What my 11 year old Autistic Daughter would like you to know.

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Goofing off at a Park. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Author (Father’s) Note: I’ve been trying for the past couple of weeks to coax out of Alexis how she feels about being autistic. What she wants people to know about her. It hasn’t been easy, nor direct. But although this is not her direct language, it is my approximation of how she feels, and what she wants others to know.

 

First off, I don’t like the term ‘Autistic’. I don’t want to be seen as different than other children. But I am very aware I am. When I am called autistic, or told that I have autism, that is just another reminder that I am different, and who wants to be different? Not me.

 

I have emotions, plenty of them. Just like you. They are inside of me. But the difference is this. I have trouble expressing them, or when I do? I express them the wrong way. Most kids my age don’t really care. We are out to have fun. Adults however get lost by this, they don’t seem to want to take the time to let me ‘translate’ my emotions. Despite what society likes to think of me, or others like me, we are not ’emotionless robots’. We feel, but those feelings? They are like a whole other language for us, and we have to translate them in our mind. Speaking to me sometimes is like speaking to someone who has another native tongue, and they have to find the right English word to tell you what they want. Be patient please.

 

I lie. But not for the same reasons most kids lie. Well, not always. I lie to keep emotional stress away from me. When I spill something, I say it wasn’t me. It is not to avoid guilt, but to avoid the emotions connected to the guilt. We you do something bad, most people feel guilty about it, and there are a lot of emotions attached to it. For most kids, like my brother, he may tear up, apologize several time, and feel bad about it. Those emotions get lost in translation for me. It is just so hard to find a way to say ‘sorry’, so I deflect it by saying ‘wasn’t me’.

 

I have an excellent memory, better than yours I bet. However my memory is different is some ways. Recall can take a moment. I don’t want to be wrong. So, in school? I take time to answer questions, which for some teachers, it can be frustrating for them. Also, dealing with adults in general. One thing about my memory that may surprise you, I recall things from the past like they happened yesterday. Emotions are attached to memories, and when I remember good things? I smile and laugh about it. It’s the bad memories that are the problem. If someone is mean to me? Or upsets me? I remember that about them. They could have done the mean thing to me years ago, but when I see them? I remember it like yesterday. I tend to avoid people who have upset me in the past. I can forgive, but it takes me much longer than most.

 

Simple things bother me. I don’t like loud unexpected noises. I don’t like automatic flush toilets. Or air hand dryers. Loud music can bother me sometimes. Crowds too. Expecting a response from me is annoying. Like “Please and Thank You” Why do you use them? I really don’t see a need. If I give you half my donut, you don’t have to tell me Thanks. I know you are Thankful. You use a lot of frivolous words you know.

 

And about frivolous words, what is with that? My dad said to me one day to get dressed now, because we are going out later, that way I could Kill Two Birds with One Stone. I had to ask him why we needed to kill birds with a rock? He told me it was an expression. I’m not always fond of expressions. I like it when people say what they mean, not use confusing words that do not make sense. And why is Pink a girl color? And Blue a boy color? Society has a lot of rules that just don’t make sense to me.

 

I have issues with touch, hearing, sight. These senses are heighten in me. So, I wear comfy clothing, because clothes you expect me to wear? Okay fine, put on a burlap sack for a day and tell me how that feels, now do you understand my fondness for pajamas? My hair is mess a lot, because brushing it? It literally hurts. My digestive tract can cause me problems, and embarrassment, an emotion I dread just as much as guilt. I have avoided school in the past because I was worried I would have an accident at school. I am very aware of how that would have gone over.

 

About school. I don’t go anymore. I do schooling online, and will go to a smaller private school this coming Fall. Why? Well, think of it this way. When I would go to my school it would become too noisy, too busy for me. I would get anxious, and that would stress me out. If I get too stressed out? I have to shut down for a while. It is called an Autistic Cycle. I can literally forget everything for a while till my brain ‘reboots’. Emotional stress does this to me. School to me was like having someone in the background drag their nails down a chalkboard. This sound would be far away at first, but by the end of the day? Right next to me. Yet I like to think I am still go to my old school, because not going to my old school? Makes me different. I hate being different.

