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Posts Tagged ‘The Anderson Center for Autism’

If I don’t write something today it will be the first blank month since I’ve started this blog.  I’ve got plenty to say but I don’t want to say it.  It’s that fantasy-land thinking – If I don’t put it down on record, it isn’t happening. 

Which is not to say that I am not incredibly grateful, somehow simultaneously with the strong compulsion to smash something and scream.  I am grateful for every day in this new life since I have decided to live on my own ~ and somehow found the truest love I’ve ever known within that solitude.

I am grateful for everything I have, all my family and friends, my dumb American material possessions, my shelter and my food…grateful for everything for which Jonah has been gifted – an incredible education, a safe place to live, teachers, caregivers, awesome staff, a safe and loving environment.  I am grateful.

In order to guard against complacency, I have made unusual life choices.  At first it was a game, just to see if I could make it to October 1st without turning my heat on.  Then I decided (in honor of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Dick Proenneke) to stop using lights as well.  I bought some soy-based candles and I bundle up, typing with fingerless gloves and pushing the idea of heat into November now.  I stopped using the dishwasher and I turned in my cable box.

Last night I turned on the TV to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (on one of my three channels) ~ I’d forgotten how maddening commercials are.  And so I watch movies instead.  I still do laundry and shower in hot water, which is more than either Dick or Laura had, but I’m trying to eat by going to the store only once a month or so for fruit, vegetables, half and half, coffee, butter, and milk.  I’m eating out of my ridiculously full cabinets.

Now I’m thinking seriously of going all winter this way.  I live alone, so there is no one to hurt or annoy.  I wonder how long I can last; I’m a skinny, cold little thing so I won’t be arrogant enough to say I can do it for certain.  I’ve got my heat set at 45 so my pipes won’t freeze and neither will I.  It will be interesting to see what I’ll owe on my next National Grid bill.

I know I’m a weirdo.  One of my relative’s favorite mantras to me is Why can’t you just be normal?

Because normal is a dryer setting.

It’s the best answer I’ve got.  So why the hollow day?  Sigh…

Jonah has been aggressing more and more often.  Three incidents requiring two people take-downs just this week.  There is hope in that the incidents, which before came with no rhyme or reason, are now reactive to things like fire drills or too-crowded rooms with over-input of sensory activity (lights and sounds and noise and chaos, like last night’s Halloween party).

I don’t even know if I’ll get a photo of him in his costume (which was a aqua-man looking thing I found in WalMart; I hate going there).  I guess he wore it okay.  They told me he’d like to be a train conductor (believe you me he did not ask to be a train conductor, because he can’t make those kind of cognitive leaps).  It makes sense, though, the way my Boo loves trains.  But train conductor costumes top out at size 8-10, and Jonah is a 10-12 now.  Almost everything he’d wear, understand, or want to be comes in toddler sizes only.  I wish I had the know-how to put together a Halloween store for kids with autism and other disabilities.

And now it’s Halloween.  I have always loved Halloween and dressed up in costume (even with nowhere to go) right up until this year, when being alone seems to have taken the wind out of my sails.  I compare it to the first day of school or the school picture-sharing day, when parents show off photos and memories and happy shit about their adorable kid in his or her outfit/ Halloween costume, having more fun maybe than any other day of the year.

I hate it, and I hate that I hate it.

But I am not an angel and I am not a saint and I have these stupid, useless feelings of envy for these everyday joys denied Jonah, Andy, and me.  Andy is waaaaay better than me at not caring.

Yes, there are advantages.  I don’t have to go out in the cold with my Boo and bring him from house to house, trying to explain to people why he won’t wear his costume or say “trick or treat” — though, thanks to the Anderson School for Autism, he does now wear a costume, and they do take him trick or treating, and he does manage a discernible “trick or treat.”  Irony.

Then there are our visits.  When Grandma and Andy and I show up at Jonah’s house on his campus to pick him up, he is always waiting at the front door.

jonahinthewindow

He flies into his daddy’s arms for a long hug, then tells grandma what he knows she’s brought for lunch, and with nary a glance at me he runs off to the car.  Then he’ll say mama in the backseat? while shoving me as far away from him as possible.

