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Monday, August 22, 2016

"Is your child on medication?"

Okay, fair warning.  This blog post is going to be a bit of a rant but you all seem to like it when I let my mouth fly, so buckle up! Here I go.

"Is your child on medication? 

You know the only person that's allowed to ask you that?  Or let me put it this way, the only one that SHOULD ask you that?  A medical professional. A doctor.  A nurse. I'll even give you an EMT.  That's it.  Not a single other person should ever even think of saying this to you.

And yet, here I am.  A good eleven years into all this autism stuff with my Kiddo and I heard it again and again and again this week.  Three different people and no, not a single one is a developmental pediatrician in their spare time for kicks.

I'm really getting tired of being asked if my Kiddo is on medication or having it implied like it has never even occurred to us to put him on medication.  It's always said in a tone of "Silly Mama Fry. Aren't you a lucky one to have run into me so I may bestow upon you such an idea." I'm suppose to either bow to their greatness to have told me about it or launch in a diatribe of why I am violently opposed to the idea.

Spoiler Alert! He already is and guess what, it's not the magic bullet that folks seem to think it is. While it may make some symptoms of his autism, OCD, anxiety, and ADD a tad bit better, it's not wiping the slate clean here with the issues and challenges facing him daily.  I have no beef with medication.  Hell, I'm even on some myself! I also have no problem with folks who want to go a different way about it.  If that's your jam, you do you.

What I have a problem with this idea that this is going to be our problem solver cause it's so far from the case.  For every case of kid on them that has seen good results, I can give you countless emails from parents who have tried the latest wonder drug only for their kid to have every horrible side effect known to man and then a few extra.

If you are a teacher, speech therapist, teacher's aide, or any sort of school professional, you know what might be a better way to inquire if the behavior you are seeing in a client and or student is medication or non medication related? Here's how to word it.  My piece of advice to you. I won't even charge ya for it. ;-)

"Have you talked to your child's health care provider about these issues?"

Isn't that lovely? Not only does it address the issue but it reminds the parent just exactly where to go if that is an option that they may want to explore or not.  Boom! You're job is done plus it opens the door for the parent to volunteer information like "Yes, we had to make a recent dosage change." or "Well we have thought about it but maybe it's time."

Pros, I have no problem sharing any information with you about my Kiddo that might help you do your job to the best of your ability.  What I have a problem is when folks who aren't medical doctors starting throwing about the whole medication thing like it's going to be the salvation of my Kiddo that I was too stupid to even think about doing.

I warned ya I was feeling feisty. Now I'll just sit back and wait for all the comments from the pros who think I am Satan incarnate. ;-)

"Is my child on medication?"  only makes me want to reply "Are you on any?" 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

August Angst

"Aw crap" Me, to my calendar.

We are entering the Hell Zone time of the year with the Kiddo.  ESY (Extended School Year) aka Summer School is wrapping up this week.  Full time school will not return to these parts till September 6th.  We have no major plans like a big vacation or anything else going on.  Lots of free time and we don't do to well with lots of free time. Traditionally, this is the part of the year where things get dicey.

Plus, we are in a very strange transition phase with the Kiddo.  While ESY at the middle school has gone much better than I could have anticapted, I'm not holding my breath that we are out of the woods just yet.  Sure, he's gotten to learn about the layout of a new building. He's been spoiled in a way because it's litterally two classes of kids there.  In a few weeks, hundreds of other kids will be going there too.  The bell will be ringing between classes.  Lots of new staff and teachers to get to know.  Despite dipping our toes in the water all summer, I suspect we will be up to our noses with surprises and transitions again in a few weeks.

Or he could surprise me completely and go with the flow and be all "What Ma? I'm fine!" even though I won't believe it and will still be on edge for weeks.

He's started to ask about what his jobs there will be.  At the old school, they put that Kiddo to work! Which I loved because a busy Kiddo is a happy and content Kiddo. Taking the lunch orders down to the cafeteria, delivering messages to teachers, sorting the mail in the main office, and stalking his favorite custodian Mr. "T" till he got a turn with the big vacuum.  He more than liked it, he loved it.

The old school even gave him this postal shirt to wear while he worked and then they let him keep it when he "graduated" because they enjoyed making me bawl over leaving. 


