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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

surprise, surprise!

   My folks celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last Saturday! (High-five Mom and Dad!) We didn't plan a big to-do, because my sister and her family live *outside of the contiguous United States*, and can't make it back until the summer. But my brother planned to fly in just for the weekend, so a few weeks out he suggested I drive over too. I hemmed and hawed, and said I'd check the schedule, and promptly went back to concentrating on whether I could walk and chew gum at the same time. But after several failed attempts (at concentrating), and a text message from my bro the Monday before the anniversary that he was bringing Kobe steaks -then realizing that he might grease his way to the top of the inheritance list with this stunt -I decided on a whim to drive over and join in the sucking-up...I MEAN celebration. I knew I had to give Georgia advance notice, and telling her I would be going on a trip at the last minute would be tricky, so I decided to deliver the news in as light-hearted a manner as possible. As the girls got settled in the car after school that day I said very cheerily, "Oooooo, girls, I've gotten a wild hair!" To which G replied "WHAT?!? YOU GOT A RABBIT?!" I almost couldn't drive us out of the carline I was laughing so hard. Tears actually ran down my face. But to my utter delight, and astonishment, Georgia started laughing too. Puzzled, she said "Whaaaat?!" After wiping the drool from the corner of my mouth, (yes, when I laugh especially hard, I drool), I explained to her that when someone says they've gotten "a wild hair", they mean "a crazy idea". She threw her head back, guffawed, and said "OH! HAHAH! 'Cause a hare is also a rabbit!" A friend of mine pointed out that not many kids her age would even use that term, and some might not know it at all. She thought it very sophisticated of Georgia! The trip was then kid-approved, (Maggie told me I deserved the break because I'd been working so hard!) so I started packing. My brother and I decided that Dad should know I was coming, but it would be fun to surprise Mom!

   So I headed to the 'rents house to surprise Mom, but Mom surprised us by developing an intestinal blockage, and requiring emergency surgery Sunday night. I considered "Live Tweeting" the procedure, but I feared once she'd fully shaken off the anesthesia, she might "Live Beat" my ass. My original plan was to come back home Sunday afternoon, but I had decided to stay an extra day, and as it turns out that was a providential decision. I was able to shuttle my brother to the airport, and cruise to the top of the inheritance list, while Dad hurried Mom to the emergency room. Initially my change of plan was not received well by Miss Georgia, but then once she found out her "Mima" had been admitted to the hospital, she suddenly became very understanding. I promised her I would be back in time to do homework Monday night. Um. Dad and I were at the hospital until nearly 2 a.m., ran home to grab a few z's, then headed back with about 3 hours of sleep. I felt like I'd pulled an all-nighter, (but not the studying kind, more like the hanging-out-in-a-loud-smokey-bar-and-drinking-too-much kind) and couldn't imagine getting in the car and driving 6 hours. Besides, Mom gave me those puppy dog eyes and said "Oh, you really shouldn't drive all that way by yourself on such little sleep!" I called the Hubster, we discussed, he said I should definitely stay another day, and we hammered out a strategy for dealing with Georgia's stress over a second unexpected delay. I phoned the school, explained to the secretary what was going on, and that I needed to give my girl a "heads up" about my new plan. She said she would pull G out of class, then call me back. Once I had Georgia on the phone and explained everything, she responded in a calm, measured way, and then said "OK Mom, bye." WOW. That was easy!

