Aidan: I’m a realist and this is reality…
So my son gave me a good 30 minute breakdown on video editing and I asked him – where did you learn all of this? Computer class?
He responded with a sound I can only describe as negative and said…Of course not – I read it in a book.
Knowing my son is in a competitive top notch school – cool.
Knowing that my husband and I can expand on his education outside of school – nice.
Knowing he can teach himself and that he wants to broaden his horizons?
Proof that love is deaf as well as blind…
Aidan: Hey Dad, you know what’s missing?
<Jeff looks for popcorn, gummies, drinks. Check, check, check. Movie playing? Check.>
Jeff: I can’t imagine.
Aidan: Mom isn’t singing.
<I awaken from my scrabble haze>
Myla: You don’t like my singing.
Aidan: Not a true statement. I LOVE your singing. I just don’t always want to HEAR your singing.
Myla: I see
Aidan: This is a completely different movie watching experience without your backup vocals…I find I don’t like it as much.
Aidan: So sing it like you mean it.
I think Jeff put in ear plugs at this point so maybe love isn’t completely deaf.
Aidan has decided he needs to help out around the house. He has been putting away groceries, washing dishes and mopping the floor. I am starting to worry about breaking child labor laws. When he was finished he wanted something else to do and we suggested – quite reasonably I think – that he focused on picking up his play room. It seems some chores are better than others because he wrinkled his little button nose and decided he was done with being helpful.
Don’t know what to call this post – down the rabbit hole and tales from the socially awkward both seem a little appropriate…very few of you will probably reach the end of this particular post but for those that do…Thanks!
So. Autism awareness day is upon us. Many of you know that my son is on the Autism Spectrum. There was a time when he would have been labeled with Aspergers but these days they just call it ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I think Autism, especially – maybe or maybe not – high-functioning Autistics are hard for people to understand. Because they are high-functioning they are often in “normal” schools. They often don’t have overly obvious “quirks” or “ticks” They can seem so “NORMAL”.
BUT they are also heartbreakingly socially challenged.
The lessons you learn as a child – he isn’t learning at the same rate or at the same time. So when you hit 3rd grade and “social groups” start to form and the “different” start to be bullied and the boys and girls go through a period of not like each other….all that is “normal” for most. But Aidan was the different one. Aidan doesn’t tease or bully – you know why? Teasing isn’t nice. He says “I don’t like it when someone teases me, why on earth would I do it to someone else….Why am I teased all the time?” Boys and girls not liking each other because they go through that cootie faze – he doesn’t get it…at all. He referred to himself as Switzerland. He never stopped playing with the girls – or the boys – he refused to choose.
I have heard…
Your son is so smart (translation, he thinks he knows everything). Side note: hehehe, maybe not everything but probably more than you…#@#$#
Your son expresses himself so eloquently (translation, my son/daughter doesn’t understand half of what he says)
Your son has such a vivid imagination (translation, maybe consider a psychologist)
Your son has an old soul (translation, your son doesn’t fit in)
Your son is so reserved (translation, your son doesn’t interact with others)
Your son is so sensitive (translation, your son overreacts)
The thing is – those statements (before translation) taken at word value alone are…kind of nice…but like my husband an I tell our son you don’t just express yourself with words but with the tone you deliver those words in and with the body language that accompanies those words.
Yes. Aidan is smart. No doubt. He is what they call a fast processor which means basically that he can read a book, watch a movie and have a full and engaged conversation at the same time. And he doesn’t miss a second of any of those things. Also means he is easily bored and to have what would be considered a normal conversation he needs extra stimuli so it will seem like he isn’t really paying any attention to you even though he is absorbing every word…unless he is talking about something HE is really interested in and then you get his full attention.
Yes. Aidan is highly verbal. He likes books, he likes words. If he doesn’t know a word he asks you to explain the word and then use it in a sentence. If we are not around to explain a word then he looks it up. He has the Scrabble app right next to his Dictionary app and when the computer uses a word he doesn’t know he looks it up. That is why at 2 years old he was using words to improvise, unfortunate and…yes…befog…the word that Scrabble screwed me with just a few weeks ago.
But he can’t take those words – those thousands of words that he knows and use them effectively in social situations. And he also tends to talk above his peers – many a child at school parties has told me – Aidan is so smart, I don’t understand what is he saying most of the time but he seems to know what he is talking about.
