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Autism is a Four Leaf Clover

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Find the four-leaf-clover in the picture. Can you spot it? Did you get a rush, knowing there was one? Was it easy to find, or did it take you time? Did knowing there was a special one in there make you appreciate this particular patch all the more, or is a three-leaf-clover the same to you as a four-leaf?

Children with Autism (an over abundance of awesomeness) look just like everyone else. Unlike other disabilities, genetic disorders, syndromes, viruses…etc. there are no outward differences that make people with Autism stand out in a crowd. However, their emotional and physical responses and understandings of situations, makes them stand out because they are seen as “not normal.”

A four-leaf-clover is renowned for its luck bringing. (It is said that finding one is good luck). But what makes this clover any different than the rest? The fact that it has a genetic mutation that made it form another leaf. It sticks out like a sore thumb because it is “different”, and yet we treasure it for its difference. We seek it out and celebrate its existence. So why can’t we do that with people who have Autism? Their gifts are numerous and can make such a positive impact on the world. Many people that have contributed to the sciences, arts, and business world  (etc.) have come out as having Autism.  Anthony Hopkins just came out recently, saying that he has Autism and used it to copy peoples emotions for roles. And yet, it is still seen in the negative dark. I don’t want to say negative light, because not enough light has been shed on it for a long enough period of time for people to get used to it. People are still scared and confused about Autism. They don’t know why it happens or how to cure it. And if there is one thing people are good at, it’s trying to fix things that aren’t broken and cure things that can’t be cured.

It drives me insane when people say “people with Autism are no different then anyone else.” I get that they are trying to say that people with Autism are still people. And yes, that is true. But they ARE different. They are SO VERY DIFFERENT. Saying that they are like everyone else is ignorant and doesn’t help. When my son first got diagnosed, I had a very ignorant person tell me “treat him the same as anyone else, because he’s the same person he was before the diagnosis.” This is so incredibly hurtful and just not true. I can’t treat him the same as anyone else because he isn’t and never will be.

Say you have 3 kids running around a tree, playing tag. Two of the children are NT (neuro-typical) and the other one has Autism. The one with Autism runs up to join, but is unsure what to do. He tries to run around the tree like everyone else and is soon “tagged.” But instead of running after the next kid, he laughs and runs around the tree, without targeting anyone else to be “it.” At this point, the other two children see that he doesn’t understand and decide to make him into a “monster” while they run from him. He continues to chase them, unaware that they are taking advantage of him and his lack of understanding, while he thinks they are just running and playing. They start yelling “monster” and point at him while running away. They snicker and laugh and he laughs while running after them. From then on, whenever they see him, they call him “monster” and run away from him. He tries to talk to them, but they always run away and yell “monster.” He doesn’t understand why they never talk to him, he doesn’t understand why they laugh at him, he doesn’t understand that they are making fun of him and avoiding him. Instead, he calls himself “monster” and tells his mom he likes it.

Anyone see anything wrong with this scenario? Which is a true story, by the way.

Scenario Two

Little Man with Autism is sitting in his seat in the shopping cart while he and his mom wait in line at the grocery check out. Another little boy in the line next to them is hiding under his coat. The little boy jumps out and shouts “boo!” scaring the daylight out of the Little Man with Autism. Instead of realizing that the little boy is playing “peek a boo” just like the Little Man with Autism does at home, the Little Man with Autism gets scared and cries. He now associates EVERY child with the one who scared him and becomes TERRIFIED of every child he sees. From then on, whenever he sees a child; any age, any gender, any race, wearing anything, at any store, he hides his face in his mom’s legs and refuses to come out. Shopping becomes almost impossible (because mom has to carry him while shopping and pushing a cart around) and “socializing” (which everyone claims is SOOO important), becomes impossible. For the next 6 months, the mom and his ABA therapist spend their time trying to show him that kids are good and can be friendly.

