Monday, March 29, 2010

Breakfast In Bed (kinda)

I have a very structured schedule. Not just for AJ, but for cleaning the house, and doing the laundry. If I get off the schedule, no one is happy, because nothing is done. I have the schedule posted. It makes AJ happy to know when his laundry is being done, and what level I’m cleaning (we have a 3-story house - AJ calls them “levels“).

Sometimes I get behind in my schedule, and I have to make up time. Last week I had one of those days, and I had everyone’s laundry piled up. I was trying to catch up while AJ was eating breakfast, and before school and the rest of the day got into full swing.

A:J: “Mama, you have to come downstairs!”

Uh-oh. I had heard some banging around down there, but AJ is usually pretty noisy when he makes his breakfast (yep, he makes his own breakfast, and usually his own lunch!)

Me: (really trying to sound calm) “What’s up, buddy?”

AJ: “Close your eyes, and I’ll lead you downstairs!”

Hmmm….this is getting suspicious…

AJ: “Come on Mama, I don’t have all day!!”

Me: “OK, lead me down.”

AJ: “Open your eyes!!”

There, sitting in front of me is a perfectly set table, with my favorite breakfast on it!! He made me breakfast - by himself.

Me: “Honey - that’s awesome!! Why did you make me breakfast??”

AJ: “Well, I noticed you were really busy with laundry, and I figured you could use a break.”

What 9-year old does that??

And that was the best breakfast. Ever.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kids Need Encouragment

Last month, AJ and I went to a Hallmark store to buy some birthday cards for my mom.  We looked around and finally found some we both like.   AJ was in a good mood and feeling very cuddly, so I was getting lots of hugs and "I love you"'s.   It was a good day.

The cashier was giving us "the look" as we were waiting in line.  Even on a "good" day, AJ is kind of loud and disruptive.  I gave her my best smile, and kept my attention focused on my munchkin.  When we got up to pay, she quietly told me that they were having a sale on some cards for kids.  I told her that we didn't need any more cards, and would just like to pay for the ones we had.  She insisted that I should look at these cards, because they were cards to "encourage kids".  I again told her that we were all set.  She then said:  "You should really look at those cards.  Kids need encouragement to behave properly".

I was about to become less kind and patient, but AJ took care of that for me.  He looked right at her, and said, in his sweetest voice possible:

"I don't need more encouragement than I already get.  I love you, Mama!"

Sometimes, he advocates for himself better than I ever could.  I love you right back, AJ!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Only The Good Ones

A few weeks ago, our family went out to dinner.  We all decided on Uno’s.  AJ likes Uno’s, but it’s loud there, so it’s a difficult place for him to be.  AJ was overwhelmed the minute we walked in, but wanted to stay.

He had a hard time picking something from the menu - he always gets the same thing, but he has to look through the whole menu each time.  He picked what he always gets.

When the server comes, AJ won’t look at her, or place his order.  We do it for him.  He demands a drink, won’t say thank you or please, or speak politely.  He’s having a hard time, and can’t deal.  He’s speaking loudly, and people are staring.  We are used to this, and are trying to get him to stay calm, and try to focus on us, and not the noise.  It’s not working but we’re trying.

Eventually, he calms down, and eats his dinner.  He’s speaking as quietly as possible to him (not very quietly - but it IS a family restaurant, so it’s kind of OK.  People have been “ starin’ and glarin’ ” but, we’re used to that.  We don’t like it, but we’re used to it.

A server comes over to the table behind us - not our server.  She is talking to the family there about how cute their kids are.  She says that she loves kids - but only the good ones.  I don’t know if we were intended to hear that, or if it was just an innocent off the cuff comment.  Either way, it didn’t feel good.  I knew that, for that night, to lots of the people there, AJ was not among “the good ones”.  I could see the way the customers and staff were looking our family.

Autism is an invisible disability.  It affects his behavior, but the roots are not behavioral.  Autism can not be punished out of him.  Autism is not responsive to discipline.  He’s trying his best.  He has to try so hard, and things that seem easy to other kids are exceedingly difficult to him.  The world is a very noisy, overwhelming place to him, and there’s a lot of stress.  I wish people could understand how well he does, considering what an assault on his system the world is.

