My Son, The Preschooler 

In previous posts, I have mentioned about my son and his struggles. I discussed evaluations and specialists and his journey through Early Intervention. I shared those struggles because people don’t seem to be aware of just how common problems are. They think that these types of struggles are embarrassing or show some level of failure on their part. I even questioned if I was failing him and that was why he was struggling with words. It’s natural as a parent to feel like they are totally failing when something is going wrong with their child. However, I wasn’t failing him; I was fighting for him.

When you tell people that your son is in the special needs program at their school, you get a few different reactions. You may get a look of pity; poor you for having to deal with that burden. You may get questions interest; well, what’s wrong with them and what is their diagnosis. You may get questions of how to avoid it; do you think if you spent less time working that this could have been avoided and is this something I can avoid? You may get questions of your stance on medicating them. Sometimes you even get a look; the look of distaste that is aimed directly at your child.

My son still has his struggles. He has an infinitely better vocabulary that when he started this journey. He can say sentences that clearly state what he wants (if he has the words for it), he can answer basic questions, and he can show that he actually has a hilarious sense of humor and personality. He cannot always use his language effectively. He still struggles with expressing what he wants, which leads to hours long tantrums. He cannot really think in the abstract but he excels in any fact based knowledge. He has no impulse control at all, a shorter attention span than most almost 4 year old children may have  (unless it comes to something he stays fully fixated on), and pinches himself/pulls out his eyelashes. But most importantly, he is my George and none of this matters to me when he is curled up in arms, struggling to tell me the story that he wants to.

I am a mama bear, some would even say to an extreme. I will fight for him but luckily I haven’t had to yet. His preschool, which gave him another year in the program with interim speech therapy until they could test him fully, never made me fight for him because they fought for him. I know it may not always be easy and this isn’t the case for everyone, but right now his entire team is working with us to ensure he is getting exactly what he needs, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

To answer the typical questions I get, here it is. No, there is no diagnosis yet though early reports show he’s borderline on the autism spectrum and may have apraxia, which is often wrongly diagnosed as autism. No, there is nothing that I could have done differently. This is my son and as quirky and OCD he may seem to you, he is who he is and I love him and accept him for that and you should to. I should not be pitied because I have an amazing and intelligent son and everyone should be as lucky and I will do whatever I can for him. Finally, no I am not going to medicate him unless there is something that absolutely needs it. I don’t like the idea of messing with the chemical makeup of a brain that has not fully developed and that there are a lot of incredible therapies that can help without medication. Neuroscience is a field that is always evolving as is the understanding in cognitive psychology and I have more faith in those therapies than I do with pills. However, that is my personal choice and I don’t push that on others or judge them for their choice to medicate anymore than I would about anything else in their life that is really none of my business. I just answered the question that you asked.

At the end of the day, any good parent is going to do whatever it takes to give their child the best life possible. They will fight for them, send them to the best school for them, and make sure that they have everything that they need to survive and be happy. Some parents have more struggles than others, but it’s not a contest and parents need to stop treating it as if it is. As long as you love your child and do whatever you can to give them the best life possible, you are a winning parent. It can be hard, but never forget that.

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Failing Our Children

As a parent, you’re supposed to love your children. Loving them isn’t special or noteworthy; it’s human. Not loving your child just makes you something else. Loving your child does not make you a good parent; all that other stuff does. The times that you really want to sleep but stay awake with your vomiting toddler and comforting them. The times when you think you’re dying of a cold but take as much medicine as you need to suck it up because your children don’t take a time out just because you need to. Parenting is really about every fight that you do to better your child’s life in even the slightest way. Those fights and struggles are what makes a good parent.

From the moment my youngest was born, I knew I was going to have to fight harder than ever. From the beginning, he had issues that we knew that would require some amount of strength, though thankfully nothing too serious. We knew he had a minor birth defect that would need repair. We visited the specialist every few months until his surgery and spent the longest day of our lives waiting to bring him home. We had hoped that we could just be after that.

As far as his motor skills were concerned, he was always advanced and impressed his doctors. From the beginning, it was clear that he was his own person and to hell with everyone else. It wasn’t until his first birthday that I had any concerns about him, aside from having surgery at 9 months old. The minute you find out your child has any sort of developmental delay, you wonder what you could have done to prevent it. You try everything in your power to fix it, because as a parent, you want to fix everything to help your child. We tried everything: we read more, we got programs for tablets and computers, I started to go about my day as if I were a sports announcing describing even the most mundane activity aloud to help him. Six months later, nothing had worked and we left the doctor’s office deflated. She referred us to Early Intervention. Soon after, we did the evaluations and we started with a developmental specialist. Nothing. He learned how to sign, which was great to at least help us communicate a little. After a few months, she decided to add-on a speech pathologist to his developmental team. After a few weeks, there seemed to be limited improvement. We had a neuropsych evaluation to see if he was autistic, nothing. Finally, he started picking up language little by little and I firmly believe that these interventions are the difference.

