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Tag: kids on the spectrum

Monday Morning Coffee and Chat 5/11/20 – What is your favorite thing to do?

Hello! Welcome to Monday Morning Coffee and Chat! Today I’m talking about homeschooling, teaching an autistic child, and answering the question, “What is your favorite thing to do in the world?”

If you have a question, click this link and it will take you to the google form where you can ask me!

What’s Hallee drinking? Hallee’s Brew! Try it today! http://www.halleebridgeman.com/hallees-brew/

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Autism and Food Struggles

When my 21-year-old daughter was born, my mother gave me some advice I’ve never forgotten:

Children will try to control you with two things: sleep and food. Don’t let them control it. Train them. You’re in charge. When they learn they can’t control you through those two things, you’ve won a battle so many parents struggle so hard with.

I took that to heart. I have three children: 21, 12, and 10, and all three eat well. With all three, there was a period of time we struggled, and it was at about the same age with them. It stands out most in my mind with my daughter, because she is the oldest so by the time the other two came around, I already had the experience.

She was about 2.5 to 3-years-old. I’d made something new for dinner. She looked at me from her high chair, picked up her plate, and dumped it on the floor. I reprimanded her, made her a plate with the veggies, salad, and bread from dinner thinking the main course was what she objected to, and she dumped her plate again. I said, “You’ll eat a big breakfast,” then got her down from her high chair and didn’t give her anything else to eat that night.

The next night, I intentionally made something she liked – like spaghetti. Again, she picked up her plate, looked at me, and dumped it on the floor. I didn’t give her a second chance this time. I just reprimanded her, reminded her breakfast would be a meal she’d consume, and put her to bed.

We went through this one more night. I was actually surprised. I thought she’d eat the third night, but she didn’t.

By the fourth night, she ate everything on her plate and asked for more. After that, if she didn’t like something (we required tasting all foods on plate but not consuming all foods), she was allowed to get extra salad, sides, or bread to supplement.

Even now, she has a well-defined palate and is a good cook in her own right.

With the boys, I had a similar experience at about the same age with the same results. My boys will taste anything, eat almost anything, and have good palates and good appetites. They know how to order from a restaurant menu, and know how to eat what they serve themselves.

I say all that to say that when our son Scott  (who is now 12) was 2.5-3, we didn’t know he had autism. If we had known, we likely would have done food completely differently — and done it to a detriment to him.

Even with him, with texture sensitivity, enhanced smell capabilities, and OCD tendencies that make it hard for him when food touches other food, he will taste anything on his plate and usually eat it. If he doesn’t like it, there isn’t a big deal made. He simply piles the food on his plate from the dinner offerings that he does eat and later will get a slice of cheese or an apple as he prepares for bed.

I never make him something special outside of what we’re eating. Back when the OCD was really bad, he would even deconstruct things like pot pie (now one of his favorite meals) and wipe the gravy off of the implements, separate them on his plate, then eat them.

The only exception I make for him is when I make chicken or steak fried rice. White rice is his favorite food. Seriously. That boy could consume nothing but white rice for the rest of his life and be happy as a clam.

He came into the kitchen one night and saw cubes of steak that had marinated in soy and ginger sizzling in sesame oil and saw the pan of white rice cooking on the stove.

“My favorite foods!” he exclaimed.

When he asked what was for dinner, I told him steak fried rice with veggies. His whole body fell and his countenance grayed. Finally, he said, very dramatically and morosely, “All my favorite foods are going to get mixed together in a terrible way.”

I contemplated what he said, and after he left the kitchen. Then, I made him a plate with all of the elements of the fried rice but separated. For the rest of the family, I mixed it all together and fried/seasoned the meal as originally planned. When he came to the table and saw his plate, everything about him exuded joy.

From then on, whenever I make fried rice for dinner, I always set his elements aside and just give him a plate with them separated. I’ve never in my life as a mother made a “special” meal outside of what was for dinner for a child. But this occasional special treat fills him with joy and he completely cleans his plate. In a Chinese restaurant, he even knows how to order so that everything comes separated, too.

