The End is in Sight

Thanks to all for your patience in waiting for my posts to return. At least I hope you’re waiting LOL!

I am nearing the end of my college adventure. 5 1/2 more weeks until I have my Bachelor of English. I’m so ready to be done. Too many nights up until 1 or 2 a.m. trying to get homework done coupled with a job and the autistic life is exhausting me. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to which thing – sleep or reading a book that isn’t assigned for school!

I’ve learned a lot, but I’m ready to be done. However, I will have to make a decision to go on and get my teaching license or head for the publishing world.

But that can wait…5 1/2 more weeks.

How to be Overwhelmed.

I haven’t been on here in a while because I’m the victim of an overwhelming life.

I’ve gone back to school to get my Bachelor’s of English. It’s online school and it’s consuming all my time, that is all my time that isn’t taken up with two part-time jobs, the usual housework, and then there’s autism….

My son is 13 now. He’s been getting steadily more aggressive the older he gets, not out of malice, but because of the normal teenager stuff. Mood swings, rages, defiance, it’s all there. Unfortunately it gets dangerous. I am at my wits end trying to figure out what to do. My husband is home now, but he’s only here when he’s off work. Lately the situation with our son has started interfering with his job and mine.

So until life is somehow brought under control….I don’t know when I’ll be able to post.

Keep praying..hoping…anything… We need all the help we can get.

Going Old School

I don’t mean doing it the old way. I mean I’m old and going to school.

I took a break from college a million years ago, and by that I mean 23 years ago. I could tell you a lot of excuses about why I didn’t go on to get my Bachelor’s degree, but the honest truth was that I was scared. I have never been good at moving and grooving in crowds of people far from home. At the time I was barely at the point where I could find my way through a party that involved people I knew much less strangers. I lived at home during my college years because of cost. I only lived 30 miles from the college and it made more financial sense to just commute.  At the time I thought it was the perfect answer, but now that I’m older I think I made a mistake.

Most kids leave home and live in the dorm. It’s sink or swim. Learn to adapt or learn to adapt. I had the luxury of  playing it safe and staying home. It allowed me to stay comfortable while navigating the gateway that college represents to the scary adult world. When it came time to move on to a larger college for my Bachelor’s, I panicked. I thought about living with all those strangers and trying to handle living in a huge city after growing up in a small town and I couldn’t face it. So I made excuses…

Too expensive, tired of school, needed a break, wasn’t sure about my choices blah blah blah.

For years I have paid for my fear and never admitted it. Well, here I am admitting it. I have had nothing but ground pounder kind of jobs. Motels, restaurants, retail, phone work- I’ve done it all, but where did I get to?

No where.

So here I am, 42 years old. Lots of bills and no retirement. Nothing but fear ahead of me and the consequences of fear behind me. The only thing to do is change it. The only way I can see to change it is to go back to school. I’m going to get my Bachelor’s degree. Maybe it’ll help me as a writer, maybe I’ll go into teaching. Hard to say exactly. The world is a funny place. Whatever it is, step one is going back to school.  Online school.

I have no idea what I’m doing with online schooling. I’m not the best when it comes to computers. I love pencils and paper and classrooms, but I live in the middle of rural Montana. It’s a little hard to get to school with travel time and still needed to pick up my kiddo from school, so online is my best option. I guess I’ll be leaning more than just the subject matter.

My family is supporting my crazy idea. My daughter told me she is proud of me for actually doing it. She says I’ve been talking about it for as long as she can remember.

I’m just scared.

Again.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to concentrate on the classes during the summer when my son is home all day. I’ll probably have to do some pretty late nights. Later than usually, so that means maybe until 3 am sometimes. I’m scared that I won’t be able to pay for it after I actually have my degree. Student loan debt is no joke. We are already drowning in it from my husband going to school. What if I can’t work because of my son? Autism waits for no one. What if I’ve gotten dumb over the years and can’t pass the classes? What if I’m wasting my time and money because my life is half over and there isn’t time to accomplish anything?

I know some of these are ridiculous fears, but they are in my head. I don’t know what is going to happen. I am right back where I was when I stopped school all those years ago. I just hope that life experience will give me the courage this time to move forward in spite of the fears.

Wish me luck!

Scare Tactics

For thousands of years parents and teachers have been trying to get kids to learn, behave, and understand. There have been many schools of thought on the “correct” method of accomplishing that. They have ranged from using logical explanations to beatings and threats to using drugs and counselling. However one of the longest enduring methods is scare tactics.

I’m not just talking about saying, “If you keep making that face, it will freeze that way.” I’m talking about horror stories. I’m talking about traumatizing our children to keep them safe. I’m not saying that this is the best way to accomplish the goal, but it is effective.

