A Language Built on Wants

fridge

The other morning we were awoken by the grand entrance of Teghan, as usual. I say “grand” because each time she will swing open the door and pause, excitedly; waiting for our acknowledgment of her presence before jumping on top of us. It’s an easy thing to take for granted, but I am still amazed at how different she is from the child who had zero interest in seeking us out in the morning—let alone consider jumping into our bed.

She can also dress herself and express what she wants. If it’s the weekend she will want to watch YouTube videos on daddy’s phone while snuggled between us. This is how we sleep in. Eventually she will get dressed and ask for breakfast. She knows she needs to get dressed first, and once she has accomplished it we know there is no stopping her from going downstairs.

Most of our conversations are along the lines of: “want…. cereal.” She is good at labeling with single words—she has definitely mastered the art of pairing anything with the word “want.” And that is where we have been stuck for a very long time. Continue reading

Mashed Potatoes on the Record Player!

alien

Easter has always been the easiest holiday for Teghan. Holidays usually include kid-friendly events like doubling their toy collection, taking candy from strangers, observing loud explosions in the sky…. but searching for symbols of fertility in strange places around the house? Our kid was made for it.

The Easter egg hunt was the first game concept Teghan ever understood. She is gifted at finding things. Remember the Wham! record? It has proven to be a good tool for vocabulary, too. At some point my husband figured out that if he placed eggs (or sometimes treats) on things throughout the house he could evaluate her receptive language more accurately.

For example, “chocolate on the kitchen table….” is the quickest way to find out if she knows what “kitchen table” means. And if she doesn’t know, she will next time.

These strategies are especially useful when your child cannot communicate and will not “perform.” It doesn’t matter if she knows the answer or not; if we ask her a question we will have about a seventy percent chance of being ignored. Offering an incentive improves that percentage drastically.

So Easter egg hunts are perfect. In our own home, of course (she still isn’t very good with following rules or sharing). This year we offered her back to back days of waking up and coming downstairs to an empty basket and a few eggs in plain sight to get her started. No explanation needed. Continue reading

And This Moment, Too, Will Pass

Teghan Running

In July 2012 I decided to start a blog. I knew nothing about how to do that, but I wanted to share our experiences with our daughter and autism. She was four years old at the time, and things weren’t easy. I hoped to not only find a supporting community, but to communicate a piece of our lives to our friends who we had recently moved away from.

On that first night, when I had finally gathered enough courage to publish what had been on my mind, I had no intention of sharing it. Not yet. I created a Facebook page and shared it with no one. I figured that courage would come later. It was enough that I was willing to have some stranger accidentally stumble across it.

But when I woke up the next morning I had over 200 likes on my Facebook page. Somehow, Autism Daddy had come across my blog and shared it overnight. My post “This Moment Will Pass” already had thousands of views. And it gave me the courage to share my page with friends and family. Continue reading

Problem-Solving Timelines

 

 

cincinnati

Last week I spent a few days in Cincinnati for work. The night before leaving I tried to find the best words to explain to Teghan why she wouldn’t be seeing me. These days she is pretty good at guessing what we want by the keywords she recognizes, so I stressed the words she understood- like work, “night-night,” and hotel. For a moment she was interested in us going to a hotel right that minute, but otherwise the conversation didn’t seem to have much impact. Continue reading

Social Resolutions

 

Bubble

Here we are again. It’s the last day of another year. A year feels like nothing now, but I guess overall I haven’t seen as many as it feels like I have seen. Something about starting a new cycle of anything, even something as simple as a date on the calendar, inspires people to gather up what they took from the last and make promises for the next.  Continue reading

Ornament Endurance Tests

Christimas 2008

Teghan begs for the Christmas tree and a trip to the beach all year long. She’s so used to being turned down I imagine she only asks out of habit now. The response “No Christmas tree!” actually makes her laugh. But on Thanksgiving we threw off her whole routine and finally set up the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, the beach is not in our immediate plans.

She is obsessed with ornaments. The traditional cheap ones she likes to tap her fingernails on and bounce off the floor. The glittery snowflakes she prefers to break apart and, occasionally, take a bite. She doesn’t have the fine motor skills to properly re-attach them to the branches so she just stuffs them in wherever she can. If they fall to the floor? Even better. Our tree looks pretty pathetic, but after the first day we decided it was easier this way. We could spend all day redecorating the tree in our own little OCD cycle, but that seems like poor time management. And I would hate to cut into my “eating on the couch” time.  Continue reading

For the Love of Rivalry

bleachers

Rivalries. In the world of sports everybody’s got one. I would guess I was in elementary school when I first learned I had to make a decision between Michigan and Michigan State (Michigan of course), and that decision would be a lifelong commitment. I know nothing about the teams these schools are currently producing, but I still roll my eyes whenever I see a friend wearing a Spartans shirt in my Facebook news feed. Continue reading

Making Life Easier

Motown

It’s hard to believe it was almost two years ago that I wrote about visiting the Motown Museum in Detroit. Time does fly. Since then I have gushed about how the staff responded to our daughter’s behavior no less than a hundred times. Here I am doing it again….

It was a terrible place to take her. We knew that, which is why we had planned on taking turns. But they convinced us it would be okay. And just a few kind words turned what should have been a miserable experience into something we have been bragging about for two years.

The main reason I bring it up so much is because taking our daughter places is a serious issue in our world and at this point I don’t know if it will ever change. A few months ago we had breakfast at a local restaurant. It was during her constant screaming phase so we did manage to silence the room a few times. But then a few strangers told us how good she had been- and it’s now our new favorite restaurant. Because honestly? I can’t tell you how many times we have left a restaurant with the feeling that we can never go there again. Continue reading

Teaching Beauty

T and Me

I don’t have perfect skin. I am pale and blotchy. You can clearly see the veins on my eyelids and I have had dark circles every day of my life. I don’t wear makeup to be the prettiest woman in the room, I wear makeup because when I don’t people are constantly asking me if I am okay. I wear makeup because it’s an easy fix for potential social anxiety. I don’t seek a perfect complexion. I am simply shooting for normal. Some days concealer is enough, but I apply according to my comfort level.

Women with normal complexions say they understand, but they don’t. They only understand having imperfections. My Facebook news feed regularly reveals makeup-free selfies of women who put themselves on a pedestal for not being afraid to show their naked faces. Who can be the most beautiful without makeup? Come on, girls. Take it all off so we can compare…. Continue reading

The Battle of Retard

I cannot tell you how many times I have been called retarded. Maybe a billion times. In elementary school I suppose my friends and I must have called each other retards an average of sixty times a day. Some days it could be sixty times an hour. My older sister used to do an impression of a “cripple” with a speech impediment that would have me on the floor with laughter. It was our inside joke of sorts, where she would do her impression and try to touch me while I fled for my life.

And the short bus never drove by without someone saying, “there’s your ride.”

None of us were ever offended. Not once. At least, not for any reason that was directly related to the word itself. Why? Because it was always used in humor among friends. Did we know kids who were developmentally or physically disabled? Of course we did. When we were young and cruel we would accuse each other of wanting to marry that kid.

That was in secret. We never said cruel things to his/her face or in front of adults. We knew better. And as we got older, we thankfully became too embarrassed to use an innocent in our ridicule of each other anymore. Because we grew up, and because we were kind and considerate people who understood that it was a terrible thing to do. But the word “retard” remained.

The word had no personal attachments. It was just that thing we had been saying to each other forever. Always while laughing. Always with friends. Always without thinking. Then one day I found out it was something people are no longer supposed to say. And my initial reaction was to roll my eyes. Continue reading