going in for the jugular -not letting go until the prey is dead.
So, Andy decided to surprise us by going for brunch. Of course, it seems as if everyone and their mom's decided to go on Saturday at the exact time we were going. Waiting in line, loud noises, and not prepared to handle Chris's symptoms, I'm left feeling frustrated and can't wait to be done with this "surprise".
While waiting for food and hundreds of tic-tac-toe games later, a couple with two children sits down catty-corner to us. Chris, noticing the family- also notices another thing. A gun. The guy has a gun on his hip -in the middle of IHOP. Are you fucking kidding me? I get that Indiana is an Open carry state-that laws are loosey-goosey, but really-you needed to bring your gun to IHOP, on your hip, where every child in the Allen county area and their parents chose to eat that day?
Wouldn't you know it- Chris goes, "OMG, that guy has a gun". Well, sir, if that is the reaction you wanted to get, you got it. Now, parents and children sitting next to us, whip their head around-along with that corner of the restaurant.
Next, comes the questions. Why does he have it? Is it because someone might rob this place? Is he a cop? If so, where's his uniform? Can I ask to see it? Is he allowed to have the gun? Remind you- Chris is not using a librarian tone. More like a kid at a rock concert saying he has to pee.
Meanwhile, I have to answer all the questions to the best of my ability. No, you can't go see it, obviously you can see it from where you're at. I doubt he's a cop, because they don't generally carry while not in uniform, or if they did, most would have common sense to not let anyone see they are. You would have a better chance of seeing a shark swim past this window then someone robbing this IHOP mid-morning. He is allowed to carry a gun if he has a permit saying so- and NO, I'm not going to ask him if he does.
Food came and we ate, but I could see Chris eyeing the guy the entire time and occasionally saying, "When I grow up, I'm going to carry a gun, too.". So - to the guy at IHOP, who just had to carry the gun...
1. If a reaction is what you wanted, well you got it, and made my brunch even more miserable than it already was.
2. Ever hear of the expression, "Just because you can, doesn't always mean you should"? Well, now you have. It applies to this situation. If you really think IHOP on two main intersecting roads, 15 min from the sheriffs stations, where cops drive by all the time, mid-morning, on a decent side of town- IS GOING TO GET ROBBED, then someone sir, has robbed you from common sense.
3. Being as my step-father was an FBI agent, I do know a thing or two about carrying. You apparently don't. I could've easily taken the gun, taken the safety off, and put it to your head, before you had a chance to do anything. The flimsy way you had it attached to your hip-with a flip clip -is one of the easier pull out methods. Cops generally have those because they have to make split -second decisions-but they are easily taken from the owner as well.
4. It was not necessary to bring your gun into IHOP and I hope your children don't have easy access, considering a cop's son actually shot his brother by accident because it was. You are not above anything like that happening.
5. I truly should've allowed my son to go to your table, so I could hear how eloquently you would've answered my son's questions. I'm sure your explanation would've provoked more from him. Also, you would've had a inkling as to what "your right" provoked for me.
6. If you think that showing you have a gun -helps protect you, you sadly mistaken. If someone wanted to do something, they would eliminate you first-because they can see you are carrying. Showing someone you are "packing" doesn't hinder those who want to cause harm to others-rob, etc.
P.S. THEY HAVE HOLSTERS FOR BACKS UNDER SHIRTS, -next time USE DISCRETION.
Please watch the video and share. As I've told my son, "sharing is caring." donate and pass along. Thank you.
You walk into a room with an entire staff looking at you. They go around the room stating their name, title, and expect you to feel welcome. I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel as if I'm on trial and they are a slew of attorneys. It's slightly intimidating. They ask you to offer information about your child, ask you questions and expect you to have the answer fairly quickly. Someone is usually typing the entire conversation. Sometimes, later to find out they misinterpreted what you said. They also ask everyone to put in their three cents about your child's strengths and weaknesses. If this is the first year for your child, mostly they will listen to what you have to say. At the end, the ask if you have any questions. This is a basic IEP meeting. IEP stands for Individualized Educational Program. It's a document designed for each child who attends a public school and needs special education and services. We all know the necessity of this document, but maybe need a little help being better prepared.
