Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Seeing myself in him

Have you ever looked for yourself in your child? I'm not talking about eyes, nose or other physical features, or even intelligence or attitude. I'm talking about behaviors. As a parent who has autism, I guess I have a semi-unique perspective on this. Most parents of autistic children are not such themselves.

Denver can get very aggressive with his toys to the point of breaking them. This is because he's trying to make what's happening with the toy as much like what ever he saw on television or somewhere else.

Take action figures for example. If two heroes are fighting, it's not enough to pretend the punch and effect. He will actually haul back and slam one figure into the other with force and conviction. He often does this with things that are not meant to be hammered into each other. He wants to feel the force of it all. It makes it more realistic to him. "But, Dad, punching isn't like that." Neither is crashing when it comes to his toy cars.

This often causes broken toys and those get discarded with a small lecture on being rough on toys.

So how does this fit in seeing myself in him? I did that too. I used to play all star wrestling with my vast assortment of stuffed animals and I didn't hold anything back. I punched them so hard they flew across the room. I did the jump from the turnbuckle and body slammed them into the floor. This caused tears and such that my grandmother would fix. I would get a lecture though. Crashing? Oh yes, my cars crashed with force that cleared other object off the table. That got me into a lot of trouble. "You had to see the ash tray! What were you thinking?"

I wasn't thinking, I was crashing. Didn't they know the difference? Apparently not.

It's important to remember the very literal sense that the Asperger's child has (along with other autistics to be sure). Look at a real crash. There's always force and damage and things go flying. Why would I play it out any differently?

Being able to see myself in my son has given me great hope. I know that I grew out of all the behaviors he exibits today. I did this without proper support, so he should do doubly as well, right? Well, that's kind of far ahead and he will have his own decisions to make by then. I will just have to do my job as a parent and remember, that I did these things too.

So take a look at the things your child does and try to think back. Did you do anything similar? What insight can you find? You might be surprised.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Dying City

Detroit, MI should be declared an emergency and disaster area. According to recent reports, there are hundreds of buildings standing empty from a million people fleeing the sinking motor city. 30% of it's residents are on food stamps, but barely have any place to use them. That's because all of the major grocery chains in Detroit have closed.

The human body needs three things to function or it will die. They are oxygen, food and water. You can go without clothing or shelter (depending on location) forever in comparison to those three things. Think about the grocery stores in your town, then think of them as empty lots. Sure, you have a few small places to go for minor food stuffs, but is that going to be enough for your entire town? I doubt it. Most of those places are generally more expensive as it is. How many people are in your town anyway? Think about it.

One way military forces defeat their opponents is by cutting off supplies. Starved soldiers just don't make as good of fighters. Granted, we aren't talking about a military coup here, but is the result going to be that much different?

And who says a disaster can only be declared for physical damage and loss of human life? True, this isn't an earthquake or tornado, but we're talking about a historical landmark. So there isn't loss of human lives, but their still gone to somewhere else arne't they?

Put this in perspective for a minute, we are talking about a landmark city that boasted nearly two million people headed for old west ghost town status? Just try to convince me that isn't a disaster of historical proportion.

The motor city needs help and support. They need supplies and a new purpose.

I've seen a lot of good people lose their jobs and now they struggle to keep their homes. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the people are the ones who circulate America's wealth, they are the ones that need a bailout. They were put in this position by greedy corporations who would have received the money anyway if it came to us. Give a family a bailout and they pay their mortgage with it, who gets that money then? Give a family a bailout and they pay off their credit cards and their car, who gets that money then? Giving a bailout to the people would provide relief at the very core of the damage.

Want to know what good the bailouts have really done so far? Take a trip to Detroit. Bailing out the companies didn't work because they still lack the one thing that keeps them going, the consumer. No customers, no businesses, it's as simple as that.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Autistic Opinion: Teacher Reinstated

Sometime last year, a kindergarten teacher named, Wendy Portillo decided she had enough of little Alex Barton. She didn't like his behavior, never mind the fact he was in process of a medical diagnosis. She didn't understand him and demonstrated that she didn't care to. She stood little Alex up in front of his class. She then instructed each student to stand up, look at him and say something they didn't like about him.

Alex has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism that caused all of his irregular behaviors.

Wendy Portillo was suspended and had her credentials stripped away. Most fitting for committing child abuse in my opinion. But it didn't last.

