Sunday, 26 January 2014

What I Saw

I am doing what's called plagiarism.  It's just too important not to share with everyone.  Hope this is an eye openner to teachers, educational assistants, guidance counselors, resource teachers, principals, parents, caregivers, etc...

This post was written by Kitt Mckenzie also known as the AutistcChick.  You can find her blog at  Kitt herself has autism, so I think we should all take the time to read her blog and glean some wisdom from someone who lives it, every day.

What I saw

I left the gym, I had to, because the music made me uncomfortable. I stood by the door. 

I waited. I turned toward the door to the gym, and I saw a classmate burst through the door, an aide inches behind him. The aide grabbed a strap on his vest and stopped him cold. The student struggled. Aides thronged at the little windows.

I know what they saw. 

They didn't see someone asking to be taken for a walk. They didn't see him begging to have some space. 

They saw an escape attempt. A noncompliant escape attempt. A student trying to outsmart the teachers, to get his way. 

They saw someone who didn't understand the point of P.E.

They saw a runner.

He pulled away, and the aide pushed him back  through the gym door, shouting "In we go! In we go! In we go," his hands pulling and pushing as the student dug his heels in. Everyone else "encouraged" from the sidelines. I saw too much happening.

I saw an apraxic struggle. I saw a nonverbal student being pushed through a door in a frenzy of movement, everyone shouting at the same time, bent over with hands thrusting at his back, pushing against the doorframe and struggling to stay upright. I saw too much, too much.

I saw a blur of movement and sounds coming at me from every direction, I saw the ceiling the doorframe the floor somebody's hands everyone shouting. I saw the final thrust through the door, met with bright lights and cheering, everyone applauding the nice save! 

I saw dizzy and disoriented. 

I saw what he saw.

I saw a classmate who couldn't respond to prompts because they were coming too fast, and who couldn't comply because everything was being thrown at him at once.

He slumped against the gym wall and slammed his head back. The act was met with a sharp reprimand from a bystanding aide. And I know what they saw.

They saw defiance. Headbanging behavior. A tantrum.

I saw a student trying to block out external input. I saw. Everyone else gawked and chattered as the other kids did the warm-ups. I stood by helplessly.

I saw a humiliated man sitting against a wall in a corner, helpless and outnumbered, with no way to communicate.

 I saw what he saw, the flash of students flying all around me and I saw people surrounding me, cheering, cheering for the aide as though it was some big victory to drag a student back into a classroom. I saw the world whirling around my head and it hitting the wall just to drown out the noise. 

I saw that nobody was asking themselves how he might feel. I didn't just see the defeat, though, the lack of dignity or respect; I saw humiliation. Oh, yes, I saw. Pain.

I watched in horror. I felt for him. I felt with him. An aide, concerned that I had left, asked me if I was ok. Then she smiled at me knowingly. Chuckled, "He's having a little fit."

No. That's not what I saw.

I saw an overwhelmed student trying to escape a hostile environment. An attempt to find a safe place, or a bathroom, or some water. 

I saw a hasty and disjointed "rescue" that fried his emotions and ability to think. I saw visual, auditory, vestibular and tactile input slam him like a truck. I saw vestibular upheaval, and I saw desperation and fear and frustration because nobody understood, not one of them. 

They saw a fit. 

They didn't see what I saw.


I know, I mouthed across the aisle. It's ok. I know. He smiled back at me.

I know. 

The bus engine rumbled, and we began to pull out of the lot. They were still talking about him, imputing motives based on their own experience. I knew that he could hear them. That they didn't really care. That it wasn't my place to correct them. To try and educate them. Not the student's place.

 I saw the look on his face, and I knew that nobody understood. 

He sat alone, leaning against the vinyl of his seat, his expression fraught with distress, his eyebrows knit. I knew that they were fine, and they could sit there and casually theorize about it, but that he was still coming down. I saw the look in his eyes. I didn't know what to say. 

I saw his hand, resting on the seat. Hesitating, I leaned into the aisle and placed mine next to it. I didn't know how else to say I support you.

His thumb wrapped itself around two of my fingers, and for a moment it was like that. Then he lifted his hand and took mine in it.

I squeezed. I know.

We stayed that way for about a minute. The bus rumbled down the street, curving around the corners, my hand in his. 

They said I helped calm him down. Sometimes people underestimate what it means to acknowledge someone's humanity. To see it. I don't know what they thought my gesture was, but we knew what it was. A show of solidarity. A quiet one, not a trumpeting fanfare, but a whisper. I know.

This is what I saw. Very different from what the teachers saw.

I don’t know exactly what he saw. I believe that it was terrifying.

But I hope . . . I hope . . . that after the terror . . . I hope that he saw a friend.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Mark This Important Day On Your Calendars!!!

Please join us on April 2, 2014 (during spring break) for our 2nd Annual World Autism Awareness Walk and Rally.