 

Most of all, the one thing I think you should know about me is this. I am me. I am an individual. Everyone is different…so my father keeps telling me…and as much as I hate being different? I am, I know I am. And I don’t like this about myself. I just want people to treat me like they treat everyone else. Yes, I may not behave as you expect me to behave. My emotions are hard for me to translate. Be patient, as you would with anyone else. I am working on adapting to societies expectations of me. I try, hard as it is, I try. But, could you for once, maybe adapt to my expectations? Give me the space I need to become the individual I was meant to be? Give me time to figure out this strange emotionally charged world you live in? This is a strange world for me, and I work at adapting to it everyday. My parents tells me I am on a spectrum, that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ with autism. That there are many on this spectrum, and each of us are an individual. And should be treated as such.

 

 

The Day I Became A Grandfather.

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Bentley found it funny that he stole my hat and I took the one he was wearing. / Photo by KidZond.

Six years ago, this very day, I became a grandfather for the first time. It has happen three more times since, but the one that broke the Father barrier, and tossed that Grand in front of it was Bentley Benjamin.

I wasn’t too sure about becoming a grandfather, actually, I am still not too sure about it all. It’s just weird for me. I was 49 years of age, and kind of always wanted to get that Grand label once I passed the 50 mark. But it doesn’t really work that way now, does it?

I mention this to my siblings, only to find out that, like being the baby of the family, I was the last in age to become a grandparent. They had all beat me long before they reached the 49 year mark. That made me feel a little better. It was still weird for me.

See, being a parent? I can do that. I’ve done it for 27 years now. Not an easy job, especially when I was a single parent raising two daughters. The frustrations, the pressures, the self-doubts were enormous. Those only became worse when I became a single parent.

But my two eldest survived to adulthood, and six years ago my eldest daughter Jenelle, became a parent herself. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best situation, she started off being a single parent. And, the poor kid, had to live at her parents house.

Which brings me to Bentley Benjamin. My grandson whom I was lucky enough to be around the first two years of his life. It was fun, crazy, and having two little children myself now, chaotic. As my daughter worked on establishing herself, she lived with us to help out with costs. Bentley learned to walk at my home, first spoke at my home, and terrorized my home with the help of his Aunt and Uncle.

With three adults, three children, a dog and a cat, life always had something mischievous planned. Yet the real fun started when Bentley moved out, and came to visit for the weekends so his mother could work.

Bentley is a precocious child. Although not the best speaker, he was adept at figuring things out. Like door locks.

While many children who awaken at night, and make their way to their parents bedroom, or in this case, grandparents bedroom. Bentley had other ideas. He wanted to explore the great outdoors. You know, at 3 am. Even in winter.

Probably because I raised his mother, and eldest aunt, I was pretty good at being a light sleeper. His first few attempts failed. With grandpa coming out to the living room to find him dressed in snow boots and a jacket.

“Hey Bentley, what are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m just going to go outside.” Bentley would respond in his four-year old voice.

“Bentley, it’s 3 am, it’s dark outside, and cold. You need to go back to bed.” I would say.

“I got a coat and boots on grandpa.” Bentley would point out. By god, the boy does plan.

 

But no, we went back to bed. Well at least he did. I didn’t sleep a wink that night. My grandson is a Night Walker. One of those children who think that going outside by themselves is perfectly fine. But no worries, he won’t get out on me.

I did say he was a precocious didn’t I? See, if you make too much noise at night? You wake up grandpa. And that will ruin all the fun. Of course the screen door makes a noise if you don’t close it by hand. It bangs. Been meaning to fix that, glad I procrastinate.

I found Bentley outside, wearing a coat and boots mind you, with the dog. The dog was very happy to be let out at 4 am. Grandpa was not happy to walk out in the snow barefoot to retrieve his wayward grandson.

The locks came, he outsmarted them. Obstacles came, he silently removed them. Chain Locks came, well on one door because I couldn’t get it to work on the other door. He used the other door.

