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Autism: From the outside looking in. Lifestyle Parenting

TELEVISION SAVED MY LIFE AS A PARENT.

I know I know….

It is absolutely frowned upon to let your children consume too much of the “idiot box”.

As a matter of fact, my parents only kept up to two televisions in the house until I was in high school. I didn’t have a television in my room until I bought one of my own.

The reason why I preferred having a television in my room is because I have always been afraid of the dark. I still am afraid of the dark. A traditional nightlight just doesn’t cut it.

During the first week of Ariana’s life, I had the worst time getting her to fall asleep. It was already terrible enough that she constantly cried. She didn’t have an issue with colic or health, she just cried a lot. At first, I tried to soothe Ariana with a radio. That worked for a few days. Then, I tried the television.

MAGIC!!!!

Did it stop her from crying? NO. Did the television help her got to sleep? YES JESUS! That means mommy could get some sleep. Mind you, I was battling postpartum depression at the time. I needed to sleep.

It wasn’t the fact that I just had the television on. Ariana specifically wanted to watch “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. Homegirl thought she was grown.

This worked out well because these two shows came on back-to-back. DVR was also my friend when I needed access to these shows multiple times a day.

When Ariana graduated to her own room, I put a television in her room. By then, she had enter the world of Dora The Explorer. We love educational programming! No, she wasn’t sitting in her room, watching tv all day. She needed the television for background noise, just like I did.

As I continued to have kids, television became more of a necessity.

Have you ever tried to make phone calls or handle other important business while several little kids were running around? How did that work out? Have you ever needed to tend to one child, but the other one(s) we’re getting into everything?

Sometimes, you just need your children to sit down and shut the Hell up. Putting on a favorite movie or series with some popcorn just does the trick!

I also found tv to be an educational helper for my special needs boys. They all have shorter than normal attention spans, so traditional teaching doesn’t help much. Julian and Joshua are mostly nonverbal, but they can sing nursery rhymes and recognize some colors. Cocomelon and Baby First TV are their favorites.

Avery learned how to read high frequency words from watching YouTube. Although his comprehension is not good, Avery reads well above grade level. Phonics is his thing!

The thing is, it’s not realistic for me to keep all of my children occupied at the same time. Is using the television taking the lazy way out? It might be to you. However, it makes my household run a little bit easier, especially for my ASD babies. I’m not sure if the problem is how much tv time your children have. I think the problem is the kind of content that your kids are consuming.

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Autism: From the outside looking in. Lifestyle Parenting

Our First Week Of Remote Learning!

Let’s just say that there is not enough wine in the world to go through this. It started out as an atrocity, but it’s getting better.

The state that I live in was obviously not prepared for this school year. The last few months of the last school year was also remote learning, but we had old-fashioned packets and pencils. I guess the state thought we would just pick up where we left off.

This school term is all virtual. This means that we are doing everything over the computer. We are saving trees, folks!

I think that everyone involved in this process needs to understand a few things:

1. The teachers are frustrated as well and would rather teach their babies in a classroom. THIS IS NOT THEIR FAULT!

2. Parents have to learn how to use new applications along with their kids. Some kids are being raised by a generation that is not tech-savvy. Parents, you are allowed to be frustrated!

3. Technology is technology. Something is going to malfunction or crash. Some parents have gotten their kids started in the morning with ease, and some are ready to tear their hair out.

I want to say that I am blessed to be in the position that I am in as a stay at home parent. There are parents who either had to quit their jobs, rearrange their schedules, go without sleep, or entrust their children to a babysitter to help with schoolwork.

Honestly, this was supposed to be the school term that made my house empty. I had plans to throw a party all by myself. I had plans to finally finish that mountain of laundry. I had plans to just enjoy the quiet time.

I complain about it, but I have to look at the fact that parents who work outside of the home are stressed beyond belief right now.

I never understood the last minute open house meetings. Why do I get all of my children’s information three days before starts? It makes no sense. Mind you, I already have the school supplies. Shout out to my early preparation in March!

What alarmed me about this year’s open house was finding out that two of my children were going to be attending different schools. The last minute notice…..

My older three children were set to start school on Monday(August 17th), and my youngest three were set to start later. I was ferociously checking emails and apps on Saturday(August 15th) because none of my children had classes. I hadn’t heard from Avery’s new school.

On Monday(August 17th), I logged into my children’s Google Classroom accounts. Amariyah had her classes, but her teacher is missing. She is being taught by the 5th grade teacher. Avery and Ariana were still without classes. I was able to get Amariyah started on her Zoom meetings with slight difficulties.

