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Encouraged

diego

This week has been tough.
Work has been frantic, busy, pure madness.
The Christmas season always adds more to my already full plate (like it does for so many)
45 minute tantrums.
D
not
Me.
I was close though.

I know that things will get easier, and then they will get harder, and then easier.
This is my life.
Most of the time I am able to find a balance and not go completely nuts.

What is awesome though, is that when I begin to feel overwhelmed, like I can’t go on another minute, God and D have this amazing way of giving me the nudge I need to keep going.

Last Saturday was a busy day, D had his 4 hour social group, which leaves him pretty tired.
You can actually see the exhaustion on his face.
Then he came with me to meet the person that will be caring for him over Christmas Break.
That story is for a different post.
I really hope I write it. *sigh*
Then we had a playdate with my new friend C and her daughter Z.

I knew I was pushing it by adding the playdate, but sometimes I get this feeling that I should gently challenge D.
Usually when I follow that feeling he shows off ūüôā
So D and I got to the park and for about 15 minutes it was just the two of us.
We brought his soccer and bouncing ball and played kick back most of the time.
Occasionally he would look back at the packed playground. I know he wanted to play, but his anxiety was high.
Whenever he looked, I asked him if he wanted to go over there.
Each time he said “No.”
Then I suggested that we go to the tree by the playground.
Still “No.”
We went back and forth a few times and after what seemed like careful contemplation he decided to go to the tree.
YES!!
Like I said I gently nudge,
not push.
He was drawing in the sand with a stick when C and Z showed up.
C and I gently prompted both of the children to say “Hi” to each other.
Despite the slow start they eventually started to play kick back together.
While playing Z and D hit heads.
Z was not phased by it much, but D was pretty upset.
I suspect the tears were less from the head bump and more from exhaustion.
Applying social skills is hard work.
Since D’s diagnosis I try to always mindful of my social skills, these skills that for me, are seemingly effortless, are a lot of work when I actual pay attention to doing them.
While I was hugging D, C walked over and asked me if it was ok if Z gave D a hug
Graciously I said he would love a hug.
Z came up and gave him the sweetest hug.
I could see D’s demeanor change after he got the hug from Z.
I knew he trusted her when she wanted to go to the playground and he went with her.
Z was gentle and patient as she included D in her play with the other kids on the playground.
Pretty soon D was using all of those social skills he has been working on 8 hours a week for the past 6 months.
He was hesitant yet confident as he followed Z’s lead.
Diego was playing WITH other kids, his age, and he was pretty saavvy.
After C walked over to tell the kids that we would be leaving in 5 minutes she came and excitedly told me that D was verbally participating in play as well.
She ‘gets’ it.
Z is a survivor of AML.
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/childAML/HealthProfessional/page1

I am not likening Cancer to Autism.
But a mother’s pain is unifying.

Needless to say our play date was a hit and ended with a big hug and the promise of an UNO game soon.
Z is such a beautiful and good soul.

Moments like that, mothers like Colette, and beautiful little girls like Z encourage me to keep going.

The Writing Is On the Wall….=)

A few weeks ago, I finished decorating Diego’s room.¬†

Sea Animals out.

Dinosaurs in.

At the head of his bed there are two T-Rex dinosaurs, I flippantly mentioned to Diego that we could put his name on the wall in between the two dinosaurs.

I told him that once I found the letters that I would put his name at the head of his bed.

Imagine my surprise this morning when I went into D’s room to wake him for school.

“Mommy look!”

“My name!”

“I found the letters!”

Image

He wrote it on the wall in marker….

But….he wrote it.

So obviously, I couldn’t be upset.

He has been working very hard at writing his name and I did tell him we were going to put his name on the wall.

LOL

 

 

 

 

Who Runs The World??

Me: *singing* “Who runs the world?!” *shouting* “GIRLS!!!!”

D: *shouting* “BOYS!!”

Occasionally¬†Lyric’s moody teenager self will join in the silliness.¬†

Then we all laugh!

Every time this song comes on in the car the above scenario plays out.  But recently I started thinking,  am I doing all I can to teach Diego that men and women are equal??

Like most autistics, D is a very black and white thinker, grey areas are difficult for him. 

Due to his very traditional (dare I say slightly ignorant) father, cartoons, and the media,  D has adopted the thought process that generally boys are better than girls.  