An all out war of wits came. It was game on! Magnetic Alarm Buzzers! That we neglected to turn off and scared the living hell out of us when Bentley wasn’t here.

Of course when Bentley discovered this Magnetic Alarm Buzzer, it scared the living hell out of him. And the rest of the household at 2 am. Oh, they work by the way, very loud.

Yet it was the one door, that the Chain Lock wouldn’t work on, and yes, the Magnetic Alarm Buzzer also wouldn’t work, that became his objective. Moving the loveseat in front of it became our only option. Of course that meant I had to wake up at 5 am to move the loveseat for my wife so she could go to work on Saturday morning.

I did catch him trying to move it. When I did, he asked me for help. Touché grandson, touché.

Then it happened, he figured out how to move it enough. Probably because Grandpa became lazy and didn’t move it far enough over. Hey, the loveseat is heavy, and at 5 am? It is annoyingly heavy.

I heard it though, came out to see what was going on. Like a scene from a movie, I caught Bentley putting on a lightweight jacket (it was warm out, so his choice of jackets was appropriate) and standing there looking at me sheepishly. His shoes were on, he was dressed, out of his jammies, and just looked at me.

“Bentley? Where are you going?” I asked him.

“Take the dog out grandpa, Jess needs to go out to go potty.” Bentley replies logically.

Grandpa looks over at the couch on which the lazy lab now prefers over her own bed. The dog, Jess, is snoring. I look at Bentley and shake my head. With calm resignation, he takes the coat off, and follows me back to his bedroom.

That would be the last escape attempt Bentley would make. His mother’s job changed, she didn’t need us to watch him on the weekends. He comes back of course, is a wild child. Likes to figure things out. Mostly to his advantage.

And odd as it may seem, I miss those little games my grandson played on me. I marveled at his ability to problem solve, his little cons. The joy he had in trying to explore that great big world. I hope he never loses that joy. And I hope to have him over this summer.

He’s six now, getting big, full of attitude and defiance. He’s also a big brother of two. With a warm heart full of love and compassion for others. I would love to have him spend the night again. I miss the little monster, especially today of all days. He reminds me so much of his mother when she was his age. And that is the greatest part of being a grandfather. With the title, you see your family moving forward, carrying on, and knowing a new generation of you is here to make their mark on this Earth.

My grandchildren are always welcomed at my house, weird as it is to be a grandfather. And when Bentley comes over to stay the night the next time?

I will have that darn door secured.

 

This is Austin. He’s Autistic, not Broken.

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Who wouldn’t want a Rainbow cookie? / Photo by KidZond.

 

For Spring Break we took a family vacation to the Mall of America. It was nice to get out-of-town and walk around, seeing the sights, riding the roller coasters, and being conned into zip lining by my 8-year-old son.

It was on our first day at our hotel that we met Austin and his Mother. We would see them only once, and not for the rest of our trip. How we met during breakfast was simple. Austin, around my son’s age, was wearing the same pajamas as my son. A cute little red-haired boy who came up to our table to smile at my son, delighted they accidentally dressed as ‘twins’.

Austin did not speak to us, just smiled. His mother came up to us, put her hand on her son’s shoulder and spoke these words.

 

This is Austin. He’s Autistic, not broken.

 

I said hello, and then it hit me what she said. It was cute, catchy, and sounded like a mantra she had repeated often. And although I only met Austin and his Mother once on that trip, I have thought about what she said, that mantra. Autistic, not Broken.

I went though a lot emotions thinking about this mantra, from finding it mildly offensive. I never said your kid was broken lady! to inspired. What a great way to introduce autism to others! Yet I couldn’t get over the sadness of it all.

See my youngest daughter is High Functioning Autistic. I never told this to Austin’s mother. I didn’t have a chance. I have never thought my daughter was broken.

 

Then again, maybe I have.

 

As hard as it is to admit. There are many times I wish my daughter was not Autistic. Sometimes this wish is selfishness on my part, most it is for her. I absolutely HATE the fact the world will be a challenge for her. That people will look down at her, ignore her, and ultimately categorize her into a slot that they can ignore.

