My Life

The Rewind Continued…

I had never believed in an attention disorder diagnosis for little boys Idan’s age. I always called it “Five-year-old boy syndrome” instead. All little boys get antsy and would rather jump off of a desk five-million times rather than color inside the lines, right? I thought this, and then I found myself researching it. ADHD was the first mental disconnect that came to my mind, because it’s tossed around so often. I thought that maybe that was the deal with Idan. Maybe a little pill, once a day, was all he needed. As I read through the symptoms, none of them matched with my son. He wasn’t hyper at all, and he actually didn’t like to talk to people. I clicked around through some other links, which eventually brought me to an article about autism. I almost X’d out of that window, until I saw the bold letters that read “outbursts in inappropriate situations”. As I scrolled through one article after another, I saw more and more information that seemed to match my son exactly. Disruptive physically aggressive behavior, the tendency to “lose control”, repetitive phrases and motions, difficulty taking turns in conversation, difficulty forming friendships, especially with their own age group, robot-like voice, flapping of hands, arms, and/or legs…I read on and on, and then I just stopped abruptly, cupping my hand over my mouth. It hit me hard, and I felt like I was going to vomit. The tears filled my eyes, and my face felt hot. I didn’t have an official diagnosis, but I knew it to be true, nonetheless. Could my son really be autistic? I talked it over with my husband, made an appointment with the Pediatrician, and began reading every type of literature I could get my hands on. It was time to find out for sure.

I had a habit of going into both my sons’ rooms, after they had fallen asleep, and praying over them as well as their future wives. I had done that for as long as I had been gifted my sweet boys. That night, I prayed a different prayer over my sleeping little Idan. I placed my hand on his head, closed my eyes, and through tears I begged God, “Please, God, please, be willing, take this cup…yet not my will, but yours be done.” I was completely distraught at the thought of raising an autistic child. I didn’t care at all that my load with him would be heavy and more difficult than I had planned. Hard work was something that I sought after. It wasn’t me that I was worried about, but him. Would he be able to fall in love one day? Would anyone fall in love with him? Could he ever be the type of loving and attentive father that a little boy or girl might one day need? Would he ever want or like kids? Would anyone be able to look past his struggles and want to be his friend? Would anyone ever want to genuinely spend time with him? I love him so very much, and I dreaded the thought of other people not loving him too. I had to leave the room, because my tears turned into heaving sobs, and I didn’t want to wake him.

That Friday, I took Idan out for peppermint cocoa before his doctor’s appointment. I shouldn’t have gotten angry at the barista when she called it “mint cocoa”, but she didn’t understand. I told Idan we were getting peppermint cocoa, so that’s what he expected. When she said “It’s not peppermint, it’s just mint…” She had no idea that she just flipped my son’s world upside down. It seems like it would be no big deal. Any normal-minded person would shrug it off and say, “Mint-peppermint: same thing, just gimme the cocoa.” Not my Idan. It took us 15 minutes just to reset before entering the doctor’s office. I tried singing to him, but he covered his ears. I tried talking with him, and he screamed. I tried touching his hands, but he pulled them away, throwing them up and down. He began to shake his shoulders back and forth in some sort of Thriller meets the Shimmy dance move that was neither hip nor cute. People walked past the car and stared. I closed my eyes and breathed through the stress. There’s no calming him down when he gets like that. You just have to wait for it to pass, and it always passes.

Some people are meant to be in your life for a season, some for its entirety, and some for only a split-second. I truly feel that God gifted our family with the perfect pediatrician at the perfect time. Although she confirmed my dreaded thoughts, she assured me that my son’s affection was genuine, and that it was something that could not be learned. She could see the effort of thinking that had been put into his actions. She could see the random head movements and arm flapping. She heard what I was saying, and didn’t dismiss a single word. I could feel the shakiness in my voice as I tried to remain calm, assertive, objective, and clear with my concerns. Instead of taking me seriously and being just as objective, Idan’s doctor used her Pediatric wizard magic to break through the BS and embrace the suck of it all. She said to me through her thick, Indian accent, “You’re a good mom and a good person, and I like you very much. Your faith is going to get you through this,” and then she hugged me and held me close as she said, “It’s going to be okay. Okay?”

She was right. It is going to be okay, because Idan is okay. He’s just different. I watched a movie recently, called Temple Grandin. It’s about a famous autistic woman’s story of her genius abilities, and how she overcame people’s misunderstandings in order to make the world a better place. Her mother dealt with the difficulties that came along with her daughter’s autism while teaching her how to function in society. Temple’s mom shared 3 amazing words of wisdom about her daughter that echo in my heart so loudly — “Different, not less.” That’s what my Idan is, and that’s what every person should be considered, as well. My eyes have been opened to a whole new world, and it’s not what I ever imagined my life to be when I was painting my dreams in my head. Everything is changing. Everything is different now. Different, not less.

