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Light Peeks Through the Darkness


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Yeah.  I’ve got stuff to be grateful for.  If you read some of my recent posts, you know that I’m between a rock and a hard place trying to find a job.  The rock in the hard place is me.  The hard place is between two circumstances of life.  Job vs. Jobless.

JOB:  Trying to be short on the back story, we live without any income and without pubic assistance. It’s getting down to the point of not knowing if we can make the rent next month. Tight and Tough.  I need to find a job for money and possibly, if I can manage it, health benefits.

JOBLESS:  Being jobless would mean that I’d have all the time in the world to advocate for my son’s education. It’s been non-stop and has spilled over into the summer.  I thank God that I am not working… and feel guilty about it.

GRATEFUL:  I’m so grateful for the free time I have to do that advocating thing.  My boy has been thriving at his school and I feel so grateful for every single person at that school who works with him.  It seems that next year he will be pulled out of this school, and away from all the people he knows and who know him.  I’m so grateful that I have the luxury of being able to jump right on this thing and I’ve been talking to people, and wrote a letter to request they make an exception for him.  See, they decided to build another school in our area and needed to fill it up.  My son was not moved to this new school, but to a school in between OUR school and the new school.  I guess what it is, is that I don’t want to take that chance and risk all the progress we’ve made, and start over at a different school.  SO MANY changes for him to deal with, and so many people he will never see again.

It’s just too God damned much.  Also, we fought for things at that school like forming a social skills group, a Lunch Buddy group, both of which are designed to teach the kids appropriate social behavior and create scenarios where they have to interact with one another.  They’ve gotten older students in the school to help out with this.  It’s HIS community.  Also, we, the parents, have been able to successfully work with the professionals at the school.  We’ve been able to, I think, change how they see the autistic child.  We’ve seen progress in this area, and though they really need to finance this, they are actually suggesting/urging to their professionals to take workshops in autism.  That’s a big freaking step.  I’ve talked to them about how the kids get labeled and how they had, indeed, labeled an incident incorrectly because they were not familiar enough with what autism is.

They know that we are involved parents.  We care.  We volunteer.  We support them, take their advice, they listen to us and sometimes take our advice on how to handle our son.  I mean, it’s been working!  We’re a team!  Keep calm. Yeah, I know. So can you see how grateful I am that I am jump on this right away?  If I were working, I wouldn’t even know about this switching of schools until I got the letter right around a week before school starts.  I’m so grateful for the professionals at that school who have listened to me and have spoken to me.

Aside from the above, and of which I can go on and on, another thing I wouldn’t be able to do if I were working would be taking SPAN (Statewide Parent Advocacy Network) workshops.  I’ve been learning a lot about our rights and the laws.  I am still learning how to approach IEP meetings and interacting with the professionals at school in an effective way, a non-threatening way.  Anything having to do with advocacy for the special needs child.  Just being exposed and networking with the professionals and other mothers has given me more confidence than I ever thought I’d have.  I’m more assertive which surprises the heck out of me and I like it!  Another thing I’d really like to do is bring the awareness up to education of the school professionals and also the school body, the neurotypical kids. Ignorance breeds fear.  Fear breeds violence.

So yeah.  For right now, I can see some light in the darkness… and it’s pretty amazing.

Follow up to Yesterday’s Post


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I got so caught up in my own experience with being bullied (This is a Bully Free Zone).  Usually I just have a burst of writing, then publish right away without editing and refining my thoughts.  But where this would normally lead to is my hopes for my child, new to the public school system in an urban area.  Sometimes I see my son as a fragile flower… yeah, that’s me; but it’s definitely a product of also knowing that school aged kids can be with most ferocious of tormentors and I worry about that.

We had an incident this year with bullying, where the adults of the school did not properly, nor thoroughly, assess this incident to appreciate the full story.  What they saw were two kids who accosted my child, one holding his hands behind his back and one punching him in the stomach.  What would that tell you?  These were kids from my son’s second grade class.  They also saw my son laughing, so they presumed that they all were playing.  THAT turned my stomach.  Autistic kids cannot read or present appropriate facial expressions or body cues.  The teacher in the lunchroom did not have the training to recognize this and so she thought that they all were playing.  After I got done flipping my wig, I got ahold of the principal and blasted his ear on the need for training for ALL personnel who come into contact with my kid.  I explained to him what happened and that I had extensively questioned my son and concluded that this was not playing.  As an outcast during my school years, I realized that he, who also does not have many friends, must have been happy to have attention from his peers, in ANY form, hence his laughter.  Also, he did not realize what had actually happened.  My son said that they thought he was a “robber.”  It took several separate questioning sessions to get out of him that he was not playing with them in the first place and that their actions HURT him.  I think he still was totally clueless as to what had transpired.  Thank GOD that the school acted accordingly in that they have zero tolerance for those actions whether it was play or not play.  These boys are now separated in the classroom.

