Saturday, March 30, 2013

Recap? Sure, if You Insist!

Well, I posted enough this week that some of you actually got behind. So here's a brief recap. (Click on the bold to follow the link.)  After a few weeks of highly sporadic posting, I finally got around to telling you guys why I've been distracted in The Dog Ate My Blog Post. It's a pretty good excuse, I promise.

A couple of years ago I wrote an Easter post called You Want to Do What with the Eggs? Back then my only worry was how to introduce Easter traditions to my family. This year we have bigger problems, and in  Heaven Help Us I tell you about the epic battle (okay, maybe it's not that epic) to get Pink P to wear an age-appropriate dress for the Easter service.

In May Contain Peanuts I describe what happens when you try to force your black-and-white ASD kid to see shades of grey (no, not the book).  Spoiler alert: it's ugly.

Then there was the day Pink P's Catholic school teacher explained why her middle finger was bad. It didn't go well. In Curses Part 2 I tell you how it happened. The more I think about, the more I wonder whether the teacher may be trying to save Pink's soul, what with the misguided pope hat and all. 

After a bit of hiatus, Sky returned in rare form in "Things that Make Me Curious and Distracted" by Sky, another illustrated guide for why he does what he does. Something tells me this post by Sky won't be as universally applicable as others have been!

Thanks for reading even when I'm not terribly reliable!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"Things that Make Me Curious and Distracted" by Sky

I'm not sure I could heart these two pictures by Sky more. I love how he's made it his personal mission to tell the world (or maybe just me, his dad, and his teacher) how he thinks.  After all, the MOE family's all about educating others! Of course, the downside--and this is something I've noticed a lot recently--is that he believes that as long as he explains why he does what he does, the rest of us will accommodate his quirks, no questions asked.  In other words, Sky thinks that as long as we remember what makes him curious and what makes him distracted, he won't get in trouble when he's being curious and distracted (even if that means, for example, that he completely ignores us and misses dinner). We're still working on the idea that "acculturation" is a two-way process. Who knew my years of work facilitating cross-cultural exchange would be so useful in dealing with a kid on the autism spectrum!?!

CURIOUS

Sky prides himself on being curious. We often use this word to refer to his ability to hyper-focus on some things in order to better understand how they work. I suppose you could be negative and say it's very "autistic" of him to have such highly concentrated interests, but I'm pretty sure those things that make him curious now are one day going to make him a very successful researcher or engineer. 

click to enlarge all pictures

I love, love, love the pictures for "how bones stay together"

quite literal, this one

and "how people make paper."

because obviously trees are involved

And, by the way, the color picture of the boy in the "curious" picture is a spitting image of Sky. It's actually a bit uncanny how much it looks like him--particularly the cowlick.

DISTRACTED

Sky's need to distinguish between interesting (curious) things and distracting things kind of fascinates me. Is he making a value judgment between the types of activities he engages in, or does he believe there are certain things in this world, like his baby brother, that will get him off task every single time?


Of course my favorite thing about this picture is that the TV not only keeps him from doing the job he was asked to do, but it also results in him sitting on the head of his sleeping sister. 


So, obviously the take away here is that when gears, cars, bath water, toys, televisions, games, bones, trains, crashes, machines, animals, baby brothers, and people making paper are involved, Sky will be otherwise occupied and may sit on his sleeping sister. 

But, we should just get over it.




Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Curses Part 2

WTF?!?

I realize it's probably not the best idea to start a blog post about cursing with those letters, but WTF?!?

First of all, as soon as I typed WTF, the "Enter" button on my keyboard stopped working, so now I can't start a new paragraph without adding HTML code for spaces and returns. HTML is not my strong point, so this should be interesting.

Ha! So far so good. Take that computer!!

No, wait, I take that back. Now the up, down, left, and right arrows have stopped working, too. Maybe I shouldn't taunt the computer until I finish writing this. After all, this computer is older than Pink P and the equivalent in computer years to a crotchety old man.

