autism

All posts tagged autism

Kids are Weird, Man. 

Published December 19, 2015 by April Fox

Edit: Now with a real, live, working link to the new blog! Sorry about that. 

Some of you might know that when I’m not writing, I’m teaching. This year, I’m working with a brilliant, hilarious, adorable kid I call Little G, and I’ve created a new blog to chronicle some of our adventures. We do a lot of out-of-the-box learning and I’ll be sharing posts about that, along with the things that don’t always go as planned-like you’ll see in the post linked here. 

The blog is geared toward people who are teaching, parenting, or otherwise care for small kids, especially those with some learning, sensory, or social differences. It’s still my voice though, and even if you’re one of those people who turns the hose on kids that wander onto your lawn, you might like it. 

Have a Very Goopy Christmas  | Math Makes Me Poop 

UnderDog Bikes in Roanoke, VA

Published April 19, 2015 by April Fox

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I took Thing One (so named because he arrived on the scene two minutes before his brother, Thing Two, and I don’t use their real names on here) up to Roanoke, VA for a quick overnight trip. It can be tough to find things to do with Thing One; he has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and some low muscle tone, along with vestibular and motor skills difficulties, so while he is able to do the same things most everyone else can, social situations are tough, he gets tired fairly quickly, and he can’t do things like amusement park rides or riding a bike. 

You can imagine, then, how excited we were to come across UnderDog Bikes in downtown Roanoke. Not only do they fix and sell bikes, they also rent them out–including giant, adult-sized Big Wheels. Yes, Big Wheels, exactly like you used to ride when you were a fearless little kid, tearing up the neighborhood on your three-wheeled, low-slung, BadassMobile, only bigger and built of sturdier materials. Beloved and I were hit with a wave of giddy childhood nostalgia, but I was even more excited about the fact that this was something Thing One could do. The bikes sit very low to the ground and have a wide rear wheel base, so I knew he would feel safe and secure, unlike when he’s tried to ride a regular two-wheeled bike. We knew we could ride the Big Wheels down a quiet greenway that runs along the river, so he wouldn’t be in the middle of the downtown noise, and wouldn’t have to interact much with strangers. This sounded like the perfect outing for us, and it turned out even better than we expected. 

  

 We were greeted at the door by the resident UnderDog, a sweet and friendly pup who escorted us inside the shop. The owner of the shop, Christopher Heslin, was the perfect balance of helpful, knowledgeable, and laid-back as he went over the pricing (super-reasonable), safety information, and recommended routes. It’s clear that he knows his stuff, and genuinely wants to help people have fun on wheels. 

  

 We rented the Big Wheels for an hour, and had a blast riding up and down the greenway. It winds through a pretty residential area and past a small park with a playground, and the waters of the adjacent river are absolutely beautiful. The greenway is flat and paved, making for a ride that can be as easy or as challenging as you want to make it. We alternated between lazy pedaling and speeding up the path, and the grin on Thing One’s face as he passed us, hair flying in the wind, was about the most awesome thing I’ve seen in a long time. 

  

UnderDog Bikes doesn’t market themselves a service for kids with ASD, but for older kids with vestibular issues who want to have fun outdoors, it’s a spectacular place to go. Actually, for anyone who wants to relive those carefree days of childhood for an afternoon, it’s a spectacular place to go. We can’t wait to go back.

UnderDog Bikes is located at 1113 Piedmont St. SE in Roanoke, Virginia. They’re open 10 AM to 7 PM Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM Saturday and Sunday, and closed on Tuesdays. Give them a call at 540-204-4276 or visit their web site for more information, and be sure to show them some love over on their Facebook page.

  

To the Cretin Who Wrote the Ugly Anonymous Letter About the Child With Autism

Published August 19, 2013 by April Fox

In case you missed it, some ugly person sent a hate-filled, ugly anonymous letter to the mother of a child with autism, suggesting that the child be euthanized, among other things. You can read my original post about it here.

I’ve calmed down just a bit since I wrote that original post, and now I’m going to give the wretched letter-writer the benefit of the doubt and assume, for the sake of argument, that she isn’t an inbred idiot with the brains of a jellyfish, but simply someone who has no clue about, well… anything, but autism and how to parent “normal” children, in particular.

So, dear idiot, let me tell you how you SHOULD have dealt with this.

First, buy a dictionary. I’m quite sure this autistic child is not really out hunting whales in your neighborhood. The word you wanted was “wailing,” I think, which is what you’re doing in your letter, only with more passive-aggression and vulgar displays of punctuation than any self-respecting autistic person would ever dream of utilizing. And that’s just the first example that comes to mind when I remember reading your ridiculous letter. 