Getting back to educating our teachers.  Yeah, does that sound like an oxi-moron?  It does to me.  These school districts do not want to pay for the continuing education and training for the teachers in their schools. Our principal is suggesting or urging our teachers to get training in autism.  It may not seem like it, but it’s a pretty BIG damn step!  At the very least, he is acknowledging the need, but sadly not ready to have the district pay for it.  Hopefully, they will have more of these workshops included when teachers have to go for their “inservices”.  It’s a day when the district’s kids have the day off, but teachers must go to these, I want to say, conventions and take workshops.

Plain and simple.  I do not want my kid bullied.  My rant of yesterday stems from that; but as a mother of one, I feel for all children, not just my own.  Forget about No Child Left Behind.  NO CHILD SHOULD EXPERIENCE THE PAIN OF BEING BULLIED, period.  My heart is bursting.

This is a Bully-Free Zone


Two recent things are prompting me to write this post on a subject that I’m pretty sure I’ve written about before (though I can’t find my post) and that is “bullying”, more specifically, my own. First, as I sat down to check out what was going on with my facebook friends, a familiar name jumped out at me. It was in my high school’s group page and it was the son of an old teacher of mine. It was pretty simple. He wanted her old students know that she was alive and kicking and that she was on facebook; and he invited us, her students, to come to her page and say “hi”. That one post might just have the most comments of the group and it’s only been a few days. Secondly, yesterday a read a post from Single Dad Laughing, “Memoirs of a Bullied Kid” and so many things he talked about happened to me. My story is a bit different, but all the main ingredients were there for me to resurrect my own writing. Oh yes, we try to close our eyes and get on with our lives, but it always comes back every so often to remind us from where we have come and it’s not pretty.

It “officially” started in first grade, but had its beginnings in kindergarten only because there were some kids who shared those grades with me. The torment lasted through to my eighth grade graduation. I went to the Catholic school of my own parish, so you’d think that would be a pretty safe environment. Oh how wrong you’d be. I was always a shy child and hardly ever spoke. I had a terrible stutter and it was literally painful to try to open it up to speak, let alone getting any words out, so I never spoke. Also, I could never speak up quickly enough with what I wanted to say and before I knew it, the conversation was way past, the topic forgotten and my thoughts left unsaid.

One day in June, it was my birthday. My mother bought me a wrist corsage to wear to school. I was bursting with happiness and couldn’t wait to get to school. I remember sitting at my desk and one of the girls wanted to know where the cupcakes were… and the kids around me were not happy about the missing birthday cupcakes. From then on, it was down hill. The verbal abuse was surrounding my weight. I’m sure my mom or grandmother would’ve made them but I’m not sure if they even knew that was the custom. From that day, I became the butt of every joke and prank and this was unending for eight years of the most delicate and impressionable years of my life. I got beat up, verbally taunted, pushed, laughed at, scribbled upon with pens. I got called all the fat names in the book, and it didn’t help that my name could be transformed into the decidedly non-compliment, “D-Bra.”  Yet, when I look back at photos from that time, I realize that I was NOT a fat kid. All those years I believed what I heard and thought I was fat and so, I did become fat, resigned to that imagined fact of fat.

I experienced almost everything Dan of Single Dad Laughing did. I had the vengeful, hateful fantasies about bad things happening to those kids and I had suicidal thoughts. I withdrew into my own little world of reading, drawing and music, in particular Barry Manilow. His music, and I’ve said it before, literally saved my life. I felt his songs reach my heart. Also, do not make fun of a good Catholic upbringing that says that if you kill yourself, you are condemned to hell. This was probably the only reason I didn’t actually kill myself. I laugh at the irony now because I’m not even sure that hell exists. It was a creation of man in medieval times with the intention of controlling the general and ignorant, uneducated public. My brain cannot even do a quote here, but believe me.