My Life, Uncategorized

Rewind to the Aha Moment

I’ve clipped coupons, sorted through the sale ads, and made grocery lists for three different stores. I’ve played sudoku, browsed my social media, and started a new devotional, and I still have forty-five minutes before the school bell rings. I arrived at the front of the car line just after lunch time, two hours before the end of the school day, just in case my son needed me. Even as I type this, I feel the stares from people reading it later on. I’m slightly embarrassed, and I want you to understand why I’m doing this. I want you to know that I’m not a “helicopter-mom” in the least bit. In fact, I’m quite the opposite.

I taught both of my boys to read and write before they entered into Kindergarten. They learned how to do their own laundry, scrub toilets, and make grilled cheese before their fifth birthdays. I wanted my boys to become strong, independent, and problem-solving men one day, and I knew it was my job to teach them life skills. Small, daily tasks always took more time, because I would do them in four steps. First, I would explain to my children how something is done. Next, I would perform the task myself, while repeating my explanation. Then, I would undo it and tell one of my sons, “Okay, your turn,” and I would talk them through it again. Finally, I would undo it, and say, “This time, you do it without my help.” Sure, I could just load all of the dishes or peel a potato myself, and it would take me all of thirty seconds, but how would that benefit my kids’ futures? It would only make my present easier, and I’m not called to that kind of living.

I check the clock, and I still have thirty minutes before I see my son’s face. I wonder if the teacher is typing up a time log for me today, like she did on Monday. I worry that he’s moved his clip down to red for the umpteenth time this year. I check and recheck my email to see if she’s had a chance to respond yet, and then I wonder if she’s even gotten the chance to look over it at all. I sent it to her yesterday morning. You’d think she’d have read it by now, right? Now, I KNOW I’m being irrational. So, I take a deep breath. My breath cleansing only lasts a few seconds before my mind is drifting back to worry. It’s 2:04pm. Only twenty-six more minutes.

Idan started off just like any other baby. I nursed him, sang lullabies, and rocked him to sleep. I gently combed over his soft spot, washed between his chunky thigh folds, and buckled him into a rear-facing car seat. I did all of the same things for him as I had done for my first son, and I was exhausted by the time evening rolled around. He teethed and screamed when numbing gel wouldn’t do the trick. He rolled over, clapped, and squealed when tickled. He learned to sit, crawl, and walk on his own. He was the sweetest, poopiest, most normal baby ever, and I felt my motherhood was complete, and it was.

When Idan began to talk, I noticed that he was unlike any other child I had ever known. As his language skills increased, I began to find his dry humor and quirky mannerisms to be the most entertaining thing! His logical view on people and imagination was one that caught the attention of all our friends and family. He had a deep, monotone voice, and it only seemed to add points to the value of his words. His feelings got hurt easily, and I would shelter him from any situations that might have caused him emotional pain. He was so much like his big brother, but also very different in so many more ways.

Idan started school this year, and it was the most exciting, yet saddening day of my life, as any mother can understand. My youngest was away, and I had an empty house for 7 hours, but after a couple of days, I learned to love my alone time. I took naps, did laundry, grocery shopped, took naps, mowed the lawn, and also took naps. It was glorious. My days were carefree, and my house was spotless! After the first nine weeks of school, my son’s teacher got real with us Kindergarten parents. She eased us into the reality that our little angels had a spark or two of humanity in them. On his daily report sheet, she started writing little notes informing me of my son’s misbehavior. These didn’t alarm me, because I knew Idan sometimes didn’t like to cooperate. Every child fights against rules every once in a while. But, his minor misbehaviors turned into outbursts, and his outbursts turned into raging fits of anger. Who was this little boy? I had never known him! I wanted to advocate for his teacher by reinforcing discipline action at home, but I hated to be punishing him on a daily basis. I wanted to correct these inappropriate behaviors, but I didn’t want to taint his quality of life at the same time.

I scoured the Internet, read books written by Christian psychologists, watched parenting videos, and asked friends for advice. I changed my family’s routine, adjusted my son’s diet, and had pep talks with him every day before school. I told him that I believed in him, that he could make good choices, and that I loved him more than he could ever know. I hugged him tighter than he could handle, and willed my love into his brain when I kissed his forehead. I cupped his little face in my hands, and spoke encouragement into his eyes, then I watched him walk into his classroom, drove home, and waited. The bus pulled up to the house seven hours later, and children began to spill out through the doors. My heart raced, and I focused love onto my face as I saw my sweet little boy hop off the steps. He tossed his book bag onto the grass, did a ninja roll across the lawn, and landed in the coolest half-split dismount I had ever seen him do that day. I scooped up my little acrobat, sat him on my lap, and asked him about his day.

I was so sure that I had done everything right! I followed the schedule. I talked with him. I was understanding and encouraging. I gave him incentives. I had a flawless reward system. How could he have had a Red day again? What was I doing wrong? The very second that followed is the one that changed our lives forever. I pulled his puffy face into my chest, sat back, and began to rock back and forth on the porch swing. My oldest son leaned against my shoulder. It’s like he sensed that the end of my rope had burnt to ashes. That very moment was it for me. I tapped out, threw in the towel, washed my hands of it all. I released everything I had been trying to do, and whispered, “Something else is going on here.”

