Revisiting “Feeling Chastised”

The following was written a few years back. It was written more about the discourse  within the autism community and not about autism awareness or acceptance. In actuality, I suppose it could be looked at as a piece supporting  the awareness, acceptance and respecting the differences in the ways parents view autism. There is far too much hostility.

I am re-posting now, in this, the month of April. With all of the added awareness and supposed acceptance that has taken place over the last few years, really not too much has changed in this, our little corner of the world, or in my friend’s corner of the world. Not very much at all.

If anything; things have become more difficult….

Dear Abby – Feeling Chastised in New England

Let's all celebrate

Let me just begin by saying that since I began writing this blog I have had the pleasure of meeting a few Autistic Adults.  They are amazing individuals that do a great deal to raise awareness about autism. I “speak” with one in particular often enough to consider him a friend. He is a wonderful human being and it makes my day to “talk” with him or just read his posts. He is truly an inspiration to parents of children with autism, other teens and adults with autism. But above all that, he is a glowing example of the good things that can be found in today’s young adults in general. I don’t think of him as having autism, I think of him as my friend, plain and simple. I’m honored to have him as my friend.

My son’s autism or level of autism  is not like my new friends’. Autism affects each person differently.  Therefore, parents should not be made to feel inferior or chastised for their own beliefs. Everyone is different, everyone. There is no right or wrong when it comes to autism, just a lot of people arguing with each other, it seems.

Today I received this private message on my face book page from a friend of mine who is pretty much in the same boat as I am “level-wise”.

The fact that she did not feel comfortable posting it publicly, speaks volumes about the environment we find ourselves in with the hostility that she (and I) knew would have ensued had she posted it publicly.

(The following message is used with permission. The names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Dear Abby (Vickie)…I think I’m missing something. Why is it wrong to feel like I’ve lost something in having an Autistic son? Why are we supposed to not want a “cure” or something that helps them handle this world we live in a little better? I look at the video of Bob from birth to 18 months and there were signs, but he was still there. It was June of 1996 – he was 18 months old – all of a sudden he disappeared. He is lost to me. He will never have a normal life. He will constantly need care and supervision. There are many people that are on the much higher functioning side of the spectrum that can navigate the world today. Bob is not one of them. Why am I supposed to not want that to be different? People say you don’t miss what you never had – but I know what could have been. I know what life he could have had and now for sure will not. He will find happiness somehow; he will be as productive as his disability allows him to be. But the sky is not the limit for him. The opportunities for him are not the same as they are for my daughters. Why am I supposed to celebrate that? With all this  hullaballoo about celebrating autism over the last few months, I’ve been feeling like a minority. I think these kids are lost – lost to the life that could have been, lost to the possibilities that would have been. I feel they have a disability because they are “not able” to process and handle what happens in life the way others do. Why are we getting lost on the rhetoric? Am I missing something Vickie?

Feeling Chastised in New England

I have said this many times and in many different ways:

  • I celebrate my son as an individual
  • I celebrate my son because he is my son and I love him more than words could say.
  • I celebrate his accomplishments, no matter how large or small they may be.
  • I celebrate him because he is wonderful.
  • I do not celebrate his autism.

I write stories about my son because:

  • He is wonderful.
  • I’m very proud of him.
  • I’m very proud of his progress.
  • He makes me laugh every day.
  • He makes me smile every day.
  • He makes me worry every day.
  • I believe these stories shed a little bit of light on autism and the way his mind works – not all autism, but his.

I don’t believe anyone should be made to feel “less than”. I don’t consider my son “less than” but there is an issue. There is that life he could have had. Maybe it would not have been a better life, maybe it would have been, but at the very least he would have been able to understand it and navigate through it.

Celebrate Autism? I can’t do that. Maybe others can, but I cannot celebrate his level of autism.

Individuals should be celebrated, not the diagnosis.

Like “Feeling Chastised”, my son will never be able to live on his own. He will never be able to take care of himself. He will not know when/if he’s being taken advantage of. He does not understand danger or safety. He is verbal but really not able to communicate if something might be wrong.

