Stories From the Heart: Alien

Last week I felt like the mother in the commercial, where her son shows her a good report card, and she starts to cry.  My son is growing up.  He pulled up his grades.  I wish he could do the same for his pants, but one thing at a time.

We visited a college campus this past weekend.  He was happy to find out the school was seventy percent female and he liked the food.  I was happy thinking I’ll have less laundry, and that he was finally happy about going to school, any school.

School was never easy for him.  Not that the curriculum was a problem, the staying out of trouble was the hard part.  He was always too bright for his own good.  He got bored easily and boredom for little boys leads to lots of big boy trouble.

I think every Principal he ever had kept my phone number on speed dial.  I heard far too many times, on the other end of the line, “Is this Devaun’s mother?” “Um, no.  She went out to lunch.  Can I tell her you called?” Okay, I didn’t really say that but I wanted to.  It’s hard being a mother to a child whose I.Q. surpassed your own at age five and yet I’m supposed to know what to do with him.

I knew we had a problem on his first day of Kindergarten. The teacher gave us a tour of the class and I could see his bright little face starting to frown.  Those handsome dark eyebrows, that I loved, were knitting together and I knew he wasn’t happy about what he saw.

“We are going to learn to read in this class,” said Miss Way-Too-Happy teacher. Great.  Does she realize I walked into my son’s room last night, hoping to read him Happy Birthday Moon and found him reading my John Steinbeck novel, Of Mice and Men?

“Then we will learn how to tell time,” says the teacher as she pulled out a pretend clock, made from a paper plate, with black movable hands.  I could see his disappointment growing.  He had been telling time for over a year now.  His older sister still relied on her digital watch for time telling and his mother, the microwave.

I left my beautiful little boy with Miss Way-Too-Happy teacher and a scared look on his face.  That day was the first of many “He did what?” type of conversations on the phone.

I remember him asking me once “Mommy, how many miles to get to San Jose?”  “Ninety miles,” I replied. “Oh,” he said, “so we should be there approximately one and a half hours from now.  That is if we continue to go sixty miles per hour.”   I wondered “Who is this kid really? And what planet did his pod drop in from?”

Once I took him out of school, for a mother and son road trip.  He was ten. I was….none of your business.  We drove to Oklahoma, all the way from California. As we were leaving California I remember pointing at a mountain and saying “Look!  There’s Mt. McKinley.”

He didn’t even look up from his book and said “I highly doubt that, Mom.  Mt. McKinley is in Alaska.”
I said “Really.  Then what is it doing over there?” “That’s Mt. Whitney,” and he kept on reading his book. Hey, how am I supposed to keep the names of mountains and dead presidents straight?

Recently, I was standing at the front door of my house.  The kids were arguing and my arms were full.  I was jiggling the door knob with one hand and holding my keys in the other.  I kept pressing my cars automatic lock and unlock feature on my key chain, while getting frustrated that the front door wouldn’t open.  I honestly stood there shaking the door knob, to my house, and said “What is wrong with this thing?  I just bought the damn car.”

He quietly reached over, took the keys from my hand and opened the front door…with the house key.  Then he looked up to the sky, as if praying, or was he searching for the UFO that had accidentally left him, to come back and take him home, to his true mother.

Over the past twelve years I grew to know all of the schools educators and administrators, much more than I would have liked.  I have paced the floors, yelled, cried, and replaced property damage.

I have spent countless hours circling neighborhoods and calling friends houses, to look for him, and then cried and gave thanks when I found him.  I didn’t know what to do with him, but I never want to live life without him.  Maybe I’ll be lucky and this six foot three extraterrestrial will remember to “phone home”.

Author Unknown

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Stories From the Heart: A Soft Wind Flowing

I work day in and day out with children who have an array of disabilities. Truth be known, no two children are ever the same, despite the same labeled disabilities. What fascinates yet mystifies me at the same time, is our inability to see things the way that they do.

Many children I work with have selective oral expression. But I feel we learn more from them, than I do from co-workers, friends and family.  Sometimes we educational assistants, teachers, special education teachers, respite workers and so on, get so caught up in societal rules of normalcy that we often don’t take the time to see the things that we can learn from our students. This leads me into my story.

As I was walking along a hiking trail with a little Autistic boy, I was watching him look all over the place and smelling things. I was trying to get him to touch certain items like tree moss or water by the river, but touch was a very difficult sensation for him. He was highly touch sensitive. So I kept trying to say things like “Look at that flower, let’s go smell and touch it”. Every time his response would be “No thank you.”

We finished the hike and went back to the classroom to write down a few things in categories. We separated what we saw, what we heard, and what we felt. Having no problem with the first two categories, we moved on to the “What We Felt” section.

To be quite honest, I didn’t know what he was going to write, since he didn’t want to touch any of the items. So I told him to leave it blank. But, by that time I said that, it was already filled in. I figured that he probably wrote down what he saw me touching, such as the tree moss, branches and water.

But when I read his answer the two things he wrote down that he felt; were the hot sun on my face, and a soft wind flowing past my ears when we stopped walking to take a rest.

How profound was that!  I was so proud of his answers! Perhaps we should all take the time to feel the wind.

By Jennifer De Franceschi

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Stories From the Heart: My Hope

Perhaps through some miracle, my son David may turn out to be like Alfred Nobel, Pablo Picasso, or Hikari, but it is extremely unlikely. Those people touched the lives of multitudes through their works. David touches the lives of only a few, but the lives that he does touch are greatly enriched by his presence.

His smile is his greatest work of art. He has uttered only a very few words, but not one of those words has ever been cruel or dishonest. Each word has been precious to us. David knows how to love others and accepts the love of others with grace and dignity. His family, his friends at school, his teachers, and everyone else who know him have learned something from him, and see the world a little differently because he has touched their lives. He finds joy in the world, and he brings joy to it. His presence transforms us in wonderful ways.