The School board in Port St Lucie, Florida decided to reinstate her recently. Apparently, a reported dozens of parents and teachers, flocked to her aid. They said she just made a mistake and to give her another chance. A mistake is what they called it. I find that ridiculous and I'll tell you why.

Wendy Portillo emotionally and mentally abused Alex Barton because she just couldn't hold her temper with him anymore. What happens when a parent is caught abusing their own child, much less someone elses?

Not only that, but as a teacher, someone those children looked to for knowledge, she taught bullying as a way to deal with kids you don't like. That was bullying in the classroom.

Wendy Portillo hurt a child, used other children to do it and as a teacher that should be unforgivable. Unfortunately for the town of Port St Lucie, "dozens" of parents and teachers think thats A-OK or "just a mistake". What do you think?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Strange Play

It never ceases to amaze me the ways Denver, my son, will play. Children on the spectrum have unique ways of approaching play. The other night in his bath he reminded me of this. I heard splashing and naturally thought my bathroom headed for swimming pool status. I walked in and found the floor dry.
"Denver, what are you doing?"
Without hesitation he struck himself on the side of his face with his sopping wet washcloth. He didn't hold back either, you could have heard the slap outside.
"I'm playing water balloon!"
I could certainly see where the water laden cloth could simulate the effect of a water balloon to the face. Since he didn't flood the bathroom and had cleaned himself, I left him to it. Once he started water ballooning the walls, I had to step in and end the party.
I found it very creative that he simulated the sensation he wanted to feel. After all, he had no access to the real thing. That's not nearly as strange as the want for playing with toilet paper. Even at 7 years old he's fascinated with it. Recently he shredded some with a hairbrush. Confetti across the bathroom floor. I know it's the lightness and texture and how it can instantly absorb water that amazes him. He has to see it again and again until the stool is too full to flush. Don't even ask how I solve that one. You don't want to know.

Other tissue paper constantly meets the same fate so kleenex are a guarded resource in our home. I am known to time him in the bathroom now as well.

Kids on the spectrum are also known for running in circles, pacing, digging, licking things and all of those are simply based on how they feel and what they see in it. They see something we don't and it's important to remember that.

Denver's best of odd play is cardboard. He's incredible with it. Yes, all kids love to play with boxes, but Denver is articulate about it. He builds archways and floorplans. He makes full scale dungeons and is to scale without even knowing what that means.

So, even with the tissue play, is it possible that he will still see the intricacies of these materials as he grows? What will they mean to him when he's older? Who knows, but the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

To my readers

There was an issue recently with how I did my blogs at the newspaper sites. This is what I posted to correct that:

It has recently been brought to my attention that my readers do prefer to stay in one place to read my blog and article postings. I was truly unaware of how much of an inconvenience this might be to my readers until a fine fellow with Sheboygan Press sent me an email explaining the situation. Well, from now on, when you see my blogs and articles, you can be sure that I will have the whole story right here for you. There will be no link that you have to click to get the whole story.

For that matter, if there is any link at all, it will only be to show you where else I can be found. None of the places that you can find me require you to pay to subscribe to my writing. If you find me on Myspace you can click "subscribe" to be alerted when ever I post a new blog. I would dearly love to have you there as well as here, but you don't have to. I can also be found on Facebook and USA Today. If you go to blogspot and have a blog there, you can click to follow my blog and I will do the same for you.

Sometime I just need to know what people prefer the most. If they tell me, I can understand better. I want to thank all of you for being here and following along with me. Thank you for all the great reccomendations and comments. Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere and I will have more to say in the very near future.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Autism and Divorce

I'm having a divorce. When you go through the big D you wind up going through all sorts of emotions. There is nothing to gain at this point as far as you're concerned. Only loss. Average folks do all kinds of crazy things when it comes to divorce. Desperation over property and children can drive you up the wall.

What can that be like for people with autism? I've explained before that autistics depend highly on their world being predictable and stable. I'm actually doing pretty well in this case, but that wasn't so true for the last two major breakups in my life. In today's case, we are splitting peacefully as possible. My wife wants to change her life and the best I can do for her is let her go. Unfortunately that means I'm not just losing a marriage or my wife, but my entire support system. I am my son's support system and that's no easy task with trying to apply damage control on myself. I'm thankful that I'm on medications for my comorbids or I might not be able to handle this. It's a scary situation because there is no one to help me if I have real trouble.

