Life, Autism, Disability, and More

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baseball uniform*I might be the only one who remembers hearing this when growing up, so a quick explanation:
Little pitchers have big ears refers to the fact that adults must be careful about what they say within the hearing of children. The saying refers to the large handles (ears) sometimes attached to small vessels.

Now that I’ve forced that random knowledge on you…

Lately, I’ve been trying more and more to get Simon interested in average discussions and conversations. He doesn’t seem to be very interested in communicating more than his needs and wants, but I can’t help but believe that there are plenty of other things he could say if he could figure out how. When we go places in the car, and he’s stuck as my captive audience, I start trying to get him to have a conversation. I’ll ask what color the sky is, and if it’s grey, then I’ll ask him what he thinks that means. Questions like that are easy ones for him to memorize, though, so then I start asking harder questions, questions about what he thinks about and what he sees out the window.

One Saturday morning, he had a baseball game, and that afternoon, I took him to Target.  While we were in the car, I asked him what he was good at.

He said baseball.

I asked what else.

He said math.

I asked what else.

He said basketball.

It was a pretty nice list of things for such an abstract question.  

We went into Target and Starbucks (it’s an addiction! Don’t judge me!), and I told him he was good because he helped push the cart and waited patiently while it took forever for the barista to make my coffee.

When we got home, I thought I’d try to continue the conversation and pull Dad into it.

I asked the question again, and this time he began with baseball, but then said he was good at Logan’s (the restaurant where we ate lunch after the game and where we told him he did good at ordering his own food and then waiting for it to come to the table), and then he said he was also good at Target and Starbucks.

After he had added those in, he went back to the original list including math and basketball.

The point had been made.

Just because he’s a teenager who doesn’t say a lot, he definitely listens and learns. And he has huge ears. 

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Beard and mustacheSimon started getting a mustache when he was 12. It was cool, though, because the school district allows mustaches from junior high on. (I’m not sure why.)

Now he’s 15, and he’s starting to get a lot of chin whiskers. It isn’t cool, though, because the school district does not allow beards. (I’m not sure why of this either…)

He seems to be quite fond of his beard, though, because whenever we ask him about shaving it off, no matter how we phrase it, no matter how we introduce the idea, his response is always the same.

No.

Apparently it’s not just his chin hair that’s started the no-ing in his life. It’s also the cafeteria food.

Simon is a grilled cheese connoisseur, and the school cafeteria does not meet his exacting standards when it comes to the proper presentation of grilled cheese.

Two grilled cheese sandwichesTop: Unacceptable. Simon will say no and refuse to take it because there is cheese on top of the bread.

Bottom: Acceptable. The cheese is in its proper configuration and does not cross the plane of the bread.

At home – and restaurants – this doesn’t be a problem, mostly likely (we’re guessing) because there’s not a choice involved. At home, he helps make it himself, and at the restaurant, it’s served to him. No choice to reject it and get a different plate from the line.

Hopefully, going with the flow when there aren’t other options a good sign.

Hopefully, that means that if we present him with a razor (without an option), he’ll decide that there’s no choice there, either.

Hopefully, if that doesn’t work, his high school will be understanding.

And hopefully, if they aren’t, it will be easy enough to create our own religion that requires members to grow beards and eat properly made grilled cheese sandwiches.


simon at lunchSimon came home from school happy about school, which is his normal status about school.

School is an amazing place, or at least he thinks that while he’s at home. (While he’s at school, it’s often a different matter and he can get mad at things not happening on schedule or teachers not being there.)

But today, it was happiness.

From the moment he got off the bus, he said school was fun.

I asked what he did at school. “Fun,” he said.

I asked again, emphasis on “what” he did…

“Learned.”

“What did you learn about?”

“High school.”

Okay, maybe that’s actually a “where” response, but close enough that I’ll take it.

These feelings about school didn’t fade away. He ran through his usual “script” about going to school and when he goes back to school (tomorrow morning).

But that wasn’t enough today. He kept repeating himself and wanting me to repeat it back to him.

So I came up with a social story on the fly and told it to him.

“In the morning, you wake up, then you get dressed, then you eat breakfast, then you get on the bus, and then you get to school.” I held up a finger for each step, numbering them one through five.

He nodded along, so I went for the repetition.

“What do you do first?” [One finger held up]

“Wake up.”

“Then what?” [Two fingers held up]

“Get dressed.”

“And then?” [Three fingers held up]

“Eat breakfast.”

“And next?” [Four fingers held up]

“Take the bus.”

“And what’s the last step?” [All five fingers held up]

“Get to school.”

“Do you feel better now?”

“Yes.”

“Great, so can you please get out of the bathroom? Because I kind of need some privacy now.” 


Image of Casket by Tony Alter - (CC BY 2.0) - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/On Monday, Simon’s high school had an active shooter drill.

On Tuesday, I got a message that Simon didn’t do well during the drill.

On Wednesday morning, I spoke at length with his school case manager who detailed the problems and changes they’d already started to implement.

On Wednesday afternoon, seventeen students were shot to death at a high school in Florida.

Simon didn’t like the active shooter lockdown drill. He does fine with the tornado drills, but the active shooter one…he couldn’t do it.

He stayed in his seat. He stayed in his seat because it was time for PE, not time to go sit quietly in the corner of a darkened room. He stayed in his seat because he wanted to run around and play basketball in the gym. He stayed in his seat.

He screamed. Loudly. So loudly that one of the vice principals came into the classroom to try to calm him down, but it was too late. He screamed.

He cried. Tears went down his face. He cried.

He stayed in his chair. He could not be quiet.