This years walk will begin and end at the Manitoba Legislative Building. The walk will begin at 6pm.

This years is going to be bigger and better with our focus being Autism Acceptance and Understanding. We will again have brilliant speakers, entertainment, coffee and goodies. Autism Jewellery and PACE T-shirts will also be available for purchase to help cover some of the costs of this event.

So bring your family, friends, neighbours, respite workers and join us in marking this day for Autism. (Please only service dogs as there are numerous children who are afraid of dogs.)
Oh yeah, and please pray for warmer weather.

As always, consider yourselves hugged,


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Sunday Mornings

Just a little peek at our Brady Bunch Sundays:

Every single Sunday is the same:  the toddlers are fussing and cranky, Katie refuses to wash her hair and decides instead to experiments with make up, which of course makes me get a wee bit dramatic:  "Girl, there's a fine line between wearing make up and looking like you got attacked by a pack of Crayolas!"  Amber wants to wear gym shorts (they're short, I hate them, and it's cold outside; we're in the middle of winter), and Dayton wants to dress to the nines - dress shirt and tie (completely ignoring that there's a stain on his tie, and the dress shirt).

The five year olds decide they want to sit at the stairs of the altar, be the center of attention...  as I pretended I don't notice they run up the isle to the minister.  Naturally, Dayton wants to correct their behaviour as they've broken the cardinal rule:  "though shall be on your best behaviour in church..."

"They're not supposed to be there.  I'm gonna go get them!"  I know exactly what Dayton's idea of getting them will be:  Dragging them from the altar back to us (and we just HAVE to sit at the back of the church, because that's the routine and we can't break the routine), with the little ones screaming and kicking as they're not getting their way, typical behaviour for any toddler that doesn't get what they want.  I do my best to keep him rooted beside me, finally give up and take Amber, Katie and Dayton to Sunday School a wee bit early.

On one particular Sunday, we had a change I wasn't prepared for:  the Sunday School room was being used as a dining room to feed the congregation...  I went into full panic mode.  Change and autism do NOT mix.

Thankfully, the reverend came to rescue me with the five year olds, and led me to another room for our Sunday School.  Only one more child came to join us, making it a very, very small group.  Thank goodness because the three older ones were on the verge of a meltdown as we had another curve ball change thrown our way.  My babies on the other hand, took full advantage of the situation, running to sit on Reverend Mark's lap.  John and Athena LOVE reverend Mark, and don't even try to hide it.

Reverend Mark held the lesson that day, and I love it when he takes a break from sermons and comes to teach the children.  His lessons are always rich, leaving me with the feeling I've just walked away from a sermon.  Most importantly, reverend Mark is super supportive of the kids and even comes to pick them up for youth group in his own vehicle!  The congregation is very much involved with all of the children and supportive of special needs children AND adults.  The congregation of Kildonan United Church is in the process of fundraising money for a special electric chair for one of the elderly congregation members.  I've never seen anything like it before.  When one member of the church is affected, the whole gets involved as one.  It's incredibly amazing to be a part of this group of people who genuinely care about their church members.  And now, they've opened their doors to our autism community every Tuesday night!  I consider my family to be very fortunate and blessed to be able to be a part of this group of wonderful people.  Anyways...  off track again...

Reverend Mark made pretzels.  Not just any pretzels.  The best ever!  I've never had a fresh from the oven pretzel.  This was AMAZING!  He's an amazing baker, one who bakes breads from scratch...  yum! Breaking bread with the kids was not only fun, but it made them feel important, plus we got a good lesson on why we break bread.

Unfortunately, the room we were in was right above the sermon...  And reverend Mark finished his lesson before the sermon was over...

If I have God before me, Jesus beside me, the Holy Ghost within me and am surrounded by the Lord's angels, who or what shall I fear?  THE TODDLERS!  A bored toddler is a handful of trouble, but I have two of these little angels.  I broke out in a sweat!  Dayton, Katie and Amber are very much rule followers, and the rules are simple:  behave at church.  The toddlers haven't really been observant of this rule...

Of course, Reverend Mark assured me that everything was all right, children are children and the congregation would understand.

So, one may ask, why do I continue to do this every Sunday?  My answer:  The greatest thing a mother can do for her children is to give her children to God, teach them to love, respect, honor and worship God, and teach them to talk to God.  I won't be around forever, my time and Mike's will come.  When that time comes, I want my children to know they are not alone.  I am thankful my mother gave me this same gift, as she was called home eleven years ago, and I miss her so much.  I am thankful for God's unending love that holds me tight when I feel alone in my struggles.

