I created this form for my work at Cornerstone Autism Center using the National Autism Association's form as a start. In speaking with local law enforcement about elopement, I felt the form needed to be more detailed.
If you have a child with Autism, please feel free to print and use this form in case of an emergency. Click the first page to download.
Joe was tagged by his friend to this picture. It sums up who he has become for us. A little over a year ago, I was doing this parenting thing alone. I said to friends, "who would want to date a girl with two special needs kids?"
Well, Jenny and Chelsea found this guy. And he kept coming over to my house, and eating all my chicken fries. In the kids' minds he went from "that's just Joe" to "he's not my real dad, but we're his kids". Hayden came home from school with a drawing of his family-- Rylie, Hayden, Mommy and Joe. Rylie says "when I grow up to be a Mommy, I can have coffee. And when Hayden grows up to be a Joe, he can have coffee, too."
Now if I arrive home late from work, dinner is made (3 different dinners for different diets), vitamins are eaten, homework is done, and clothes laid out for tomorrow. The kids may have even played outside and had a bath.
They now have a strong role model who sets limits but also takes time for each of them. I have-- not just help-- not just more free time-- but a partner. A person who thinks through problems with me and actually helps to fix them. A person who truly cares about his new family. Someone to tell me, it's all going to be ok.
I've never really had that before and so I'm more than grateful for it. But I haven't written about it, because... well, what do you say? How do you thank someone for coming into your life and making the whole thing better? Not just for me but for my children, who sometimes struggle. To make them happy makes me happy.
So, when I saw the picture below I felt I should say something.
Thank you, Joseph, for taking on your new role. And for being quite good at it. We love you very much. A stranger, upon hearing our story, said, "Wow, only a teacher could do that."
Last night I took Hayden to get his glasses fixed. He was still in his karate outfit from TKD.
The sales lady saw us and said, "What happened?"
Hayden: "No, I'm Hayden."
Sales lady, smiling: "I remember you. I hope you didn't break them doing karate."
Hayden: "No I was angry and wanted to be on a rampage."
Sales lady: "Oh. Well. Let's take a look."
It was an easy fix and we were in and out of the store in 5 minutes. I spoke to Hayden about the consequences of throwing his glasses, and what would happen next time. As I mentioned to him the day it happened, his consequences would be a big deal.
Me: "Maybe, if you throw them again, you should have two days of no screens..."
Hayden: "TWO DAYS!!!"
Me: "...AND, another consequence too."
Me: "Your glasses cost over $100. If you break them it's a big deal. You need to know that you can't just throw them because you're angry."
H: "A hundred dollars?!"
Me: "Yes. So you see that it's a big deal?"
H: "But what's my other consequence?"
Me: "I don't know, we'll have to think about it. What do you think it should be?"
H: "I don't know... sigh."
[image is of Hayden at a birthday party last week, doing the zipline unaided for the first time!]
Later that night, we told Joe about our conversation:
Me: "... and what will your consequence be next time?"
H: "Two days of no screens."
Me: "... and?"
H, sounding really bummed: "And something else but we don't know it yet."
Joe: "I think maybe you should be grounded."
H: "Uh, what's that?"
Joe: "When I was younger and I got in trouble, I got grounded. I had to sit in my room all night and not do anything else."
H: "I can't eat dinner or ANYTHING?!"
Joe: "You can eat dinner in your room."
H: "But I can't even play with toys or anything?"
Me: "You have lots of toys in your room."
H: "Grounded is like forever and ever! I don't like grounded. I have to stay in my room all day and not get to do anything!"
Me: "Which sounds like a good consequence for you."
Based on his reaction to the conversation, grounding will be a great new consequence for him. Previously 'letter writing' and 'no screens' were huge, but he's become less worried about those. I'm glad Joe thought to mention it. I like that Joe views him mostly as a typical child, which helps break me out of the 'babying your special needs baby' mold. I wouldn't have thought him ready to understand the concept or handle it without melting down. But he did. And I know this will be a deterrent to him having behaviors in the future, to help him be more successful in school and daily life.
As we ended our discussion I thought again of FUA. Not too long ago, the concept of being grounded would have been too abstract for Hayden. He wouldn't have been able to talk about it prior to an event, or think of it as a consequence for his actions. He wouldn't connect the punishment to the behavior. He would have over-reacted to us even mentioning it. And if we tried to ground him, likely it would have been a very noisy and destructive evening. But I have a feeling (a Hope?) that, should he need to be grounded in the future, this won't be a huge issue. He will understand and connect the dots. It will help him prevent the behavior in the future.
All I want for my son is to be able to understand the world around him, and see what the rest of us see. To not have to try so hard just to be the same or have the same as everyone else.
And every day, he gets a little closer. A little to closer to 'Typical'. (Whatever that is.)
It makes my heart soar. It makes me feel like I'm flying on a zipline. Even if it does mean... he might have to be grounded a couple of times. :)
[He made it all the way to the end and landed on top of the platform. He was very proud and so are we.] :) FUA!
Hayden got new glasses for the first time. He is a little nearsighted. I was worried that he wouldn't like them, but we talked them up and he was excited the day they came in. He said, "Do you think everyone will like my new look?" The Facebook post of his picture has 67 likes, which he is pretty excited about!
Unfortunately after a couple days of wearing his glasses he had a tantrum and decided to throw his glasses because he felt like he was "on a rampage." They bent a bit and we need to get them adjusted. So hopefully they'll be back on his head soon!
While we were at the mall picking out Hayden's new glasses, Rylie found a mannequin just her size. She wanted to give her several hugs and even asked what her name was.
So... When Hayden left ABA therapy and went into public school, I was a single mom. I wasn't able to handle the time, money, and emotional drain it would take to get him the services he needed. And I've never wanted to be "that mom" at the IEP meetings. But two years later and we're in the same place where we started. Hayden has come a long way in two years. And now I have someone (Joseph) to support me in all those things. So we have hired an advocate to support us at the IEP meetings. I'm glad to have someone who knows the law to guide us.
I don't like to write about situations like this as they happen, so all I'll say for now is that it has been a lot of work, and hugely emotionally stressful for us, but I hope that the end result is that Hayden will have more time with his typical peers. I also hope his teachers know that I appreciate how much they care for him and I know they are good teachers. This situation is only about where Hayden is today and getting him the services he needs to be successful. Just a few of the papers I had to put together for the first meeting. Took me 6? hours and about $50 to make all the copies.
And now, for our long-overdue FUA.
We went to Anderson to get dairy free ice cream and see a magician. Hayden was excited to see the magician and wanted to say hi to him after the show. But when it was our turn he got a little nervous. Here is the conversation that happened next:
Hayden: "Sorry, I'm a bit shy."
Magician: "No, you're the antithesis of shy. She's shy. [pointing at Rylie, who's hiding behind my legs.] Do you know what antithesis means?"
Hayden, without skipping a beat: "Um, opposite?"
Magician: "Uh... Yeah. Yes, actually it does... You're pretty smart."
Hayden: "Yeah, I know, I'm a bit smart sometimes."
Non-autism characteristics displayed: Speaking to a stranger, initiating a conversation, making eye contact, using context clues to derive word meaning. And being totally awesome. Ok, that last one can go with Autism, but only because Hayden takes Autism and turns it into something no one expects. Every day.
Thank you Hayden for inspiring me to work as hard as you do, every day.