Posts Tagged ‘friendships’

Name that note!

One of the best end of the year rituals at our elementary school is the talent show.

The first time Philip was in the talent show, I was nervous.  I thought he’d have stage fright– but not my boy!  He recited Green Eggs and Ham from memory and gave a great big bow at the end!

The next year, we PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) moms gave a surprise performance for the kids.  We did a dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  (This year, one of the moms taught the dance to the Chorus and they did it at the spring concert!)

I didn’t stick around after our performance, which was first on the schedule, because I didn’t think that Philip was going to be in it, and Meg, being a kindergartener, wasn’t in it either.

That night I found out that he was indeed in the talent show– volunteered an hour before the show to dance to a song that his friend sang.  I was one mad mommy for missing it, and also kind of proud that he volunteered.

This year, he was in the talent show again.  He did two things.

For his first performance, he had help. His friend held up a piece of paper with a big letter written on it for all to see such as  “A”.  Then his friend went to the piano and played an “A.”  Philip would name the note, even though he could not see the keyboard.  Yes, my boy has perfect pitch! He did this 5-6 times, and wowed the audience! Then he went down to the piano to play “Creeping Crawling Spider,” which is his piano recital piece.

It is really neat for my son to have a unique ability that has a “wow” factor.  His friend will sing notes to him and ask him to name them. He’s glad to do it, unless his friend is off key.  Then he’ll say, “Sorry, that is not a note!”  I’m thinking it might be a good thing that he wasn’t in band this year.  The beginners’ being out of tune would have driven him absolutely nuts!

Parents, do your kids have any abilities with a “wow” factor?  Tell me all about it!  And if you have found a way to use it to their advantage, do tell!

Field trip! Field trip!

I had the privilege of chaperoning the 5th grade field trip to Philadelphia. I admit that I was dreading it at first… a bus ride with 40 5th graders?  No way!

But it was a good trip.  It helped that we raised money to charter a luxury tour bus!

The best part of all was that I got to make some memories with my boy.

I witnessed first-hand the compassion and acceptance of his classmates.  When we arrived at our destination, Philip began to stim– flap his hands and vocalize “EEEEE!”.  This is unusual for him to do at school or at school functions, so I knew he was overwhelmed.

His classmates weren’t phased one bit!  No judgment. I did mention that he was overwhelmed, and one boy tried to help him find a quiet space. Wow.

Once my son climbed up the base of a statue to pose for a group picture.  He didn’t know how to get down.  Two 5th-graders offered their hands for him to hold so he could jump.  Then they went about business as usual.  Again, wow.

Yet another classmate sat with my son at lunch and tried to strike up a conversation. He reminded Philip to make eye contact and stuck with him for the whole lunch break. 🙂 Wow!

I will miss these kids next year, as my boy will go to a different middle school.  (YIKES.)  Two of the kids let me know that he will be missed– and one told me that Philip could definitly handle their “regular” middle school if I changed my mind.  Awwww. I wish that our “regular” middle school had the support he needs.

I was very impressed by my son’s emerging ability to self-regulate.  He has always sought pressure on his jaw and chin.  At a gift shop, he saw hacky sacks.  He ran to the bin, picked one, asked me for money, and then went to the register and paid for it all by himself.  Then he used it to give pressure to his chin and jaw.

Wow, wow, wow.  And he didn’t even lose the hacky sack!

My favorite moment, just between the two of us, was walking in a park together.  I told him that I was proud of him and that I loved him very much.

“I love you too, mom.”

Then we both said, “Awwwww!” and put our arms around each other.

What a great day.  My boy is growing up.  Although I am nervous about next year, I am happy that he is maturing and beginning to take care of himself.  I am grateful that he has had classmates who accept and welcome him.

It was a great day indeed.

