Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Same Child, Different Day" Site Closing: Where to go now

Because of the useful and relevant information it provides, "Same Child, Different Day" will stay up and available. However, I will no longer be monitoring this site. Our life has taken a different direction, and I've developed two new blogs to reflect that.

"Read All You Want" is my writing blog, and I will be using it as a writing portfolio as well. It has autism anecdotes, but now only as they pertain to my writing. Please click here to see what it has to offer.

The second blog, "Our Journey, Our Way," touches on how autism affects us as we travel through life: to restaurants, bowling alleys, arcades, beaches, parks, theme parks and any other travel experience.  Please check it out, and feel free to share and comment.

In fact, please share this post, and bring your and our friends to another look at life with autism spectrum disorders.

Thanks for your loyal support, and I look forward to traveling with you and writing for you on my other blogs.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Same Child, Different Day: Several Years Louder

I have been threatening for years to write a sequel to the booklet SCDD.  Well, time's up!  I've started writing the full-length follow-up book, aptly titled Same Child, Different Day: Several Years Louder.  When I wrote the original, I was looking for a way to cope with Nolan's diagnosis and make sense of the new world to which we were introduced.

"Several Years Louder" came about because so much has changed within our family, the local, state-wide and national autism community, our understanding of autism and our child himself.  Also, our youngest daughter was later diagnosed and I began working directly with those living with autism.  It's been an interesting trip, to say the least.

If you've spent any time here reading what I have to say, you know that, apart from this blog, I've been writing since long before personal computers were a Thing.  With Life being the fickle creature she is, though, I've never really been able to make writing work for me, let alone being able to work for writing.  Unable to commit the time necessary to making a living from writing, I've jumped from one false start to another, never really completing what I'd like to, and looking like a fickle creature myself.

I decided recently that, if I'm to make writing work, I'll have to do it full time.  "But," said the tiny but loud logical side of my brain, "if you do this full time, without immediate fiduciary recompense, however will you eat?"  "Good point," I said to Logic Brain.  So, I decided to try something I'd heard of, but knew little about.

I launched a Kickstarter campaign, with the hopes that, when fully funded, I'll be able to commit all of my time and resources to nothing but "Several Years Louder."  If the backers come through, and I have no doubt that they will, I'll be able to invest all of my efforts toward making the book happen.  That said, I'd appreciate it if you would help me make this our book.

Please visit the link below.  Check out all the pages, the rewards, the links within the project and my high quality, professionally made video (no professionally made).  Then if you feel good about the project, please share share share it with others who could benefit from all the book will have to offer.

I appreciate your interest and involvement.  Here's to a successful campaign.

All the best,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hate-filled Letter Directed at Autistic Child: Reinterpreted

