I believe that part of what makes Nova, Nova is that I've never allowed her to "pull inside" herself. As soon as she was diagnosed, my husband, my parents, and myself sat down to discuss some things and we all agreed that we would do everything we could to ensure that she'd not withdraw. It's kind of funny now, looking back. When she was diagnosed at age 2, of course I bawled and of course I was pissed at the world for a while. But when that little girl sat on my lap, I MADE her look me in the eye. I MADE her let me hug her. Now I've got a different set of problems. This kid is SOCIAL. Holy cow. That doesn't mean she doesn't like to play alone or doesn't tell me that she needs alone time. But she LOVES to be around other kids. So now I have to change my focus from keeping her engaged and wanting to be plugged in to others, to teaching her appropriate social skills. She has a lot of problems with tone of voice and being way too bossy!!! So now we just change our focus!!!
Don't you hate the moments in life where you wish you could turn back time? Back when I was in high school (20 years ago...how did THAT happen?), Cher had a song called If I Could Turn Back Time. Some of the lyrics are: I don't know why I did the things I did. I don't know why I said the things I said.
We all have regrets like this. But my biggest regrets come from the times when I DIDN'T say something. It's not something that happens to me often. Those of you who know me in "real life" know that I usually say what I gotta say. But sometimes, even opinionated, loud me can be silenced. By fear. By anger. By embarrasment. By looking at the wrong "big picture."
In becoming an adult, this was so hard for me. I WANT to be able to always speak out for the principles in which I believe. But when you have responsibilities, it's so hard! I can't always say what I want to say...fear of losing a job, offending a co-worker I have to see every day, or hurting someone else's feelings. But I do try.
When you have an autistic child, it's hard sometimes to speak up but it's not because of fear, but because of anger or shock. Last week, someone had some pretty ugly things to say to me about my child's behavior. A complete stranger. Instead of tearing her tail up, I walked away. It's not me. It's not in me to walk away. But my gut was screaming, "GET NOVA AWAY FROM THIS PERSON." I do NOT want my daughter around negativity. But I hurt that I did not stand up to this woman.
I try to remind myself that it wouldn't have changed her opinion or her behavior. I try to remind myself that mean people have been hurt. But it's so hard! We've all been hurt. But it's up to US to treat others with respect.
Except for Casey Anthony and Rep. Weiner, it seems the only other news stories lately have been about the aftermath of bullying. Now that I'm home for the summer, I got to watch Dr. Phil yesterday. The dad was on that is being legally reprimanded for going onto his daughter's school bus and confronting the children that were bullying his special needs daughter.
Well, he used the F word a lot and he said he'd kill the kids if they didn't quit it. So it's got a lot of those parents of kids on that bus freaked out and angry. I gotta tell ya, I am not angry about it. I wish I could shake that dad's hand! I'm SICK AND TIRED of this happening to our young people. Some parents are upset because their children weren't involved, but were scared by this man's rant. Well, ya know what? I say your kids WERE involved because they did not stick up for the attacked child, or tell their parents about it, or something! We've got to teach our kids that this is NOT okay! That when they allow it to happen to someone around them, they are just as guilty!
Do I get that this is a hard thing to do? Of course I do. It's incredibly hard to stick up to someone. It's frightening and can cause stomach cramps from the fear...I totally get that. But if we teach our kids to do it, and we practice how to do it and then tell someone...I swear it will help. When I was being tormented in high school, I would have loved for someone to come to my aid. It would have shown me that someone was in my corner. Cause I gotta tell ya...in my case, I was never afraid for my physical safety...but the absolute fear of what they were going to do to humiliate me next...was enough to give me ulcers and turn me into a self-loathing teen who turned to "bad things" to self medicate.
And do NOT even get me started on the parents of these bullies! I teach high school. I see bullies. Do I report it every time? Sure I do. Schools do what they can. But legally, our hands get tied pretty quickly, and in this day and age, with teens, it happens more online than it does in person. Pretty easy to be a tough guy when you're not face to face. But these parents! Quit defending your children when they are WRONG. Quit teaching them there are no consequences. Cuz guess what? There are consequences in life and when they act like punks in adult life, they end up in jail or dead.
I'll end my post today by saying I wish I could meet that father. I hope I would act the same in his shoes. His heart was right. And maybe some kids got scared, and that's too bad, but I think even the kids on that bus that weren't involved, learned something that day: that their actions have consequences. I have already had to deal with my daughter having something happen to her because she couldn't speak up for herself. I plan to keep doing this, and this dad was an example I hope to follow.
This year, I taught a new book to my tenth graders. It's called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. Now, let me tell you. When teaching a novel to high school sophomores means I have to use all my tricks. Overall, teens groan when you mention you're about to start a new novel. In a world where they can tweet and change their FB status within seconds, committing to the time it takes to read a novel seems absolutely insane to them. You have to really "hook" them.
Overall, though, with this book....I didn't have to "hook" too much. It was amazing! The first thing we did before beginning to read, was I chose ten words from the first ten pages, and listed them on the whiteboard. They had to predict what they thought the first ten pages would be about, based on those words. We shared with our peers what we thought. Then we read those pages and talked about our predictions compared to what actually was written. It was fun. We had a good laugh or two. The kids were INTO it. The book did that from the beginning.
It's a great story about a boy with Asperger's who finds a murdered dog in his neighborhood and decides to play detective to find out who killed the dog. His journey, though, leads him to discover some incredibly powerful secrets about himself. Everyone should read it!
Recently, my little town was on the news because Sarah Truitt, a resident, took it upon herself to arrange help for Joplin, MO, her hometown. To see her facebook page, go to facebook and then Iowa's Effort-Joplin Tornado Relief.
People from all over the area donated items for Sarah to take to Joplin. So many items were donated that she had to get a truck/trailer to haul them all.
So the helping others lesson is to be sure to pay attention for efforts like these. Nova and I talked about it a lot. One of my goals as a parent is to raise a child who understands the gift and reward in helping others, whether she has autism or not. Truth be told, since her diagnosis, we've had to rely on the help of others, something that does not come easy to me.
We don't have a lot of money, so we looked around the house for things we could donate. We found buckets, medical bandages, and other bathroom supplies. While looking, we found a few bucks around the house and used them to buy paper plates and cups.
The most important part of everything, in our house, was the conversation that took place between me and my daughter. She helped me put the things in the van and we drove it over to be dropped off. In the car, we talked about helping others. I don't always know if Nova sees "big ideas," but some day it will click!
Lord have mercy, summer is tough when your child has autism!! The first week out of school, Nova really had a hard time. Less structure, mommy (a teacher) is exhausted, trying to find our way. Then week two, mini-vaca with grandma and mommy, which again, means different routine. Hotel rooms. Restaurants. Excitement over new experiences. All things Nova needs. All things a melt down waiting to happen.
Overall, she did great. Overall, my patience held out. (with a few hits of nicoutine outside the hotel---something I'm not proud of). Sure helped having grandma there! Crayons and work books, fave toys all made it okay.
So let's talk about it....what things help you when routines are broken???
It's so hard sometimes!!! I want to be a positive force in others' lives. I want this for my family, my students, my friends. But sometimes...ahhh...it's so hard. Then I read about a young woman like this...and it really puts things into perspective. Please read and send her a message!!