Yes. Aidan has a vivid imagination. He creates worlds and events and lives and dies by them. Worlds we can’t visit and events we will never, ever understand.
He is an incredibly old soul. He sees more than most – he doesn’t know how to deal with what he sees and hears and feels but it is all there so much sooner than any child should have to deal with.
Aidan is reserved.
Scared out of his fucking mind.
Because life is to BIG and to LOUD and to INTENSE. He feels it all and so much more intensely than you and I and because of that he retreats into himself…to protect himself.
Aidan in sensitive. He may not REACT to everything but he FEELS everything.
His feelings are visceral.
Can you imagine?
So the next time you see a child who has flailing arms and is making shooting noises. Don’t point. Don’t stare. Don’t laugh. Because what you DON’T see is the horde of Clone Troopers who are descending on you and the only thing protecting you is the lasers coming from his guns. He is saving your life. Maybe just say Thank You.
Next time you see a child so overwhelmed that they shrink away, don’t try to force them out of that hiding place, dry pry away their shell. Just DON’T. He feels big. He feels loud. He feels intensely. When it gets to big he has to protect himself. Let him protect himself, let him have his shell. Don’t judge him. Give him time. Give him space.
Next time you see a tantrum don’t automatically assume the child is bad or the parents are bad. You have no idea the struggles of others. If I could tell you what would set him off at any given time then trust me when I say I love him enough that I would NOT subject him to anything I know would upset him.
But I don’t know what will set him off. We don’t know. NO ONE knows. HE doesn’t even know.
If he has gone beyond what he can handle and I am holding him tight so he won’t hurt himself don’t judge that either. Trust me I know the last thing he wants is me holding on tight but the last thing I want is him hurting himself. Sometimes it happens in public. Please don’t call the police on me – I really am protecting him – even if it seems, while he is screaming bloody murder, the opposite.
But – on a purely selfish note – if you don’t see me everyday you probably see me as brash, uncompromising, possibly loud and opinionated and no doubt sarcastic. But as difficult as that may be, please know that I don’t intend to be difficult or mean or uncaring.
In my world you guard your emotions closely because when I see how my son reacts to a strangers emotions I know…I know…I have to be stable for him. I have to always set the good example of dealing with your emotions in a positive manner. I don’t lose my cool. I don’t yell. I don’t…I don’t…I just don’t…
We just stay calm, use soft voices and softer touches and pray and hope and talk…and talk…and talk.
So what you see…is the release of all those tightly held emotions. I really am sorry!!
So – today – on Autism Awareness Day – say a prayer for Jeff, Aidan and I and for all of those others out there who are struggling.
So – little tidbit. I love the movie Annie. Yep, Annie…1982 musical Annie.
I can’t quite explain it – I am generally a action/adventure/comedy type of girl. And when I say comedy I mean I don’t mind comedy as long as things are blowing up between jokes. Seriously, the bigger the explosions and the more often said explosions occur the better. Throw in a girl with a gun and/or a knife and some nudity and I am in movie watching heaven.
So Annie is a little out of my norm. But long ago I wasn’t such a stone cold bitch and I happened, for reasons unknown, to get fixated on Annie when I was young and my love affair with that cute little redhead just never died. Now, I haven’t pulled out Annie in over 10 years. I had to make my husband watch it before we were married – call it a test of sorts – he clearly passed.
Ok – going ’round the bend for a minute – hold in here with me.
Some days I feel like crap for no particular reason – I blame it on my biorhythms just because I feel like I need an excuse to be grouchy. Today was one of those days and since my husband is – well – amazing, saintly even, he popped in my old friend Annie.
Within seconds of the movie starting there was singing and all 127 minutes of dialog came flooding back to me. Annie sang, I sang, it was a beautiful moment until my son stuck his head up and said “Please! Make it stop.”
I didn’t stop – in case you were wondering – ’cause I suck like that.
It wasn’t long before I crawled out of my funk – how can you stay grouchy when singing about the sun coming out and Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love ya, Tomorrow.
Funny thing – my son, who spent the first 30 minutes complaining, got sucked into movie watching happiness right along with me. And I forgot – totally forgot – from a child’s perspective at least how exciting the end is – the kidnapping, the chase, the climbing, the helicopter…
Aidan was jumping around and talking to the screen – you’re going the wrong way, what are you thinking, no he is NOT doing that…
It was freaking awesome.