Anyway, what I started to say is that today, Pink P came home with a "Red Card Report." I'm sure many of you are familiar with the preschool discipline green, yellow, red card system where kids are supposed to aim for the green, learn from the yellow, and avoid the red. Since she's still in preschool, we try not to put too much emphasis on the school's seemingly hyper focus on the rules. We believe preschool is a time for kids to learn to love school, to play with friends, and to start picking up some pre-kindergarten skills.

Still, from time to time, Pink P finds herself in the red. I'd expect nothing less from a kid who loves to talk, hug, and do whatever she darn well pleases. When she comes home with a red card, I remind her of the "three school promises": 1) follow directions, 2) keep your hands to yourself, and 3) talk to the teacher when there is a situation you don't feel like you can handle on your own. Maybe I should do more, but I can't begin to imagine what that might be.

[Okay, now there's a random black box the size of a pack of Juicy Fruit right in the middle of my screen. Should I be worried?]

Anyway, today Pink came home with a Red Card Report, and it said the following:

"Pink P did not make the right choice today and had to turn his/her card to red. Please talk to your child about appropriate behavior at school and return this signed."

This first part is the standard typed message that comes with every red card. The comments section is what shocked me (Though I guess I shouldn't have been shocked because Pink P had already told me what happened on the way home from school. The shock was that she was telling me the truth because, when I heard it, I couldn't believe it.)

This is what the teacher's comment said: "Pink P gave the middle finger to the older boys in the morning before the 8:00 bell. We discussed that this meant a dirty word and not to do it again."

AYFKM? (Are You F**king Kidding Me?)

Pink P had no idea why she got in trouble. She's five and thinks that "stupid" and "fart" are bad words. Now, thanks to the "vigilance" of the adult on duty in the cafeteria and her teacher, she knows that her middle finger is "bad." And don't even get me started on the teacher's use of the word "dirty" in trying to explain this to her. (How in the heck is she supposed to process that idea?) Aside from the time when Sky accidentally hit upon the words "hell" and "f**k" (which he promptly forgot, thank goodness!--click here for that post), neither kid has a clue about foul language. They really don't. So, when well-meaning teachers point these things out to Sky and Pink, they are teaching them bad words. Seriously, how hard is this to grasp?

When I sat down to talk with Pink about why she got a red card, I simply explained that some people use their middle finger to make people feel bad. Pink promptly held up her index finger and asked, "Is this finger bad?" When I said no, she got an extremely perplexed look on her face. She then worked her way through all the fingers on both hands to make sure she had it straight.

She didn't. Later, when she double checked with me, she thought that only the ring finger on her right hand was "bad," and I had to explain it again.

This is not the first or even the second time that my kids' Catholic school teachers have taught them words or concepts that we purposely avoid at our house. Tomorrow I will talk to Pink P's teacher and ask that they be much more careful about what they introduce to her and that she not be punished for something she can't possibly understand.

Frankly, I'm not sure what else I can do. I mean, seriously, WTF?!?


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

May Contain Peanuts

If you know anything about people with Aspergers and high-functioning autism, you know that they often lack the ability to be flexible and to discern the shades of grey that are so common in everyday life. This is something we deal with with Sky. All. The. Time. Most days, it's manageable. I mean, after awhile, you figure out patterns of thought and can head off a meltdown before it reaches DEFCON 1.

Most days.

But, then there are the days when you find yourself trying to sneak in some ambiguity. Those are the days when you can't win.

You will never win. No, really. You won't win, so you should stop trying.

Why tempt fate? Because some days it looks like it might be easier, that's why. 

Just like it looks easier to take the short cut through the wet rice paddy. I mean, you can see your house on the other side, why walk all the way around? I'll tell you why. Because you will always lose your shoes. Always. Not only that, you're likely to get stuck and then fall down when trying to pull your legs out. In the end, you'll be lucky if you can free yourself and slop back home covered from head to toe in mud. It always only looks easier. Always.


