Rules

Every household has rules.  Kids and adults need rules – to give us boundaries, define how we will interact with each other, and thereby provide a comfortable environment to live in.

Families with Autism, if they are anything like THIS family with Autism, likely have more rules… and certainly more interesting rules… than the families without Autism.  Our kids with Autism structure their worlds differently and so the rules must accomodate that… accomodate their perspective… and that can make for some weird strange unexpected interesting rules.  Rules that sometimes must be repeated again and again and again.

Some of the more interesting rules from the last month include:

(from me, after Christmas pageant practice at church) “Here’s a rule.  This is very important.  You do not sing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” in mouse language at the top of your lungs while everyone else is singing “Silent Night.”

(from me, while holding onto the dashboard in the car) “No one is to smell Daddy’s armpit while he is driving!  Do you understand?  NO ONE!”

(from our younger son (with Autism) while giving his order to a waiter in a restaurant) “Here’s a rule.  It is very important.  The chef must stir sugar into the recipe but NOT the poison!”

I particularly like that last one.  Any other “interesting” family rules out there?

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Am I A Drug Addict?

Our oldest son has health class in elementary school.  Each year the topic of drugs is included in the agenda for a week.  You know, the rah rah “just say no” and “drugs are bad” bit.  They even have a spirit week built around it where each day they wear something that reinforces the anti-drugs messaging – like wearing sweatpants for “It’s no sweat to be drug-free” day and wearing crazy socks for “sock it to drugs” day.  Fun stuff all around.

Don’t get me wrong… I am all for the anti-drug messages and I agree that they need to be integrated into the elementary school health classrooms.

But guess what was included in the list last year…

Yep… some things you would expect, like heroin and cigarettes…  These are definitely the easier messages.  Easy to reinforce.  Things that are clearly avoided in our household  Not a problem.  Alcohol?  While it was on the list and I have the occasional glass of wine with dinner, it isn’t a constant thing, so it didn’t raise any eyebrows from my fourth grader.

Of course, with this generation, they’ve included prescription drug abuse.  This is a less easy item around which to demonstrate support, since we do have prescription drugs in the house and some are taken on continuous schedules.  You can imagine the discussions…

“Mom, you take that every day.  That means you are addicted.  My brother takes his meds every morning, so he is a drug addict too.”   

“Son, the doctor prescribes this for me so I can take care of my body.  It is a good thing.  It doesn’t mean that I am a drug addict.  Your brother’s doctor prescribes that med for him because it helps his body deal with some specific issues.  We take these for the right reasons.”   

Are you sure?  My teacher says…” and on it goes.  In fourth grade the world is black and white.  Shades of gray are tough to explain.  This drug abuse dialogue is particularly fun when my son starts it in the grocery store and strangers hear me trying to defend my drug use to my son.  Eyebrows raise.  Fun all around.

But guess what else is on the list?

Caffeine!  Coffee!!!  My beloved morning beverage has made the fourth grade health class black list!  Can you imagine the dialogue heard in our household?

“Mom, you drink that every day.  That means you are addicted.” 

“Son, I am not addicted to coffee.  I enjoy coffee in the morning.  That’s why I drink it.” 

“That’s what my teacher says.  People abuse drugs because they enjoy them so much they can’t stop.” 

Son, I can stop when I want to.”   I shudder as I recognize this oft used phrase.  It sounds hollow even to me, the caffeine user.   Wait.  Now I am thinking of myself as a user?!?  Then he tosses out the stinger.

“My teacher says that’s what drug addicts say when they are really addicted and don’t want to admit it.” 

Pause. 

Longer pause.

“What is your teacher’s email address again?”

Luckily my other son screamd for bathroom assistance at that moment (not in those words of course but I will spare you that Autism dialogue altogether).  It gave me some time to figure out how to resolve my fourh grader’s inquiries in a way that supported the anti-drug messages yet protected my precious beverage of choice. 

Oh yeah… and get another cup of coffee.

Felted Christmas Ornaments

The crafting bug has really bitten this time… and I’ve totally gotten into making felted Christmas ornaments (I took a class last weekend).  In fact, it has become a bit addictive.  Here’s a sample (a bit out of focus) of some of the ornaments I’ve made so far.  I haven’t wired them for hanging yet… but will do that soon.

I love how these feel as I work on them – all soft and cozy.  My son (with Autism) loves the feel of the finished product.  He also loves to finger the roving that I use in the felting process (and roll it into little balls, and tear it into tiny pieces, and form a faux-beard with it…).  His sensory needs seem to be satisfied as he explores the textures he gets as he plays.  Extra bonus?  I get to actually finish a project while he is in the room.  Win – Win!

My relatives had better watch out – it will be a felty Christmas this year!!!

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God’s Bacon… or Bakery?

People often assume that my younger son (with Autism) is lost in his own world, not paying attention, and unreachable.  They make the mistake of dismissing him, ignoring him, and/or underestimating him.

Eventually he proves them wrong, often with hilarious results. 

Especially in church.

This last sunday our Pastor was at the pulpit, delivering a sermon around God’s plan for each of us.  I was in the choir loft, listening to Pastor (of course!) and watching my family sitting in the second pew from the front (right in front of the Pastor).  My husband and older son were sitting face forward, eyes up toward the pulpit, feet still, mouths closed.  Pretty typical sermon-listening posture.

My younger son was next to them, sprawled out on the pew, legs akimbo, fingers busy with a paperclip, eyes focused on who-knows-what on the floor, feet gently kicking the kneeler in front of him, lips and mouth working at some sort of silent exercise.  This is not typical sermon-listening posture.  But then, my son is not typical in many respects.

