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Thursday

I love Teen Night

So... I have been taking some teens on the spectrum to a teen group once a week.  These are amazing kids, and getting that social interaction has been a hoot-for them and me. My young men asked me to share one of our adventures...

Teen night was a planned nerf gun war. The teens were all armed with various nerf weapons, smiling and gleefully prepared to have an all out squirmish. They romped and battled and hollered and dove this way and that for an hour, NotSoLittleMan drawing fire constantly as he paced about.. He would wait until they fired at him to yell "It's ok!! I am already dead, dude!".  Things were going wild when the group leader announced that in FIVE minutes there would be an EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF battle.  Last one standing wins.

I was standing by the door, with the other social mentor, watching the fun.  Teens were scattering every which way, seeking some sort of advantageous cover and collecting what ammo they could find.  They were making forts under tables, using gym mats for covers, hiding in every crook and cranny.  The place look abandoned, aside from one young man, who has named himself as Patistic.

Now, Patistic is quite tall.  He is not a figure easily missed, as he towers over most of his peers.  He was the lone teen in the room, calmly and pointedly setting himself up in the VERY CENTER of the room, lining his ammo up on the table there, setting up his nerf Gatling gun, and making an obvious mental note of where every one of his pals had hid.

When the leader yelled for the games to begin, nerf bullets were flying.  Most of the kids were aiming for Patistic, yet somehow not one bullet did land on him.  He calmly shot and hit one teen at a time, while swaying to avoid bullets, exaggerated looks on his face the entire time.

I was giggling so hard, tears were falling, as the battle came down to Patistic and a lady I will call Kate.  Kate and Patistic faced off and Kate let loose a stream of shots, and Patistic wove and swayed, avoiding each one, he was the bullet free monk, it was amazing...He fired in her direction, but high, made eye contact with her and smiled.  Her next shot took him full on and he fell to the ground 'dead' with a dramatic flair that was Oscar worthy.

Later, after the kids had tidied up some, there was some sort of gleeful scuffle and the kids all dogpiled each other. NotSoLittleMan was pacing by the door (we are done, why are we not leaving, we are done, it is over, it is the time of going)  Patistic was not going to join in, but Katey egged him on so he shrugged and casually piled on top of the pile, eliciting shrieking and giggles.  Finally they yeilded and Patistic let them up.

Now... This is my perspective...
I have NotSoLittleMan pacing to my left and behind, obviously ready to go.  He is oblivious (in appearance) to what is going on across the room.  I have the other social mentor (SM)  to my right.  The noise level is pretty high, with over a dozen screaming, giggling and shrieking teens.
My attention, in that moment is on my son, NotSoLittleMan, when SM starts slapping my arm frantically, going, OH MY LOOK AT PATISTIC LOOK OH MY LOOK HES PIGGY BACKING A GIRL LOOKOH MYLOOK, all right in my ear as she was completely beside herself, NSLM muttering behind me, "it is time to go it is the time of leaving" and I look up and there is Patistic, grinning broadly, walking towards me, Katey clinging to his back.  Then he stops.  A look of horror on his face. (and the whole time SM shrieking in my ear "ohmylookatpatisticlookohmy", NSLM pacing and muttering, the teens all shrieking and yelling) as he realizes he is touching a girl.

Now anyone who has seen Monster Inc may be able to appreciate this moment, as all I could think of was Sully as he realized the girl was on him..

Patistic yelled, "Get her off me get off get off noooooooooooooo!" as he took off running towards me, mock panic all over his face. He reached us, Katey said let me go and he did.
And he did.
And she landed hard, a startled look on her face.
Eyes wide.
And he looked at her.
She looked at him.
And they both grinned.

Oh. My.

Posted with permission of "Patistic" and "NotSoLittleMan".  All names changed of course. 

Saturday

Internet has changed things...yes indeed

Remember when we were in school, perhaps grade 6/7, and they did those aptitude tests and told us what sort of career we should consider? 

I remember my classmates all being quite disconcerted (I do not remember what I was told for me), arguing that they CAN TOO be a doctor, lawyer, police officer, super star, writer, taxi driver etc... Back in my youth most children with unrealistic expectations believed they were going to be rich and famous by sheer will and determination, with no talent or effort required.  Not that none had talent or the willingness to put the time and effort in... But those who did not still steadfastly held on to that dream.