        Perhaps you recently heard about the grandmother from Newcastle, Ontario, Canada who received a rabidly hate-filled letter from an anonymous “donor.”  The letter was directed at the grandmother’s grandson Max, who happens to live with autism.  Reaction to the letter has been heavily one-sided, with most folks, including a Canadian Member of Parliament and some television celebrities, lambasting the unidentified author.
            At first, I, too, jumped on the bandwagon, and posted my negative opinion on Facebook (obviously not the most objective of debating platforms).  Then, before I went any further, I stopped myself to look at this from the perspective of the nameless scribe, and decided to share with you, and maybe justify a little bit, what she or he was really trying to say. I’ll go through the letter a section at a time, hope you will humor me, and that you will refrain from tossing rancid eggs at my windows.
            The writer starts off with, “To the lady living at this address:” (at least the author didn’t throw out an expletive in the introduction; that’s the best way to keep your reader engaged).  From here on out, I will quote exactly as the letter is written; any grammatical errors are pulled directly from the letter:
  • ·      “I also live in this neighborhood and I have a problem!!!!” (Note the four exclamation points --- a clear sign that the person who wrote this is serious)
  • ·      “You have a kid that is mentally handicapped, and you consciously decided that it would be a good idea to live in a close proximity neighborhood like this????" (The four question marks, as with the same number of exclamation points above, indicate that the writer clearly is unsure about this statement and would like more information.  The phrase “mentally handicapped,” along with the interrogative tone, means they had heard autism is not a mental disability, and therefore, since the recipient lives so close by, would like to meet up for a coffee or a beer to learn more)
  • ·      “You selfishly put your kid outside everyday and let him be a nothing but a nuisance and a problem to everyone else with that noise polluting whaling he constantly makes!!!" (This statement says that the recipient of the letter is a little self-centered, and I get where the author is coming from. She or he is clearly offering personal services as a care provider, since the grandmother cannot possibly be with the boy all the time.  Looking after him would be far better, according to the letter, than to let the kid possibly bug “everyone else” in the neighborhood [how thoughtful].  As there are only three exclamation points this time, the writer doesn’t know if the preceding comment will be as welcomed as the others so far)
  • ·      “That noise he makes when he is outside is DREADFUL!!!!!!!!!! It scares the hell out of my normal children!!!!!!!” (In a follow-up to the previous comment, the writer explains that her or his children are like most typical children, which, the author explains, is like living in Hell.  Caring for Max would certainly do the trick in getting that yuckiness out of those brats [I’m paraphrasing here, of course].  Note the author's abundance of exclamation points, and you will agree.)
  • ·      “When you feel your idiot kid needs fresh air, take him to our park, you dope!!! We have a nature trail!! Let him run around those places and make noise!!!!!!" (This writer has a flair for fancy words.  They are apparently aware that the etymology of the word “idiot” is derived from the Greek word meaning “private citizen.”  Therefore, as a private citizen living in this particular community, the grandmother is being encouraged to partake in all of the outdoor activities offered; let the boy blow off a little steam.  The writer even kiddingly calls the grandmother a “dope,” which, if you aren’t up on your current young-person vernacular, means “excellent.”)
  • ·      “Crying babies, music and even barking dogs are normal sounds in a residential neighborhood!!!!! He is NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Obviously a passionate comment.  This writer is truly fed up with the cacophony of sounds that are common to the area.  Thank goodness for Max and his hell-scaring noises.)
  • ·      “He is a hindrance to everyone and will always be that way.  Who the hell is going to care for him?????? No employer will hire him, no normal girl is going to marry/love him and you are not going to live forever.” (Another cry for the privilege of looking after Max. The writer is practically begging to be allowed the opportunity to care for this unique boy.  The author reminds the grandmother that she can’t just send him off to get a job; he’s only 13, for goodness sake.  For some reason, though, the writer puts the cart before the horse in this part, already trying to marry the boy off to a young girl who is as unique as he; just any ol’ girl off the street will never do for him!!!!!! [See, I can do it, too].)
  • ·      “Personally, they should take whatever non retarded body parts he possesses and donate it to science.  What the hell else good is he to anyone!!! You had a retarded kid, deal with it…properly!!!!!” (It’s common for those who are not familiar with autism to believe that all persons with the condition are savants.  Really, that number is a small percentage.  In this case the writer assumes Max is involved in biological or anatomical experimentation, which, of course, should only be done under the observation of a trained scientific professional.  This misunderstanding has caused her or him to suggest that Max should return to a lab any quantities that have not been preserved from deteriorating, since he won’t need them anymore.  She or he believes that, at one time the experiment was preserved, but now should be disposed of in accordance with local ordinances.  Though uneducated, this is one truly thoughtful neighbor.)
  • ·      “What right do you have to do this to hard working people!!!!!!! I HATE people like you who believe, just because you have a special needs kid, you are entitled to special treatment!!! GOD!!!!!!” (According to the author of the letter, his grandmother should be ashamed that it has come to her neighbor having to beg for the opportunity to look after Max; she or he has better things to do than to check in on other people’s kids.  No special treatment should be afforded this grandmother; she should be required to ASK for assistance, just like anyone else, and not expect others to just come a’knockin’. GOD!!!!!!)
  • ·      “Do everyone in our community huge a favor and MOVE!!!! VAMOSE!!! SCRAM!!! Move away and get out of this type of neighborhood setting!!!" (My, how somebody does enjoy that Shift/1 key combo.  Basically, grandma, if you can’t be hospitable like everyone else and start relying on your neighbors for a little help, this writer feels you can just relocate.)
  • ·      "Go live in a trailer in the woods with your wild animal kid!!!" (The author says that, since she or he believes Max is such a fan of the outdoors and wildlife, perhaps seeing it firsthand on location would be just what he deserves.)
  • ·      “Nobody wants you living here and they don’t have the guts to tell you!!!!!” (Since it can be assumed that the writer could not possibly know everybody in the world, she or he is probably exaggerating here.  Most likely “nobody” means whoever wrote the note has instead surveyed each and every person in the neighborhood, and not a single one of them likes grandma’s lack of invitation.  They are just too shy to tell her.)
  • ·      “Do the right thing and move or euthanize him!!! Either way, we are ALL better off!!!  Sincerely, One pissed off mother!” (This closing is a little extreme on the writer’s part.  However, based on the tone of the rest of the letter as interpreted above, the writer of the letter thinks, if the grandmother does not move, Max should no longer suffer from the lack of neighborly communication on the part of the grandmother.  Honestly, that’s kind of dramatic, and at this point the writer is just throwing a temper tantrum. Baby.  By the way, the signature does not indicate the writer as female, since even my own actions have caused people to call me a “mother” in the past.)

