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Just a single mom of two small boys somewhere in the middle of Minnesota. My older son has been diagnosed with autism. Both sons have been diagnosed with awesome.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Why My Kid is on a Leash

People seem to be sharply divided on the idea of kids on leashes, or in a 'safety vest' as I prefer to call my son's. People seem to either love the idea, or think it means you are a failure of a parent who has no control of their child, and no respect for their dignity.

Thankfully I've only run into the, "You must be a horrible parent" camp online. In person I've only heard supportive comments on it. I've even had people who approached me simply to ask where I purchased it. 

Lately Max has been wearing his vest to almost anyplace I know will be busy and crowded. It's bright orange. On the back is a patch that says, "I'm not ignoring you I have autism." On the front I have written in sharpie, "Please be patient I have autism." It has a zippered pocket in which I have put a card with my contact information on it. And it has a strap I can attach and hold onto in case he tries to run off. I don't like to call it a leash. It doesn't work like that. It keeps him close but doesn't guide him.

There are two major reasons he wears it.

The first and foremost is that Max, like many kids with autism, poses a serious risk of "elopement."

To me that makes it sound like he is going to take off for Las Vegas with a woman he barely knows. But what it really means is that sometimes he will wander off. Or he'll take off running, a big grin on his face heedless, to everything around him. You take you eyes off him for a second and he is long gone. I still need to watch him like a hawk in it, but the vest is a little extra safety measure.

He won't always hold my hand. He still rides in a stroller much of the time. I think he feels secure in it. He seems to tire faster than my younger son when walking, but I want to give him the opportunity to walk when he wants to.

The other reason is maybe more for my benefit than his.

The older Max gets, the more obvious his differences become. What could pass for typical on a three or even a five year does not look quite so average on a seven year old. Even the sight of him riding quietly in a stroller while his younger brother walks is starting to attract looks.

More and more I find people giving him nervous sideways glances and then looking at me with questions in their eyes, or even worse, hard cold judgement. Sometimes people just outright stare, not even bothering to hide it. I never know what to do. Do I start explaining before they even speak to me? Do I wait for the questions that might never come? Do I ignore them? 

The vest provides a shortcut, explains for me.

Here is a picture of the vest without the strap connected, for the curious.

So what's the point to this post?

Only this: If you see a parent out doing something you never would, such as have their kid on a leash, or pushing a kid you think is way too big in a stroller, just try to remember, there is more than one way to be a good parent. 

Or maybe if their child is acting in a way that you you think is much to young for their age, or maybe just in a way that seems weird to you, there may be a reason. Before you rush to judgement, maybe take a moment and think, there could be far more to the story than you know.

Oh, and don't stare. I shouldn't have to tell you this, but staring is rude.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thankful Thursday (One Day Late)

I love watching Sam and his cousin Allison play together.

They play school. They play race cars. They play family.

They run around in circles holding hands and laughing.

They have big dramatic fights and then make up.

They are best friends, and for this I am thankful.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Picture and a Story from Sammy

Sammy: "I'm gonna tell you a story. That's you and me, Mama. That time we goed in the rocket ship all the way up to the moon.. There were stars. And then we comed back to earth."

Me: "That sounds like fun."

Sammy. "It really was."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

And now for my Wordless Wednesday post:

Being the Big Brother

We went to Pine Grove Zoo yesterday. It was the perfect day for it, warm but not too warm. We set out early hoping more of the animals would be awake.

Sam tried feeding the goats at the petting zoo, but only ended up feeding one. He said it was too tickley. I let them eat from my hand and he watched. And you know what? It was pretty tickley.  Sam really liked thus angora rabbit that never seemed to move. It was cute, like a anthropomorphized dust bunny.

Max didn't want anything to do with the goats. I was hoping he would try because he fed deer on a school field trip, but I didn't push it. .

Allison (my niece) fed them no problem!

I got Max to feed a white calf by putting the feed on the fence. The calf licked it all off the fence quite easily. Max thought that was funny until  the calf thanked him by licking him with his very long, very wet tongue. Max did not like that one bit! He stayed calm, but was done with the petting zoo after that. 

