BIG POOL PLEASE

I’m sitting here listening to little man saying things like 

  • “Let’s go! Big Pool?”
  • “safety vest?”
  • “Swimmies on?”
  • “Mommy jumping in the pool?” 

And when I said “You go!” he did! And left my rump right there! 

That was a big change. I recently re-opened the pool and getting him into the big pool was akin to bathing a cat. Although he loved to be near it, he was petrified of being in it. Afterall, he was perfectly content with his small pool … until now.

Next thing I knew, he was fully and independently in the big pool.  Feet were kicking, hands were splashing and he was saying “SWIMMING?” 

And here I thought that weekly lessons were just for my mental health. 

I will never give up. I can’t. He’s  no longer afraid of the big pool. 😮

Lolipop

Errands with my kids should have its own sound track. Like the one in JAWS. Or Houdini.

With Mr. Impulsive and Ms. BuysAlot, there’s never a dull moment and before we leave any store, everyone knows that his name is Nolan and hers, Natalie.

But I was focused that Wednesday afternoon. I needed to buy stop signs and bead locks and be back in time to post signs on the front yard tree, the side and pool gate all before re-installing the pool liner and getting to swimming lessons by 5pm. I was on a mission.

But the store had no stop signs and with Ms. BuysAlot already promised a return trip, it was off to the pool store next. And I almost made it out the door.

The exit. I could see it. And I had a pretty good chance too. Afterall, he was seated in the shopping cart. I had full control. Just push and ignore the screaming.

I’ve become proficient in the lost art of Excuse us and Thank you so much. They rolled off my tongue as we made it between cashiers to the exit.

I saw the display cases. I saw the lolipops. I braced for it. But since the store didn’t have what I came for, we are not getting on line.

“Lolipop?!” He said in his cute litttle suprano voice. And I thought, “Nice try buddy, but this autism mom is onto your 1-word requests.”

Gone are the days when I squealed in delight for a token word request. I’ve upgraded from silence, to paroting to token words and now I want full sentences. That’s right, I want full sentences or you get nothing.

But before I knew it, little hands were fimly gripping the display fridge, only fingers away from the lolipop stand. But I didn’t get what I wanted from him so #CueTheSoundTrackToTitanic, because he’s about to let go!

What more could he do? He was losing. I’m sure that he searched his arsenal of autistic boy tricks. And I’m sure that he thought he found one because he said … “I want lolipop, please”

In a full sentence, complete with please. And by golly, my heart inflated, my eyes closed as I took in a deep cleansing breath.  I smiled, widely, with the cart still moving forward, and praised him.

“Wow Nolan. Great job using your words! I love that!”

And then it happened.

He giggled, looked at me and said “You love that. You love that.”

I stopped dead in my tracks.

I don’t know the grammatical term for that but by golly, it was not echolalia. Did you see it? Did you see it? He didn’t parot me. He flipped the I to YOU. He processed my sentence! My little autistic man knew that I felt something and that referring back to me meant flipping the sentence around, and then expressing it! I nearly cried with the overwhelming thought of the doors in language now opened to him.

Oh lolipop! We’ve made it to another milestone.

And out of my mouth came a solitary sentence to Ms. BuysAlot. It was “Get on line!”

Echolali This! 

This time, a year ago, I was deeply saddened by the thought that my almost 5 year old son with ASD would never be potty trained. It seemed hopeless.

He showed no initiative.

He would pee and poo anywhere at the most inopportuned time.

XL Diapers were getting too small.

I tried an app called “See me go potty” He loved it and for 2 years, he just stimmed on it. At one point, I stopped him from using the app. His stims on it were ridiculous.

Then one day, I decided that I would gladly replace the carpets yearly if it meant that he’d learn from me saying “Why you make peepee on the floor?”

AND BY GOLLY, THAT DID IT.

He went 6 month “echolali- ing” my scoldings.
Just imagine the cutest little suprano voice randomly repeating the phrase “NO PEEPEE ON THE FLOOR.”

As soon as he got home from school, he went STRAIGHT to briefs. (I invested in a few) I also invested in bleach and paper towels. 😉

BUT, he resisted going to the potty.

I even bought a potty seat his size with stairs leading up so he can sit comfortably. And nope!

Every other day, I gave up.
Every other day, I tried again.
EVERYDAY, I cleaned and scolded.

The scolding was PURPOSE-ful.
He’s smart. And what does not come naturally, he will learn. If he was constantly reaching for a hot stove, I’d scold while prepping the environment for safety so I treated it with the same concern and addressed each incident with “Did you make peepee on the floor? What is this? Is this peepee on the floor? Don’t make peepee on the floor.”

Even the dog understood and went scratching at the backdoor.

And although everything was already out, we went through the motions and went sitting on the potty for a minute, pulling up brief, flushing nothing and washing hands. Sometimes, I’d catch him midway and halt the process. But he would then just hold it, go through the motions with me until he returned to the carpet and finish what he started.

It was a royal pain in the you know what.

A YEAR LATER today.
He’s been 5 years old for 6 months now.
He’s been trained for 4 months now.
First peepee. Then poo.

He just walked to the bathroom. I lazily follow (because he also tries to wipe his bum. #nextchallenge.) He pulls down his brief, climbs his seat stairs, grabs his composition book, sits and waits.

Only an autusm mom would love the sweet smell of poo plopping gracefully in potty. SUCCESS! Fist pump.

My heart rises with glee.
Why? Because I STILL feel the pit of my stomach worry and get depressed about what he can’t do, so I take in this moment. And say a quick prayer for those who still endure.