Today, I tried to take the short cut. Before you start judging, let me tell you why (then you can judge because it was pretty stupid of me). See, ever since we went gluten free, our choices in cereal have become greatly limited. There are two brands of corn flakes at our local grocery store that are gluten and dairy free. One tastes much better than the other. The one that tastes better says "may contain peanuts" on it. Pink P is desperate the eat the "yummy" corn flakes. She asks for them every single day. EVERY day. And every day, I tell her no because of her severe peanut allergy.

Tracking the allergens in food has become easier (and much, much more serious) since Sky learned to read ingredient labels. He reads them obsessively. He finds gluten, milk, and nuts in things I never imagined. He knows that Pink can have food that says "produced in a facility that also handles peanuts" but that she shouldn't have foods that "may contain peanuts." Most days, I am grateful for his complete dedication to this endeavor. But sometimes, sometimes, I really wish I could sneak one past him.

I knew the corn flakes "may contain peanuts," but I also knew that the chances were very, very slim. Plus, I hadn't been shopping, and that was the only box of cereal left in the cupboard.  

"Eat fast," I said, pouring a little bit into Pink P's bowl. I could imagine how Sky would react, and I knew we had about 10 minutes before he made his bed, got himself dressed, and came downstairs. Unfortunately, as she's prone to do, Pink P chatted nonstop and was still talking when Sky came into the kitchen. That boy has razor-sharp senses, and before he even made it to the table, he knew.

"Mom, that cereal may contain peanuts. WHY is SHE eating it?" And with that, he lunged toward Pink and tried to grab the bowl of cereal out from under her.  I put myself between Sky and Pink, and said in a very calm voice, "It's okay, buddy, I gave it to her. There are no peanuts in the cereal. Sometimes they just write that on the box to be safe."

You guys, there was no way I was going to persuade him. The box said "may contain peanuts." Pink P can't eat things that come from boxes that "may contain peanuts." It was bad enough that she was eating the cereal. Worse was the fact that I  had given it to her. There was no way that this could make sense to my black-and-white son. No way.

Sky ended up having a complete meltdown. As I dragged him kicking and screaming to his room, he repeatedly shouted: 

MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS!

MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS!!!

MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS!!!!!!!!

By the time I got him to his room and ushered him into his top-bunk safe space, he was screaming, "I KNEW IT! YOU DON'T LIKE ME, YOU DON'T LIKE PINK P, AND YOU DON'T LIKE STOW. YOU'RE TRYING TO KILL ALL THREE OF US!" Because, obviously, that made infinitely more sense than mom bending the "may contain peanuts" rule.

I learned my lesson. I promise. I will never, ever, EVER try to bend the rules again. 

At least, not when Sky's home. 




Image from http://www.animeyume.com

Monday, March 25, 2013

Heaven Help Us

Easter is coming. You know what that means.

Easter clothes.

I should tell you up front that I have always hated Easter clothes. Always. Dresses and tights. Pastel colors. White shoes. The hat (dear God, the hat). The frilly gloves. Even now I get a little nauseous thinking about those outfits--especially the ones I wore during my awkward pre-teen years!

It seems Pink P and I don't quite feel the same about Easter. She loves Easter clothes. Adores them. So much so that she absolutely must go Easter dress shopping with me. It appears the days of blissfully choosing her clothes are over.

So, on Saturday, we reluctantly and despondently enthusiastically set out to find an Easter dress. At the first store, we made our way through several racks of dresses before Pink P found one that met her high standards. It nearly gave me a panic attack.  I mean, look at it:


Why do they even make dresses like this in her size? Are they trying to kill unsuspecting moms like me?

I tried redirecting Pink. "Here's a good one," I said, pulling an admittedly toddler-esque dress off the rack.


