I belong to many, many, many, many, many (keep going with that for a while) groups that talk about ASD and other disabilities. In one group, a mom posted something that I couldn’t help but disagree with, yet a lot of the other parents in the group chimed in on her side. So I just had to say this:
It might be a reason, but it’s not an excuse.
Let me tell you the story she shared.
The mom, her boyfriend, and her child went to a pool. The mom decided to chill out at the adult pool – who could blame her? – while boyfriend took the child to the kids’ pool.
The child is five years old, but she is at the level of a two or three year old.
With that in mind, the boyfriend is in the kiddie pool with her, and she throws in a toy. He turns to get the toy, and before he can turn back, he hears another splash.
The child had reached outside the pool, grabbed someone’s video camera, and tossed it into the pool.
The woman whose camera it was freaked out. She got upset and told the boyfriend that they had to make it right because she just bought the camera, and it was $500.
The boyfriend directed her to the mom.
The mom was outraged. “My daughter didn’t understand what she did,” the mom argued.
The woman argued that the mom’s daughter had destroyed it, and the mom should make it right.
The mom said that she would not, and if the woman was going to “be like that,” she better call the cops.
The woman did call the cops. The cops took a report, but they said that it was a civil matter, and it would have to be settled in small claims court.
The mom took to the forum to report this travesty, and a lot of the responses were in favor of the mom, saying that she did the right thing and hoping that the small claims court would rule in her favor.
Me? I didn’t say anything there because I knew I was outnumbered and wouldn’t be paid attention to anyway. But I still wanted to say something, so here it is.
Your child’s disability is a reason, but not an excuse.
Simon is autistic and intellectually disabled. Could he do something like that? Yes. What would I do about it? Be a proper parent and take the responsibility for my child’s action because, well, I’m responsible for him! Just because the child doesn’t know better doesn’t mean the adult doesn’t. If she had been there with a neurotypical two year old, would she have taken the responsibility?
Now, I understand. Having Simon home all day every day over the summer is rough, on him and on me. There were plenty of days when I wouldn’t mind taking a little break and having someone else be on duty. (And, to be fair, I did get days with someone else on duty.) I understand why she wanted some alone time at the adult pool. And I understand that the boyfriend couldn’t be on top of the child at all times. It’s just not possible. That’s how kids manage to do so many awesome and dangerous and messy things.
But that doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for them.
ESY has started back up, but in the two weeks Simon had off, we did lots of fun things. One of those was to hit the Galleria up in Houston.
Now, before anyone thinks I’m a cruel mom who forces her poor child to go shopping, please realize that he ASKED for the Galleria. I tried to talk him out of it. I offered all sorts of other options. No dice. He wanted to go shopping.
Not that he actually shops, mind you. Nope, he much prefers wandering around, staring at things, stopping to eat a cookie, and, in the case of the Galleria, checking out their awesome two-story fountain.
We were wandering around because I am one of those people that always gets lost in a mall. And there it was! Simon was super excited, and I told him to go ahead and sit on the edge because the ledge is pretty wide, and if you’re right there, you can feel the spray of the water as it hits down, and you get a cool breeze from it rushing past you. It feels awesome in the dog days of July.
What you don’t see in the picture below is that the fountain had stopped. It goes through its cycle, and then it pauses. I guess that’s when the water is all feeding back for it to run again.
Simon was waiting patiently on the edge, when – SLAM – it started back up!
He jumped. Almost fell over backwards jumped. Then he got a huge smile and settled back to watch it.
So as the Daily Show always said at the end…here it is…your moment of Zen…
Yesterday was a day of rock star parenting.
It started with one of the best parts of summer vacation – sleeping in. Not that Simon slept in, mind you. But he let me sleep in! He ignored me for a good hour or two, not even needing me to get him a drink or any food. It was glorious.
Then we went to the library. He picked out a new book: Quiet Loud by Leslie Patricelli. The book is full of things that are, well, quiet and loud. Then, on the last two pages, there are pictures of all different things that are quiet and loud. He had the book open to those pages, and so I went ahead and tried to quiz him on them, asking him about items that were in front of him. Then I made it harder. I asked him about things that weren’t on the pages: a rocking chair and a phone. He quickly told me that rocking chairs were quiet, and then when I asked him about the phone, he made the ringing noises before telling me they were loud. Score! Total communication and connection!
As we were leaving, though, he started getting upset: unhappy flapping, echolalia about why babies cry (from Elmo), and rocking back and forth in a jerky movement. I asked him why he was upset, and he said he was sad. I asked why he was sad, and he said he was crying. This is our usual exchange; he struggles with talking about why he’s upset or sad, resorting to using a circular pattern of questions and answers. After going through this for a few minutes, he said he wanted cookies. A response! And then I pulled out my rock star parenting moment. I HAD COOKIES WITH ME! Totally nailed it! Amazing!
After that, we headed to Target. Because shopping. He kept repeating a phrase, but I couldn’t understand the first word. Every time he said it, I asked him to repeat it, hoping I would finally figure it out. Finally, I asked him to spell it. And he did. R-O-T-T-E-N. I said it back to him, and after that, he repeated it, saying it more clearly each time. I still have no idea what show he got the phrase from, but still.