If this is your first year, find out as much about the school as you can. I will have a check list available in another blog soon. You can still ask about their credentials, training (what program), what intervention/techniques they use, how long they have been doing this, and other pertinent information that might put your mind at ease having your child enter their school.
You will want to have goals outlined for each of them. Usually, the meeting will consist of an Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, Principal, Teacher, school Psychiatrist/Psychologist/Counselor , Intervention Director, and maybe even a Special Educational Director from the board. Not only have the goals, but also information about behavior and techniques that work at home. You might want to ask how your interventions differ from theirs.
Please understand your rights and responsibilities when it comes to IEP's. You have more than you probably know. Please have a look at this PDF. http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/504001Ch04.pdf
Below, I have posted the letter I wrote for my son's IEP. Use this as a tool only. Your child will have different goals and behavior management plans. At least you will be better prepared.
I don't know how many times I had to say, "Please refer to the 6 page letter I wrote." You would be surprised at the amount of times I heard, "Oh I still have to read that." That should've been my sign that the school had issues, but what can I say, I was hopeful.
I hope this helps all those that need it. Much love and big hugs. RBD
Dear Mr. White & all those concerning the education of my son,
My child, Chris Frey, is an awesome, Autistic 9.5-year-old boy. His diagnosis was originally PDD-NOS from a neuropsychologist in 2012. A neurologist, Dr. Mott, diagnosed Chris with High Functioning Autism and possible Comorbid ADHD, with high sensory issues. Dr. Bader’s testing has shown possible Autism through genetics along with a rare disease called KBG syndrome. More testing is being done in January 2017 to get a better understanding of Chris’s conditions/disorders/diseases/disabilities.
My child has many developmental and behavioral milestones to overcome. Since we are to work together in attempting to provide Chris the best educational experience he can receive; I am providing a list of my child’s needs and parental concerns to assist with the development of an appropriate educational program for my child.
Although we have held an IEP meeting and will continue with the 2 hours for school and previous IEP until more testing is done, I feel this letter will provide aid in which was not covered during the meeting.
To learn social and friendship skills so he or she can develop peer relationships
To learn to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people
To learn reciprocity, the give and take relationships & interactions with others.
Although Chris is very friendly and enjoys giving hugs/helping; Chris also has trouble making/keeping friends. Sometimes, things can be one sided. We have been working on this at home and with neighborhood children. I remind Chris that friendship is a give and take: Guests go first on turns and having choices. Asking if another would like to participate in the activity of his choice. We also have been working on when other’s say No, or seem uninterested in participating/being friends with him. This seems to be a huge issue that can lead to a meltdown.
COMMUNICATION AND LANGUGE
To develop spoken language
To learn to initiate and/or sustain a conversation with others
Chris’s language skills are improving greatly. He once used to speak “at” others as opposed to “with” another. He used to have repetitive phrases but seems to have dissipated since being home schooled. He does tend to continue talking/asking same question, if no one responds to him. In my opinion, this is a natural/normal aspect. He does not feel as if the feedback was appropriate. Unfortunately, conversations seem to be one sided, still. He can ask questions and listen to responses, but he can lose focus easily.
RESTRICTIVE AND REPETITIVE PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOUR, INTERESTS, AND ACTIVITIES
To pay attention to what others are doing and things others are interested in and/or to expand attention and focus to different areas.
To expand his areas of attention and focus, and/or to enjoy different activities with other children.
Even though Chris has branched out in areas of his enjoyment, he can still have issues with participating in events/activities/work in which he is not “thrilled” with. He will be defensive, say “it’s boring” (without knowing this), be obstinate, act out with annoying tendencies (slam door/laugh obsessively/hand claps/talk about his wants/likes, and will eventually say ALL the things he supposedly “hates” (we call this “sour grapes” because he actually doesn’t have an issue with those things until this time). His focus has expanded from 5 minutes to 30 minutes for different subjects.