There, I hope you can see from my analysis of this author’s letter, she or he was just being a good citizen and neighbor.
Frankly, since the written word can so easily be misinterpreted, I think there are better ways to go about it.

(1)     This post is purely satirical, and no disrespect is intended toward Max or his family.  Sometimes humor, sarcasm and a little indignation can be just what the soul needs.  My family shares your triumphs and struggles, and our hearts go out to you in this time of troubling hatred, abuse and disrespect.  We believe that autism is the newest discrimination and we hope you will find justice.

(2)     If Max’s family reads this post and they are offended in any way, please contact me [] and I will remove it immediately.    ~Jon)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Vermont Achievement Center’s Early Education & Care Program welcomes a new program; Intensive Autism Spectrum Disorders (IASD) Program for children ages 3 to 5 years old.

Located in Rutland, Vermont the Vermont Achievement Center’s Early Education and Care Program serves children ages 6 weeks to 12 years of age in an enriching, developmentally appropriate learning environment.  To meet the needs of children who have been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum and require fulltime child care, VAC is expanding services for this population and opening an Intensive Autism Spectrum Disorder classroom, the “Indigo Room”, for children ages 3 to 5 years old.   Our highly dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable staff have years of expertise in the fields of autism, behavioral intervention, developmental disabilities, education, special education, music and art.  Children enrolled in the program will have the opportunity to experience a structured, challenging and encouraging environment complete with a sensory integration room and the Mitchell Therapy Pool.  The full time, year-round, 8 am to 4 pm, Monday thru Friday preschool autism classroom will offer breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack. 

Anticipated start date, September 3, 2013.  Enrollment limited – slots filling quickly.  For more information, please contact Diahn Johnson, Director of EEC, 802-775-2395 X612.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Autism Story: One for the history books

Nolan likes swimming.  Like many others living with autism, he is drawn to the water.  So, it’s fortunate for him that his school provides pool therapy once per week.  It’s fortunate for me that the therapies are performed at the Mitchell Therapy Pool, which just happens to be located on the Vermont Achievement Center campus where I work.  Nearly every Tuesday I try to sneak down to the pool on the other side of the building to see Nolan, if even for just five minutes.

A couple weeks ago I missed visiting with him, which in itself doesn't man much; I've missed a Tuesday here or there before.  However, I found out later that I would have seen a rather amazing thing, had I visited this one particular swim session.