My mind skipped back to the most depressing show that I had ever seen – the M*A*S*H final episode, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”

In that finale, Hawkeye has broken down completely and is working with a psychiatrist. He recalls a time on a bus when there were soldiers outside, checking to see if there was anyone on the bus, anyone for them to kill. A woman had a chicken on her lap, and it kept clucking. But then it stopped.

 I found the dialogue for the scene:
Hawkeye: “There’s something wrong with it. It stopped making noise. It just–just stopped. Sh–She killed it! She killed it!”
Sidney: “She killed the chicken?”
Hawkeye: “Oh my God! Oh my God! I didn’t mean for her to kill it. I did not! I–I just wanted it to be quiet! It was–It was a baby! She–She smothered her own baby!”

My mind jumps back to thoughts of Simon at high school, Simon not being able to be quiet when someone wants to kill people.

Simon’s high school is working with him for the next time there is an active shooter drill. They are changing the appearance of his schedule to make it easier for him to deal with changes. They are making sure that there is some sort of computer that he can take into a corner with a set of headphones so that he can be distracted and still stay hidden. All of that is awesome.

Except.

What if it doesn’t work?

What is he stays in his seat?

What if he screams?

What if it’s not a drill?

My imagination runs wild with thoughts I don’t want to have.

Tomorrow is Monday.

Simon goes back to high school. 


Driving Simon home from his doctor’s appointment earlier today…

Me, watching him blink slowly, his eyes closing: Are you tired?

Simon, in typical teenager must deny everything mode: No.

Me: I think you’re tired.

Simon: No!

Simon, head slowly tilting back towards the headrest, eyes continuing to blink slowly.

Me: Are you falling asleep?

Simon, rallying quickly: No.

Two minutes later, I grabbed a picture at a red light…

Simon asleep - I'm not tired!


elastic jeans - sideshowmom - morguefilesAccording to Disability Scoop, now that Cat & Jack’s accessible clothing line for kids has become popular enough at Target, they’ve decided to expand their line to include adults. To be specific, women. Not men.

This is a problem for us, and most especially for Simon.

Simon is 15. He wears men’s sizes. He needs accessible clothing.

His needs aren’t great. He needs jeans with elastic waistbands, and he needs t-shirts without heavy graphics on them.

The t-shirts we can find.

The jeans? Not happening.

Yes, Tommy Hilfiger has their line of accessible clothing for adults, but, let’s be honest, they aren’t exactly in the same price range as Target, and they are also hard to shop.

Before writing this, I tried to check out the Tommy Hilfiger website for their accessible adult lines. There is a link on the side, but no matter how many times I clicked on links, and no matter how many links I clicked on, I couldn’t find it, so I can’t even provide a price range.

Here’s the thing about the jeans, though – there is nowhere that I can find cool men’s jeans that have an elastic waistband.

Yes, I can buy them online, but the only ones I can find in men’s sizes are geared towards men in nursing homes, and they tend to be less jeans and more khakis. They also tend to be about $50 a pair.

Yes, there are other types of pants that have elastic waistbands. There are sweatpants, there are joggers, and there are those khakis. He can’t wear sweatpants to school, though, and khakis are not 15-year-old friendly. Joggers aren’t bad, but they have the elastic around the ankles, which does not seem to be Simon’s favorite thing.

Now here’s the other things about jeans – women have an entire line of “mom pants” that can be found at almost every department store. They have elastic waistbands. They are comfortable. But they’re styled for women, and they’re designed for a woman’s body. They aren’t styled or designed for a 15 year old boy.

I don’t know why it’s so hard for companies to understand that men with disabilities have the same needs as kids and women. Do they think that men don’t want to look good? Do they believe that men don’t care how they look? Do they not realize that the market is there?

I’m really hoping to see Target branch out as soon as possible, or maybe see another affordable company hit the market. And I really hope it’s soon because it would be nice for Simon to have good, comfortable jeans before he’s out of high school.  


Simon reading a bookI have something shocking to tell you.

Some of you may not believe it at first. In fact, some of you may never believe it.

And that’s cool.

I’m not talking about the loch ness monster, the moon landing, or even Obama’s birth certificate. I’m talking about…

The fact that kids are kids (and, I guess, in my case, teens are teens), regardless of whether or not they have an Autism diagnosis.

Did I shock you?

Are you shaking your head in disbelief?

Okay, so let’s get into the real story.

Simon wound up getting a book for -$.41. Yeah, that’s right – negative forty-one cents.

How did this witchcraft work?

We’re part of this Verizon rewards weird thing that I only know about because once a month or so, they send me this email telling me to use my points, and I don’t know how I get those points or why I’m supposed to use them, but I used them to get a $5 gift card to Barnes & Noble. (Thanks, weird Verizon rewards thing!)

Simon and I were meeting up with someone to get a free printer (thanks, Susie with the kid who took horseback riding with Simon!). We figured the bookstore was a good place to meet because, well, it’s a bookstore. Who doesn’t like going to a bookstore?

Simon likes going to bookstores.

And libraries.

And bookstores.

And libraries.

You get the idea.

He, of course, managed to find a book he liked.

We got to the register, and I pulled up the bar code I have saved on my phone for the gift card.

Confusion ensued.

I didn’t have a pin, which apparently is needed for gift cards now, and I couldn’t even find the Verizon app thingy on my phone to find a pin, and it took five minutes to get a manager to come over to over-ride the pin issue, and by then I found the app, I thought, but what I’d really found was a coupon from Verizon for 15% off a purchase at Barnes & Noble – do they own each other or something? – and the cashier scanned that, and *then* I found the gift card in the app.

Whew.

The book, with the coupon and then the gift card, was actually less than $5. Forty-one cents less. And since it was under fifty cents, instead of leaving it on the gift card, they gave me cash.

Simon got a book.

I got $.41.

I think we all won.

And Autism had nothing to do with it.