Today I attended the 2012 Catechist Convocation at the Paramus Catholic Regional High School in New Jersey. Whew, that was a mouthful! Usually, I’m alone for most of the day during these things and my schedule today left me free from any workshops from after the opening ceremony, ending at 9:30am, to my scheduled lunch then my first workshop starting at 12:45pm. Basically, I was left to my own devices most of the morning. I spent some time browsing the “exhibits”, but I shall call them vendors. I pretty much spent almost all the money I had on a book about my favorite author entitled, “Genius Born of Anguish~ The Life and Legacy of Henri Nouwen” and a car bumper sticker that reads: Abortion stops a beating heart. Yeah, the book took up 98% of the money I brought. Normally, I would’ve gotten something for the current RCIA class but there is no class currently in the works. Thanks to Cyndi for teaching me the proper “etiquette” for these things. The first time I attended, she got me a booklet and cards for our then class. Well, after that purchase I headed outside and got halfway around the building, and found a nice gazebo to sit a spell and start this book. The weather was really nice and stayed there a while until the groundsmen came around with their leave blowers and drenched me full of diesel fuel or whatever they throw in those things…. yuk!
I also attended two workshops:
- Be An Evangelizing Catechist
- One Body in Christ: Sacrament Preparation & Participation in Liturgy for Individuals with Autism
That’s one bitch’in title and I had to write that whole thing when I took the survey with my opinions on the classes. The first one really focused on the CCD kids. Some really great ideas for teaching kids and inviting the parents to get involved. I really enjoyed that class for the ideas, but I spent the whole time getting up and down to get my handouts, which were one after the other the whole hour fifteen minutes. The up side is that I have the actual handouts to give to the school, and I’m going to make sure I do some of this stuff with Gabe at home. I think I’ll work on a separate post for that…. Heck, maybe while this Frankenstorm comes through.
The second workshop focused on providing an effective education for, as it says, Individuals with Autism. This is near and dear to my heart and I took this workshop with Gabe in mind, hoping I could bring some of this home. My second hope is to try and get the church to develop a program for the autistic student, both children and adults. Not sure how it will go over, but this is SO important and would go a long way with families who are not yet advocating for their autistic child for whatever reason. While I didn’t really hear anything new about autism in this class, I found it helpful, though I do wish the speaker was more prepared. She spent most of the time fiddling with her electronics and getting them to work. We did not go over all the material she had for the class and that was a downer. It was a major distraction, all the while I was thinking about the previous instructor telling us we should be well prepared with our lesson before the children walked into the class…. priceless!
Well, getting to the inspiration of my post. I’m sitting in the cafeteria eating my lunch at 11:15am and I realize that I don’t have any money to buy more water. The lunch people were very specific as to what we could take: ONE sandwich, ONE packet mustard or ONE packet mayonnaise, ONE drink, ONE bag of two Oreo cookies and ONE half-bag of chips. I’ve been guzzling water lately like an elephant and all I had right there was a 16.9 oz. bottle of Snapple Spring Water which was to last me the entire rest of the day. Snort…. I’m sitting there knowing that will never happen. So I sat there, counting the minutes till I could get home for a nice frigid cold glass of water …. (glugg… glugg…) I’m thinking that the fountain water was not too bad of a tasting water. I sat there knitting (yes, I brought my knitting and knit through the whole opening ceremony and keynote speech, though I wasn’t actually there for the speech as I was stifling hot and couldn’t wait to get out of the auditorium. Let me just say that God most certainly works in His own way and in His own time. Whenever or however, He knows what you need and exactly when you need it. Just before I got myself ready to leave the cafeteria, my friend from our parish came out of nowhere and offered me her 16.9 oz. of cold water, unequivocally stating she was not going to drink it. I accepted her offer with such gratitude that even that completely overwhelmed me. It was all I could do not to tear up, there. She really had no clue of my dilemma, yet she handed it over just when I was going through my options. Even after I finished her bottle, I refilled it with water from the bathroom because that water was colder than the water in the drinking fountain. It had a distinctly chlorine taste but I told myself that it was sanitized… ugh. That bottle, though, kept my tongue from drying onto the roof of my mouth and my lips moist and separated during my two workshops. Oh well, not a life and death situation, but God certainly has looked out for me in many ways and many, many times.