Ann, our very hard working pool director, is in love with each of the kids in all of our programs.  She has also become attached to the visitors to our pool, including those from outside organizations.  She makes it a point to learn about each one, including their names and a little about them.  Nolan is no exception.
One day when my own student was visiting the pool, Ann shared with me what I missed the previous Tuesday.

As I've found him in the past, Ann told me Nolan was sitting alone at the end of one of the picnic tables enjoying his snack after a usually rigorous swim session.  At the other end sat an anatomical rescue dummy, seated in an upright position, just as a kid enjoying a snack would be after a usually rigorous swim session.  As Ann thumbed through a catalog, she watched Nolan watching the mannequin; his eyes would return to his snack, then back to the dummy, and back again.

Slowly, Nolan inched closer to the mannequin, obviously curious and interested about the new addition to the table.  Ann set the magazine down on the table as she walked away to answer the phone a few feet from the picnic table.  When her attention turned back to my son, she couldn't believe what she saw.

Nolan had slid himself all the way over, and he had placed Ann’s catalog in front of the dummy; his hand was patting the back of the doll and he was turning the magazine’s pages as he repeatedly asked the inanimate object, “Are you okay, baby?”  He thought the adult-sized puppet was a baby!

She was floored by the adorable scene, and I was amazed.  When I told Lori about it later, we were both delighted that this kid, who three years ago couldn't so much as say his name, had now engaged in spontaneous play with a full-sized doll and had acknowledged its presence --- and had read it a book!



Saturday, February 9, 2013

New Book Announcement = Same Child, Different Day: Five Years Louder

Any long-time readers know that in May, 2007, our son Nolan was diagnosed with autism.  While we were hit by the diagnosis nearly as hard as any other family, like many of those families, we did our best to avoid letting it get us down.  We weren't running into a lot of help or direction, and ended up learning as much as we could on our own.
One year later, almost to the day, I sat down to write a book about our experiences during that first year.  I shared the haircuts, the doctor visits, comments made by uninformed medical professionals, Lori’s tutu-clad walk through the mall, and many other fun, sarcastic, teachable moments.  While I thought I would end up filling volumes, the work ended up being not much more than booklet-length.  It was so small, I didn't even think to take that 50-page venture to a publisher; instead, the first 100 copies were born on an office color printer.  Later, with a generous donation from a local autism support group, the next 300 came from a local printing company.
With no ISBN, no agent, and no publisher, I was on my own to market Same Child, Different Day: One family’s experiences during the first year after a child’s autism diagnosis.  I promoted the book as a look at the lighter side of autism; while the diagnosis can surely be a traumatic moment, I tried to show that there are times when you “just gotta laugh.”  I held a few local signings, and appeared at an autism awareness event or two.  After being interviewed a couple times on the radio, folks seemed to be taking to the little tome.  To spark further interest and to reach a wider market, I created this blog with the same title.
The Internet exposure caught the attention of Autism Speaks, and they began additionally offering the booklet from their website. With that, I was able to reach an even larger audience.  Soon, Same Child, Different Day reached nearly every corner of the world: New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, the United States and Turkey all blessed me with requests for the booklet.  I wholeheartedly believe that, along with frank and funny anecdotes, it is the early naivete of that first publication that ended up making it so appealing.
I realized after unwrapping 2013 that it has been five years since I told the world about that innocent little booklet.  Anne Barbano, one of the radio interviewers I mentioned, encouraged that she and I should chat again when I write a Book 2.
That time is now.
Today I officially announce that I have begun working on the follow up to that first Same Child, Different Day.  Based on what we have experienced so far, our advocacy and awareness efforts, goals our son has surpassed that we were told he would never even reach, the later autism diagnosis for Nolan’s older sister, and many other interesting encounters, the second book will be entitled Same Child, Different Day: Five Years Louder (5YL).
Even though the finished product is still months away, I would love it if you would help to spread the word and get people excited for the arrival of 5YL.  I’ll be sure to fill this full-length book with more of the poignant, funny, thought-provoking and entertaining stories and useful information you found in the first Same Child, Different Day.  Please tell anyone and everyone you know that this fun book showing the lighter side of autism is coming.
Feel free to visit the book's website by clicking here.  Also, PLEASE ask anyone who would be interested to LIKE our Facebook page by clicking here (click here)!
To reach me directly, please use my contact page.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ten Things You Would Overhear Every Day in Our House

