Distracted Drivers

In lane and focused!

The stroller swells up toward the hazy sky as piles of swim gear, diaper bags, book bags and lunch boxes of 4 children are mounted on top of the seat.  It wobbles left to right, swerving to the grass alongside the concrete path toward the recreation building.

"Sketch! Look out!  You are driving off the road!"

His head was turning in every direction but the one pointing to where he was going.  The jogger stroller seemed to have a mind of it's own...one under the influence of too much drink.

He looks ahead at the stroller, then at the sidewalk and corrects his 7 year old driving as best he can, considering it's his first "driving" lesson.

The swerving slows and is under much better control for about one second.  Sketch is back to his standard staring off unintentionally  at the buildings and people and birds fluttering about on the college campus.

Background info:  We were on St. Joseph's college for the weekend. It was the annual Autism Society of Maine's Family Retreat.  We laugh at the "retreat" part, since we are always so exhausted from sleepless children by the end of it.  But, they do a fabulous job providing wonderful people who volunteer to do respite for the kids with autism as well as their siblings.

The gym was filled with bounce houses and fun activities for them.  The swimming pool was in the same building, and the kids could swim several times a day. It was great.  Even though Sketch attempted to go A-wall several times, he was always caught before a true escape. Meanwhile, the parents were able to attend conferences and chat with each other without worrying about the kids...a rare moment indeed!

It amazes me, how Sketch can seem to be watching everything all at once.  Everything, that is, except for what he is supposed to be focusing on.  I think about what a good activity this is for him to realize his actions count. That he needs to pay attention and understand the consequences of not focusing.

In the RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) framework, he is having to do his share of the work. I'm not fixing it for him. I'm not helping him drive straight or keeping the stroller from spilling over. He has to adjust what he's doing in order to prevent a crash.  As long as I don't physically interfere, he IS able adjust himself and his actions, to keep the stroller upright and going in the right general direction.

What I did was "spotlight"  what Sketch needed to be paying attention to. He was unable to filter out all the visual and auditory "clutter" out there on the campus.  He wasn't able to discern what was important to pay attention too, and what he needed to block out. By obviously highlighting what he needed to pay attention to by calling out, "What's happening!  You are going off the road!" when he'd become distracted, he could correct his focus and get back on track.

He also had a job that was meaningful. We all needed to get to the recreation building, and everyone needed their stuff to get there too.  By guiding Sketch to enable him to  fulfill his own role, it helped him gain a sense of importance and competence.  We were counting on him, and he was learning how to do it!  More than learning to drive the stroller, he was learning to pay attention to what he was doing, and to accept instruction from me that tore him away from his self-made scripting world and brought him into our world. This is not an easy thing for him to do; he spent 70% of his school day last year scripting!

It was so inspiring to watch this unfold.  It was so great to see him helping out the family instead of tagging along.  So incredible to see him proud of himself...trying to do something new.  So awesome to see him actually pay attention to something and deal with the consequences of  his own actions!

This whole scenario made me think.  How often are we swerving, or driving off the path of our life in need of someone to call out to us "Hey, you're driving off the road!  Look where you are going!"

Someone is always watching and guiding us toward the finish line--someone else is always trying to distract our focus onto our circumstances.

Jesus is who we are to focus on as we go down our path.  After all, we are "Christ followers".  Yet, it's so easy to be distracted by all the circumstantial clutter in our lives. When we go off-path, it is easy to fall into thinking about all the hard things, the things that are causing us great stress, the things that I refer to as "dust".

It is so good to know that He is always there calling us back, perfecting our faith!

So if you are a distracted driver, are you listening to your Father say, "Hey, you're going off the road!" and adjusting your behavior to go back on the right path?

Sketch's autism and ADHD requires him to learn what to fix his 7 year old eyes on,  in order to accomplish any given task, and this is probably going to be a life-long lesson he will learn by practicing it.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus is a life-long lesson that we have to work on, to practice through out the different circumstances that arise in our lives.

If you are a distracted driver, let the Father take hold of your face, lift your head, look you in the eyes and listen to him tell you, "This is the way; walk in it" (Is 30:21)

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus,the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Joy: Recognizing The Gifts Given In Autism

The daily stress of raising children on the autism spectrum with the tag-along issues of sensory processing disorder, expressive and receptive communication disorder, behavioral issues, etc. leaves us drained.

Being worn out, and having negative experiences that recur over and over again. You know, the ones where you have to leave early because of a childs' inability to cope (read: massive tantrum requiring physical removal of kicking & screaming child) leaves one hesitant to try those things again...and over time, chronic negativity sneaks it's way in.

Soon eyes fail and the rose-colored glasses that emphasized the beauty in the moment become grayed...smudged, and the gifts are lost.  The moment is lost, leaving the fear of what may happen...the trauma of what did.

I started reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  It is a wonderful book with a beautiful challenge:  to see the gifts God has filled the earth with, and to name them, to write them down.

Her challenge is to make a list of 1000 things you are thankful for.  Those things are really gifts from our Creator.

By remaining in the moment, looking for things to be thankful for; as we recognize the gifts, time slows.

Joy increases.

Negativity is hammered out by thanksgiving hammered in, resulting in increasing joy.

I have taken the challenge, and I hope you will too!  I have posted my first 20 gifts that relate directly to my children with autism/adhd.  I hope you are encouraged to find the gifts God has showered on you, and in the middle of it, discover joy.

Ephesians 5:19b-20 says, "Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

My first Twenty:

1. A child melting like chocolate into my arms

2. Uncontrolled giggles from unknown reasons

3. Understanding surpassing anxiety

4. Siblings playing, pretending together

5. Children singing, instruments strumming, praises to God

6. Glimpses into their mysterious mind

7. The sweet smell of freshly shampood hair

8. Smiles peeking under umbrellas

9. Sing-songy voices telling stories unknown

10. Children slipping off to sleep

11. Messy fingers undiscovered through fun

12. Color spreading staining paper, as tiny fingers create

13. Bright shiny  crescent shaped eyes, wet with laughter

14. Moments of fully entering his world, as Jesus entered mine

15. Treasures glowing amidst the spectrummy storms

16. My boy, eyes beaming as he gazes into the eyes of another child

17. A shining face appearing amongst a rainbow of balls

18. Discovering genius amidst silence

19. Hands uncoordinated, striving hard to create shapes with scissors

20. Eyes casting Jesus as struggles are remedied, help received

I would love to hear your thoughts, and the gifts you have discovered!  Please let me know you were here with your comments!