June 30, 2015

Small Moments in June

Brandon got a hair cut.  This was pre-blogging days so you haven't heard the stories, but hair cuts used to be a nightmare.  We both worked so hard at it, and now it's easy peasy.  There was a clear moment last year when Brandon looked down at the hair on the floor and realized the lady wasn't just trying to torture him.  She had a purpose.  She was cutting his hair off!  It was a total light bulb moment.

We went to the beach!!  This is huge.  Brandon was perfect angel.  No, seriously.  At one point my sister looked at me with bewilderment and said, "Why is be being SO good?"  I said, "I know don't know, but don't jinx it!"  He also transitioned back to school quite nicely after being gone for 10 days.

We started potty training at the very end of June.  He peed  in the potty here at home, and at once at school!  Hopefully my Small Moments in July post I will be able to report we are on the road to being potty trained!

June 26, 2015

This Teacher Has Changed Our Lives

Brandon has autism.  When I first brought him to his new preschool class when he turned three, it was quite a transition.   He had no words, and his receptive language was incredibly low.  At that time he really only knew what the word “no” meant.  I knew he wouldn’t even sit down for circle time, let alone follow simple instructions.  It was going to be so hard for him.

I was so worried about Brandon starting his special needs preschool.  What if the teacher just lets him do whatever he wants?  What if he’s too much trouble and his teacher just can’t take it anymore?  What if the teacher is mean to him and he is miserable at school all day?  He is nonverbal and can’t tell me if something isn’t right.  There were so many “what ifs” going through my head.

“Go,” Ms. Tameka said on his first day.  “He will be just fine.”

Fast-forward just six months later, Brandon not only sits for circle time, but laughs and participates in and enjoys the activities.  He washes his hands independently, and he has at least 20 words that he will say when prompted.  I can give him simple commands like, “Throw that away” or “Brush your teeth.”  It is life changing.

We had about a month of pretty rough behavior issues at school.  It was after he had been there for about three months, so it was confusing as to why it was happing all of a sudden. 

I never…never got the feeling that Ms. Tameka loved Brandon any less.  If anything, it was evident how badly she wanted to see him succeed.  One day I broke down and cried right in front of her.  I felt so helpless.  What could I do to end this behavior?  It wasn’t happening at home.  I know that is such a cliché thing for a parent to say, but it was true.  Sobbing, I said, “I feel so helpless.  I don’t know what to do at home to help this situation.   I hope you believe me that I’m not reinforcing this behavior at home just because it’s too hard to deal with.”

Tameka emailed me later that evening, reiterating that everything was going to be okay.  “We are in this together,” she told me.

She would do anything for Brandon.  She is a true partner in this journey.  I find myself sending her pictures and videos of Brandon after school hours or on the weekends when he does something great.  I just can’t wait until the next day to share it with her.

As a mom, I get the feeling that my son is the teacher’s pet – that he’s the favorite.  The beauty of this is that I am sure that his teachers make all the parents feel this about their own children.  Tameka cares about every child in her class, and pushes them to succeed.  She is the perfect balance between firmness and kindness.

There is nothing I could say or do to fully express my appreciation for her.


This post was submitted for teacher appreciation contest at The Mighty...and Tameka won!  She is a Mighty Special Needs Teacher of the Year! Please click here to read more about her on The Mighty!

June 23, 2015

Autism and Envy

As I scroll through Facebook, I somtimes feel a pang of jealousy hit me when I least expect it.  I don't want to feel this way, and the truth is I usually don't.  But, sometimes...I do.

I see your family vacation to Disney.  Your daughter in Minnie Mouse ears beaming at the camera.

I see your adorable kids in baseball uniforms running the bases.

I see kids years younger than Brandon forming words and sentences that he can only say in my dreams.

We do our own things.  We can't go to Disney, but we do go to the lake and ride jet skis.  We have a blast in the sand and sun when we go to the beach.  Brandon can't be on a baseball team right now, but he is in dance class.  He just loves dance and music.  Brandon doesn't talk, but it's amazing how we can communicate with each other without words.

I love your families.  I love your children.  I would do anything for you.

I can't help but envy you sometimes.  There are things you do on a daily basis that are not in the realm of possibility for my family right now.  On the other hand, I do also feel sorry for you because you don't get to witness all of the incredible things my son does, and you don't get his super comfy snuggles. :)

I wouldn't trade my son for anything on this planet.  I write this as I watch him stare out the window trying to calm him self down post-meltdown.