The endless explanations to family, friends, strangers, about why she behaves this way or that. Or choices we are forced to make on behalf of our daughter that people are confused by. The advice that is more condemnation than support. That you just have to smile through, and nod, while internally you are screaming.

The many private things we do not discuss. The bathroom issues, the sensitivity issues, the Autistic Cycles she gets caught in. All those things that are a challenge to my family, to her, and our choice not to broadcast it.  They don’t understand the why’s. Even when you have explained it a thousand times.

Because Autism is a Wicked Little Tailor that fashions a suit for each individual, those of us who are A-Neural Typical can easily get lost by autistic behavior. Is the kid rude? Is she dumb? Wow she’s smart! Is she top of her class? Why is her hair messy? It’s 3 pm, why is she in pajama’s?

The questions, looks, attitudes abound. You as a parent navigate these perilous conversations and hope the adult will not be an ass to your kid. It doesn’t always turn out that way.

Sometimes the world surprises you. I was surprised at the Mall of America, at the Sea Life exhibit. If you have the chance, this is a wonderful place to visit. You can see an array of marine life, and even touch some.

One part of this exhibit is an acrylic tunnel you walk through. It takes you though 300 feet of the exhibit showcasing the aquatic life native to Minnesota, the Amazon, Rainbow reef and mythical Atlantis. You literally walk under the water and see the wildlife swimming around and over you. My son loved it, was beyond thrilled to go through the tunnel.

My daughter on the other hand, stopped dead at the entrance. I tried to coax her to go in just a little bit, but she was not having it. I did my best to alleviate her fears, but still she would not go. I let her mother and brother walk on as I tried to decide what to do.

Then the wonderful happened. A Sea Life worker noticed my dilemma. She came up to us and asked if we needed help. I told her that my daughter was High Functioning Autistic and seemed to have an issue with the tunnel.

The day before I couldn’t get her off the roller coasters, so I was a bit shock at her balking at the tunnel. Plus she is an animal lover extraordinaire, why this bothered her? She still hasn’t told me why. But it did, and the Sea Life worker noticed, and knew what to do.

Opening a side door, the worker walked us a short distance to another door and we bypassed the tunnel. I got the impression the worker had done this before, and that she had done this before for Autistics.

I was incredibly thankful to the worker. To the whole of Mall of America, which is sensory / anxiety friendly place.

It was a moment like that one, that gave me hope that others do understand. That they do get what Austin’s mother said, and now I do too. That with awareness comes compassion, with awareness comes understanding, and ultimately, with awareness comes knowledge that we are all individuals, we are all human beings deserving of respect.

This is National Autistic Awareness Month. 

And my Daughter is Alexis, she’s Autistic, not Broken. 

 

There is this girl, with a phone…

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Cloud formation. Possibly a massive Bulldog, not sure. / Photos by KidZond.

 

No really, there is this girl, with a phone. She takes a lot of pictures. Far better than what you will see here. Yet this 20 something girl, a friend of my Sister-in-Law, is an artist. As in, she draws things, paints things, and now…

She uses her phone to take a myriad of pictures.

I seen this in the early spring of this year. And it got me to thinking; dangerous, I know.

Most of us have smartphones now, and with smartphones, cameras. When we aren’t snapping photos of ourselves, we use this little camera to take picture of family, friends, silly signs, and well, just about everything. Like mushrooms growing outside my children’s gymnastic class.

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Mushrooms, growing in the most unexpected place. / Photo by KidZond.

 

I took it upon myself to follow this girls ‘Advice’ and start snapping pictures of what was around me. Found myself intrigued by the darndest things, mostly nature, and well. Flowers.

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Flowers. / Photo by KidZond.

And well, more flowers.

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Another flower. / photo by KidZond.

 

Of course there was more than flowers to take pictures of. Bugs for instance.

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Inch worm. Not inching at the moment. / Photo by KidZond.

 

And bugs making…well more bugs.