Trust me - he’s not only one of the “good ones”, he’s the best.  If they knew what we know - they’d see that too.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Farm - Part Two (or, “sometimes the Olympics can make you cry”)

So, we finally got to the farm. AJ is already agitated because we can see that everyone is already there. There is nowhere to park, and he is panicking. We finally find a place to park, and run over to everyone else.

OH, NO!! There is a wild turkey. Walking around. Next. To. People. And the kids are TOUCHING it. I assure AJ that he doesn’t have to touch it. He can’t stop staring at it though. He can’t believe that people are actually touching it - on purpose. He is absolutely repulsed and overwhelmed. I’m hoping they start with the actual tour soon, because I don’t know how much more AJ can take. We just drove for over 45 minutes - I need to not get back in the car and go home now.

We finally get started. We first start in the “woods”. AJ is disappointed that it’s not a hike, but a very brief walk into the wooded area. The guide is telling us about how they tap the trees, and boil off the water to get maple sugar. AJ can’t stop staring at the turkey that has followed us over. Then the guide offers us some maple sugar. He puts the block on a tree stump to cut it. AJ thinks that is totally disgusting and unhygienic, which he announces loudly. Needless to say - he doesn’t try the sugar. I did, though. YUMMY!!

The guide then lets some of the kids try using the saw they use to make kindling. AJ believes that to be too dangerous, which he also announces loudly. Luckily, most of the group is watching the guide and their kids, so not many notice any of this.

Then we go inside to watch the guide make johnnycakes. AJ thought that this was interesting - but that the room was TOO HOT, which, you guessed it - he announced loudly. Then the guide added lard. Not good!! There was a promise to make vegetarian ones later, so a long speech on animal ethics was avoided!! :-)

During all of this, one of the kids next to me noticed my Olympic mittens. He started talking to me about the Olympics. I asked him about his favorite athlete - who was Apolo Ohno. We talked about when Apolo was disqualified, and whether or not it was fair. We discussed the figure skaters, and if we thought the luge was a safe sport . We had a conversation. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. An actual end.

AND. IT. BROKE. MY. HEART. I so want to have a conversation with AJ. I want to look in his big blue eyes and discuss stuff. Important stuff, stupid stuff. Anything. Not a monologue, not just me saying “did you hear me?. I can’t tell because you didn’t respond.” Just a conversation. I know I should be grateful that he’s verbal - so many kids aren’t. And I am grateful. Extremely. But I just want more, I guess. And, I’m not going to quit trying to get it. Because my job is to keep trying for him, right???

But, there is one conversation we always have, every night.

AJ: “I love you, Mama.”

Me: “I love you, too, AJ”

AJ: “I love you more!”

Me: “I love you more!”

And that’s why I’m not going to quit trying.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Farm - Part One (or, “are you sure?”)

Last week, AJ and I were going to a field trip at a farm that makes maple sugar. We were running late (which I hate more than anything). We’d had a rough morning. AJ wouldn’t get in the shower. Once he was in the shower, he wouldn’t wash his hair. Once he washed his hair, he wouldn’t get out. And on and on until we got in the car. Not a great start.

Once we got in the car, the “conversation” started.

AJ: But, Mama, what will the farm be like? Will it be outside or inside? Will it be cold? Will there be lots of people there? Will the sugar be vegetarian? Will there be animals? I saw a farm with animals once. On my gameboy, there’s a game with animals, but I don’t like it. I like robots. Did you know that there’s a robot that was programmed to show emotion?

I don’t actually need to answer any of these questions. He’s just talking to talk. I can tell because he started the sentence with “but”. That usually indicates that an off-topic monologue is about to start. I have to listen, though, because you never know.

He goes on with his “conversation” for almost the 45 minute drive. The content varies very little. He mostly repeats the sentences in different order or slightly rephrased. It’s just AJ, and I’m mostly used to it.

Then, a question that he wants answered comes out. I know it needs an answer, because it’s a question he always asks on the way to someplace new.

AJ: “Mama, what if it’s too loud, or if there are too many kids? What is going to happen, EXACTLY?”

Mama: “I don’t know, baby, but I know it will be fine.”

AJ: “Are you sure?”

Mama: “I’m sure.”

AJ: “Are you REALLY sure?”

Mama: “100% sure.”

AJ: “How?”

Mama: “Because it always is. And, even if it’s not, we always handle it together.”

AJ: “Oh, yeah, that’s right.”

And, so it goes…