As we all know, Autism can harbor other issues. Two of the biggest issues Chris has is listed below.
HIGH SENSORY ISSUES
He can be sensitive to lights, sounds, and chaotic environments. He works well in natural light and cannot focus if there is a lot of commotion. Transitions are exceptionally hard especially with too many at one time. It seems to pull on him physically and emotionally to transition from room to room multiple times a day. When doing work, he works well in quiet environments and we have used headphones to dull out noise. If other children are acting out, he tends to either be reserved or will act out once the other child’s meltdown has consummated. He does well with comforting blankets and vests on “bad days”. Sometimes, even having his alligator toy, Mr. Jack, (squishy and rubber) seems to help during episodes. We have overcome many smaller issues like food and clothing, but will still prefer no tags and soft clothing. He still smells everything before eating or picking up and that can hinder him at times. If something smells “bad” he will not only say something about it, but tends to stay away from whatever “smells bad”. He will not allow others to drink /eat off his plate-out of cup (exception mother) and will refuse to eat/drink if someone has.
Chris will have issues beginning tasks. Once he has begun, things seem to run smooth. When he refuses or says “no”, I generally apply/utilize one or more of the techniques listed below.
Chris will have annoying behaviors towards others. This could be from sensory issues, but mainly out of boredom.
Chris can have meltdowns for reasons not understood by others. Can be from paranoia, too much stimuli, other’s aggression towards him, too many transitions, tiredness, hunger, or not feeling understood. Meltdowns are best soothed by asking why he is upset or offering a “cool down time”.
Chris will lash out at everyone/anything when angry. Although, he has yet to be physical (unless provoked by another), he will stomp/kick/knock things over/hit walls/slam doors/be destructive with items surrounding him. Chris will also say, what we call, “negative words”. Say he hates himself and/or others as well as anything he can think of. He will even threaten to do physical harm to himself or others (but has yet to ever do it). This is his attempt at showing his frustration and anger. Why he feels this is the way to do it, I do not know. I explain how I handle this. Sometimes, the more you try and console him (don’t hate yourself/you are very smart) etc. seems to worsen the effect. Ignoring the words but stopping the physical behavior is the best option. I ask questions when he is being destructive, “Is this helping or hurting the situation?” “If you break your tablet, will you be able to play on it?” “Are you supposed to hit the wall/slam the door etc?” Chris will generally stop the destructiveness but continue with the “negative words”. I then, continue with the steps listed below to stop with the words. Once out of time out, I refresh the phrase he is supposed to use, “I’m mad/angry/hurt because (what was bothering him).
Defiance is something that can be seen when attempting at diverting Chris’s attention. He will try and still do activity he is wanting even after being told no and reason(s) why. Example: If Chris was playing legos during free time, and it was time to clean,” Chris, we need to pick our station because art class is in a few minutes.” If he wanted to continue playing, he would do so. He might walk away from it to line up but not clean. This is plain defiance when he does one thing like lining up for the next class, but not picking up the mess. I use the “take away privilege” for future uses to provoke him to adhere to the task. “Well, for your next free time, you will not be able to play legos.” If he says he doesn’t care, and continues defiance, I moved onto the “time out phase”.
For chores, he does around the house, we do a reward system. This is in the form of money, candy, or ice cream. I have also used candy to have him concentrate in math, saying, “If you do these three problems correctly, you will get a piece of candy.” He tends to lose focus frequently in math and it’s frustrating for him. I do not do the “reward” system for any other subject or use.
Chris enjoys helping most times. He also likes to have games made to ensure more fun. For example: Cleaning up-I’ll make a game of who can clean up faster. I explain subjects in a fun way or in a comparable measure in his life. He is a visual learner and does not do well with just verbal.