Last night my head was swirling around with ideas, but as always when it gets time to write them down, I’m a blank. So, I’ll do what I always do, write. Write down the strands of thought that surround my head like a maiden’s soft, light hair that moves with the breeze in a surreal kind of way. Yes, I’m awake and hope you have the inclination to stay with me.
When we first leaned that our boy was autistic, I was devastated. For him and for us. We were new parents, well not “new” exactly, but he is our first and only one, which will probably remain that way since we are in our early and mid fifties. We didn’t think we’d have him (if you’d like to read those details, you can look here) in the first place, so after seven years, I’m not so sure that God has another one in His plan for us. In a way, I’m relieved as it would be a hardship, both financially and probably physically; but I do wish that our Gabe could have a brother or sister. Not too long ago, he’d ask for one, almost constantly; and even now, he looks at my belly and asks if I’m pregnant…. oh boy. Which reminds me of a most embarrassing couple of moments over this weekend at a hotel we were staying at for a wedding. We walked by the hotel’s lounge and there was a man there with a huge gut. Quite out of the blue, Gabe said, rather loudly, “Hey MOM, that guy’s PREGNANT!” Well, I tried to ignore what he said which was a pretty bad mistake as he kept repeating himself all the louder because he didn’t think I heard him the first time, “MOOOM….” It was all I could do to muzzle him and get him out the front door. I tried to explain to him that saying things like that were inappropriate and tried to explain the concept of being insulted… think I failed with that, too. This has not been the first time he’s brought the concept of men being pregnant as he has frequently expressed his belief that HE was pregnant just because he ate more than usual, gaining a pretty big belly. He’d lift up his shirt, pointed to his belly and say, “MOM, I’m almost pregnant~!” Now, THAT was funny. Still, I had a hard time explaining that men and boys do not get pregnant, only women. He’s not asked me what exactly that is “yet”, and I’m grateful. After I thought I did a decent job explaining that men do not get pregnant, I was validated because the next day, we saw that man again and Gabe said (all too loudly), “MOM, there’s that man with the BIG belly~!” Um… Yep.
Still, the incident, not surprisingly, had me pretty upset even though I tried not to impress that upon him, I’m sure that I did. I’m maybe too obsessed about weight, or looks being singled out for laughs. I’m quite positive that wasn’t the intent, but I’m still pretty sensitive to that and don’t want Gabe growing up, insulting people no matter what the intent. He needs to learn this very differently than most kids do. Even though we know that autistic children can learn social manners, it’s not so simple. They do not pick up on social cues like the rest of us can, instinctually. They need to be presented with the concept and they learn it much like an academic lesson in school and they need to practice it over and over. They may never empathize, but they can learn to understand intellectually how important it is to learn and practice; but they may never truly “feel” that importance. I’m not even sure that Gabe will ever learn to walk in anothers shoes, which has always been important to me, in my learning. I always felt the need to REALLY understand things and, indeed, I’ve rarely followed through with anything unless I truly understood to my own satisfaction the importance of whatever it was.
WHAT ARE SOCIAL SKILLS?
Social Skills are a set of behaviors that allow a child to get along better with other people. A child with adequate social skills can adjust well to changes in his environment and can avoid verbal and physical confrontations with other people. A child who has poorly developed social skills, however, may have poor self-esteem, may display conduct problems (fighting, arguing, defying adults), and may have difficulty developing peer relationships.
WHAT IS A SOCIAL SKILLS GROUP?
Social skills groups focus on teaching children a variety of social skills to help improve their ability to make and keep friends, develop more self-confidence, and behave more appropriately. Role-plays and group interaction will give the children opportunities to practice these skills during the group session. The therapist will utilize behavioral reinforcement to promote rule compliance, participation, and use of appropriate social skills, while also encouraging and reinforcing the children to practice these skills outside of the session. Objective information regarding the children’s behavior will be gathered before and after the group to measure the children’s progress and parents will be provided with written feedback at the conclusion of each group.
We are truly blessed to have gotten Gabe into a social skills group. Please see the above for a good description. This is where they learn behaviors which are so-called socially accepted behaviors. The problem is that though they may try to interact with their peers, they never learned how to do that, as other children have learned and that is by picking up on the silent social cues and body language. They don’t intuit what is the appropriate, recognizable response or non-response to what the other child/peer displays. Also, Gabe’s group is a group of peers. They see it as play and I’m sure Gabe thinks it’s a play date.