Does that sound “normal” to you? Should the mom have been like “hey, it’s ok, it’s just a kid playing peek a boo,” and continued on like normal? Yeah, that doesn’t work. You know what DID work? Realizing he was categorizing all children with that one child. He was generalizing, which is something that all children with Autism struggle with. So instead of treating him like a “normal” child, the mom showed absolute patience with him. She started out by holding him and helping him cover his ears. Then she removed her hands after a few weeks and let him get used to the sounds of the store. Then she helped him slowly remove himself from her neck, legs, stomach, wherever he was hiding. Then she slowly started to wave and smile at other kids and showed him it was OK to communicate with people you don’t know. After awhile she started prompting him to wave to kids, which he reluctantly and cautiously did. Slowly she moved onto prompting him to say “hi” to them. And after 6 months, he naturally started to do it on his own. It took 6 months for him to be comfortable enough to wave to children he didn’t know. It took him 6 months to not be terrified of every child he saw, simply because that one child had jumped out and scared him.

Children with Autism aren’t normal. They are not a regular clover in the patch. They are absolutely beautiful and remarkably special. They are that magical four leaf clover that only the lucky can find. They stand out horribly and marvelously. My 3 year old knew the alphabet (upper and lower case letters) before he was 2. He knows all his shapes, colors, a laundry list of animals, can count to 100, knows over 100 words in sign language, and is learning to read. He’s awesome at memorization, puzzles, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and is incredibly affectionate. His gifts are numerous and so wonderful. But none of that will matter to his peers or to the world. He has a hard time expressing his emotions and needs, because he is still working on talking (he has Severe Apraxia). He has a hard time understanding peoples emotions and where they come from. He has activities that he likes and things that he hates. The world doesn’t understand his lack of ability to assimilate, and that is where the friction stems from.

Everyone thinks there should be a “normal.” They think everyone should be treated the same and as such, act the same. But they don’t deserve to be treated like everyone else, they deserve to be treated in a way that is appropriate to their limits, needs, wants and abilities. They deserve to have their limits stretched, but not broken. They deserve to be held on their terms, to be loved in a way that makes them comfortable. They deserve to be taught in a way that they can understand. They deserve praise for their victories, and coaching on their failures. They deserve absolute patience and understanding. They can’t fit into the “normal” mold and that is FINE! They don’t NEED to. There is no reason for them to ever be anything less than the absolute awesome that they are.

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It’s not the same: Food, as seen through the eyes of a child with Autism

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I love blood oranges. Oranges are pretty good, but blood oranges are my favorite. When I bite into one, I expect it will be; juicy, sweet, squishy and cold. Occasionally I will bite into a blood orange and find it to be sour, crunchy and all around gross. It makes my face shrivel up, my tongue stick out, and my voice say a few choice words. When the orange is not as I expect it to be, I am betrayed. I feel apprehensive about biting into another blood orange, in fear it will taste gross again. This is a feeling EVERYONE has experienced with one food or another.

We can even associate different foods with different feelings. Have you ever tried to cut ALL the crap food out of your diet, to lose weight? You see a candy bar you really like, or a bowl of chips you love sinking your teeth into; you instantly remember how it felt to have that certain treat in your mouth. You remember how wonderful it felt to sit there and eat the whole thing. Messages are sent to your brain, reminding you of how good it made you feel, and so…you want more. But look at it from another perspective. Have you ever loved a food, let’s say a brownie. Now, you cook them all the time, and you absolutely love their taste. Simplify it even more, you make it out of a box, that way, it is the exact same whenever you eat it. Now imagine a coworker brings brownies in and says they are from a box. You get excited and take a bite. Only to find it is obviously a different box then the one you use, because it’s gross.  Ever happen to you? I guarantee it has.

Feelings can affect our food in ways we may or may not even be aware of. If you have a certain food you shared with a family member and that family member dies, you will forever associate that food with that person. If a happy occasion was centered around a food, you will associate that food with a happy feeling. But take yourself out of the situation and put yourself somewhere else, and the dynamic changes.

I am in no ways a child. I also do not have Autism. I cannot speak for those who do have an over abundance of awesomeness or other forms of sensory sensitivities. But I can say this; we (people without “special needs”) are perfectly capable of taking a moment to understand where they are coming from, when it comes to food complications.