Chris likes the phrase, “not yet” compared to the word “no”.
Chris enjoys playing Roblox, Minecraft, watching YouTube videos on how to fix cars, dinosaurs, science, riding a bike, Legos, playing on the tablet/laptop, giving hugs, talking about his likes/dislikes, and the library.
Overall, Chris is a very intelligent, analytical, and special boy. He wants to play/make friends and enjoys play time more than learning. He has an awesome ability to have things locked into his brain forever, once he understands/knows it. He can remember people’s names like no one I’ve ever met. He can also be very determined. Sometimes this is a pro and other times a con. I call it the “train that can’t be derailed”. Chris doesn’t always take things literal anymore and can understand tone/nonverbal communication to a higher degree than most. He’s very sensitive to things at times, but can also seem aloof when paying attention. He observes everything and very understanding child on his “good days”.
SIGNS CHRIS IS ABOUT TO HAVE A MELTDOWN
He will have improper reactions/facial expressions when asked a basic question “how are you doing?”
He might hand flap/throat clear/blink excessively
He sometimes does things to annoy others/hand clap near people’s ears/scream loud for no reason
Cannot sit still
IF SIGNS ARE MISSED AND HE HAS A FULL MELTDOWN
There is no reasoning with Chris at this point
Telling him to go to his designated “cool down spot” is needed
He might walk around/avert going there, but if you grab him at that point, Chris will lash out even worse than before. It’s best to block him from going anywhere but the “cool down spot”. Continue walking towards him but standing far enough away to allow arm’s length. He will eventually walk to the area if you don’t let him walk past/around.
He does need to be in an area where nothing can be destroyed/or should have constant supervision. It’s best not to look directly at him during this time.
The only time one should restrain Chris, is if he is self-harming (hitting himself/banging head against wall) or hitting another person without being provoked. He might put up his fist or act like he will do something, but only once have I ever witnessed him hurt another without being provoked. That was me disciplining him. He kicked me, trying to get me off the bed, as I sat on there when he was in “cool down phase”.
The only restraint technique I’ve ever had to use is with his arms folded across his chest gently. I wrap my arms around the front while my body is in the back (his back is against my stomach). I do this sitting down and keep my head to the side because he has tried to whip his head back. He will yell, say he can’t breathe, and tell you to get off him. I ask him, “If I let you go, will you remain calm on your own? Not hit/kick or hurt anyone?” He will say yes, and I release. Yet, he still must keep in the cool down phase until time is up.
Yelling will only provoke him to be worse and he reacts to other’s nonverbal cues more so than verbal.
If Chris ever gets to this point, attention to his “tale tell signs” didn’t happen and he is possibly amidst the “PMS” time I spoke of earlier.
He is doing great with the dexterity of his hands and strengthening them greatly. The fine motor skills are at level, however; doing anything that requires more than 2 steps is difficult. I suspect this is from the delay. When tying shoes, we still are working on moving past the criss-cross, loop, wrap and pull through. He tends to forget and needs constant reminders and being told each step after the second one. Chris has managed to tie the shoe once and only while facing it. He cannot do past the first step if the shoe is on the foot. Which leads me to believe he is mirroring the steps and it gets confusing to him. He does not do well watching videos and doing as he sees, in this case only.
As per soothing techniques, we worked on, but not limited to:
Breathing through the nose and out through the mouth. He has trouble doing this when a meltdown is about to occur or even during.
Chris can sometimes know when he is about to feel “bad” (meltdown) and say he needs time to himself. This is only when provoked by questioning, although amidst an easier meltdown, Chris will say “he wants to be left alone”. We use this for times that he feels he will begin destruction due to high stimuli situations.
We have done playdough, fidget toys, and legos as an alternative to destructive tendencies or when feeling “weird” as he calls it. It truly deals with too many transitions, could be lights, or too much commotion.
