Going to Church

Five years. That’s how long it had been since I had gone to church last. I had let so many of life’s obstacles get in the way. I had made so many excuses for why I couldn’t go, not the least of which was that I had a child with Autism. I couldn’t possibly go to church with the behaviors he exhibited, right? Wrong. I needed to go to church for that very reason. After all, what’s missing in my life? A community of support. Where would I find that? Not sitting at home by myself, that’s for sure.

Besides, my son needs friends. Both of my sons need friends. They also need to grow up learning about morals and the right way to live. I’m doing my best to teach that at home, but do they not also need to hang out with friends who have the same belief system they do? There are activities at church. Bible camp. Youth basketball leagues. All kinds of things, and for cheap. The youth ministry even understands all types of children without me having to say anything to them. What was I thinking, staying away for so long? We’ve been welcomed with open arms!

church autism welcome

Aside from all of that, our first Sunday at church went pretty well. The first thirty minutes the kids had to stay with me. We had mixed results with that. Big Guy told everyone who came up to him he wanted to sing and dance, and even told some people he would dance with them. When they asked if any newcomers were in the congregation, I raised my hand timidly (I do not like to stand out), and they brought me a bag of popcorn and a flyer. Squeaker and Big Guy lit up, thrilled beyond belief about the popcorn. Later on, the pastor asked if anyone had any blessings to share. My son, Squeaker, raised his hand nervously, not quite sure if he wanted to share. I wound up having to raise my hand to get the pastor’s attention because he’s so short, and then told him it was okay to share. So, he raised the bag of popcorn in the air and gave his goofiest grin with his tongue hanging out while bouncing. Yes, he was thankful for the popcorn.

In that moment, I felt blessed that I had raised children who felt thankful for even the smallest things. The pastor said he hoped that we enjoyed the popcorn. Others in the congregation murmured about it, and I could tell they thought he was cute, like any other kid, of course. I felt so much pride in him. There were moments where he hit me and his brother because he felt bored and nervous and we were in a new place, and we did have to take a break before leaving, finally, to go to the nursery to wait out the time for them to leave for the children’s part of the service. I spent the last part the service without them. No one said anything about his behavior. No judgment.

At the end of the service, several people welcomed me and said they were thankful I had come and hoped I would come again. The usher who gave the popcorn to us found me and gave me two more bags. He told me to please give my boys that popcorn. I don’t know if, in today’s world, kids just don’t express appreciate like that anymore. I think that that’s just one of Squeaker’s most wonderful attributes. He appreciates the small things and expresses it in big ways. I love that about him.

We will return. The kids want to go back. Big Guy, who insisted he would dance and sing on the stage, definitely wants to go back. He still wants to go up on the stage and dance.

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Fancy Spoof: Mommy Version

mommy fancy spoof iggy azaleaFirst thing’s first, I’m a mommy (mommy)
Raise kids and my back sure feels it (sure feels it)
And I’m still in the Workin’ Bizness
I can show you how, like I’m givin’ lessons in mathematics (right, right)
You said you want a life like this (huh?)
Plannin’ meals, cleanin’ up just like this (yeah)
Cup of soup, cup of juice, cup of milk
High skills, I make some killer grilled cheese sandwich (cheese sandwich)
Takin’ nothin’ but respect, never talk back (never)
Cowabunga like we bringin’ Turtles back (what?)
Bring the books in, where the words at?
The juice’s spillin’, you should mop that

I’m your mommy
You already know
I’m in the fast lane
From O.T. to Tae Kwan Do
I’m so fancy
But I’m not that bold.
Remember my name
‘Fore you get told.

I said, “Squeaker, don’t do this, I thought we went through this.”
Can’t stand no messes and whiners, the truth is
And my sleep departed, they get up too early
Activity on hyper, I can’t stop them from always moving
better get my alarm set on time, if I’m not up, they whine
And I swear I get so tired that I wish I could go back to bed sometimes
But I get my alarm set on time, if I’m not up, they whine
Just can’t worry about no messes, gotta keep from losin’ my mind
Now tell me, who that, who that? That do that, do that?
Clean up that mess over there, I thought you knew that, knew that
I be the M-O-M-M-Y, put my name in bold
I been parenting, I’m up in here with some kids to raise

I’m your  mommy
You already know
I’m in the fast lane
From O.T. to Tae Kwan Do
I’m so fancy
But I’m not that bold.
Remember my name
‘Fore you get told.