   Tuesday dawned, and with Mom on the mend, I headed home. I fully expected a tongue lashing from my youngest child once she actually laid eyes on me, but she was all bubbly and giggly and told me she missed me, and was glad I was HOME, and "it is a good thing Mima got to the hospital in time or she could have got a infection!" Whoa. She showed genuine empathy and concern there. Maybe this wasn't just about me being able to make her lunches correctly, unlike her sister or dad! We've had some surprising moments with Georgia lately- good moments, stress-free moments, hopeful-for-her-future moments- and yesterday's homework/Stowell work session still has me shaking my head and grinning. The usual after-school routine is for G to come in the house, unpack all of her homework, lay it out on the counter, then give me a synopsis of what needs to be done. If there is any writing, I might take dictation, and then the gal copies what I've written for her. Or sometimes I can cajole her to attempt to write it herself, but with me spelling each and every word. Not yesterday. She said "I need to write a paragraph about what scares me." I said "Well, what do you think you want to write about? What scares you?" She replied "I am scared when my mom goes away" then she opened her binder, turned to a fresh sheet of paper, and began to write. Sounding out the words on her own. Hearing the sounds. Saying each letter. Writing. On. Her. Own. I sat back like there might be a dozen eggs behind me, and held my breath. She never moaned or whined for me to write it down for her. When homework was done, I told her all I wanted for Stowell work was for her to read from her library book. Her timing and pacing were impeccable. She swept her finger along with her eyes and vice/versa. She deciphered words I didn't think she could. All-in-all it was an afternoon of smooth sailing. Then she woke up with a cold this morning, and has been kinda cranky. So I'm hanging on to the memory of yesterday!

   This afternoon G had the news on and was watching the new Pope being presented. I heard her mumble "history in the making" and then....she started clapping wildly. We're not even Catholic. As I headed out to pick up Maggie from school, Georgia turned off the television, got up off the sofa and said "Oh, I need to get homework and Stowell work done." Go figure. And now, as I'm finishing up this blog, G asks me "Hey Mom, wouldn't it be funny if dogs and cats had their own popes?!" Um, sure. Hilarious. History in the making, indeed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Walk this way

 We've all heard the saying "you are what you eat", but there is research out now which appears to be telling us "you are what your grandparents, and great-grandparents ate" as well. And - it's not just what our forebears ate, but also any drugs they did, or environmental toxins they were exposed to. If you have OCD, or autism, are dyslexic or obese, have one leg shorter than the other, and are looking to blame someone for any troubles these have caused, dig out your family photo albums, brush off that grainy shot of Grandma Lydia standing in a freshly dusted cornfield, or the discolored Polaroid of dear old Dad at Woodstock, and start pointing fingers! And although there is no photographic record that I'm aware of, I vividly remember chasing the Mosquito Man down the street, laughing and squealing in a cloud of DDT. How is it so, you ask, that these things can have an effect so many generations later? Well, we've all also heard the saying "Diane sucks at science", but I will try my best to paraphrase some things I've been reading, and watching - and discussing with the hubster lately - then link a really cool You Tube video by Hank Green for further clarification and enjoyment. (Shout-out to Middle Daughter Maggie for bringing this video to my attention. And I suppose a shout should go out to Eldest Daughter Emily for introducing us to the Green brothers in the first place!)

   So. There's this thing called epigenetics. (^ check out the video up there ^) It's a science thing. What I interpret it to say is that we living creatures (as opposed to zombies, which are the living dead, and a whole other topic of conversation.), evidently have what amounts to a game show host in our cells that, at the appropriate hour, can yell up to some degenerate, yet eager gene "hey, diabetes, c'mon down!" (Or- could be a "good" gene too!) Which is to say that when all of the stars and planets align just right, this gene gets the thumbs up to switch itself to the "on" position, and is able to express itself in the best (or worst) way it sees fit. Meaning: under certain circumstances, if you are exposed to a toxin, or even ingest a certain food, your body can react to it by triggering a gene to flip from "off" to "on". Permanently. It may be a switch triggering a greater risk of diabetes. Or anxiety. Or a BUNCH of other conditions, diseases and "isms". And any or all of these lovely things could now have the potential to get passed on to the next generation, by way of that eager, activated gene. Ad infinitum. Yes, this is undoubtedly the most pedestrian explanation you will come across on the topic of epigenetics, but it is how I understand it to work. This information may garner one of several reactions: make a person involved in shady dealings feel so painfully guilty it scares them straight; cause them to shrug their shoulders and mumble something about the damage already being done, so what's the point; or prevent them from ever reproducing.