I proceeded to call my other children’s schools to figure out what was going on. After about 30 attempts, I finally was able to speak with secretaries. They took my messages, but didn’t call me back. Oh lord! According to a secretary, Avery was transferred to the wrong school.

Meanwhile, Amariyah was just breezing through her meetings with her NOTfourthgrade teacher. She is the type of child who likes to take charge. Sometimes it’s great and other times it’s annoying. I’m referring to the way that she talks over everybody because she just has to be first or correct.

I received a call back from a technical support representative for Ariana at 6:00 that evening. I was instructed to keep checking her email because she was no longer using Google Classroom. I checked Ariana’s email and found some links to get her started for the next day. Unfortunately, I still had no word on Avery.

On Tuesday(August 18th), Amariyah and Ariana logged into their classes and email and got started. I checked Avery’s Google Classroom app. There were two classes. Thank God! I was confused because he was still enrolled at the school that I was told was incorrect. I just wanted my baby to get started so I logged him into his zoom meetings.

Avery had a difficult time concentrating during his meetings. This was to be expected for several reasons. I had to sit next to Avery and help him pay attention.

When it came time for Avery to do his assignments, I had to guide him through his work.

The work that he was given didn’t seem to line up with his IEP. I called the school. I spoke to the secretary who was in charge of special education to express my concerns.

This is when I found out that Avery was in a regular classroom with an EC(Exceptional Children) teacher as backup. I was pretty annoyed at this point. The secretary confirmed to me that she had Avery’s IEP, but she said she never read it. She wanted to see what Avery was capable of doing.

Ummm…. isn’t that the point of the IEP?

I was pissed. I emailed Avery’s EC teacher, but she was also pretty dismissive. I miss his old school because I was used to his teacher. I hope that he can return soon.

Whew! I think that next week is when I will introduce my babies into virtual learning. I guess the therapies for Julian and Joshua will also be virtual…. This will be a movie.

Aside from late starts, defective zoom links, missing classes, and missing teachers, the first week went okay. We will continue to pray moving forward. I still have to get my babies on the bandwagon. This will be fun. We just all have to get used to this new normal.

Please support my small business! I sell jewelry for $5.00 + tax and shipping. Everything is 100% lead and nickel free.

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Categories
Autism: From the outside looking in. Parenting

Putting A Leash On Your Child?

I said that I would never do that. Of course, my daddy told me Lane we say never”. He was correct.

I remember observing someone walking their child with a leash. I scoffed like a judgmental asshole. It looked absolutely ridiculous. At that time, I didn’t have kids. I said that I would never have my child walking around like some pet.

I stuck to that sentiment as I began having kids. Then, the twins came along. I noticed Joshua’s inability to comprehend. It was always there. I started noticing Julian’s inability shortly after. He had started regressing. Still, when we went out, Donnie and I kept all of the babies in 2 different strollers. It was a lot of work, but we managed.

I purchased three harness leashes in early 2018. I wanted to ditch the strollers during our upcoming beach trip. It just made things easier. I just didn’t want to overload our van with suitcases and strollers.

It was a disaster. First of all, I was embarrassed. I didn’t know what others were thinking as they were staring at me. These were some of the same stares that I gave to other parents before I actually became one. A lot of people don’t understand autism, so it’s easy for them to say “That’s child needs to be whooped”. A lot of people stare. Rarely, I will get sympathy from another understanding parent or caregiver.

Relying on the harnesses was a disaster. That is why the pessimism in me told me to also purchase handcuff leashes. The clips on Joshua’s harness broke. Julian and Joshua had the worst meltdowns whenever we walked somewhere. Jessica actually did a great job with the harness. She did so well that I allowed my other kids to hold the leash while she walked around.

I was definitely missing the strollers. They would be apart of any future trips that we would take.

After going through the appointments, assessments, and therapies, with the boys in 2019, I decided to keep them in strollers. I finally had answers as to why I noticed delays and regressions. Also, it was much easier to tote around heavy strollers than to deal with a bunch of stares and judgment in public. I still used the leases at the ocean though.

As Julian and Joshua grew, it was difficult to find a stroller big enough to accommodate them. They are 4 and 5 years old, at this point. The strollers were either too small or too expensive. I settled on a double jogging stroller. That will probably buy us two years, until we have to come up with another option. I will probably have to buy a wagon.

There was a delay in shipping, so their stroller didn’t arrive in time for our zoo trip, earlier this month. Jessica could walk freely, without being tethered to someone else. That’s as one less stroller that needed to be packed. We still used the double stroller that I bought for Joshua and Jessica when they were born. The boys looked ridiculous in it.