Sam and Allie loved the tortoises, but I'm not sure if Max even noticed them. The big cats were mostly asleep. The bobcats were a little more lively. Allie wanted to bring one home. I did my best to explain why they wouldn't make good pets. 

Max didn't seem all that interested in any of the animals... until we got to the bears! He said, "I can see the bears! Let's count them!" The baby bears were playing in the water, and chasing each other around, but Max spent just as much time looking in at the older, quieter bears in their enclosure.  He pranced from the baby bears to the grown up bears, and back again. He alternated between counting them and saying, "I can see the bears!"

Sam said the rabbit was his favorite animal, but his favorite part of the zoo was the red wagon.

The wagons the zoo had available to borrow looked just like the wagon we have at home. When Max saw them he climbed right in one. 

Sam and Allison grabbed the handle and started pulling the wagon. I figured they'd get tired of that pretty fast. 

Allie pulled for a while, but Sam never stopped. 

He pulled Max in that wagon from exhibit to exhibit the whole time. At first Sam didn't want me to help at all. In end he relented and let me help, but only uphill. We got some odd looks. I guess people were a little surprised to see a 3 year old pulling a 7 year old.

I  can already see, in small ways, Sam taking up the role of "Big Brother" to Max..

I can also see the beginning of a balancing act. Sam seems proud and happy that he can help Max, but I don't want Sam to grow up feeling burdened by his big brother.

And I love it when they act 'like brothers' even if it isn't in the most typical of ways. 

Because above all else, brothers is what they are.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Max on the Ipad

Recently Max has begun using Proloquo2go, an assistive communication program. It has a combinations of symbols words that Max can press to "speak."

While he hasn't been as conversational on the ipad as I might have hoped, he does like to ask for food! Grilled cheese, baked beans and pop tarts are favorites.

He has also let me know he feels crazy/bad/frustrated when he can't have what he wants!

Max has even gained use of some more 'functional' type phrases in his spoken vocabulary. In the past he has let me know he wanted something to drink by saying, "You want apple juice," for example or even "You are thirsty." Then over time he started asking what he wanted by just stating what he wanted, "Apple juice" or "Thirsty." In a way I think that was actually a step forward. Rather than repeating the whole thing in a rote manner, he was using the 'meaningful' part of the sentence.

Since using proloquo2go I have noticed the words "I want" and "I need" entering his spoken vocabulary more and more. As in "I want apple juice." or "I need squeezes." On a few occasions "I feel" has even shown up. On the day I picked him up from summer school to go to the county fair, he kept saying, "I feel happy. So happy."

In a way I think proloquo2go is making Max's echolalia* work for him.

Pretty cool, I think.

(Echolalia is speech consisting of repeating or ”echoing” what you have heard.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

There is so much you can learn, When you’re on a pachyderm!

Long before Max had a diagnosis of autism, I came to the realization that he was far more impulsive than other kids his age. He also has a very poor sense of danger. The idea of putting him on a carnival ride by himself, even the slowest moving of 'kiddie' rides fills me with dread. 

But Max is seven now, and he has never once tried to leave a carousel early. So yesterday at the county fair, after he picked out his elephant, I stood off to the side and watched. Just like all the other parents. 

Okay, I'll admit I was maybe a titch more nervous than the other parents. After all, I was the only one yelling, "Hold on to the bar! Hold on tight! Don't let go! Hold on!" 

Max on the other hand was blissfully relaxed and had no problem staying on the ride. In fact he took a little extra coaxing to get him OFF the his trusty mount. I think he would have happily stayed there all day if he could have.

And although he didn't tell me with words, the look on his face told me how happy and proud he was to ride by himself, without mama hovering.

He told the elephant it that it was a good elephant. A nice elephant..

I guess the lesson for me is that while Max does need extra watching over compared to many seven year olds, I still  need to pick my moments to allow him his independence and watch him shine.

He needs it, and what's more is, I need it too.