There is not a single mother I have talked to (that has a special needs child) who has not mentioned how difficult it was/is to feed their child. Some of them refuse to eat foods of a certain texture, others refuse to eat foods of a certain color, or refuse to eat foods while at the table. There are endless variables here and I don’t want to generalize. But one common complaint is “it’s the exact same food! You ate it before, why can’t you eat it now?!” And to this, I must say…NO IT ISN’T! Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is ever exactly the same. There are endless variables that change the equation and all factors therein. Is the bowl/plate the same color? Is the cup the same color, size and shape? Are they wearing the same clothes they wore before? Are they more hot or more cold than last time? Is everyone sitting in their previous positions with the same outfits on and exact same demeanor? Has the child had the exact same kind of day with all feelings in the same manor? Is the noise level, temperature, lighting, and smells the exact same? There are so many variables here that I can’t even begin to list them. There is never an exact same meal…ever. Try as we may, the universe just does not fit like that. We aren’t allowed to have exact same second chances, especially not with food. Our children know this, feel it, taste it, sense it and are in tuned with it. To them, the meal is nowhere close to being the same, for reasons listed above and otherwise. It can be close, and they may be willing to tolerate those differences, but it’s not the same.

We need to be more compassionate in their feelings towards the world they live in. Is it an easy thing to do? Heck no! But it is the right thing to do. Should we allow our children to only eat one food in their entire life? Not if we can help it. Do we let them “get away” with eating whatever they want? Not necessarily. We are still their parents and we have to set up rules and boundaries, for their safety and our sanity. However; nothing says we can’t look through their eyes occasionally and try and understand where they are coming from. If you could care less where they eat, as long as they eat, then let them do it where they are comfortable. If you are one of those people that views dinner as being a meal at the table, try letting them get away with sitting on a different kind of chair or adding a cushion. If the meal isn’t the same, see if they can describe to you why. If you know they hate certain foods, try introducing them in a new way. If they are adamantly against some foods, try and respect that, but try giving them something else that fills that nutritional gap.

There is no “easy fix” when you have children with an overabundance of awesomeness. But there is understanding and compassion. It isn’t easy, it’s one of the hardest jobs in the freaking world, sometimes. Some days you just want to rip out all of your hair out then scream and throw something to hear it shatter. But you still have to get up and do it all over again. They will still be there when you are done. Sometimes looking at it from their perspective can help you understand their needs and you both are able to compromise. Sometimes that’s  not possible, but trying is what’s important. Not only because you are their parent, but because you are their advocate, their safe spot, their hard place when the world is frightening. If you don’t make the effort to understand and adapt, what reason would they have to try and do the same thing?

Statistics are only numbers, not a guarantee

1021171001a_HDR A lot of professionals are in the habit of handing out statistics as their reasons for doing/saying/suggesting A, B or C. For example; I was told that since Little Man had turned three in October and still wasn’t speaking, that he never would. Why was this news frustrating? Let’s get a little background information first.

Little Man wasn’t making any English sounds, and by that I mean; he was making sounds, but nothing that could be connecting with an attempt at a letter or a word. He never even made the “mamamama” sound that is so popular with babies. Flash forward through 4 speech therapists and a special move across the country to find people to help. Now he’s in therapy with another speech therapist who says; “this kid can talk, and I’m going to get him there.” Meantime, I had done research and figured out that he had Apraxia. Not being a professional, I could only suggest it to the therapist and his doctor, and neither would diagnose. Little Man starts to make sounds. He says the H sound and moves quickly to the word “hi.” Then he makes the M sound and moves onto the word “mom.” Within one month of therapy, he is making 6 sounds and 2 words. This is better than ever before! I’m so excited that each day looks like a new opportunity to teach him something. He then starts ABA therapy with a BCBA and the language explodes! He is now saying “Hi mom,” and after a month of ABA, says “Papa.” All of this, is amazing to us and is proof of his hard work and dedication.