We did all our “homework”. I sit through 2 sessions a week, watching on as they help my son. At age 3, he will age out of this program that has helped him so immensely. The specialists agree he’s not where he needs to be, but at 3, there is nothing more they can do for us. So we started the steps to get into the “transitioning” program. This helps EI (Early Intervention) kids move into preschool to continue services. They will get an IEP, and get free preschool. This would be huge for George, as there is a fear from everyone that he could regress without continued services. Our Early Intervention team has no say in what happens now. We did the evaluations at the school, we did the meetings, and the day has come for their decision. Getting into this school system’s particular program is notoriously difficult, and everyone has been very upfront about that. All I can do is hope.

This leads to a bigger issue with the education system that I had written about in my last Education class in college. It was a class about special needs. Our final paper was about teaching special needs, and we had to pick a topic from a list of papers. I was the last one to get the list, and I had discovered that there was one particular group that no one was doing a paper on: the gifted and talented kids. This group of children are especially ignored, because people think that they are smart so they don’t need help. Realistically, these children need an IEP just as much as any other kid with special needs. Since they don’t, they are often set up for failure. That is the fault of our schools, not truly “leaving no child behind”. My son, who is too young to be labeled as such, as shown skills and thought processes far beyond his age and his specialists note that. I fear that this will hurt his chances of getting the help he needs. I fear that him not getting in this program will set him up for failure in the future. My biggest fear, is that he will regress back to what his language was before he received help, and he will be disregarded when he starts school because they don’t realize his true potential because of a lack of speech.

I will go into this meeting with my head high, and fight as  much as I can. I’m tired though. I’m tired of fighting. But he needs this, and I need to fight for him because I know no one else will. That is what makes a good parent: the fight.

There is Nothing Wrong With My Son

Since last year, my family and I have been trying to maneuver around a tricky situation. Our youngest has a developmental delay. He was an early roller, an early crawler, and an early walker. Then one year rolled around, and he had only maybe a couple of words. Our pediatrician decided to recheck him a few months later and we’d go from there. And a year later, we are still on this journey.

Today knowledge is a heavily emphasized need that we have, because it’s how we succeed. It’s how we pass tests that are mandated by the states. We live in a society where competition in the education department is so heavily pushed upon our kids, and whether or not this is fair is  not what I am about to debate. This is about perceptions of children that are unfair.

There is nothing wrong with my son. Everyone felt the need to put in their 2 cents about him. And each bit of advice, albeit unintentionally so, was just as piercing as the next. I was flooded with “don’t listen to the doctors, they don’t know what they’re talking about. He’s just quiet”. I was flooded with “why does he need to be tested for Autism? He’s obviously not dumb.” It almost seemed like no one trusted that we could make an informed decision on our own.

My toddler started Early Intervention last summer. After a few months, he was still not making eye contact with anyone and still barely spoke. I second guessed my decision. “Why am I wasting an hour of my time a week while this woman just plays with my kid? Nothing is working.” It did seem hopeless. The specialist seemed to feel the same way, that this wasn’t working. She suggested to get him an additional specialist, a speech pathologist, and a neuropsych eval to see if he was Autistic.

Nervously, the evaluation came and went. There wasn’t enough to say that he was Autistic, but there was not enough to say that he wasn’t. I didn’t care. I just wanted something to help me help my son. Every week I analyze the notes the specialists take and devoted myself to the homework as if the grade was life or death. Every sound that even mimicked a word was a celebration. But then the evaluation showed something that none of the other testing did: despite everything, my son was a smart kid.

This showed soon enough. Any toy that the specialist would hand him, he would figure out quickly without needing anyone to show him how. If something was broken, he would hyperfocus on it to see if he could fix it. My son wasn’t dumb, we knew that. He just needed help without judgement. He needed someone to not analyze his deficiencies, he needed someone to help him grow his true potential. I kept him in Early Intervention because I knew they could help him in ways that I obviously couldn’t.