How to be a friend to an autism mom

On my local Autism Society listserve, a fellow mom shared the post about How to be a Friend to an Autism Mom. The author, Susan Walton, who also wrote the book Coloring Outside Autism’s Lines: 50+ Activities, Adventures, and Celebrations for Families with Children with Autism.  I will be getting  a copy soon!  In the meantime, enjoy Susan’s article.  Happy Mother’s Day!

How to be a Friend to An Autism Mom

Some find it can be tricky to know how to act when a friend’s child has autism. “It’s so hard to know what to say! How can I be a good friend? I seem to say the wrong thing every time!”

And then, some autism moms report a frustrating breakdown in communication, friendships that disintegrate, or wounds that they nurse in silence.

We all need some help because we need these friendships. Here’s some advice for everyone who is near and dear to a mom whose children have autism. Consider it a “friend’s guide,” or, if you take it to heart, the best mother’s day gift you can give.

Do NOT offer pity.

Nothing makes a girlfriend want to run off and take a shower (and then stay far, far away from the source of the filth) like genuine, heartfelt pity.

“You poor thing, I feel bad worrying about my (plumbing problems, child’s broken wrist, difficulties at work) when I think of you!”

Of course your friend has it rough. But pointing that out and covering her in “You have it so much worse than me” slime only serves to rub it in.

Do NOT attempt to provide inspiration.

Don’t tell her about the person you read about in the paper who performs on the piano or the family whose child is “completely recovered.” Whether it is savantism or cure (or any other amazing gift of good luck), the reality is that most people with autism will not develop skills that allow them to “triumph” over their challenges, and recovery is as unlikely as lightning. Try to imagine telling your friend whose house just went into foreclosure about the woman in the paper who won the lottery. Would that help?

For every instance of those rare things happening, there is a reporter waiting to rave about it and a further five people sending the article to your friend. You don’t need to be one of them. She may be struggling with her child’s potty training, sleeping problems, lack of speech, intense unhappiness or daily living skills. Her child might grow up to be challenged to play the radio for an audience without driving them crazy by changing the station every three seconds. Trust me when I say that she will not feel inspired by the teenager with autism who plays concert piano.

Do NOT give advice.

If the parent of a child with autism is in the market for information, there is a great deal to be had. Most of it is garbage. You may read about secretin, chelation, elimination diets, or lyme disease. And there is credible information like new research underway. But assume that your friend has access to the information that you have access to, because she does. Forcing her to express gratitude for the exciting news that a new snake oil has arrived on the scene, or having to debunk it for the benefit of someone who doesn’t really need it anyway is trying. Instead, be her respite from that part of her life.

Do (Please, please do) offer kindness and solidarity.

You may not know what this hardship feels like, but presumably you know what some hardship feels like. You want to strike a chord of “I know I can’t truly understand this, but I’m behind you all the way. You go, girl!”

DO (Please, please do) listen.

Tune in and find things to ask questions about as if you are paying attention. “Last time we talked you were working really hard on getting insurance to come across. Any luck?”

DO (Please, please do) stay put as a friend.

Maybe your kids don’t really like playing with her kids, but you can make them. Really, you can. You can insist. Eventually they will either find that they are enjoying it more than they thought they would, or it will be over. It is good for your kids to learn kindness and patience. It is good for her kids to play with your kids who don’t have autism. But only you can make it happen.

DO (Please, please do) be patient.

It is entirely possible that your friendship will seem different, especially during the early years after a diagnosis. Maybe all her new friends have kids with autism and you feel weird, out of place. Maybe she has a tendency to cry over coffee. Work through it. She needs you. And someday, when you need to find a specialist for your child, you will call her first because she is so darn plugged-in to the local medical community and you can trust any recommendation she makes.

Susan Walton is an adventure seeker and the Northern California mom of three children. She is the author of Coloring Outside Autism’s Lines: 50+ Activities, Adventures, and Celebrations for Families with Children with Autism. It also gives real-world advice to friends and family about being part of the fun. On sale now at Amazon and wherever books are sold. You can follow her on twitter at swalton47.