But then the speech therapist says; “statistically speaking, if a child doesn’t speak by the age of 3, they aren’t going to speak. He may learn how to say simple sentences, but your son is never going to have a complex conversation with you.”

I’m blown away and completely confused. Yes, that is the statistic, every parent with a child that has an over abundance of awesomeness has read the statistic. But his first words, his first SOUNDS even, didn’t come until after he was 3. So doesn’t that show that a statistic is just a statistic, and that a child can come above it? To me, it does, 100%. After only 2.5 months of ABA, Little Man can make 13 sounds, say 15 words, but is willing to try and say anything you present him with. We also were told by another therapist that yes, he has Apraxia. This means the other sounds are literally impossible until we get the proper therapy for his mouth and jaw. Another search begins.

My point is this; don’t let other people tell you what YOUR child is capable of. Only your child knows what she/he is capable of. If your child WANTS to do something and TRIES to do something, then with your help, they can probably succeed. I say probably because there are always exceptions to the rule and extenuating circumstances. But my point still stands. Little Man never wanted to talk, he never even attempted to, which is why we introduced sign language. Now that he is showing an interest in talking and is trying to talk, we’re pushing it as hard as we can, while keeping his abilities and needs at the forefront of our minds.

I want to take this moment to thank his very first ABA assistant, Astrid. Without her, none of this would be possible. She may not think she did much, she probably feels like she just did her job (which was only for 3 months before we had to move). But she has no idea how important those first 3 months were for us. She pulled Little Man out of his shell. He lived in an isolated bubble of his own, with no outside interference. No matter what I tried, he wanted to keep to himself and didn’t try and communicate at all. But she started signing to him and pulled him out every time he tried to go back into his isolation. She taught me how to show him there was another world out there for him, and he has never been the same since. Now he gives hugs, he looks people in the eye, he points, he signs, he tries to talk, he wants to learn and mimic whatever anyone will show him. He never would have done that without her. So thank you, Astrid. Thank you for helping me learn about my son. Thank you for teaching me how to show him the world. Thank you for showing him that the world loves him and wants him to be a part of it. Thank you for never giving up on him, and for loving him for him. We miss you.

Thank you, for letting me be your Number 1

DSCN3622I’m going to get a little personal, but that’s kind of the point of a blog.

When I was less than a year old, my biological sperm donor (others might refer to him as a “dad”) abandoned me. He never looked back. For reasons I don’t understand, I was less than number 1 or 2 or even 65 in my new “father’s” eyes. My mother loved me, as long as I had her back and agreed with everything she said. My father’s friends, who were all like fathers to me, abandoned me, one by one, without a word. In school, I was teased, bullied, ignored, and kept out of the loop. I never fit in. The friends that I did make, treated me like someone you just kind of consult for a problem, blatantly ignore, than expect to pick up the pieces afterwards (when the advice was not followed). I very recently had my “best friend” accidentally text me a message that was meant for another friend, which stated; “yeah, this is what she texted, and she doesn’t even know the whole story because I never told her.”

There’s nothing like finding out that one of the last 2 people that you had hope in, that you believed in, that you loved, doesn’t love you as much back. They put up a good face and tell you “well, you have your own stress, so I didn’t want to overwhelm you.” But that is just as horrible a degree of discrimination as other ways (for us parents that have a child with an overabundance of awesomeness). Here I am, kept out again. Rather it’s because of my own personality people can’t stand, or some other factor (such as my love for psychology and ability to read people). I don’t know. What makes a person so unlovable that even their father doesn’t want them? That people talk behind their backs and lead them on? It is happening everywhere, to everyone, I’m sure. I’m not alone in this. And my poor baby, who has a diagnosis that will follow him forever, will be treated the same.

But that isn’t what this particular post is about.

All of that was a prerequisite, so that the reader could understand the words hereafter.

Thank you. Thank you to my husband. Thank you for always treating me like your number one. In my world of would be parents, would be friends, would be relatives and all else, you are the only one that has shown time and time again, that there is NOTHING about me that you don’t love. You have treated me in such a way, that I can only hope to my very core, that our children will find in someone else (partner wise). If our son, who will be singled out for his diagnosis, can find someone to love him, like you love me, I will have no regrets. The same goes for our daughter.