At 3, they age out of the Early Intervention Program. Speechwise, he is just starting to meet developmental milestones for children younger than him. At 2 1/2 with the words he does know, he can tell you colors and shapes without much thought. He can name letters with ease and can count. He can even point to numbers and tell you what they are. I can’t wait to see what he finds out when he gets more words.

Now he is readying for another set of testing. This will show us if he qualifies for programs in Preschool, which has opened up a new door of commentary. “Do we really want him in the special education programs?” “Is having him labelled as special needs so early going to scar him and give people a reason to bully him?” “What will the other kids think or the parents think?” Maybe the parents will think “those parents really love their kid to do whatever it takes to help them succeed.” Children that age don’t know what makes other kids different from them. That’s stuff we put on our kids ourselves.

The point of this is that you are a parent that needs to make decisions for your own children and what’s best for them. Sometimes kids need some extra help. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them or that they are somehow broken. Whether or kid is Autistic or has some developmental delay, that is something you have to deal with and to hell with everyone else. You can sit in denial and pretend you can do it yourself, or you can admit that you can’t and do whatever you need to help your child. I’m lucky that my insurance covers this, but I would easily work 3 jobs if I needed to in order to help my child have a better life and I wouldn’t even bat an eye. That is what parents are supposed to do: whatever it takes.

Don’t feel so alone when your child may fall short in their development. You’re not alone. You will know what to do because like with everything else in parenting, it’s all instinct. There are more people struggling with these decisions every day than you think, and you can find so much information on the internet to help you figure out what you can do and connect with other parents also going through it. I did whatever it took, and my son is constantly flourishing.

It All Started with a Doorbell

I was working away, when I heard the ring of my doorbell. I went, unsure of what to expect. I don’t normally ever get visitors, let alone visitors that actually ring my doorbell. I wasn’t expecting a delivery. Reason of deduction led me to the likely result of a Jehovah’s Witness being my impromptu visitor. I answered the door, with a dialogue in my head, and I was not disappointed.

“Hi! Good morning to you.” The pleasant woman responded as I opened the door. “Here is an invitation to you, to join us in hearing the good word of Jesus.”

“That’s mighty nice of you. Have you heard of the good word of the flying spaghetti monster?” I replied.

She looked at me, stunned. “Um. No. I haven’t heard of that. He must be a fake God.”

I smiled. “Well, what makes one fake God better than another?”

She had no response, and quickly left me with the invitation in my hand. I watched her scurry down the driveway as fast as she could. I was probably inappropriately pleased with myself over this exchange.

Which leads to an interesting point. What does make one God better than another, that people are willing to kill over this ideal? The answer might shock you: there is no difference between the God that each religion claims to cherish. This God that they all believe in believes in equality, kindness and other positive feels that the so-called believers forget exist. Instead, they would rather fight over which of their “fake” Gods are better than another and cause public debate over it. Are Atheists better than Christians? Are Christians better than Muslims? Where do the Jewish fit in on this grand scheme of awesome?

No. Atheists are not better than religious fanatics, because they can be just as ignorant and unaccepting as the religions they claim to hate. People have a right to religion as they have a right to not walk down that path. I don’t believe there is a God, but I don’t consider myself an Atheist. I don’t believe because I have a hard time stomaching what religions do in the name of their love of God. Spewing hate rhetoric on all sides and ignoring that people just are born different is not something I want to have anything to do with. Does this make me a horrible person? No. I believe that people should be charitable and kind to others and I don’t believe I need religion to do that.

I have people lecture me all the time about my choice to put my children through Catechism classes. “But I thought you were an Atheist?” “I thought you were intelligent, how could you brainwash your child that way?” I think that is as closed-minded as it comes. Just because I don’t believe does not mean I shouldn’t give my child the choice to believe. If my sons want to remain Catholics as I have raised them, then that is their choice. If they choose another path, that is their choice as well. What matters is that I gave them the choice to be whatever they want. If they want to convert peacefully into another religion, that is their right. Part of parenting is allowing children to make these types of decisions on their own.

So next time you find yourself judging another person, think about if that’s the type of belief system you want to have in your life and if that is how you want to raise your child. Children learn by watching their parents. If you teach them hate and disrespect, that is all on you and not your religion. Just because their God (or lack of God) is not yours, does not mean that you are automatically a better person as a result. We all walk the same path down here, and what happens when we die is all the same no matter what religion you follow: you’re dead.

The Only Good News, Is No News

I was reading the news today, like most days. Top stories include catching the jackholes that did that god awful thing to that poor autistic kid during the ice bucket challenge. (Also, my post on the ice bucket challenge was proven true. People forgot all about that.) Then of course it wouldn’t be a news day without Ebola. Or shootings or other violence in public areas. Or other things that make you cringe and go “what the hell?” Let’s take a look at the top stories in news today.