So, here is to having someone in your life who knows exactly what you need and then loving you enough to give it to you and to sharing something you once loved as a child with a child of your own.
Playing scrabble against the computer and this was the last word thrown out – how am I supposed to compete with that?
I fussed about it – without my usual swearing because my son was sitting next to me and his response?
“It means to confuse or obscure.”
He said this with a dramatic roll of his eyes.
“What does obscure mean?”
As expected he ignored me
My son’s response to me getting all riled up:
“I quote Shakespeare from Othello. ‘I understand a fury in your words. But not the words.'”
I had to wait a couple days to verify the results.
Thank you Martha for getting us all together to go watch the Falcons play the Panthers.
And when I say ‘us all’ I am indeed including my son.
Yes, the one and only.
But doesn’t he hate crowds?
Why yes he does.
But doesn’t he hate loud noises?
And you took him to a professional football game at the Ga Dome?
Um, I see where you are going with this but…Yes.
Are you @#$@# crazy.
Hey! Well, yes.
Except that maybe, just maybe, we aren’t at all.
He WANTED to go. He was EXCITED to go. And that is always a good start but it doesn’t necessarily mean much once things get underway.
We arrived about 1 hour early and I thought we were in trouble. An hour is a long time for a 9 year old. An hour surrounded by people with loud music is an eternity for Aidan.
Some things that helped:
1. Noise reducing ear buds. They were small and inconspicuous and didn’t make him feel like he was “different” from the thousands surrounding him.
2. Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders. They came out and did a little routine and my little guy is at that age where he doesn’t want to get caught watching, and he doesn’t quite know why he wants to watch but at the same time he knows he doesn’t…dare…even…blink.
— Nervously looking from side to side — I didn’t blink either 🙂
3. Pyrotechnics. Seriously. My son hates fire. When he received his First Communion and he had to stand still holding that lit candle was one of those times that I tested my own ability to live without air because I held my breath the whole time that candle was lit – not sure what he would do. I am pretty sure he held his breath the whole time also. But – sorry – back to the game. Again I say pyrotechnics. Shooting fire from far away is apparently mesmerizing. Throw in some small fireworks and we had him sufficiently entertained and managed to make it to kick-off.
4. I actually know a little about football and I was able to answer his many, many questions.
5. The Falcons scored on the first drive – really getting everyone fired up and Aidan was swept along with the masses.
He yelled. He cheered. He clapped.
Now you are probably thinking – well sure – most people cheer and clap in these kind of situations. What is so special?
Aidan is a reserved young man. He is easily overwhelmed and his response to strong feelings is generally to lock himself down. Part of it is because he is an Aspie and part of it is likely that he is just a reserved individual.
An example (other than this one)? Aidan got Skylanders Swap Force from Martha, Matt, Meagan and Morgan. He has wanted these toys for months – since they first came out back in – October I think. This was the big Christmas present. The guaranteed success. The highlight. Yet, when he opened the game and the various accessories he pretty much just smiled politely and said thank you.
I wasn’t worried but I think everyone else was wondering if perhaps the gift that was thought to be a home run was actually a foul ball.
But when we got home he popped in the game and played non-stop. Days after Christmas it was still the only toy he had played with.
See? He was overwhelmed and therefore pulled into himself but he was actually jumping up and down inside screaming Yes, Yes, Yes.
So as I was saying he doesn’t normally jump up and down and cheer and clap. We all took it as a positive sign that he seemed to be enjoying the game so outwardly.
Final shock. We stayed the whole game. That is 5 hours inside the Ga Dome surrounded by noise and people.
When I asked him if he would like to go to another game he said Yes, When?
But since I KNOW what you SEE isn’t always what you GET I wanted to wait a few days and let the experience settle before really believing we had a success on our hands.
Big. Crazy Huge. Ginormous. Success.
THANK YOU Martha for making this incredible experience possible. Not only for Aidan but for me having the chance to see my 9 year old act like a 9 year old.
Best Christmas Gift EVER.
I Love You!!
Remember, our children not only listen to what we DO say but what we DON’T say.
Being silent can be just as bad as being outwardly hateful.