Julian threw a big tantrum when we stopped for lunch. Normally, the boys will cry if the stroller stops moving. They always like to be on the go. I thought that was what was wrong with Julian. Donnie pushed the stroller around, but Julian was still not satisfied. At that point, I concluded that he wanted to be free of the stroller. We weren’t in a store, where he could knock things over. Why not? I pulled a handcuff leash out of the diaper bag and put it around Julian’s wrist. To my disbelief, he did a great job. I still had to tug the leash a few times to get him in the right direction, but Julian did really well. He seemed to really enjoy the walk. True to form, he started crying every time we stopped walking.

Joshua stayed in the stroller. He would have rolled all over the ground instead of walking.

Though I had my apprehensions at first, I don’t regret using a harness or leash for my children. My pride is less significant than their safety. I’m not trying to make a fashion statement, although, I do have some cute colors. Thanks Amazon!

If you are interested in jewelry, I sell paparazzi jewelry through my business, “Antonia’s Glamsc8pe”. Feed your $5.00 habit at my online store:

https://www.antoniasglamsc8pe.com

Categories
Autism: From the outside looking in.

Explaining This To My Kids Who Aren’t On The Spectrum.

One thing that I think is really challenging for me is having to explain to my daughters about their brothers’ challenges. Donnie and I are still trying to learn our sons, so we can only give them as much information as we know.

I don’t like to Google specific behaviors and decide if they are specific to my sons. Everything that you find will be textbook anyway. I want to know my sons individually. I want to know how they learn. I want to know how they cope. I want to know what makes them mad. I want to know what soothes them. I know who my kids are, but their behaviors constantly change.

It took me awhile to realize that I need to be considerate to the feelings of all of my children. As a parent, I need to have compassion for my children who have special needs and my children who don’t have special needs.

I try explain to my daughters all of the time about what is going on with their brothers. Jessica is too young to understand. She treats Julian and Joshua like her children, and is best friends with Avery. She’s so cute. Ariana and Amariyah understand some things, but their understanding doesn’t stop them from asking a lot of questions or being concerned.

Their understanding also doesn’t make them exempt from frustration. The other day, Julian had several meltdowns. That’s pretty normal for him. He then proceeded to go into Ariana’s room and smash her piggy bank.

My first reaction was shock. I mean, if you hear ceramic break, it’s pretty startling. When Ariana realized that her piggy bank was destroyed, she was livid. I immediately became irritated with Ariana because in that moment, I expected her to be sympathetic to her brother’s feelings.

Julian, Joshua, and Avery have destroyed a lot of property out of anger, excitement, pica, and curiously.

I had to have a “come to Jesus” moment. Ariana is 12 years old. She is a moody, emotional, pre-teen. She is also in that annoying phase. It’s a lot to ask a child not to get mad at their siblings, but it’s a bigger feat to ask them to be understanding towards their autistic siblings.

It’s a lot to ask a child to understand why we can’t attend certain events. It’s a lot to ask a child to understand why we can’t stay anywhere for too long. It’s a lot to ask a child to understand why these behaviors are normal for their sibling(s). It’s a lot to explain that our children with special needs require more attention.

I always have a moment when I need to check myself. Itself not just hard on me. It’s not about my husband or myself. This is about our children.

If you are interested in jewelry, I sell paparazzi jewelry through my business, “Antonia’s Glamsc8pe”. Feed your $5.00 habit at my online store:

https://www.antoniasglamsc8pe.com

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Autism: From the outside looking in. Lifestyle Parenting

Dinner And A Show: Why going out to eat is hectic!

Having children with severe autism is difficult at home, but it is also difficult outside of the home.

Julian and Joshua will not sit still during any meal. When plates are placed on the table, Joshua will immediately climb on the table, and pick the food that he wants off of each plate. After that, he will jump off of the table and hop away.

Julian will take whatever food he wants off of his plate and run to the nearest corner with his tablet. Sometimes he will come back to steal someone’s drink.

This happens every single day during any meal. It’s exhausting because the other kids won’t guard their plates. Not to mention, naked Joshua is not what we crave to see while we are eating. I expressed before how my boys don’t like wearing clothes or diapers….

Anyway, the last peaceful dinner outing that my family had was when my twins were newborns. This was the Mother’s Day after they were born. My husband took us all to Chili’s. The only issues we had stemmed from Julian throwing his food on the floor, and Avery spilling his drink. He always does that for some reason.