Consider yourselves hugged, (and daddy Paul, if you're reading this, I miss you and mom very much)


Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

I have the most wonderful children.  No, I didn't give birth to all of them, but they are mine in every way that matters.  I don't have step kids (Ashley, Katie, Amber, Athena and John), I don't walk on them, and my biological son Dayton whom I did give birth to (well, had a C-section) does not have half sisters (Charlie-Anne and Summer); they're not cut in half.  We're a couple of families blended together into one.  So, introducing to you, a small sample of how my children think:

"Mom, I know Santa doesn't exist."
"Say what?!  Yes he does!"
"Mom, come on.  I know Santa doesn't exist, I heard it at school.  I'm fine with it."
"Keep your voice down, the kids will hear you!"
Whispers:  "Mom, I know Santa's not real."
"Well then where do the presents come from buddy?  You think they just magically appear?  Who else but Santa would bring them?"
"Mom come on!  I know you and dad buy them.  I kind of busted you last year."
"What I really want to know is who eats the cookies?"
"Ugh...  I eat the cookies, it's me, I love cookies."
"And the milk?  Who drinks the milk?"
"Dad, you know how much he loves his milk."
"OK, that makes sense."

"You can't be a woman, you're a mom!!!"

"I don't want to go in, just leave me in the car."  (It's like -30 with the wind chill.)
"I don't think so kiddo."
"Well, for one, I love you.  And two, it's illegal."
Whispers to me:  "I won't tell anyone."

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us some e-mail."

Older kid:  "I bet you're 40!"
Younger kid:  "No, he's 80!"
Older kid:  "85!!!"
Younger kid:  "I'm guessing 100."
Older kid:  "No, he'd be dead then.  100 is when you die, he's still alive."

"If Jesus walked on water, could he do a head stand?"

Sitting in the front seat beside me driving home from a visit with a friend, getting car sick.  I'm singing along with the music trying to get his mind off it.
"Mom, you know I love you, right?"
"Aww, thanks babe!  I love you too!"
"Please stop singing."
"You're making me sicker."
So much for that idea...

"I need super glue and a non stick frying pan."
"I wanna know which ones a liar."
"Say what?!"
"Don't you wanna know which one is telling the truth?  Super glue is supposed to stick to everything, and non stick pans are supposed to not stick.  You said you hate liars.  Let's find out which one we hate."

At a restaurant...  the waitress taking our order...
"I wish to eat the unborn."
Absolute silence...
"Eggs, the boy wants to eat eggs..."

Again, at a restaurant...
"I want meat on a stick."
"Say what???"
"Meat on a stick with sticky sauce."
"On a stick?  I don't understand."  Meltdown in 10, 9, 8
"Lots of sticks side by side, meat in between..."
"Honey, I don't understand..."
7, 6, 5
"With the sticky brown sauce!!!"
People are looking now...
Drum roll please...  "RIBS!  YOU WANT RIBS!!!"
6, 7, 8...  Smile.  Thank you Lord!

"Momma, you're skinny."
I'm huge...  "Well, thanks babe."
"Yeah, you just have a lot of skin."
And just like that my happy moment is gone.

"I don't need a bath, can't you just Febreeze me?"

We've learned a couple of things along the way this year:

1)  Never say "maybe" to our children.  The word "maybe" to them means:  "I swear on my life this will most definitely, certainly and beyond a shadow of a doubt happen."

2) Arguing with teenagers is like wrestling with a pig in the mud.  Sooner or later you figure out (in my case through my child's counselor) that they're really enjoying it.

3) We appear to have several invisible kids living in our house.  They are named "It wasn't me," "I don't know," "I'm bored," and "Why me?"

4) I can always count on my daughters to walk up to me for no reason to give me a hug and say "I love you mommy" or my sons to jump on me when I least expect it, wrap their arms and legs around me like spider monkeys and kiss my face all over, telling me they love me 'like crazy.'

5) God may not have answered our prayers the way we wanted Him to, but when we've stepped back to look at the whole picture, we see He's answered them in the way it's best for us.  Kind of like we do with our children...  In other words, God equals daddy to us.

6) There is a special bond between mothers and sons which can never be destroyed.  I've questioned this bond much in the last year between Dayton and myself, and I see now that no matter what happens, or who he's with, no one can destroy what we have, and I am grateful.

7) My new favorite word is "Really?!"  It works for almost everything.  I'll give you a brief example...  I have a rule for my sons:  No play fighting, as John is so small and Dayton is stronger than he realizes.  When I catch them play fighting, I loudly say "Really?!"  They boys back off into separate corners of the room.

8) Courage isn't the lack of fear.  Courage is the willingness to move forward even if you are scared.  My sons show me this every day.  My daughters are a bit more squeamish, but they show me they have courage as well.  I'm very proud of them!

9) You know you're in trouble when your teenager comes to you and says "You know I love you, right?"  A conversation starting with that sentence means nothing but trouble, especially when said teenager has autism.

10) Raising little boys is not just a job.  It's an adventure; with sound effects.

Consider yourselves hugged,