 

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Lady bug doing her thing to help the environment. / Photo by KidZond.

 

There were of course parties to attend, some of them, well…they happened while I was at work. The party-goers were still at my house when I got home.

 

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Had to be a wild party, see what happens when you go to work? / Photo by KidZond.

 

Sometimes, it was the ordinary that caught my eye. Something as simple as the remains of an orange on the kitchen table.

 

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This is not a banana, orange you glad? / Photo by KidZond.

 

Or rainbow butterflies, they exist you know, in the land of imagination.

 

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They like Milkweed too. / Photo by KidZond.

 

These are not the grandest pictures. Simple ones, a few of many I have taken over the summer. Odd things that caught my eye. Little pieces of data to fill my cloud storage and remind me of this year. This wasn’t the best year, nor the worst. It was a year of change in my household, new job, new schedules, things to try, horizons to expand.

Many years back, I used a Minolta 35mm camera to take pictures. Loved doing that. Haven’t broke down and bought a digital camera yet. Just started to play with my phone. I have no intention to get ‘serious’ about photography. I did that years ago, classes, the equipment, and the dream.

Yet the desire to capture the moment is still there. Look for the unexpected. The girl? With the phone? Now, she is an artist. She has a real eye.

I hope one day she will move beyond her phone, use that talent of an artist’s eye she has.

And I hope you do too. Selfies are fine, family and friends will capture that moment you will talk about years later. But the mundane, the simple beauty around us everyday? We should all try to capture it more. Let people see a piece of our bit of the world.

Could lead to an explosion of pictures. You know, like this one.

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Fireworks! (Not the 4th’s, but still) / Photo by KidZond.

And years from now, when your great-grandchildren look upon these digital images. They will get to know a little more of you than just family and friends. More than events and places, but of the little things that surrounded your life. Pieces of you that rarely get passed on in stories. I know mine will, and it will all be because…

There is this girl, with a phone…

 

ALL PHOTOS ARE THE PROPERTY OF KIDZOND, AND ARE COPYRIGHT 2018.  UNAUTHORIZED USE IS EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN. UNLESS I GET SOME MONEY OUT OF IT, IF SO, LET’S TALK, I AM CHEAP. IF YOU FEEL COMPELLED TO STEAL A PHOTO, OR PHOTOS, I DO HAVE PICTURES OF SPIDERS, NASTY ONES. I ALSO HAVE PICTURES OF MOTHS. I AM NOT AFRAID TO USE THE MOTH PICTURES.
BUT SERIOUSLY, COPYRIGHT 2018, KIDZOND.

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POSSIBLE ATTACK MOTH, STILL WORKING ON TRAINING. / PHOTO BY KIDZOND

 

 

A little on the quirky side.

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Alexis behind a Unicorn Mask. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Like any parent, I have a lot of hopes for my children. You bring these little persons into the world and try to teach and guide them so they can stand on their own. You wish nothing but the best for them, and wish with all your heart, that they will succeed in their life better than you. You’re fearful of the world, and what the world may do to them, but you know if you give them the right tools, they will be just fine.

Yet when you have a child with High Functioning Autism, the fear is magnified a hundred fold. The deck is stacked against her from the start.

We’ve only been on this rollercoaster of learning about our Autistic daughter for a little less than a year now. Dozens of meetings with doctors, counselors, school staff and reading. A lot of reading and research. At times for me, the challenges of giving my daughter the tools to have a happy healthy life are daunting. It can make you feel very small, very ignorant, and very angry.

Anger is my biggest problem. Most people don’t see my anger. I’m usually considered a jovial guy, even when subjects come up in the course of conversations that normally piss everyone off, I’m the guy who takes it all in stride.

Except when it comes to my kids. I’m very defensive.

Yes of course you should be defensive of your children. I’m not a helicopter parent, more of a military drone style. I’ll let it go on for a bit, then come in low with missiles ready to fire and blow you up verbally. It’s not a good trait, I don’t like being like this. But, it’s my kids. Still, until my wife pointed out that this drone style of attack wasn’t helping the situation, I had been lashing out.