I think as often as he has to make concessions and compromises to just cope and function as a human being in this neuro-typical normal world, giving him this little treat is the very least I can do.

halleeLOGOspinefinal

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Autism – Friends

I look back on our son Scott’s childhood and see where I made an assumption about autism that a lot of people mistakenly make.

Throughout his toddler years and young childhood, Scott never sought out other children. In social situations, he would find a quiet corner away from a crowd of kids and would play on his own. Until third grade, he couldn’t even differentiate between “he” and “she” among the crowd, and never knew anyone’s name. It was easy to generate an assumption that he didn’t want to cultivate friendships, that he didn’t care. In fact, those are the words I used, “He doesn’t care about other kids or having friends.”

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve realized how wrong I was. Right after we moved to Fort Knox, another family moved in with three children all around the ages as Scott and his brother Jeb. Scott connected with them in a way we’d never seen nor expected, and soon developed close friendships with them. They accepted him without reservation, let him set the tone for their interactions, and still sought him out to play or hang out. This was the first time in his life that he had friends like that. He’s had a school friend before, another child with autism, but their interactions were separate but together — coming together for play dates where they each went into their own corners to play. Not a lot of one-on-one interaction, just an understanding of acceptance. With these friends, though, it was true, full-blown, sharing thoughts and ideas and fears and imaginations. He completely blossomed and bloomed under their friendship and learned so much about interacting outside of the circle of just him and Jeb.

They moved right after school got out and he admitted not long after that he was lonely, and that he wished he had another friend.

Recently, he wanted to go to the mall to go to a store called Hot Topic. For those of you who don’t have children of a certain age who might not know, Hot Topic is the “cool” store – especially for us nerdy centric families. It has fun paraphernalia from all sorts of pop culture and music. He’d researched this store, what they carried, and the item that he wanted to purchase that was a “Hot Topic Exclusive”. He saved his money until he had enough, then we made our way to the mall one day in early summer.

Scott has serious sensory issues, and one that affects him in the extreme is hearing. He often wears noise-canceling headphones in loud areas. My husband and I have a pair in each of our vehicles, and Scott carries a pair in his backpack at school. We walked into the mall this day, and I held the headphones out to him, knowing how loud they play the music in Hot Topic.

“No,” he said, holding a hand up to ward me off, “I don’t need them.”

“Really?” I didn’t fight. It’s his decision whether he wears them or not. I just put them in my purse so that they’d be there in case he needed them.

“Really. Besides, I want the people at Hot Topic to think I fit in.”

That took my breath away. All of this assumption that he doesn’t care, that social situations are meaningless to him completely flew out the window.

He cares. He knows he doesn’t fit in. He didn’t say he wanted to fit in. He said he wanted them to think he fits in.

The problem is not a lack of desire. The problem is a different functioning brain that takes all of the social cues and nuances and skews them so that they’re not understood the way that you or I or anyone else with a normal neurotypical brain can read, understand, and respond to properly. It’s just easier for him to go into his own corner to play than having to deal with trying to read all of those signs and signals.

We’ve noticed, though, that as he gets older, he is learning how to seek out connections with people. If he sees a child his age with a T-shirt on with a recognized and loved character from a video game or movie, he’ll go out of his way to talk to that child. In waiting rooms, if someone is playing a game he recognizes, he’ll engage that kid in conversation about the game.

There was a time when I didn’t expect him to really have a close relationship with anyone other than Jeb. Now I know how terribly wrong I was. He just turned 12 and starts middle school in 3 weeks. I know that there’s someone else walking into that school that likes the same things, understands the subculture Scott loves the same way he does, and will be his friend. Whether he can filter through the noise and lights and activity around him enough to see that person remains to be seen.

halleeLOGOspinefinal

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Monday Morning Chat 6/18/18 – Researching as a Parent of a Child with Autism

Hello! Welcome to Monday morning coffee and chat!

I really appreciate all of the questions that I get from my readers. Today I’m talking about how I’ve researched parenting a child with autism.

And, here I am this morning with the coffee I didn’t have while recording!