I understand Jonah is daddy’s boy and I am glad of it.  And I do get hugs and kisses, sometimes, once we are at Andy’s apartment (another thing I am grateful for, that Andy and I get along well enough to share Jonah visits).  But he clearly is unattached to mama now, and there isn’t anything I can do but sell my home and move closer to him, to a small apartment, to spend more time with my Boo.  It is something I am considering – but I can’t spend time with him alone and would need to find someone to help me.

My boyfriend Tim could do it.  He is a direct care worker for individuals with autism and can do everything from restraining to administering meds when someone under his care is having a seizure, gently holding them and keeping them safe and as comfortable as possible.  Tim is a gentle, loving, caring soul ~ he has met Jonah once, got along well with Andy, and was unfazed when Jonah had an aggression…standing at the ready to help but at the same time unobtrusive and friendly.

But he lives in Bloomington, Indiana…and has his own three children.  I am here, and have Jonah.  We do our level best to see one another once a month and are so far successful, for we do yearn for the home of being together.  Next weekend we are meeting in Pittsburgh; it is a halfway point for us — and we’ve found a nice B&B and an aviary museum and science museum we’re interested in visiting, as well as nature trails near a lake and a river.   This weekend I will go see Boo both weekend days to make up for the missed visit the following week.

At any rate that’s what happening.  I am overjoyed and frustrated and ecstatic and sad in turns, but will meditate today and throw myself into work with redoubled effort, for after November 1 comes our fundraising push and media-story garnering at Modest Needs, where I work.  I have sought a second, part-time job, wuth no luck so far.

If you are interested in Modest Needs, a BBB top-rated nonprofit, please consider stopping by our website and donating even a dollar or two to help those living on the edge of poverty (but who make barely too much for public assistance) to give them a hand-UP through a hard month, or to provide their kids with holiday gifts when their families meet with unexpected expenses, or to help veterans return home and re-acclimate to society with rent help or assistance to pay a medical bill, etc. while they wait for VA benefits.

I’m so proud and happy to work for these guys.  I was a donor for 8 years or so before I started working for them in May of 2013.

I am blessed.  Writing this all out allows me to feel it strongly, palpably, fully.

Finally,  here are some recent pictures:

mama and her j

Mama and Jonah

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Introspective Boo

Jonah, chugging his "app-oo ci-dah"

Jonah, chugging his “app-oo ci-dah”

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And one of my Tim and me, sharing time during a recent visit when he flew to see me.  I am a lucky woman indeed to have found such a love.

May all of you enjoy a very Happy Halloween and blessed Samhain!

 

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I have received a strangely overwhelming number of requests for boxes of the winter cards I mentioned in my last post, so I called Jonah’s school and of course there are extra — plenty to go around.

For the mere price of ten dollars, you too can own one of these “Boo Boxes”!

You can order them from the school’s website, but you’ll notice the “winter” cards look different from those in my last blog post.  (They’re from last year).  So if you want a Boo Box containing Jonah’s design, just wait until I post a blog entry (once the web order site is good to go with this year’s cards).

You can also post a comment saying you want one and I’ll get it for you, and mail it to you too, at no extra charge!

There are eight cards in each box, two each of four designs, so every  Boo Box gets you not one, but two of Jonah’s elf cards!

The now-famous elf card

The now-famous elf card

All for the low, low price of ten dollars!

Be a part of “Normal is a Dryer Setting” history and own one of Jonah’s truly unique brainchildren.  Or just send some cards out, and another person will find one years from now in a dusty flea-market bin when it’s out of print and worth millions.  Do you really want to take that chance?

All proceeds benefit the Anderson School for Autism.

Jonah ponders his next masterpiece

Jonah ponders his next masterpiece

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Jonah turned 11 on March 7th.

This weekend I couldn’t see him; I was on a business trip to an adoption conference in NYC, so Andy brought Jonah up Friday evening (the day after his birthday) and I met them at oft-requested grandma’s house.

Evidently Boo was a good boy the night before at the residence, where they threw a little party with pizza and cake.   I guess as soon as Jonah understood it was his birthday party, he began incessantly requesting cake.  All through the party.  Cake?  cake?  cake?   And to be even more specific, what he really meant was frosting?  frosting?  frosting?

Perhaps for his birthday next year I will give him a whole tub of frosting right at the beginning of the party.