She was right of course, I was wrong. I ran afoul of my own passion to defend my daughter, just to exacerbate the situation. I need to find a way to redirect, to work on getting those who can understand Alexis, to understand. Those who are incapable…well to just let it go.

Fairy Brides are Quirky.

For years I have been an avid Folklore buff. Mostly British folklore. In those stories that I have read and re-read, I have run across the Fairy Bride. A quirky set of tales that have not made it to Disney yet. Yet these tales help put things in perspective, and makes me wonder if Autism was a foundation for the tale.

Fairy Brides are a big part of British Folklore. A man meets a beautiful woman and marries her on the spot, so to speak. Yet his bride is quirky, she has trouble adjusting to the mortal worlds social norms. Fairy Brides tend to cry at Weddings, and laugh at Funerals. Much to the consternation of the mortal husband. They do socially inept things that often cause the husband to have to admonish his wife, to try to change her, mold her into being a ‘Good Wife’. Often the story ends with the Fairy Bride leaving the husband, his life now in ruins.

While the moral of the story is one about the fallacy of Love of Beauty alone, (for Fairy Brides are the loveliest of creatures) it also makes me think of Autism. A woman, from another plane of existence, has to adjust to a world that just doesn’t make sense to her. A world that demands she conform, behave as they expect her to, not as she is. Yet she never does, and in the end, goes back to a world that makes sense to her.

This is a problem I face with Alexis. Not so much her, and her autism, but to how others react to it.

Some people just believe that we are bad parents. That we need to correct her more. Others feel she is conning us, twisting things around so she can get her way. They get confused by her actions and react badly because they just don’t understand that she does not think like they do. That social norms they take for granted, are not to be found with her.

Now while some will learn, other will refuse to. No matter how I explain it. Even if I say those infamous words “Don’t take my word for it, read this…” , they still are locked into their opinion that this is some sort of great game to Alexis. That she is a puppet master and we are merely puppets.

Of course the part that really gets my proverbial goat is the “Fix it” or “Grow out of it” mentality I run across. Those who believe they can fix Alexis’ autism by doing this or that. Or that she’ll one day just grow out of it. She won’t. This is her, it is how she will be for the rest of her life.

And that is when I call for a drone strike, lashing out verbally against those who think this is all some sort of game.

And, I have to stop that.

Because my wife was right, lashing out isn’t helping me, her, or our daughter. You can educate people, help them understand that Alexis isn’t being a brat, it’s just that she thinks in a way that you can not fathom. I need to just learn that not everyone will get it, not everyone will accept her, and that my job as a father, and our job as parents, are to work with her to help her understand that not everyone will understand.

Our hopes are to give our HFA daughter the tools she needs to lead a good life. To enjoy family and friends. To have the career she wants. To teach her that although like a Fairy Bride in the mortal world, she can learn to adjust to our theoretical “Neural Typical” world, and still be herself.

Because like a Fairy Bride, with all her quirkiness, she is the Most Beautiful of Creatures to us.

Putting on the Mad Hatter’s Hat.

And helping others get their Alice on.

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Alexis. Self Portrait.

 

 

A little fact about myself. I only have 9 toenails. I lost one due to a childhood accident. Now when I tell the story of how I lost it, I’ve never been asked the question will it grow back. Little children do sometimes, but never from adults.

This is typical. Most adults don’t go around saying to a one-legged person, “So when do you expect your leg to grow back?” or “It will get better, just keep working harder, relying on that prosthetic leg is not helping you”. I could never imagine saying that to someone, could you? No, you wouldn’t.

Yet I get this a lot with my daughter who is a HFA, High Functioning Autistic. There seems to be this perception that if we just teach her this, or that, her autism will go away. As if it is just a cold, and given time, it will go away.

It won’t.

People seem to get lost that because she looks like a typical 10-year-old girl, which she is…just one with HFA…they expect her to interact and behave like any ‘A neurotypical’ 10-year-old girl. Which she doesn’t.