Anyone reading this post has stories to tell about the goings on in their unique household.  I’m sure you have even said things that, to a neighbor listening in, would sound as though you were drained of all coherent thought.  In this post, I want to share with you a list of ten things we say in our own home that, while not all necessarily quirky, we should at some time record for easier playback.

Though I agree that there are likely a households out there that repeat one or two of these phrases daily, in our House of Chaos, there isn't a saying below that doesn't go unsaid every day.  Ten of the most popular are, in no particular order..

1)  “NO PASSWORD”:  Each and every mother loving day, Nolan insists on connecting with one manner or other of electronic device.  We try not to connect him with anything that can display a movie, mostly because of numbers 2 and 3 (and in part #4) below.  Because we lock the devices, part of that objection requires us to repeatedly utter “No Password,” to which we are met with screams, repeated volleys requesting the secret code, crying, high decibel whines and whatever ruckus he thinks will annoy us into giving in.  If we do, we are guaranteed to holler…

2)  “NO PAUSE/PLAY”:  This should actually read “No Pause, Play, Stop, Fast forward, Rewind, Eject, Reinsert, Freeze frame, Zoom”, but I wouldn't have time to type all that (especially since we only say this statement every day).  Like I said in #1, we try to keep the remotes, Wii controllers, computer and iPad passwords, smart phones and other DVD/Netflix access points away from Nolan.  If we slack (daily) and he gets a hold (daily) of one of the aforementioned forbidden items, he will resort to pressing any combination of the electronic commands listed above. To do so is to feed caffeinated cane sugar directly into the vessels of his sensory diet.  That leads to us yelling…

3)  “STOP BOUNCING”:  As do many kids with autism, Nolan stims.  Repetitive movie quotes, humming in a way that mimics the Tasmanian Devil, and the “typical” hand flapping are all daily self-stimulation activities we have come to know and love.  But, every time we cue the intro to Spongebob Squarepants or Yo, Gabba Gabba (or any other sherbet-colored children’s television show), our +100lb. boy starts rocking the joint --- and I don’t mean by being musically inclined.  When he starts bouncing, the living room sways, the TV that (if I do say so myself) is securely mounted to the wall begins to jiggle, and you can ride the surf of the hardwood floor boards the length of the house.  Then, it isn't long before we yell…

4)  “TURN IT DOWN”: This may be the least fair of all the items on this list, because --- let’s be honest --- what parent doesn't at one time or another crave peace and quiet?  In this case, though, we’re talking about both Madison and Nolan, and redundancy.  It’s every day, several times a day, that we utter this statement.  Whether it’s the iPad, Netflix or that robot we bought for Christmas, the device unfailingly manages to reach a decibel level somewhere between “chainsaw” and “fighter jet squadron”.  Ask the user to “turn it down”, and they will --- but only until they think we can no longer hear it.  Then, the child will kindly return the volume to its previous ear-bursting level, most likely so we don’t miss out on all the fun ourselves.  Of course, while this is going on with one child, to the other, one of will have to say…

5) “STOP WHISTLING”:  Guess what Madison has learned how to do.  All the time.  Ask her to stop whistling, however, and she will reach an indignant posture that is reserved for the most arrogant diva.  We may have asked her to stop whistling because its suppertime, Mom is sleeping or she has been at it for eleven hours.  Regardless, all she heard was that she would never again be allowed to whistle for the rest of her life.  She sulks, we get upset, she has to go to bed, then we have to say...