After one of our singing sessions, I came up with a plan to show Diego that men and women are equal.¬† It would have to be good and convincing because this can be¬†a grey area in Diego’s eyes, especially when he is being ¬†flooded with ideas to the contrary.¬†

*sigh*

I won’t even go on my rant about how frustrating it is to see the enormous amount of sexism and misogyny¬†in¬†the media and how nobody really ever takes issue with it…I won’t.

Not here.

Anyhow I started the equality discussion with Lyric when he was about 4, and it still continues everyday.¬† So one evening I sat down with D and talked about how men and women can do the same job.¬† He looked at me and said “no girls can’t do boys’ jobs because they are not strong!”¬† So I pulled out our iPad and on YouTube and showed him videos of male nurses, female¬†construction workers,¬†male receptionists,¬† and female car mechanics.¬† With each video his eyes got wider.¬† I explained that a lot of people¬†¬†think that girls are not as strong as boys, but that really isn’t true.¬† I talked to him about how his Nana is awesome at building things and¬†how his “twin friend” Tomas’ favorite color is pink.¬† I could almost hear the wheels in his head turning.¬†¬†After I was done,¬†he didn’t have much to say.¬†

He stood up, walked over to his Legos, while muttering “OK.”

Not sure if I got my point across I made a mental note to broach the subject briefly in our everyday conversations. 

A few days later our silly song “Run The World” came on and this time after “Who runs the world?!”

Diego¬†responded “BOTH!!!!!!!!!!”

=)

Learning Every Day

A lot of my time is spent trying to see things from Diego’s perspective. I LISTEN every time he has something to say because it gives me a glimpse into what life is like for him. Maybe then I will have a better idea of how to help ease some of his pain associated with being autistic in a neurotypical world.
I don’t want to change who my son is or have him think that he is less because he is an autistic person.
I want him to embrace his amazing mind and have confidence in who he is. I tell him everyday how lucky I am that I was chosen to be his mother. This has been and continues to be a life changing experience. Parenting Diego shares some similarities as raising my neurotypical son, Lyric. As their mother I teach them things that will make this world easier to navigate as they grow up. From basic activities of daily living to the more intricate things like friendships and relationships. But with Diego this process can be very different, because the way Diego sees things is different.
He has had to teach ME how to teach HIM.
When Diego does/says something that I think is out of the ordinary I will ask him why he did or said that. The way he describes things allows me to get his perspective on so many different things. Our discussions are always enlightening for me. I am fortunate that he is able to communicate these things to me, and when he doesn’t have the words to discuss, I respect that and make a note to ask another time.
When we talk about why he dislikes or likes a certain thing I take mental notes. These things help me get a glimpse into his mind. With this knowledge I am able to come up with ways to help him develop the core skills he may need to be successful in this neurotypical world.
I am raising my child to grow up and be an adult that will know how to advocate for himself, be confident in who he is and happy with the life he chooses.
My dream for both of my children are these things.
When I write about the hard times associated with autism, I am not looking to depict my son as somebody that is less than or is a burden, but I write to raise awareness of how hard it is for my autistic child to constantly have to accommodate to a neurotypical world. I write about the good times too, to raise awareness that autistic people have so much to give to this world.
I also write this blog because of The Tribe.
Raising a child with special needs is hard work, this blog allows me to connect with other parents raising children like mine.
When I am having a bad day I am able to go to my blogroll and find the blog entry of a mom having a similar day and then I don’t feel so lonely or if I post the guesome details about a hard day and voice that i am out of ideas, one of the tribe is to the rescue with amazing advice.
Some days support is the simple yet powerful ‘I get it’
Maybe it was wrong for me to say in my last post that I hate autism.
I don’t hate the brain difference, but I hate the struggles associated with it.
It is heartbreaking for me to watch my child lose it.
I get that it might be neccessary that he does so, but I need to figure out why it happened so that that whatever caused it it can be avoided or to teach Diego the tools to get through it a little easier the next time.
I can’t imagine that a meltdown is a pleasant experience, in fact I have asked Diego about them and he has assured me that they are not.
I have been meaning to write my thoughts on this forever, but needed a quiet hour so that I could get it across like I wanted to. It isn’t a coincidence that this comes on the tail of Autistics Speaking Day. I was incredibly moved by all of the blog entries I read. Each one has given me incredible insight. I think there are over one hundred different entries. TTPGTA posted this excellent round up from Mosaic of Minds
I am still learning….everyday I am learning.