That's the unfortunate reality of divorce for anyone, but when you have medical problems that force your mind to depend on and view reality in a certain way. It's more than just an emotional issue. Denver is very good at observing, but he's not that good at decyphering. Now he worries when I drop him off at school that I won't come back. We have to make sure he knows, not only that none of this is his fault, but that not everyone goes away and stays away. He will always have both of us, just not in the same house anymore. That cracks the world he depends on right in half. There's no way around it, only through. Fortunately I do know what to do and what to tell him. It's going to take time.

Even with knowing, my brain still wants to go into a five alarm state because what I knew is no more. I have to will myself past that and resist it. I've had three major relationships in my life and not a lot of partners. I have children in all three relationships and try to stay in contact with them all. That doesn't always work the way I intend. Each one has lasted longer than the prior and I suppose that's a good thing. But back then, I wasn't on the meds and I had a really hard time.

The toughest thing is accepting the changes, then there's letting go. Autistics, as a general rule never embrace change, they naturally resist it. That's even if it's good for them.

I suppose all I've already survived has prepared me for moments in life like this. What an ironic and interesting point of view. I want to point out a blog I was introduced to recently. The person running it is a divorce lawyer who went through her own divorce involving her son who has autism. She brings up fantastic points of what such heavy changes can do to an autistic child and why the courts and all who work in them need to know. Her name is Pegi Price and you can google her or find her in my followers on my blogspot page. She recently published a book through the Bar Association called, The Special Needs Child and Divorce. Because I have trouble with posting links, I suggest you give it a google or search.

If you are new to my blogs, please subscribe or click follow on my blogspot. I'm glad to have you here. Also be sure to check out my other posts. You may find answers to questions there. You may pass on my information if you like, just make sure to give credit and hand out a link for others to find the source. Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Morning Trials

My son, Denver, does not like being woke up in the morning. He likes to wake up at his own speed. You can tell the difference in the mornings that he gets himself out of bed, he's simply a happier kid. Heaven help me if I have to wake him up in the middle of the night, he can get really angry then. Just a year ago he could go into a violent fit at being awakened. He's better about that now, but still doens't like it.

Today he got out of bed at the sound of me walking around the apartment. So out bounces a happy rested Denver. I get him some clothes, sometimes he picks them, and we have a race to get dressed. It's a great way to get him motivated to move in the morning or at others times as well. He usually wins, but not this morning. Next it's time to pick what he wants for breakfast. He get's his choice out of what we have, depending on if I'm up to making it. I won't make pancakes every day, after all.

After he has his breakfast it's time for the morning trouble spot. He used to be much better about taking his meds. Now, when I tell him it's time for both of us to take our meds, I get a screaming fit. He knocked his toy castle of the table and started kicking everything near him. He's learned to pull his punches on objects because he knows it will hurt if he lays into things at full strength. That's how I know it's a fit he can control. I offer him time out until he's ready to take his medicine for the day. He immediately comes over to me stomping, huffing and swatting at things near him. He takes his medicine and I take mine. I remind him gently that he knows what his day will be like if he doesn't take his medicine or I don't take mine. Then I send him to the couch to have a time out anyway because of the fit.

That earns me a loud, "I hate you" that I ignore and sit down to check my emails. He goes through a noise making stage and inevitably wants to know when he can get up.

"When do you think you can get up?"
"When I've been quiet."
"Have you?"
Back to my emails. He remains silent for several minutes. Normally time out ranges at one minute for each year of age. I give him a touch of slack on that sometimes, when his meds haven't kicked in yet. I'll go for three or four minutes. He pulls that off and I let him get up. Apology is given and we're off on the rest of our morning.

At about 7:30 I check his homework and sign his school papers. There's some reading done. He loves to read and it's quickly becoming as strong point of his. The only other thing about mornings is getting him to slow down. I swear he's going to wake the neighborhood. One of his stimming behaviors is to shake his head and hands rapidly while jumping up and down emitting a high pitched EEEEEEEE sound. This causes my poor eardrums (with my own sensitivity to sound)to go into a panic. I have found myself yelling STOP, more than once with my hands over my ears. It's hard to not do that, like trying not to let your leg kick when the dr hits that nerve in your knee. Most times, he does stop and he knows what sounds bug me. Sometimes he uses them on purpose, so I put him in time out on purpose.