Every country in the world has cautionary tales. Some are folk tales. Some are fairy tales. They used stories to #1 get their kids’ attention and #2 get their point across in a way that stuck in their heads.

Not long ago our High School here in Conrad MT staged one such event. It was called the Ghost Out. Click here for the blog and pictures.  This event showed the results up close and personal results of drunk driving. Telling them not to drink and drive did nothing, but seeing their friends lying dead in pools of blood made an impression. There hasn’t been a decrease in the partying, but there has been an increase in calls for rides and checking in to let their friends know they are okay and have made it home. I know that some of the kids wanted nothing to do with anything involving blood, no movies no video games, for quite some time after the Ghost Out.

So now I find myself thinking perhaps it’s time to scare some more kids to save some lives.

I know that most of you will gasp and rant at what I’m about to suggest, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I believe it is time to scare kids about guns, about school shootings.

Desensitization to violence in all forms has made it hard for kids to understand the results of a moment of action. Whether it be horror movies, video games, social media, or even the news, kids in this day and ages have seen it all before. But until they have lived it, violence doesn’t make an impression.  How many kids who were running for cover and trying to survive a school shooting have a new perspective on how precious life is? How many are rethinking how they treat their fellow students? How many are asking if they could have changed things just by acting a little different?

This idea came about after I saw a news clip about the emergency teams that were going through training on how to use battlefield medicine in case of a school shooting. The EMTs were talking about how much this training was driving home the reality of how devastating a school shooting is.  So this got me thinking, maybe it would have the same effect on students. Maybe students wouldn’t be so keen to bring a gun in and shoot their fellow students if they had some up close experience with seeing their friends bleeding on the gym floor.

I know that this idea seems severe and maybe a little over-reactive, but so far what else had worked? People preach and rant about gun control. People blame the government. People blame the police, the administration, the parents, social media, video games, medications… There is no end to the “blame game” of reasons this type or tragedy should never happen. Unfortunately that hasn’t been working. It is time for scare tactics.

How much would it change a kid’s perspective of school shootings if they got to experience it without the actual tragedy? What if they were in class and heard the gun shots? What if they were to go through the drills for a school shooting? What if they were then taken to the gym or the cafeteria to see a scene of massacre where some of their friends were lying dead or dying? What if they saw how hard the EMTs were working to save those injured? What if they then had the opportunity to talk about it and share their fears? What if they were given a crash course in how to save a life?

How many of those kids would go home and rethink their perceptions of the world? How many would reach out to others who they knew were hurting? How many would reconnect with what’s important and do their best to keep each other safe?

I know that this idea is not a perfect solution. I know that in some kid’s cases it might make things worse and give them ideas. There is always a danger of things like that. I know that a lot of parents wouldn’t want their children to go through something like that even if it is fake. However, I keep thinking how effective the Ghost Out was and I just think that maybe scare tactics might just save their lives.

What do you think? Scare them to save them?

Sorry I’ve been MIA

I apologize that I have not been posting much. Life has gotten completely away from me. Normally I look forward to school starting and life getting back to normal, but this year it hasn’t yet.

The school here has gone to personalized learning and they were not properly prepared so all is in chaos. Children, parents, teachers and staff are all stressed and unhappy. Crisis after crisis seems to be the day to day norm now.

Also they have not yet been able to find a permanent aide for my son. It’s in his IEP that he needs an aide. Constant changes of substitutes will only last so long until there is a blow up. He has never responded well to change or transitions so this is very stressful. I wait each day for a call that something has gone wrong.  I’m terrified of possible violent outbursts.

Depression and anxiety is getting to the dangerous point for me. I’ve started going to a counselor, but there isn’t much that can be done to change a lot of my situations so I’m just spinning my wheels in the sand trap of false hope.  Slowly, very slowly I’m trying to claw my way to the surface where I hope to get a breath so I can continue on.

I hope you will all be patient with me in getting back on track.

Thanks for still being around.

Donkey Basketball

Donkey Basketball. Sounds funny doesn’t it? Well, it is. It is a game involving players riding donkeys up and down a basketball court trying to get the ball in the hoop while staying on the donkey. There is no dribbling but there is passing to other teammates. If the ball goes awry then the player must get off their donkey and chase down the ball and throw it to another player then get back on their donkey.  The donkey’s wear little rubber shoes to protect them and the floor of the gym. It isn’t a fast paced game, but it is fun.The Shelby FFA kids were having a fundraiser by way of playing Donkey Basketball. They asked the Conrad FFA group to bring a team to help out. My daughter volunteered without a second thought. Her and a couple of other kids rounded up enough members for the team. They donned fake mustaches and little sombreros and called themselves the Caballos diablos. Incidentally the team was all girls with one guy. Most of them had never been on a donkey, but they had ridden horses. It was an eyeopening experience.