Crash the train car
Let’s have fun playing with the blocks
Make the tower fall
Feels so good getting all the hugs
Yeah, keep on giving me hugs
At the park swinging, we’re just having fun
Great mom, yeah I’m the bomb
Classic, excellent, they can’t get enough
Ow…

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Book Review: Disability is Natural by Kathie Snow

disability is natural book reviewOur children deserve healthy,  happy lives and parents that believe the best about them.  That’s the premise of this book. But, here’s the catch: the way we’ve typically thought about our children with disabilities leading happy, healthy lives and getting their needs met may not have been what’s best for them.  In Disability is Natural by Kathie Snow, she asks the question, “isn’t it time for children with disabilities to live happy, fulfilled successful lives, as first-class citizens, included in their homes, schools, and communities?”

No more staying at home instead of going to the mall, the theater, or the restaurant out of embarrassment because your child doesn’t have “appropriate behavior.” No more apologizing for your child’s behavior, especially in front of your child (your children can hear you, you know?). No more separate classrooms because of behaviors. If you want appropriate behaviors, shouldn’t you have your child with children who are behaving appropriately?

She has so many common-sense tips and suggestions as well as her own stories about her child and her own mistakes early on. Her approach is direct and straight-forward. She does not beat around the bush. There are questions for you, as parents, to answer questions and journal within the book so that you can reflect on how you feel about the information you’re receiving.

Give your child the chance to grow, lead a successful life, and believe the best. Your child can do anything. Don’t give up hope.  Fight for your child’s right to exist in the world like any other child because, as she says in her book, every child is born included.  For more about the book, you can go to this link.

For more immediate information on how to help your child (and, if your like me, for information you can give to your child’s school), you can go to the website at www.disabilityisnatural.com.

I was not paid or compensated in any way to write this review, I just think it’s a really good book.

Mama’s Losin’ It

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The Challenges of Autism

This weekend I lost my way. I’ve lost my way a dozen times or more. I’d be telling a big ol’ fib if I didn’t say the challenges of autism didn’t break me every now and then. I’m not perfect. It’s not my son that has the problem, you know. He has a unique set of challenges presented to him by the world around him that he doesn’t know how to deal with and we, his parents, have to help him overcome them. Yes, I feel challenged quite a bit. Sometimes I feel equipped to handle it. Sometimes I don’t.

Oftentimes, lately, I feel broken inside. That’s my problem, not his, if I’m to be honest. That’s my cross to bear. I haven’t quite figured out how, as a parent of two strong-willed children, one with autism and one without, I should go about doing this whole thing. I’ve racked my brain and come up with methods of discipline that should work. Logically, they should work. Time-outs, doled out methodically and consistently, should work. Right? No. Not in this house. Nor does it work to take away prized possessions. Once you’ve stripped away all there is to take, what more can do you?

The screaming, the biting, the kicking, and the hitting, as it continues, makes you feel powerless. It makes you feel hopeless and terrible and horrible. It makes you feel like a bad parent. You can put up this kick-ass chart that tells your child he’s making good decisions versus bad decisions and chart the number of good versus bad decisions and set a quota on how many bad decisions can be made during the day for the day to count as “good.” That works at school, says my special ed teacher brain. Reward given for “good” day. It seems to work at first. Every time he moves into the “good” zone, he’s happy. But then, he quickly tallies up bad decision after bad decision until he’s officially had a bad day. Cue the “Bad Day” song. Game over. Bruises on my legs as evidence.

His brother seems to feel this household is an apprenticeship. Naptime is a fiasco. “I no want nap,” he protests. Oh, but you must, child. You must. Why? Because no nap = terrorist three-year-old plots unseen by anyone outside of this house. You ain’t seen nothin’, trust me! An eerie silence falls upon the house and I believe it means napping. What I don’t know is that Big Guy has devised the ultimate in revenge schemes. Beneath a stack of boxes lies a pull-up once worn by him whilst his floor and body stink of fecal matter. Oh yes, that’s right. He pooped on the floor, then smeared it everywhere; a trick he learned from his brother. Upon opening his door, the fumes hit my nostrils like mustard gas and I could only moan, “Why?!” His reply? “I no want nap. I no want pull-up” Diabolical. You see, he has the language skills to tell me his reasoning. Do you think he cares about cleaning up the mess? He doesn’t. He didn’t mind at all. I told him what he did was bad. Very bad.

Our weekend, I think got set off by the Super Moon, though. The kids were far worse than usual. They were wild. Animalistic. I had to pull them apart several times. Separating them, only to have to separate them again minutes later. You try keeping two separate kids in a time-out holding pattern when neither of them will stay willingly. I have degenerative disk disease and neither of them are light anymore. By the end of Sunday, my voice had gotten up to a yell, and for a while, I think I’d gotten pretty good at not yelling. I know by that point that I was done. I had met my threshold. Mommy needed a break.