Now, about how you dealt with your neighbor. I’m going to tell you a little story; I’ll keep it as simple as possible, so you’ll understand. I have neighbors where I live, too. Some of my neighbors live in a house very close to mine.  Sometimes they’re outside kind of late at night, and my kids can hear them through their open windows when they’re trying to sleep. I suppose I could write the neighbors a psychotic anonymous letter and slip it under their door, but I thought I’d try a different, rather unorthodox tactic to deal with the situation: I talked to them. I ran into them outside one day, chatted for a minute, and then said something like, “Hey, so my kids’ rooms are on the side of the house next to yours, and sometimes when you’re all outside late, it keeps them up.” And wonder of wonders, this was the response I got: “I’m sorry! I didn’t realize. If we’re ever too loud, just let us know. Sorry about that.” And then we talked some more about being broke and whether or not it’s going to get cold early this year, and that was the end of it. 

You might try that next time, if the noise is truly bothersome. 

Regarding your “normal” children being scared of the noise:

One-I think you’re full of shit.

Two-If you’re not full of shit, and your kids really are scared, you’re a worse mother than I originally thought, because rather than trying to explain and assuage your children’s fears, you decided instead to suggest that another kid be put to fucking sleep. 

So let’s get this straight: a kid yelling outside is terrifying, but your kids are totally cool with a mother who believes in killing children who are different.

I hope you started their therapy fund early. They’re going to need it.

See, here’s what I do when my kids are afraid of something. I find out what’s causing the fear, and then I explain it to the kids so they’re not scared anymore. If they hear a strange bird outside that scares them, I don’t go all batshit ballistic and start shooting up the trees, I go, “Hey, that’s a bird. Maybe it’s this kind of bird, or that kind of bird. It sounds pretty weird, huh? It’s outside and it’s just a bird. It can’t hurt you.” Crazy, I know, but it works.

I worked at a camp for kids with autism last summer. We were right there with all the “normal” kids. (By the way, there is no such thing as a normal kid. They do not exist. Get over your illusions, okay?) Once in a while, one of the kids in the other group would ask why one of the kids in my group was making a funny noise, or behaving a certain way. I explained things to them openly and honestly: This is the noise he makes when he’s happy, or excited, or upset. You might smile or laugh or clap your hands or scowl; he’s expressing himself this way. It’s just a little different way of being. This is what you should be saying to your children. This is where you should be, rather than typing furiously away on your keyboard, raging at someone who is simply trying to let her child enjoy the outdoors, which he absolutely, without question, deserves to be allowed to do.

I’m just curious, what exactly is wrong with you that makes you think there’s something wrong with teaching your kids things like compassion and understanding? Why do you think it’s more appropriate to advocate killing a child than teaching your own about the differences among us? What in your demented and fucked up psyche would make you want to attack rather than reach out to another mother who you know is facing challenges that may be greater than your own? Seriously, I’m sorry, but I just can’t understand where you were coming from with this letter. What is wrong with you?

If you ever grow the balls to address what you’ve done, look me up. I’d love to talk. 

Autistic Child’s Family Targeted by Vicious Anonymous Letter

Published August 19, 2013 by April Fox

By now, you may have heard about or read the disgusting letter sent to the parents of an autistic child in Newcastle, Ontario.

My first thought, despite generally being a pacifist and too small to do much damage to anyone, was that I’d like five minutes alone with a piece of rebar and the pathetic piece of shit that wrote the letter. My next thought was that I really want to hug the hell out of those parents, because God, what a horrible thing to have to read. I felt physically ill reading it. I can’t imagine reading those things directed at my own child. I can’t imagine the kind of cruel and damaged mind that would make someone say those things, either.

My next thought was that this idiot could use some writing lessons from my autistic kid, not that I’d let him within a hundred yards of such a caustic person.

I have a friend who is raising two beautiful, bright little boys with autism (and one equally beautiful and bright boy without, just to keep things interesting). She posted about this on Facebook earlier, and made an excellent point: “I don’t think raising a child with disabilities is horrific by any means, but raising a child who would pick on one would be.”

YES. Exactly that. Our kids have autism. They have a challenge that makes different parts of their lives more difficult. Socializing, communicating, being heard, simply finding comfort in their environment: these are challenges our kids face every day. Our kids also have a million different gifts, both in spite of and because of their autism. They are quirky, they are insightful, they are charming and wise in ways that the writer of this letter could never in a thousand years hope to be.