Now that's he's kind of in his groove, he wants to expand his comfort zone.  That's awesome but it's also filled with "Well, we'll see.".  Because he is the new guy and no longer the top dog. There may be kids already doing those jobs. We have to see what jobs are available and get a bit more settled.  I tried explaining that to him but it kind of fell on deaf ears with him.  So, he's a bit buzzing about that a lot.

My personal schedule has been a bit all over the place.  My father had a long hospital stay which meant I was running back and forth. It's also left me a bit stressed out and I'm not sure who was happier when he came home yesterday.  My father or the rest of the family.  It's been a long two and half weeks. Kiddo has been pretty good about it all.  Mostly.  ;-) We had a few head to head "Quirk offs" as I call them, where his needs for accommodations and my own clashed. Stuff like this is part of life and although I understand it's a challenge for the Kiddo to put himself in the shoes of another person and their viewpoint, he still struggles with it.  When my own stress level is kind of through the roof, it's really freaking hard to think "Well, this is a teachable moment for him!" and be all jazzed about that.  I just want the Kiddo to cut me some flipping slack already!

The Kiddo lives for "And then?".  That's his mantra. If it was the 90's, he'd have it tattooed around his forearm with a tribal pattern.  It boils down to I have to find an "And then?" activity for the Kiddo every day, several times a day.  Even when all I want to reply "And then Mama Fry has a margarita! Go fire up the blender. I'm going to show you how to make one."

But no bigger reminder that it was August were not one but two calls from school today about his behavior and his anxiety. To say it was through the roof was putting it mildly. This new school hadn't seen him at this point yet, so they sure got a lesson in it today.  Let me tell ya something, there is nothing like getting a call from school asking for help with what to do with your kid.  Because seriously, is there not an IEP and a behavior plan that came with my kiddo?  Did you think I would hold something back?  That I alone hold the secret to his autism and his meltdowns? Cause I assure you, I do not have it. The tips and tricks you seek are all in that nice little pile of forms with his name on it.

No, I did not take him home till it was time TO go home at his usual dismissal time. Cause there was no way on this planet Mama Fry was going to teach the Kiddo "Just have a meltdown at school. I'll come get ya."  NOPE! So on one of these last days of ESY, I too got to spend two and half hours at school.

I'll get through it because what other choice do I have here? I'll also ride out the Back to School transition too because again, it's what's next.  I'm just going to be earning quite a few more gray hairs while I do both of these.

I swear I'm just drinking this tonight for the antioxidants. 



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Angry at Autism

Since it's the summer, the Kiddo has a much different schedule. While he does attend an ESY (Extended School Year) aka "summer school" program, it's only four days a week and it's only for six weeks of the summer. Which leads to us have a lot of free time on our hands. If you are living the #TeamQuirky lifestyle this isn't the best idea to have gobs of unplanned for time in front of you and a Kiddo who thrives on structure.

So Mama Fry has to keep this boy busy. There are no lazy days of summer at French Fry Inc. As the years have gone on this gets both easier and harder to do.  Easier in the sense where I can say "Okay Kiddo, I have to hit the grocery store, post office, and pick up the dry cleaning. We're leaving at 10AM. You in?" and he will enthusiastically declare "YAAAAAASSSSSS!" like a drag queen who just found out Lady Gaga is working on a new album. He's just always game to do whatever and outings have gotten easier. Or I have just learned enough to make them work. I don't really know. I know enough not to question something if it's working.

But then they get harder as well because Mama Fry here gets cocky. I have a good couple of days with the Kiddo.  He's content and the behaviors are pretty chill and I start thinking BIG! Plus even though the summer goes by so quickly, some days feel like forever, ya know? I'd rather have some plans laid out and I don't want to always take him on errands.  I want to do fun stuff too.  There's also only so many kid's movies, beach days, swims in the pools, outings to the park or runs to the drive thru for "window fries" a gal can do.

What about New York City?

This is the idea I got in my head the other day.  I live at the Jersey Shore. Day trips into the city are easy enough to do. It would mean taking the train in and back. Hello? Did someone say "Train'?  That Polar Express movie watching Kiddo would already be down with this idea just based on the ride in and out of the city alone.