I hope you learn more about me through my response:

 

halleeLOGOspinefinal


I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
You would bless me if you added me to your Subscribe via any Reader feed reader or subscribed Subscribe via Email via email.
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Autism: Parent Victims

I know parenting an autistic child is hard – because I am that parent. I’ve been so exhausted that I’ve actually stumbled and fallen down the stairs, breaking my tailbone and causing me years of pain that took even more sleep from me. I’ve lost my kid in busy malls and churches and playgrounds because he used to wander away with innocence, chasing whatever light caught his eye. I’ve been frustrated to the point that I’ve had to deadbolt all of the exterior doors to the house so no one could escape, and go into my room and shut the door and just fall on my knees, unable to speak words, sobbing silently for God to help me get through another day. I’ve cleaned up after the daily bowel movement accident that my 8-year-old had, again, wondering if I was going to have to be doing that when he was 18.  I’ve sat through the meeting where a school administrator kicked our son out of their kindergarten program because the teacher just didn’t want him anymore. We’ve pulled our family out of a church we loved because our son couldn’t deal with the noise in the children’s church or the worship service. And, God help me, I know more about Stampy Longnose than I would ever want to know.

But, I’ve never been a victim of my son’s brain development.

I watched a video on Facebook yesterday that a friend, a fellow autism mom, tagged me on. It was a video that The Today Show shared that (last night) had about 3 million views, but this morning, already has 11 million views.

This video was about a mom with a non-verbal autistic son who’d had a meltdown at a meet this specific character event (I think it was “Meet Elmo”). So, she was sitting in her car outside of work venting about her son’s future, and how hard it is to be an autism mom, and how she used to wish he’d be a doctor or a lawyer and now she’s just wishing he’ll have happiness as an adult, etc. She admitted that she wasn’t a “religious person” but the night before she’d “actually” broken down and asked God why, but “knew it wouldn’t change anything”. At the end, the tears started to fall when she started talking about how so many work colleagues were at the event and witnessed the meltdown and how she had to go in there now and face them.

I’m convinced that if something ever happened to my husband and I needed to do something to support my family, I could make a killer living as an online private investigator. I am one of those people who just start digging when I find someone interesting. It made my daughter crazy when she was in high school, because I always knew so much about her friends, her boyfriend, her activities outside of our home life, etc.

I have thousands of friends on Facebook, and I’ll regularly just start looking through social media posts, follow links, dig through personal blogs, and just do this internal information gathering over people I don’t even really know. But, then I *do* know them (wink). It’s one of the ways I work through a temporary writer’s block – or maybe it’s just one of the ways I waste time when I’m avoiding writing. Either way.

It’s my way of “people watching” – a TOTAL favorite pastime of mine when I’m in public.

Okay, so back to this mom and her tearful morning sitting outside of work.

I started digging through her blog, and I found a letter of apology she’d written to her husband for all of the ways that being an autism mom had changed her from the young and carefree woman he’d married. It was this terrible dump of all of the resentment she harbors for having a son with autism.

We carry noise-canceling headphones when we’re going to be in a high-sensory environment

Because, that’s what it is – it’s resentment. It’s resentment that she can really see the difference in her son when he’s around her friends’ children. It’s resentment that so often her husband had to take their younger son to an event because the autistic older son couldn’t go, or she’d have to go and leave the husband, and how it caused a “division” in their family. It’s resentment that he didn’t sleep, thereby exhausting her to the point of tears. It’s resentment that he doesn’t speak and can’t communicate clearly to her or him or anyone around him. It’s resentment that there will never truly be an empty nest in their home because their son is special needs.

On an on this letter went. And for me, it totally colored this morning dump that The Today Show took to over 11 million people. And it’s terrible. It’s terrible that she took her son to an event where he would have a meltdown. And she knew he would, because the letter of apology she wrote to her husband made it clear that he breaks down when he’s in situations like that, yet the pictures flashing through the video are her and her kids smiling through event after event after event.

