Friday, June 29, 2012

Geek Chic

"Conor, what shirt do you want to wear today?"

"This one!"

"That doesn't match your shorts.  Why don't you try a different shirt?"

"No, I want to try this one!"

(Sigh.  Pick your battles, Alisa.  Pick your battles. At least he can dress independently. We'll work on matching later. Or not.)

And yes, those are my flip flops.
He changed to his sneakers later.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Because I Said So

The view from the porch where I meditated. 
The mosquitoes were quite generous 
with their biting.
We've spent the last week on "vacation" and supporting Conor while he was at sleep-away camp. A little hiatus, some time off.  Well, a little time off anyway. Enough of a break that I was able to read two really quite terrible books and get a migraine from too much sleep.

We rented a beautiful waterfront home about 10 miles away from the camp so that we could check-in every day and make sure he had his sweet potato and his protocol followed and take him on his earned community outing and see that the jock itch didn't get out of control and blah-dy blah blah.

You know, all those things we helicopter parents do.

I spent so much time preparing for camp, and then supporting him at camp, that I neglected some things on the home front.  Little things like bills and taxes and birthday gifts. And my hair.  My God, my hair is a complete and utter disaster. I look like a street woman pushing her cart.

In any case, we've declared sleep-away camp a success.  (If we say it, it must be so.)

He made a friend, a boy who loved shooting hoops in the searing 100 degree heat as much as he did.  A boy who didn't mind that Conor tackled him during a short-lived game of catch with a football.  A boy who talked Conor's ear off and hugged him in the swimming pool and held his hand as they wandered around.

We briefly adopted his 1:1, as we often do with the good ones, an affable chap from Plymouth, England, just out of university.  (He's British, so I can say "affable" and "chap" and "university." So awesome.)  We were so smitten with Ted, we had him over to the rental house on Friday and taught him how to pick Maryland blue crabs steamed with Old Bay.  Followed, of course, by a cold beer.

That's a pile of deliciousness, right there.

It was his first taste of blue crab.  "Brilliant," he said. "Delicious." See?  He's a keeper.

Conor rode a horse during a therapeutic session at a local farm. He looked right at home, tucked up in the saddle.  Poor Ted stepped in a pile of horse shit and spent some of the session trying to regain his dignity.

Don't judge.  It happens.  Everybody poops. Let's move on, then, shall we?

While Conor was busy sitting atop a pooping horse, my typical 10 year-old son (in typical 10 year-old boy fashion) wanted to do nothing but fish. He fished from the dock and he fished from the rocks and he fished some more. (He took a break one morning to play golf. Then he came back and fished.)

I had more worm guts on me than... well, I can't really think of who else would have more worm guts on them to be frank.  Green worms, on top of it. He caught a bunch of little perch, a rather spiny fish that didn't really take to our version of catch-and-release.

That's ok, though. It brought back memories of fishing with my Pop-Pop. I could gut and scale a fish by the time I was Aidan's age.  (Yeah, I got that going for me. Booya. Put that right on my resume.)

I finally taught him how to cut the worm and bait the hook himself, but I didn't dare ask him to grab the spiny fish and try to wiggle the barbed hook free.

A few fish lost their lives, but teach a man to fish and whatnot.  Circle of life and all.

So.  Conor made a friend.  He had a great 1:1. He got to ride a horse, and shoot hoops, do arts and crafts, navigate a ropes course complete with zip line, and swim in the pool.  He slept through the night and the rest of the family got some R&R.  We fished, I read, they golfed, I shopped.  We ate too much, didn't drink nearly enough, and we all survived.

Oh, but he did have a tantrum at camp.  But not until the second-to-last day.  Since he came home only one night early, I deem sleep-away camp as a success.  It is, because I said so.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stupid Flippin' Pancake

"What's wrong?" I asked my 10 year-old typical kid as he sat at the table, pouting at his plate of pancakes. "What's bothering you?"

"Nothing," Aidan replied sullenly, eyes downcast.

"Something's bothering you, c'mon, tell me," I needled.

"NOTHING!" he crowed.

"Ok, ok," I said, throwing my hands up as I followed Conor out of the kitchen.

From the other room, I heard Aidan muttering to my husband in the kitchen. "Pancakes murmur murmur flipping murmur Conor murmur murmur."