We could easily hop on one of those open air double decker tourist bus and go for a spin to see the sights. He's been on them before and he freaking loves them. They are right around Penn station. Getting on one would be cake.  Hop on and off and go somewhere for lunch.  Another thing that's gotten a bit easier. NYC is a city of hot dog carts on every corner. Feeding him wouldn't be an issue.

So what's the problem?  The flipping bathroom.

He's going to have to go but where? Usually my husband takes him. I, an adult female, cannot walk into a men's room with him. There is no way on God's green earth I am sending him into one ALONE. Oh HELLS NO. Not gonna happen. Twelve year old autistic kid with an intellectual disability and limited verbal skills. All the NOPES that ever NOPED!

So take him in with me to the women's room? Well, that's getting harder and harder to pull off.  For one reason, the Kiddo.  He can read restroom signs and he knows which one he's suppose to go into and what one he's not. Let me tell ya something, for a kid with limited verbal skills he let's his displeasure of being dragged in with his Mama be known. Loud and clear. The rules being THE RULES. There is no swaying his line of thinking.  I've been able to so far to plan some of our other outings around places where I know the bathrooms are single stall set ups, so sending him in isn't so scary.  Eventually I'm going to have to let him go into a big bathroom by himself. Just not planning on starting that at Penn Station in Manhattan which is where he is going to want to go right away after being on a train for a while.

I actually had a moment of "Okay, what guys do I know in the city that could meet us and walk the Kiddo into the men's room so he could go to the bathroom?" and that's when I realized that's probably gonna be hard to pull off.  Really, can you imagine getting that request? "Please come meet us so you can go watch my Kiddo go take a piss."  Yeah, not happening.

And this is when I get angry at autism. Like stupidly, irrationally angry at autism. I wanted to be able to surprise my Kiddo with "Forget errands. Let's go to NYC!" and have him think "My Mom ROCKS!". Instead, I'm stuck on where my son can pee because I worried for his safety. There are just too many risk factors of what could happen to him or what he could see that I cannot take that chance.  It frustrates me to no end that so much of our lives just seems to be ten times harder than most families.  I can whip up invites to a pity party for myself really quickly.  Those parties suck. They don't even give you goodie bags.

I can get very angry at autism.  I'm not proud of that but that's where I am sometimes in my life.  The only thing I can do is try to channel that anger into doing something productive with it.

Like looking up what sit down restaurants are in Penn Station that I could take the Kiddo for a side of fries AND using their stand alone bathroom which I could stand watch over. ;-) Now that could work!

Furrowing your brows just gives your wrinkles and I'd rather earn them by laughing. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thick Skinned

"How do you just deal with the comments and the ignorance and the looks? How do I get that thick skin that you have?" 

This part of an email I found in my inbox over the weekend.  I get this question a lot and I get why I get it a lot.  Apparently I have a no bullshit attitude. I can't say that description isn't accurate.

Is my skin thicker than most?  Well maybe it's just a case of being more used to those types of reactions towards us than it being thicker.  Experience and time is a Hell of a healer for those raw feelings of vulnerability.  Accepting that there will always be those not so accepting is just part of this #TeamQuirky lifestyle.  Sometimes it's a case of just simply being unexposed which leads to them being unaware about autism.  I can't get mad at that.  I can educate that. I can enlighten that. I and Kiddo can spread the good autism word all over that but I'm never mad at it.  (Truth be told, sometimes I get a little "You have got to be kidding me." with those folks because I think the world is really tiny and the stats are really high and how can anyone NOT know someone with autism by now.)  Getting annoyed though doesn't set the best tone for another person to be open to learning though.  So I swallow it.

Now willful ignorance? Plain old judgemental super parents?  The ones that are more concerned with being righteous than actually right? Cover your eyes and clutch your pearls those who can't handle  foul language but I have to unleash my inner Jersey Girl here.  FUCK THAT NOISE!

For those who prefer a kinder and gentler statement, I'll let indi singer Tori Amos say it for me.

"I'm gonna free myself from your opinion."
Tori Amos Unrepentant Geraldines

I guess that's a classier way to say it. ;-)

Every time you waste the time and energy caring about what some asshat has to say about you, your kid and your family, a baby unicorn cries or the terrorists win or an angel weeps or whatever analogy you need to get it in your head.