My suspicion is that many of these parents in celebration have younger children or children that can function at a higher level than mine. They still have hope of great progress, and they should have hope, there is always hope. I still have hope for more progress, but living in the real world I know that even though he continues to make progress, none of the issues listed above will improve enough that I will not spend every day and night worrying about what will happen to him when I am gone. This is the stuff our nightmares are made of. What’s going to happen to them when we’re all done celebrating autism? Our “kids” are going to outlive us, people. Who’s going to take care of them? Will they be cared for in the same fashion that we have cared for them?  How drastically will their life change then? Think about it.

If I haven’t said it a hundred times, then let this be the hundredth; if I were to live forever, I would not change a thing about my son. He’s happy almost all of the time. He loves his life. He is in his own little happy world, but he won’t always be able to live in his own world, he will someday have to live in the real world. Then what?

When your child with Autism becomes an adult with Autism and your own mortality begins to slap you in the face, come back and talk to me then about this celebration we are supposed to be having.

Those of us with adult children that will not be able to live or navigate the world with out constant support, that have been in the trenches for many years, long before there was a “spectrum”, long before there were many of the services available today, deserve a little bit of respect and deserve to be able to voice our opinions as you are allowed to voice yours;  to want something more than a celebration.

I believe in raising awareness. I believe in trying to make people understand Autism. I believe that INDIVIDUALS and accomplishments should be celebrated. I also believe some of us need more than that.

My only wish is to be able to die in peace knowing my son will be okay…….

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“Hi, Mom! Did you have a nice day?”

only to dollars

Many of you may know that DC is obsessed with food. He has breakfast and he is already worried about lunch. After lunch we move on to:

“Dinner is later after that” he always seems to add “after that” when he talks about “later”.

He must give me his breakfast order before he goes to bed every night. There is never anything different about his order from one night to the next, but he feels compelled to tell me every night before he goes to bed.
There were a few times (very few) when DC forgot for one reason or another, to remind me of his breakfast order before he went to sleep. On those occasions, he came into my bedroom to wake me  up in the middle of the night so that he could give me his breakfast request.

Most days, when I get home from work DC does not even say hello. He gets his wallet, holds it open and says “Only two dollars”. This is his way of telling me that he wants money for lunch at work the following day (and for some reason, there always seems to be two dollars left in his wallet).
His only concern at that moment is his lunch the next day.
My reply is usually “Hi, Mom! How are you? Did you have a nice day?” – at this point he realizes that he did not even say hello before asking for money, he says hello, but then gets  right back on the subject at hand – his wallet.

We run through this same routine very often…..

…………………..until the other day, that is.

DC came over to me, with open wallet in hand, as usual.

But instead of telling me that he only had two dollars, he ran through every greeting he could come up with all in one sentence as if he was just trying to get it all over with. It was such a monotone, run-on delivery, that it took me a second to understand what he doing:

“Mom, how are you feeling, hello, nice day, yes, nice to see you, good day, happy, hi there”

Then when he ran out of random greetings……

“Mom, only two dollars”

 

Just Who Is This DC That You Speak Of ? – One Year Anniversary

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary

It has now been full year since I began writing this blog. Over the course of this year, a few friends have asked, among other things, why I call my son “DC”.
DC is not my son’s name. This is confusing to my friends because I do post this blog on my personal face book page. Obviously my friends on my personal page know my son’s name, they know our last name, they even know where we live. BUT because this blog is public, and is shared on a number of accounts and networks via WordPress (not via my personal page), I do not use his real name, our last name or our location.

My personal face book page is set for “friends only”. Nothing I write about is anything that my friends don’t know or haven’t heard about DC. I am very proud of my child, as I am sure my friends are very aware of. 😃

As for my other accounts; they are set all up using my first name only, no location. I am sure if one tried hard enough, they may possibly be able to figure out what state we live in, but really not much else.

My Instagram account is not only first name and no location, but it is also private. 95% of my followers and the people I follow there are other autism parents and CharityMiles friends. Quite honestly, they are all wonderful people and I really would not have much of a problem divulging our location or last name to most of them. A few do know Dc’s name and that is fine with me. There I see compassion, camaraderie and the support of each other, that I really don’t see anywhere else. We all seem to have different opinions, but we all seem to embrace our differences instead of attacking each other.

Another question that I am asked every so often is why I write a blog.

