May 10, 2016

Breathe.

Brandon and I spent Mother's Day together.  My husband and step-daughter were out of town.  It start off as a pretty rough day.  Brandon had continuous meltdowns...kicking and screaming.  I left the house for my mom's 45 minutes late, which is rare for me, even having a child with autism to get out the door.

We hung out at the pool, and I had about 15 solid minutes to sit down and relax.  Brandon was over it, and walked around the large backyard.  There are several trees, hills, and lots of space to run around.  He can spend hours out there.  The whole backyard is fenced in, and surrounded by trees and bushes.  There is a creek on the outside of the fence, making the soothing sound of running water that he seems to enjoy.

I was sitting on the hill, watching him play.  Even though the yard is fenced in, I watch him like a hawk, because I am paranoid that if there is a hole in the fence somewhere, he will find it.

Suddenly, I could hear my five-year-old nephew screaming.  He began sobbing because a bee was "chasing" him.  I ran over to the gate to the pool, swung it open, and told him to run to me.  He jumped in my arms and we ran away from the pool.  He calmed down almost immediately, and told me thank you for saving him.

I looked up for Brandon.

I couldn't see him.

Still holding him, I told my nephew, Karson, "We're going to walk down here so I can see Brandon, okay?"

I still didn't see him.

I called out his name and looked around.

Nothing...

I put Karson down and started running towards the fence.

I heard crying.  My eyes darted back and forth, following the sound.  I could not see him anywhere.  I started screaming his name, and my mom and dad came running down.

All I could picture was him laying in the creek with a broken leg.

My mom kept telling me the crying was coming from the neighbor's.  I couldn't think straight.  He was nowhere.  I spun around scanning the yard, holding my head thinking, "This is not happening."  I felt like my mind was spinning in circles.  People say that a traumatic event like this feel like slow motion.  It was the opposite for me.

Finally, I saw him standing on top of the hill at the gate by the pool on the opposite side.

He was totally fine, just looking at the pool through the gate.

I ran up to him.  Crying, I scooped him up.  He was safe.  

I set him down, and suddenly I couldn't breathe.  I was gasping for air.  My chest was tight - something I had never experienced before.  All I could think was, "I can't breathe.  Breathe, Rachael.  Breathe."  I sucked in all the air I could, but it just wasn't enough.  After what felt like an hour of gasping for air, I finally caught may breath.  My chest still felt tight for the next hour.

It took me about 15 seconds to turn my back and get Karson.  15 seconds was all it took for my world to seemingly come crashing down around me.

People, sometimes even family, cannot understand why I don't want to take Brandon certain places.  "He'll do fine!" is what I constantly hear.  Or why I always designate one single person to be in charge of Brandon if I leave the room.  It seems silly to be so adamant that someone is watching him while I simply use the restroom.  It's a constant stress and worry that I have to be on top of.  What happened on Mother's Day is what I dread.  It is my ultimate fear.

If only...

If only he could talk...
If only he would respond to his name when I call...
If only he understood the kind of danger he can put himself in...
If only he understood that his mother worries...

These are things I'm still waiting on, not because I am in impatient person, but because sometimes his autism puts him at risk for danger.




May 8, 2016

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: Community Building in the Classroom

Use this activity to create a sense of community and a culture of kindness in your classroom. Give your students their own "buckets" to fill with kindness!

This community building activity is based off of the book, Have You Filled A Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud. It's all about how you should treat others, and the consequences for your words and actions towards others - both good and bad.

Click here for the graphics in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!  This listing is for the letters for "BUCKET" and "FILLERS" for your bulletin board.


I used clear plastic cups as buckets, using a push pin to attach them to the bulletin board.  They're not shown in the picture, but I printed each student's name out on a label and just stuck it to the cup.  Don't forget to make one for yourself!  I also used push pins to hold the book up on the bulletin board.  I put one on the top and bottom of the book (without actually piercing the book) in order to hold it put there without damaging it.  You can also cut up bulletin board border and just drop it inside the bucket to add some cuteness. :)





The children fill each others buckets by writing kind notes to each other throughout the day.  We had a new student the year, and without me saying a word about it, my students had filled her bucket by the end of the day.  Think about the fears of little girl entering a brand new school, where she doesn't know a soul.  Imagine how those fear were eased after receiving a handful of kind notes from her brand new classmates.  Like I said, I did not tell them to do that.  They did it all on their own.  Needless to say, this strategy works!  I took it down in December.  Halfway through the year after they had become very comfortable with each other, they started to just write random notes to each other.  I think the novelty of the physical wore off (but not the kindess!), and it was time to move on to something else.

This is my favorite note I have gotten in my own bucket.  (Yes, I have one too!) 


May 1, 2016

No Greater Hell

I'm reading a new book, and so far I like it, and I appreciate the awareness it brings to high functioning autism.

However...

This quote annoyed me.

"I've met so many parents of the kids who are on the low end of the autism spectrum, kids who are diametrically opposed to Jacob, with his Asperger's. They tell me I'm lucky to have a son who's verbal, who is blisteringly intelligent, who can take apart the broken microwave and have it working again an hour later. They think there is no greater hell than having a son who is locked in his own world, unaware that there's a wider one to explore. But try having a son who is locked in his own world and still wants to make a connection. A son who tries to be like everyone else but truly doesn't know how."

OkayJust because a child is nonverbal, does not mean he or she does not want to make a connection. That thought is a huge myth and misconception of autism. It pains me to hear someone even suggest that they don't.

My son is low functioning and essentially nonverbal. He wants so badly to make a connection that he will physically hurt himself, or me, due to such intense frustration from not being able to communicate.  Just today, he clawed at MY face because he hurt HIS foot.    His intention was not to harm me because he was mad at me.  He doesn't know how to express what he's feeling so he lashed out in an inappropriate way.

Maybe I am being over sensitive here. I don't think so...but you know what? That's parenting.  I have stuck my foot in my mouth on this very blog. I don't believe this author to be ill intentioned.  I did some research, and as a far as I can tell, she doesn't have a son with autism.  I am going to continue to read this book because I think it will be good one. I wish that quote wasn't said, but more than anything I hope you are reading this post and understand where I'm coming from. 


To the point of the author, parents of low functioning children should not tell another mother that she is "lucky" because of the characteristics of her son with high functioning autism has.  No person, fellow autism parent or not, should pass judgement on the level of luck or hell we have with our autistic children.

Regrettably, I will admit that I have looked at other autism families and thought, "I WISH those were the extent of our struggles."  Some days, like when Brandon hurts me due to his lack of ability communicate, it is hard not to compare.  But it's not right.  As I go further into this journey, I realize more and more that there are so many struggles on all parts of the spectrum that we will never see.

The real truth is that there is no greater hell than seeing your children or a loved one suffer in any way.  Let's not compare battle scars here.  We special needs parents are licking our wounds - sometimes emotional and sometimes physical.  It's not about who has it harder...who is the luckiest or who is in the greatest hell.





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