He is not likely to turn out to be a great scientist, musician, or artist whose name will be remembered throughout the ages, but neither will I.  Neither will the vast majority of the people on this planet, and yet their lives have meaning.  My hope is not about who he might become; I simply hope I will never lose the ability to see the wonder of the person he already is. He has the courage to live in the present, and, through him, I am learning to live there, too.

He teaches me to accept him for who he is, to accept and embrace his disabilities along with every other part of him. Having learned that lesson, perhaps I can learn to accept myself the way I am and everyone else just the way they are as well.

The hope that I hold for my child is that he can live his life among people who respect and cherish him as he is, and that he can touch the lives of those people. I think that is more than enough for any of us. David teaches me something about being human, and as I begin to learn it, I am becoming more human.

My relationship with David is not unique. Parents and thousands of others whose lives are touched by people with severe disabilities tell us about their own transformations. Sometimes they talk about little things; sometimes the effects that they describe are huge, but they all see the world differently and, in some way, they draw on a new strength. Somehow they come to a new place in their lives, an unexpected place, and discover that they like where they find themselves.

Author Unknown

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Top Ten Things To Know & Do If Autism Strikes Your Family!

If you or someone you know receives a diagnosis for their child, student, family member or client you need to tell them early intervention is the best chance they have to get the child the help they need.  Be sure to tell them to get over it fast. Do not stay in a state of denial.  It will only hurt the child. Most importantly, start addressing the problem and help the child right away so they can have the best shot at life.  After all, we only get one shot.

Here are some very important tips to get them started.

Top Ten Things To Know & Do If Autism Strikes Your Family!

1.     Start Local. Find the strongest local support and system you possibly can. Start local, and learn what is available in your areas and nearby. Reach out to nearby cities as needed.

2.     Qualify Your Doctor. Locate a medical doctor who specializes in autism and has experience treating autism.  A referral from another parents or a reputable autism organization works best.

3.     Reach Out for Help. Discover and make use of specific government agencies and public services that support the cause, especially in the early intervention arena.

4.     Look Into Special Services. Check into related health services such as speech and language, recreational therapy, occupational therapy, physical and behavioral therapy and so forth.

5.     Use the Internet. Go to reliable website sources to educate yourselves on programs, services, interventions, therapies and supports.

6.     Take Frequent Breaks. Find and use qualified respite for yourselves as caregivers and use it.  You will need it.

7.     Educate Your Family. Educate relatives, friends, neighbors and your child’s siblings and peers about what autism is and what you and your family are going through.  They will be able to accept him or her and understand the challenges more easily which leads to acceptance.

8.     Get Involved. Attend conferences for educational information and also the fellowship aspects by meeting with other family members, individuals with autism and other professionals in the field.  You may find lifelong alliances there!

9.     Get Up to Speed. Stay current with the latest medical, biomedical, behavioral and education services so you can pick and choose what is right for your child and your family.

10.  Plan for the Future. Currently autism is a lifelong disorder and until something radically changes, the autism is not going to go away.  With proper interventions it improves over time and with the best mindset from the parents, caregivers and people that support the child they can be guided towards a great outcome leading happy, fulfilling lives.

Autism Today offers extensive information to parents and the autism community by way of leading conferences, books, DVD’S and through current technology.

For more information visit www.autismtoday.com

Also check out:  www.AutismDC.com for information on “The National Leadership Autism Conference–Autism Through the Lifespan For Families, Educators and Professionals.

Stories From the Heart: What They Forget To Mention

I remember the day of my son’s diagnosis of Autism as if it were yesterday.  The tone of the doctor’s voice, the silence in the room, the words “lifelong disability, no cure, I’m sorry” still sting when I allow myself to reflect on that day.  But I have thought, on occasions too numerous to count, that someone should’ve mentioned that THIS would be part of the package when my child was diagnosed with Autism.

Someone forgot to mention that I would listen to my child’s simple utterances, or attempted approximations, as if he was a world leader giving the speech of a lifetime.  I could never have imagined the worth of a single word despite the fact that I may never hear it again.

Someone forgot to mention that when my son was finally potty trained at age 9 there would be few people that would understand the significance of such an accomplishment, and even fewer that I could actually share it with.  Accomplishments of any size, their true worth known only to me, would bring quiet celebrations between my son and I.

Someone should have mentioned that Autism is messy!  That wallpaper’s meant to be shredded, bathrooms are designed to be flooded, walls are bare in order to smear stuff on them, washable paint really isn’t, and that most food will actually be crushed or dropped on the floor.

Any parent can readily recall what it felt like the first time they held their child for the first time after birth.  In my opinion there is no better feeling in the world.  Someone should have mentioned that each time your child with Autism initiates or engages in a reciprocal hug, that feeling that you had when you held them for the first time comes back, time and time again.

I wish someone would’ve mentioned that Autism is extremely expensive!  Doctors, therapists, medications, supplements, conferences, and sensory equipment are only the tip of the iceberg.  I could not have guessed that it would be my child’s disability which allowed people to cross our path in life that otherwise would not have, and that those people would respond to a child in need with such love and generosity.

Finally, what they forgot to mention the day my son was diagnosed with Autism, is that the triumphs over his disability would far outweigh the tears, that laughter would eventually ease the sense of loss, and that sheer faith would allow me, and millions of other parents, to fall into bed exhausted each night only to get up the next day eager to discover what else they forgot to mention.

Author Unknown

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

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1 in
45

Diagnosed with Autism

Over
100

Autism Diagnosis a Day

Costs
238

Billion per Year

Boys are
4

Times More at Risk