 

To Abort or Not to Abort?: Last month, I was reading the monthly Cosmo. Yes, my guilty pleasure and judge me if you must. However, reading that magazine does not mean I have lower intelligence. It means that I acknowledge that sometimes you need to read mindless things to keep yourself from getting too serious. Not the point. I read a story about how this doctor was essentially sending his patients across the border into Mexico to buy “abortion drugs”. He couldn’t actually perform the abortion because of the new law that Texas had enacted, but he could fix the problem if someone took medicine to make sure it worked and was not a danger to the woman. I sat in awe. Seriously, we have amazing doctors here but we’re sending them across the border into cartel land to get a procedure that was allowed due to Roe v Wade? Why was this granted? So many women had died during botched self-procedures or shady doctors just trying to get a quick buck. Flash forward 41 years later, it seems to have reverted back. Until now, when the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to block portions of this law. Am I pro-abortion? No, I don’t think anyone is pro-abortion. Am I pro-it’snoneofmydamnbusiness? Yes, I am. It’s the libertarian way of the government should stay out of person lives. That’s how it’s supposed to go, right? Or is it that the government needs to be small enough to fit in your bedroom? Either way, I’m glad that now the women can be safely treated for this procedure if it is their choice. I’ve been a teenager who was unexpectedly pregnant. I know what it’s like to weigh all options. It wasn’t the choice for me, nor will it be unless there is a serious medical problem. Unless you’ve been there, don’t presume to know what it’s like to be in their shoes.

 

Eeeeebola: Since March of this year, about 4600 people have contracted Ebola. Of those, around 52% of them died. These are stats that you can easily look up on the CDC website. Also according to the website, the only real confirmed cases in America were in Dallas. The person who died was from out of the country (my impression from the data on the site) and the recent patients that contracted it were healthcare workers that might have made “oopsies”. How is Ebola transmitted? I’m not going to have Ebola and breathe into the air and infect a whole movie theater of people, and then have my city shut down with military people barricading the place and risk possibly getting nuked. (God, I loved Outbreak.) It gets contracted by close contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. Any other report is an embarrassment and a fear-mongering attempt that I just laugh at. I actually feel bad for the people who do not take the time to properly educate themselves. Let’s put this all into perspective. 92,000 people have died as a result of heart disease. 84,500 people have died as a result of cancer. Ebola? 1. Thanks to medical advances in America, we have death. So American news organizations, stop scaring everyone into thinking that everyone who sneezes next to you has Ebola. Report facts not scare tactics because facts save lives while scare tactics cause panic.

 

Sometimes Hitting Kids is Necessary: I wrote a hubpage on disciplining as a parent. I have expressed my displeasure that anyone who dares to spank their kid is an evil source. A person replied to me by informing me that I was wrong when I spanked my oldest child when he was younger and I had damaged him. There is a fine line between discipline and abuse it seems. If you’re quick to smack your kid over every little thing, yes that will absolutely cause significant damage to their mentality. Now, if you spank your kid twice in a span of 9 years that is not going to cause huge harm. They say “oh well that excuse of I was spanked and I turned out fine means nothing”. Let’s look at a fact here, because I love facts. When we were kids, would we have dared to fill a bucket of disgusting bodily fluids and film ourselves dumping it on a kid with autism? Heck no, our parents would have slapped us silly and locked us in a room without anything but staring at walls for months at a time if we dared. Today? I bet there are thousands more incidences just like that because no one wants to discipline their children. That’s why children are growing up to be crueler than ever. We were bullied as kids, but no one was ever bullied enough to cause someone to kill themselves. Even more, not enough to go to their wake and spit on their dead body. Maybe there is a correlation between discipline from younger generations to older ones and why there is such a rampant amount of adolescent misbehavior. Because, guess what? They grow up to be miscreant little shits and no one wants to take responsibility for that. If your kid is a little shit, look in the mirror because it’s your fault for allowing that behavior to get so bad that you lack any control of your children. You are not their friend; you are the person who is supposed to be molding model citizens with the capabilities of changing the world for the better. I keep thinking about if my son is autistic and this happened to him. Part of me would do unspeakable harm to them while the logical part of me realizes that little punks are worth the jail time. I hope they get the book thrown at them, because they are disgusting people. And then I want to know how their parents feel about it, because learned behavior does exist and I wonder how much they learned about teasing an autistic kid they learned from them.