Three successes in one day! Total rock start parenting day!
As for today…well, let’s not talk about today.
Earlier this week, I attended a presentation on puberty and sex ed directed to parents with children with disabilities. It was, overall, pretty good, but there were a few points that I couldn’t agree with. One in particular is worth talking about.
The presenter said that if a child (or young adult, as the case might be) could feel the urge to go to the bathroom and know where to go, then there was nothing stopping them from being potty trained.
To me, that’s like saying that if someone feels the urge to swim and knows to go to a pool, they can learn how to swim. As someone who has never been able to learn how to swim, I know it’s not true. Having knowledge about something doesn’t mean that you can perform the act.
Her examples to prove this was true was that when kids are hungry, they know to go to the kitchen and find the refrigerator, and that they know that when they’re tired, they should go to their bedrooms and climb into bed.
These aren’t necessarily true, either. When Simon gets sleepy, he would prefer to climb into our bed or even fall asleep on the couch. He only goes to sleep in his bed at night – he has very set rules for himself about it. And while he may go into the kitchen for food, he won’t get it for himself without asking first.
Clearly, there was a flaw to her logic.
I considered bringing up my points and getting her to respond to them, but the presentation was already running long, and I didn’t want to keep us there even longer. But then I thought about it, and decided to write this blog for any other parents who go to a meeting and hear from an expert. Experts are great, and they might have a lot of experience in the field, but that doesn’t mean they have experience with you or your child.
Always remember that *you* are the expert on your situation, and don’t let yourself be convinced otherwise. While I’m all for trying and pushing the envelope, I also understand that sometimes, it’s impossible to achieve something, no matter what an expert tells you.
The following column is not safe for anyone who is not a parent.
In fact, it’s not really safe for anyone at all. But you can pretend it is if you want to keep reading. (I don’t suggest that you keep reading…)
Let’s start at the beginning. Simon is still not fully potty trained. And we were spending the night in Austin with the grandparents…and he was really fussy, saying he wanted to go home. He started at about 6:30 last night, saying he wanted to go home.
Apparently that was because he had one of the biggest poops ever all stored up, and he wanted to go home to have it. He didn’t want to use their bathroom. So he held it until night.
Then, freaking mother of all that is holy in this world and the next, he let it go.
He released the kraken. (Use any other metaphor you can think of to politely say that he took the biggest dump he has ever taken.) He lost at least five pounds. And while he wearing an adult diaper, it was *not* enough. Not even close to enough.
The boy wrecked that bed.
Let’s not mince words here. The sheets, the blanket, everything had a fairly complete covering in crap. It was horrible. And this is why I never, ever, ever, ever, ever use white sheets and blankets on his bed. But the grandparents didn’t know that.
Dad had the unenviable job of doing Simon clean-up. We had brought two packs of flushable wipes. It was enough. Barely. I have the somewhat more enviable job of starting the laundry. It’s still running right now, and we’re pretty hopeful it will come as clean as possible, but we’ll still be offering to buy all new bedding. Because…bedding. Yeah. It might need to be replaced.
This is day one of a three day vacation. So far, the first day has not gone as well as it possibly could go, but we have two more days to get through, so we’re holding out hope it will get better. It’s going to get better right? It has to get better, right?
Because nothing makes you feel like a bad parent like learning that there are things you should have done 10 years agoFebruary 28, 2016
Seriously, no one mentioned (and I never thought) to begin planning for Simon’s post-secondary life when he was three. I mean, I know there are those parents – and we were almost those parents – who begin saving for college the minute their kid is born, but how can you know what your child will be like when they’re an adult?
I have nothing against saving money for a potential future, but to begin planning for your child’s potential career or adulthood when they’re three?
Does anyone know what they’ll be when they’re three?
Can you really know what someone will be like when they’re 18 or 21 when they’re only three years old?
My answer is no. When I was three, I think I was most interested in doing things like squishing slugs (yes, that’s for real – my parents tried to expose me to the glory that was nature by pointing out a slug, and my immediate response was to gasp and squish the heck outta it under my thick-soled shoe), playing on the swings, and eating yogurt (because as a three-year-old I was convinced yogurt was where it was at, and my parents had to lie to me to get me to eat ice cream).
I think my examples are a pretty good reason why it’s not good to begin planning for a three-year old. If my parents had planned my life based on that, I would have been a hippie exterminator with a giant swing set in my back yard. As it turns out, only one of those things is true. I’ll let you figure it out.
Anyway, I still feel guilty about it, but I also feel like maybe that’s a bit too soon. Should I have started looking at his future before now? Maybe. But we still don’t know where he’ll be in one year, much less five years. Since he’s not following a “normal” path, why guess? Why assume?