Hope Is In Short Supply These Days

Cynthia (our ABA therapist/saint) and I decided that it¬†was time¬†for her to help me get ¬†Diego¬†to change out of his uniform after school.¬† I can’t seem to get him to allow me to do it (or anything..really), let alone ask him to¬†do¬†it¬†himself.¬† It isn’t a matter of his ability to physically perform the action¬†of dressing, it is a matter of overcoming his anxiety.¬† The anxiety¬†(esp since school has started) makes him incredibly¬†rigid, which then turns¬†into a¬†huge protest and then a self-injurious¬†melt down.¬† When Cynthia arrived yesterday I warned her about what she was in for and asked when I should intervene.¬†

I trust her, she has helped us so much and has a heart of gold. 

She said that if she needed me that she would peek out and grab me, I told her not to worry that I would be right by the door. 

D was already protesting as they walked over to his bedroom, I knew this was going to be major.

I went and sat on the couch, D’s bedroom is right by the living room so I¬†could¬†hear everything.¬†

Which was both a good and bad thing.

D¬†immediately started screaming and crying “NO I CAN”T GET DRESSED!!!!”

Cynthia calmly told him that he could do it, she tried to use her reinforcers, and tried to negotiate.

The situation just¬†got worse….much worse¬†

Diego then began screaming “Mommy help me please!!. My mommy always helps me!!!!!!!!!!.”

It took every ounce of strength I had not to run in there.

 He needs to overcome this rigidity that keeps him from doing so much and nothing I am doing is working.

I HAVE to let Cynthia try. 

The screaming continued, he started to hyperventilate…I could hear every breath, every hiccup, every yelp.¬† Then he began to hit himself¬†and¬†kick the walls.¬† I could hear Cynthia’s calm voice telling him that it¬†was ok, and that she¬†was there to help him.¬† That once he was just a little bit calmer, she¬†would call me in to help him.

This same pattern of behavior went on for about ten minutes while I sat crying on my couch.

I have never felt as helpless as I have for the past two months.  This same type of melt down happens multiple times everyday.  What I find amazing is how he verbalizes how he his feeling during these times. 

He will scream and cry¬†“I want to calm down but my brain won’t listen, my body hates me that’s why it hurts me, I am trying very hard not hit you mommy!!!”¬† His body is tense, face splotchy and red, and he is typically on the brink of hyperventilating.

and I can’t do a f*cking thing to help.

Not

one

thing

Cynthia finally peeked out and I ran into his room, he was¬†drenched in sweat¬†and¬†hysterical.¬† I scooped him up in my arms, hugged and rocked ¬†him.¬† We laid in his bed and I rubbed his head, repeating over¬†and over ¬†“it’s ok, mommy is here to help you”.¬† I also told him that Cynthia and Stella want to help him too.¬†

After about 5 minutes his breathing¬†was a bit more regular and the crying had subsided.¬† I gave it another 5 minutes before revisiting the task of undressing.¬† I told him that if he can just take ONE sock off that I will do the rest.¬†¬†He protested¬†in the beginning, but I told him that we could do it together.¬† He eventually¬†took the sock off, and I praised him like he won an Oscar,and ¬†I meant it.¬† Because for me….Diego removing one sock, FEELS like he won an Oscar.

Things finally calmed down and at this point Stella the ABA supervisor had¬†arrived .¬† Cynthia ¬†filled her in on what happened¬†and we all agreed that the rest of the session¬†would have to demand less from Diego.¬† Stella¬†began to play¬†Dinosaurs with D and Cynthia and I went to talk in the kitchen.¬† She gave me the run down of what happened¬†in the bedroom and there¬†were ¬†tears in her eyes as she said “It is so hard to watch him like that.¬† You can tell he is trying so hard to get it together.”¬†

So of course this opened the flood gates for me, I excused myself and went to the bathroom.

The rest of the session went on without any more major meltdowns. 

Stella came up with a new plan to reduce the demand and use the token/reward system for EVERYTHING he does. 

I listened and I will do it all,  but honestly I am not incredibly hopeful.

Hope is in very short supply these days.

I always try to be so PC about autism, but you know what?

I hate autism, I absolutely despise it.