My golden rule is to leave the waiter no less than $20 for a tip. I do this because kids are messy, and I used to bus tables. It’s not fun. Have you ever had to clean corn kernels off of the floor?

The food was good. The trip was smooth sailing. I had to feed the twins, obviously. We had a great day.

Last year, we took a family trip to Ruby Tuesday for Mother’s Day after a couple of decent trips to Golden Corral.

It wasn’t a fun experience. Yes, the boys had on clothes. My husband and I were prepared with snacks, cups of milk, and fully charged tablets. Unfortunately, that was not good enough that day. Julian and Joshua didn’t want to sit in their booster seats. After they tried to destroy the blinds, Julian made his way behind the bar, and Joshua decided to munch on the kiddie menu crayons.

Attempts to redirect them were disastrous. The tantrums were bad, but the stares were worse. I had that familiar, idiotic grin on my face as I was staring back at the other bewildered dinner guests. I hate that I always have to explain why my sons have meltdowns in public. Why can’t people just mind their business? I know they weren’t paying for dinner and a show, but why I just wish everyone understood autism.

Not gonna happen….

Donnie and I were each holding a screaming and flailing toddler. We didn’t even notice that our food had arrived. By the time we got the boys partially calmed, the food was cold.

At that point, I was ready to go. Donnie took all of the kids to the car. I stayed behind to straighten up our mess and take care of the check.

“Never again!” I screamed in my mind.

We did it again…..

A couple of months later, we took our annual vacation to Myrtle Beach. I was excited to try Joe’s Crab Shack. I literally could not shut the hell up until we got to this place.

After a morning of shopping and recreation at Broadway at the Beach, Donnie and I freshened the younger kids up and we headed for the restaurant. Right outside of Joe’s Crab Shack was a vendor who was selling these yelping toy dogs. Jessica desperately wanted one. I was about to say “Hell no”, but Jessica has this charm about her. I reluctantly took out my wallet, and purchased a toy fo for each of the younger kids. These dogs didn’t even come with batteries. It’s all about money. Sigh!

We made our way into the restaurant. I decided to have my family sit at one of the picnic tables outside. It was hot, but I figured that the kids would be too distracted by the playground.

After 20 minutes, we had still not seen a waiter. Julian and Joshua were starting to lose patience. I was too, but I understand that things can happen i food service.

The meltdowns started after another 20 minutes of waiting. Julian and Joshua started throwing tantrums on the ground. I started panicking. Donnie went to find a waitress. When Donnie returned, we were relocated to a table inside. The cool air felt heavenly!

We strapped Julian and Joshua into high chairs and gave them crayons and paper. Another 15 minutes passed, and we had still not seen a water. I was fed up. Julian and Joshua started crying again. This time, they refused consolation. I located a waiter and explained to her that I had autistic children and need to eat and go.

We finally got our drink order after an hour of waiting. Several waiters were scrambling to get our food orders. By then, there were crayons all over the floor, and the boys were screaming and failing. Donnie’s desperate attempts to console them were in vain. I was trying my best to avoid the stares that I felt, while reassuring my other children.

An idea clicked in my head. Julian kept throwing his crayons on the floor, so I thought to let the boys out of their chairs. I let them lay on the floor. That seemed to do the truck. They both began sorting the crayons. It was quiet. There were a lot of judgmental stares. I know people were thinking, “why would she let her kids lay down on that dirty ass floor?!” I get it. I would ha e thought the same thing years ago, but at that time I would’ve given anything for my boys to be content. God made soap and water, and God made washers and dryers. They were going to be fine.

We finally got our food and were able to eat. The food wasn’t anything special. It wasn’t anything that I couldn’t make at home. However, I wasn’t going to make that food at home, and I was just grateful to have food at that time.

Though Julian and Joshua had meltdowns, and our service wasn’t that great, I slapped that $20 tip on the table. No matter what happened, waiters have a difficult job, and my kids’ mess made it that much harder. We will never eat out again though(I’m probably lying).

If you are interested in jewelry, I sell paparazzi jewelry through my business, “Antonia’s Glamsc8pe”. Feed your $5.00 habit at my online store:

https://www.antoniasglamsc8pe.com

Categories
Autism: From the outside looking in. Lifestyle Parenting

A Day With Joshua And Julian

By now, everyone knows that I have children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder. I personally see them as more than their Autism. Through my lens, they are beautiful, and I love to learn more about my boys every day.

Julian has the cutest cheek bones. They make his smile contagious. If you hear THUD! THUD!, that’s Julian kicking a wall. If you see a diaper or food smashed into the floor, you will know that Julian was there.