If someone is clearly ignorant to what is going on.  If someone is wondering out loud why your kid isn't talking, responding, interacting, or whatever autism challenge du jour you got going on, tell them why.  That's the first thing that's going to make you feel better and help you start to get that thick skin.  Doesn't matter if the person in question is 8 or 80.  Open your mouth. Be the voice that advocates and educates.  Do you think you just get a callous overnight? Nope, you got to do the work to develop one.  That starts by speaking up.

Now of course if your kid is mid meltdown or you really got your hands full, you cannot sit and have a "Come to Autism Jesus" conversation.  That being said, if a kid on the playground wanders up to yours and says "Why doesn't he/she talk?", tell them.  Don't expect the parent with them to do it. You do it. Give it to them straight from the source. As age appropriate as you can.  Right to the point.  (And when I think about it, this applies to adults too. Keep it simple.)

I know some folks might be thinking they need some pile of snappy one liners and comebacks but honestly, save those for the real jackasses of the world.  "He/she has autism" is really the best opening line you need.

If they are an asshole about your kid, I assure you they are an asshole about lots of other things too.  Don't waste your energy trying to change them. Give them a straw because they SUCK!  Seriously, that's how you get that thick skin. You just stop giving a crap.

Just an FYI, red lipstick pairs best with a IDGAF attitude. It's just science. 



Monday, July 4, 2016

Vacation Recap!

Now considering that my last blog post featured a picture of a bruise the Kiddo left on me, you might be thinking "She just took him on vacation?? Is this chick crazy??" The answer to both would be a resounding "YES!"  But if you are unfamiliar with our family, you will soon learn that it takes way more bodily harm before we stop. I have almost three weeks to fill before this Kiddo starts ESY (Extended School Year) aka "Summer School". It's way easier to keep him busy by being on the road.

I've written before on how we travel with our Kiddo and what tips and tricks work for us. You can read that here if you like. 7 Travel tips when your kid has autism

I've also said many times that each trip teaches me new things to do or not do for the next one. I'm not saying this trip was perfect but it's certainly one for the record books. This trip came with some new challenges. It was going to be at a new place and the Kiddo was coming off several bad weeks of anxiety. My heart was a bit weary but the alternative of sitting at home looked less appealing. Plus my husband works hard and the only way for him to actually stop working is to take him out of the state with the promise of seeing another Presidential home. That man loves him some Presidential history. (James Madison to be exact in this case.)

Not the Kiddo though. Kiddo and I chilled poolside while Daddy got his history thrills. 

This year French Fry Inc vacationed at the beautiful and freaking HUGE Omni The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia. One thing we have learned with life with the Kiddo, we are a resort family. If the set up is everything is on the property, then it's going to work. Kiddo does much better when we don't have to get back into a car to go out to eat or do things.  (He thinks that means we're leaving.) The place had a lot of stuff to do and even had shuttle buses to take you to the various things, which thrilled the Kiddo to pieces because that was extra fun. Okay, Kiddo. Whatever floats your boat.

We took a nice carriage ride in the woods and I pretended it was Doc Baker giving us a lift into Walnut Grove like in Little House on the Prairie.

The mighty double pool slide where the Kiddo and my husband spent a majority of their time.  

And the lazy river where I spent a majority of my time.


And when he needed a break from sliding, there was a pretty cool splash park for Kiddo to chill in. 

Behold the Bacardi Bucket O'Booze. Cause it's important to have a handle on your drinking! I was sitting on a lounge chair while Kiddo was splashing around sipping this bad boy.  It was awesome. I told my husband we were never ever leaving.  

Eventually we did have start making our way back to New Jersey and the Kiddo was soooooo bummed. BUT we had one more surprise left. 

BONUS WATER PARK!!  Shout out to the Double Tree in Lancaster PA for this sweet set up. We've actually been here before and the Kiddo loved and missed it. So this was a fun surprise to spring on him. 