Do The Best You Can and Never Stop

Diego’s first day at the “Big School” is Monday. I have spent the months since our IEP meeting preparing him for Monday and have been in constant contact with our team from the school.
Last week we visited the school numerous times, and I can’t even begin to express how much everyone at that school is invested in Diego’s success.
So why can’t I get this knot out of my stomach??
I have come to expect these knots as the parent of a child with autism.
They….Just….Don’t….Go….Away..
His teacher this year is amazing and his private school teacher ended up getting hired at the “big School” and she has been such an amazing resource for everybody there. I have even prepared for Diego to have a 1:1 aide for the after school program if he needs it.
But I still feel like I am missing something, although I know I am not.
My ‘I’s are dotted and my ‘T’s are crossed.
My blog has been severely neglected and I miss it so much.
Things at home have taken precedence over everything, and it isn’t just D.
Lyric is a tween almost teen and is acting every bit of it, not to mention his absent father of ten years has come back in his life. Which in the long run is great, but makes everything so much more complicated. As Lyric’s mom I am doing everything I can to facilitate this relationship, no matter how hard it is for me.
He wants this and deserves it.
I did find out a couple of days ago that Lyric scored advanced on all of his standardized testing, which made me feel great.
Like I am achieving the balance of being his and D’s mom.
I love them both so very much
Diego’s father and I have been civil, which is amazing considering how bad things have been in the past between us. But he is still heavily in denial about D’s autism. He noticed D can’t ride a scooter and decided that it was my fault, because I don’t take him to the park enough
*sigh*
When I attempted to explain that the scooter issue was more due to his gross motor delay than a lack of park outings, he told me that there is nothing wrong with Diego. I told him that I agree that there is nothing “wrong” with our son, but that he does a have autism and that includes different kinds of delays. He disagreed with that as well.
So instead of attempting to convince him otherwise I just listened, thanked him for his opinion, and politely explained that I will keep listening to the experts with extensive knowledge about autism (which include myself).
Diego started ABA in July and I already see tiny signs of progress, we also switched meds and I believe that is helping as well. He has been having some issues with his eyes though and I am taking him to the opthamologist in a week. I hope it is just his allergies and nothing else.
My husband is grieving and it is a deep grief that seems to changing the core of who he is. I wish I could write about the implications of it all here, but he doesn’t do public and if he gets wind that i did, it will just make a very difficult situation so much worse.
So I won’t.
To say my plate is full wouldn’t even cover the magnitude of the things I am facing.
I don’t have much support right now, which makes everything just seem so much harder. The needs and wants of those close to me currently trump my own, and that is ok for my boys, but not the others.
Too bad they haven’t gotten that memo.
But I haven’t set any boundaries either…..it is hard to do that with people you love.
I did take a break for myself and went with a group of friends to Vegas for a weekend. It was interesting, as the last time Iwas in Vegas was ten years ago, but it really isn’t my bag. My sister kept both of the boys and I was so grateful because she is one of the few people I can leave them with and not have to worry for a second. She is amazing and I am blessed to have her.
I have started seeing a therapist, it has been a long time coming.
I will be 31 in a week or so and have promised myself that I will finish my nursing degree, even if I am an old lady when I finally finish.
I need to do it for myself.
I also think I need to make blogging more important than it has been.
It is my way of getting all of this out.
Expect a post about the first day of school soon and good luck to everyone on their first day back as well!

A Long Way To Go.

I forgot to buy Pull-Ups at Target….damn it…..of course I didn’t realize that until I was getting Diego ready for bed. I threw on my chanclas and glasses, grabbed my keys and headed to our local drug store to pay twice as much than I would have at Target, but thats a different rant.
Once I got to the drug store I was distracted by pretty nail polishes for a bit, then kicked myself in the ass for lagging (there was a certain young man unnerved by the disruption in his bedtime routine waiting at home getting increasingly annoyed by the minute). I grabbed the pull-ups then got in line to purchase my goods and leave, when I noticed that I didn’t know the cashier.
There hasn’t been a new hire at this store in a long time, anyway, as the new gentleman was ringing up my Pull-Ups a woman came in and asked the cashier if he would help her pick out “two sympathy cards.”
Visibly annoyed by the request, the new guy rolled his eyes and said “in a minute.”
Asshole
Why am I writing this blog about my drug store excursion??
Because the woman that was asking for assistance with choosing “two sympathy cards” had a significant developmental delay. It was obvious, before I could offer my assistance, the man behind me asked her if she needed to know where the cards were located in the store?
She said “yes, but I also need help picking them.”
The man fell silent.
Then the new cashier blurted out “SEE that’s a whole other story, isn’t it??”
While she stood right there.
I was livid, all I could see was my Diego having the courage to ask someone for help and being treated in such an inhumane way.
As he handed my change I asked the woman if I could help her and she politely accepted. While we walked over to the cards I asked her what the cards were for exactly?
One was for a friend that lost a sister and the other was for another friend who recently lost a brother.
What a wonderful sentiment right?!
We spent about five minutes reading cards and she chose two.
I asked her if she would like my help checking out to which she politely declined and thanked me for my help.
Turning so she wouldn’t see my tears I replied “my pleasure.”
When I got to the front of the store, the cashier turned to me, looking incredibly ashamed and said “thank you.”
I would like to tell you that I was the big person and responded in turn, but what I really did was muster up the dirtiest look I could and shot it to him in response.
It is shit like this that reminds me that we have a long way to go as a people.
A….very….long….way.
ūüė¶