The challenges of autism? The whole family can be a challenge. Having a three year old is a challenge because he’s just as strong-willed as a child with autism. Put a three-year-old with a child with autism and watch the fireworks. Mine! No, mine! Boom!! Another frequent conversation in this house? “I want to watch Garfield.” “I want to watch the Turtles!” BOOM! They never agree on anything and neither of them relents easily. We have to figure out the compromise.

Another challenge? Sensory stimuli. He wants to kiss all the time. Or hug. His brother doesn’t. It causes an issue. Or there’s a loud noise and we have to figure out where the headphones are because somehow, they’ve come up missing again. Or even the slightest bump will hurt him to the level that he’s screaming at the top of his lungs. Or he’s crashing into us without regard for our personal space. Spinning through the room like a tornado just to get the feeling of being in motion. His brother gets knocked down frequently. It’s our job to figure out how to help him get that sensation without him hurting anyone else or himself.

We have to keep him constantly busy because if he gets bored, he acts out. This can get exhausting for us. It also makes it hard for us to get anything done around the house. I feel like the house is always in disarray during the week because it seems like that minute I leave him to do something, he wants my attention and the thing I’ve set him up to do is no longer interesting to him. I haven’t quite figured out how to get him to do things without me at home. Heck, even at the park, he won’t play independently with me there. He doesn’t play with other kids–just me. I would love to see him go off and do things on his own so I can do what I need to do. This takes work and careful planning on our part.

With all that said, he does what he does for a reason. I hope that I’ve illustrated that throughout. That doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated or even angry at him sometimes. I’m human. He hurts me really badly sometimes and yes, sometimes I do yell. I have bruises all over my legs and some on my arms. He’s verbal, he’s intelligent, and he thinks about some of what he does. It’s hard not to get angry about it after the 7th or 8th time in a row, but I usually try to go to my room and shut the door before that happens so that I can cool off and usually that breaks the pattern.

I did go to a church today and speak to a pastor about a lot of what I’ve been feeling. Something deep down in me needs healing. I have two beautiful children made by God that I love dearly. I never want them to feel unloved or uncherished. After a long talk, I asked him to pray with me and he welcomed me to come back any time to talk. I plan to do just that. The challenges of Autism do not make my son any less worthy of love, respect, or patience. I just need to find my way again.

my son challenges of autism beauty
Me and My Son

 

Linking up with Shell from Things I Can’t Say to Pour My Heart Out

and

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Creating a Sensory-Friendly Ball Pit

My son loves to push, sift, throw, and rifle through things. When we go to the beach, he tumbles through the sand until he’s covered in grit. He loves the sound and the feeling of it, I guess. Many children with Autism have sensory needs, and his needs include both tactile stimulation and auditory defensiveness, among other things. We won’t go into talking about vestibular and proprioceptive responsiveness today–that’s just too much. But, this summer Squeaker receives compensatory services through the school system and the school we’ve gone to this week has this ball pit in it and he loves it. He gravitated to it immediately, so I thought, “I can make that!” It calmed him down, it allowed him to get out his energy, and he got to push things around. Perfect!

If you think it’s hard to make, you’re wrong. It’s totally easy.

Supplies:

  • Cheap plastic swimming pool
  • 100-pack of plastic balls
  • Other balls of any variety (if you want to add more – I added some soft ones and squishy ones so he’d have a variety of sensory experiences)

Construction:

  • Put the pool wherever you want it (on a flat surface)
  • Cut open the bag of balls and dump it in the pool
  • Put the other balls in the pool
  • YOU’RE DONE!

The beauty of the ball pit? All children will love it. I’m sure you’ve been to those play house in fast food restaurants where they have the inflatable rooms with all the balls in it and the kids all go nuts. Well, why not just make one and put it in your house and not have 50 kids jumping on your kid? I originally made this ball pit for Squeaker, but then his brother saw it and lost his mind in it. For the first time in about a week, they played together. Totally worth it.

ball pit sensory kids
The kids have a great time playing together

I spent less than $10.00 on the pool and $11.00 on the bag of balls at Walmart and you can go to the dollar store and get two-packs of squishy balls.

As a result, my son gets to take sensory breaks in his room as frequently as he needs. In his words, “This is beautiful,” he says, “I like it.”

ball pit sensory breaks
He loves his ball pit!
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Our Life With Autism