   There are zillions of theories swirling around out there in the ether on what causes autism to develop. (literally. zillions.) I see parents who are convinced they've found the culprit, and bolt off down a certain path of information, pitchfork in hand, screaming "GET IT!"- Like the witch hunt on vaccines. There are special diets that espouse to "cure" your child, therapies to train them to act "normal". I am a natural-born skeptic, however, so I never subscribed to the vaccine theory, nor the special diets. And I've never bought a celebrity-penned book on how *you too* can cure your child of autism, just like they did!

   I suppose there may be a kernel of truth in the theory that certain foods can cause certain "autistic" behaviors to magnify. But I also suppose that if you are a neurotypical person with a sensitivity, or allergy to a food, it will cause you to *not feel very well*, and you may act out by snipping at a loved one, or snarling at a cashier who is just way too perky at 7 in the morning, when all you want is for him to take your money, and hand over the damn coffee. This would merely be seen as you being "in a bad mood". For someone who has trouble with expressive language, however, this *not feeling well* feeling could result in you screaming, or throwing yourself down on the ground, or simply hiding out under your bed where it's dark and quiet, away from people asking you "what's the MATTER?!". This would be seen as you exhibiting autistic behaviors. It would probably be good to identify the culprit food, and eliminate it from your diet so that you would feel better, and not act out. This would be true for anyone, not just someone on the spectrum.

   To me this epigenetics is fascinating stuff, but I choose not to dwell too long on the implications. (Plus I have a really short attention span.) There are countless combinations of human characteristics. In my family, and Brad's, are a multitude of folks who developed cancer, heart disease, anxiety disorders, ADHD, processing problems, and addictions. There are folks who are incredibly good at reasoning, some who are terrible at spatial relationships- the list is endless. Does this mean we should not have had children? Heck no! This planet would be super boring, and scientists wouldn't have anything to study, if no one had any quirks or diseases. But in the end I figure it boils down to this: we are who we are, so let's just get on with it. Should we be trying to eat right, keep our bodies fit physically and mentally? Absolutely. At least, to the best of our ability. After all, we're only human.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Get real!

   I've been thinking a lot about idioms lately. Idioms, not idiots. Although I do a fair amount of thinking about them too, and how they're always either in my way when we're late for school, or asking far dumber questions than should be allowed by law. (Despite what your teacher tells you, there is such a thing as a dumb question!) Idioms. They're funny little things. Amusing. I like to use them. I've touched before on how folks on the spectrum typically take things literally. It's said that they see the world in mostly black and white. So when they come up against an idiom, it must be pretty confusing! When you sheepishly say to your autistic child, after one of those idiot drivers cuts you off -and you let loose a string of rather rough words-  "excuse my French!", and she replies, "You weren't speaking French", well - you'll be doing some pretty quick back-peddling. I recall once telling Georgia that she'd gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. She very adamantly informed me that, NO, she'd gotten up on the RIGHT side. The "right side" being the "correct side", which is to say the same damn side she always got up on. Geez, mom, you're such an idiot! Oof. Idioms are torture.

"An idiom is a natural manner of speaking, to a native speaker of a language"