Hello Old “Friend”

I have spent the last few weeks navigating the behavioral equivalent of a mine field, never knowing¬†if the next¬†move I make will start D’s ‘rumbling’, which is the pre cursor to the complete meltdowns he has been experiencing too many times¬†a day to count.

We are three weeks in to a med change and holy shit has it been a nightmare.¬† When D started the Risperdal I was concerned¬†about weight gain, but thought to give it a try because things with his behavior had become nearly unmanageable.¬† It worked, but D was eating non-stop.¬† I tried to power through it by giving him low-fat and healthy snacks but after a ten pound weight gain in two months I asked our neuro¬†to switch it.¬†¬† We also took D off of the Tenex¬†as we couldn’t increase the dose¬†because it made him too emotional (see¬†random frequent bouts of crying) and the dose¬†he was on was barley¬†helping his focus.¬† We titrated¬†the Risperdal and Tenex¬†down and then the¬†new med, Abilify, up slowly.

So it has been a long 3-4 weeks, I wrote that already..didn’t I?

The past few weeks have¬†left¬†my¬†poor brain addled and my body using whatever quiet¬†time it has to sleep and rest.¬† Aside from the mindless Tumblr¬†browsing and posting, not¬†much has been happening¬†that requires too much thought.¬† The daily problem solving has taken some if not all available brain power.¬† Any autism¬†parent reading¬†this knows what I mean about the problem solving or ‘redirecting’ as the therapists like to call it.¬† It is an exhausting¬† feat when your child is having an autism low on the roller coaster ride.¬† Although I did manage to force myself out for the¬†4th of July and had a good time.¬†

There is a silver lining in that this past week D’s ¬†tantrums¬† have decreased a bit and the behavioral interventionist came¬†in.¬† She is¬†very nice, but I swear that if one¬†more of them asks me¬†why D is getting¬†ABA now, I might bite her/his head off.¬† I get it, he is 6 and should have started years ago.¬† Ask the bastards at The Regional Center why¬†it took so damn¬† long.¬† I promise that if I had the money and could have paid out of pocket¬†for it, that it would have been done 18 months ago when¬†I knew Diego had autism.¬†

*sigh*

Sorry, I am sure they are just doing their jobs…but it is¬†frustrating.¬†

On another note,¬†I had almost made it past the “what¬†did I do to cause D’s autism?” stage and then this hit:

Antidepressant use in pregnancy may raise autism risk 

I took Zoloft from week 11 until I gave birth to Diego.  When I asked about the safety of taking this med while pregnant, I was told that in the many years it has been used that no adverse reaction to the baby was documented.  I was told that the unborn children of depressed mothers had low birth weight and other complications. 

With my history of pre-term delivery I figured I should take the Zoloft since it seemed that¬†“the benefit outweighed the risk.”

In my second trimester the doctor increased the dose.

I had recently been diagnosed with SVT and put on modified bed-rest, then at 24 weeks strict bed-rest for pre-term labor.

Strict bed-rest¬† consisted of going from my bed to the couch, if I didn’t do this they threatened to keep me in the hospital for the rest of my pregnancy.¬† Anyone who has been in the hospital for more than a week¬†knows that would be hell on earth.¬† ¬†So the Zoloft seemed like a god send.¬† It erased most of my crying spells caused by being confined to my home 24/7 , relieved some of my¬†anxiety about the possibility of an early delivery, and eased my stress about the disastrous relationship I was in.¬†

Now reading that article I feel selfish. 

I feel like I should have just powered through those things, as least while I was pregnant, without taking the Zoloft.

Then pop all the pills I needed to after he was born.