Pink would have nothing to do with it. She gave me a slight but clear shake of her head. "Are you sure?" I asked, enthusiastically. "Look, it has flowers!!"

"Uh-uh," she replied, more forcefully this time. Suddenly, I could imagine exactly what her teenage years were going to look like.

In the end, we left the store with this one. A good compromise, I thought. Especially since it didn't make my stomach tighten and bring tears to my eyes.


As we walked out of the store, Pink P said, "I want the other dress, the one Grandma showed me." Drat! I was hoping she'd forgotten about that one. "Okay," I said, "We'll go look," thinking, of course, that they'd all be gone. I'd waited long enough to go dress shopping, after all.

I was right. When we got to the second store, they only had a few of the dresses left, and all three of them were in her size. All three. Since Grandma had told Pink it was the perfect dress, I had no choice. 


So, for now, we have two dresses and a little less than a week to decide which one will become the dress. Here's hoping I can convince Pink P to love the more conservative one! I know I need to get over it, but I'm just not ready for her to grow up.

Fortunately, some things never change. 



What's not to love about matching big brother/toddler shirts and Easter ties?

PS: Look what I found when I was going through the pictures I took for this post. Apparently Stow has figured out how to take pictures of himself. Which reminds me: if you get a random face time request from me, just ignore it. Stow's particularly fond of this feature on my phone. Besides knowing how to work my phone better than I do, Stow has also perfected the art of turning door knobs, scaling baby gates, and standing on counters and tables.



Heaven help us!




Friday, March 22, 2013

The Dog Ate My Blog Post

Okay, so we don't have a dog, but since this whole post will be one big excuse for why I haven't written, I thought I'd call me out on my lame-ness before you do.

Here's what's really been going on: I keep sitting down to write and before I get even a sentence, I'm distracted by a single thought.

We have to move.

We have to move.

We have to move.

It's a never-ending refrain that's been running through my head for the past three weeks since we got the news.

People move all the time, I know. We've done it many times. In fact, in the nearly 13 years Ren and I have been married, we have moved 7 times. Three of those times were international moves. And before that, I moved 5 times post college (including two other international moves. PSA: international moves are ridiculously expensive and should be avoided whenever possible). So, yeah, we know how to move. We know what all it entails, and we are actually pretty good at it. We're the only people I know who can have the entire house unpacked and pictures on the wall within 5 days. Five days! Of course, this probably has a lot to do with our OCD tendencies, but whatever.

Here's the thing, though, since we made our last major move to this city four years ago, our family has experienced several significant changes. Sky got diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, we discovered Pink P's serious allergies and asthma, Stow was born, showed delays, started Early Intervention, and introduced us to the world of kidney and colon issues (overachiever!), and (and this is the kicker) Ren's back went way, way, way south.

Suddenly moving is not just about finding a house and a decent transport company, redirecting our mail, and packing our things. Now it's about finding a doctor who can help me connect the dots between all of the strange things that go on with my kids and offer alternative approaches that have been shown to help kids with similar sets of issues. It's about figuring out when and how and with whom to do OT and speech for Stow and Sky. It's about figuring out which of the schools in a totally unfamiliar environment will handle Sky's challenges best. It's about establishing new networks of support (our last major move brought us closer to our family and old friends, but this next one will take us further away). And, it's about doing all of this while starting a new job and making sure my spouse doesn't re-injure his already very sh**ty back. Oh, and we'll have to get new cable and internet set up which we all know is like a full-time job--curse you Comcast!

The good news is that this will most likely be our last move in a long while, and for the first time in our marriage, and especially since I set out to get a PhD almost 10 years ago, we will truly be able to call a place home. So while peace and stability seem like totally foreign (and slightly panic-inducing) concepts to us, I'm actually kind of looking forward to it. I just have to figure out how to get there from here.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Recap: Wait. What?!?

