My Brother is Autistic?!

Autism Awareness

Autism Awareness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

April is Autism Awareness Month.  I don’t imagine there are a lot of people who don’t know what Autism is. Well, stereotypical Autism, anyway–not speaking or making eye contact, hand flapping, head banging, a penchant for numbers, and a nearly debilitating dependence on schedules.  While these traits are true for a lot of Autistic children, they’re not for all of them.  I think that’s why Autism Awareness Month is important.  People need to be aware that Autism is not a cut and dried diagnosis.  It’s a diagnosis based on symptoms and every child presents with different symptoms of varying degrees.  (See Autism Spectrum Disorder.)

Sometimes, the symptoms are so mild, they are missed by the general public and even some doctors (my experience with that here .) Sometimes, the symptoms are so mild, they are missed by the child’s own family members.

My son is Autistic, but very high-functioning.  He’s been medication and therapy free for years, is mainstreamed into a regular classroom, and was even tested for Advanced Placement at school.  Now that he’s almost 12, I’ve noticed some of his autistic behaviors returning, probably because of the onset of puberty.  While making dinner the other night, I casually mentioned to him that I noticed he was stimming lately and asked him if he thought he needed to go back to the doctor.

My 8-year-old daughter Molly, who was coloring at the kitchen table, perked up her ears at the word, “doctor.”  (Traumatized by her recent bouts with strep, no doubt.)  “Why would he have to go to the doctor?  What’s wrong with him?”

Mikey looked at her in his usual “oh my gosh you are such an idiot” way and said, “I have autism.  Duh.” and rolled his eyes.

Molly’s eyes got really big.  “Mikey is Autistic?!”

Mikey rolled his eyes again and shook his head.

I told her, “Yes, your brother is autistic.”

She was flummoxed.  “I did NOT know that.”  She sat there, wide-eyed, and I could almost hear the wheels turning inside her head.

My wheels were turning, too.  How could she not know that?  It’s not like it’s a secret.  I worried if maybe I didn’t talk about it.  Like I was ashamed or indifferent about it.

Molly had an ah-ha moment.  “Is that why Mikey runs funny?  And talks a lot?”

I opened my mouth to tell her to not be so mean, but Mikey beat me to it.  “Yes!” he said in his slghtly-offended-it’s-the-truth-but-you-didn’t-have-to-say-that voice.  Then, “Jeez,” quietly, in the “you are an idiot” voice.

The next day, Molly informed me, while I was making dinner (again) that she’d been watching Mikey.  “I think I see that Mikey’s autistic now.  I just never noticed before.”

Mikey, who was in the kitchen with us, rolled his eyes, and in his perfect tone that conveys contempt and incredulity with the ignorance of the world, or, in this case, his sister, said “YOU are really unobservant.”

And that’s what Autism Awareness Month is about.  Being more observant.  Recognizing Autistic behaviors when you see them.  Realizing that the “weird” kid in your class or at the park with your child has a very good reason for mumbling to himself or walking the perimeter of the playground.  Abstaining from offering unwanted and unwarranted advice on how to discipline a child to a mom whose child is having a full-blown meltdown in the Walmart aisle over what kind of cookies she put in her cart.  Listening politely as a kid goes on and on about airplanes or vacuüm cleaner parts.  Ridding yourself of any preconceived notions of what Autism is, and, instead, being aware of what it looks like.

Faces of Autism via deviantart.com

Photo courtesy of Aery-La-Bel at deviantart.com

For more information about Autism Spectrum Disorders, to become an Advocate, or to find ways you can raise money for Autism research, visit www.autismspeaks.org.

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read to be read at yeahwrite.me

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Spring “Break” for Moms

Spring Break.  The phrase that used to be synonymous with fun, sun, and idleness.  Before I had kids.

When I didn’t work outside the home, Spring Break meant long days with my overly excited children, trying to come up with ways to occupy their time so they wouldn’t kill each other or I, them.  The words, “Spring Break” struck fear into my very heart.

Now that I’m working, I was excited about Spring Break.  I looked forward to it, marked the days until I could sleep past 5:30, stay up late blogging or watching movies, go to the spa, get a haircut, go to the zoo.

Psshht.

Here it is, Friday, the last day of Spring Break and I haven’t watched a movie.  This is the only blogging I’ve done, I’ve barely been outside the house except to take my kids to the doctor, I didn’t get a massage or a haircut, and I didn’t take my kids to the zoo.

Side note:  NEVER NEVER tell your kids you’re going to take them somewhere over Spring Break.  Trust me, you’ll regret it.  Something will come up.  A hurricane in Disney World or your sewer will back up and you’ll have to spend the Lego Land money to have feces pumped out of your yard.  Instead, the night before you want to leave, let the kids stay up really late, wake them up early, give them a Benadryl, load them into the car, tell them you’re taking them to the dentist, and drive while they sleep. That way, if your engine blows up on I-95, they’re happy.  No tears or accusations on their part and you’ll be guilt free.  And if, by some miracle, you actually make it to your destination, you’re a hero!