Oh my
God, seriously? Is Aidan seriously pouting because Conor flipped Aidan's pancake over on the skillet, and Aidan didn't get to do it himself?

Is he upset over, literally, a flippin' pancake? 


Growing up with three sisters, I remember vividly the multiple indignities suffered upon me by my siblings. Too numerable to recount here, although I distinctly remember my older sister looking at me a lot. At least, that's what I told my mom.

She's looking at me, Mom!! 
 I told her NOT to, but she's looking at me!"

I know, really, the nerve of my sisters to actually look at me.

My husband and I try to explain to Aidan that typical brothers can be pains in the asses too, that Conor doesn't just torture him because he has autism. He also tortures Aidan because, well, he's his older brother. And that's what siblings do.

(Although Aidan doesn’t have to complain about Conor looking at him, ‘cause his eye contact sucks.

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha! Sorry, bad autism joke, couldn’t help myself.)

Of course, I didn’t have two rooms in my childhood home with locks on them that I could use as "safe rooms" when my sibling had a magical meltdown. Aidan does. (They lock from the inside and one has a Wii in it to amuse him during a Conor crisis.)

And my parents weren’t powerless to address certain behaviors. I've been grounded more times than I can count, have had my mouth washed out with soap (blech), and made to eat green vegetables!  Vegetables!

(Although, I suppose, I probably accused them of doing nothing to stop the looking at me!)

Quite honestly, at this point, if Conor flips his brother’s pancake or steals Aidan's basketball or makes it impossible for Aidan to have a friend over one afternoon, we may simply have to shrug our shoulders and move forward. Is the act important enough to risk a grand mal tantrum for?   If yes, then confront and deal.  If not, just accept and move on. Priorities, I suppose.

It’s not that these things aren’t important. They are. It’s just that, in the end, the entire family has to dance around Conor’s disability. We all have to make concessions accommodations to it. Even Aidan.  And that's got to be hard.

So I understand Aidan’s frustration. Personally, I wish Aidan had to deal with his brother calling him a ball sac, bogarting his Halloween candy, and giving him noogies than have a brother who tantrums on a whim, screeches odd things at people in public, and sucks up the majority of his parents' attention.  But hey, that's life with an older brother with autism.

But some of the time, it's just life with an older brother.

At least he doesn't have to deal with Conor looking at him all the time.  But the next time I catch my sister looking at me, I know what will show her what's what--

Take that. So there.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

All Hail, Sleep-Away Camp Approacheth

Conor has two more days of school until summer vacation, and I’ve been spending weeks and weeks preparing. Less thought went into Princess Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles, for Christ’s sake.

I’ve been spending lots of quality time with my calendar. Planning, planning, planning. Coodinating.  Color-coding emails to various helpers. I've cobbled together a mix of camps, outings and respite care aids.  (He's in an 11-month program, so he does have school during July. But still. 7 empty weeks to fill.)

I’m a little anxious, if you must know the truth. 4:30am-staring-at-the-ceiling-nervous.

On the plus side, I’m getting a tremendous amount of worrying out of the way by 6am, leaving me ready to hit the ground running when I get out of the bed. I’m like a Marine with the worrying. I do more before 9am than most people do all day. Booya.

See, we've signed Conor up for his first sleep-away adventure. (Oh wait, no, his first sleep-away adventure was last summer, a four-month stay at the inpatient NeuroBehavioral Unit at Kennedy Krieger Institute.)

Ha! Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!

Wait, wait, just give me a minute to catch my breath. I crack myself up.

Anyway, to get back to my point, I'm a little nervous about his second sleep-away adventure. Just a little, tiny, smidgen of a bit nervous. Just a little. Maybe.

Ok, fine, I'm a nervous wreck. So sue me.

It was just two years ago--just two summers back--that Conor behaved so gloriously well that we sent him to an inclusion camp for the second year in a row. That's right, the majority of campers were kids without IEPs singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall and giving each other purple nurples.

Oh, and get this.  He went on the bus. On. The. Bus.  Both ways.  That's right, 24 months ago, we could send our child to a full-inclusion camp on a bus.  On a bus without a 1:1 aid.  (He had a 1:1 at camp, though, that's for sure.)

It was day camp, sure, but he went back-and-forth on the bus and a full day at camp for 20 whole days without a problem.

Now I feel like weeping.