By now you might be thinking "So all they did was sit by the pool?" and for the most part that answer is "YES". We have discovered what works for our Kiddo and it's not dragging him to a dozen things a day that he doesn't enjoy or have any interest in.  The pool and swimming is his happy place. Why not just kick back at a kick ass one with slides, splashground, and a lazy river? Not to mention BUCKET O' BOOZE drinks for Mom and Dad. We actually got to lay out side by side poolside while the Kiddo played. We did take him on that carriage ride, which he enjoyed. My husband and Kiddo rented bikes the second day and went off on an adventure.  Later my husband told me all the Kiddo talked about was finishing the ride and getting back in the pool. :-) 

We did have some bumps on this trip.  Despite me hoping he hadn't packed it, Kiddo's anxiety came along for the ride too. Although it was less, it was still very present and at times, very loud. We definitely did our part in raising autism awareness all over the joint. Plus as luck would have it, our portable DVD player decided to DIE this trip. Which meant no beloved watching of "The Polar Express" before bed. Combined with the WiFi not working in our room for a day and a half, that's when Mama was pretty sure all was lost and had her own mini meltdown over the Kiddo's meltdowns.  Like that's gonna help? Seriously, why did I do that? Dumb. So dumb. 

Eventually the WiFi got fixed and we just stayed with the constant water theme plan and things settled. I mean, what else can we do here? You just gotta roll with it and tag team each other to take breaks or visit Presidential homes when you need it. 

But this picture in a nutshell shows how worth it the hassle was.  Chocolate milk, hot dogs, AND a side of fries poolside.  PERFECTION! 

I mean, really.  This is "Happy" in a picture. :-) 















Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The reality is...

I didn't want to write this one but I wouldn't be keeping it real if I shade over the stuff that's not so pretty.

Is it wrong to look at a bruise and think "Gee, that would make a nice color lipstick."? 

This is my arm. The bruise came as part of Kiddo's meltdown of "Daddy Fry" leaving the house for a few hours on a Saturday. Kiddo is the president of the Daddy Fry fan club and he wasn't to thrilled to be left behind with boring old Mama Fry. So he let his displeasure be known. Unfortunately, how he does that leaves a lot to be desired.

It starts with crying and screaming for his wants. One might even think, "Oh that's just a good old fashioned temper tantrum."  Don't give into that, so I didn't.

This is where autism comes. This is not just naughty or spoiled behavior we are dealing with here. This is "The world is ending. I don't know how to handle this." desperate attempts of self soothing that often lend themselves to looking more like a wrestling smack down and less like a mom patting her son on the head and saying "There, there. It'll be okay."

His favorite thing to self soothe is to get sensory input. Mainly by slamming/digging his forehead and his chin into my face while grabbing at my arms. With the Kiddo clocking in at ninety nine pounds and being 5 foot 1, it hurts. Badly. I try to "defend and deflect", like I learned in my old restraint training days back when I used to be able to leave autism behind me after I clocked out with my time card. This time he cut under one of my arms and leaned in with all his weight with a vice like grip. As he was doing it all I could think was "Sonofabitch! This is gonna leave a mark.", and I was right. It did. One hell of a big one on my upper arm.  Geez, Kiddo. You couldn't do this to me during long sleeve season? It's quite visible for all to see.

Which leads to fun conversations when folks notice it.  (Did I mention I am Irish by heritage ergo, pale AF. As the kids say.)  So it really, really, really, stands out.  "Oh my god! What did you do to yourself??" is what I keep hearing and that leads me to this moment.

The reality is it was my twelve year old son. It wasn't be accident but it wasn't premeditated either. The reality is while I will be the first one to say "A tantrum isn't a meltdown.", it's doesn't mean that they can't turn into one.  The reality is I'm not going to say what happened because they will want to offer unhelpful opinions, theories, and suggestions on what I should do to him without having any real idea of what the reality of our situation is on a day to day basis. The reality is when I do tell select folks because I know they get it, it's merely to get a much needed pep talk to get through stuff like this. I know they know I'm not looking for an instant fix but at the same time I don't want to repeat this even though it sadly will happen again.

The reality is the Kiddo keeps looking at it and pointing/poking it with his finger. He knows he did it. He knows I'm not happy about it. I don't lie about how I feel about it to him though. That would be completely unrealistic of me to pretend it was nothing. I know he feels remorse for it. Right now it's serving as a visual reminder to us both of all the work we still have ahead of us.