   Sarcasm is another form of torture we like to employ in our house. I used to think Georgia had been done a great disservice by being born into this family of smart-asses, with a passel of pun-loving, equally as smart-assy friends. But now I've come to believe it's been a blessing in disguise. Sometimes it's a blessing that's gone under deep cover, and only emerges at brief, impromptu intervals to give darkly veiled progress reports. Like a NARC disguised as a high school student, or Johnny Depp as Donnie Brasco. Nevertheless by being exposed to so much chaos, in our conversations as well as general household goings-on, Georgia has gained a fairly substantial grasp of idioms and sarcasm. She appears to be able to take that understanding with her out into the world. Her reading teacher, Mrs. Patrick, (I'll talk more about her in another post) phoned this morning to chat about what they're covering in class right now. She said she worried about joking with Georgia, like teasing about wanting to steal her snack, or saying "everyone can go to the pep rally except Georgia" -that she might take things the wrong way and become upset. So she is relieved when G just laughs, and dishes it right back to her. One day she was drawing something on the board relating to their story, and Georgia piped up and said "Wow, that is really terrible. You can't draw, can you?" And they all had a good-natured laugh over it. Mrs. Patrick told me "it wasn't said in a mean or disrespectful way, she was totally ribbing me. It was great!" She doesn't always get what we're saying, but she senses it isn't what we mean, so she'll ask "you are being sarcastic?", and we will clarify. Yes, yes we are.

    To make a contribution to the familial purse I work as a substitute teacher. (Because at the rate I paint, art is not going to support us. And also my subject matter might be a bit too dicey for normal peoples tastes.) I take it as a challenge to try to pick out the autistic kids in the class, before I read my schedule and find out who I need to pay special attention to. While it is true that people on the spectrum don't look any different than anyone else there is always *something* that gives them away, and I can spot them pretty quickly. Well, I AM tuned in to the little behaviors that most folks might overlook. There is such a wide range of spectrum kids in every single class. It's fascinating! I was subbing for an aide in a 4th grade classroom earlier this week, and the teacher was talking about bull sharks, so she decided to show a short cartoon about a shark that a little girl keeps as a pet. In her house. The shark prances around the living room on his caudal fin, dressed in a cheap knock-off of Tony Manero's white disco suit. One of the little boys I was in charge of, who is on the spectrum, raised his hand and very sincerely said "I thought sharks lived in the water?!". This little boy is really, really smart, yet he could not wrap his head around someone taking a shark home, and letting it sit on the sofa and eat popcorn. It simply isn't right! Georgia would have recognized this premise to be just plain silly, pure imagination - and she might have laughed- but she'd still have to state to you, and then to herself multiple times, "That is not really real!"

   Ultimately we all live in our own realities. Some of us just have wackier realities than others!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Just Bob

   We made the heart wrenching decision to put down our sweet old dog, Bob, yesterday. Georgia was the reason we had Bob. When she was 5 she begged us "PLEASE, can I have just a little bit of dog?" And I said "Sure, you can have a tail." Um. Not a good response to someone who takes things literally. Hey, live and learn, right? The girls and I set out to our local no-kill shelter 10 years ago looking for a "young, small dog", so it was rather shocking to Brad when he returned home and found us with 65 pound, 2-4 year old Bob, who couldn't hide the fact that he had more than a little pit bull in him. Bob first came to us as "Billie Bob", which we found far too redneck, so we shortened it pretty creatively to just Bob. The vets office never did change it in their files. So I always had to steel myself for "those looks" from the other humans (and sometimes a cat or two) when they called him in to an exam room. They ALWAYS used a super-hopped-up southern accent when they called his name too! He looked the part of a redneck, really. Half pit bull, half....I dunno, I liked to say lab. Labs are well thought-of 'round here. So I decided he was part lab. It took the sting out of saying "part pit bull".  Brad pulled me out of the kids earshot and said "We can not keep this dog." But his mind was changed after walking him around the neighborhood that night, where they encountered a ferocious chow walking his owner. The chow went berserk when it saw Bob -lunging and barking, and straining at the leash. Bob didn't say one word back to that rude creature. Instead he hid behind Brad. Gentle giant. Deal sealed.
"Ohhh, Bob!"