We attempted Yoga, Karate, and other sports, but the only one that he seems to enjoy is bike riding and swimming.
Vests and blankets (his specific one) can offer comfort previous or after a meltdown, but not during. Having an animal, something soft such as a plush toy or big pillow has comforted him during a meltdown, once he is in cool down phase.
Rubbing the back lightly, using a hand-held massager, or pressing thumb into palm pressure point alleviates stress/anxiety and used in the middle of the day (during many transitions/etc) can help to calm for the rest of the day.
Head phones used to work during loud noises, but now he wishes to have music to listen to. He has specific songs he enjoys that are uplifting and tend to make him forget he is mad. No sad tones/etc. can be used now. To find music that will not make him more sad/angry/excitable it’s best to have him listen on a “good day”. Chris will tell you the songs that make him feel happy or sad.
BOOKS USED FOR HIS CIRRICULUM LAST YEAR
Scott Foresman :
Social Studies People Places Grade 2
Reading: Reading Street Grade 2
Grammar Grade 2 (He still needs reminded of basic grammar rules, what an Adj, noun, etc is)
Spelling Grade 2.5
Phonics Grade 2
Science -A closer Look Grade 2
Math is his worst subject. He is still in K, 1st grade phase. He still needs the use of blocks, tablets, links, and visual aids in order to help him add/subtract. He can understand patterns. He knows how to count by 10’s, was learning 5’s (Only by seeing them written), and cannot understand any other mulitples. He can subtract better than adding, and does not seem to understand “all together” even after multiple repeats.
Chris cannot write and think at the same time. Even short words such as cat cause him problems. Even though he understands the letter (such as pointing out the alphabet), something gets lost when attempting to write them down. Even when working on single letters, he will constantly have to look at the letter, attempt writing, look again, and complete. His spacing and sizing is getting better, but over extended amounts of time, he tends to forget, lose focus, and cannot keep structure of letters.
When having spelling tests, I allowed him to use notebook or word on the laptop. He can number them and write the words, and will constantly look for gratification after each one. Chris has to be reminded when something is a test vs. practice work.
I never had him read the directions because it seemed to take away from actually being able to see what he understood. If he had to read directions, he tended to forget what it was he was to do on the paper. Again, he will look for constant gratification.
For testing, it is always best to test after he learns a subject. Doing it this way, seemed to help him receive information, can apply what he learned, and allowed it to resonate with him completely. It also ensured me what he knew/or didn’t understand. This was done through the computer and generally a visual and verbal test. He could work on his own without being told, but supervision was needed to keep him focusing and motivated.
For any additional questions, please feel free to call/email/text any time. If need be, I will be happy to come in (if possible) or even talk with him directly via phone to calm him down. Sometimes, just hearing my voice has helped calm the situation.
I thank you for taking time to read this and look forward to working with everyone to advance my son to his next possible level in education and social interactions.
With Warmest Regards,
My son is 9 years old, going to be 10 very soon. We have a lot of history together within this short amount of time. Most of it has been good, but sometimes it has been a struggle. We have had our own "cultural" battles, language barriers, and role differences. Throughout it all, we have found things, within ourselves, we would've never knew existed. Patience has graced me tenfold, meanwhile; Chris has learned what it means to be a family. Bringing another child into this world, Hope (his sister/my daughter), has truly defined the meaning of Yin Yang.
Family means something different for everyone. The only thing all might agree on: a family is a social unit. Generally, it's a consanguinity, a bloodline of sorts together within one dwelling. Although, some may say blood doesn't matter, it's whoever is there for you. I'd like to say family is learned, but speaking from experience, "Leave It To Beaver", my parents were not. I can't even say the "Adams Family" summed it up. Probably more like, "Modern Family" on alcohol. Lot's of it. On my father's side, since I'm a product of divorce doesn't have a show to explain the complexities of those family dynamics. He was a provider, and liked by many, didn't drink, smoke, do drugs, but loved his women. Three divorces and four marriages probably say it all. How I understood what a functional, healthy family unit was to be, is through the grace of God and watching many, "Leave It To Beaver's".