Children with autism are human, above all else. The person who wrote this filthy letter is worth no more than the sack of garbage I just took out to the curb. Old orange peels, coffee grounds, wadded up tissues full of snot and other things you don’t want to touch: none are as vile as the kind of person who could say these things about a child.

This blog is not anonymous, unlike the cowardly letter this cretin wrote. I have no problem at all putting my name and face to this statement: those parents, and that child, are worth a million of you, hiding behind your excessive exclamation points and gaudy pink paper. I hate knowing that you’ve reproduced, because it sickens me to think that you will be raising other humans to be just as ignorant, cruel and disgusting as you are. We are not ashamed of our children, but if you had one ounce of self-respect, you’d be incredibly ashamed of yourself right now. You’re pathetic.

*Edit: I just posted a follow-up to this, addressing some of the problems this letter-writer has, and offering some solutions. You can read it here.

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Jellybean Philosophy

Published April 22, 2012 by April Fox

My little guy offered me a jellybean a little while ago. It was misshapen, long and tapered, nothing like the bean after which it was named. He held it out without comment, gripped it between two long, double-jointed fingers, and below the hood of his coat his eyes smiled out from behind his red-framed glasses. His nose scrunches up when he smiles like that, and I know he’s really happy.

He offered me the jellybean, and I wasn’t sure whether he wanted me to have it, or just wanted me to see it. It was, after all, an anomalous jelly bean, and things like that are interesting. “Cool,” I said, “That one’s shaped funny.”

Thing One smiled even bigger and pushed the bean closer to my face. “I know, it’s not even like a bean. It’s long and pointy. You can have it.”

I gave him the Automatic Mom Response: “No baby, you eat your jelly bean. Thank you, but you don’t have to give me your candy.”

Thing One faltered, let the smile wobble for a second but kept the jellybean there, suspended between us. “You can have it,” he said. “It’s a cool one. I’m giving it to you.”

Thing One has always been taken with food oddities; his siblings give him the longest, curliest curly fries, and we all make sure to point out vegetables shaped like letters or animals or other non-vegetable objects. Often, he will take these things, wrap them in plastic bags and store them in the freezer until sufficient time has passed that the food is coated with ice and no longer recognizable as something that used to be food, and we throw them out with the appropriate amount of respect and ceremony. Not this time, though. This time, he offered it to me.

I ate the jellybean. It was delicious, as far as jellybeans go. And not to get all amateur philosopher on you here, but wouldn’t it be cool if we could all look at things that are a little different from the norm and see the beauty in the variation, rather than relegating them to the bin of discards and damaged goods?

My little guy is like that jellybean: a little different, but totally worth gobbling up. There’s good stuff in that kid of mine. Kind of makes me feel guilty for raiding his stash of Easter candy while he’s asleep…

The Autism Awareness Post

Published April 3, 2012 by April Fox

The handsome young man to your left is my son, Dylan. This photo was taken a couple days ago as he prepared to go out on a call to assist with a bad car accident. I like how he looks here: confident, relaxed, ready to get out there and help someone.

Dylan is a pretty typical 20-year-old kid. He played around with the idea of school and work and when he got bored with North Carolina, he ended up in Florida, by way of Flint, Michigan. It was a spontaneous decision, but it worked out and he landed on his feet. He’s enjoying the Florida sunshine, working full-time and going to school full-time to become a paramedic–the first stop on his way to med school. He’s maintained a high GPA the entire time he’s been enrolled. When he gets a break from work and school, he hangs out with his friends; I hear stories about new tattoos, all-night video game-fests, crazy chicks and the crazy things they do. Somewhere in there he finds time to help tutor other students.

I don’t know a whole lot about what Dylan does in school, but I know it’s a pretty intense program. Yesterday he sent me a text about being covered in blood after helping treat someone. I could tell it bothered him; he’s never liked seeing anyone hurt. He’s had a few potential setbacks, a minor car accident, some unexpected financial glitches, but he’s handled them well, probably far better than I could. He started a whole new life in a place he’d never been, where he knew nobody but his aunt and her kids, and he’d only met them a handful of times. He had to learn to navigate his new city, first on foot and then in the car he bought; there were meetings with school officials and financial aid advisers, job interviews and finding a new group of people to spend time with.

Why am I telling you all this? Why does it matter that my kid is doing all these things?

Because April is Autism Awareness Month, and Dylan has Asperger Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism.

Myth: People with autism can’t handle any change in routine.

Myth: People with autism are unintelligent.

Myth: People with autism need lifelong care and cannot live on their own.

Myth: People with autism can’t experience empathy or compassion.

Dylan is living proof that all of those are false.