I’m not saying it’s bad to dream or to hope for the best, but why always plan for the absolute worst? Not to be picky, but you might have a neurotypical child, something might go wrong, and suddenly you’re in the position or picking a care home for them when they’re 14 or 18. If parents of neurotypical children don’t assume their kids will need care for life, why should we assume that? Our children have the same chances, hopes, and dreams…why not figure out how to work with them instead?
You get to the school to pick up your 13 year old, and you find out that (according to him), no one has told him all day that he’ll be going to the dentist, so the first thing he says when he sees you is, “We go home.” You’re forced to explain that, no, we can’t go home. We have to go to the dentist. He isn’t pleased to hear it.
You haven’t had a chance to grab any apple juice before picking him up because the day had spiraled a bit out of control, so you pray that there is some juice left from his day at school. Thankfully, there is. You convince him that going to the dentist will be fun and give him a juice for the ride.
On the way to the dentist, he reiterates his urge to go home. You think about the previous dentist visits, and you tell him that it’s okay: they’ll take pictures of his teeth (he likes pictures), they’ll clean his teeth, and then the dentist will look at his teeth. You make him repeat it back. You go over it for the whole ride. Then you miss the turn for the dentist’s office and have to make a bunch of left-hand turns in order to get back to where you needed to be.
You check in at the dentist’s office, and you discover that they’ve lost a bunch of information, so you need to fill out the five pages of forms. Two of the pages aren’t things you can actually fill out – they ask about whether or not the patient has pain, has any sensitivity to cold or heat, and other questions that would require a level of communication that doesn’t exist. Then there’s a page that asks you to initial that you understand that only the patient can go back by himself. You go up to the counter and talk to the woman who laughs it off and says it’s okay, there’s no test, but you think it’s kind of important that they realize you don’t know the answers to these questions, and they won’t be able to get them either.
The hygienist comes to get you, and instead of following the carefully prepared order of operations you’ve outlined, she immediately wants to start the cleaning.
Your son begins to have a bit of a meltdown the minute he sees the chair and tells you (and the hygienist) quite loudly and repeatedly that he wants to go home. You change the order of operations and begin telling him that it’s just going to be a cleaning and then having the dentist look at his teeth.
He still refuses to sit in the chair. He instead sits in the dentist’s chair that spins, and he stares at the seat while repeating that he wants to go home. He’s almost crying, but not quite. You know that the other patients are probably not enjoying it because they are also kids who want to go home, but you try not to focus on that. Instead, you get into the chair to show him that it’s comfortable and it’s fine, and look, see, there’s a light, and they need the light to be able to do anything, so how about we switch places?
Miraculously, it works.
He gets in the chair for you, but he is still complaining. That’s okay. You rub his leg while the hygienist begins to clean his teeth. And HE LETS HER. Yes, that’s right, he actually opens his mouth, he picks the mint flavor, and he lets her clean his teeth.
You almost kill the hygienist there and then, though, because as she’s working with him (brilliantly well, actually), she begins to try to soothe him and she brings up Dad. You want to crawl inside yourself. Maybe he didn’t hear it, you think. But, of course, he did. And he immediately focuses on wanting to go home and having Dad waiting at home. Neither of these things will happen right away, of course, and now he’s upset again.
You have to tell the hygienist that, no, that’s not a good thing to use to make him feel better because it will only make things worse, and she apologizes, but the damage has been done, and while she’s working so hard to clean his teeth, he is talking around her – quite clearly – and saying that he wants to go home and that Dad will be waiting at home. Inwardly, you are cringing and hoping that he will magically forget it, but you know that isn’t going to happen because he doesn’t forget things.
The cleaning is over, and the dentist comes in, and she gives you the news you don’t want to hear – there’s a big old cavity on tooth number 13 (of course it was number 13), way in the back there, and they will need to fill it. Which is both good and bad: bad because they will need to sedate him, but good because they offer sedation and they do it at 7:30 in the morning, so keeping him from eating until the appointment isn’t as hard as you thought it would be. But now your nerves are even more frazzled because you have to start worrying right away, even though the appointment won’t be for over a month.
Then, to make sure she hasn’t missed anything, she asks to see the x-rays. The x-rays that no one took. The hygienist says that she didn’t because she was worried he wouldn’t let her.
You are mentally slapping your head, and hers, because you had taken that out of the rotation, and now you have to tell your son that, no, he can’t go home yet even though he finished the final thing on the list because the list has been re-ordered again, and now he has to go get pictures taken. But he likes pictures enough that he goes along with it, and he does very well, as you knew he would, and then it’s time to go back and wait in the chair again.
The chair is not happening.
Nope. Not the chair.
Luckily that’s okay because they don’t need him in the chair – they’ve already done all that good stuff, and so he can sit in the dentist’s chair (his original goal), and so he does okay, other than repeating that he wants to go home and then getting a little nervous because a kid in the next exam room over keeps trying to make a break for it and comes past the doorway multiple times.
Finally, it’s time to go find out how much everything is going to cost. Bonus: the day costs nothing thanks to insurance, but the filling will be $400 after insurance pays because of the need for sedation and all the other fun things that go with it.
So you leave, and you begin worrying about his next dentist appointment.