When I look in the mirror, and find a flaw; you showcase it and remind me how wonderful it is. Making me forget that I had ever seen it as anything other than wonderful. When I cry, you don’t try and reassure me. You create a giant barrier of comfort and ensnare me with it. You hold the pain and let it work its way through, and remold the pieces afterwards. You don’t try and control my anger, but try and remove the reason for it while I let it out safely elsewhere. When I’m sick, there is no better care taker than you. You know my physical limits, let me push them, but keep me from causing permanent damage. When I find a new hobby, you ask questions and try and understand it. Instead of rolling your eyes or ignoring me; you try and help me and even ask me to teach you, so that we may share it. You shamelessly tell me your dreams and respect every ounce of criticism or enthusiasm I throw your way. You ask for my opinions and truly want to know the answers.

You accept me for me, even when I’m not sure who that “me” is. Having a child that demands a lot of extra effort and time, has caused me to lose sight of many of the things that would create a peaceful inner self. But you love me never the less. You accept every change I have thrown at you. Even when you announced you wanted to be a chef and I announced I wanted to be vegan. You quickly changed all of your recipes and even started baking vegan yummies. You have NEVER shown a speck of repulsion, disdain, boredom, or regret with me. You have always said that my happiness comes first, and have showed me so very many times.

At the lowest of my lows, you don’t give up on me. At my highest of my highs, you lift me even more than I thought possible. I don’t know what you have seen in me, all this time, that has kept you so in love with me. But I imagine it is similar to what I see in you. There truly would not be a ME if there had not been a YOU. You are my first and foremost. Your love for me is what keeps me going during the hard days. Knowing that soon, the one who truly sees me, will be by my side again, keeps me from going insane.

There is so much we have accomplished in these last 10 years of marriage. There is so much that we have gone through; more than most people know and more than some people will ever even have a hint of. Will we push each other mentally? Yes, because we are so connected and experiencing the same pain. But we will always rise above it. When the Earth chooses to move its plates, there is nothing that can stop it. So too, is our love. Whatever comes and whatever goes; know this one thing: I love you, for you. Not the you others see. Not the you the kids see. Not the you that you see in yourself. But you. The you only I know, only I see. And that is enough for me. You are my number 1 and all other numbers (save 2+3 for the kids).

Thank you. Thank you for letting me be your number 1.

Happy Anniversary

Life is too short to be #50 on someone’s priority list

20170510_142044There have been a lot of posts on Facebook recently about family and how if they are your blood, you have to support them. There’s memes saying that the reason the world is such a bad place, is because people “just throw away” their relatives and friends. Looking at it from a psychological viewpoint, I see more of how the person who posted it is feeling, they are saying; “I’m family, you can’t give up on me. I need love.” And while this is fine, and a round about way of getting it…it doesn’t work and it isn’t healthy.

I can already hear people arguing with me. But what I’m saying isn’t to give up on everyone because it’s too hard. What I’m saying is; there is a breaking point when enough damage has been done to where not being a part of someone’s life can benefit you MORE than being in their life. Let’s put this into simpler ways of thinking.

If someone hands you a dozen cupcakes, do you eat all of them? No, you eat until you are full and then save the rest or toss the rest (sometimes that’s 1 cupcake, sometimes it’s 3 :p). Emotional baggage is the same way. If someone treats you like you aren’t number 1 or even number 10 or 30, and you continually treat them as if they are number 2 or higher, eventually, you get tired of it. You are continually eating more and more cupcakes, even though it is clearly making you ill. You eat it all, simply because it is there and you feel as though you have to. Eventually, the pain of constant ignorance, selfishness, laziness, lack of trying to understand, lack of communication, lack of caring, lack of whatever, becomes too great of a burden. (you throw up too many times from too many cupcakes). This can take years. Everyone has their point where they look at the situation (cupcake) and say “why am I doing this? Why do I put forth all of my love and effort into someone who doesn’t care? Someone who treats me as if I am merely a decoration, not an actual physical being?” If you find yourself asking this question, and you decide to drop that person down a a few pegs or knock them off your board completely; I think you are doing the right thing. Why should you put yourself in pain emotionally when clearly they aren’t putting forth the same effort to you?