When they arrived they found out they would be playing against the three time running champions- the firefighters. They were very intimidated but unbelievably enough the kids won! The Shelby FFA kids were playing against the Shelby Faculty. That match was a comedy of errors because it seemed the kids weren’t quite ready for their teachers to be so game. The final match was the Shelby FFA against the Conrad FFA. Nothing like friendly competition! Was more like a free for all and the donkeys were winning.

 There have been a lot of articles about the cruelty of donkey basketball. They say it violates the donkey’s rights and subjects them to frightening circumstances. I can’t say if that is true in other places but here in Montana, it wasn’t true at all. As a matter of fact, we live with an abundance of animals here in Montana and everyone is brought up to treat them right. 

The donkeys were subjected to lots of petting during half-time, but beyond that they were treated great.

From the looks of the games, it was the donkeys that were in charge of things. Most of the time they were meandering where ever they felt like regardless of what the riders wanted and in wonderful Montana fashion, the riders just laughed and let them go where they would.  My poor daughter had picked a very sleepy donkey that spent most of its time visiting with the audience and getting its ears scratched. She even ended up in the corner at one point because the donkey decided that he was done. 

All in all it was a wonderful night and my daughter said that she was glad she did it and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The FFA raised a lot of money for the food drive and everyone went home smiling, even the donkeys.

Prom 2017

Prom is upon us and once again the quest for a dress raises the stress levels of every girl around. Honestly I find the whole affair somewhat ridiculous. You have to find a dress, you can’t wear the one from last year, they are stupidly expensive and WTF guys get to rent theirs!

So we go shopping. My daughter is modest. She doesn’t like lots of skin showing so she wanted a long sleeved dress. HAHA! Everything we found was strapless or spaghetti strap. She tried some on then complained that she was naked! Then we found a two piece dress that had a long sleeved top but the skirt? It was poofy and barely came to mid-thigh! Who thought of that?

I told my daughter that if she loved the top then we could work around the skirt.

We went to JoAnn Fabrics and found a beautiful material that would match her top. We found a pattern and all the bits and bobs we needed to make it with.

Once home I sewed her the skirt that she wanted.

Long straight and with a split on the side.

She was very happy.

Not a traditional prom dress but she felt like a princess anyway.

Then came the hair problem. She went to the stylist to get it done up all pretty with a loose braid and all, but it didn’t last once she got home. It had to be redone. She she did it up the best she could and I fixed the rest. I’m no hairdresser but I think it turned out alright between the two of us.

Then the real fun began. She was going with group of friends and they all came to our house to take pictures together.

They have something here that is called the Grand March. I had never seen this until we moved here, but it’s kinda cool.  All the kids who are attending prom and their families, or really anyone who wants to, come to the high school auditorium. They announce each couple or group of friends and they parade across the stage showing off their dresses and tuxes. They often do some pretty goofy poses, like my daughter did. Then they crown the King and Queen and they have the royals’ dance. Then the kids go to prom and the parents go home. It’s kinda cool because everyone gets to see all the kids in their finery. 

So we got past another year. We spent less and laughed more. Prom was a success.

Being a Callous Autism Parent

My son is Autistic. That means a lot of things. It means he has trouble processing his environment. It means that he has trouble speaking and using words. It means that he can become easily fixated on particular thoughts or actions. It means that he is often unable to make the right choices. It means that he feels his emotions so intensely that they often overwhelm him. It means that he often has out bursts that are dangerous to himself and others.

I don’t mean to say that he is dangerous, just that he is sometimes not in control. Sometimes it’s because of processing problem like over stimulation, but sometimes it’s because he isn’t getting his way. I know this. That doesn’t make him a bad kid, just a normal kid in High Definition.  Most kids get upset about not getting their way and they may throw a tantrum or ten but they eventually can be reasoned with and they learn.

That isn’t always the case with my son. Often he can become fixated on what he wants and there is no reasoning with him. You can’t use logic. His eyes glaze over and there is nobody home in there. Just the driving thought that he wants something. If you can nip it in the bud before he reaches that stage, you’re good. If not, well then, best just to stay out of range and try to mitigate the damage.

There are many times when my son will hit, bite, scratch, kick, spit, choke, throw things, and bang his head.  He isn’t mean. He just has trouble dealing with his emotions. After the meltdown is over he is very apologetic almost to the same obsessed level as the outburst was.