I’ve told you all a little bit about another of my boys, who I refer to here as thing one. Seven years younger than Dylan, he also has Asperger Syndrome, though he’s affected a little differently than Dylan is. A couple years ago, thing one couldn’t tolerate anyone new being in his house. He spent one of his birthday parties huddled in his closet, hiding from the noise, the people, the over-stimulation, while his twin brother enjoyed the day. It was heartbreaking. From there, he progressed to wearing huge sunglasses over his eyeglasses whenever anyone visited or we went out in public. For years, he had to wear a hat 24 hours a day; if I tried to take it off while he slept, he’d stir and clamp his hand on top of his head, holding it there. He’d take it off only in the privacy of the bathroom, to shower, and then it went right back on. When he had to have his hair combed or cut, he sat with his eyes closed, rocking back and forth, until the hat was returned. He wore long sleeves even on the warmest days; photos of him taking swimming lessons show him submerged in the pool, fully clothed in jeans and a long-sleeved oxford shirt. He had an outstanding vocabulary, but wouldn’t talk to anyone he hadn’t known his entire life. He wore industrial earmuffs all the time, because he was so sensitive to any noise above a conversational volume, and any unusually pitched sounds drove him crazy.  Here is a photo of him taken last week. He’s in short sleeves, no hat, no sunglasses, out in a public place (The Moog Store and Factory, which is awesome), smiling, and on top of that, playing the theremin-an instrument that, if you don’t know what you’re doing, produces sounds somewhere between the mooing of a cow, a high-pitched scream, and a spaceship landing.

I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness of autism; the symptoms of autism run on a spectrum, and my boys are on the high end of that. Some kids and adults with autism truly stay locked inside themselves their entire lives, but hopefully more research and awareness of how the disorder works will begin to change that soon. I can’t look at autism as a disease or a disability; my kids simply are who they are. With Dylan-who was misdiagnosed when he was younger and only evaluated for ASD after our developmental pediatrician saw similarities between him and the newly-diagnosed thing one-you wouldn’t know he had Asperger’s unless you know someone else who has it. Thing one comes across as a quirky, unique, kind of nerdy kid: the kind you expect to grow up to be, I dunno, Steve Jobs or something. There are things we need to work on, ways to help them adapt to the world that they’re stuck in, but that’s true for everyone. Nobody falls into life knowing all the rules.

Dylan and thing one aren’t the only people I love who have autism. There’s another young man I love very much who has come a long way in dealing with social situations, but he prefers that I not mention him by name or discuss him here. I have cousins, friends’ children, other family members with varying degrees of autism spectrum disorders, and it’s incredible to hear about the progress they’re making. My friend’s son was diagnosed at two; he’s now reading at age four. There are millions of stories like his, and hearing them and sharing them is what helps promote true awareness.

I’m not asking you to donate money to anything, to post a chain status update on your Facebook page, or to wear a certain color to promote awareness. What I’m asking is that the next time you see someone acting out in public, to try and remember that he may have autism and not be able to deal with all the stimulation. When you encounter a child who doesn’t want to make eye contact, don’t try to force him or assume he’s being rude. When the kid next to you in class rambles on about his favorite subject, don’t discount him as a nerd and turn away; he might have something to teach you someday, and you’d do yourself a favor if you took the time to listen and get to know him.

The Migrating Patterns of Winged Canadians, and Other Mysteries

Published March 22, 2012 by April Fox

Thing one, as you know, is a lovely combination of brilliant and autistic. If he’s interested in something, he researches the hell out of it, studies it, lives in it. He can tell you everything you want to know about Star Wars, the solar system, Dungeons and Dragons; he knows a whole lot about a whole lot of things, but obviously, ornithology is not one of those things.

Thing one: Baby girl says Canada geese-wait, is that even a real thing?
Me: Yes.
Thing one: Okay, she says that Canada geese fly-wait, can geese even fly?
Me: Yes.
Thing one: Okay, maybe I’m thinking of ducks. Can ducks fly?
Me: Yes.
Thing one: Maybe it’s chickens. Can chickens fly?
Me: Some of them can, yes.
Baby girl: I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of penguins. Penguins can’t fly.
Thing one: Penguins, ducks, whatever. Ducks can’t fly as high as hawks, right?
Me: I don’t think I’ve ever seen one flying that high, no.
Thing one: Okay, good. [I don’t know why it’s good. I didn’t ask.] Anyway, baby girl says that Canada geese fly south in the spring and north in the winter. Is that true?
Me: No.
Thing one: HA. I knew I was right about something in there.

And with that resolved, he went back to his maps.

 

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