So what do you do? You can drop them out of your life completely, which can be difficult. Or you can drop them down to the same peg they have you on. If someone sees you as number 50 and you’ve had them on number 1 or 2, try dropping them down a few notches and see if your emotional state feels a bit better. This is not a case of treat someone the way they are treating you. This is a case of; if you hold someone in great regards and importance, and they don’t hold you in the same way; try another approach. Clearly, you are putting in more effort into it than they are, and there is a reason for it. If it isn’t enough and you are still exuding too much effort and resources, drop them down a bit more. There are reasons people treat people the way that they do. If you are treating someone better than they are treating you, maybe it’s because they just don’t see you the same way you see them. Try a different perspective. There are consequences to these actions, and they come in a few forms.

  1. The person may realize that you have dropped them down to the same level they hold you at, and will frantically try and “win” you back. This action is common but be careful. Has the person done this before? What were their previous actions like? Did they slip back into thinking you were too much of a burden? Be careful putting them higher on your pegs again until you know that you aren’t going to end up in the same spot.
  2. The person may realize what you are doing, and not care or even be grateful not to be up so high in your list of priorities. Sometimes people don’t know how to tell you that you have latched on in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Giving them and you space can help you both to feel better. Sometimes people just aren’t ready for the status you have given them, lowering the peg can give them time to change, and you time to reexamine their position in your life.
  3.  The person sees what you are doing, and tries to become higher again, but you KNOW that game and stick to your guns. This one can end in a few ways as well. The person may give up and decide that being number 50 for them is not good enough, and start to back away from you completely. In this instance, you should be happy you made the first move and you can begin to heal. The second way, is they stick to trying to change and make you a bigger part of their life. This DOES happen, but it is rare. If it does happen, it can mean that all that person needed was a wake up call to see just how much pain you were in, and they decide you deserve better than what they had been giving you.

There are probably others, but I’m writing this quickly while my Little Man is preoccupied lol.

Remember, communication goes two ways. If you back off on communication (or withdraw it completely) they have the ability to try and regain contact or to let it all go.

Things change, people change, perspectives and circumstances change. It is ok if you change too. I think people keep the same friends and put up with bad relatives because of a feeling of “loyalty” or a fear of trying to find something better. But loyalty is a 2 way road, if the person isn’t treating you “loyally” but you are treating them that way, then it seems like a waste of your potential, your energy, your balance and well being.

Disclaimer; All of this is in reference to older people, NOT CHILDREN! If you have a child, and they don’t treat you the way you wish that they would, they ARE YOUR KIDS AND YOU NEED TO FIX IT! Children are not capable of adult thought, problem solving, rational or any other manner of being. They are simply children. I am talking about dealing with ADULTS!

Think about this in another way; if you had just painted the Mona Lisa (one of the most famous paintings in the world) and your dad said “I painted that masterpiece.” You’d be P*ssed, right? You’d think; “where were you when I had to beg for the money to take art classes? Where were you when I had 2 jobs to buy the paints? Where were you when I sat for hours doodling female faces? Where were you during the weeks I sat trying to finish it?” You wouldn’t put up with it, right? You’d probably call up every news station and show them proof that you had done it. So why is your emotional state any less important than a physical accumulation of achievement? If you have a family member who was none existent throughout your child hood, let you down in your teenage years, was less than helpful in your beginning grown up years, but still proclaims that you are “their” fabulous daughter, niece, cousin..fill in the blank.. while doing nothing to show that effort; when does it become enough to where you just STOP? When do you say; “ok, I’ve been your number 45 for ____years, while you have been my number_____. I need to leave that spot open for someone who views me in as high regard as I view them AND who has consistently shown me the same love and respect.”

Life is short and so are your personal resources (emotionally and physically). Give what you can, but make sure you take care of yourself. Sending love to anyone who needs it.