Working with a teens with ASD, listening to the many teen friends of my children, I see a new trend.  Now they all think they can get rich with a viral You-tube video.  They stalk each other with their iPhones and iPods and iPads, hoping to catch something on camera that will make them famous. They post pictures of each other that they took on the sly on Facebook.

Yesterday, my NotSoLittleMan brought home a form for me to sign for a class.  He had filled it out with his immature scrawl.  I read it (with some difficulty) and lo and behold... Where the instructor asks, "What do you want to do for an income when you graduate?" he has written, "professional You-tuber" (pofeshunul yutubr).

It is worth a smile, a fond remembrance of "back when I was young" and a wry grin as I realize that .. you know... it could happen.

Hugs and laughter!

Learning about Social Thinking

I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop by Michelle Garcia Winner and Carol Gray in Vancouver this summer...

Those ladies have  knack for teaching how to see from a new perspective they really do. They were energetic, intelligent and insightful-and funny as could be.

We started our two day workshop with registration of course, with everyone receiving a lovely printout of the power-point slides that the presenters were using in their talks. There were books available from the ACT bookstore (ACT is autism community training.  They organize the workshops, track all the service providers for my province (the ones that funding will cover) and provide a wealth of services, support and information for persons with autism and their communities.) I purchased some new books and an excellent game and now have a list of books on my wish list :)  I <3 books.="books." p="p">
ANYWAYS... everyone sits down in the ballroom, and opens their presentation booklets to the first set of slides. Picture for me, 600+ people, mostly parents of children on the spectrum, all with their booklet open to page 3, the first set of slides.  And up getsCarol Gray, who is the brain behind social stories. As she begins her talk she turns on her power point presentation and the screen lights up with slides that are not in the booklet.

Now... What do you think all 600+ people did?

We all flipped through the booklet, looking for those slides. Some people looked decidedly uncomfortable with this unexpected happening.  Why was she showing us slides that are not in the booklet? Is this the WRONG booklet?? Is Carol GRAY CRAZY???  What is happening!!

As this lovely lady stood there, smiling gently, she explained that social stories are to help us understand things that happen.  They help us know what to expect.  Then she drew our page flipping attention to the first slide... Which began with something like, "I am going to a workshop to hear presenters talk about social thinking. The presenters may hand out a booklet of power point slides..."

Her first ten minutes of presentation consisted of slides that were a social story about attending a workshop and how presenters may use slides that are not in the booklet, and they may skip slides that ARE in the booklet... and "that is O.K." It was a priceless moment.

Those ladies talked about everything from perspective taking, not looking through the filtered lens of your child's diagnosis all the time, how the social rules change as we age, how to evaluate a friendship, how to teach social skills, how to write social stores and so forth and so on...

More importantly, both presenters were very positive.  They both work (and have worked) with kids and adults all over the spectrum, and yet they are standing there, positive minded, sharing what they know and admitting that nothing is in stone.. That we need more research on these concepts and 'therapies', that these are educated guesses based on their training, their experience in their practices and their observations.

It was a fantastic trip, worth every penny. 

Wednesday

Dating a Man with ASD...

There have been some changes in my home... My husband moved out in January.  We both knew the relationship had disintegrated over the last couple of years and it was time to move on.  Both of the children did very well through the change which was my first concern.

The end of May I ventured out into dating land and met a gentleman for coffee on a NonDate, because we were both determined that a friend to go for dinner with on occasion was EXACTLY what we wanted, not a relationship per se.

Not so Little Man and the Princess heard me accuse him of changing our coffee to a date (he had suggested dinner as well, due to the time frame) and they call him my Not A Boyfriend because of the ensuing mirth over my insistence that it was a NON Date.

Well, that was May.  NotABoyfriend has become a day to day part of my world and just moved in.  (Temporarily, he has to move around Christmas to take his next set of courses, and the future job market for him is elsewhere). He and I are still insisting rather stubbornly that this is a NonRelationship and that we are never ever changing this. (Let me stay self deluded please)

I have his permission to share some of his story here...
He is a self diagnosed autistic, and if you have raised a child like NotSoLittleMan you too would agree wholeheartedly with him.  Growing up he had no idea there was a reason for the struggles he faced... then four years ago his sister had a child, a lovely girl, who as it turns out is non verbal and autistic.  Learning about the disorder gave NotABoyfriend a whole new filter to see his youth and childhood in.  My heart hurts for him and all the others out there that struggle through childhood, on the spectrum and not knowing the reason for their struggles....