Of course I am being facetious and am in fact trying harder to pay careful attention to what he is eating and drinking.  Last post was all about how I want an answer to his aggression, and I figure the first place to look is nutrition & what is going into his body.    The school has a nutritionist and I may request the guidelines or whatever to pay more careful attention to Jonah’s diet.  In all probability it is me who gives him more “junk” food than anyone.  He actually eats his vegetables (and certainly gets no black soda) at school, that’s for sure.  Andy always has salad, vegetables, and healthy things for Jonah to eat.  I’ve ordered a continuous prescription of chewable Omega-3s; I think he’s been on them for a year or so now.

Most of the limited medical research I ‘ve done so far emphasizes the comorbidity of autism (particularly that which is accompanied by aggression) with stomach problems and/or sleeping difficulties.  Jonah goes to sleep early and sleeps well through the night, and he doesn’t have stomach difficulty.  Unless you count that the food gets down there unmasticated, as he is wont to shove great chunks of food into his mouth and needs constant reminders to take small bites.  Maybe that does mean something.  One of the problems with this kind of research is that I find either ‘autism 101’ filler pieces about how behavioral problems are addressed through ABA, sensory toys, social stories, etc. or I find articles and dissertations out of advanced medical journals and can’t even comprehend half of what I’m reading.

So I will dig a little more every day.

On Friday Jonah enjoyed his mini-party at grandma’s house.  She’d bought him two helium Happy Birthday balloons, which of course he loved, and as a treat we got him Burger King.  Of course, this was topped off by two baths and a very auspicious car ride to see train, which arrived at the crossing just as we did.  Jonah rolled down his window and stared at the passing railcars.  It was a very good visit.  Boo gave lots of hugs and kisses, and requested music? if we weren’t playing it loud enough.

Boo tries to share a french fry with his balloon

Boo tries to share a french fry with his birthday balloon

“How old are you now, Boo?”

No answer.

“How old is Jonah now?

I’mtenyearold he replies in a word-slur only someone used to his enunciation can understand.

“Guess what, Boo?  You’re eleven years old now!”

Evvenyearold, he tells me.

“That’s right, Boo, you’re eleven now.  How old is Jonah now?”

I’mtenyearold, he answers, as if to say I just told you.

Gotta love my boy.

a birthday bath - one of two

a birthday bath – one of two

That night Andy kept Jonah overnight for the first time since we admitted Boo to Anderson, a year and a half ago.  And Jonah was good, and it went well, though even when he is good he is an exhausting enigma.

And here I am outside Madison Square Garden,
playing around while waiting for my train
because, underground, Penn Station feels
dizzy with people, everywhere people, blurry-quick,
moving confidently and frenetically in all directions…
and I don’t like it to be down there.

Carmelo Anthony and me

‘Carmelo Anthony’ and me

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On Friday I reached out to a LinkedIn contact whose description said she was an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) specialist.  She was incredibly kind and has made a social story for me to read to Jonah as he gets closer to transitioning out of Wildwood and into Anderson.

Also on Friday my mom and I drove to Anderson for a tour (her first, my second).  She was very brave about the whole thing and only cried a few times.  We got to see his room, and the bathroom (with a bath tub) is right across the hall from him.  Today I’m going to work on his social story and make a list of all the things I still need to do (get doctors to sign things, give us prescriptions and permissions…buy things on the list I haven’t yet gotten him.  I’m even sending him to school with my beloved GUSTER book bag).  These last 5 weeks are going to go fast; but then again, summer always seems to fly after the 4th of July has passed.

Emotionally I have good days and bad days, just like boo.  It is worst when I approach the cash register with a pile of his towels and bedding or whatever.  One cashier even asked me if I was going off to college – which was flattering, considering I graduated from college 20 years ago, but her question also required some sort of response.  I smiled that just-smile-Amy look I have on my face a lot these days and told her, simply, “no.”

Yesterday M and I took Jonah to swim at my friend H’s house.  Her 3-year-old was there but he was floating around in a pool toy so whenever Jonah told him “bye bye,” H could navigate her boy away from King Jonah of the Pool.  Meanwhile Jonah cavorted, swam around, went underwater, and jumped in about 80 times.  When he was done, though, he was done.