My Feline, My Friend; Why the Passing of a Fur Friend Can be Harder than the Passing of a Relative

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Miss Molly (the black and white one) suffered from Stage 2 Kidney Failure. At least; that was the diagnosis 2 years ago. She drank water, ate a little bit of food, but held on strong. She was loving, affectionate, and meant everything to our family. But as the preparations for moving became more and more intense, she became more stressed. Yesterday, she threw up over 15 times, drank literally cups of water (only to throw them back up), wouldn’t eat, could barely move, and had a high fever. I rushed her to the vet. There were 2 options and so many “maybes.” IF she had something curable, we may not know from the test result until we were already on the road (we’re military and have a deadline to get where we need to move to). However, since she was already stressed, chances were greater that the move itself would kill her. Since the trip is going to take over 10 days and goes through some very isolated areas; it was clear what needed to be done. I couldn’t let her die in the car; frightened out of her mind, miles from home, with no way to cremate her body. So I decided to let her pass in my arms, purring her gentle song. I have not stopped crying since.

A million things go through your head; did I make the right decision, could she have survived the trip? But in my heart, and according to the vet, this really was the best option. She was very sick, and not necessarily curable. Her kidneys were shutting down and she couldn’t hold down food or water. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself, blaming myself. This is one of the ways in which the death of a fur baby can be harder than a relative. I’ve never had to end a relative’s suffering, so I can’t compare those instances. For my own comparison; her death was harder than any natural death I have witnessed. But it is not only that, that makes this feel impossible to deal with.

I think I figured out why I am “taking it so hard.” When I graduated from high school and went off alone to college, I was alone. I had no one. My parents had separated and staying with either of them was not an option. My boyfriend chose a school over 4 hours away, and my friends had scattered. I went into Petco to get a feeding ball for my bunny, and noticed this sweet tuxedo (black and white) cat with black polka dots on her white paws. I giggled and said hello to her. The lady said that she was a stray that had kittens; the kittens had been adopted but she hadn’t. They had been calling her; “Molly.” I looked at her, shivering in her litter box, and knew I had to take her home. She stayed hidden under my bed for 1 month. She would exit the bed to eat and potty while I was at school, and when I returned, she hid again. I talked soothingly to her, sang to her, and treated her like a girlfriend. And on the day of month 2, she came out. Since that day; she has been the most talkative, affectionate, and selfless cat I have ever met.

She lived through 5 dogs, 7 cats, 2 birds, an iguana, a crab, 8 moves, 2 kids, a boyfriend, and a husband. She lay with me over breakups, cuddled with me as I zombied through 2 am feedings, she gave me courage when my husband went off to basic training, gave me confidence when I was alone in the big city. She showed me how to have patience with my kittens (kids), and how to treat naughty boys (the male cat). She slept by my head while I slept, and stayed under the blankets on the couch when I was sick. She nuzzled my hand to remind me not to be angry, and nudged me to remind me to care for others. This is why her death is so impossible to deal with. Because she was not a “pet.” She was a friend, a mother, a grandmother, a confidant, a therapist, a doctor, a part of me.

She stayed with me when others did not. She helped me through things others could not. She never yelled, never blamed me, never turned my problems around on me, or complained about how her problems were worse. She never expected anything in return, but gave all of herself. She’s been with me even longer than my husband has. Whereas other abandoned me to pursue selfish desires, or ignored me in favor of a game (W.O.W.); she stayed with me. Whereas other blamed me for their mistakes, or never let me live down my own; she accepted me for who I was, faults and all. Aside from my husband; NO ONE has been with me as much or for as long as she has. And now; she is gone. My best friend, the one who was there every second of the day, without ever so much as a harsh word or complaint; is gone. Nothing can describe the pain I feel. Nothing can take away this feeling of loneliness; like a piece of myself has been ripped from inside me.