Gabe is seven years old now and maybe that’s too young to learn about how/why a person can be insulted. I ended up repeating myself about the man maybe getting insulted, but then I realized that he probably has no what that would mean. I am dedicated to keeping open communications with him. He knows that whatever his question is, I will listen and I am frequently urging him to share his thoughts. He knows that I will urge him to just tell me his thoughts. Most times I’ve got to admit that I don’t really understand what comes out of his head, but I’ve learned to ask questions so that he’d have to elaborate on what he’s thinking. I’ve also had to learn when to just let it be when that doesn’t seem possible. Sometimes I grieve for the lack of communication and understanding. Lots of times I feel a total disconnect. I grieve because I’ve always dreamed of being a mom much different from my own mom. She was totally unapproachable and I never opened up to her or she to me. My dream was to have a totally different relationship with my children. Open communication all the way. If you can’t do that, what the heck kind of relationship IS that, anyway? I am learning that Gabe conveys more to me than words ever could. He is my teacher and has been from the first moment he took his first breath. That is a post within itself. So, Gabe is teaching me that not all relationships are the same. Huh? Didn’t I know that already? Apparently not.
One last paragraph. There are so many facets to Autism. Just like the disorder, itself, there are so many areas of specialty, so many areas that really need to be improved, that really need the attention of the professionals and people just like you. It’s totally overwhelming, so I take it in little bites. The area I find myself focusing on lately is how badly our teachers NEED to be educated about autism. Yet, our schools will fight to the death to stay in denial. They refuse to acknowledge that intervention services are needed for the autistic child to get an “appropriate” education. Forgive me, but mention the word “quality” and “education” together and you can kiss any intervention service good bye. Does that make sense? I have to ask because I’m not college educated, you know. Total idiocy! No matter how much compassion a teacher has, if he/she is not trained to recognize and deal with any problems that arise, not given the strategies they need to handle the tough situations, they will just end up feeling frustrated and might even label a child with a negative label, even… YES… even the label of BULLY. This of course, would most likely stem from ignorance, but does anyone want this to happen? I know I don’t. My own son could be labeled as a bully because he tried, in his own “socially unacceptable” way, to make friends with another boy or just trying to get someone’s attention, again in his own way. Maybe that need for attention was misinterpreted as bullying…. and I do see how that can happen. I can see my son being confused and feeling rejected and may be even push the other kid in an attempt to gain their attention and maybe friendship. Nobody and I mean nobody would see it that way in the mainstream world. I’ve been through a rough patch lately with a mainstream mother verbalizing in front of me that she would not want her typical kid in the same class as my little guy. That hurt a LOT. It was only after a lot of hurt that I realized that she was probably severely uneducated, maybe misguided even as she strives on a daily basis to project her highly educated personality. The sad fact is that EVERYONE is in dire need to be educated, teachers, typical children, typical moms and dads. So, maybe my focus should be on wholesale education for everyone… you can’t be overly educated, can you?
- Told I was special, but was always getting hit or yelled at.
- Told I could do anything, yet not allowed to experience anything. Kept on a tight reign.
My Aunt Gerry did her best to encourage me to go to college at every opportunity that presented itself to her, but the environment at home was “no-can-do”. I also had an impending, almost doom-ish sense of a deadline for going to college before settling down and raising a family. So what’ was the point if I was not planning on a career? I now realize this crazy gender defined role I was to play was ingrained into me… Get married and have kids. This stereotype was supported and encouraged by the career events held at school. Nothing interesting for women at all. Secretary. Remember this was the mid ’70′s. Who would have the time for college with 2.5 kids running around my skirts? Plus, I was immensely interested in the sciences, but a disaster with any kind of math that was higher than addition or subtraction…. nix that idea. Chemistry? Physics? Seemed like a death sentence at the time because I could not understand any of it, or the memorization required was something I could not accomplish…. Upon graduation from high school, I promptly started working as a file clerk at Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and stayed there for five years doing the same thing: filing insurance applications, pulling insurance applications. What the heck was I thinking? Nothing apparently. Absolutely nothing, Nada, zero. I hadn’t even discovered myself yet and would not for another 15-20 years. Ahem… I was clearly a late bloomer! As a side note, Metropolitan did boast that it paid for college tuition, but the courses had to be job related. WHAT type of courses could I have taken for filing? Back then it seemed very unlikely that I’d find something compatible with my job, so I did not pursue it.