One time I went to the bathroom at school, forget what grade, and came back to a tack on my chair. I saw it and my decision to sit on it so that they would know it did didn’t hurt, was the worst thing I could have ever done. The outburst of laughter was so loud, yet the teacher said nothing let alone investigate what caused such a disturbance. That tack hurt me something terrible and I did manage to sit, and remain sitting fort he rest of the class, like it wasn’t there, which probably fueled the idea that I had so much fat that insulated me from feeling it…. ugh.

Okay I could go on and on with details and really don’t want to, but this particular one was a catalyst of sorts to put some of the hate and aside and let go of decades of hurtful baggage I carried. In my late thirties I met some of my classmates at a reunion I dragged myself to, and they acted like those childhood events never happened or maybe they were too ashamed? Nah. So, I thought to myself that I was walking around with all this hate, resentment and with the “victim attitude,” and the people who caused my misery were walking around, living their lives as happy as you please, with no acknowledgement, not a single thought of how they killed my life. What troubled me the most was that these people seemed like nice, good people… with a notable exception of one guy who is still has the meanest streak, though he says that he is a “good” guy now… um.. nope. I see how he treats other people and know the kind of guy he still is.

I think back to the priests, nuns and lay teachers who must have known what was going on… they KNEW, and did nothing. Oh, I know that they knew because at one point, my parents went to the school to complain and nothing was done. I was one of those kids who LOVED school and the learning, yet dreaded every single day of it. I had nobody. CATHOLIC school. I wonder if these religion=pushing people ever think of the disservice, the blatant contradiction of their faith. I was betrayed by the very people outside of my own family who were the most trusted. My family trusted them… but let’s not get into what my own family did or didn’t do to help me with this situation. At one point, they tried to teach me how to fight, but I was a very passive kid who shrunk in the face of a confrontation.  I remember a scene from the 1985 movie, “Back to the Future” when in 1955 the painfully shy, picked on George, with his arm trembling, makes a fist and delivers a whollop of a punch to Bif who was in the process of sexually molesting his future wife Lorraine.  I identify with that scene so much, but it was only a fantasy.  I Imagined myself hitting my bullies with all my anger, rage and frustrations packed into that single, well planted punch.

At least I know, eventually the school administration found out what was going on, if they didn’t know already, because I got in trouble for fighting and got detention. This was a predominantly Irish parish and we Italians were the outcasts, or so my mother described enough as such to justify herself not getting involved with the church or school. Oh, I also remember, and now have as a facebook friend, a girl from school who tried to teach me how to fight. I remembered her kindness through the years.  She didn’t seek to make friends with me then, but had enough compassion and sought to help me in the way she knew best.

But this brings me to the facebook revelation that one of my teachers, 91 or 92 now, is on facebook.  That brought back memories of a kind and compassionate teacher who, at that time, was a mother and maybe a grandmother, or soon to be one.   Mrs. Ann Strazza, my 5th grade math teacher.  I remember her telling me of her story of when she met her husband.  She did ask what was bothering me, but I told her of my fear of never having a boyfriend… HA… I could not tell her the truth, but it was part of the truth anyway.  I remember her advising my parents to give me chores at home, structure.  So, aside from making my bed, I now had to do household chores of washing/drying/putting away dishes, dusting, vacuuming, washing the bathroom… Whew, at least I shared these with my sister who, in the grade behind me, got caught up on the chore bandwagon.

All these memories coming back like a flood just serve to remind me of how hard I have buried them behind the back of my mind.  I don’t think of these things now, but I’m positive the effects haunt me in some way from time to time in just how I live my life.  Thankfully, during the summer of my graduation from that school and before high school I realized that I was going into a new school where nobody would know me.  I could be anyone and nobody there would know me from before.  That thought gave me the courage to look forward to a new era of my life.  That courage was so strong that I actually crossed a picket line to get into the school on the first day.  My mother begged me not to go, as other parents in our neighborhood stopped their kids from going; but I was resolute… I. WAS. GOING.  and I did.  Slightly discouraging, though, things did not change much for me socially.  I was still painfully shy and felt it hard to talk to anyone.  I was still the same plain jane, wore no makeup or fancy clothes.  HA.  The one time I wore a dress, my Spanish teacher awkwardly tried to render me a compliment and told me that I had “nice ankles”… WTF ?  Yeah.  I was still overweight and maybe she was trying to compliment me but could not other than noticing I had slim ankles.  Maybe she was surprised by that.  The major thing, though, was that I was not afraid to go to school.  I looked forward to it every day and when I was “periodic”… (love that word and swiped it from lovable Wendy Williams) I did not stay home like my sister and so many other girls.  It was horrible, but for me, I valued learning more than the pain and discomfort of the monthly.

