Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturdays

Lots of people dread Mondays.

I hate Saturdays.

School, it seems, is very taxing for Ryan. Five days of paying attention, speech and occupational therapy sessions, interacting with other kids in socially normative ways, and keeping his behavior school-appropriate consumes of his energy. By Friday afternoon, he's toast.

So on Saturdays, he needs to decompress. He plays what he likes, relaxes, and goes from giggling to melting down and back again without warning.  And by Sunday, he's lovable and sweet again.

We've learned there's no benefit to pushing him to do things he's not keen to do on Saturdays, because the meltdowns will just get more intense, and if he doesn't get all that crap out of his system on Saturday, we'll never be able to leave the house on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Am I autistic?

Recently I struck up a Facebook friendship with a guy I'll call Music Doc. We had been classmates in high school, but I don't think we ever exchanged a single word. He seemed very aloof and focused on studying classical piano, and it never occurred to me to talk to him. As he wrote to me, "I was weird in high school (still am....must be an Aspie thing...), you were a little weird, too, if I remember correctly. Why weren't we ever friends back then, again??"

Yes, I was weird, but I think I was a different kind of weird. As I've mentioned before, I wasn't the most popular girl in high school; I guess you could say I was bullied regularly. I had plenty of friends outside of school, but during the school day, I kept my mouth shut.

I asked Music Doc at what point in his life he started identifying himself as an Aspie. He has given me permission to share some of his answer here. When he was 33 he was interviewing for a Music Therapist job at a facility that deals primarily with kids on the spectrum:
Halfway into the meeting, the director asks me, point blank, "Please don't take this the wrong way, but do YOU happen to be autistic?" I was truly taken aback at that moment: by why she would even ask that, or what prompted her to inquire (aside from my mentioning my son having been diagnosed).
"No!" I replied, defensively. I laughed, "Are you joking?" And then, all of a sudden, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. "Holy shit....I thought to myself.....holy, f-cking shit." It was literally not until that moment, not after my son was diagnosed, not when I had started reading up on music therapy and special needs, not at any point in time did I remotely even THINK to consider I might be on the spectrum. That's how out of touch I was with my own perception of myself.
At that moment, a million thoughts started to race through my head: "Why would she ask me that? What is it something I did, said? I mean I've always been a little different, had some OCD, etc., etc.,". Then, all of a sudden, I realized that, while talking to her, I'd been looking down a good deal of the interview. Not making eye contact. I looked up, and (M.S. in Special Ed that she was), I could tell she'd noticed. (I do that a lot, and learned a while back to autocorrect myself and make eye contact with a person when talking with them, but I always struggle with it when nervous.)
I went home that night (after being offered the job), and all the pieces just all fell together. I reread a book on the subject of Asperger's, just to make sure; and, sure enough, my entire life story as a kid was textbook Asperger's. There was an incredible sense of a relief, and, at the same time, disbelief. That I had gone through my entire life, up to the age of 33, not only not being aware I was in the special needs category, but not knowing there was actually a scientific classification in development for what was different about me. I was elated, and furious, and stupefied all at the same time.
And, from that point forward, I began to work my life backwards and repair, understanding and undoing all the damage that had been done to my psyche over the years. You might say I've "found, or, recovered myself" ever since, and have gotten stronger and more confident going through the process. But, son-of-a-bitch....talk about a rude awakening.
I tried to imagine having such a life-changing realization about yourself, to "work your life backwards" and replay your memories through a completely different lens. To have spent your whole life thinking of yourself as an alien and to suddenly be reborn as a member of a new family.

Then, while I was pondering all this, Music Doc asked me if I had Asperger's.

Why would he ask me that? What is it something I did, said? I mean I've always been a little different...

He said he remembers relating to me because I was smart and socially awkward (definitely accurate) and I always avoided direct eye contact (probably true). He said when the Harry Potter films came out, he saw me in the character of Luna Lovegood. Through the allegory of Harry Potter, Music Doc says, "I realized I was truly part of an elite, inner circle of unique, special individuals; and that this was something to be proud of, not ashamed of or embarrassed by."