I never really intended to write a blog. My blogging began one day when I was writing an extremely long response to a blog post that I had just finished reading. After I hit “post” I decided that writing a response to this post on someone else’s blog was not going to make me feel better about the topic being discussed. I opened an account with a local on-line news publication and pasted the response I had just written onto a blog page and published. After a month or so and only a couple of posts; finding the local publication blog not-so-very user-friendly, and because it was local, I felt I could not share it anywhere else and still remain somewhat anonymous,  I moved to Word Press. I was so worried that I would never have enough to say to sustain a blog, but I went for it anyway. It turns out that I do have a lot to say. I don’t know how many people care to hear what I have to say, but I say it anyway.

Originally, I did not even post the blog on my personal Face Book page, only on my “community page”. Before posting it there, I went through 3 years of posts on the community page and it’s accompanying website , deleting anything that could be considered too “local” of a story.  I wanted to be sure that our location was not too apparent AND that the names and locations of the people featured in these now deleted local stories were also not on display.

(I have just discovered that there is a way to post local news and events on that community page to a specific audience, so I can begin posting local events and news again.)

I did begin posting the blog to my own page at the urging of a friend. No, I am not naïve enough to think that private postings or ‘friend only’ postings are really 100% private, but I have taken all of the precautions I feel that I can and I am always looking for others.  I will continue to call my son, DC and write about “a local theater”, a “local college”, a “local baseball league” or a “local ice cream shop”.

I read many blogs as well. Many of the blogs that I do come across are written by parents of younger children. Most are wonderful and very informative. There are many that I absolutely love,  but I always feel that the parents of adult children do not get to have an equal voice in this community. We are cast aside, or worse, berated. I am not in any way saying my blog is the voice of parents with adult children, I don’t think there are enough people that actually read it, in the first place, to even consider that, but I am ONE voice and ONE opinion in a sea of blogs and opinions that do not seem to make room for the parents that have been at it  for many years now.

I was very tired of being preached at by those who have not reached this point in their child’s life and constantly being told how to feel. I understand where they are coming from and in turn I believe they can or should try to understand where I am coming from. Whatever else you might have to say about me, I  have done a good job of raising DC.  Of course there was help along the way but as a single mother going on 21 years now, most of it fell to me alone.  I truly resent the fact that we, as parents are being made to feel as if after all these years,  we’ve got it all wrong.

I’m hoping a little insight into what comes after “school age” may go a long way in getting people to stop and think before making blanket decisions, accusations and statements that may not affect their child the same way it will affect mine (more about this at another time). There has got to be some give and take. Everything is not good for everybody.

Having said that, I have learned quite a bit from other parents by virtue of this blog. I don’t always agree with every opinion and my readers, I’m sure, do not always agree with me, but I truly believe writing this blog and getting some of the feedback has helped me see some issues a bit differently or at least why some parents see things the way they do. I can only hope I can and will be afforded the same courtesy; and so far I have.

Life tends to be very different when your child “ages out”of the school system and at other times, it is exactly the same. When you are waist deep in school, therapies, programs and IEPs, what happens after 21 is not high on your priority list. Of course it is a priority and of course it is in the back of your mind but, the here and now takes precedence. There are so many new and different issues to consider, and it all comes to hit you in the face much faster than you expect. Your views and opinions can change dramatically from what you hoped for when they were young and what you hope for now. Your life changes drastically, while not changing at all.

In an earlier blog I wrote:

“If I were to live forever, I would not change a thing about my son. He’s happy almost all of the time. He loves his life. He is in his own little happy world, but he won’t always be able to live in his own world, he will someday have to live in the real world. Then what?”

He will, someday have to live in the real world without me.

So I will keep writing with the hope that a few people might read and think a little bit about the future. I would never say that spreading awareness is not a good idea, it IS definitely necessary, but…..

all of the awareness in the world is not going to keep DC safe and happy when I am no longer here to protect him…..

 

 

Don’t Forget to Call Mom

Don't forget to call Mom

Don’t forget to call Mom

There are many times, even at this point that I really do not know if DC really understands certain things or if he is just going through the motions; the motions that were taught to him. There are other times that I am surprised to find that he really does understand, even if he is using one of his scripts to communicate it. It is not always easy to tell the difference. I don’t think it will ever be easy, but I do not think that using the telephone will ever be one of those things he completely understands.

