Autism

Really good boy!

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Last night, while we sat and looked at Master Owen’s Christmas haul, I remarked on how much he got, even in his stocking…which was overflowing!

His reply?

“I was a REALLY GOOD boy this year!!”

It made me smile, because it’s so true!

This year, MO has really come into his own.

I’m not sure if it’s the age, all the loving prayers of my online friends, or all the extra help we receive from various agencies.  It’s probably a combination of things.  But whatever the reason, I am really, truly impressed and thankful for Master Owen’s marvelous progress this year!

It feels like an enormous burden has been lifted from me.  For the first time since he came into my life, I feel I can look around and feel safe and have hope about his future.

I realize he will have setbacks and obstacles as any child does, but lately each day makes me more confident that he is finally joining his peer group on the same playing field.  It’s truly an amazing feeling.

So…if you’ve known me for one week or many years, I want to thank my online community for your unwavering support.  It does indeed take a village.

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Autism · Christmas

Cookies for Santa

According to Master Owen, Cookies simply MUST be left for Santa…and, not just ANY cookie.  Absolutely not!

They must be his Mum’s mini M&M cookies, which–as it happens–I am about to pop into the oven right now.

But first, I thought I would give you all the “secret” recipe as my Christmas gift to you, my new readers.

These are yummy, I must admit.  Of course, you are welcome to change the recipe any way you like, but MO seems to think there is magic in this particular recipe. Maybe there is, who knows?

By the way…whatcha doing right now?  There’s still time!  Maybe you should whip up a batch tonight! <wink>

 

Persnickety’s mini M&M Cookies for Santa, Master Owen approved

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks UNSALTED butter, softened
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • A whole bag of MINI M&Ms

Cream sugars with softened butter.  Add eggs and vanilla and blend.  Add flour, baking soda and salt and form dough.  Mix in the mini M&Ms and make a ball.  Don’t work the cookie dough too much!

Chill your dough for at least an hour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll dough into meatball size and place on cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.  Cool well.

Don’t forget to leave Santa something good to drink.  MO prefers soda, but he will tell you Santa likes coffee or a Christmas Egg Nog.

Master Owen also reminds you to leave out some carrots for both the reindeer and Santa Paws.  Remember the reindeer work hard and Santa Paws should never eat chocolate!

Merry Christmas to you all!

 

Autism · Christmas · DIY

Christmas Trees

What do you think of when I mention Christmas trees?

Me?  One word: anxiety.  Yes, anxiety. That’s what comes to my mind when I think about Christmas trees.  Just…anxiety.  A great big ball of anxiety.

It doesn’t seem to matter if the tree is artificial or fresh. White or green. Flocked or naked. White lights or colored.  Blinking lights…twinkling lights…or not.

The very thought of Christmas trees makes me feel like I swallowed a ball of fresh, evergreen garland…the kind with the prickly Scotch Pine needles.

It hasn’t always been this way.

I remember, as a child, staring at our family’s big, shiny aluminum Christmas tree, with the color wheel that twirled around, and feeling peace.  Feeling joy.  Feeling something like contentment.

But it’s been years since I felt anything like that.  25 years of feeling anything but anxiety about Christmas trees.

It’s not every Christmas tree.  Just the one that will adorn my home.

I can sort of enjoy other trees, especially those big, beautiful trees that stand majestically at Rockefeller Center or in the Boston Common.  If not enjoy, I can appreciate the work done to make them look perfect.  Or those amazing department store trees!  Impressive and perfect…but not mine.

For twenty five years I’ve had this odd anxiety about my Christmas tree without ever really understanding or even acknowledging it.  Mind you, my Christmas Tree anxiety has never stopped me from putting up a tree. Heavens, no!  In fact, I’ve often punished myself with two or more trees in one season.

For the record, my basement is bursting with trees, lights and various decorations from years past.

I have two white trees, one I procured from Filene’s for a steal (it was gorgeously decorated at Filene’s, of course) and a smaller one I thought would make a good window tree.  I have the artificial one I tried to pass on to a friend last year.  It’s a beautiful Scotch Pine lookalike from Target, but it has the weirdest set up I’ve ever seen.  The branches–nearly 100 of them–are color coded AND alphabetized, but not well.  Far from helpful, in my opinion.

Then there is the aluminum tree I won on eBay the year my Dad died.  I thought for sure it would evoke memories of the gorgeous silver Pom Pom tree of my youth, but it fell short of my expectations.  I couldn’t even get it to stand up correctly.

I’ve got at least five Christmas tree stands–the heavy wrought iron ones from fancy catalogs–from my fresh tree days.

A stroll through my cellar will reveal all kinds of garland, ribbon by the box load, colored lights, strands of beads, stars and tree toppers of every persuasion.  I’ve got boxes of vintage Shiny Brite ornaments and other  boxes of personalized ornaments dating back to my childhood.  There’s trimmings from last year’s Corgi Christmas Tree, which IMHO was as close to perfection as I have come in the last decade.

There’s also enough things to decorate in any style you could think of: Victorian, Shabby Chic, Art Deco, and even blue and green decorations from my attempt at a “mid-century modern” Christmas.

You’d think after twenty five years of wrestling with Christmas Tree Anxiety, I’d figure out how to do it “right” or, at the very least, acknowledge I have a problem with Christmas trees, right?

Of course not.

It took my ten year old son, Master Owen, and a comment from a middle aged Jewish man I barely knew in my youth to finally acknowledge what has plagued me for years.