Dating a man on the spectrum is.... just like dating any other man, but different.  The same as in we talk, we cuddle, we laugh, we joke, we share interests... Different as he does have quirks.  His voice changes and he drops into professor mode on occasion, which is something I do as well so.. meh.  He is so very intent and focused when on task.  If that task happens to be spoiling me rotten, though (for one example), that is an amazing thing.  He is more comfortable talking about technical aspects than the ooey gooey emotional ones (so am I!).  He is incredibly honest and LIKES that I say what is on my mind and seem to lack filters... I could go on and on, but anyone who has been around a youth or adult with ASD knows that these 'quirks' are not really a big deal in teh grand scheme of things-once a person with ASD has learned to cope with the world and people in it its mostly all good, some great and some challenges... JUST like EVERY one ELSE. With bonsues I would not trade away... Honesty.  Saying what he means.  Meaning what he says.   No malice in him at all.

With NSLM being fourteen this year, meeting a bona-fide adult with ASD has been a blessing.  NotABoyfriend is a good man. 

So if you are raising a 'high functioning autistic' child, know that he or she will likely grow up, fall in love, have a career (or not) just like everyone else.  He or she may not do these things until their thirties or so, (just like some non asd persons) but really.... it all evens out.  All those challenges become valuable aspects of their personality. 

Hugs and Contented laughter

Monday

It gets Better... I promise

I am shamelessly linking to this video (Rebecca Drysdale singing about how being gay gets better when you are older) because All Kinds Of Things will Gets Better.

When you first are gifted with your 'quirky' child, all kinds of things are scary as hell.  If you were like me and did not have a diagnosis, you may have struggled to understand why your child was throwing tantrums, refusing to wear clothing, screamed evertime you turned on the furnace, did not talk, flapped their hands, walked on tip toes, made repetitive noises that did not seem to have context, did not relate to you in ways you expected from your toddler, did not play with toys in the ways you expected, refused to eat anything but peanut butter for six long weeks..... the list goes on. 
That Gets Better. .  As time goes by, you will become a mini expert on your child and your child WILL learn some coping strategies. I promise, this terrifying world of the unknown does Gets Better.

All those nights of your child seeming to not need sleep, but yet seeming to not be able to play quietly on their own and let YOU sleep.... This gets better.  While some autistic adults still have skimpy sleep patterns, most report that they DO get some sleep.  Of course, as they age they need less supervision so YOU will get some sleep.  In the meantime? Find respite, childproof your child's room to the umth degree so they can just be awake in there.  Wear ear plugs... This Gets Better.

All that incredible sensory hyper awareness: the fits over clothing seams, flickering lights, loud noises, crowded places, strong smells, people too close, heat, cold, texture of objects, texture of food, covering his/her ears in tears trying to cope with it all.. This gets better.  As parents we learn to accommodate our children and teach others to do so (giving our children ear mufflers, clothes with no seams on the wrist or toes, sunglasses, and advocating that the school switch to non fluorescent bulbs... )  This Gets BETTER!  These children grow up and develop better filters for sounds, lights and sensation.  They learn coping strategies and they desensitize to the constant barrage of lights and sounds in our world.  This Gets Better.

That lack of social connection, that awkwardness, aloofness, inappropriate (funny as heck but embarrassing too) commentary, that seeming inability to read social cues.. this too Gets Better. While our kids may not grow up to be the best diplomats (although they can!) they do learn and grow.  And society is learning to be more tolerant. Programs such as Michelle Garcia Winner's books/worksheets are being developed and even goof-ball mamas like me can use them to teach our kids.  It Gets Better.

The tantrums? The lack of emotion regulation? It Gets Better!  The dietary restrictions? That too Gets Better.The stims and hand flapping? This Gets Better! The echolia? It Gets Better.

Now, I am not saying that Not So Little Man is ever going to be 'not autistic'.  Nor am I telling you that these struggles will disappear entirely..  We are who we are (and quite frankly, I would cry if NSLM changed.  I love him, and I love his every quirk).  However, these traits lesson or the children grow to have better coping skills and strategies.  It will get better.

So on those rough days (nights) when you feel overwhelmed... Remember that you are NOT alone and it WILL Get Better.

Hugs and Laughter
Angel

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