“You did it buddy. Good job making poo in the potty”

Echolali THAT for the next 6 months!

#nevergiveup 

Sit Still, For Goodness Sake.

I just want to SCREAM THAT, sometimes. And I have! But it doesn’t work.

It does not work because he is autistic. And the frustrated tone used to get him to sit still only causes him to escalate, cover his ears or lose it! So I’ve had to developed some serious coping skills of my own, because the one thing that he does not do is sit … still.
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The jumping, climbing, hand flapping, running, squealing, repetitive nonsensical chatter, eloping and love for sidewalk curb balancing is only a taste of my everyday.

Many have thoughtfully said, “Oh! but that’s great!” And I try not to think negatively, like “Why? Because he’s not normal?” But I can’t blame them and I don’t. Why should the commenters be attacked while the sceptical starers get away with their looks. After all, they are as clueless as I was before I became an autism mom. But, oh, the perpetual comments.

So I educate others by describing my day as follows: I love love love a song called Danza Kuduro. The first time that I heard it, my hips moved involuntarily. So of course it’s on my walking playlist and it fuels my exercise. But one day, my son heard it and fell in love with it too. And now it plays over and over and over and over and over …. in my house. It’s my favorite song but I want it to stop.

The nice thing about that frustration is that I have control over making it stop. I can press stop. I can then hide the electronics that I pressed stop on.

I am still, however, searching for his magical stop button and though it can be heart breaking, I have decided that we will not hide or isolate to avoid the helpful suggestions that we get from normal people who are under the impression that I am a perpetual new mom who needs unsolicited advice. That too, gets tiring and I don’t have a stop button there either. But, I will take a smile. A nod. Or a hang in there.

Although he is 5, my most repeated sentences on any given day are “Come here” followed by “Stop that” and “Put that down.” He will stim flip a twig, a pen, fork, an action figure, the sister’s barbie doll or his bare hands. Heck, he would stim flip the dog if he could. Sigh…

The funny thing is that I’ve been scolded by the good hearted for being too overbearing and by the disciplinarians for not being strict enough. And don’t let any one see him eat sugar because, mom, there’s your reason. But it’s just not worth saying that he is a lifelong vegetarian, with a love for fruits or that he’s food picky but well nourished in the 97th percentile for height and weight, because fault finders would find fault with that too.

And I’ve been in the homes of folks who sincerely welcomed us and wanted to show us that they are open to having his difference in their home. They have said, “It’s okay. Leave him alone. Let him do his thing” And I look around the room and roll my mental eyeballs while silently saying ” You’re gona eat those words.”

I know that they have a point though. He could use a little less of my favorite sentences, so my home is a haven. I sometimes tell myself that I’ve replaced the living room coffee table with a railed jumping trampoline because I’m such a good mom. Or that the treadmill in the kitchen is only for my fitness. Or the fenced back yard is for the dog. But I lie.
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So, I feed his energies, in whatever phase he is in, as my way out. And then, when that doesn’t work, I take comfort in the words of my husband when he says “It can’t last forever.”

So, the ink markings on the leather of my new car and couch…eh, is that all you’ve got. The drum set banging in the living room … bring it! I bought it for you! Sneaking out the back door without your swim vest, pshhh! I got that. Pool is closed. Lessons for everybody!

I’ve have had to accept that it’s not natural for him to sit still. I’ve accepted that I will go broke trying to master “the next phase.” But, you know what, it was not natural for me to become a doctor either. It took someone to believe in me. To push me. To fuel my natural inclinations and train out the unacceptable behaviors. Thank you mom. You were persistent. Thank you Teacher Jon Sterngass. You didn’t care that I was different or not Jewish like you. You only saw potential and fueled it.

So, I will take note. And in my son’s case, since he learned to read by the age of 3 and knows the concept of ‘First this then that” and what it means to wait, his brilliance has given him away. So he will learn to sit still.

Till then, he will have outlets, at home and outdoors, to jump, climp, hand flap, run, squeal, repetitively chatter or try to elope because I’m watching and I have learned and changed my behaviors too.

I won’t worry. He will soon sit still during dinner and at church and I will sit by the curb and tell him when the car is coming.

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Be Relentless

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Has autism affected you? Here is the main thing to do when you haven’t got a clue? Be Relentless.

As a mom and autism mom, I know how frustrating it is that they don’t come with manuals. I was especially blind-sided by my son’s diagnosis. Autism? You mean like special needs? Like he will be looked at funny? Let me tell you. It hurt. It did. And I abnormally grieved for years.

But as with most traumas in my life, I recovered. As you will and have.

Despite recovery however, I still dreadfully fear one thing and that is … Am I enough of a warrior? Am I fighting hard enough on his behalf? Am I too overwhelmed or too lax about it it all?  Am I letting everyone else chart his path? Is there more that I should be doing?

Curiously, the answer to all those questions is yes.

Yes. Because this is such a journey. I know that his diagnosis is a great gift, after all, who reads fluently by age 3? My son! Yet, I wish this gift came with a receipt.

Each day we will answer those questions differently. Some days victoriosly while other times with tears in our eyes.

But the one thing that we do when we do not know what to do is to be relentless!

Relentless in educating ourselves on our new journey with autism.

Relentless in advocating without obstructing.

Relentless in staying active in our community when all we want to do sometimes is to hide, cry and eat cake.

But most of all relentless in pushing our loved one to his or her fullest potential.

So don’t wait for signs of success. Make the biggest assumption of all and believe that they can!

Then relentlessly stay on top of that belief and you will amaze yourself at the multiplicity of the baby step you took. 

In turn, your little one might just amaze you.

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