6)  “STOP KISSING THE MIRROR”:  There’s a nice, full-length mirror hanging on the hallway side of our bathroom door.  Though she’s no sort of “clean freak”, Lori is wiping that thing daily.  It would appear that neither Nolan nor Madison is intimidated by nor suffers from heightened hypersensitivity caused by this shiny, reflective decoration.  On the contrary; each one --- eight and nine respectively, mind you --- cannot resist placing a full-on lip smack every time they head through the bathroom door.  Not long after this, we will have to tell Nolan…

7)  “YOUR UNDERWEAR IS ON BACKWARDS”: One might think that this phrase is reserved for me.  Rest assured, I usually get this one right the first time without too much instructional assistance.  Poor Nolan does this so often, though, that (well, first off, it made this list; and second) I’m beginning to wonder if at this point in time he thinks that’s just how they go on.  No matter; it isn't long before we have to beg…

8) “NO MOMMY’S BED”: This one has only been nightly for about three months.  A year before that, it lasted a little over a year and a half.  I mentioned previously how Nolan demands nightly and repeatedly that he wants to sleep in our Lori’s bed.  It isn't a quiet request and it won’t arbitrarily happen.  Oh no.  Even on the off chance he falls asleep in his own bed, by between 12:30 and 3:30 in the morning, Nolan will end up in our bed.  We no longer try to fight him on it, either.  Not if we want the rest of the house to get any kind of sleep.  And, at that time in the morning, I just want to get to my sofa.  Then, in the morning, there is no doubt Lori will have to say…

9)  “WAIT FOR IT”:  We really should put that Angel Guard seat belt latch cover back on the buckle.  This nifty device keeps Nolan (any child, for that matter) from unbuckling the belt.  Otherwise, every day as soon as the van slows to Docking Speed, we hear the dreadful ‘click’, and he is standing up.  Lori started saying “wait for it” as she would travel the loop in front of Nolan’s school on the way to dropping him off.  If she drawls out a slow “waaaaaait for it,” the boy will at least stay buckled in --- even though he may think she’s playing a game.  It works in parking lots, driveways and fast food drive-thrus…go ahead, try it at home.  While you are doing so, I’ll explain that we constantly have to tell Nolan…

10)  “GET YOUR HAND OUT OF YOUR PANTS”:  Again, this one amazingly is rarely directed toward me.  And, once again, Nolan and his underclothes made the list.  This one happens so frequently that he can recite it back to us on command.  One afternoon I had to stay after work for a meeting; Nolan was allowed to hang out.  Lori left him with his iPad, and I had him situated in our meeting room on a beanbag.  I turned around to check on him and, there he was, in this room full of female teachers, digging in The Valley.  All I was able to say was, “Nolan...”  As if we had rehearsed it (and I guess in a way we had), Nolan replied, “Get your hand out of you pants.”  Oh, how they laughed...

Way to stay classy, son.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Unprompted and Unexpected

As I mentioned on my blog Celebrate the Autism Spectrum (click here), I get excited when any child in the World of Autism does anything beyond expectation.  It may be a one-time thing, or it could be the sign of something big on the horizon.  Doesn't matter.  To those of us who know and understand, even the littlest leaps are amazing.

Friday Nolan made one of those unexpected leaps.  His paraprofessional told my wife today that, while working with Nolan, she somehow caused her finger to bleed.  Well, Nolan noticed, and at first reacted as we figure he would.

“Are you OK, Ms. Lafayette?” he mumbled as though his mouth was full of marbles, trying so hard to speak as fast as we do.

She showed him her finger; it was bleeding a little, but she assured him she would be fine.  Undeterred, he told her, “Be right back.”

“It’s OK, Nolan.  I’m fine,” she tried to convince him again.  Opening the classroom door, however, he told her over his shoulder, “Stay here.”