Subscribe for more updates and the next part of the story. It gets even more interesting, emotional, and eye-opening.

Learn more about Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Asperger Syndrome at autismspeaks.org

Embracing the Crazy,
Cathi

My Life

WordPress Official (because Facebook Official is so overrated)

These past few months have been challenging my family in a whole new way. I have been spending a lot of time thinking, worrying, praying, researching, talking, meditating, adapting, ignoring, learning, growing, trying, failing, crying, and staring…I spend a lot of time staring. When it looks like I’m just staring, it’s usually because my brain is busy doing all of those other things simultaneously. It’s taken a lot of spiritual and mental preparation in order to bring me to the point of writing all of this out. It’s amazing how much your outlook on life can change when your perspective is forced to shift.

I remember the day that started me on this new path. I remember getting angry at my 5 year old son while sitting in the driveway. I remember closing my eyes and breathing slowly through the frustration. I remember feeling the hand of my 9 year old son resting on my shoulder. He understood my anger, saw that I was trying to calm down, and knew that a soft touch was an appropriate way to help ease me out of a stressful moment. I remember opening my eyes to see his look of empathy. I recall adjusting the rear view mirror to look at my youngest son. He was laying across the seat, staring straight ahead, expressionless. He had absolutely no clue as to the degree of frustration that was obviously painted all over my face. My white knuckled grip around the steering wheel didn’t seem to spark a single emotion in him. He was simply waiting for me to open the door so he could get out of the car and go inside. I’m sure you’re probably so confused right now. Why was I so upset? Clearly, my youngest son was just laying there quietly, and my oldest was comforting me. The puzzle piece that’s missing is what happened just moments before serenity settled in.

Idan asked if he could ride his bike. I said no, because it was raining. That was it. I said no, and his world crumbled. It didn’t matter that it was pouring outside, and clearly it wasn’t bike-riding weather. He began to flail his arms and legs all over the place. He screamed and wailed, and threw himself to the seat face down. Most parents would say something like, “That kid needs a good ol’ fashioned butt whooping!” But, it just isn’t the case with my Idan. He’s always been this way too, but it wasn’t until recently that everything began to make sense. Idan is part of the one percent world population born with Autism. I remember the exact moment that the thought dawned on me and the exact moment that it was confirmed by his pediatrician. Both were equally crushing, and as a mom I can’t even begin to explain the emotional roller coaster that it has been trying to come to grips with this new life chapter.

Over the past couple of months, God has been pruning my family and me, tailoring us to the different mold that He chose to use when creating Idan. It has been and continues to be a daily challenge for all of us, but I know that it’s nothing compared to the challenges that Idan faces with finding his place in this world that doesn’t make any sense to him. He isn’t broken and unable to function. He just sees and perceives the world differently than most people do-99% of the world to be more precise. His nerves, emotions, and senses are all wired differently than an average person. Everyone has their own way of coping with feelings of anger and disappointment. My husband reacts by searching for a solution immediately. I like to talk about how the problem is making me feel. Cole likes to find and place blame. These are all socially acceptable and commonly found behaviors. Idan’s feelings are displayed through tearful meltdowns and body movements, referred to as stimming (The term “stimming” is short for self-stimulatory behavior, sometimes also called “stereotypic” behavior. In a person with autism, stimming usually refers to specific behaviors such as flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases). Stims are not something that can be trained away. Trying to tell an autistic person to stop stimming is like trying to tell anyone not to blink or sneeze. It’s a crazy thought to try and force someone to do or stop doing something that comes perfectly natural to them, and I never understood that until God began to teach me through Idan.

Now that I’ve gone through all of the emotions accompanied with the realization of Idan’s workmanship, I’m prepared to do whatever it is that God has in mind for me, as Idan’s mom, Cole’s mom, other parents of Autistic children, and the population of folks who don’t understand the world that people on the spectrum live in. The biggest thing that I’ve come to grips with so far is that although our family is adjusting to suit Idan’s needs, we still each need to express ourselves in the ways that we have been individually and specifically designed. My husband makes and executes plans, Cole draws and sketches. I talk and write. It’s the way that we operate. I need to write through all of this, and I need to know that I have a community of support that is ready to listen and walk through this with me.

I have so many people who are there to offer suggestions and helpful advice, and we are going through the process (lengthy and time consuming process) of receiving medical assistance for Idan. I am the research queen! So believe me, I’m reading articles, watching videos, and educating myself and my family on how we can make Idan’s life easier to manage. We have an overload of ideas and thoughts and dietary changes and textural modifications going on in our home on a daily basis. We are slowly learning Idan’s specific place on the spectrum, and each new milestone is something that takes lots and lots of planning and executing to achieve (grateful for a husband with these gifts). So, we are in excess of ideas and information right now. What we need most is listening ears and prayers for energy and gentle patience to be displayed through our faces and actions. Idan is still a 5 year old boy, after all, and he still has a very important big brother who doesn’t need to be lost in the mix. Now that that’s all been thrown out there, I will be posting periodically on the progress of our family’s growth. I know that God has hand-picked each of us for such a time as this.

Embracing the Crazy,
Cathi