Wired for Wham!

 

When I was little, I truly believed I had the potential to draw pictures. I would look at something, desire to draw it, then run and get some paper. In my head I could see no obstacle, no practical reason that I would not be able to draw that tree, house, or dog….I felt pretty sure I could do it.

I couldn’t.

I couldn’t even draw a cube. Everyone could draw a cube! Sure, I could draw it if someone showed me how. Then I could duplicate it again and again. Once I was given stroke by stroke instruction, I could practice and get real good at it, even. And I did eventually learn to draw an excellent box. It’s been a few years, so I absolutely know that I could NOT draw a box right now.

My husband, Dave, doesn’t believe me. I told him that if I practiced for the rest of the day, I would not be able to draw a picture of my coffee cup (that was sitting on the table at the time). He says anyone can draw. Yes, that’s true- if he showed me how to draw that cup, I could draw it again and again all on my own. But I couldn’t figure it out the first time without help. I asked him, “Could you have drawn a picture of that cup, without help, when you were five years old?” He said yes.

This is just one of a million ways my husband’s brain is wired differently than mine. I accept it. He is a good artist. It’s easy for him, because he was born that way. I could be taught, but I would always be amazed at the better artists of the world, because the basic skills I would struggle to achieve would be effortless to them. Like breathing. My husband cannot even wrap his mind around the fact that someone couldn’t draw something as simple as a cup. I get it. When I was small, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it either. (Sometimes, for just a second, I still think I could draw it.)

This forces me to think more about what effect our brain wiring has on our lives, who we are, and who our children will be because of it. It also gives me a small clue about the challenges of being wired differently than others. But all of us already are. We just don’t notice until we are alone in a group of people who all share different wiring. Like hanging out with a bunch of mathematicians when you never could pass Algebra. There’s a lesson about autism here, but that’s not where I’m going.  Continue reading

Daydreams of Friendship

 

Sometimes I admire someone more than they admire me. Sometimes it’s the other way around. We aren’t bad people (usually), we just don’t match quite as well. Sometimes we simply make mistakes about someone’s potential in our lives.

I have been thinking a lot about making new friends. It’s harder when you are older- even harder when you’re married with children. I generally don’t have reasons to go out and be social when I have my couch, especially when the people I like most exist within a very small radius of that couch. When I was a teenager all I ever wanted was my own space, to do whatever I wanted, and to be able to make out with my boyfriend. Turns out all my dreams came true at a very young age.

In our twenties we went out most nights. Dave was always playing, and the bars in our town closed at 4am. We worked jobs that required us to show up nights and weekends. Our friends were mostly musicians who we had known a long time, and friendship was easy. These people are still friends, but they all live somewhere else.

So we moved to Michigan in our thirties- along with a child, and autism. If we are being truthful here, that last factor plays a huge part in who qualifies as a potential good friend. And as we get older, our friendship requirements become much more specific in other ways, too. In fact, I don’t think the friends we are looking for even exist. Guess we start making more road trips back to Illinois.

People I connect with fall into two categories: those who share my sense of humor, and those who I could stay up all night discussing topics that make our heads hurt.  Continue reading

Time Out is a Lie Created by the Devil (and More Practical Advice for our Daughter’s Alleged Autism)

 

There are few perks that come with the severity of Teghan’s autism. We will take what we can get. Falling lower on the spectrum makes her autism more obvious- and with that comes easier acceptance and understanding from others. If there are services to be qualified for, it is usually an open and shut case. If there is a meltdown in public, most people catch on right away to what is really happening. People overall seem to be more supportive and less judgmental. Even those loud mouths out there who believe autism is not real do tend to accept our case as a true example. How wonderful.

I think it mostly has to do with the fact that Teghan is nonverbal. It’s an automatic clear disability to most. And, most not really understanding that much about autism, they are willing to accept it as proof. But this has very little positive impact on our lives. It mostly involves people who don’t know us and who we may never see again (if we have seen them at all).

We would gladly take judgmental stares and accusations if it meant we could have a conversation with our daughter.  On the other hand, it would also cause us additional anxiety, stress, and anger to have everyone doubt the validity of her autism. It would possibly make us feel even more afraid for our child’s future in such a cruel world. Actually, we know exactly how it would make us feel, because we have experienced it from our own family.

The first time Dave’s parents visited us after Teghan’s diagnosis, Teghan was three years old. She did not talk to them. She did not attempt to interact with them in any way, except for dragging them to an item she wanted so she could place their hand on it. She didn’t smile at them, wave goodbye, or make eye contact. She did not play with toys. She tapped on things, galloped back and forth, and wore a diaper. She was everything you would expect out of a child with classic autism.

My mother-in-law meant well when she argued with me that this was all normal three year old behavior. That Teghan was too young to care about playing, and that she was obviously trying to talk with all those vocal noises. She made it clear that we were letting Teghan get away with bad behavior by not spanking her. She believed we were using autism as an excuse. Maybe she wanted us to feel hopeful for a cure. But it was as if my mother-in-law was the good guy- defending Teghan from the mother who would give her own daughter a label as ugly as autism.  Continue reading

For the Love of Objects

 

Some kids have a security blanket. Others have a favorite stuffed animal, doll, or toy. My blanket’s name was Geegee.  In the end, Geegee did not resemble a blanket at all, but I liked rubbing the fabric pills between my thumb and index finger. When they fell off, I saved those pieces of my friend in a butter dish.

Of course I did.

One day my mom started making me keep Geegee in the top of my closet, just at night when I slept. She claimed that keeping him close to my face while I slept was bad for me because he was so old. At first I fought back, until I discovered that it was just easier to sneak him back down from the closet after my parents went to bed. This went on for a while, until my lazy nature won out and I just stopped sneaking him down from that closet altogether. Eventually, I forgot about Geegee.

I guess that made me a pretty crappy friend. It also shows just how much our affection for things and people can be a result of our addiction to them. Fill the space with something new, and our brains will make new connections. This is both depressing and encouraging at the same time. But, I do have a good memory of that blanket. Call it human sentimentality.

My daughter is currently obsessed with a box full of torn paper.

Actually, it’s a Songburst Game (the 50’s and 60’s version). It’s just the box lid, filled with a thousand pieces of torn game cards. Some cards are still intact. For now. I am not sure what happened to the little records that were part of the game, they disappeared sometime last week.

She carries the box from room to room. Sometimes she just sits on the stairs with the box and taps on the cards. Sometimes one at a time, sometimes in a group. Sometimes she taps them against her ear. Every few minutes she tears one.

Occasionally she smells one.

Continue reading