 

Sorry for the length of the post, but it was all necessary to get it all out.

Overcoming Life’s Circumstances and Autism Stigmas

Your circumstances are not meant to define you. This means that you shouldn’t allow them to. Circumstances, like people, change. They are meant to change. They are meant to be fought against so they don’t define you; so you define them. If you want to let them stay, is it because you’re not strong enough to change them or because you are already defeated and give up? I am not a victim. I am not someone who allows these things to define my life, but I concede that they have made me into a strong and unbeatable force to be reckoned with. As I should be. I don’t see my past as a definition; I see it as just something that I defeated to be a stronger person. And while these things didn’t define me, they gave me a backbone to stand tall with. Even when it hurts, I will still stand tall and nothing can change that.

There was an expectation that I would hear the words “your son might have Autism” that I would shut down and close my mind. There is such a stigma around that one simple word, that I was unaware even existed. I studied about it in school when I was heading towards my education degree, so maybe that skewed my thought process on the matter. Maybe I’m just a mom, which makes me willing to do anything to improve my son’s life. Maybe I’m just more rational than I give myself credit for. Or maybe I had to be the rock of the family while everyone gave their opinions about what comes next. The diagnosis doesn’t scare me: the cost of everything after does. My husband is guilty of over worrying and obsessing. While I would sit back and let the rain hit me if it will, my husband comes armed with a coat and an umbrella to control the outcome. I think this comes from the fact that I learned that sometimes you can’t control the outcome, you can just take it full force or you can hide in fear. I have always hated playing hide and seek anyways.

Likewise if it turns out my son is Autistic, then that’s the way it is. At least we know, we will be armed with the resources to help him in the best possible way. I’m warned by some people about how that label will follow him and define him and make people think less of my son. It’s their loss if they are going to be so closed-minded, because my boy is a silly and amazingly smart child. I understand Autism doesn’t mean my son is dumb. On the contrary, there are many brilliant Autistic kids out there. It’s a communication disorder, not a lack of intelligence. I understand that because I’m educated, and it’s about time other people educate themselves too.

I’m a mother that is on a quest to figure out what is going to help my son communicate with me. I’m frustrated when he cries and points while trying to tell me something that I don’t understand. I want to give him what he needs, and whatever I can do to make that possible is going to be done. My son might end up with a label but I will be damned if you think that gives you the right to judge him or ask me what I did wrong. I did everything right, and some people are just born with different problems. If they don’t harm people, what makes you sit on that high horse? If this happens, it’s not because I vaccinated my child. It’s not because I didn’t have an epidural. It’s not because I drank a coffee or Coke here or there while I was pregnant. It’s because he is supposed to be this way. I love him no matter what, and if you don’t that’s on you.

Sometimes Life is About Give and Take… But Mostly Give

In an age of starving artists, some turn to waiting tables or another job that is similar in order to pay the bills while they are waiting for their big break as actors or singers. They work long hours doing this, and spend whatever free time they have following their dreams and passions. That’s the reason that California and New York can have so many restaurants and have a constant flow of workers. Right? Artists turn their dream into creating logos for companies or cartoons for ads while they wait for their time to shine, if that time ever comes. Writers who dream of being best-selling novelists end up freelancing and letting other people benefit from their talent with words. In life, you give until you get an opportunity to take. I am waiting patiently for that opportunity.

My dream for having my Halloween novel being released in time for this Halloween is getting more impossible by day. With circumstances, I have to pick up more jobs freelancing to save up, because things like specialized hearing exams and neuropsych evals for toddlers does not come cheap. My comic was already put on hold during these circumstances. Something has to give, and sometimes those dreams are it. I can stay hopeful that maybe something will magically happen so I can get this novel out in a month. However, I’m not hopeful that this goal will happen. Maybe though, I can cross my fingers and go hard at it with some all-nighters. Then my responsibilities as a mother, wife and primary caretaker of the house kicks in. My household cannot afford me to be out of commission, as much as I would love to just shut myself off from everything for the next 2 months so I can get these novels done back to back as I originally planned. We’ll see how this works out. Everything works out the way it was intended… right?

Stars were meant to be chased after, not just simply watched. It’s not only a job for ourselves to continue to reach for them, it’s our jobs as parents to teach our child this lesson. If we don’t teach them to reach as high as possible, who will? The best way to do that is go just go for it, even if you are pulling at your hair wondering how you are going to accomplish everything. I’m awesome; I can do this. I have the strive and the will to do it, I just have to have the faith that it will work out.