I have worked long and hard over the years but DC still has a hard time using the telephone. To begin with, he just doesn’t like it, he doesn’t. When he was younger, he couldn’t even bear to have the receiver on or near his ear. He has always had a very low tolerance for anything having to do with his ears, so using the telephone or just listening to someone that wanted to say hello to him was just unbearable for him.

Secondly, as I stated above,  I really do not think he understands it completely. If he dials incorrectly, he doesn’t understand that he should hang up and dial again, he just keeps dialing. I finally got him to the point where he could tolerate the phone on his ear. He has memorized our phone number, but as he doesn’t always understand the question “What is your phone number”, I don’t know if he would be able to give it to anyone if he needed to. He does know how to call me.

He is still not all that thrilled about using the telephone, though. If he does get a call, it has to be brief. When he’s had enough, he will say nothing and just hand me the phone. I have to tell the party on the other end (who is usually still talking to him, not knowing he’s passed off the call to me) that DC is done talking. Not very long ago when he was talking to his father, he handed me the phone when he decided he was finished, as usual. I handed it back to him and said “DC, you have to say good-bye to people on the phone when you are finished.”

He took the receiver back and said “Goodbye to the people”

He does have an iPhone now. He knows how to use it. He is very good at using iTunes and YouTube, but still the phone part of it is difficult. He is supposed to call me on my cell phone when his transportation arrives to pick him up from work; he does, but it is a script.

“Hello Mom”

“Hi, DC. What are you doing?”

“I am going home Nowwww”

He says this the same way in the same tone, with the same emphasis on the “Ow” in “now” – every day.

“Did you have a good day?”

“Great”

“Okay, call me when you get home”

“Okay”

When he gets home he is supposed to call me from the house phone because I want him to know how to DIAL my phone and memorize my cell number as well.

He does call just about everyday. There were and still are a few days that he forgets and I have to call him. Hearing the phone ring, must remind him he has forgotten to call me so instead of just answering the phone, he picks it up and dials my number while I am on the phone, and then goes though his “at home” script. If for some reason it is not me calling him, the person on the other end gets the script and then he hangs up.

“Hi, Mom I am home”
“Hi DC, is Mrs. H there?” (she has already texted me to let me know she is there)
“Yes”

“What are you going to do today?”
“Go to ____” (enter, Library, Track or whatever  activity depending on what day of the week it is)
“That sounds like fun. Okay, I will see you in a little while”
“Okay, Goodbye Mom.”

He does not understand voicemail or answering machines, even though I let him listen to mine and try to explain what it is, I just can’t seem to come up with an explanation that he can understand. If he does leave a message on my phone, I don’t think he realizes he is leaving a message, he just goes through his script and hangs up, thinking I must not have a lot to say that day???

He will not use the phone spontaneously. This is something I really want him to understand. I want him to think to call me if something is wrong or if he happens to get lost or for any reason at all. I want it to occur to him if something goes wrong, that he should use his phone. I really am not sure that it would occur to him. I’ve gone over this many times, but as many times as he says he understands, I don’t think he does. He has never called anybody spontaneously, he has just about never asked to call anyone. After all this time, he still only uses the telephone when he is told to, to call me from his transportation and to call me when he gets home.

We’ll keep working on it….

A few days ago, I had to leave work early for a dental appointment and then a doctor appointment. The appointments went quickly, so I was home before his aide arrived to meet him after work. He called me from the car as usual. When he arrived home both his aide and I were there. I was talking to Mrs. H in the kitchen. DC came in, he said hello to me and Mrs. H and gave me a hug.

Mrs. H and I were still talking in the kitchen, while DC went into the living room, I thought to have his snack “alone” (he likes to be alone when he has his snack).  My cell phone, which was charging right in front of the phone in the living room, started to ring and I said “I’ll bet he’s calling me”.

From the kitchen, I asked:

“DC, what are you doing?”

“Hi, Mom. I’m home” (from the living room talking into the phone, probably to my voicemail).

When he is doing what he was told to do, I try not to do anything to throw him off or make him forget to call me the next time, so I went with it.

“Is Mrs. H. there?”

“Yes”

“What are you going to do today?”