Ms. Lafayette was curious at this point where the journey would take him, so she ducked into the hallway a short distance behind him.  She wanted to give him his space, while still intrigued by what he intended.

“Stay ‘dere’,” he commanded again when he saw her tailing him, and he turned the corner toward the school’s front door.  Ms. Lafayette was not worried, though she ducked through a shortcut to arrive first near where she was sure would be his destination. 

Opening the office door, Nolan struggled at first to get the school nurse to understand his desire.  “Bandage,” he stumbled.  She was confused, so he repeated, “I want bandage, 'puhweeze'.”

Upon seeing Nolan’s aide, the nurse understood.  She handed him the supplies he needed, and he headed back out the door.  Ms. Lafayette scooted back down the side hallway, hoping to meet Nolan at the other end.  As soon as they found one another, Nolan tried to open the package and put the bandage on Ms. Lafayette’s finger.

He did all of this unprompted.  All by himself.


He also likes electronics.  A lot.  When it isn't time for him to use the iPad or computer or watch movies, Nolan will scour the countryside (that is, every room in the house) looking for a stray, unguarded cell phone.  Lori, Kaleigh and I recently acquired smart phones, and they are as functional as any computer.  Leave one without a lookout, and he is on Netflix or YouTube, playing, pausing and rewinding the same two or three seconds of any interesting video he can find.

Friday night I was the negligent adult, and he wore my phone out until the battery died.  I tried to get my phone from him as quickly as I could, without any luck.  By the time anyone had gotten to him, Nolan had pulled a switcheroo; somewhere in the fuss, he had unplugged his mother’s charging phone and replaced it with mine.



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Madison's First Sleepover

Even though we have two kids on the spectrum, I don’t talk much about Nolan’s older sister Madison.  Mad (she doesn't care for “Maddie”) was diagnosed with PDD-NOS 2½ years ago, and, while we had our suspicions for some time before, she wasn't diagnosed until she was 6½.  Even though she has autism, honestly, sometimes it’s easy to miss.  Mad is smart, talkative, loving, makes eye contact, does well in school and is relatively independent.

But there are a couple places where her uniqueness shines through.  First of all, she has a nearly eidetic memory, and catches details of a situation at a quick glance.  Yet, while she can recall the weather and exactly what she was wearing on the day we bought our pet mice last year, to get her to remember the morning routine she has been doing for years or focus long enough to find a bright pink piece of paper on an otherwise empty dining room table, and all hope is lost.

Then, there are Madison’s social skills.  I’ll start by saying that Mad is in love with everyone.  In her eyes, there is not an ugly person on this planet, and everyone loves her back.  Why wouldn't they?  To her, all people are perfect and she considers every soul she meets to be a friend.  From our big, gruff, bearded typical Vermont neighbor next door to my boss she met one time in the grocery store, Madison loves all people.

But, to get her to understand the complexities and nuances of childhood relationships, to realize that not everyone wants to hear about her family all the time, or to make her realize kids can have more than one friend at a time, is a full time job.  She has “friends” at school, but not by the same definition we used as kids.  Don’t get me wrong; she knows when someone is being mean to her and there are some she does not like at all.  But we accept that Mad may likely never have a BFF.

Nevertheless, Madison had her first sleepover this past weekend.  We have known “V” and her family for a couple of years now.  We invite them to game days, and we have watched each other’s kids from time to time.  V and Mad are in the same class, and she is the closest thing to a best friend that our daughter has.  V knows that Madison is quirky and can get annoyed sometimes at her chattiness.  Even though they get along well together, I was leery about the event.

That was a pointless worry.  Madison and V had a great time together.  Sure, Madison chatted V’s ears off and had a tendency to get upset at the unfairness of losing a Wii game.  But, when I caught my little kid leading the play activities and had V following her every direction without argument, my apprehension melted away.  Her friend showed up at about 4:30 Saturday, and was still in our house 24 hours later, never once begging for us to rescue her or asking for amnesty.