And then suddenly, I was so busy I barely had time to sleep. There comes a point in every semester where the amount of work far exceeds the amount of time I have to do it. Then there's the fact that every spring I am forced to go have the pleasure of going on the academic job market. So, yeah, this is when I stop sleeping, and also when I start to forget where I put things or what day it is.

In other words, it's a perfect time for a recap! Click on the titles to follow the links.

Since the last recap (gasp!) three weeks ago, Stow illustrated several posts. In "Back by Popular Demand" he created another made-for-Mom-in-Two-Culture-readers comic strip. It's not profound, but his sense of time and space are pretty amazing for an 8 year-old.

Because Sky seemed keen to use his drawing powers for good, I asked him to write a guide to life in his head in "What Sky Wants You to Know about ASD." My ulterior motive, of course, was for him to figure out a way to talk to his teacher about the stuff that gets in his way at school, and the comic turned out to be good for that, too.

"Torn" was my favorite post this go around. In it, I use some of Sky's pictures to symbolize the challenges of life with a kid who has ASD and who melts down excessively at times. A related post: "Top 10 Sky Meltdown Triggers" looks at the same topic with a tad less poignancy and a tad more humor, at least as much humor as one can muster when one's kid keeps having meltdowns.

Over the past few weeks, Stow figured out devilish new ways to get into trouble once he discovered he could climb up and over our child proofing. You can read about it in "The Death-defying Feats of a Twenty-month Old." I know I should've been ready for this, but I wasn't. You'll be surprised by how much mayhem one so small can cause. He totally has a future on All State commercials. For a brief shining moment earlier this week, I thought we'd found the solution (see "Perfect Imperfect Solutions"), but then Stow out-smarted our workaround.

And, finally, sometimes I just need to write about nothing. In "In Which Nothing Really Happens at All" nothing really happened. And. It. Was. Awesome. Perhaps even unprecedented! I also wrote about nothing in "Pink P for Pope" but it has the most awesome picture of the Sistine Chapel you will ever see. I promise. More awesome pictures in "NORAD Constance Tracker." Still no word from the whale. I think Sky and Pink have forgotten, but I never will. And neither should you.

Never forget Constance, people. Never.





Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pink P for Pope


I think Pink P might have designs on becoming pope. I mean, look at the mitre she made for herself at school today in anticipation of an announcement from the conclave. (If none of that sentence made sense to you, you might not be Catholic or send your kids to Catholic school like I do. Just Google it. I won't judge.)


If Pink P was pope, all papal announcements would be preceded by pink smoke billowing out from a great inferno buried deep in the Sistine Chapel (I'm not sure how many ballots she thinks were cast, but obviously, it's a lot). 

In Pink P's Sistine Chapel there would be an enticing super-fast purple waterslide that would trick bad guys into slipping right to their doom in the raging pink and purple flames. For fun, little girls would hang out giggling on a cross while all the boys look up in awe: "Dude, how'd she get all the way up there?" they'd say.  Or maybe they'd just wind up  and throw giant invisible Nerf balls at the girls like they're playing dodgeball (I'm not quite sure what those kids in the picture are doing, but it looks fun).  Fortunately, though, the Sistine Chapel would never get gloomy. How could it with a huge pink sunflower to welcome guests and an ornate candy-striped door reminiscent of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory?

I was going to write something else, but really, the mitre speaks for itself. Besides, after that whole Lent-Diet-Coke debacle (you can read about it here and here), it might be good to cut down on the sacrilege. 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Perfect Imperfect Solutions

How do you manage multiple meltdowns and increased impulsivity?


That's how.  Nothing focuses the senses (and drowns out the anxiety-provoking whines of a little sister) like high definition earphones and some Sim City Creator.  Hopefully one day our interventions won't include screen-based distraction techniques, but that day is not today.

And, what do you do when your toddler learns how to outsmart your child proofing? You improvise.


This stroke of genius is from Big Sissy. Makes it hard to sit on the couch but sure beats 24/7 chaos.  See him eyeing the Girl's Day dolls?