I’ll tell you something – as an autism mom, I just don’t go. And I don’t care. I don’t feel like our son Jeb has lost out on anything in life because we haven’t been able to go to fairs or carnivals or Meet Elmo, or Lego Palooza, or Engineering Days or whatever, in order to protect his autistic brother Scott from bright, loud, overstimulating environments. Jeb’s favorite singer, Toby Mac, came to Louisville a few months ago. Gregg and I talked it over, decided who would take Jeb and who would spend the day with Scott, because the last thing on this planet that Scott needs is to attend a Toby Mac concert.

Why continue to take him to places where he’s going to melt down? She wondered if at 18 if he would still be violently melting down while standing in line to meet Elmo. WHY, why, why, would she take him again? He has autism. Clearly, that event took him beyond his limits. What if he’d been born without legs? Would she have said, “Will he still be crawling up stairs when he’s 18?” Yes, yes he will be. So quit handing him a set of stairs and forcing him out of his wheelchair!

One of my favorite Ted Talks ever was that of a 12-year-old autistic kid who had been non-verbal for a good portion of his childhood. When he was 4, his parents noticed his fascination with glasses of water. Rather than try to conform him to their world, their world became a sea of glasses of water, filled to different levels. It fascinated him, engaged him, and soon, he was talking. They’d found a way to bridge that gap between their two worlds in a way that most parents (including me) wouldn’t have thought to do. SO insightful. SO well done.

Hearing protection while doing chores

They didn’t create a video of them crying because they had to go to work and face the people who witnessed their son’s meltdown, their son’s crawling up the stairs.

I wonder if the difference is a lack of faith in God on her part. It could be. I know something that strengthens Gregg and I as parents is our absolute trust in God, His plans, His work, and our communication with Him. It could be that we’re not trying to conform to this world (Romans 12:2), so missing out on “Meet Elmo” isn’t going to make or break us as a family. Or, separating children so one child can do something the other simply cannot do isn’t going to destroy us and require me to write a public letter of apology to my husband.

Maybe I have a maturity that comes from being an older mom that gives me more patience and more grace when it comes to who I am as a woman and who my husband is as a man, knowing that there’s nothing about me that’s the same as the “carefree young woman” he married — and if we had totally normal, neuro-typical, perfect angels of children we wouldn’t be the same now as we were then.

Maybe I know that if my son works at Subway (his dream job right now at the age of 11) until he retires, he will be happy and content and successful in our eyes, and that’s okay. That’s good. As long as he loves Jesus and works hard, that’s what matters to us.

I don’t know. But I know this: our son is incredible. He’s quirky and kind and genuine. He asks impolite questions and gets offended over smoking and cussing. He knows exactly how he wants to live his life and tolerates (barely) the things that stand between him and his happy place (in his house, headphones on, YouTube playing on the tablet in his lap, cat next to him).

And we love him and adore him and cherish him and are so thankful to be his parents, to be blessed by God Almighty who has chosen us to shepherd this miracle human being.

halleeLOGOspinefinal


I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
You would bless me if you added me to your Subscribe via any Reader feed reader or subscribed Subscribe via Email via email.
You can also become a fan on Become a Facebook Fan Facebook or follow me on Follow me on Twitter Twitter. I would love to see more of you!


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Autism and Santa

Our daughter was 9 when our son Scott was born. Around that time, she learned that all of the magical beings in her life (Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy) were not real and she was devastated. Not because these magical creatures turned out false, but because we’d told her they were real.

It gave us a serious wake-up call as parents. I think a lot of it had to do with how well she could articulate how she felt about it, and how free she felt to come to us about it.

Not too long after, through a series of events and earth-shattering kind of happenings, Gregg and I turned our entire spiritual life around. We determined that we would love God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our souls, and all of our strength. That took us out of a Sunday Christian with God over here on this peripheral plane and put Him right in the center of our cores. Because of that, so many things changed about the way that we eat, live life, pray, worship, spend, and definitely how we celebrate holidays.