“Go to the Li-ber-ary”

“Okay, I’ll see you in a minute”

“Okay, Mom, see you later!” and he came back into the kitchen.

Yes, Rule – followed……

but there is still some work to do………………….

Dear Abby – Feeling Chastised in New England

Let's all celebrate

Let me just begin by saying that since I began writing this blog I have had the pleasure of meeting a few Autistic Adults.  They are amazing individuals that do a great deal to raise awareness about autism. I “speak” with one in particular often enough to consider him a friend. He is a wonderful human being and it makes my day to “talk” with him or just read his posts. He is truly an inspiration to parents of children with autism, other teens and adults with autism. But above all that, he is a glowing example of the good things that can be found in today’s young adults in general. I don’t think of him as having autism, I think of him as my friend, plain and simple. I’m honored to have him as my friend.

My son’s autism or level of autism  is not like my new friends’. Autism affects each person differently.  Therefore, parents should not be made to feel inferior or chastised for their own beliefs. Everyone is different, everyone. There is no right or wrong, when it comes to autism, just a lot of people arguing with each other, it seems.

Today I received this private message on my face book page from a friend of mine who is pretty much in the same boat as I am “level-wise”.

The fact that she did not feel comfortable posting it publicly, speaks volumes about the environment we find ourselves in with the hostility that she (and I) knew would have ensued had she posted it publicly.

(The following message is used with permission. The names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Dear Abby (Vickie)…I think I’m missing something. Why is it wrong to feel like I’ve lost something in having an Autistic son? Why are we supposed to not want a “cure” or something that helps them handle this world we live in a little better? I look at the video of Bob from birth to 18 months and there were signs, but he was still there. It was June of 1996 – he was 18 months old – all of a sudden he disappeared. He is lost to me. He will never have a normal life. He will constantly need care and supervision. There are many people that are on the much higher functioning side of the spectrum that can navigate the world today. Bob is not one of them. Why am I supposed to not want that to be different? People say you don’t miss what you never had – but I know what could have been. I know what life he could have had and now for sure will not. He will find happiness somehow; he will be as productive as his disability allows him to be. But the sky is not the limit for him. The opportunities for him are not the same as they are for my daughters. Why am I supposed to celebrate that? With all this  hullaballoo about celebrating autism over the last few months, I’ve been feeling like a minority. I think these kids are lost – lost to the life that could have been, lost to the possibilities that would have been. I feel they have a disability because they are “not able” to process and handle what happens in life the way others do. Why are we getting lost on the rhetoric? Am I missing something Vickie?

Feeling Chastised in New England

I have said this many times and in many different ways:

  • I celebrate my son as an individual
  • I celebrate my son because he is my son and I love him more than words could say.
  • I celebrate his accomplishments, no matter how large or small they may be.
  • I celebrate him because he is wonderful.
  • I do not celebrate his autism.

I write stories about my son because:

  • He is wonderful.
  • I’m very proud of him.
  • I’m very proud of his progress.
  • He makes me laugh every day.
  • He makes me smile every day.
  • He makes me worry every day.
  • I believe these stories shed a little bit of light on autism and the way his mind works – not all autism, but his.

I don’t believe anyone should be made to feel “less than”. I don’t consider my son “less than” but there is an issue. There is that life he could have had. Maybe it would not have been a better life, maybe it would have been, but at the very least he would have been able to understand it and navigate through it.

Celebrate Autism? I can’t do that. Maybe others can, but I cannot celebrate his level of autism.

Individuals should be celebrated, not the diagnosis.

Like “Feeling Chastised”, my son will never be able to live on his own. He will never be able to take care of himself. He will not know when/if he’s being taken advantage of. He does not understand danger or safety. He is verbal but really not able to communicate if something might be wrong.

My suspicion is that many of these parents in celebration have younger children or children that can function at a higher level than mine. They still have hope of great progress, and they should have hope, there is always hope. I still have hope for more progress, but living in the real world I know that even though he continues to make progress, none of the issues listed above will improve enough that I will not spend every day and night worrying about what will happen to him when I am gone. This is the stuff our nightmares are made of. What’s going to happen to them when we’re all done celebrating autism? Our “kids” are going to outlive us, people. Who’s going to take care of them? Will they be cared for in the same fashion that we have cared for them?  How drastically will their life change then? Think about it.