Alexis has quirks. Little things that people don’t notice at first, and when they do? Well they become Alice in Alexis’ Wonderland. Just like the story Alice in Wonderland, where a little girl goes into a world, that doesn’t make a bit of sense to her, most people try to correct Alexis, believing it is all just bad behaviour. Not understanding that the behaviour they expect? Is just as alien to Alexis as Alice was to the Mad Hatter. Remember, the Hatter thought Alice was Mad.

I find people perplex by her quirks. Even after I explain her quirks to them, explain that she is HFA, they still just don’t accept it, and suggest she ‘grow her leg back’ so to speak. I am given parenting advice, tips, links to articles. All sorts of stories of how they were raised, and what their parents did to correct their bad behaviour. Because that is how they see her, behaving badly. A product of bad parenting. An extremely ironic stance if you know the history of autism.

Alexis doesn’t say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. She finds those social niceties absurd. Often I run across the Adult who withholds giving her a toy, piece of candy, or some other object till she says ‘Please’. Which to her is traumatic, and frustrating beyond the comprehension of the adult, who is perplexed by her reaction. See, Alexis isn’t a child who needs to ‘learn their manners’, this is akin to me giving you a $1,000,000 check after I won the lottery and telling you I wrote Void on it. Your first response would be “Why would you do that?” and all I can say is Exactly! Welcome to Wonderland Alice, you have just stepped inside my daughters world.

This is the Mad Hatter’s Hat I have to wear sometimes. Stepping into Alexis’ world so I can tell all the Alice’s  of the world, why she acts the way she does. I have to play interventionist just so people can understand her, and not get frustrated by her reactions. Which they do often, but mostly, I have to intervene so she doesn’t get frustrated and slip into a traumatic state that will take hours, if not a whole day, for her to calm down.

Alexis does has quirks. She likes wearing certain clothing, namely, pajamas. She even wears them to school. Now you may find this cute, or inappropriate, or weird. Yet trying telling your daughter who is standing in her bedroom, wearing only her underwear, refusing to dress, because you forgot to put her jammies in the dryer last night. And do your best to keep calm as she melts down, crying, with only 10 minutes to get to school before the first bell rings. You see, it’s a tactile thing for her, certain fabrics bother her as fingernails on a chalkboard bother most of us.

Alexis isn’t a picky eater. Provided that the food she eats, say pork chops, tastes the same each time she has it. If I get a different cut, or use a different spice, she notices, and will refuse to eat it.

Then there are the constant routines, things that have to be a specific way or else it sets her off. Her pillow has to be just so, her blanket too. Stuffed animals arranged in a specific order. People coming over unexpectedly, or not coming over. Us staying a friends longer than what we told her originally, or someone staying at our place longer than she expected. Or say a substitute teacher at school, even simpler things like not having the cup for her drink. Those disruptions which seem so mundane to us, that I can say to my 7-year-old son, “It’s fine, Nick”, and it is fine for him, become an obstacle for Alexis, that she struggles to overcome.

To the Alice’s of the world, she seems nothing more than a spoiled brat who isn’t getting her way. Because they only pop into our Wonderland for a short time, they don’t live there like we do. Many want to correct her, or berate her. And by doing so, upset her. They don’t know she doesn’t understand why they are ‘mad’ at her. Nor why doing something their way is ‘proper’ and her way is ‘rude’.

There is more of course, the personal hygiene, physiological issues that come along with autism. Well, at least my daughter. Even being HFA, there are issues. Because Autism is truly a Wicked Little Tailor that makes a suit for each person it affects. You learn to deal with those issues, while working hard to avoid public embarrassment for your child.

Alexis is very high functioning on the Autistic spectrum. By guiding her, help her deal with all the Alice’s of the world, she can find an inner translator for her Wonderland. A Hatter’s Hat, so to speak, that she can give out, to all those who just don’t quite get her quirks. Till that day comes, I don the Hatter’s Hat, get out my translation book, and tell the Alice’s of the world that No, she will not act the way you think she will. And No, this is not bad behavior, or being a brat. And NO, this will not ‘go away’.