Oh that all of life's challenges would be so easy to solve...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Torn





Sky drew this for you guys. Apparently the hero is a guy with a special brain like him. Like all of his stories, it's fascinating, well-developed, and fun to read. But do you see the faint lines in the paper, the places where edges don't quite meet? Maybe you can't see them. But, I can. See, this is the story I tore into 8 pieces, this story he spent over an hour drawing. Of course, I didn't plan to tear it. And I didn't know he'd spent so much time on it. But, there you have it. 

The story I tore.

Some of you probably think it's no big deal that I tore up a piece of paper. Others of you might think it was a horrible thing to do. I can tell you I feel guilty about it, even now. 

To me it represents the way our family's fabric is ripped apart by autism. I don't mean to be melodramatic. But, then again, maybe I do. See, I ripped this story in the middle of Sky's third major meltdown in less than 24 hours. I was hoping to get his attention, to help him see how his destructive behavior towards others hurts them. It didn't work. All it did is give us both a taped-up reminder of the things we can't quite fix.

This one started when Sky discovered that Stow had dumped out his rock collection. As soon as Sky saw his stuff on the ground, he started hitting Pink P and screaming. He was mad at Pink for not stopping Stow. It takes approximately 1 second to go from peace to chaos at our house. I can be standing 5 feet away and still not get there in time.

When Sky melts down, life stops indefinitely and everything falls apart. No matter what is going on, safety becomes the primary concern.  I grab Sky and Ren gets Stow and Pink.  Ren's back can no longer handle the wrestling it takes to get Sky into a safe place until the meltdown subsides. So a lot of times, it feels like I am the source and target for this rage that comes from some place none of us can understand. After the meltdown, when Sky has come back to himself, he usually can't explain why he melted down or  remember what he did during the meltdown. 

This is not a tantrum. You need to know this. There are distinct differences. Children who throw tantrums do it to get what they want. There is a clear desire and the tantrum is a way of manipulating the situation to their favor. They will be aware of who is watching and will take care not to hurt themselves. Tantrums end when the child gets what he/she wants or the parent is able to resolve the stand off in different way. Meltdowns aren't like this. Meltdowns happen when a kid is somehow overstimulated and out of sorts due to lack of sleep, sensory overload, illness, confusion, frustration, or whatever. When a kid melts down, he's not in control. He can't usually tell you what made him melt down. He is not aware of who is around or how his action affects others. He will hurt himself and those around him with no knowledge that he's doing it.  Just as there is no way to predict when a meltdown might start, there's also no way to predict when it will end. 

This is the picture Sky drew after the meltdown, when I brought him to my office to give him some peaceful one-on-one time with me.
Fortunately, Sky doesn't go through meltdown phases nearly as much as he used to, but they are still a real and peace-shattering part of our lives. Not long after any given meltdown, Sky is fine. Since it's not a conscious act on his part, he also suffers no residual guilt or anxiety. That, to me, is the cruelest thing about the meltdowns and the cruelest thing about autism. Because it's always the rest of us who are left to pick up the pieces.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In Which Nothing Really Happens At All

Recently Ren tagged along with me to a conference. Most people take vacations. We go together to my conferences in exciting places like Madison, Wisconsin, where I can be busy and stressed out and he can kill 8-10 hours waiting for me by playing video games on the iPad and shopping. There's nothing relaxing or refreshing about it except the fact we get away together from the kids for a couple of days and spend the night in a hotel room where no one wakes us at 5:30 a.m. to describe the latest issue of Lego Club magazine in excrutiating detail (that actually happened this morning). This go around, my conference was well-timed to immediately follow 72 hours of Sky-rific meltdowns, including three in one day. (Some time, once I have steeled myself for it, I will write a detailed blog about meltdowns since I'm pretty sure you can't imagine one unless you've experienced it, and if you have experienced it, you will feel better knowing you're not the only one who feels that way).