  When I told Emily, Maggie and Georgia the day before that it was time to let Bob go, we all cried. I was a bit surprised that Georgia was showing so much emotion, but unlike the rest of us who want to just cry when we cry, Georgia talks through her tears. She was genuine in her grief, yet was attempting to rationalize and reason at the same time. "At least he will not be in pain anymore. And also not so much dog hair." Yeah, that *is* true. Surviving Bob (also known as: Bobsled, Bobbaloo, Robert Ferdinand - after Ferdinand the Bull, and Bobert)- besides us humans-are another dog, Charlie (aka Chuckles, Chuck Roast, Charles- for formal occasions), and three cats: Sadie, Bart and Sanford. (respectfully known also as: Sadiekins, or Muffin; Black Bart, or Bartemius Crouch (or just Barty Crouch); and Fatty.) He goes on to join his cat friends Kee Kee and Henrietta and the guinea pig, whose name I suddenly- and shamefully- cannot recall. (WAIT! He was black, and Maggie named him... "Ashes"!!....I think....yeah....we didn't have him very long before he got a bad lot of guinea pig feed and, well, our vet was valiant in her efforts, but there was no helping him.)

So we freed Bob to frolic with his old cat and dog buddies who had gone to heaven before him. But I've been thinking...cat heaven and dog heaven: are they two different places, apart from people heaven? Or just fenced off areas of people heaven? Like a dog park. Will Bob need a passport to be able to see Kee Kee and Henny? If they are separate I think dogs and cats should have a third option. There really ought to be a spot for dogs who like cats, and cats who like dogs, because Bob was an equal opportunity kinda guy. He got along with all creatures! Well, with the possible exception of that disemboweled, decapitated squirrel we once found on the bathroom rug. Although forensic evidence never could totally place Bob at the scene, so we weren't certain he was the perp. I wouldn't count him out as an accomplice to one of the cats, however, or to Charlie. Bob was easily led. Whatever scheme Charlie came up with, Bob was all in. Charlie was the brains, Bob the brawn."Bob, dude, we can totally get out of this chicken wire the humans call "a fence". Dig....HERE!" And Bob would dig. Occasionally he'd dig a hole just big enough for Chuck Roast to stuff himself through, and Bob would be left behind holding the proverbial bag. With the telltale sandy dirt ground under his nails, and dusting his snout like he'd just eaten a dozen powdered donuts. Which he was also known to do. Ok, not powdered donuts, but blueberry muffins. For a brief time we called him Blueberry Bob. This was just after we'd adopted him -Charlie wasn't on the scene yet so we know Bob was the brains behind this one. I'd baked several dozen blueberry muffins and left them on the counter to cool while I went out on an errand. I returned home to find half a dozen muffin papers scattered around Bob's bed. Completely intact. As if he'd suddenly developed opposable thumbs that allowed him to carefully unpeel each muffin paper before delicately popping the moist little morsel in his mouth.

 Along with baked goods, Bob also loved going to the beach! He'd bound down to the shore, lap up a gallon of good old Mobile bay water, and then throw it up on a rug back at the house. There is the most wonderful little beach just down at the end of our street. We haven't utilized it like we did when Bob and the girls were younger. Of late some *older* kids have discovered this nearly secluded site and begun using it for rather dubious purposes. It wasn't unheard of 10 years ago to stumble across empty beer cans, or poorly tamped-out bonfires, or even condoms down on Our Little Beach. But those have become ubiquitous sights now, along with the occasional hypodermic needle, and slumbering Scene Kid. Or are they Hipsters? or maybe Rastafarians? I never can get all those sorted out into the right categories! My girls roll their eyes and sigh at me when I ask, then try to explain all of the differences again, to no avail. I never remember. I suppose I really don't need to burn that into my memory, I just need to know enough to give a brief description to the cops. Then I put on my best Gladys Kravitz and scream, "HEY, YOU KIDS! GET OFFA MY LAWN...er...BEACH!"