Julian’s favorite thing to do is to play with a tablet. Let me correct myself. Julian’s favorite thing to do is to play with multiple tablets at once. Every time he gets really excited, he lets out this ear-piercing scream. Joshua will sometimes watch what Julian is watching on one of his many occupied tablets, but Julian doesn’t like that. Julian does not want an audience while he is controlling up to three tablets at once. He will become agitated, and sometimes it’s best to watch out.

Julian also doesn’t like to wear anything. I feel like I waste money buying diapers, but I also don’t like when he marks the floor. Speaking of “marks”, whenever Julian gets ahold of a writing utensil, it’s over for the walls.

Julian walks on his tiptoes whenever he isn’t wearing shoes. His calves are sculpted! While Julian doesn’t verbally communicate, he will be quick to hand over his cup when he is thirsty. He also knows that he is going somewhere if we put his shoes on his feet. He will fight us if we get him dressed, but all is well when the shoes are put on.

On a bad day, Julian wants to be by himself. Sometimes he will hide under his bed or in a corner. Sometimes he cries for some inexplicable reason, and refuses consolation. We leave him to cry it out, and it hurts.

Julian is an extremely picky eater. He enjoys pizza and chicken nuggets. He only sits at the table long enough to see what is on his plate. Then, he will take whatever he likes and run. If you leave a cup, bottle, or can lying around, he will snatch it up. Yes, he even tries to grab food and drinks from strangers in public.

Baths are no problem for him. Julian loves being in water. Having his teeth brushed is another story…..

Joshua is a really vibrant boy. If you hear STOMP! STOMP! across the floor, that’s Joshua running or hopping across the floor. If you see your fruit missing, you will know that Joshua was there.

One of Joshua’s favorite things to do is to play with his tablet. Joshua has a routine everyday after school. When he walks through the door, the first thing he does is run to my room to grab his tablet. Then, he finds Jessica’s baby blanket. I don’t know what it is, but Joshua loves that blanket. Maybe it’s the texture. His teacher has told me that he will not go to sleep without a blanket over his head. After Joshua has his blanket, he will go to the dryer to retrieve some lint to chew on. Lint is not the only thing that Joshua likes to chew. He will also chew the collar out of his clothes. I have tried to purchase sensory jewelry, but Joshua just prefers his clothes and lint. Even though he is home during the stay-at-home order, Joshua still practices these behaviors.

He loves to play songs by the Cocomelon and Super Simple Songs YouTube channels. When Joshua plays with his tablet, he will close the door, and slide the tablet halfway underneath the door. If the door is left opened, Joshua will slam it closed. Unfortunately, Julian might be on the other end of the door, ready to steal his tablet. Joshua has a hard time defending himself. Whenever something is taken from him, he will completely melt down instead of defending his territory.

Joshua can’t verbally communicate his thoughts, but if he doesn’t like a program on the television, he will unplug it. If you are doing something that he likes, he will grab your hand as a signal to “do it again”. When he gets excited, Joshua will make this motion with his hands. I can’t describe it, but it’s like he is kind of hitting his chest, over and over. He will also hop around like a frog.

When it’s time to eat, good luck getting Joshua to sit still. He will take a bite, then run around, before coming back for another bite. His favorite foods are fruit and pasta.

Like Julian, Joshua loves to jump off of high surfaces, such as tables and chairs. I’m so fearful for his ankles and knees. He doesn’t seem to be bothered though. Don’t leave a stack of anything around Joshua because he will tear it down.

Bath time is a sad time because Joshua often has to be talked through a bath. He hates being put in water. I’m not sure why, but he has always been this way. He does enjoy having his teeth brushed. Don’t try to pry Joshua’s mouth open, though. I swear that boy can bite through metal.

Joshua loves to sit in my lap. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, he will plop in my lap, and sometimes fall asleep. How can I say “no”?

In this home, we have to replace a television every 6 months. Between Joshua, and Julian, someone is bound to get excited, and either throw something at or hit the television.

Because of this, I buy very cheap, or used televisions for certain rooms. I could buy a tall TV stand, but Julian and Joshua have a history of knocking over tall structures. My pessimistic mind automatically goes to the worst case scenario.

One time, Donnie super glued the boys’ TV to their dresser, and they still managed to knock it over.

Going out can be a nightmare. The boys love to ride, so traveling is pretty smooth. What happens when we exit the car can either be easy or a nightmare.

When we go in a store, I will sit the boys either in a basket, or in their stroller. I try not to use the stroller as much because Joshua likes to drag his feet on the ground. I make sure that have tablets, milk, and a snack.