 

 

 

 

 

The Day the Moon Melted.

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The total eclipse of the sun. Art by Nick / photo by KidZond.

By Js Kendrick

 

In case you missed…and I have no idea how you could have…we had an eclipse this past Monday. For those of us who live in the contiguous United States it was quite a show. Passing from the west coast to the east coast. The eclipse was all over the news and throngs of people went to view the eclipse, to be in the path of totality.

There was also the scary bit about the moon melting. Oh? did you miss that part on the news? I’m sorry you missed it. It was a big deal here at my house. Because when the moon goes in front of the sun, well, come on! It’s the Sun! The moon was definitely going to melt. Or burn up, either way, the moon was toast.

Despite that little thing called Science, to a 6-year-old boy, the whole idea of the moon blocking out the sun is a tad concerning. Simply because he lacked perspective. Actually that has been going around a lot lately, but I digress. My son Nick had a concern which I needed to address.

Being 6, and fairly smart for his age, and me being very childish for my age, he had me puzzled as to how to explain it. I showed him diagrams, even videos, explained the Sun is approximately 93,000,000 miles away from Earth. And that the Moon is around 239,000 away…so we had a good 92,750,000 miles and some change, comfort zone. Nada. Just didn’t compute. He could not grasp the concept.

I would have to say his concern wasn’t exactly real. He didn’t break out the tinfoil and fashion a hat. Nor did he carry water jugs down to the basement. But he did ask if it was going to rain ‘moon drops’ when the sun melted the moon. I just narrowed my eyes and wondered if he was pulling my leg on all this.

What Nick lacked was understanding of the science. What was going to happen when the moon passed between the earth and sun? He just couldn’t fathom how it wasn’t going to be a catastrophe. Yet Mom and Dad were not panicking, nor were the neighbors packing their bags and heading for an underground bunker. So he knew that, yet it didn’t quite make sense to him.

Then, on Sunday, out on our front deck I had an epiphany. Nick was standing against the railing as I sat in a chair and I realized I couldn’t see the mail box. He was blocking my view.

“Hey Nick.” I said.

“Yes?” He said knowing dad was going to try to explain this eclipse thing again.

“Come with me, I want to show you something.” I said getting up and taking him to the mailbox.

Our mailbox is on a wooden post that stands about 5 feet tall. Nick isn’t there yet, he’s about 4 foot 5 inches. So, I used the post as comparison. Then took him back to the deck and I had him sit in the chair.

“Can you see the post?” As I stood where he did. Blocking his view.

“No, but you’re taller.” He said, got me there. I scooched over.

“Can you see our neighbors door?” I asked. He frowned. The door was taller than me, wider too. Yet I blocked it. He frowned then smiled.

“No.” He said. I pointed to our neighbors door and told him that is the Sun, and then at myself and said I was the Moon.

“I’m on earth?” He said. I nodded. Then I pointed to the sky.

“You’ve been on a plane before right? The plane is pretty big, bigger than a school bus, but when you see one up in the sky how big is it?” I asked.

“Little.” Full smiles now as the wheels turned in his head.

“Yeah, you can block it with your hand, and you known that the plane is bigger than your hand. So, see? That’s why the moon won’t melt, it’s perspective, how you see it, compared to what its actual size is. The Sun is really far away, too far to melt the moon.” He nodded, seemed to grasped the concept and went off to play, content that the moon would not melt. Although disappointed it wasn’t going to rain ‘moon drops’.

So we had an eclipse on Monday. The moon passed between the earth and the sun. The moon is still there, didn’t melt a bit. And I was able to explain perspective to my son.

The moral of this story is Perspective. In life, we often encounter problems that seem disastrous. Overwhelming and beyond our control. Yet often it is simply a matter of perspective. It may not be as severe as the Moon being melted by the Sun, and yes, at the time the problem can cause great distress and be daunting beyond belief, but years later, we tend to look back at those hiccups in our lives, placing them in perspective, and realizing that as bad as it was then, it could have been worse. You know, the Earth could have melted.