ham and apple smoothies

a happy, quirky journey

Why the Notre Dame football story matters…

This week, I ran across a story about how two Notre Dame football players made football camp amazing for a little boy on the spectrum. The players took the time to visit this little boy at home before the camp and because of this, he was more comfortable in camp than in previous years and therefore interacted more.

I have to admit, this story made me smile and even tear up a little. Who doesn’t love a feel-good story, especially when all we seem to hear lately are stories about what’s wrong in the world? I admit it, I’m a sucker.

If these two football players were my sons? I would be bursting with pride.

But you know else should be bursting with pride? The little boy who went to camp, even though he found the camp overwhelming and a little scary. The little boy who went back year after year because he loved football and Notre Dame. The camp was surely a little more difficult for him than the other 600 kids who also attended but he kept at it.

Good for him. And good for all the kids on the spectrum who stick to their dreams, who have drive, even when things are a little more difficult for them.

Here’s the link to the story:
http://themighty.com/2014/07/how-notre-dame-football-players-helped-my-son/

wall climbing, notre dame, football, the mighty

keepin’ at it

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Some Thoughts On Being A Fraud….

This past weekend, Little Man and I went to an open swim at a local pool sponsored by an autism advocacy group. The pool is located at a campus that serves children with varying levels of medical issues, disability and abuse. I was hesitant to go, as I have never been to the pool before and sometimes get nervous doing new things. However, I am trying to branch out and not be so fearful of new things and, hey, the pool looked amazing online.

So, we headed over to the open swim.

It was a fun morning in the heated, saltwater pool, but more than that, it was a very eye-opening experience for me and – as cheesy and trite as it sounds – I think even a little life changing.

The pool was actually pretty full that morning and the children participating in the open swim varied in age, gender, race and how deep they were in the spectrum.

There was a little girl there who was maybe around 8 years old who was absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful. She appeared to have classic autism and was non-verbal. I found myself wondering if her parents were absolutely terrified because she is so physically beautiful. Good gravy, I was terrified for her with worry that someone is going to take advantage of her because of how physically striking she was.

Another girl was non-verbal, maybe 11 or 12 years of age, and just walked around the pool. She obviously loved the water .She approached me when we got into the pool and I smiled and said, “Hi”, and she said nothing but splashed me a little. It appeared like a happy splash, for lack of a better descriptor, but I didn’t know how to respond so I just smiled and kept moving, as Little Man was already halfway across the pool. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in her mind, you know? When I saw her mom walking with her to a changing room on our way out, I noticed that her gait was a little clumsy and her legs seemed a bit weak, so I completely understood why she would want to walk around in a heated saltwater pool for hours

When we were changing in one of the changing rooms so we could head home, there was a knock on the door and I said, “Just a minute!” and a friendly female voice replied, “No problem –we’ll wait! “Then a few seconds later I heard crying and someone started knocking hard on the door. I hurried Little Man along and as we opened the door, a little boy, rushed in, crying. His mother said, “I’m sorry. He doesn’t do well when patience is required.” I smiled and told her that it was okay, I got it.

But here’s the thing that occurred to me: I don’t totally get it. I may *think* I do, but even with his quirks, Little Man is very much different than so many other spectrum kids. I think people sometimes wonder why I always say that and I suspect that their interpretation is that I am in some form of denial that Little Man is autistic or that I am ashamed to say he is autistic.

However, the reality is more that I feel like some sort of cheat or fraud because while he has struggles, they are not the struggles of so many of the kids on the spectrum. For example, one parent was trying to keep his son from taking his trunks off in the pool and was trying to keep him from rubbing the shoulders of strangers. Meanwhile, Little Man and I are discussing how one of the weighted ping pong balls looks like Saturn. Yes, Little Man has a touch of the Sheldon Cooper. Yes, he has obsessive interests and still struggles at times with reciprocal conversations. But he doesn’t seem to have the same level of struggle that so many kids seem to have on the spectrum.

I ended up feeling ashamed that I worry about all the stupid stuff that I let get to me. I seem to end up with so much mom anxiety. If my main worry is whether Little Man will go to college or what middle school he should attend … I mean, really? Then I am way more blessed than so many parents of kids much deeper in the spectrum, who probably fear their own death – not because they are scared to die, but because they worry, “Who will take care of my child like I do when I am gone?”
(Here’s a blog post I like about this topic: http://autism-daddy.blogspot.com/2012/05/toughest-question-for-parents-of-kids-w.html )

And most of all, I am also ashamed because I felt pity yesterday, pity for the parents who have to be exhausted and worried. The reality is, they surely don’t want or need my pity, as the parents I saw at the pool all obviously loved their children, just like I love mine. They were just being parents, doing what parents do.

polar bear swim

a swim picture taken by Little Man this past summer

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Honesty

One of the “symptoms” of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the inability to lie and the lack of guile.

Let’s think about that for a minute.

Society has agreed for umpteen centuries that honesty is a virtue and yet for someone on the spectrum, it is a sign of something being “off” in how their brain is wired.

Really?

I think it says a lot more about those not on the spectrum that honesty can indeed be pathologized and we all wring our hands and think, “Those poor kids!”

I think that instead of viewing these traits as a sign and a symptom of Autism Spectrum Disorder that they should be listed as a both a strength and a gift of ASD.

What do you think society needs more of: lies? Or honesty?

That’s what I thought.

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Be You….

Expectations.

What we should be doing.

Everyone seems to have expectations of others and more often than not, those expectations are that each of us will be just like everyone else.

And, if anyone actually is different, the expectation is that they will have enough common courtesy to make sure that they stand out so as to be easily identifiable as “other.”

People who look like everyone else but inside are different seem to weird people out.

So, what is someone to do when they are just a little different than their fellow man?

They do this:

masked man batman

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This is Real Life

This past weekend, Little Man said to me on the way to the pool, “Mom, Scott Joplin is the King of Ragtime.”

“He is?”

“Yes, he plays music that is known as Ragtime.”

“That’s interesting, sweetie. Is that from Wii music?”

“No, mom. That? Is real life.”

Point taken.

scott joplin, real life

real life

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I’m Just a Boy…

Last week, while on vacation, I took Little Man to my office to show him where I work.

He has asked me before what I do when I go to work so I decided to show him and then we would have lunch with some of my co-workers.

We discussed on the ride to the office how he would need to be quiet when we were there, as people were working, and I also emphasized that he was not to touch anyone’s computer. (He loves technology so in my defense that was fair subject matter for a debriefing.)

Once we got to the office, he was the perfect little gentleman, charming everyone with his self-introduction:

“Hi, my name is Little Man. I am just a boy who likes to play the Wii and with Legos.” Then? A handshake.

Just a boy?

What an understatement.

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More Wisdom

Today, while taking a walk, Little Man and I were talking about some of his favorite TV shows.

He said to me, “Hey, Mom, do you know why people tell jokes?”

I replied, “No, I don’t. Why do people tell jokes?”

He said, “Because they are funny.”

Point taken.

bridge walk humor funny

bridge wisdom

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Public Service Announcement #2: Advice

So, I was playing Wii with Little Man and apparently was not doing very well.

He said to me, “Mom, Let me give you some advice.”

I said, “Okay, lay it on me.”

He replied, “Try to do it the right way and not the wrong way.”

Um, okay. Thanks. Duly noted.

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