Treasured Moments at Panera

I wouldn't typically consider tonights behavior something to be treasured, but tonight wasn't all that typical, either.

We had dinner at Panera, at the request of Sage (10 years old, autism/ADHD). This morning he said he wanted to celebrate with a "last chance to go out to eat in August!"  The request was so cute,  we decided to honor it even though it meant "chancing" it with his brother.

Stevie (autism/ADHD/anxiety/food allergies/tourettes-like tics) has had some very unpredictable behavior lately (you can read about that in the previous posts) so we were prepared to leave quickly if needed-- and sure enough, it was needed.

We all sat down at the table with our food and Daddy went to get coffee. This is where it all started to fall apart.

Stevie got that look in his eyes, as he climbed into the chair across from me, pulled himself up to standing and looked around, in awe. Absolute awe.

People started to notice. I heard some giggles... and then he started to do a little jig. A dance--with his hips...and then arms... and then...

"Waah Haaaa-HAAAA!" the loud, fake baby cry from the Dr.Suess's ABC's video game erupted from deep within his soul.

Not an ear was untouched.

Not even the ears of the elderly couples sprinkled about the place.

The college kids diagonal from us started to giggle and cover their mouths in disbelieve at what they saw.  I looked over at them, my face brightening in pink by the second (matching Hopes red face which was getting lower and lower toward the table, and Sages proud-of-his-brother-being-bad face sticking up higher and higher from the table).

She quickly turned back toward her friends at their table. I wanted to tell her it's ok. I mean, really?  What on earth could one do at this point but laugh?

The absurdity was, well, absurd! WHO DOES THAT?

I am still laughing!

I loved seeing the laughter it brought everyone in the restaurant that I could see, and I particularly loved that I was unaware (too much in shock to notice, maybe?) of anyone irritated by him at all. I was also very thankful that I had worn a "Ride for Autism" shirt!

The moments I most treasured, though, was that we ran into 3 people we knew that we hadn't seen in YEARS!  And they just weren't the least bit phased by what they saw. They didn't have harsh words or reprimands, they didn't mention what they heard and saw, they were just glad to see us--warts and all.

And we were glad to see them.

And I was glad to see all the giggling faces as we left.

Now, there's some autism awareness up close and personal!


Feeling that we got a bit "lucky" tonight (read: didn't get kicked out), I started thinking up what we can do to help Stevie understand the situation and why it's important to behave in public places as well as in the car (in which he continued being out-of-control and unsafe--unbuckling his seat belt and standing on top of his car seat) I had a little brain-storm of sorts...

I decided to use a very annoying obsession of his: Teletubbies.  Maybe, just maybe, he will listen to them if they tell him a social story:

Maybe he'll listen to the Teletubbies?
Maybe he'll listen to the Teletubbies?

And maybe, just maybe, if the Teletubbies keep telling him off, he will get mad at them and move on to something else!!!

A friend loves at all times.  Proverbs 17:17 




Letter #4 Making A Brighter Blue: Schedules & Autism Awareness

The Fourth Letter

Dear New Parents,

     You probably know that today is World Autism Awareness Day. I am guessing that this is one of the first that you have had since your child was diagnosed, or perhaps you have been suspicious about your child possibly being on the autism spectrum and so you are reading all the information out there a bit more closely. 

     What you'll find on autism awareness can be confusing, with mixed messages thrown here and there: Autism needs a Cure, Autism is just another way the brain is wired, Autism is a list of deficits and obstacles to over come, Autism does not need to be " fixed" it is how we are made...and on and on. 

     My ten year old, Sage, asked me today if we are going to the Autism Awareness Day at school tonight. The funny thing is that I haven't received anything from the school that such a thing exists. All I heard was that the kids were supposed to all wear blue today.

      Then, I remembered, that last year they had a big to-do over it, with the local police and fire department joining in for safety awareness. Sage just figured since it happened on April 2 last year, it would happen again this year-- even if no one tells you about it. I thought, "How appropriate on World Autism Awareness Day, that he make the school aware of their "mistake"." You can't have it just this once in Sage's world.

     In Sages brand of autism, schedules dictate everything...not people. Well, there is a hierarchy:  in the absence of a schedule, the person in authority would dictate.  But if it comes down to a duel between the two, the schedule will reign victorious. 

     It's one of the funny things about autism. It can easily become a problem with some things that he is more rigid over, but the older he get, the less rigid he is becoming. That is a good and a bad thing.  It is hard when he ties himself to a self-made schedule, but it also comes in handy because in some ways, autism can make things easier.  

     Such as, when you want to make bedtime earlier. All I had to do was put it on the nightly schedule! The schedule said, "Bedtime at 8:30pm" and so that was when bedtime was. End of story.  

     I even heard of one boy with autism, who ran away, but left his self-made schedule written out on the table. He wrote on his schedule: "lunch", and then next was "grocery store".  Well, lunch was over, so the police when to the grocery store and sure enough, they found him walking home from the store, just like the schedule said! (I am guessing that they taught him to add,"ask an adult" before "grocery store" when he got home.)

     A schedule is like magic.

     My Stevie (he will be 8 in nine days!) will be very upset at school if they don't put "bus" at the end of his schedule. If it is there, then he does great.

     When Stevie was working on keeping his shirt and pants unrolled during meals (he rolls them up to drink so that nothing will spill on his clothes and make them wet.  You can imagine that this is not socially acceptable in a school classroom!  However, it is better than completely disrobing like he used to do :)  the OT thought to put it on the schedule to keep clothes down. Sure enough, no problem! He kept it down because it was on the schedule.  He had done this for 3 years and no one could convince him not to do it!  No one, but a schedule...

     Autism can seem scary, hard and dark when people focus on the deficits and behavioral difficulties sometimes present in autism. I could focus on what Stevie's behavior would be like, if he was just told to keep his clothes down and then he was made to do it. It would not be pretty; I would rather he just eat naked than see him that upset. But by focusing on the good things, autism is much brighter. 

     This wonderfully bright side is what I have been thinking of today.  With it being "Light it up Blue for Autism Awareness" Day, I have been thinking about blue and it's many shades. Some blues are dark and some bright. I think it only appropriate that it be a brilliant blue, as it would be when seen through the light of Jesus.

     When we stop trying to define autism by the negatives, and instead look to the scriptures to define the people with autism--the same way we should define ourselves--then we get a much clearer and brighter picture.  

     We are all valuable to God. All of us are works of art in His eyes. All of us are loved so intensely that Jesus came down to earth to live among us, experience human life, and then die for us so we could have a relationship with Him, forever.

     Now, that is proof that God thinks more highly of us and our children, and all people with any disability, than we can ever comprehend.

     His love is deeper than the deepest ocean.

     And that is what I would like the world to be aware of today. That we are all the same in the grand scheme of things; in the eyes of God.

     There are some people who look at my boys with autism and instead of the "that's so sad" look, or the "how do you do it" look as if it is a bad thing, they marvel at the wonders of Gods creativity in creating them. That is an awesome thing.

They are aware.  I want to see more if that: people who understand the differences in our kids with autism, and know that God is much more creative than merely making people from a cookie cutter mold like society wants. God is an artist.  

     Children with autism are different, with different needs, different abilities...but when we can look at them and see God in them, and praise God for his amazing art when he made them the way he did, and gave them to us to raise, then we too, will be aware.

We will be aware of the gifts.
We will be aware of the Giver.
We will be aware of the grace.

     We may be neuro-diverse, but we are all equally masterpieces crafted by the God of the Universe.  

Until next time,