So then I was forced to ask myself: am I on the spectrum?

I certainly have some atypical traits. I've been dealing with depression since I was 17 - many of my high school eccentricities could probably be chalked up to that. From what I understand, depression can sometimes be considered an ASD. I do have difficulty maintaining eye contact - I find it uncomfortable and I often have to remind myself to do it. I stim by playing with my hair. I have sensory aversions flashing lights, certain smells, and being touched too lightly. Some people are taken aback by my bluntness.

But I do not consider myself autistic. I do not have difficulties communicating. I have never exhibited the kind of repetitive or ritualistic behaviors associated with autism. I can easily interpret facial expressions. I even took one of those online personality tests to make sure I wasn't deluding myself, and my score was well within the non-autistic range.

The exercise of honestly asking myself if I am autistic was a fascinating thought experiment. I considered the question quite carefully, completely open to all possible answers, and I feel confident in my conclusion:

I'm not autistic. I'm just weird.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One Proud Mom

Today, Ryan told me about his day for the first time.

I always ask him about school, as specifically as I can: What did you sing in music today? At lunchtime did you play inside or outside? Who did you play with? Sometimes, with prompting (usually only if I already know the answer), he can answer one of these questions.

Today I asked him a couple of pointed questions based on the notes his teacher had sent home ("Can you teach me a song about Martin Luther King?") and I got nothing. Then, I asked him "Can you tell me what you did at school today while we wait for your snack to be ready?"

And he answered.

He said, "I played on the computer, went to music, and came home."

I expressed my shock and delight. This is the most he has EVER told me about his day.

And then he added the bit that brought me to tears: "But not all of them does not make me happy." [translation: But not everything made me happy.]

You get this, right? He not only reported on events - dayenu! - but he told me how he felt about those events.

Not really expecting an answer, I asked him what did make him happy.

"Playing on the computer at the end of the day!"

Holy crap.

"Wow! And what game did you play?" (Are we really having a conversation? Could he possibly have an answer for this one, too?)

"Jumping Frogs!"

Wow. I don't know what Jumping Frogs is, but Ryan says he played it and it made him happy, so that's my new favorite computer game.

Then I really pushed my luck. "And what made you sad?" I asked this a couple of different ways, and then Ryan said:

"They made me cry in the hall."

Follow-up questions provided no clarification, so I don't know what that's all about, but I can proudly tell you the following: My son went to school today, where he went to music, cried in the hallway, and enjoyed playing a computer game about jumping frogs, and then he came home.

So, for the milestone chart: Age 7, answers questions about his day.

Given enough time, there's nothing our kids can't do.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The 12 Days of Ryan

(Each day is represented by a toy on my kitchen counter.)

On the twelfth dabba Christmas my todda soba dee
12 drummers drumming [pteranadon puppet]
11 pipahs pipah [Frosty the Snowman]
10 lords a'leaping [Pig word-friend]
9 ladies dancing [T-Rex puppet]
8 maids a milking [left slipper]
7 swans a swimming [teddy bear]
6 geese a geesing [plastic jar with a stuffed moose head for a lid]
5 gol-den riiiiiings (ba dum bum bum) [blue sock with a frog head on it]
4 bolly birds [piggy bank]
3 friends [rubber frog stuffed with Angry Birds figurines]
2 little dogs[right slipper]
and a pah pah pippa pah peeeee [slinky dog]



Thursday, January 3, 2013

NEW SERIES: The I Hate This Book Club, featuring A Crack in the Track

Like most parents, I read a lot of children's books. Or, better said, I read a few children's books over and over and over again. And the ones I like the least are often the ones I am asked to read the most.