Gotta give a shout out to Wendy Williams…. I love your show! I never thought I’d watch you for more than the first time because I consider myself serious and a lover of the cerebral (well, which means that I’m not drawn to girly talk) but you have grown on me something fierce. I love your personality. I love how you just speak your mind and never in a nasty way. You are really the only tv personality today who is vivacious and projects a love for life and fun that refreshes me whenever I watch the show.

The end.

Water Gives Life


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.

Autism: The Life 2012


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?

What a Day, and Still Grateful


Okay so today I had an Evaluation Planning meeting at school because to change an incorrect Eligibility Catagory, another evaluation needs to be done.  So we met today to plan what tests are going to be used.

So it was going along great, with me managing to adequately articulate what my son’s needs are and my concerns.  I advocated for a personal assistant and had favorable input from the teachers, and we even got him placed into a “pilot” social skills group being formed for Gabe and some other high functioning children in this class.  I really felt good.  I felt heard.  Amazing given a lot of the horror stories I’ve heard out there from the area.  I feel so grateful for this, these people who are making my transition from Mom 101 into Super Advocate Mom a seemingly easy one.  I say “seemingly” because I would be a fool to lower my guard and just trust everything at face value.  I’m never in the middle, I swing either totally one way or the other.  So, while I’m please with how this is going so far, I need to keep in the back of my mind to keep vigilant, ask questions… a lot of questions.  Get answers.

I’m sitting at the table, feeling prepared and in control.  I was dressed business casual, hair done, just the right amount of war paint makeup.  I mean, I felt realy good.  Suddenly I get side swiped from left field and went down hard.  Gabe’s special ed teacher asked me if Gabe had any friends outside of school, and friends at all.  Suddenly I was a bawling pile of oatmeal.  Sigh.  No, he doesn’t have any friends, no playmates.  This has been the situation from day one.  My husband and I are older parents and whatever friends we do have are our age with grown children.  My sister has grown children.  My brother has two daughters just the right age for Gabe, but they are out of state and inaccessible on an every day basis. I’ve been to a mom’s club before preschool started but I spent most of that time worrying about maybe my child hurting another child there and I never relaxed and never enjoyed the company of the other moms, well, most of the other moms. Then school started and I drifted away because we were not from the same areas. I chat up the moms at school, but none are from our grade and certainly none are moms of a special needs child.  Also, it seems as if everyone has such a hectic schedule.  So, I took the opportunity (again) at this meeting to talk of the need for getting these families to network together. The kids could be put into social situations, learning social skills, and the moms and pops can network, too.  At least I have the promise of the case manager to look into it and getting back to me.

The past three years we had our boy attend the local YMCA, but the one boy that Gabe spoke about, and I did attempt to get in touch with after getting an invitation to a party, and oh geez, didn’t see the invite until it was too late on Sunday night.  We still went out and got a gift and I called the mom to suggest a play date.  You have no idea what a big step this was for me, to reach out to another mom, out of the blue like that.  As it turned out, that this family was moving by the end of the summer, in a scant couple of weeks.  Can’t cut a break.

Yes, life and get crazy and I’m still getting used to mine; but I still find myself grateful.  Grateful that God has finally given me the words to be assertive because you can be dead sure that I will need this skill and I’ll need to be vigilant and persistent if I feel that I need to be.  This is my baby I’m talking about.  This is the pure joy in my life.  If he’s not happy, and obviously he’s not, I can’t sit on the sidelines and watch my precious boy be so sad and lonely, a feeling that I won’t wish on anyone.  He’s freaking lonely and that is eating me up inside.  I know what it’s like not to have a friend in the whole damn world.  I grew up without any friends.  My parents didn’t know what to do about it, not even sure if they “had” to do something about it, themselves.  While I know that I can’t pick kids off the street to be friends, I just HAVE to do something.

So, I have high hopes for this social skills group.  At least, my boy will have a chance and will learn how to make friends and how to keep friends.  What kinds of things are socially acceptable and what is not.  Yes, I have hope and I’m grateful for just that.  It’s a brave, new world out there and we’re all learning.