Super Mom

So how did I spend my Spring Break?  Doing all the crap I can’t do while I’m at work.  Making phone calls, scheduling doctors’ appointments, getting my son a pair of glasses to replace the ones he lost months ago, and Spring cleaning.  Oh my, the cleaning.

You’d think that since 10 short months ago we literally had Nothing, I wouldn’t have much junk.  You’d be wrong.  We have loads of useless crap.  Aside from broken motherboards and pieces of old VCRs (mother of a 13yo geek-in-training–and proud of it, I might add), shoes I’ll never wear, purses I’ll never carry, and toys my kids outgrew three years ago,  there are the clothes.

When you have nothing, you take everything, especially clothes.  Well, I took too much.  Doing laundry for 7 people is time-consuming but imagine if everyone has enough clothes to last an entire month?  You know how, when you’re tired from working, you’re perfectly content NOT to do laundry as long as someone has something to wear to school the next day?  (No?  Well, maybe that’s just me.)  So I let the laundry ride.   This week, I had to catch it up.  As I was busy running around town to doctor’s offices and whatnot, I didn’t have time to fold it.  As usual, I dumped it on the couch, with plans to fold it all in one giant Laundry Party (that’s the only kind of party I’m having these days.  *sigh*)  Before I knew it, I had Mount Kilimanjaro in my living room.

Mt Kilimanjaro.

Mt Kilimanjaro. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got out the garbage bags.  I folded and tossed like a madwoman.  Before long I had 5 garbage bags full of clothes ready to go to the Goodwill and still too many clothes to fit in the drawers.  I eyed the kids’ piles of clothes and decided they really didn’t need 3 sets of yard work clothes.  I mean, they don’t even do yard work.  I reduced again.  At this point, I was tossing every 3rd shirt.  Hope they weren’t particularly attached to any of them.

Add to the laundry cleaning up after my highly inquisitive 2yo that likes to paint her body with fingernail polish and dump everything on the floor, especially the contents of salt shakers and shampoo bottles, and refereeing fights between all five kids and you have a very good idea what my Spring Break was like.

I can’t wait until Monday.

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How about you?  You do anything fun for Spring Break or was it as awful as mine?

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My 34th Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday.  I turned 34, perhaps the most boring age on the planet.  34 is no different from 33.  Now 35?  That’s an important birthday–officially on the downward slope to 40.

Oddly enough, I spent the night before my birthday making a birthday cake for someone else.  Even more odd, I took it to a birthday party that wasn’t for me or the person whose cake I was making.  It was a surprise party for my husband’s grandmother, who thought she was coming to my birthday party (though I suspect she wasn’t really buying that.)  It was very sweet because her daughter, who lives in China, came in for the occasion and she wasn’t expecting that.  The look on her face was priceless.

Anyway, the cake.  I know you want a picture.  I will oblige.  It is a “sewing” theme cake and one that I made up as I went along.  I think it turned out pretty cute.

Small tiered cake (single layers) with fondant buttons, needle and thread, ribbons, and ribbon roses.)
Sewing Cake with buttons and ribbon roses

Pink Lemonade Pound Cake with Lemon Buttercream Icing
fondant buttons and ribbon roses

Fondant Buttons and Ribbon Roses

As with all my cakes, I was up until the wee hours of the morning, decorating.  It doesn’t matter when I start a cake, I’m always up at 2 AM.   When I finally decided to go to bed, my sick little girl woke me up, crying, because her ears hurt.  By the time I got her back to bed, it was after 4:00.  I went to bed and then woke up at 8:00 and had to clean up some vomit.  My poor little sick girl had coughed until she gagged.

Not a great start to a birthday.

But it got better.

I got to eat some good barbecue at the birthday party.  And I got to watch my beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats beat the despised University of Louisville Cardinals.  Goodness, it felt good to admit I despise the Cards.  On Facebook, everybody is so polite and sportsmanlike about the whole thing.  I don’t get it.  What’s the point of a rivalry if there’s no hate and vitriol involved?  Just because some people start taking the trash talk personally, like they play for the team or something, I’m supposed to be “classy” and write things like, “Good game” or “Congrats UL for making the Final Four?”

Psshhhht.

What I really want to write is, “Neener, neener, neener.  We won and you lost because you suck and we don’t.”

Anthony Davis is ridiculous and I love this shot. That's right, UofL, just watch him go to work. There's nothing you can do about it, anyway.

Yeah, I know, I’m acting 4, not 34.  Whatever.  Shut up.  Point is, UK made it to the National Championship Game and I’m really excited because they’ll be playing Kansas.  Why?  Because writing UK-KU makes me happy because it’s symmetrical and I love symmetry.  Yeah, I know, I’m a weirdo.  Whatever.  Shut up.

So, that was my birthday.  Well, part of it, anyway.  I get to have a Part II–dinner out with the husband on Friday night while my saint of a mother in law keeps all five of the kids.

I am totally spoiled.

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