Just a minute, let me get a tissue.

Sorry about that. Summer always pu
ts me on an emotional roller coaster. Anyway, four months (4, as in the number four) after he performed so excellently at the full-inclusion camp, he was admitted for the first time to the neuropsychiatric ward at our local mental health hospital due to the dangerousness of his behavior.

I still have no idea what went wrong. So very bad, so very fast. But you can see why I'm a little nervous, can't you?

9 days until sleep-away camp. To cope,  I have a little mantra going.

Please don't have a tantrum and get kicked out of sleep-away camp.
Please don't have a tantrum and get kicked out of sleep-away camp.
Please don't have a tantrum and get kicked out of sleep-away camp.
Please don't have a tantrum and get kicked out of sleep-away camp.
Please don't have a tantrum and get kicked out of sleep-away camp.
Please don't have a tantrum and get kicked out of sleep-away camp.
Please don't have a tantrum and get kicked out of sleep-away camp.
Please don't have a tantrum and get kicked out of sleep-away camp.
Please don't have a tantrum and get kicked out of sleep-away camp.
Please don't have a tantrum and get kicked out of sleep-away camp.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Bids Start at $1.8 Million

Conor: "When will Conor bring home the clay mask you made in art therapy?"

Me: "I don't know Conor you have to ask..."

Conor: "I have to ask Ms. Howcher."

For weeks, Conor has been asking when he can bring home his project from art therapy.  He receives art therapy at home once a week and at school once a week.

I think it's his best work yet.  If I do say so myself.

Conor (American, 1999-  )
clay and paint, multimedia
On Loan to the Blog
Licensed and Photographed by Alisa Rock

Monday, June 04, 2012

The Autism Question

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were getting ready to go to a benefit for Pathfinders for Autism, a nonprofit that we support enthusiastically.  Dinner, dancing, silent auction, the whole she-bang. 

"Why is Mr. S. coming to put Conor to bed tonight?" he asked my husband.

"Because Mom and I are going to a dance," my husband replied.

"Why are Mommy and Daddy going to a dance?" Conor continued.

"It's a dance to raise money for autism, Conor," my husband explained.  "Do you have autism?"

"NO!" Conor replied. He turned and walked away.

Ok, honey, I took The Sex Talk question.  You get to handle the Autism question, since you asked.  Sounds good to me. Let me know how it turns out.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Birds and The Bees, A Chicken and An Egg

"I think we're in trouble, Alisa," Paisley said as I walked into the kitchen yesterday. She and Conor had just finished mixing up a cake for his Cook-Something-Fun! activity on his schedule.

"Why?" I asked, a little puzzled.  Everything looked ok.

"Conor's been asking why there wasn't a chicken in the egg," she replied, smiling. "I explained to him about the yolk and the shell blah blah blah, but I didn't want to get too far into it."

Oh dear infant 8lb 6oz baby infant Jesus who don't know a word, please save me. I am not ready to have The Sex Talk with Conor. I wouldn't even know where to begin. I am aware that he knows women can have babies in the bellies, he tells me all the time.

"Mommy's finished having babies in her belly!" he tells me often enough. Damn right, Conor, I reply. I'll high-five that one. "Women gots babies in their bellies. Men don't gots babies in their bellies," he continues.  High-five.

But that's about it. I think.

He does know that chickens lay eggs since his former tutor raises chickens in her backyard now and he likes to pick out some eggs and put a hen on his shoulder.

Hey look, there's a chicken on your shoulder!

Easily, I envision how The Sex Talk will go with my typical kid; he's 10 now and I'm just waiting for the right time. But Conor? What do I say? How do I say it? Does he even know women don't have penises? Where do I start? 

Relationships in general are practically impossible for him with his lack of social skills.  How can I possibly explain the most complicated sort of relationship? I mean, I feel like I'd have to explain more than just the simple mechanics.  Or maybe not.  Maybe that's enough. Whatever, I don't know.

I mean, I can't even think how I would write that social story. 

Well, Conor, when a rooster and a hen love each other...

Luckily for me, I did some searching on the Internet (gotta love the Net) and I found this social story here.

They have a Facebook page!  (Not that I would know, other than
some brief research I did for this blog post.)

Here you go, Conor.  Take it, read it, and if you have any questions, let me know.  'Kay?