Maybe if I did it that way, Diego wouldn’t¬†have autism.

Maybe if I had done it that way he wouldn’t have to struggle everyday like he does now.¬† Here lately screaming in frustration “I can’t take this anymore” or “Why won’t my brain listen to me!”

For the past¬†four weeks I have been at a loss on how to help him.¬†All I can offer when he screams like that is a hug and and “it’s gonna be ok”.

But will it? ūüė¶¬†

My heart breaks for him.

So whether or not the study is as concrete as I would like it to be, it only takes a little science to rattle me….apparently.

Like an old familiar enemy, Guilt creeps up again.

I kinda don’t need that right now…

The IEP Meeting

Diego’s IEP meeting was on June¬†16th, to say that I was worried¬†about it would be an understatement.¬† There was no option of private school if the IEP meeting¬†was a disaster.¬† The week prior to¬†the meeting I went to visit the school.¬† Lyric went there all five years of elementary and did amazing.¬†

I¬†have always been impressed with the school.¬† But I needed to get a feel of it from Diego’s perspective as best as I could.¬† The VP was the one taking me around the school.¬† One of the¬†things he said in passing while we were walking around stuck with me;

“We will do whatever Diego needs to be successful here.”

Did you hear angels singing when you read that??

Because when he said it, I did.

The school has added a few more things to help their students, a therapy dog in the reading room for students that are too anxious to read aloud to their peers or teachers, yoga once a week, an organic garden that the children tend to, and a fitness arcade (think of  a gym with Wii, Connect, and DDR). 

Needless to say I was pretty impressed. 

After I visited the elementary school I was off to the middle school for Lyric’s academic fair.¬† There I found out that Lyric’s long-term¬†sub was actually going to be teaching at the elementary school the next year and that she would be Diego’s¬†teacher.¬†

Random right?!?!

I spoke with her and she was amazing, I found out that while she can teach typical classes that she has her special education credentials and that she taught a less sever day class the year prior year which was composed of 12 students, 11 with autism.  She started out throwing ideas to accommodate him in a typical class and asked about his IEP meeting.  When I told her that it was the following week, she said that she would arrange to be there.

Do you hear the angels singing again?? ūüôā

I was very optimistic after  leaving both schools that night.  But I was worried about how it would all go once everyone had to put these things in a black and white legal binding document. 

The day of the IEP came and I was as ready as I could be.

Diego’s Kindergarten Teacher Miss Kelly was coming with me and had prepared work samples along her own list of Diego’s areas of strength and challenges.¬† I had all of my questions and goals written out, ten copies of Autism Life Skills by Chantal Sicile-Kira¬†( the most helpful book I have read to understand my baby) with a little note explaining why I was giving them the book, and a box of Uncle Biff’s Killer Cookies (I¬†can’t bake cookies ūüôā ).¬† Diego’s goals were very hard¬†to write as the initial district assessment was NOT data based.¬† One of my requests was going to be that¬†the school re-assess him so that we had actual data to write goals from.

Kelly and I¬†drove together and got there early.¬† I was incredibly nervous, but ready to go.¬†I had written everything down so that¬†I wouldn’t forget a thing.¬† Public speaking¬† has never been a problem for me, but when the stakes are so high much of any skill set can disappear.¬†¬†¬†

The pressure to advocate for Diego was immense. 

The meeting began. 

The Psychiatrist, Principal, Vice Principal, Speech Therapist, Counselor, Resource Specialist, and Head of the Charter School Special Ed Consortium were there.  Once introductions were out of the way they began  the meeting by asking me where Diego was now. 

I cried, well not full on crying but got choked up. 

Damn it! 

I told them of the progress that Diego has made and the challenges he still faces.  I told them of his wonderful personality and his bad days.  After I did that I went over his areas of need and what I was concerned about in the big school.  Everyone came forth with ideas and solutions, this dialogue about how to best accommodate him went on for about 30 minutes. 

I was in heaven!

They LISTENED to me, and they were as concerned as I was.  They understood the nights I spent lying awake at 3am worrying about how he would do at recess.  While we were on the topic of Diego not knowing any of the kids at the school, the speech therapist chimed in with;

“Well¬† we can be his friends, until he makes some here”¬†

The ENTIRE TEAM nodded their heads in agreement.  She asked that I bring him the week before school starts to meet her and his teacher echoed the same sentiment.

It was all I could do not to run over and hug her.