Recently I got a call from the school. My son was having a rough day. He didn’t want to come in from recess. Well what child does? Unfortunately my son took then ending of recess rather badly and he had a meltdown. His disappointment was so intense that he couldn’t deal with it. He started banging his head. He managed to bash his nose on the window frame of the low stimulus room where he goes to calm down.

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His nose swelled and he ended up with a large welt on the bridge of his nose. The school was concerned and rightly so. They called me to see if I wanted to come look at his nose. After learning the details and talking with his teacher I decided to wait and see.

Does that make me a callous parent? No just practical.

I’ve been living the autistic life for eleven years now and I’ve learned a thing or two. I know that at any moment of any day a meltdown might happen. I’ve been kicked in the face, head-butted, pinched, scratched, punched in the ribs, bit, and choked. My neck used to have permanent gouges down each side that made me look like a tiger had attacked me. Does that make me scared of my child? No. Does that make me jumpy or reactionary? No. I’ve seen a lot of bruises, cuts and blood. Does that make me complacent? No.

It means that I’ve been there and done that. I know when it’s time to act and time to wait.  I know that above all structure and carefully planned reactions are the best.

I know that if I go running to the school after a meltdown, it’s only going to make things worse. It won’t change his behavior and it will very likely undermine the authority of the teachers. It will only justify what he’s done in his mind. He has to learn that that kind of behavior will not get him what he wants.

Do I think this was a tantrum? Partially. He didn’t get his way and he reacted. However, the difference is that he feels the emotions differently and he has no way to control them once they hit a certain point. Hence the headbanging. Studies have learned that there is a reason for headbanging.  In really weird way, it is how the child can get control back. It has to do with stimulation and chemicals. You can learn about it here.

I know this makes me sound callous, but I’m really not. I just know that this is my normal life. I don’t want it to be this way, but it is. I love my son dearly and it breaks my heart every time he hurts himself or anyone else. I feel terrible that others have to bear the brunt of his meltdowns. I’d rather it was me and not his teachers that had to deal with the pain. I wish that he would never have to be hurt, but that just isn’t in the cards for us.

The autistic life is hard. It takes its toll on everyone, but it hasn’t made me a callous parent. It just means that I’ve built up callouses on my hide. It’s given me a tougher and stronger skin to protect my heart. A heart that will always love my son no matter what may come our way.

 

 



Ice Fishing with the 5th Grade

The 5th grade class recently went on a field trip to learn about ice fishing. The Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks department were in charge of the trip and we went out to Bynum reservoir. There were a lot of buses there from other schools. We had our lunch and then the kids played in the snow until they were ready for us on the ice. It was about 26 degrees but the sky was mostly sunny and there was no wind. All in all a beautiful day.

The kids got a crash course in ice fishing and safety. The MFW keep the fish that are caught for the science classes to dissect later in the year. They calculated that they needed 981 fish this year for  all the school but so far had only caught about 50. So the kids were eager to help catch as many as they could.

Then we headed out onto the ice. It was about a half mile walk out to where the holes had been drilled. The kids spread out and found a hole each. The ice was about 16 inches thick but it was a little disconcerting looking down through the hole and seeing where the ice ended and knowing that we were sitting on nothing but frozen water. There were plenty of volunteers and MFW officers to help the kids.img_8859

My son, his aide, and I trucked around to different holes trying our luck. You have to understand that my son being autistic doesn’t have much of an attention span, so we ended up spending about a minute maybe two at each hole before moving on. img_8857

At one point my son walked past a fish that someone had caught. It was laying on the ice waiting for the MFW to come and get it. As he passed it moved. He jumped and ran away screaming, but we got him back and showed him the fish. After that he got excited and wanted to hold it. We explained all about the parts of a fish. Then they told him that if he kissed the fish he would have good luck fishing the rest of his life.
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Now before you get all weirded out, it is actually a fishing tradition up here. At first, he was confused and skeptical about kissing this fish but after the bus driver explained he was game and gave it a big smacking kiss!

After about an hour of fishing unsuccessfully, most of the kids were getting bored. Some of the boys started plowing through the snow on their knees and found a fish frozen just under the surface of the ice. So that kept them going for a while. My son decided that he needed to make snow angels.img_8865 And his aide joined in. img_8863

 We had some trouble getting back to the bus. My son didn’t want to leave and it turned into a wrestling match on the ice, but finally the MFW came along with their ATV and gave us a ride on the little trailer they were pulling. The kids didn’t catch very many fish, but they had fun. All in all it was a good day.