Alas, however, it is not "our" beach. It's public. But the police don't police it because to get to it, one must huff down a flight of 76 steps, trudge through a fire swamp, and then plod across....SAND. And sand is sandy. And gets into your shoes. Ew. And then one must reverse the trek back through the swamp, across narrow planks of scavenged wood, UP those 76 steps, all while attempting to wrangle a dozen handcuffed teens. It was those endless stairs which eventually prevented Bob from accompanying us to the bay. I doubt he could ever have scared off the pesky teens, though. He was a friend to all, and all were friend to him. "You wanna rob our house!? SURE! C'mon in! *wag*wag*wag*" Unless the robbers were wielding hammers. Then Bob would probably run and hide behind the couch. He was afraid of tools. We don't like to speculate on why.

There were so many more things that Bob loved: car rides through the school pick-up line, rain, cat poop (oh, hush, your dog eats it too!), and visitors! I won't attempt to list more, this post would be days-long. Georgia informed me that it would "take a few years" before she was over the passing of her "first dog". Of course her sense of time and space is somewhat skewed, but I have to agree with her here. And we have tons of great memories of Bob to draw on as the years pass. He was a Good Dog. The Best Boy. He was Bob.

See ya, buddy!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Don't get your drawers in a knot!

Just FYI: This is not our house.

  Our 1971 ranch house has been a work-in-progress for nearly 12 years now. It's not so much being renovated, or remodeled, as it is being reinvented. This reinvention has been happening at our own hands, which is why it will probably never be finished. I'm sure it isn't an ideal arrangement for someone on the spectrum who might have trouble living in a constant state of flux. But - there we are.

  When the kids were little the only uninterrupted block of time we had to work on the house was after they'd gone to bed. So we'd kiss them goodnight, tuck them in, and then tear out a few walls. Or there was the time we said goodnight, climbed up into the attic, shimmied out on to the rafters, and took wire cutters to the suspended acoustical tile ceiling hanging over the living room. A few snips later, the whole thing came crashing down. We then proceeded to shove all the debris out through the front window. It was quite satisfying! The girls never heard a sound. At age 5 Maggie said to us once, in an incredulous tone, "WHY did we have to buy a BROKEN house?!" Hey, location is everything, kid!

  So - for Christmas this year Brad gave me kitchen drawers. I was ECSTATIC! We gutted the old kitchen 10 years ago, and immediately built cabinets and poured concrete countertops. It took another few years before we had doors on the cabinets, so I wasn't holding my breath for drawers any time soon. To hold all of our utensils we've been using this cheap plastic rolling cart with 3 extra-deep drawers. What a headache. You could only locate one of our twelve shrimp forks by noisily, and angrily, rifling through six layers of stainless ladles, slotted serving spoons, and four complete sets of measuring cups. (I didn't even know I had four complete sets of measuring cups.) For the record: we never use the shrimp forks for shrimp. My girls know them only as "fruit forks". I am thankful my Very Southern Grandmother isn't alive to bear witness to this bastardization.      

Hey, look! The plastic rolly cart!
  Georgia did not look upon my drawer present as a gift. She was thrown into a minor tizzy. New drawers meant something was going to CHANGE. She was "not used to it!" I told her that she typically has this reaction to change, but she eventually gets accustomed to the new things, and it will all be OK. For a child on the spectrum there are some things you try to keep the same, for the sake of peace. You *try* to keep the same schedule day after day. You *try* to keep things in the places they expect them to be. But I was getting my drawers, by God. She was just gonna have to bloody-well get used to it! And.....she did. Without much fuss really. She was actually pretty tickled to be able to locate her ice cream spoon so easily. No meltdown. No drama. Also for the record: ice cream spoons in my house are actually iced tea spoons. Again, glad Grandma doesn't know this.