As the boys (Scott now 11 and Jeb now 9) aged, they never had any of those magical beings in their dialogue, in their lives, in their focus. When a tooth comes out of a boy’s mouth, mom or dad hands him a dollar. Passover is celebrated as the Passover Lamb (Christ Yeshua/Jesus) was sacrificed for our sins, Good Friday is remembered and referenced back to Passover, Easter talks only of Resurrection and the fulfillment of the redemption. The Feast of Tabernacles brings us the celebration of the birth of Christ as well as God’s provision, and Christmas becomes only a time of the celebration of warm friendship and loving family and fellowship opportunities.

We host parties, decorate gingerbread houses (this year we’re doing gingerbread nativity scenes!), attend parties, exchange gifts, bake and bake and bake, and love on our family and friends. We do advent and light candles and teach about how Christ celebrated the Festival of Lights (Hanukah) and what that meant to Him.

There are no magical beings, no decorations depicting fantasy. There are gifts — but the kids each only get three, because Jesus only got three. (See what we did there, parents? HA!). And we don’t make it the most important time of the year, because to us, Christ conquering sin with His sacrifice tied into the Passover (the Last Supper) is indeed much more than the man-made holiday of Christmas.

So, we’re weird, and have been for years.

In the end, though, I think what happened in the timing of it all, in our daughter’s clear communication and our understanding of her feelings of betrayal and her emotions of anger and hurt, was that our shift away from traditional celebrations were one of the ways that God helped us protect our son Scott’s faith.

We don’t know if it’s Scott’s autism or his OCD tendencies, but he is unable to see the world with filters of gray. Everything is black and white. Santa falls into that category. Santa is a lie. Lies are bad, and are evil. Therefore, Santa is bad and evil.

He cannot shake this concept. To him, when he sees Santa, he feels anger. When he knows a child believes in Santa, he gets incredibly upset to the point of mournful tears that the parents lied to their child. He cannot separate any concept from that.

I was once in a mother’s group in a social media setting. We’d all been pregnant at the same time, due in the same month, and raised our kids online together.  One woman in this group of about 40 mothers told me a couple of years ago that if Scott felt that way, then it was because Gregg and I had taught that to him — that no child could possibly think that on their own.

Clearly, this woman (1) didn’t know me, and (2) had never had to deal with the way an autistic mind thinks. Of course we didn’t teach him that progressive line of thinking. However, we taught him that lying is bad, and that the Bible says it’s evil. And, we’ve taught him that Santa isn’t real. Everything else, he’s worked out on his own.

More to the point, though, is that we believe that our change of heart happened when he was an infant, because in the end, we know that we’ve protected his faith in God. Why?

The other day, I had a conversation with Scott and Jeb. Scott was desperately upset about his upcoming 5th grade musical “Jingle Bell Jukebox.” Apparently, “all” the songs are about Santa (the drama teacher assures me only one song mentions Santa), and he is refusing to participate (which the drama teacher and us are totally okay with.) During the conversation, Scott said that he was so sad for kids whose parents went to church and did Santa, because their lies were hurting their relationship with God. He actually went on to say, “When the kids find out that Santa isn’t real, don’t you think they’re going to think that God isn’t real, too?”

I closed my eyes and silently thanked God for the conviction that had us change so many things in our lives so early in his life — so that he never has to take that black and white mind and try to rationalize us telling him that a magical creature is real, but isn’t, and a God he can’t see is real, but is. It would destroy everything about how he believes, how he trusts, and what he knows to be true. It would chip away at the foundation of everything he believes in until his faith would be left dangling on a precipice with no rescue in sight.

He’s big into pulling the mannerisms and actions/reactions of fictional characters into his dialogue — it’s one of the ways he’s able to relate emotionally with the world around him. A YouTube host he regularly watches said that when she found out Santa wasn’t real, it ruined her life.

Scott came to me and crawled into my lap (even at 11) and thanked me for not ruining his life, because he won’t have to experience the same terror as this Youtuber.

halleeLOGOspinefinal


I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
You would bless me if you added me to your Subscribe via any Reader feed reader or subscribed Subscribe via Email via email.
You can also become a fan on Become a Facebook Fan Facebook or follow me on Follow me on Twitter Twitter. I would love to see more of you!


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