When we go to a restaurant, it is a nightmare. One day, we went out to eat as a family. We were on a vacation. Donnie and I let the kids play at a nearby playground before we ate. Despite our preparedness, Joshua and Julian were not having it. I don’t know if they were sleepy, or if the atmosphere was too much for them to handle. They both cried loudly and nothing would calm them.

I noticed that Julian kept throwing his kiddie crayons on the floor. I took him out of his booster seat and let him get down on the floor. He stopped crying. I did the same for Joshua. He too, stopped crying. They both laid on the floor and lined up their crayons.

I knew everyone was staring, but I didn’t care. I know it was gross to let my boys lay on the floor, but I wanted them to feel comfortable.

I was asked “What do you see for (Joshua’s/Julian’s) future?”. I don’t think I can answer that question because it seems selfish. Sometimes I do think of the real possibility that they may never be able to navigate life alone. This doesn’t mean that they won’t have a productive future. Maybe to Julian and Joshua, “productive” means beings able to communicate effectively.

My other kids are probably envisioning a future conspiracy to put me away in a home…..We’ll see how this goes.

If you are interested in jewelry, I sell paparazzi jewelry through my business, “Antonia’s Glamsc8pe”. Feed your $5.00 habit at my online store:

https://www.antoniasglamsc8pe.com

Categories
Autism: From the outside looking in.

Is My Autistic Child A Burden?

This is the question that I have for our local school system.

I had the worst time enrolling Julian into Exceptional Children pre-Kindergarten(EC Pre-K). The original director of Pre-K was retiring, so she had to be replaced. I really loved the original director because she was one, of a couple of people, who was really instrumental in expediting the enrollment process for Joshua.

I initially began the process of enrolling Julian into the public school system in the Spring of 2019. Naturally, he was referred for EC Pre-K. I did the usual paperwork, plus some. Do you understand how tired I am of filling out ABAS-3 booklets?!

I didn’t hear anything back after a few weeks, so I made some phone calls and sent a few emails. Then, I made some more phone calls and sent more emails. I made even more calls and sent even more emails.

I felt like I was getting the run around. Before I knew it, Joshua was getting on the bus for his second term of EC Pre-K. It was September. Julian was still not in school, and there was still no movement with his paperwork.

I talk to Joshua’s teacher on a regular basis. She is a gem. Before we hang up, she always tells me, “Let me know if you need anything.”.

I ended up confiding in Joshua’s teacher about Julian’s situation. She assured me that she would find out what was going on. That, she did. In a matter of weeks, Julian’s evaluations and meetings began, and he was in school by February. Because of capacity limits, Julian was sent to a different school from Joshua. However, they were going to be riding the same bus.

On his first day, I woke Julian a little bit earlier than I usually wake Joshua. Julian is a fighter, and he doesn’t realize that he’s going somewhere until his shoes are being put on. Joshua is pretty used to the routine, but we still have some bad mornings.

Julian and Joshua both never go to sleep until at least an hour after scheduled bedtime. They share a room, which is secured with a child safety doorknob. If I don’t keep their door closed at night, they will roam around the house. They both know how to unlock and open the main door of the house, so I do this for my piece of mind.

Julian and Joshua’s bus ride to school is a lengthy one, so I have one of my older girls prepare half of a granola bar and a half cup of milk for their breakfast. The boys receive a full breakfast once they get to school.

When the bus arrived, Julian was hesitant to get on. This was for two reasons: This was a new experience for Julian, and he usually doesn’t like to climb up or down steps.

My fifth child was out of the house. Cue the pitter patter of tiny feet. Jessica wanted me to turn on Doc McStuffins. “Time for your check-up! Time for your check-up!”

I went about my normal routine. At around 11:30, I noticed a flood of missed calls on my phone. Donnie’s routine lunchtime call was coming through before I was able to figure out who the phone number belonged to.

Donnie received the same phone calls. He told me that they were from Julian’s teacher. She wanted to let us know that she was sending Julian home on the 12pm bus. Julian was having a bad day.

When Julian arrived home, I immediately checked his book bag. I found a note from his teacher, saying that she wanted to have a phone conference. I also noted that Julian received a red mark in his agenda. Why is there a color system for behavior in EC Pre-K?

I called Julian’s teacher the next morning. She detailed the behaviors that Julian displayed at school the day before. Apparently, he was crying a lot, he was eating out of the trash can instead of eating his regular meals, and he wouldn’t walk with the rest of the class. His teacher emphasized that she could not carry Julian around because she had to tend to the other students as well.