Get married Have kids. You have such a pretty face. When are you going to “settle down?” I heard this constantly as a young adult and finally, at the ripe old age of 24, I got married. Ha, this idea of “settling” “down” was exactly what I ended up doing. I ‘settled’ for a man and he was more than a step ‘down’, in my opinion. Not that I hold myself above him, because we both had a lot of growing to do; but he was someone who was incapable of entertaining an open mind and his personality rebelled against it, in believing he was perfect. I have not heard from him in the last seven years or so, but I did now and then up until that point. While he said that he had changed, I have my doubts because in his conversation with me, I could see that he was the same, vindictive person with a superiority complex. I was married for eight years, was then single for eight years, now I’ve been remarried for almost seven years, come this February.
What’s the point of these reflections of a time so long gone by that I can hardly remember? I need to confront my past. My flaws and failures as well as my qualities and victories. In understanding my past, I might be able to provide insight to my son for his own issues; which of course, is dependent upon him asking me things. I believe that in becoming more comfortable with myself through reliving and analyzing my past history, I will project an approachability to my son (or anyone).
Hey. My name is Debbie and I live in Elizabeth, NJ USA. Yeah, it’s me again. That little annoying buzz that keeps making her way back here to Dragon’s Yen. Well, what have I been doing for, oh, longer than a year now? I’ve been kind of burnt out of writing and avoided coming back here like the plague. But, I do want to thank those commenters on Platelet Donation Update… You have kept me coming back here now and again and I thank you for that. You’ve kept my blog in my thoughts.
Originally, I was going to keep a journal about my son’s (Little Drake) milestones and the exploits of a toddler. As it turns out, he is now, at three years old, heading for preschool… do you see the Happy Feet? As he goes off to school, mommie’s life will get more complicated as she will need to do “something” and that something is either find a job or take some courses. I really need to see if I can do something from home to keep me available for LD. I decided that I want to get into the world of Medical Transcriptionist. I’m a pretty good typist and do have the bulk of my working experience in the medical field, so I thought this would be a good fit for me.
Lo and behold, the local college is offering an online course for certification in this area…. but >bump< I hit a wall when I realized that the requirements for this course was that I need to have Microsoft’s Office Suite on my computer. Needless to say, I do not. Last year, I cleared my laptop of that junk, and installed Open Office. It “has” been pretty complicated to understand, especially the building of a database, but I’ve been using the word processing part of it; and the transition has almost been seamless from Microsoft’s Word. Grrr. Well, we simply do not have the money to buy a software package… especially this one… but then let me rethink this. If I get a new software package, then I probably would want to get a new laptop, something I can dedicate to my education. Throw down another couple of thousand, computer and software. Hubby seems receptive to this online course, especially since it costs a fraction of what another online company/school is charging…. plus we have no idea if this other “school” is a scam or not. The college is established and a physical building….though I’ll be not actually going there.
Ah… where am I going with this? The only funds available for this is locked in a CD that my dad put aside for me. If I cash it in now, of course there are penalties involved; but my main concern is that this little (and I MEAN little) nest egg is the only one of it’s kind. My dad has another wife now, with no means of supporting herself, so you KNOW that there will be hardly any inheritance left over for his real kids…. ah… I’m not meaning to sound resentful, and I really do like his wife. I’m just trying to state the facts. I mention “real” kids because there has been talk floating around between my brother and sister that a comment “was made” that had his wife asking “what about her kids?”… Her two adult daughters, BTW, who are both settled in their lives…. I digress.
So, here I am with a decision to make. Do I crack open my tiny nest egg; or do I leave it where it is? It seems as if I do not have any choice because DH does NOT make enough money at his job to support us, yet support us he as been doing, all by himself, for the last 3+ years… though not without a price to pay. I just learned that he has been taking from our son’s savings… whatever monies that were gifted to him from birth and whatever other events. He had always counted his overtime as part of his gross income… GROSS MISTAKE. My parents always advised me NOT to do that because, as you may know, overtime is not a given, guaranteed factor. I tried to tell him that… but you KNOW how men always listen to their wives?…. NOT Anyway, now we are feeling the financial stress of 6 months without nary a scant bit of OT. Not a big thing for a single guy, but a very big thing for DH who is struggling to maintain our survival in a lower middle class (higher low class?) life.
We have nothing to show for ourselves except our beautiful son, and now I am feeing as my immigrant ancestors must have felt… putting all their eggs into their children, hoping they could make something more out of themselves. So that their children might succeed where they had not.
So yes, I think I’ll have to do this thing that scares the crap out of me.