  There will continue to be changes in the coming year - with the house, and no-doubt with it's occupants! If Georgia can continue to have only "minor" tizzies over them, we will have accomplished something amazing. Today marks exactly one year since we left on our California adventure to the Stowell Learning center, and I've been very pleased with what we've learned along the way. This adventure with our Stowell work is not done. Not by a long shot. We are always changing and growing, so how could we ever be done? I guess that's why the realization that our house will never be "done" doesn't really bother me. It simply means something super cool, and really interesting is lying right around the corner. But watch out, we just may be wielding a sledgehammer to get to it!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Festivus miracles

It is the season of miracles, and we seem to be experiencing quite our fair share here. But before I qualify that statement let me say this: Georgia is exceptionally strong-willed. Hard-headed. Hard-nosed. And, yes, somewhat self-centered. She doesn't usually stray much from these adjectives, but she can also have fleeting moments of compassion, empathy, sympathy and understanding. Compromise sometimes finds a way in as well. This is Georgia pretty much all year long. Just because it's the Christmas season doesn't mean she suddenly starts behaving like a good little child, wary of incurring Santa's wrath. I'm afraid my children just missed the whole "Elf on the Shelf" phenomenon as a means to securing their sainthood, and I can't say I am sorry. Frankly that elf idea terrifies me more than the thought of Santa tallying up a rap sheet on me. No, the notion of Santa keeping tabs on her all year has never really had an effect on Georgia's attitude, nor her sisters for that matter!

This year, however, seems to have brought about a preternatural change in Georgia. Oh, sure, she displays all of the qualities I listed above, but despite those ever-present endearing characteristics, she has been exhibiting  some wondrous, and astonishing behaviors. First and foremost is the way she expressed her thoughts on the shooting rampage in Newtown. She wasn't just matter-of-fact about it, simply stating (and re-stating) to me what happened. Instead she said to me "It so sad. Those poor li'l kids. They had their whole life to live." She sat and watched some of the news reports too. In fact she's been coming around to sit on the couch with the rest of the family to watch other shows and movies. This is a rare occurrence. I really can't say how much that can be attributed to the tragedy in Connecticut, but I do wonder if she's feeling somewhat vulnerable, and the way she is able to express it is to simply sit with her family.

And as for those other miracles? These next two involve math homework. It's a nightly nightmare. Some nights are more terrifying than others, but usually it's a big serving of stress all around. One night last week Georgia was so worked up over it, she stomped off to her room sobbing uncontrollably. She calmed down a tad, then reemerged, but with a hiccoughing sob. Middle sister Maggie was sitting at the kitchen counter, turned to her and said "It's OK, Geosie. Do you need a hug?" Geosie (Maggie is the ONLY one who can get away with that nickname) went to Maggie and let her hug, pat her back (!) and coo that she would be fine. A few days later we were finishing up watching something on TV when Georgia decided it was time to start her math homework. (She waits for Brad to help her, and sometimes it gets kind of late!) Her usual M.O. is to start whining to Brad that "it's time", and when they sit down to start she instantly yells "I DON'T REMEMBER HOW TO DO IT!" Instead she quietly got her binder out, opened it up, and started solving the problems on her own. I could hear her talking herself through the steps.

About a week and a half ago Brad and I were gone all day and evening attending a funeral two states away. (My best friend from college lost her 93 year old Cajun grandma. Tough woman, but so sweet to me! And FYI: Cajuns throw damn good funeral parties!) We left Maggie in charge of helping Georgia with some homework, and fixing supper. That afternoon Georgia went to get Maggie for homework help, and found her asleep. Instead of getting upset, she made hot cocoa and brought it up to her room to help wake her up. When supper time rolled around, Georgia agreed to eat sushi rice, and try miso soup. I could fill three more pages with exclamations about that stunning phenomenon.