To make matters worse; I am not the only one who is feeling this way. Both of my children have lived their entire lives, with her in them. They have never felt the pain of a loved one’s passing, and it is heart wrenching to watch. My 7 year old daughter deals with it by drawing pictures of her alive, and saying she loves her. But my Autistic 2 and a half year old; I have no idea what is going on in his head. I know he misses her, because she was one of the first signs he learned “kitty.” She would rub against him and he would pet her, every single time (she was VERY affectionate lol). When he was stressed, he would look to her and pet her to ground himself. She would stay downstairs (whereas the other cat spends his life upstairs on the bed). She would lay next to him while he worked (ABA), and he would follow her to the litter box, wait for her to finish, and they would walk back together. She was his best friend. She was his link to the world. She gave him a way to communicate, to show affection, and to learn how to deal with his emotions. Now that we are moving; where does that leave him? His entire world is being turned upside down, in ways other people can’t possibly understand. Autistic people thrive on schedules and routine; now, not only is his house changing, his city changing, his ABA teacher changing, his room changing, and now, his best friend is gone. This seems so cruel, so unbelievably cruel.

Is this pain that I’m drowning from, worth it? Yes, yes it is. The wonderful years she gave me, are worth the pain I am drowning from now. She was wonderful. Do I know what this will do to my poor Autistic son? I have no idea. I have no idea how to help this. Maybe I can work on not crying, before I can help him.

 

Isolation Breeds “Normal” Behavior

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Little Man has just been excelling at his ABA. He makes eye contact, he looks when you call his name, he’s sharing, he’s pointing, he’s describing the world around him through the use of sign language. When the child development specialist came to the house for her last assessment before we move; she said he’s above average in cognitive abilities, problem solving, fine motor skills…etc. But that he is still at a 20-24 month level for communication (he’s still none-verbal). “All in all” she said, “it means he’s average.” She meant this in a good way. She was trying to say that his Autism “wasn’t that bad” and that he had made enough progress to almost seem “normal.”

I wasn’t happy with this. It burned a hole in my chest to hear the term “average” and “normal.” I don’t appreciate being lied to, comforted with false hope, or given claims of grandeur that are not earned. Don’t get my hopes up like that. But, of course, being a mother; was immediately hopeful for his future. I thought “he has a chance.” Then, we went to a friend’s for dinner; and reality bitch-slapped me in the face. He was so distracted by their dog, that he wouldn’t listen to his name. He was so enthralled with their big plastic house, that he wouldn’t turn his head when I called him. When we got inside and discovered that the little girl had a close-able baby gate AND stairs up to her bed…I lost him. I spent what was supposed to be a night with friends; walking after him to make sure he didn’t fall down the stairs, help him get the gate to stay open while he pushed the stroller over it, get out of his way while he closed the gate, turn around…and do it all again. It instantly became a ritual, one that he could not be persuaded to stop. Not for food, not for other toys, nothing.

This series of events was excruciating to not only me, but my husband as well. All of the “progress” he had made and all of the “normal” we thought we had; was an illusion. His “normal” behavior only took place at home because it was familiar. “Why can’t you just socialize him at people’s houses and get used to new surroundings?” I hear people asking me. “Oh, well, glad you asked *clears throat* that would be because; NO ONE WANTS US OVER!” I am being 1000% truthful when I tell you that the friend I just mentioned is the ONLY friend I have that has not only come over to our house for dinner, but has also had us over for dinner, SINCE MY SON WAS DIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM! NOT KIDDING! And the two dinners we are talking about? happened one weekend and again the next. That’s it. No other dinner plans, nothing. Every time I try and make a play date, people have an excuse. Every time I try and set up a lunch or dinner, people have an excuse. But I digress.

Little Man seemed normal, because he was comfortable, he knew what to expect and when, at home. And now; we are moving in a little over a week. His world is about to crash to the Earth, and I have no way of stopping it. I can slow it down a little, but not stop it. This move is also, not just down the road; it’s across the f*cking country. I hope he doesn’t give up on signing. I hope he tries to communicate all the way there. I hope that when we get there, he gets a fantastic new therapist (ABA) to work with. I hope he feels “normal” and safe again in the new home. But truthfully; I am scared shitless.