Letters to New Parents of ASD kids: #1 I Believe You

letter_writing

Dear new parent of a child with autism,

I'd prefer to be sitting across from you at a local coffee shop rather than sitting behind this glowing box tapping away on the keyboard. But this will have to do for now.

First of all, I just want you to know that I believe you! I believe everything you'd tell me about your child.  Things like those unusual behaviors  that when you tell your friends, family, or co-workers, they say:  "My child did that too, and he's fine", "All kids go though that stage." Or:  "Boys develop slower than girls do." , "Boys play different than girls."

I believe that you know your child best, and you know when there is something different.

When Stevie was first showing signs of autism (a little before age 2), all my friends told me that I was over-reacting. "He's too attached to you to have autism." But I knew. I saw the signs. I saw him dancing on his tippy toes and staring at the screw in the wall like it was the most exciting thing to cross his path that day; all the while ignoring all the brightly colored toys and siblings beside him.

I saw him in his crib, wiggling his fingers in front of his eyes, giggling.

I watched the sudden un-awareness of others around him.

I watched his progress in language and speech come to a stop.

I was there when he became afraid of his food.

I watched, helpless, as he went into high-pitched screaming fits where everything and anything would make the fits worse, and he'd scream for hours.  Sometimes up to 4 hours straight. Screams. And I'd sit helpless here behind this glowing box searching for help. For ideas. For anything that would help me be a better mom to him. To help him calm down; stop crying.

I knew this was not normal.

It's so hard to know in the depths of your soul,, and yet be told that it's normal; you are over reacting.  I learned to just nod yes, and leave it at that. I knew. He was my child and I just knew he had it.

Mostly, I knew because my first son also has autism. I had already been through this once before.

So hang in there. God gave you this particular child for a very specific purpose. You are the best parent for him (or her) that there ever will be.

God knew. God knows. God has this whole thing planned out.

So don't give up, ok?  God is here with you. He will help you in your time of need.

Until next time,

Merri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Give Me a Hint?

All things considered, Dash has really transitioned from homeschooling into public school very nicely.  A few bumps and kinks here and there but nothing major...that is, until this Monday.

Monday started out as a relatively quiet day.  I was homeschooling Sketch while Princess Buttercup and Dash were at school. Sketch was just starting to practice writing his numbers when the phone rang.

"Hello, Mrs. Incredible?  I was wondering if you could come and pick up Dash at school. He is having a hard time on the bus."

"What is he doing?"

"Well, he is screaming loudly on the bus and he won't calm down."

I rushed Sketch and myself off to the school.  There haven't been any problems on the bus so far...what in the world is going on?

As I pull into the parking space and open my door, I see Mrs. Teacher and the twins walking toward me.  Dash seems fine...  Princess Buttercup on the other hand seemed pretty annoyed that she didn't get to ride the bus with her friends.

Mrs. Teacher said Dash was screaming a high pitched scream that was totally distracting to everyone on the bus, especially Mr. Kent, the driver.

"If you scream on the bus, you ride home in the car!" Dash says, as if he has been trying to set the "rule" in motion as a screen play to sit back and watch.

And this time, the rule played out as he expected.

So how do I get him to understand what he has done?  How do I help him understand how many people were effected by his "bad choice"?  How do I not let him have so much fun "playing out the rules"?

I decide to get a large pad of paper, and started a diagram to explain it.  I emphasized how his one bad choice took away the choice of all the other people.  Princess Buttercup lost her choice to ride the bus because I had to drive to school to get him.  Sketch and I had to stop working on Kindergarten stuff to come and get him.  The kids on the bus lost their choice to have a relaxing drive home on the bus.  Mrs. Teacher had to stay late to make sure Dash and Princess Buttercup were safely waiting for me to arrive, etc.  We talked about the consequence of making that bad choice, how it effected other peoples choices, and how the result is that he is not going to be able to make choices tonight.

It looked something like this:

Dash seemed to "get" it...that he upset a lot of people that he really enjoys and likes.

But, he was still reciting the rule..."If you scream on the bus, you come home in the car".  So, I decided to try to deflate some of the reward of watching the rule play out.  I said, "Dash, If you are good on the bus, you get to ride with Mr. Kent, you get to be on the bus that you enjoy riding on, and you get to be with the other kids on the bus.  You know what will happen if you make good choices.  If you don't behave on the bus, well... you don't know what will happen to you!"  He thought about that for a minute, a little uncertain about it.

Maybe this is it?  Maybe the fear of the unknown can override the fun of the rules?  And really, we don't know what will happen to him....He could be permanently kicked off the bus, he could be switched to a special ed bus, he could end up distracting the driver so much there is an accident!  Really, we don't know.

But what I really wanted to know, was WHY.  Why did he do it?  The only thing I could come up with was about playing out the rules to see them work, but I don't really know the why.

So, I ask Dash, "Why did you scream on the bus?"

"Because you take the car home." he replies.

No, I that is what happened, I want to know why did you do it?

"You upset Mr. Kent."

"That is who you upset. I want to know why you did it!"

In his innocent boyish voice, he replies, "Can you give me a hint?"

I answer, "No, only you know why you did it, Dash."

But, as I said those words, I knew there was someone else who knows why, someone else who knows the motivation behind it.

There are times when we all do things that we don't understand.  We baffle ourselves with our own behavior, our own reactions to things.  Why do we do the things we do?

Most kids (and many adults) answer questions like "Why?"  with the standard, "I don't know!"

Dash answered the questions a bit like the psalmist, David would have answered it.  "Can you give me a hint?" is very much like,

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

David also instructed his son, Solomon in I Chronicles 28:9 "And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts." (italics added)

It is a comfort to know that God knows us that well...better than any parent can understand their children.  He knows the whys, the motives and the hearts of each of us and loves us nonetheless.

So next time we find ourselves wondering why we do what we do, we can take a lesson from Dash, and simply call upon our forgiving, all knowing--yet all loving Creator, our Father, and ask him, "Can you give me a hint?" and then "serve him with whole hearted devotion and with a willing mind."