So, in what I imagine will be an ongoing series, I present the first installment of

The I Hate This Book Club

Our first book will be an old favorite around here that just won't go away,

A Crack in the Track
a Thomas the Tank Engine Story
based on The Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry
There's no author listed, because no self-respecting writer would put his name to it.
Illustrated by Tommy Stubbs

What kind of hail do they HAVE on Sodor?!?


Thomas is a little blue steam engine with a face, living on the Island of Sodor with a bunch of other engines with faces. He pulls coaches and gets bullied by freight cars, and operates in all sorts of weather.

One day Thomas is pulling some coaches for Henry the Green Engine (he's home sick with boiler ache), and it starts hailing. Defying all odds, the hail cracks both rails of the track, right in front of Thomas, in exactly the same place (on the same railroad tie). I had no idea hail could do that.

Obviously Thomas can't go anywhere, so what does the conductor do? He orders all the passengers to get off the train. Sure, the steel-splitting hail has stopped for now, but throwing everyone off between stations seems unwise.

Luckily for the people, Bertie the Bus happens to be passing by, and happens to have room for two coach-fulls of passengers. So everyone from the whole train gets into this little bus, and off they go, leaving a very sad-looking Thomas stuck at the crack in the track. With a cow.

Soon, the bus driver sees trouble ahead: there's a waist-high toad sitting in the middle of the street. Does the driver honk his horn? No. Does he drive on the grass to avoid the world's largest toad? No. Does he turn the bus around to find an alternate route? No. Instead, he says:

"There's a toad in the road!
We will have to unload."
He kicks all the passengers off the bus, leaving them on the side of the road with the immovable death toad. Also, 20 pages into the book, the text suddenly starts rhyming - not all the text, just a few lines here and there.

Then the people walk down the road to the next train station, but the trains are not running, because there's no way for them to get around Thomas and the improbable double crack in the track.

Thomas hatches a plan. He tells his driver to call Sir Topham Hatt and share the plan. Sir Hatt takes the train's advice and sends Harold the Helicopter to pick up the passengers. The train-full of people gets in the helicopter, presumably in shifts (or maybe it's a TARDIS).

The breakdown crew arrives to replace the broken tracks. Immediately. In the rain. While singing. The work takes them no time at all, and soon all the trains are moving again.

The people see Thomas waiting to take them home, and they question if he can actually do the job. He says:
"I learned a big lesson from one little crack.
A train is only as good as its track."

The end.


Man, I hate that book.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Penguin Plunge, addendum


Ok, so the other day I put up a post about Ryan's little penguin plunge. Within an hour, there was an anonymous comment on that post that just said "I was the photographer across the street." (there had been a guy taking pictures of ducks on the other side of the pond.) My immediate thought was, Shit, we have a crazy stalker. If we all turn up dead tomorrow, this will be why.

Then I'm all, what are the odds that this random person, who is way out of this blog's demographic, happens to read The Ryan Files and happened to be standing there at that moment?

I spent like 20 minutes freaking out. Stu tried to come up with plausible scenarios to convince me we were not about to be murdered, but honestly, he wasn't terribly convincing.


Then the guy had the decency to solve the mystery:

It seems he watched the incident, and even took some shots of us pulling the boy out of the water. He thought the boy in the water might be autistic, heard me scream Ryan's name (but thought I said Brian), and based on these clues and a bumper sticker on my car, Googled "suburbia roller derby autistic son brian," and the magic of The Google brought him here.


I find this both amazing and terrifying.

Equally amazing, Ryan might have actually learned something from this incident.

The next day, while trying to dry out his boots with every ShamWow we own, I asked Ryan why he jumped in the pond. He stared at his hot chocolate for a moment, then recalled the event in a way uniquely his: "I got covered in goose poop and then you rescued me."

Right. But WHY did you jump in the pond?

"I fell in the pond because you can not step on ice in the river. And I got covered in goose poop and then you rescued me and you cleaned me."

Somewhere in that odd little head of his I think he sees the connection between thin ice and falling in goose-poop-infested water. 

And he understands that his parents will rescue him.

And that goose poop is disgusting.