Sixteen years ago today my oldest was born and things haven’t been the same since. I can’t imagine life without him (or the other two that followed.) We have a special bond, in part because of my husband’s job but also because our personalities are similar. We were solo a lot of the time during his first several years of life, but when he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at three years old, my world opened up. Without my son, I wouldn’t understand myself as well as I do, my other kids would probably have health issues, and I wouldn’t have found a good percentage of the books I read. His autism has enabled new understanding, peace, and preventative strategies for health and well-being. It’s allowed me to make connections with people I wouldn’t have otherwise met and inspired several of my articles and manuscripts. My son has motivated my life, from writing to relationships, from reading to travel. It’s been a journey of love, with plenty of ups and downs to share along the way. Here’s to more years of sharing.
My autistic teen goes to bed when the younger kids do, but he has permission to read a pre-determined number of chapters before turning his clip-on light out. Since chapter length varies by book, he’s learned the art of bartering. If I say “Two chapters” he’ll tell me, “Chapters too little. Five chapters.” I’m likely to say three, and he’ll say “five, five, five!” To which I’ll respond, with an offer of three or possibly accepted his request. It all depends on the time the bedtime routine is finished.
Last week he borrowed my library book—before I got a chance to read it. The Game of My Life: A True Story of Challenge, Triumph, and Growing Up Autistic by Jason (J-Mac) McElwain with Daniel Paisner is something I wanted to read, but I did hope he’d show an interest, too. (Yes, the J-Mac of the high school basketball video that went viral a few years ago—and still makes the rounds. He also finished the Boston Marathon this year.)
When my son’s done with his chapters, he comes in to tell me (proud that he read so much) and I try to ask about what’s happened in the book, or who it’s about. Usually, I’ve read the book but he’s branching out more—he read a Captain Underpants book the week before which isn’t a series I’ve tried out for myself. I asked him what happened in the J-Mac book and he got all excited and said “Big Bird! Sesame Street!” and repeated that a few times. Since he spent way too many years obsessed with the show, I thought he might have been flashing back to scripting or something, but I asked, “Does J-Mac like Sesame Street?” (I’ve heard it referenced in at least one other autobiography of a young adult on the spectrum.) My son said “yes” and smiled really big.
Did we just have a conversation?
Yes, this seemingly small exchange does count, especially when it takes years to get that far, but I wasn’t completely convinced because of his Sesame Street response.
Well, this weekend I got my chance with the book. Sure enough, J-Mac’s first words were “Big Bird”, said while he was watching the show with his brother.
Note to self: Don’t underestimate the power of books when it comes to opening communication with my child.
Has a book helped with discussions between you and someone you love?
P.S. Here’s the Fernando update:
He’s taking to the summer well, as long as water is provided on the non-thunderstorm days.
And is it just me, or does the moss/fungus on the right look a little corroded?
April is Autism Awareness Month (as well as National Poetry Month, School Library Month and a few other things.) I’ll be focusing on Autism, as it is something that affects my life every day—both positively and negatively. It is also the inspiration for CORRODED (my yet-to-be-published novel.)
I’ve recently updated my category tabs on the right side of the website. There is now more organization between ideas, including an “ASD Autism Spectrum Disorders” main listing with subcategories, to make it easier to readers to find exactly what they are looking for.
This month on my Facebook page I will be posting daily tidbits about ASD so join in the conversation there if you’d like. Also, you can check out my Pinterest board for CORRODED, where you can find videos and pictures relating to the main characters including Aspie Ben Thomas.
If you know me, or have followed this blog for any amount of time, you realize that I love music. I use music for mood alteration, inspiration, and escape. My preferred listening method is live, in concert. For sanity sake, I try to attend at least two live performances a year but life doesn’t always allow that.
Having songs plugged into my ears is great for tuning out exterior noise, but it isn’t always practical when supervising children. Plus, I don’t want to subject those around me to my butchered attempts when singing along.
When driving, I usually have my nifty homeschool kids in the car and they like music, too, just not always the same stuff I like. I used to put the “Children’s Music” playlist on shuffle when we went anywhere but I found myself getting a little snappy after fifteen minutes. So now the whole iPod—which is attached to a cassette adapter because I’m so last century—gets put on shuffle when we go.
A Disney song = the kids happy, or most of them, and often me.
A little Mitch Malloy = me happy, and sometimes the kids.
Queen = everyone is good.
Sesame Street = one happy kid.
The Beach Boys = all good, for most songs.
And on, and on.
There are a few times it’s easier to skip to the next song because the natives are noisily protesting, but most of the time they settle down when I say “it’s Mommy’s turn.” When a song I love comes on, my immediate reflex is to turn it up, but with boys with sensory issues in the car, they drown out the music with their own shrieking of discomfort. (That or I get “What’s Mommy singing?” from my teen with autism, as if he can’t tell I’m trying to sing the song that we’re listening to. Funny kid.)
All this—and more—is why my favorite non-live music experience is in the car. ALONE. I can turn it up as loud as I want and sing off-key without annoying people. (I’d also say without embarrassing myself, but I never know who is watching from the outside of the car.) Listening in a vehicle is a step above earphones because the music cocoons your whole self, not just your ears. At times you can feel it, but it’s an immersive experience and the steering wheel makes a good keyboard or drum.
What’s your listening habit?
Ever since my oldest began his love of reading, I’ve opened my book collection to him. He’ll finish a book, draw the cover in his reading journal, and head to the bookcase to trade in for a new one. Oh, and let’s not forget adding a leaf to the reading tree.
My teen with autism has read everything from (most recently) Kirby Larson’s Hattie Ever After to The Old Man and the Sea. After he chooses a book, he brings it to me to share. If he’s gone for something like Caddie Woodlawn’s Family, I’ll first steer him to Caddie Woodlawn, explaining that this books is about the same family, but it’s best to read this one first and he’s fine with that. But the other night I had to say no to a book.
He wanted Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and I said no.
He’s not ready for it.
Is he old enough? Physically, yes. Emotionally/mentally, no.
I adore tough books. They’re awesome springboards for conversations and I have oodles of books I can’t wait to discuss with my kids—when they’re ready.
So, yes, I banned a book. Temporarily.
I pointed to the other Laurie Halse Anderson novels he could read and he went to bed that night with the first Vet Volunteer book instead, but I think Laurie will understand.