When Chris, my special son, entered this world, no word/phrase/show/movie could ever come close to exemplifying it. Fast forward to when my daughter was born, Chris didn't see this as a "delight" or "blessing". Imagine a child, who has had your full attention now having it diverted in another direction. Any child would show signs of angst. Being as he has Autism, the issue of having a beautiful bundle of joy, as his sibling, was more like someone just killed his cat. Add to which, as Hope got older, she showed her beautiful soul. Funny, sweet, loving, listened attentively, and followed rules to a T. Everyone complimenting on her beauty, cuteness, and overall pleasing demeanor. Obviously, her behavior was polar opposite of Chris's.
One would think this would make Chris feel eliminated. Maybe at first it might have. Working with Chris, allowed him to become very boastful, looking people in the eye, and even giving hugs. Hope, would shy away when strangers said, "Hi". She clung to me as if the world was falling out from our feet. As they have grown together, Hope has opened up to others. Ironically, she does this only when her brother is around. In the same token, Chris has learned to be patient, less loud at times, and become a helper. I don't know when it began, but I do know how it is now. He went from complaining, "That baby is eating my toys. Her slobber is gross and stinks", to "Hope, come play with me". What began as contrary forces, became complimentary.
Having Chris didn't just help Hope. Having Hope didn't just aid Chris. Chris has actually become an interconnected interdependent force within my life. We have given rise to each other, as we interrelate to one another. Not only has my patience been extended ten-fold, but it the simplest things, that most could probably do with their eyes closed; I have a problem with.
For example: I walk into a grocery store with the children. An hour later, I am leaving out the same door I came in. One problemo. I have no idea where I've parked the car. Maybe it's the fact that I just spent 250.00 dollars. Walked up and down isles with children whining, complaining, and asking for half the store. Maybe it's the unloading, waiting for cashier to scan, and then loading them back into the cart. Or how I wished I could find the designer for the registers and totally erase that floor plan. C'mon, putting candy, pop, and silly toys right there, where you are waiting; knowing the children have minutes to scan the candy and have their mouth water! Ugh! By the time I am leaving, I have no clue where I parked. Sure as I'm typing this, Chris, my special son, remembers exactly where my car is. Even though he was partially taking my brain away from focusing, he didn't lose focus at all when it mattered.
It has been these little things, in which I noticed but Chris just simply understood. Almost an unwritten, unspoken, and accepted ideal of family. As we pulled up today, from running to the store, Chris said, "We have a good family, right?!" He said it as a question, but very confidently. Almost as if he was reminding me. Reminding all of us. Russel M. Nelson once said, "A Saint is tolerant and is attentive to the pleadings of other human beings, not only spoken messages but to unspoken messages as well." I'm not saying Chris is a Saint, but darn near close to it. Yin Yang is also relevant. Leave It To Beaver, has nothing on us!
As a society, we rely on verbal and nonverbal communication to: listen, respond, act, or understand another. Even though we don't always say what we mean, our verbal communication is decently direct. If we are hiding something, this is generally shown through non-verbal communication. Our body postures, hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact/lack there of, are often tail-tell signs about someone or how they feel. Some say these gestures regulate social interactions. People with Autism usually have an impairment in all areas(aka symptoms), but the most acknowledged one is lack-of-eye-contact.
Lacking eye-to eye contact can mean, but not limited to: deception, hesitation, embarrassment, insecure, lack of respect or rejection from the one averting eye contact. It's also averted within confession booths or psychiatrists's offices. Ever notice how the couch is placed to reduce eye contact between patient and therapist? How about a confessional booth? You cannot truly look into the priest's eyes. Why is this? Usually, when a person talks about a shameful/embarrassing moment or they are reflecting, it's easier not to have "all eyes on you" feeling. I suppose this is why there is a negative connotation when averting eye contact. Maybe this is why many people are beginning to question "why" those with Autism have this "symptom".