If I haven’t said it a hundred times, then let this be the hundredth; if I were to live forever, I would not change a thing about my son. He’s happy almost all of the time. He loves his life. He is in his own little happy world, but he won’t always be able to live in his own world, he will someday have to live in the real world. Then what?

When your child with Autism becomes an adult with Autism and your own mortality begins to slap you in the face, come back and talk to me then about this celebration we are supposed to be having.

Those of us with adult children that will not be able to live or navigate the world with out constant support, that have been in the trenches for many years, long before there was a “spectrum”, long before there were many of the services available today, deserve a little bit of respect and deserve to be able to voice our opinions as you are allowed to voice yours;  to want something more than a celebration.

I believe in raising awareness. I believe in trying to make people understand Autism. I believe that INDIVIDUALS and accomplishments should be celebrated. I also believe some of us need more than that.

My only wish is to be able to die in peace knowing my son will be okay…….

Don’t Judge What You Don’t Understand

There is a convenience store in our town that my son and I stop in pretty regularly. The employees are very nice to him. One in particular seems to be very interested in him and his diagnosis and really goes out of his way to try to talk with him.

A few weeks back, there weren’t many customers so he began asking questions about him. I never mind when people ask questions; I’d rather they ask than stare or shy away from him.

One thing led to another and he began to tell me that they do not have the system that we have in his country. In his country the families take care of their disabled children. He proceeded to say (which I’m sure he thought was a compliment) that I take care of my son, but other customers who come in with disabled children and adults ask for receipts for what they are buying.

I really didn’t understand at first what one thing had to do with the other but he explained – “I ask them why they need a receipt and they tell me it is for the child/adult’s father or some company”.

In the first place, why would he ask anyone why they needed a receipt? And then why would anyone feel obligated to answer that question?

He proceeded to tell me again that, in his country, the families take care of their own children. He automatically made the assumption that if someone else is with your child, a staff person, or a person from a group home that the parents are not taking care of their own children!

Immediately the pointing finger came out (I really have to learn to control the “finger wagging”) and I said “Oh, no. Do not judge people because someone else happens to be with their child at that time!”

I tried to explain to him that, in my case, my son has been with me and I have done just about everything for him all of his life but now I too have staff people with him a couple of hours every day after he gets home from work because he needs to learn to be independent from me.  I don’t like it at all, but I know it’s the best thing for him. I’m always convinced that I am the biggest detriment to his independence.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to finish my speech as customers were coming in and I could see that he was getting uncomfortable because he thought he’d offended me, which he did. When people make those kinds of assumptions whether it be about me or not, I DO take offence. I suppose I just could have let him believe that I was not one of those “awful” people pawning their child off on someone else; he would never know any different, but I just couldn’t let it go.

Partially, I think I react that way because I DO feel guilty when I am not with him. All I was looking for when all of this began was some type of program after school so I didn’t have to continue cutting my hours at work to make it home before he arrived from school. I’ve been a single mother for nearly 20 years, and I have to work; fulltime, always have, it’s only me supporting us.  What I ended up with was staff hours for life skills, community, and activities. And yes, I know it’s the best thing for him, but after 3 years with this staff (they are wonderful, don’t get me wrong), I still feel guilty.  His staff is only here from 3pm – 5pm, and then they accompany him to some night activities as well – activities that I would normally have taken him to. But,  I feel like I’m being judged by people, my neighbors that weren’t living here all of the years that it was just me and just people in general who have no idea what this is all about, like the man in the store.

I wanted to ask the cashier just what happens to the children is his country when the families are gone or too old to take care of these children? They’ve been sheltered all of their lives, what becomes of them? How to they adjust to having no one?  I don’t know anything about his country, I don’t even know what country he is from, but I feel that here, at least in this house, we are not trying to shelter our kids by just keeping them safe and out of the way and never learning or experiencing life, the best life they can have.  I  am hoping to help him become as independent as he can be and if that means letting someone else take the reins for a couple of hours a day, then that’s what I am going to do.

I know he’s not a bad person and I was sorry I made him feel uncomfortable, but I am really hoping to finish this conversation one day and hopefully make him see that he should not judge what he does not understand and maybe even change the way he perceives  “these parents” (myself included)…… ……….