As far as I'm concerned, using someones sensitivities to harass or harm is just like walking up and punching them. I won't allow it. If he does it to me, he'll do it to some kid at school. I won't allow that if I can help it.

Once the meds kick in he slows down and has much better control over his impulses that are very hyperactive up until then.

I give him time warnings before we are going to leave or I'm going to have him do his homework. That helps to keep from interrupting him from what he's doing. When I suddenly interrupt him from an activity he's absorbed in, I can get a stomping fit that just gets him into trouble and causes us a delays. So I give him a fifteen minute and maybe a five minute warning. If he gives me grief over those, it's time out. If he goes along with it all and does what he's supposed to, he gets a blue poker chip in the "go" jar for a reward later on.

At 8:00 it's time to put on shoes and make sure backpack is ready to go. Then, by 8:10 we are headed out the door. I'm very particular about when I get out the door to go somewhere. I hate being late or slow to get going. If we run late it means parking hassles and stress, I hate that. Yes, I do work with it and try to keep my stress down, but like most autistics I have my routines and I can be obsessive about them.

I wait with Denver at school until he's ready to go to class. Goodbye's are given with promise that I will be back when school lets out and the morning business is done.

As for non-school days, those are very relaxed and everyone gets to sleep in. Summer may bring some other changes in schedule, but we'll see when we get there.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gifts of Autism

We can spend a long time discussing how things can be hard with autism. For the most part, I prefer 'different'. Some things are actually quite a challenge but today I want to take it the other direction. Is there anything good about autism? Actually there is a positive spin.

I believe just about every autistic I've met has had some kind of distinct special skill. Usually it's based on their special interest but some go above and beyond even that. Take Daniel Temmet for example an his book, Born on a Blue Day. Daniel is a mathematic prodigy and they're still trying to figure him out. He sees shapes and numbers as textures and composites. He's capable of doing fantastic problems almost instantly.

Check out Matt Savage, you won't believe it but he taught himself to play piano. A feat that famous player Al Stewart just had to see for himself. In this video he plays the compelx piece, "Year of the Cat". Check it out:

Then try Jason McElwain who has a 90% accuracy ratio in shooting baskets. This boy made the news for firing a successful 6 three pointer shots in a row. It was the last game of the season and I bet they wish they put him in sooner!

I took the Global Assessment Functioning test in Nebraska to see what my level of general function is. It came up at 40%, which is why I'm on disability. Don't let that fool you. I do have capabilities that I am working on to bypass my disabilities. I also took a test of my skills at Vocational Rehab. My strengths came up in protection jobs and writing jobs.

On the protection jobs, I have 19 years experience in working security and 6 of that was actual law enforcement with a national certification. Yes, that was in Animal Control, but let me tell you that, because of how they do it in Lincoln, I've been on everything from murder scene to drug bust. I have stories, but they'll have to come later. I've always been interested in helping and protecting others. On investigations, I became known for finding small details that led me to closing cases and finding people. Those details were overlooked by others, but seemed so much larger to me. My sensitivities to odors and even sounds gave me an edge when handling cases that could have been more questionable.

On my writing I have had a lot of wonderful comments and compliments. I am very thankful and the test showed that I had this capability. I always have, so far as I know. Mind you, I don't want to be a braggart, but if you have it use it, right? I guess this is why I've had the interest in writing stories since very young.

The one area they didn't test me on is art. I am an artist and a great deal of my work can be seen at my myspace page in photos here. Oh and here.

My son, Denver has quite a bit of skill himself. He likes to build things. He's constantly surprising me with what he can do with common cardboard. I have witnessed his excelling at this skill above all others. He makes dungeons complete with pitfalls and traps. I wouldn't be surprised if he winds up becoming an engineer like his grandfather.

Of course there's famous autistics like Bill Gates and Keaneau Reeves. You can find a long list of people either confirmed or considered autistic and all of them with their own interesting gifts. For that matter, I think that autistics should be given a chance with those gifts to do good things for their communities. For all we know, an autistic finance team could save our economy.

I know, not all autistic show a big ol gift, some never are very clear on it, but I think it's still there somewhere and if you can bring it out, who knows what could happen next?