Love Child


I love a child with autism

Love Child
Never meant to be
Love Child
(Scorned by) Society
Love Child
Always second best
Love Child 
(Different from) Different from the rest…

…Love Child
Love Child
Never quite as good
Afraid, ashamed
Misunderstood

~Diana Ross & the Supremes

So, I was listening to this popular song from the sixties.  Most of my friends will know the one, and you kids out there, well, just go and google it… heh.

I couldn’t get over the images of labels, labels, labels.  I kept singing, “LOVE child, LOVE child….” and kept thinking about the labels.  Like what being a love child meant back then.  It meant that you were born out of wedlock.  It meant shame for the child and the whole family, mostly the innocent child and their mother.  This label that carries shame is “love”.  That doesn’t make sense.  Oh yes, I’m familiar with how loosely the word love (can I stop with the quotation marks, already) was used.  I’m also thinking about all the kids born inside of wedlock into loveless and dysfunctional homes.

How cruel we can be by placing labels on people…. and those labels run the gambit.  Fat, skinny, midget, dummy, freak, retard, bastard.  See, I’ve not even gotten into racist names.  This is a sensitive issue for me.  You see, I’ve had labels thrown at me my whole life.  I survived–physically.  But now, my son is in danger of being wrongly labeled and I’m walking on eggshells.  I’m wildly reaching for ideas on how to handle this issue when it comes up in the future.

My little guy is the most amazing, loving, affectionate, smart, witty (developing), opinionated… and I could go on and on.  AND, I’d like him to carry these labels, not ones that will find him.  I’ll just say he’s MINE and I’m feeling very protective right now over something that’s on the verge of happening.  He is six years old and in the next year or few years his peers will notice that there is something different about him.  I think they notice it now, but they are too young yet to get really mean… well most of them.

For those who do not know, my son is autistic.  He’s different, but not all that different.  He loves trains, Curious George, and Thomas and Friends.  He gets bossy like most every kid out there his age, and he gets disciplined when he needs to be.  He is learning very nicely how to share.  What is different is that his brain does not work like everyone else’s.  He learns differently than other kids do, too.  Where the problem lies is that there is no bridge between him and his peers, and getting this bridge built seems to be impossible.

Our goal is to keep our son integrated with the general ed kids.  He can learn social skills, but not in the way that other kids do, instinctually.  He needs to be taught that skill like any other subject in school.  His brain cannot deduct how to act in a social situation on it’s own by detecting the normal social queues given by his peers.  (what a mouthful)  While he does make attempts at social interaction, it’s not what would normally be expected by other children and as a result, they back away (or run) in confusion or they push him away, physically. I’ve heard other kids say that he’s weird and strange.  I’ve seen this happen and realize that other kids simply do not understand that Gabe is not being “weird”, his actions do not follow socially acknowledged rules, or whatever you want to call it. There is such a need for the formation of social skills groups in schools. Educators might see these groups as solely to benefit the special needs kids, and as such, probably deem it an unnecessary expense that would be geared toward just one or a few kids.  I believe that the general ed kids can benefit as well.  They also need to be taught about the autistic child, their classmates, and need to be shown that they can successfully have a friendship with these children. Recognition, acknowledgement, tolerance, acceptance.   All of these children, normal or not, share more similarities than differences.

You may be thinking that a social skills group has nothing to do with education and should not be the responsibility of the school system.  When there are no groups in our immediate area and the school system extends the school day by almost two hours, well, there is really no time enough to get to an outside group, get home, do homework, cook and eat dinner, and make sure the child gets to bed at a decent hour for the next day of school.  It’s totally impossible and unfair to a six year old.  That was from my personal perspective.  From the perspective of education, inadequate social skills WILL interfere with learning, and not just for him, trust me.   I’m getting reports from the inside.

Everyone I have spoken to at school, agrees with me about needing a group in the school setting.  This setting IS my son’s social setting.  Of course, however, the child study team is not happy about me bringing this up.  So, this will be my battle.  I will be a courteous warrior, training for my next battle.  There’s that Viking reference again.  Oh, reference slipped over from ravelry.

Ok… Not sure how to end this.  I don’t feel as if I’m finished.  I feel as if I have more to say, but it’s not seeping up to the surface… yet.

Reflections of the Past


  1. Told I was special, but was always getting hit or yelled at.
  2. 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.

My mom and I right before my first marriage. Amazingly she knew what the future held for myself and the whole family. We called her the witch because she intuitively knew a great many things.

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.

The second time was the charm.

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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).

RE-Introduction


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.

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