“All ny-yah,” he said (rhymes with pie-yah) which is his invented, alternative way to say “all done,”  and he climbed out, ran down the pool stairs, and started to make for the car.  “whoa, whoa, little boo,” I said as I caught him up in my arms.  After chasing him around the pool deck for 10 minutes or so, I got him dried off and dressed, and we quite literally swam-and-ran.  Five minutes later we’d thanked H, said goodbye to the other people there, and were back in the car, where Jonah promptly smacked my face when I put him in his car seat.  I’d already taken off my glasses, so it wasn’t too bad, as Jonah’s smacks-in-the-face go.  All in all I’d say he did really well there.

M is working on his car today, using instructions from online and the knowledge he learned from his dad, working on cars growing up in the ‘sticks’.  He’s doing stuff 90% of non-mechanics wouldn’t attempt, I think, but what do I know?

M is very supportive to me through all of this, helping care for Jonah whenever he can and holding me when I need to cry about what is happening.

But I’ve found an outlet – a way to turn the negativity into positivity – a method through which I can focus on something good, something that makes me feel like I’m not rapidly approaching the unimaginable age of 42 without having done anything of any real significance.  Now I am changing what I can, where I am, within my means and ability.  Whether this sudden need to do something good is inspired by chance, middle age, or Jonah’s leaving, I don’t care to analyze.

I have always loved this story:

Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977):

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

This story has appeared all over the web in various forms, usually with no credit given to Mr. Eiseley. Loren Eiseley was a anthropologist who wrote extensively. He was the ‘wise man’ in the story, and he was walking along a beach after a storm and encountered the fellow throwing the starfish back.  Sometimes it is a little girl throwing the starfish into the ocean, sometimes a young man, once even an elder.

I want to be a star(fish)-thrower.  Like that lady I found was for me.

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For a few years I’ve been meaning to plant tulip bulbs in our yard, and last fall i finally did – all along the front of the house and in a circle around the lamp post in the front.  But I do not have a green thumb nor do I know much about planting tulips – how deep to plant them, which end up, all that.  So of the two dozen or so I planted, only four came up…three multi-melon-colored ones in the circle around the lamp post,

and just one in front of the house, as if summoned by the Buddha my cousin D gave me.

Along the whole length of the front of our house, only one soft-red tulip stood loyally beside the Buddha.

And it bloomed before the others, enhancing the visual impression even more.  However, Buddha’s tulip died first as well.

Is there a moral to that story?   I”m going to call it a lesson in impermanence.  Just about everything is with Siddhartha.

In following the theme of our parable, Andy and I toured The Anderson Center for Autism today, accompanied (and driven there and back – thank you!)  by two of the folk from Wildwood.  Andy and I loved the place.  I took about fifty pictures, even of the bathrooms (with bathtubs!  Jonah’s favorite!) and toilet stalls to show my immaculate mother who’s terrified these “homes” are urine-stinking, dim institutions like the one where Salieri moans and raves in Amadeus.

I tell you it all looked brand new.   The school, the houses, the whole place.  I think the oldest building was built in the year 2000.

The kids we saw looked happy and the staff looked energized.  They have a pool and every kid almost always gets his/her own room; there’s art & music & outings, a special building with rooms you can reserve to visit with your child, an auditorium, gymnasium, 3 playgrounds, and on and on.  When they were building the school itself they even asked adults with autism to give them guidance in designing hallways and choosing colors.

Of course I cried at one point but I am getting better at getting through it and I do hope they can take him.  I believe he can get better at a place like this.  Now we have to wait to see if they will evaluate him, and if they will we have to wait to see what they say, and all the rest of the waiting game we’re already playing with Springbrook and Tradewinds.

I could go on about it all but I’m tired.  I’m always tired and drained (or maybe strained) emotionally every time we ride back from one of the tours; I do everything I can to avoid thinking about what it is that we are doing.

I chat and laugh with the folks from Wildwood, talk about how beautiful that area is – near Rhinebrook, Red Hook, not far from Kingston or Woodstock.  “It reminds me of Saratoga,” I am saying.  This is all so surreal, I am thinking.

To stop the surreal from sifting its way too deep into my head, I watch out the windows instead at the calm blue sky, the gentle sunshine – the new green leaves and almost-past-full-bloomed tulips – – like Buddha’s tulip.

Impermanence.

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