Let us now look at the reasons why neurotypicals have eye contact. It's used for feedback or to hand over the conversation. An approval of sorts. Some are thought to be more honest or believable. Holding eye contact is used to persuade and encourage. It's also believed that the longer one holds a gaze, the personal relationship is more important than what's actually being said. Ironically, our special children don't hold much emphasis on titles or relationships. This doesn't mean they can't have empathy, but words have limited meaning to them earlier on. Non verbal cues mean that much more. The problem is, they don't place the same connotation behind the non verbal cues as we do.
I cannot specify for each child out there as to why they don't look someone in the eye. I can however, talk about my son. Because I understood, very early on, non-verbal cues meant more than words to Chris, I began watching his. Whenever he was angry or impatient, he would hand flap. What we call the "monkey". His arms would go up to his ears, in fists, and begin a side-to-side motion. In his earlier years, he made a monkey-like sound, "ooh-ooh, ehh-ehh." His eyebrows would frown and his face would freeze. Like a robot having a malfunction. This led me to understand that when I frowned my brow, he would pick up on the non-verbal cue, which meant I was not happy. Just because he couldn't see himself in the mirror, didn't mean he couldn't understand the face he was making. Him frowning showed a specific feeling, so if I did, that meant the same within his world.
There were other moments like this in which I noticed. If he felt hurt or was feeling some type of pain, he would avert eye contact. It was a fluke how I noticed this. We were watching, Hatchi, a movie about a dog. He wasn't even 2 and half years old. He didn't understand the word, "death", let alone any aspect of it previous to this movie. When the dog died, the movie showed clips of "Hatchi's" past life with his owner until that moment in the present. Chris, walked away and didn't have any irregular motion. When I walked up to him, bent down, and tried looking at him, he pulled away. He actually tried hitting me. It was at that moment, I realized, "holy crap, he understood the dog died." How was it that a non-verbal Autistic child, understood something so powerful from pictures on a screen? The answer hit me like a ton of bricks. If a child cannot speak, but only think. A child can only hold images instead of words to meaning. He can understand better, deeper, and faster than most adults can.
Chris was not distracted from outside noise. Nor was he holding a word to a meaning. This meant he could see the picture more clearly than someone who takes those things into consideration, willingly or not. From that moment on, I began to teach him sign language and watch my facial expressions, my posture, walk, hand gestures, and eye contact.
Another thing I realized, is the more I entered his world and allowed him to show/teach me, the more he maintained eye contact with me. Once he made eye contact, I would break away before him so he felt like he was in control. Kind of like bowing your head to a dog that wants to chew your face off. Or a person who wants to fight you. Most of the time, if you walk away, avert eye contact, or lower your eyes, the other person/animal doesn't feel conflict.
Why our Autistic children feel it's a negative thing to avert eye contact is not the issue. The real issue is when they do it. If you figure out when they do it, you can then flip the script and teach them the "social norm" of eye contact. Actually, the "monkey" I spoke of earlier in the post, Chris has since changed the reasoning. Now, he does it when there is too much "fun" or "exciting" stimuli. Like crashing a car on Roblox or we are going to a "party" (aka, friend's house, b-day party, vacation, any fun spot for children).
Now, that he is verbal, we have discussed the noise that comes with it. He has actually found a way to limit/eliminate the noise. The arm gestures and face freeze is still there, but I don't think he has much control over that. His brain has too much power over his body. He has made the verbal obey his command. Chris, also, looks strangers in the eyes. Due to us hugging to show we enjoy one another's company or like/love another, he now hugs strangers, too. I guess we can't win all the non-verbal battles!
Paulo Coelho once said, "No one can lie. No one can hide anything, when he looks directly into someone's eyes." Maybe our special children can see those things we hide. Maybe, they refuse to see it. My personal favorite, which has enhanced my life and his is, "Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts."