Category Archives: Autism

Halloween Training

halloween

 

I’d like to preface this post by telling all of you that I had kind of forgotten about Halloween until my kids dragged the boxes (why do we have multiple boxes?!) of Halloween decorations up from the basement and begged me to let them decorate. There’s no forgetting Halloween now.

In previous years, I may have constructed clever family or sibling costumes, organized giant kid Halloween parties and maybe even snuck an adult party in there, too. This year, the kids are choosing their own costumes and I don’t even care. The annual Halloween party? I’m really just swapping out Lego League (ooooh, that’s a post on its own) for Halloween party and cutting our previous guest list by 2/3rds. Apparently I’m a giant party pooper.

But Jamie is prepping for Halloween. He isn’t a fan of dressing up for it which is odd because he’s been known to rock a king’s cape for hours and he’s sported a queen’s dress or two. But nope, he doesn’t like Halloween costumes which is why he’s chosen to be a paper boy this year because it just requires that he “finds a satchel to stuff newspapers in…comics.”

Jamie is most interested in the candy he’ll be raking in and has realized that his very lazy lifestyle means he won’t be on top of his game as far as the amount of ground he can cover. But he has a solution.

“Alright, so I just need to put some sneakers on and, starting this week, walk around the block a few times. As Halloween gets closer, I’ll walk longer and longer so that when it’s actually here, I’ll be able to walk a really long way without getting too tired and get so much candy.”

He may not be active, but he’s pretty smart.

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The Longest School Year in the Entire History of the Universe

 

This year was simultaneously the hardest and the best year we’ve had yet with the kids. We had lots and lots of rough patches when it came to school but we figured it out and the day we did, the year turned into something wonderful. We had great times during those rough patches – family getaways and playing with friends. Fun school outings and lovely get-togethers. Each great period of time has hard times, too, but we have learned that sometimes hard changes are necessary to discover what’s really best for us.

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Our school year is over today and here’s what’s happened:

  • Alice learned to read! She loves reading and the pride that washes over her face when she finishes a sentence and an entire book is the best.
  • Jamie has spent time with an aide at school and has been so busy with different projects. His creativity has been encouraged and he comes home with stories and hilarious crafts he’s made. His time in the classroom is good and we’ve seen great things happening for him.
  • Maria has made some really great friends at Asotin and that time of ‘mean girl’ stuff seems to be over thank goodness! She has pointe shoes and in her life, that’s the best thing that could ever happen – EVER.
  • Charlotte is gearing up for Kindergarten and is trying to keep up with Alice when it comes to reading and math. She’s pretty good at spelling “play-doh” on Youtube….Lord help us.
  • Ollie continues to be the happy sprite.
  • Franci has turned into the sassiest sass monster you could ever imagine.

So what have we learned? When things are really hard, that doesn’t mean they weren’t worth it. Our time at the old school was absolutely worth the time spent. We made friends there and so did the kids. They got to do fun activities and their education got a really great start. We learned, too, that change is necessary sometimes to keep kids on that path where they thrive. Jamie was finding it hard to keep his curiosity sparked and his brain busy.. It took lots of sleepless nights and tears until we discovered that maybe changing things up was what we needed to do. We left our comfortable bubble and did it and now we have a new comfortable bubble. Funny how that works sometimes, yeah?

This summer we have huge things planned.

Just kidding. It’ll probably just be full of lemonade stands and slip n slides and swimming and bike rides and escaping the heat with inside TV time. No shame in my game.

Happy Summer!

 

autism and support and autism support (faces of autism)

Last night was our big awareness event for The Green Apple Project. Faces of Autism was a room full of gorgeous photographs of beautiful faces. The turn out was amazing – over 200 people.
I wanna talk about support. Knowing when someone has put their heart and passion and time and energy into a single event and showing up to show them you recognize that? That’s support.

Knowing a child (or children) who struggle daily and have a hard time on a regular basis but who finally have an opportunity to celebrate that same part of them – the one that can make things hard – as something that also makes them unique and wonderful, and showing up to say to them, “I recognize that beauty, too.”? That’s support.
The room was (literally) overflowing with support. My friends who have busy lives and families who demand their attention took 2 hours on a Wednesday to come show Jamie and me that they support us. Teachers….SO MANY TEACHERS. There were teachers from almost every school in the valley there to see their kiddos so incredibly proud of their giant photos on display. I had teachers ask for a copy of the video to show, teachers who told me they learned something new, teachers who wanted to get involved and who shared stories of how and why autism is such a part of their lives.
Jamie had a hard time and hindsight is 20/20. I can honestly say I didn’t expect him to panic at the sight of the crowd. He refused to go in and had a bit of a melt down over it. He knew lots of people there but he doesn’t have a ton of close friends or people he feels super comfortable with – and there weren’t really any of those. Luckily my mom is one of those people and she sat with him for two hours in the hall while he tried to escape and finally accepted defeat and played the iPod. It was a really good reminder and an eye opener. For being so “high functioning” he was certainly one of the “lowest functioning” autistic children there last night. The labels should probably go.

(Read this: https://musingsofanaspie.com/2013/06/26/decoding-the-high-functioning-label/)

But we survived and we’re currently most thankful for this kind of thing:

-people who give selflessly. Who do so without worry or recognition or receiving things in return. Who recognize bigger things than their names or their talent and who know that sometimes just giving is necessary for a beautiful world.

– teachers who love students as if they were their own children. The love in the eyes of so many educators last night was pretty impressive. One of Jamie’s teachers came last night and I wanted to cry and hug her – ya know if I did that kind of thing. I wanted to tell her how much it meant to us she was there. How she makes our lives better and easier and how much Jamie loves her. I did a little bit, but I reeled it in as much as I could.

-friends who see support as such an important part of friendship. Friends recognizing when you have a passion and when your heart has spilled into a cause and showing you they see it and now it’s in their hearts too.

-wine. And food.
Our event is over and my Facebook feed is full of pictures from last night. My heart is pretty full, too.




Faces

I want to be a hundred things. I want to be a writer and a pharmacist and an architect. I wouldn’t mind being an FBI agent or an editor at a magazine. My dream is to someday create a photojournalistic book a la “Where Children Sleep” and travel the world with Danny and document different cultures and ideas and people.

But right now I’m a mom and I’m a non-profit director (I love saying that) with a passion for evoking compassion in situations that are different than the norm. I wrote about how Suzanne and I started The Green Apple Project and we’ve been working like honeybees (honeybees work their asses off) to get it launched and going and accessible to everyone who needs it. I’ve forever wanted to do a photo project, something on a larger scale than posting to Facebook, whose purpose is to draw attention to a cause or idea rather than the talent or ‘fame’ of the photographer who took the photographs and using that talent to do so. And it’s all coming together through an art show called

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It’s not a fundraiser (although of course donations are accepted). Instead, it’s a way of saying, “Look at these beautiful faces! Look at who they are and what they love. Look at their family and look at how much they love life. And look, too, at how hard and frustrating life can be for them.” It’s a way to say support and education and awareness is needed. 

We will have fifteen 20×20 black and white portraits taken by incredibly talented photographers of children with autism. Alongside the image will be an inside look at who they are, what they love, and what they struggle with, written by a close family member.

 

Jamie

Jamie loves Greek Mythology.

He loves popcorn and grilled cheese and would eat eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

His favorite subject is history and can remember the dates and facts of everything he reads. The ancient world (Greece, Egypt, Rome) is his specialty.

He loves his friends and his family and his sisters are his best friends.

He doesn’t like large crowds and he’s sensitive to smells and sounds.

He gets frustrated easily and has a hard time reading tone and translating body language. He’s literal and honest and sees most things as either right or wrong with no in between.

Jamie is the face of autism.

If you are local, we’d love for you to join us for our event.

FACESpostcard

Déjà Vu – Changes

I posted this a couple years ago. If you’re going to reference it now, know that I’ll discuss it here in a second.

 

I’m gonna share something with you. Oh, what do you have to say? I’m never one to not share and sometimes I tip over and spill on those thoughts all over your nice day? Sorry about that (not sorry). Here’s today’s bit of sharing: I think a lot. It’s quite annoying and causes me a lot of grief. I overanalyze things. I go overboard with research and I will talk over and over my reasons for doing x, y, and z just so people understand it’s not just me being flaky or caught up in a moment of annoyance or anger. And I’ll admit that I like that one thing about myself – that I do make decisions based on my own deep reflection and research. Rarely do I make (big) decisions and choices spontaneously. The same can’t be said for little things I do here and there.

I question almost everything and that can be hard. It can be hard for me (it’s exhausting and if I were a doctor, I’d guess that maybe it had something to do with anxiety and OCD) and it can be hard for those I am close to and trust. Because, chances are, there will come a time I will question you and what you’re doing. My parents taught me to think for myself and I’m not really sure they thought I’d run with that idea as far as my short legs would take me, but I did. If something isn’t going quite right, I don’t just shrug my shoulders and say, “Meh,” I question it, think about it, and if I come to the conclusion that something can be changed, I’ll try my hardest to change it. Rarely do I wait around for it to just magically happen. I’m sure that amongst teachers (school, dance, you name it) I’m the one they talk about. But here’s the thing…I don’t really care. If I believe in something, I’m willing to put myself out there for it. And I won’t push and push for something if I don’t believe in it.

Okay, so back to it not being all about me. 