These behaviors that she was describing were not foreign to me. As a matter of fact, they shouldn’t have been foreign to the teacher either. I literally wrote her a synopsis of Julian’s personality and behaviors, months before he started school.

The second and third days of school were no better. Julian’s teacher told me that she was going to cut his school days in half so that he could get used to school. I reluctantly agreed. The fourth and fifth days were no better. Julian’s school days were cut even further to three days a week.

Everyday was a new was a new complaint about his behavior. Everyday revealed a red color on his agenda. There was another phone conference. Julian’s teacher told me that he needed one-on-one education, and that “the county doesn’t provide that”.

I was really starting to feel like my child is a burden to the school system. Does his behavior offend you that bad? Does Julian being himself offend you that bad? This just affirms why I barely have a social life. Maybe I’m better off homeschooling my baby.

Unfortunately, I live in a county that doesn’t have much money or resources. My family lives in this county because the cost of living suits our budget. Why does my child have to be given scraps? Our governments will find money when it’s convenient for them, but my autistic child can’t receive better supports because we live in a “poor” county?

There was one day that Julian received a purple color. Finally! I was so happy to see that! It turned out that he wasn’t feeling well that day. He didn’t do anything but lie down all day.

It turns out that Julian had the flu. He got sicker by the day. I held him out of school for over two weeks. Not once did his teacher call to check in. Now, I’m not saying that teachers are obligated to make house calls. However, if your student was missing from school for more than two weeks, wouldn’t you be the least bit curious?

Maybe Julian is too much like Julian. Maybe my son’s unwillingness to adapt annoys you. Is that why my autistic son a burden to you?

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Categories
Autism: From the outside looking in.

Awe-Tism: What Autism Looks Like To Me

I will never know what it’s like to be autistic. I will never pretend to know what it’s like just because I have children who are autistic. Isn’t it annoying that some people think they know what it’s like to raise kids because they have babysitting experience? This is two different worlds & two different realities.

From birth, my sons thrived like the average child. As usual, I was a proud mommy. Julian was born in 2015, and 11 months later I gave birth to a set of twins. Joshua was born with his sister, Jessica. Despite her challenges in the beginning, Jessica was always slightly ahead of Joshua with her milestones. After Joshua’s first birthday, I noticed that his pupils always seemed to be dilated and he would barely make eye contact. This went on for awhile. I kind of brushed the matter off when two year old Julian never attempted the words “mom” or “dad” or when he never responded to his name. 

At three years old, Julian said his first words. They were “Thank you”. He would thank his dad and I whenever we gave him something. Julian also began to recognize colors. I was very relieved by this progress. Still, he wouldn’t acknowledge his dad or myself by name or answer to his name. Joshua was two at this point. He  was not talking or answering to his name either. Meanwhile, Jessica has a vocabulary of at least 50 words. I try not to compare kids because they are all different, but I can admit that I felt weird about the differences between my twins & their development. Part of me wanted to try the “wait and see” approach because I have other children who experienced delays in speech. They eventually became chatter boxes. 

My husband took Joshua and Jessica to their two year old check up. Jessica has a great report. Joshua was healthy, but his pediatrician referred him for further evaluation. This process was not new to me. My son, Avery was referred for evaluations when he was in Head Start. Today, he is almost eight years old. He has no specific diagnosis, but he is listed as having learning disabilities on his IEP.

I followed up with a coordinator from the local infant and toddler program. She was very nice and helpful. She came to my house to visit Joshua and set up appointments for him to have a speech evaluation and hearing screening. I wanted to make sure Joshua was deaf since he still was not responding normal noises or his name being called. 

During this same time frame, I noticed that Julian had stopped speaking. He had a noticeably small vocabulary, but it was gone. Also, he was still not responding to his name. I could not obtain services for Julian through the program Joshua was in because he was three. Kids in the program age out the day before their third birthday. Joshua began to exhibit behaviors such as hopping and what my husband called, “flapping his wings”.  Julian had also been “flapping his wings”, but he was also walking on his tip toes all of the time. Joshua began to receive speech and developmental therapy. Julian would also attend several appointments with Joshua. 

Towards the end of Joshua’s enrollment in the Infant and Toddler program, he was enrolled in the public school system. He was able to attend Pre-K at three years old so that he could receive additional support. Joshua was then  referral to UNC TEAACH in Chapel Hill, NC after his psychological evaluation returned heartbreaking results. My husband and I packed up all of our kids and made the drive to this center. Everyone was really friendly. The staff helped care for our other children while the doctor evaluated Joshua. 