We worry that she’ll never have long lasting relationships with kids her age.  If the past weekend was any indication, Madison doesn't seem too worried about it.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rough Sleeper

Nolan doesn't know how to sleep.

"What's that?" you ask.  "Know how to sleep?  Like, he can't choose a position?"

No.  I quite literally mean exactly what I said: the boy doesn't appear to find the "natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost, so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli" (  I'll elaborate.

During school nights especially, we try to get Madison and Nolan to bed for 8:30 at the latest.  Sometimes we succeed with this, which is especially helpful when Lori and I are attending classes ourselves and need the time that they are zonked out to get our own work done.  More often than that, though, we aren’t even putting them in bed until about 8:30 --- and that is due to our own procrastinating.  There is a fear Lori and I share that we associate with most of the overly dramatic transition times in our house --- times that make a Lindsay Lohan temper tantrum look like a Teddy Bear picnic.

(Oh those dreaded transitions --- a time for fighting to get them off the iPad, screaming as they refuse to move down the hallway toward the bathroom, rerouting as that trip down the hallway turns into a detour into a random bedroom, our struggling to drag a limp, lifeless body back into the hallway, frustration as one child can’t resist admiring herself in the mirror, irritation as the other one can’t resist planting his lip prints on the same mirror, and concern as they both need to be retrained once again on the same procedures we retrained for the prior evening regarding teeth brushing, hand washing, potty using, medicine receiving and turn taking.)

Eventually, they make it into bed.  Stories have been read; covers have been pulled up to chins and kisses have been doled out.  Once the lights are off, we know what happens.  Every night.

“Mommy bed,” we hear, and we ignore.  “Daddy, Nolan Mommy bed?”  For now, it’s phrased as a question.

I don’t know why I always do, but I can’t continue to ignore him, and I answer every time.  “Go to sleep, Nolan.  In Nolan’s bed.”

“Mommy bed?!”  It’s a louder question this time.

“No, buddy.  Daddy’s laying in Mommy’s bed tonight.”

“Mommy bed!” he shouts again.  I ignore the request this time, and the cacophony of repetitive demands begins.

“Mommy bed.  Mommy bed!  Mommy bed!  Nolan Mommy bed!  Daddy, Nolan Mommy bed!”

And if we continue to ignore him: “MOOOOOMY BEEEEEEDDDD!” he screeches two octaves higher.

He knows the buttons to push.  “Nolan!” I tell him directly, “You are laying in Nolan’s bed, tonight!”

The debate continues for a little bit, and sometimes he even falls asleep.  Or so it seems at first.  He wasn’t always this way.  He used to insist on sleeping with one of us when he first started sleeping in a Big Bed…and we would usually give in.  Then one day, he just stopped.  He would fall asleep in his own bed and we wouldn’t hear from him until morning.  Then, about three months ago, it started up again.

The one piece that never seemed to go away, however, and happens without fail as though he’s on a timer, nearly every night at almost exactly 12:30 in the morning: Nolan screams.

It’s a scary sound, and often lasts for a half hour or longer.  Sometimes the screams are accompanied by moans, sleep talking, and other alarming, indescribable noises.  Quite often, while we assume he is sleeping, he will holler, “Mommy, no!” or “K’wee (his sister Kaleigh), stop it,” or some other random, sometimes inaudible statement, all the while maintaining the chorus of other unsettling sounds.  No one is in the room bothering him, and we have ruled out the cats sleeping too closely to him.

During this time, he also kicks, turns sideways, and rolls in his blanket like a Cheese Dog on a convenience store steam roller.  We try to calm him down by patting his back, and --- curiously --- sometimes yelling his name works.  There are nights though where no amount of consolation will work; the poor guy just will not sleep.

I guess that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  He sleeps, of course, if ever so very lightly; and not very well, or very deeply.

I’d imagine that’s why he ends up in our Mommy’s bed, anyhow.