I just want him to be happy and to have every opportunity that he wants.

June 11, 2015

The Best Kind of Support: Acceptance and Understanding

This summer were are headed to Florida for vacation.  We are going with some family friends that we haven't seen in about a year.  My dear friend, Angie, hasn't even seen Brandon in about two years.  He's only three and a half now, so he's a totally different kid from the last time she saw him.

Brandon has autism.  I already know the first couple days at the beach house are going to be difficult for Brandon.  He will have just spent a grotesque amount of time in the car, all to be thrusted into brand new surroundings.  Not to mention, the amount of people he will be around at all times is a sensory overload for him.

I tried to explain some of Brandon's quirks to Angie so she could help her own kids understand.  "He is a sweet boy," I told her.  "There's no need for your kids to be nervous or timid around him.  Just let them know that if they're trying to play with him, he may not seem like he's paying attention.  It may seem like he doesn't care about them.  He does.  He just doesn't always show it in the same way."

Completely on her own, she got the movie Temple Grandin and had a family movie night with her husband and kids.  I've never mentioned the name Temple Grandin to her.  She just figured it out, and took action.  Her family sat down and watched this movie so they could better understand how they might interact with this little boy who they love.  Angie wants Brandon to be comfortable, happy, and to have fun on this trip.  She wants to do everything she can to help him enjoy this vacation.  After all, this is his vacation too.

To say I'm touched is an understatement.

This is exactly the kind of support that is helpful to an autism family: acceptance and understanding.

That is love.

PS: Take a look at this clip from Temple Grandin.

June 8, 2015

Directionally Un-Challenged

Oh, the wonders of autism.

I've come to realize that Brandon understands how to get places.

Last week we started a kindergarten readiness playgroup.  We meet on Friday mornings.  Typically on a Friday morning, we get up, get ready for the day, put Brandon's backpack in the car, and drive off to school.  Since playgroup is on a week day, I just take him to school right after.  (Brandon goes to a private preschool which is in session during the summer.)

This story has a lot of details, so stay with me.

When we go to school, we take a right out of the subdivision, and then a right on the main road.  This particular Friday we took a left to get to the playgroup.  Brandon flipped out.  He was kicking, screaming, and just truly distraught.

I wondered, "Did he just flip out because he thinks I went the wrong way?"

Remember, Brandon can't talk, and his receptive language is very delayed.  He would have no way to say, "Mom, you went the wrong way, and it's devastating for me that you've interrupted my routine."  And even though I'm saying, "Brandon, we're going to Milo's house to play.  It's okay, Brandon.  We're going to Milo's," he comprehends none of it.

"Wow...does he really know how to get to his school?"

I mulled this over.  He doesn't know what the word "school" means, but he knows how to get there?

We do go left all the time to go to my parent's house, but that is not a consistent day and time - not part of a routine, like going to school.

I wondered...

Then, another thing happened that confirmed my suspicion.

Yesterday, I got Brandon all dressed up in him swimming gear, and loaded him and all of our pool stuff in the car.  He was perfectly content in the car.  That is, until we reached the fork in the road of our subdivision where we either turn left to leave it, or turn right to get to the community pool. 

I turned left.  

He melted down.  

I wasn't trying to set him off...we were going to my sister's pool instead of ours.  I told him this multiple times before we left, even though I knew he didn't understand.  When he was freaking out, I just kept saying, "Aunt Shelly's pool.  Aunt Shelly's pool."  Luckily, the meltdown was short lived.

Then, when I made a left to get to Shelly's pool, instead of straight to get to her house, Brandon hollered.  When he caught glimpse of the pool and realized what I was doing, instantly calmed down.

I know what many of you are thinking.  This seems like a huge pain for me - and of course, it's not pleasant when he is screaming bloody murder in the car.  But I'm actually excited and proud that Brandon has the cognition to remember and comprehend where we go.

If we drive away from the house and I realize I forgot something (this happens often), and I turn around, Brandon always melts down.  I had always chalked this up to him not wanting to go back home so quickly.  That he was upset that the drive only lasted about 30 seconds.  Now, I realize he probably gets so upset because thinks I don't know what I'm doing!

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