After the evaluation, my husband and I were ushered into a conference room. We received the verdict that we were expecting: “Joshua has Autism Spectrum Disorder”.  My stomach dropped. I already knew, but hearing the words made things final. Before the doctor discussed her findings, she handed me a thick packet of paperwork and asked to see Julian next. She observed some of his behavior in passing. It made sense. If Joshua has Autism, then Julian does as well. At this point I was numb. I couldn’t think of any questions to ask, which was abnormal for me. I always ask questions. I always verify information. In that moment, I had nothing to say. The doctor kept mentioning “2” and “3”, but I was just issuing a blank stare. I later read the paperwork and got a better understanding. I made a phone call a few weeks later and asked a flood of questions. 

Julian’s diagnosis came next after his evaluations. I enrolled him in Pre-K. Because the county coordinator had retired in the middle of the year, it took a long time for me to get Julian in school. When a replacement was finally hired, I kept getting the runaround. Julian finally started attending school a year after his younger brother. Unfortunately, they go to two different schools. There are only so many available openings per school. Joshua was sent to a traditional school, while Julian was sent to a year round school.

It’s not my world. I’m just blessed to be apart of it. 

Categories
Autism: From the outside looking in.

A Nightmare of Joshua’s Autism

I will never forget September 3rd, 2019. The event that occurred that day will forever be ingrained in my memory. Joshua eloped.

No, Joshua did not get married. Joshua ran away. It was an accident, but I blame myself. I was careless that day.

I woke Joshua up that morning so that I could get him ready. He was starting another year of Pre-K. It was the usual routine of struggling to dress Joshua. He was pretty cranky, so I sang 50 rounds of “Wheels On The Bus” to him.

After I finished dressing Joshua, I sent all of my other school kids out of the door. I double checked Joshua’s backpack that I had packed the night before. By this time, I noticed that his bus was running late. The sun was coming up and the time was passing by. 

Joshua and I stood by the door. I opened the main door, which left the screen door as the only barrier separating us from the outside. Joshua began opening the screen door, so I quickly shut the main door. 

Ten more minutes passed by. The bus was still not here. I gave Joshua a pack of fruit snacks from the kitchen and opened the main door again. I suddenly remembered that I forgot to pack a cup for Joshua. I rushed to the kitchen.

While I was recovering a cup from the cabinet, I heard the screen door slam. I rushed out of the kitchen. Joshua was gone. My foot hadn’t even grazed the porch, but Joshua was already at the mailbox at the end of the driveway. How in the Hell did he get down there so fast? This all happened in the span of 10 seconds. No joke.

He was quick. I know that kids are naturally quick, but Joshua had super speed. My 3 year old child was outrunning me.

I was screaming and crying for help as I struggled to chase down Joshua. He doesn’t respond to his name or any commands. I was helpless. Neighbors had their doors opened, but no one helped. Cars drove past Joshua, as he was running, and me, as I was screaming.

I was worn out. I was forcing my body to keep going. Unfortunately, I was really out of shape. I pushed myself until I couldn’t move anymore. I stood, panting, and screaming as loud as my lungs would allow me to. I continued to wave down cars. 

Joshua was nearing the side road. That side road led to the highway. I started running again as I faced the real possibility that I was going to lose my child. My child was going to be hit by a car. 

As Joshua approached the intersection, his school bus emerged. Joshua slowed down and looked at the bus. Was he thinking about “Wheels On The Bus”? The driver must have put two and two together. She put the bus in park and quickly hopped off of the bus. She scooped Joshua up and put him on the bus. 

I fell to the ground and cried. I just noticed that Joshua’s cup was still in my hand. The bus driver gave me a ride back home. I was so stunned by what I had just witnessed. I was so traumatized that I forgot to kiss Joshua before he left for school.

I went inside and sat on the couch. I began to dissect what happened. Why did I reopen the door? Why did I allow myself to become distracted? Why didn’t my neighbors stop to help me? Was it normal for them to see a mother chasing her toddler through the neighborhood at 7am? 

The next thing I did was thank God. 

God put the bus driver in the right position to help Joshua. Again, showing why I should put my faith and trust in Him. 

I don’t take the boys outside by myself anymore. A child safety lock is now on the front door because both Joshua and Julian can unlock the main door. This incident has made me even more alert. I have to keep reminding my older kids to close the door behind them. 

Donnie and I have always had Joshua and Julian restrained with either a stroller or a handcuff. Their lack of communication skills and comprehension makes it impossible for them to travel on their own in public. I’m always learning new things about my boys, but nothing prepared for this reality.