Anyway, we took a three-hour drive to an equally small, equally cold, grey, and dismal town for my conference. In fact, there was very little there that seemed at all different from here. Except for one thing: no kids. No Sky to fall apart. No Pink P to cry her way through an entire box of bandaids. And no Stow to break free, wreak havoc, get caught, repeat.

On the last day, when Ren picked me up after my hours of meetings, he looked completely reinvigorated. He'd found sushi at the grocery store, and a whole foods selection unlike anything we see in our own town. Plus, he'd been shopping.
"I bought a new laptop, some camera equipment, and a DS-3D," he said. The side of his nose twitched slightly, so I was pretty sure he was lying. 
"Really?" 
"I told you I was going to buy a lot remember?"
Yes, he had said he would shop, and he had threatened to spend a lot of money. But, I was in the midst of prepping for my presentation, so I assumed he was blustering for attention. I didn't care if he spent a lot of money or not. I just needed to know whether our credit card bill was going to knock my socks off, so I asked again.
"Did you really buy all that?" 
"See, you always complain when I shop," he replied, attempting to lure me into an argument that he hoped would distract me from my current line of questioning. 
"I don't care what you buy. I just want to know if you're telling the truth. Besides, you twitched. When you lie to be funny, you twitch."
I'd never pointed out that I knew about the twitch before, and when I did, he gave up the ruse and admitted that he'd only bought a few minor things on sale. I think he was disappointed that I didn't fall for his story. To be honest, though, I was just glad we could have a conversation in peace and that things were calm enough for me to notice the twitch.

The moral of this story is most certainly that we need to get out more. It's hard with my work, his back, our special needs kids. But, hey, we can always hope. And, if not, I guess we'll always have Madison (or some place like it).



Friday, March 1, 2013

What Sky Wants You to Know About ASD

As you probably gathered from my meltdown post a couple of days ago (link), Sky's been going through another regression. I always know it's bad when his teacher, typically the model of patience and tact, sends an e-mail with the subject head "Sky's Week."

Especially when it's only Wednesday.

I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say he's been out of sorts and disruptive, and I've been spending a lot of time this week writing e-mails and meeting with teachers and therapists to try to figure out what's up.

Often, Sky acts worse when he 's worried that people don't understand how hard he is trying, so in an attempt to help alleviate some anxiety, I encouraged him to write a story to share with his teacher and classmates.  I gave him a couple of prompts, but he created most (95%) of this story on his own. He hopes it will help people understand what it's like to have a "special brain" like he does. I hope it's just the beginning of him learning to advocate for himself and for others with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

"I have autism. It's very hard sometimes for me to control myself. It feels like I'm gonna to explode!!"

"I do things that I'm not supposed to do. For example, I kick my shoes off at school at the wrong time (Editor's note: Is there ever really a right time to kick one's shoes off at school?). I take my shoe off when I sit in class."

"I get mad at my sister sometimes because she sings, whines, yells, or cries. I get so mad that I hit her sometimes."

"It's very hard to concentrate on stuff like 'Rocketship Math' (Editor's note: Catchy new name, but same old math facts) at school. It's hard to listen, too. Like when I am listening to someone else, I start getting distracted."

"I like to hear crashing sounds and see pieces break, so Angry Birds is perfect!" (Editor's note: It's true. It's as if the game was made especially for him--killer for the iPhone battery, though).

"Here's something I wish everybody could understand: that it is the hardest thing to control myself. It takes up all my energy." 

"So, I told you the story about how I feel sometimes, and my baby brother, too, has a special brain. But, that's another story. THE END!"

This last one kind of cracks me up. Pink P is convinced that Stow has asthma and food allergies like she does, and Sky thinks Stow has autism like him. As for me, I'm hoping he finds different ways to commune with his brother and sister. Oh, and I love, love, love Stow's pants in this picture.


For other illustrations by Sky, click here and here.