So Pastor is talking about God’s plan for us.  He says that God has our lives planned out.  That we need to trust in God.  His voice gets louder as he makes his points.  His hand gestures become broader.  He explains how this does not relieve us of all responsibility (“God’s plan, our hands”).  He gets louder and even more animated.  He goes on to say that we humans often feel such a need to control our destiny that people “sometimes … rush in thinking they need to save God’s bacon!” (gotta love Southernisms)

My younger son quickly and loudly pipes up with “WHAT?  WE NEED TO SAVE GOD’S BAKERY?”

Pastor quickly recovered from his surprise and said “Yes!  Can you believe some people think they need to do that?” and went on with his prepared text.  For a moment however he lost his audience.  Everyone else was laughing and twittering about my son’s cute outburst, asking each other if that was set up by Pastor, and amazed that a little boy was actually paying attention, much less THIS little boy who doesn’t look like he pays attention to ANYTHING.

Let me tell you now – he pays attention – and he picks up on a heck of a lot more than you think he does.

… and those gigles heard from the choir loft?  Those were from a proud mama who loves her baby very much and couldn’t help wondering if God’s bakery serves egg and bacon biscuits past 11 am.

Old Tummy

Recently I had an appointment with the doctor and I had to bring my youngest son with me.  While we were waiting (not so patiently) in the examination room, I leaned back on the examination table and my son (who of course insisted on sitting right next to me on the examination table) flopped across my middle and then lifted my shirt up to reveal my tummy.

     “No zerberts,” I told him, hoping to avoid the obnoxious raspberry sounds.

“Mommy,” he said as he looked up to my face. “Your tummy is old.”  He ran his fingers over my stretch marks.  “You have wrinkles on your belly!”  His face was all amazement and wonder.

     “Yes,” I said “I got those when I carried you in my belly, silly.” 

He appeared to consider this for a moment, then asked… “Do they hurt?”

     I sighed.  “Only when you talk about them.”

Here’s to all of the Moms out there with stretch marks and “old” bellies.  You wear badges of honor, ladies!!!

Pride In His Work

My youngest son has recently joined Cub Scouts.  Wolf Scouts to be specific.  He is thrilled to join the den and I am thrilled that he has an avenue through which he may make some friends outside of Occupational therapy sessions.

He loves the Cub Scout uniform shirt, he loves the idea of camping, but he is especially fascinated with the idea of earning badges (I guess this ties in pretty well with all of those behavioral positive reinforcement charts we’ve had over the years).  So, every couple of nights we look through the Wolf book and complete a few of the badge requirements. 

“Let’s go to my work now, Mommy.”

     “Your work, Sweetie?”

“My Wolf work, Mommy.  I need some badges!”

So we work on earning some badges.  The first was the “Family Fun” badge, then the “Duty to God” badge.  Accomplishing these requirements is a source of great pride for my son.  In a world where he is usually labeled as “behind” and “delayed”, where play dates are superceded by therapy sessions, and where he is starting to realize that there are significant differences between him and his typical peers, he has found a place where he can earn tokens of accomplishment just like other kids.  Tokens that mean something to his typical peers.  Tokens that show he can participate in their world.  These are a big deal, my friend.  They are proof that he belongs.  

As we mark off each item, he supervises my signature on each line to make sure I get it right.  “Very good letters, Mommy,” he says, repeating the phrase that we parrot night after night, encouraging him to mind his handwriting while he does his school homework.

The night that he finished these two badge requirements he made sure he included a report in his bedtime prayers… “I earned two badges God!  I did (what were they Mommy?)… I did the Fun badge and my Duty to you badge!  Are you proud of me, God?”

I think my son is proud of his work… and God is proud of HIS work, too.

The Exhibitionist and the First Communion Class

My youngest has been showing a great deal of interest in church communion lately.  He’s asking lots of questions, holding his hands out while the bread is distributed, and asking “but WHY can’t I have snacks too?” as we walk back toward our pew.

We’ve been talking with him about the Last Supper, what communion means, the Passover meal, etc.  He’s always full of questions and particularly likes to talk about Moses (one of his favorite people in the bible) and blood – how it gets into the cup for communion and all that.  Needless to say, he keeps us jumping!

Many of the kids his age at church have recently completed their First Communion class.  We had decided that this was not going to be the most effective forum for our son to learn about communion.  Instead a dear friend (Saint Beth) offered to conduct a custom class just for our son.  She developed the materials our church currently uses and knows our son pretty well.  She has a gift for working with children that just astounds me – and patience like you wouldn’t believe.  And she VOLUNTEERED (wow!).

So Saint Beth, our son, and I met at the church last weekend to talk about communion.  Early on we talked about history and Moses.  Frustratingly (for me), my son at first acted as if he’d never heard of Moses.  Then he decided he couldn’t hold back any longer about his favorite bible superhero and told us about God talking to him in the burning bush, the staff that was thrown to the ground and turned into a snake…  He was thrilled to be talking about these amazing feats and happenings.  Saint Beth followed his lead and they happily exchanged stories and observations.

AT some point Saint B asked my son if he had any questions.  Pleased with this adult who encouraged him to talk about the bits and pieces of the stories that HE found interesting, my son decided to introduce a new topic that was dear to his heart.

“Do you want to see my underpants?”

Saint Beth gently smiled, not sure where this was going but fairly certain that we were moving away from anything having to do with communion, gently answered “No.”

Hoping to entice her, my son said “They’re Go Diego Go.”  He didn’t add that they were his particular favorite pair AND had a glow in the dark design.

Saint Beth cocked her head to one side, smiled a bit broader now, and said “I don’t think so, but thank you for offering.”

My son, my sweet funny adorable child, frowned for the briefest second.  Then his face lit up as he thought of perhaps a viable alternative.  “Wanna see my Tushie?”

We couldn’t hold back the giggles.

Thank you Saint Beth!!!!  We love you and know that God is in us and with us all the time!