So now we find ourselves at what could possibly be the biggest marvel of the season: I retrieved Eldest Sister Emily from college on Monday. Before we'd even set down a suitcase Georgia was running at her, waving an invitation in her face, excitedly asking if she would like to go to the resource room Christmas party the next day. (I had to work, so couldn't go) To her great credit Emily immediately, and enthusiastically, said "YES!" Now, you must understand that historically these two have not gotten along as well as Maggie and Georgia. But the last few years have brought more maturity and insight to Emily in dealing with her littlest sister, and it's beginning to pay off. When Emily walked through the classroom door the next afternoon she reports that Georgia jumped up to hug her. They had sustained conversations! Georgia was very pleased, and proud, to have her sister there.

Jaw-dropping, yet heart-warming moments! I can only hope the new year brings more of those, and that we haven't actually been living in some sort of dream state. Don't anyone pinch me, though, just in case!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Speak for yourself!

  Georgia may be getting out of mic work today simply because I cannot string more than three words together without coughing up my spleen. I'm considering making up a turban soaked in Vicks VapoRub and wearing it EVERYWHERE until after flu season. I'd be like Professor Quirrell walking around with a smelly Voldemort on my head, only hopefully the VapoRub wouldn't be hissing orders at me to kill Harry Potter. After a few months of donning my odiferous headgear though, I imagine someone might want to do ME in!

  And speaking of things that don't smell quite right, I have only recently been made aware of some information that Autism Speaks isn't exactly the organization I believed it to be. (Shout-out to PDDWorld/Moms!) Now, this blog was never intended to be used as a forum for promoting, or bashing, any particular agency or therapy that might believe itself doing good deeds to further autism awareness, or improve the lives of those on the spectrum. But A.S. evidently has only just begun using the term "awareness", having been founded on the premise of "curing" autism by funding a ton of research to that end. They seem to be trying hard now to cover their tracks, as the autism community at large has called them on it. As I've seen on the Autism Self Advocacy Network site, ("Nothing about us, without us" http://autisticadvocacy.org/ ), it's not a cure they want, but acceptance. Being autistic is being themselves. This was echoed in an old NPR interview I dug up where a young man on the spectrum said "What the rest of the world needs to know about autism is that it's not something that can be separated out from the person, it's part of the person. And so you cannot meaningfully say I love my child, but I hate the autism. That's like saying I love my child, but I hate that she's a girl and I'd like her to be a boy instead." When asked if there were a cure for autism, would he take it, he answered "No. Never will. I love the way my brain works."

  On the A.S. site under "initiatives" they state "...In fact, many experts agree that a collaborative approach to autism research is the only way science will solve the mysteries of this devastating disorder." The definition of "devastating": 1) highly destructive or damaging. 2) causing severe shock, distress, or grief. The synonyms are destructive, and ruinous. You can see why someone on the spectrum might take exception to the A.S. approach. Now, the man in the NPR interview did state that he knows his life would be "easier without his Asperger's. He would understand social cues. He would get along better in work and everyday interactions." But he's "come to like being autistic. He even celebrates it." I know there are parents out there who might have felt shock, distress, or grief at first hearing a diagnosis of autism, but that doesn't mean the child's life, or the family unit ends in a ruinous state. For me the diagnosis was just validation, and then it was time to keep seeking out therapies which could help Georgia unlock all of her potential. I am not a shout-in-the-streets activist. I just quietly go about my business. So if Autism Speaks is shouting for a cure for autism, I will shout back in the form of not funding their research.

   A friend of mine with an Aspie son told me "You know the saying, 'If you've met one kid with autism, you've met one kid with autism.'" I do not claim to know all there is to know about autism, or every intricate detail of every advocacy group. I've done enough research to know that I don't know half of what's out there! What I do know is my child. I do know that, even though I want to help her overcome her learning problems, I do not want to help her overcome who she is at her core. She's silly, and goofy, and funny. She talks incessantly, (and obsessively!) on the way home from school. But sometimes she says the most amazing things! Yeah, sometimes she's a pain-in-the-ass, (Yep. I said it out loud.), but I usually put most of that down to being a teenager. The autism thing I can handle. This teen thing? OY VEY.