This year I was “surprised” when MO put the rebound green tree together without my help.  It was all wrong, of course, because he didn’t follow the ridiculous color/letter codes on the branches.  It looked horrendous! Branches that belonged on the bottom were sticking out toward the middle of the tree and there were holes everywhere, despite my attempts to “fluff” them.  To make matters worse, the lights were incorrectly hung and the star wasn’t even close to to the top of tree!

My head, my heart and my stomach automatically launched into high anxiety mode.  I couldn’t say anything.  I just stared and stared at it.  It looked awful.  Everything about it was just…wrong.  But then I looked at Master Owen and saw how proud of himself he was.  He looked at me, knowing full well what I was thinking, and said: “Give it a while, Mum, it will grow on you”.

Grow on me? GROW on me?  Was he insane??  Did he not know how much my Christmas Tree must be fussed over and worried about?  How the lights had to be perfectly woven throughout the branches so as to create the proper dimension?  Didn’t he understand that you simply couldn’t put the icicle garland on without making sure all of the individual icicles faced downward?

No, he didn’t understand.

I snuck away and called my childhood friend to kibbutz: “Can you believe it?!?” and “What was I going to do? How could I fix this, this monstrosity?”

His response instantly opened my eyes: “What’s more important to you? The tree or your son’s sense of accomplishment?”

Schooled again by Master Owen.

recipe

Ode to NyQuil 

Oh! NyQuil!

Why has it been so long since I felt your love?

I’d been suffering for days until I remembered how wonderful you are. How hard working. How steadfast your relief. 

Oh! NyQuil! How I do love thee!

I am probably breaking all kinds of copyright laws or trademark infringements by evoking your name, but I don’t care. I love you!  Let them lock me up for singing your praises!

You’ve made it so easy to love you! I don’t even have to drink you and feel that horrible shiver run through my body..for you come in gel tabs now!

Relief in such a small package! And so quickly!

Only a few moments before I cannot force my eyes to stay open. I no longer struggle to breathe. I sleep in a blissful slumber. Nothing wakes me! 

And–while I doze–you work your glorious magic! I awaken refreshed.  My nose, clear! My fever, gone. I draw a deep breath into my lungs and do not worry about a cough! Ah! I can breathe deeply!  

I’m not fully recovered, no, but I can function without wanting to punch the trainee working the counter at the post office two days before Christmas!  I can stand irritating little things once again, my friend! 

And I thank you, NyQuil. I feel so close to you right now. 

So close I would probably marry you. 

That is..if my country didn’t have a problem with that sort of thing, which it does. 

Oh…and then there’s coffee, to which I have already committed my waking hours. 

But, NyQuil…you’ve made life two days before Christmas livable again!  

NyQuil! You will always and forever be my bedtime pleasure.  I love you. 

Autism

Same

Communicating with an autistic person can be challenging, but it holds some unique rewards, too.  You have to put in the effort though to reap those rewards.

At the age of four, Master Owen could barely string two words together, so I became an expert at deciphering his efforts to communicate.  Active listening builds your own communication skills as you seek to understand and be understood.  I considered myself a tourist trying to learn how to survive in Master Owenland and it worked.

Time passed and MO’s communication skills grew, of course.  Eventually I discovered MO struggled with “sharing” small life experiences.  By sharing I mean developing a connection between himself and others when seeing or experiencing the same incident.  This difficulty is common with people on the Autism Spectrum; they lack that ability to connect with others.  

Not being able to connect with others doesn’t mean people with autism don’t notice or experience the same things, as often thought.  It’s actually quite the opposite!  MO could walk in a room and immediately notice what was changed.  What he lacked was the ability to communicate those differences. 

Pointing is a classic example of the struggle to relate.  Master Owen, like so many others on the Spectrum, never pointed to objects and he is unable to visually follow someone pointing out something.  You truly don’t realize how difficult it is to communicate when someone fails to identify the skill of jesturing.  Back to Master Owenland I go, trying to find alternate ways to relate.

Now that Master Owen is ten and has developed a wide vocabulary and can communicate well with most people, I’ve noticed a little peculiarity. When we are having a conversation and MO agrees with something I say, he will say: “same” or “also” to show agreement.  It’s taken me a bit of time to adjust to this response as I am expecting “me too” or “I agree”.  When I hear “same” I don’t feel the enthusiasm of agreement, but there IS agreement.  And, once again, I find myself in Master Owenland learning the finer points of communication in his particular language.

My point in discussing these communication hurdles is to show you that people with Autism do indeed have feelings and thoughts, and they desire to communicate them to others.   They are always in the process of learning how to change themselves to meet OUR needs, and we seem to score their progress based on their ability to meet what we consider “normal”.

I often wonder if we–as a society–are so transfixed on sameness that we forget that others don’t think, live or communicate the SAME way.  To use an Autism term, I’m wondering if many of us lack “theory of the mind” instead of the other way around.

 It seems to me our society seeks more to be understood, to communicate our particular preferences and thoughts than to find ways to relate with others.  Perhaps closing our mouths and using our ears is a truer form of practicing “freedom of speech”?

Perhaps we would be better people and a better society if we sought first to understand than to be understood.  

As a wise nun once said to me: “God gave us two ears, but only one mouth”.  (Or, if you are an evolutionist, we have evolved with two ears and one mouth, not the other way around, to ensure our survival.) 

Maybe it’s time to notice something as plain as the features on our faces. Maybe then we would make some progress.  

Let us venture into the land of the unknown with a desire to understand.