Monday, December 31, 2012

The One-Man Penguin Plunge

I'd like to think Ryan just learned an important lesson - that thin ice will not hold your weight -  but I don't think he actually did.

After an afternoon of sledding, Ryan was walking along the edge of his favorite duck pond and must have noticed a microscopic film of ice on the water. As is his nature, he jumped onto it with both feet without testing or thinking. And the next thing we knew he was up to his neck in icy water.

We pulled him out,  rushed him to our car, stripped off his wet socks and snowpants, cranked up the heat, and got him home as quickly as we could.

I scolded him about the dangers of stepping on thin ice, but I have no reason to believe this lesson has left any impression: even while still soaking wet and being dragged from the pond, Ryan was asking if he could still chase the geese.

Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, no you can not.

This is the scary side of learning disability: the inability to learn from one's own experiences. I imagine a typical kid, after jumping onto thin ice and landing in a freezing cold pond, would connect effect with cause and would think twice before trying such a stunt again. But based on his history, I have no reason to expect his days of falling through thin ice are over.

Stu has suggested keeping towels and blankets in the trunk from now on. My mother recommended starting my New Year's drinking early. I am thankful to be surrounded by such wise people.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rest in Peace, Nancy Lanza

As the mother of a seven-year-old in Connecticut, I spent most of the last week trying not to imagine my son as one of the young Sandy Hook victims. As stories came out about victims with special needs and their one-on-one aides, this became harder and harder. Any one of those children could be my child.

It takes only slightly more imagination to identify with Nancy Lanza, a divorced mother trying her best to raise a son with special needs on her own. I've read reports that she had fought to get her son appropriate services through their school district but eventually felt the need to home-school him. Her only respite was brief overnight trips alone.

People with paranoid schizophrenia and other conditions that cause psychotic episodes have been known to lash out violently at the people who love them most. Explains the widower of a victim of such a tragedy, mothers are vulnerable to these attacks “Because they love their kids enough to continue to care for them when nobody else will help."

Nancy Lanza took care of her disabled son as well as she could, making great sacrifices and putting herself at tremendous risk, because she loved him. I honor that love - the kind of love every mother has for her children. Let our nation honor that love by making it easier for families like the Lanzas to get the psychiatric support they need.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What if?

My fifth grade teacher had set up a tv on a cart so we could see the Challenger launch. Moments later, we saw strange caterpillar-shaped clouds in the sky, and we knew all the astronauts were dead. I remember staring at the tv, unable to process what I had just seen.

Honestly, I almost didn't include this photo, because it still makes me sick.
I remember Mrs. Ramos turning off the tv and quickly changing the subject - time for math or something - and pointedly ignoring what we had just witnessed.

Thinking about it 27 years later, I still get tense. I have only watched live coverage of a shuttle launch once since then, and my stomach was in knots the whole time.

What if?

What if that improbable, horrible thing happens again?

What if more astronauts fell from the sky before our eyes? How would their families feel? How would the modern equivalent of Christa McAuliffe's students cope with the loss of their teacher?

This morning I got all teary putting Ryan on the school bus.

What if?

What if something horrific happened during the school day and this was the last time I would ever see him?

Obviously the odds are greatly in our favor that he will come home as usual, throw his coat on the floor, begrudgingly pick it up and hang it in the closet, and run in quick circles around the house.

But what if?

As the mother of a seven-year-old in the state of Connecticut, last Friday's unspeakable tragedy hit way too close to home. It was too easy to imagine being one of the parents in the school parking lot waiting to be reunited with my first-grader.

As the mother of a child with special needs, I tried to imagine how he would react if his school were under siege. It's unlikely he would be able to follow his teacher's instructions to remain still and quiet. I imagine his talking/shouting/singing/wiggling would draw the gunman's attention and doom his entire class.

If he were a witness to a shooting, would he understand what he was seeing? Would he be able to communicate to me what he had seen? Would he be able to tell us how he felt about it?

Scariest of all, what if my own child suffered from violent psychotic episodes? How would I prevent him from hurting people? How would I be able to continue to love him if he did? This part is way outside my ability to imagine - I recommend Christina Shaver's recent post on the subject.

My heart aches for all the families affected.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Trooper

Last weekend, Ryan battled the Rat King in The Nutcracker.
Ryan is the short one pointing his sword straight ahead.
Curtain call, at which the kids sang endless choruses of Jingle Bells.
I'm told he did well - I didn't get to see much of anything, because my job was to keep Ryan calm backstage.

A rare moment when he wasn't running up and down the hall.
So mostly I can report on the intensity of the energy of a dressing room full of anxious autistic boys (with all the flapping I'm surprised nobody took flight).

But I can definitely tell you Ryan was proud of himself - that he has referenced the show several times this week, reminding me "I danced on the stage."

And that the whole time he was off stage, he kept asking if he could go back on.

And that he was so entranced by the ballerinas that while we were watching them from the back of the house during the dress rehearsal he was able to ignore the giant numbers on the backs of the auditorium chairs.

And that he's a serious trooper, because it turned out he did the show with a stomach bug brewing (My first clue something was wrong was when went to Friendly's after the show and he barely touched his ice cream. Then he curled up in my lap and announced he needed to "go home and rest in bed." By the time we got home, he had a 102 degree fever.)

And I can tell you that all of the dancers with special needs seemed thrilled with their performance. As they should.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas is still very far away

Remember three years ago, when I was disappointed that Ryan didn't seem to anticipate Christmas? That he didn't even seem to realize it was a special occasion?

Yeah, that was SO three years ago.

Ryan has been obsessed with Christmas since Halloween. Obsessed.

He has worn his Santa hat both to school and to bed.

He has watched Curious George's A Very Monkey Christmas at least 15 times in the last month - sometimes twice a day - and has had the three songs from that movie on constant repeat on my iPod.

He decorated the table-top fake tree in his bedroom a couple of weeks ago.

He bugged me for days until I relented and helped him bake a gingerbread house.

When we finally went out and got a tree for the living room, he spent a good long time just lying peacefully on the couch, staring at the tree in utter contentment.

He has been counting the days for a full month already, and he still has 23 days to wait. Frequently, he will script "Christmas is still very far away" with a heavy sigh.

He still hasn't bought into the whole writing-to-Santa thing. Despite prompting he has shown zero interest in making a Christmas list and hasn't otherwise indicated there's anything he wants to receive as a gift. I've tried to coax him to think about what sort of present he should give to his daddy, but I've made no headway.

But this year, I know he Gets It. In a magical, profound way, he is filled with Christmas Spirit, radiating a kind of joy and peace I don't see on his face the rest of the year.

And if that isn't a true-blue miracle, I don't know what one is.