We discussed his current IEP and the difficulty of writing goals from the assessment.  They stated (before I did)  that they wanted to re-assess at the beginning of the school year and then we would have another IEP meeting for his goals.  The information Kelly presented was incredibly useful and the entire team thanked her for coming. 

I am so thankful for her.  

Every member of the team grabbed a book and expressed how excited they were to read it.   The meeting ended and we had a plan in place, a good plan.

After the meeting, the head of the Charter School Spec Ed Consortium gave me her email address,cell phone number and said to contact her any time.  Then she hugged me and said that this team was amazing and that Diego would be in good hands.  It turns out that her 22-year-old son has autism and just graduated from college. 

She gets it.

I left there with tears of relief rolling down my cheeks. 

The next day I sent an email to each person that was at the meeting to thank them and all of  the responses were incredibly positive. 

But there was a specific one, from the principal,  that brought me to tears.

 Hi Shivon,
You are such an inspirational parent.¬† You have taken such a proactive role as your child’s advocate, and have devoted your life to ensuring that Diego and your family reach their full potential.¬† I was humbled after our meeting.
Ms. D

I also just want to thank each one of you that offered support and advice as I prepared for this.¬† ūüôā

IMFAR Part 2

Once Alex was done interviewing , we walked back to grab some coffee.¬† As we walked around this part of the conference, I felt like I was in Disneyland.¬† I met a man that¬†invented a vest that works¬†similarly¬†to Temple Grandin’s¬†Hug Machine, I came across fMRI’s¬†and ¬†fancy EEG’s, but what stood out most to me was the level of comfort to just be.¬† This conference was filled¬†with people who ‘got it’ whether on the spectrum¬†or not.¬† It was so beautiful to watch, and I couldn’t help¬†but to fantasize¬†about a world like that.¬† A world that doesn’t notice the difference but does notice all of the amazing things inside the person.¬† Speaking of amazing things, back to the story.¬†

Alex and Noah needed to edit some video and after Susan, Adam and I found some food we headed over to the video room to join them.¬† Susan and I sat down and talked while the guys were intently focused on editing.¬† After a while I walked over and checked out some of the videos and couldn’t help but gush about how professional it all was, especially on the “G-string budget”

Did I mention that Alex has a fantastic sense of humor?!?!

He does.

All of the guys did.

It was getting later in the morning¬†and I had¬†to get home, but REALLY didn’t want to leave.¬† I gave myself another hour and I am glad I did. Susan and I met a woman with four children (one or more on the¬†spectrum) getting her doctorate.¬† I have no clue how she is managing it, but she is and I think that it is fantastic.¬† I met a young man (in his teens) ¬†who had won a trip to the conference and he was absolutely charming.¬† I also met a wonderful woman¬†from Autism Speaks, please forgive me for not knowing everyone’s name.¬† I was so doped up on cold medicine that morning that I am surprised¬†I remember¬†half of what happened.¬†(a week later my cold turned into pneumonia…blah) ¬†Then the next thing I knew¬†John Elder Robison walked in.

Seriously!!! 

He and Alex discussed the conference and what exactly Alex had gotten on video that morning.  One of my favorite parts, was when John told Alex, Adam and Noah how proud he was of them. 

I just wanted to hug them all!

But I restrained myself….LOL

I did watch John give the guys this amazing lesson on microphone frequencies and how fast sound traveled.  It was amazing to watch all of their brilliant minds at work. 

Simply amazing. 

I did everything I could not to cry as I thought about all of the challenges¬†associated with autism that our children face that can sometimes cloud how incredible¬†their minds are.¬†¬†But I was also hopeful watching the four of them working together (some on the spectrum and some not.)¬† It was a great dynamic to witness.¬†I did get a chance to talk to John and I thanked him for writing “Look Me In The Eye” and also explained that it was my first peek into what Diego’s world might look like.¬† He was fantastic about it as I’m sure that I was talking way too fast¬†ūüôā

Susan and I spent some more time talking, she is doing amazing things for people on the spectrum transitioning out of high school and into college.  When it was time for me to leave, I was bursting with love and hope.  I got to see and hear that the hard times do get better. 

The biggest thing that stood out to me was that I felt like I was with “my people”.¬† I never had to explain what the acronyms I was using meant, or give¬†my¬†quick ¬†break down on autism.

Everyone there just knew.  It was great!

I am so thankful to Susan, Alex, Adam, Noah, John, and every other person I met for such a life changing experience.