Danny and I made the decision to move our kids from Children’s House Montessori School to the public school. Let me tell you, I lost sleep over this one. There are lots and lots of things I love about Children’s House and I am absolutely passionate about the philosophy that drives Montessori. For Pete’s Sake, I attending the international Montessori congress a couple years ago. I was all in. Until I wasn’t.

It wasn’t working for Jamie.

We tried, and we introduced new ideas and solutions and I think it was hard for his teacher to implement and in the end, we felt like he wasn’t getting what he needed and the school was missing out on what he could give to them because of that as well. His new school has resources available to us to help him. There are teachers and staff trained to work with children who have different and specific needs and have experience.

We will miss CHMS, no doubt. The things I mentioned in the link above? Things I still love about it. I love watching the kids holding hands and helping one another. I love the sense of community and the peace that envelopes you as you walk in. I love seeing the kids hard at work. But I’m so silly. Why did I think that those things couldn’t be loved through another school? Why, in my head, did I have Montessori as the one and only perfect school?

It’s perfect for some, and I can 100% see why and how. Miss Megan has a passion and drive that is unmatched. I can say that with confidence. She loves what she does and she does it well. I am forever grateful my kids experienced their first years with her. She taught them how to be wonderful, loving, happy people of the world and now they’re going to spread that around like wildfire.

For our family, perfection is a mix of experiences. It’s different people and thoughts and ideas combined. We have people in our family who need more assistance and resources and sometimes you have to seek out a variety of experts until you have a little bank of everything you need. We are so thankful for CHMS for all those things they were able to share with us and their expertise on some things.

As of this week, my big kids are all Panthers. They’re excited and nervous and happy and sad and with adventure comes risk and faith and we’ll be okay…because we’ve got it.

 

The Green Apple Project

Jamie has autism.

I’m not sure I’ve ever come out and just said those three words, only those three words. If I do feel the need to mention it, mention his diagnosis, it’s always followed up by a long-winded explanation. Usually because it’s met with a look of shock or surprise; a silent dare for me to prove it. I’ll explain how he’s really smart but not socially at all and, yeah, he plays with others. And how, no, he doesn’t stim like some kids who flap their hands or snap, but he stims in other ways. How no, in these 10 minutes you’ve observed him he hasn’t melted down but I know a meltdown is only minutes or if I’m lucky, hours away.

My family lives autism. We live with screaming and crying and refusing to eat anything that isn’t the exact-right temperature or texture. Mornings are hell and so are mealtimes. Communication is a nightmare and some behaviors are disturbing and weird and just not right for a nine year old.

My friend Suzanne and her family live autism, too. The more I got to know Suzanne, the more obvious it was that we were meant to do something, together, to help families who “live” autism. After months and months of talking and planning and THOUSANDS of texts (because we don’t speak on the phone, that’d be too easy) we are ready to launch our non-profit organization:

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We’ve submitted paperwork and gotten approved. We have formed a board of directors and are well-versed in the ins and outs of articles of incorporation and by-laws. We are ready to make a difference and make life easier and more manageable for so many families.

It’s estimated that roughly 1 in 80 children have autism (the number is higher for boys, and this estimate is just that…an estimate). Think of all the children you know. The odds are pretty good that one of those children has autism. If you know me and my family, boom. Jamie is it. What you might not know is that having a child with autism is lonely. It is frustrating and sad and can make you so angry that you cry. And when you try and explain it to your friends, explain why life is so hard every single day and that it can feel like it’s getting better with a great day only to be shot down by a really hard day in the blink of an eye, they just don’t get it. And families who don’t live autism also don’t understand that you wouldn’t change who your child is for the world. Without autism, Jamie might not have the curiosity he has for so many things. He might not have that passion for reading, his hysterical (yet dry) sense of humor and his soft and gentle way with his sisters. He might be too cool to hug me goodbye as he walks into 4th grade and it’s likely he wouldn’t wave until I drove off, yelling, “I love you , mom!!!” He wouldn’t wear his heart (and opinions) on his sleeve. I love his quirks and I love his personality. And while it might be difficult sometimes, I honestly wouldn’t change him. But having support and knowing others who live this life, too, would be really nice.

And now, it’s here.

Suzanne and I couldn’t be more excited. We are starting out very small: monthly support groups for families, an ever-growing resource library for people seeking more insight and information and guest speakers for small groups.

Our dream is to one day be able to actually provide services for children with autism in addition to all of the above. We want to someday run a center in which children with autism can play and work and receive whatever care they need in whatever capacity that might be. I have no doubt that will one day be a reality.

 

If you are a parent, sibling, spouse, grandparent, cousin, aunt, uncle or friend of someone with autism and want to utilize The Green Apple Project’s resources and services, please send us a note.

email: greenappleprojectlcv@gmail.com