So I will redirect, redirect, and redirect him to find other ways to self soothe that don't involve me looking like I just came out of a caged match. "Chin on the wall, Kiddo. Not my face."  Even though my face is apparently perfect for such input, I'm taking on those ways of self soothing on because the reality is that it's starting to look like plain old abuse.  While I love a red lip, red marks and bruises aren't working for me. Plus the future just keeps creeping up on us and this is no way to handle oneself. Ever.

This is the reality of our autism.  This might not be what you deal with and if that is the case, I'm glad. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. I'm his mom. I'm the one who's job it is to make him feel better but it doesn't make me his freaking punching bag.

Did I mention we're leaving for vacation soon?  The reality is I will be packing my corkscrew because it's gonna be a TRIP!

Wish us luck!

Monday, June 13, 2016

It was just a bowl of popcorn.

It was just a bowl of popcorn but it was so much more.

It was a step towards independence.

Friday was a tough one for us.  I woke up sick with a sinus and ear infection. (Yay me! I'm an overachiever.)  Kiddo was super anxious. I could tell he was headed towards a meltdown but I kept him moving and busy until the bus came. After that, it was out of my hands.

Two and half hours of sitting at the doctors for myself and then the pharmacy, I finally came home. I promptly laid down because I had a free hour and intended to rest while I could. Then I heard "Whiskey in the Jar", which is my ring tone on my phone. I opened one eye and peek to see who it was on the Caller I.D.. School. Well, that is never good. Another meltdown in class. Like a pretty bad one. One where I might want to start slamming back some whiskey in a jar because I am at the point with the Kiddo where I don't know what to do anymore.

I mean, I get it and luckily so does the school. He's leaving a place he's been at since he was five. Big HUGE change and transition to Middle School. Despite all the social stories, tours, and talks about the place, it's still the great unknown to him.  I knew we would see some behaviors with all this going on. I just didn't realize it would manifest like this. By this I mean, throwing furniture at school. Attacking staff that he normally greets with smiles, hugs, and high fives. It's breaking my heart. I don't know how to fix this. No one seems to know what to do either. It's a lot of "Well, once he starts the middle school and gets into a routine. He'll probably settle."  We all hope anyway.

He's not the only one freaking out about the great unknown here.  Is this a blip or a preview of more to come? I can't even wrap my head around this. How on earth can I get him ready for the world with this kind of behavior as a constant?  How can I make him be independent?  Despite my "I can never die" plan, I need to know this Kiddo can face the world.

So needless to say, I had a big old sobbing fest and pity party for one.  Eventually I stopped because I was already congested as Hell.  I didn't need to add to it. We would power through this. We have no choice.

But the doubts. There were still in the back of my head and they had set up shop. Moved in furniture. Painted the walls, hanged some pictures. They were there for the long haul.

The Kiddo also came home with a big surprise for me. It seems his teacher, correction, the whole school staff practically had ordered the #TeamQuirky shirts I sell and took a ton of pictures wearing them with the Kiddo.  She made a nice photo collage for us and framed it.  Cue more ugly crying tears and heaps more guilt about his behavior. They get him. They know this isn't him. They love him like I do.  God dammit, I'm crying again just typing this.

Needless to say, by end of the day I was pretty much spent. Despite being cheered at the sight of the Kiddo running around holding this picture to put in his room, I still licking my wounds. Feeling sorry for myself. Worrying about the future for the Kiddo.  I did the mature thing and made one with my couch and the TV remote cause I can't even drink on these damn antibiotics for my various infections!

And then the Kiddo swaggers in the family room.  One hand holding a cup of juice with a straw, the other a bowl of freshly made microwave popcorn. My husband had been sitting beside me the whole time. He didn't help him make it. I didn't help him make it. I'm pretty sure the dogs would have steered him to just take out the cold cuts for a snack if they could have helped. So it meant the Kiddo did it all on his very own.

Because when you settle down for your 5037504th viewing of The Polar Express, you need some popcorn. Mom and Dad are busy, so you'll just do it yourself.

I haven't taught him what to do but he's watched me countless times do it. He even went full foodie on me and sprinkled Parmesan cheese on top!

It was just a bowl of popcorn but it was also a sign that maybe, just maybe we would get through this.

Making popcorn counts as cooking a meal, right?  I mean, it sure was my meal in college many a night.