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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

IEP-You Own This!!

IEP (individualized Educational Plan) Sounds important and very formal, but the truth is, this meeting can be the best thing that happens for your child, or it can be the most frustrating event of the year. 

What I have found over the years is that there are some ways to ensure you get more out of your IEP.

1. Forwarn:  If you have an idea of what you want, forward an agenda to the appropriate staff member at the school.. Leave room for the school to add their expertise.  Make sure you talk to all of the persons working with your child outside of school and ask them what they would like to have discussed, or what input they have.
2. Invite: Invite every darn person on your child's team.  Every one of them should be able to contribute. 
3. Details: Do not just focus on the trouble areas and the 'solutions' (little man has trouble wriitng by hand and will use a computer when required to write), make sure to also ask what that will look like.  Who will set up the computer? How will your child know when to and no to use it? How will his/her assignment go to the teacher? Who will get the assignment onto the computer?
4. Be available: Let them know you availablility.  Can you help create the flowchart for 'how to go to the assembly?" What can you offer in a way of help for your child's needs and his/her classroom needs?
5. Accountability: How will progress be measured? Before, during and after? What are the desired time frames and outcomes? Who will follow up and when? When will this be revisited?
6. Self Advocacy: What does your child feel would help him/her? Do they dislike being singled out? Do they need help organzing their books, papers, locker, desk?  How do they want that help to look like?
7. Talents and strenghts: What is being done to foster those talents and strengths? This is a vastly overlooked area with special needs children and it is important to include it.  Is your child a science fanatic? Can someone start a club? mentor?

I have had good and bad IEP meetings, but I follow up.  I collect email addresses of his WHOLE team, and I make sure to make contact regularly.  I have found that it is way more productive to just foucs on what CAN be done, rather than to be upset with teh (school, principal, teacher, EA, BI, government etc) over what was NOT done.

Potty Training-empasis on Train

One of my favorite moments in parenting my son, who is diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a pre-schooler is potty training.

My son would not potty train. He could care less if he was wet. He was too busy with his trains to bother with it. Encouragement did not reach him, sticker charts were ignored. I even resorted to bribery! I scoured the library and the Internet for tips on potty training. (Keep in mind, I am the oldest of four children, this child is the youngest of three children-it is not like I did not have any experience myself yet nothing worked.) I begged, I bullied, I promised, I praised.  For not one success, not one effort on his part.

Then I discovered something amazing. Printable Iron On's! I created page after page of Thomas the Tank Engine iron ons. I then ironed them onto EVERY pair of underwear he owned. I also made a wonderful T-shirt with Thomas the tank going into a tunnel on the front, and coming out of the tunnel on the back.

I pointed out to my seemingly uninterested child that Thomas was on his underwear. I showed him the Shirt. I told him that if he learned to use the toilet I would GIVE him the shirt. I also told him (smiling) that Thomas did not like to get wet. I reminded him of the episode in which Thomas got cranky when he got we.  I showed him the toilet and the seat for kids. I told him he could come get me and I would help him set up the toilet.
The whole time he was doing that blank look. He did not respond in anyway. Disheartened, I left him at his train table and threw on the laundry.
I was still sorting out socks from the dryer when I hear the toilet flush. Surprised (the other children were at school and pre-school, so we were alone) I went to investigate.
My son was standing in the bathroom, pants off, underwear in his hand, feeling his underwear carefully. (I think he was making sure Thomas was dry!). He looked at me and held out his hand. (he would hold out his hand if he wanted something) I cheered "Yeah! you did it!!! awesome job!!" He grunted at me and held out his hand again.

I asked if he wanted a treat, he started to fidget (Usually, for him, a sign of being agitated. Fidgeting preceded many a meltdown) A drink? A snack? A Hug? (more fidgeting). He stomped over to where I had put the shirt, stared at it, then looked RIGHT at ME and held out his hand.
I was floored. I gave him the shirt, helped him to put it on (and his underpants and pants). He wandered off to play with his trains and left me standing there. It was the FIRST time he had demonstrated that he understood when I babbled at him. It was the first time I realized that it wasn't about what he 'could not' do, but more about what he 'could be motivated' to do. I cried. I giggled. It was one of those wow moments. It was the moment when I realized he WAS going to learn, but not unless the lessons were adapted to have meaning for HIM.
(At nearly 11 years of age he still wets his bed quite regularly. But he has not had an 'accident' during waking hours since the 'Thomas' day.)
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Little Man's New Hobby

Little Man's New Hobby
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