Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How will a $3,000 scholarship for education make a difference in my life?

If you read my blog you know I have been trying to finish my Special Education degree for a number of years now.  Work, kids, life and autism have always managed to get in my way. That and MONEY!! That's what it really all boils down to- the all mighty dollar!!!  And like most people- I never have any extra- and if by some crazy miracle I do- it most likely goes on my kids' backs, and wouldn't be enough to even buy a textbook. (Did you know you can RENT those now??)

3 years ago, I got a scholarship. It would allow me to take at least two classes a semester for a year. I unfortunately- in my giddy excitement ( I ADORE being a student) I didn't read that it was for Winter, Fall, Winter, Fall. No Spring/Summer. So- I took a spring/summer class, only to be very upset when I realized my mistake. I contacted the college and asked if there was ANY way I could substitute that Spring/Summer semester for the last Winter one. No. I couldn't. I still don't understand why- probably a punishment for being an idiot.

So- now I am into the college for almost 2K and it is the LAST bill I think to pay- what with keeping my lights on, food in the house and my mortgage paid- that seems like small potatoes. But I am desperately unhappy in my current job. I LOVE what I do- but I want my own class! I want to be helping kids just like The Boy- I want to be making a difference doing what I LOVE. So now the scholarship hunt begins.
(Don't even ask about FAFSA- been down that road- DENIED)

With a gazillion sites out there Broke Scholar,,Education Connection,  and of course offerings from my university of choice (Wayne State- go Warriors!), each promising thousands of dollars to get an education, it's not HARD to apply. It just takes hours, days, weeks of sifting through, writing essays, (hence the title of this blog) and meeting deadlines.

I have applied for and wrote several  "short answer" essays- and when I read them I think- why WOULDN'T someone give me this scholarship? And then I remember- ohhhhh....because I am competing with all of the millions of 18-20 year old's just beginning their college careers, the millions of people retraining for a new career after losing their jobs in our shitty economy. But then- I try to look at the bright side- I want to be a SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER!! With an Autistic Spectrum Disorder endorsement. I know that so many schools need GOOD special ed teachers, I know I could find a job- especially with the endorsement.  So dammit- give me some MONEY!!

Then my neighbor asks me- do you ever wonder if it is worth it to finish your degree at this age- when someone 15 -20 years younger than me might be considered first. And I said NO- of course not! Because along with an education from a school of higher learning, I have many years of PRACTICAL experience that put me way ahead of some fresh faced young thing- that has no idea that walking into a special needs environment  means kids that don't speak, kids who can't control their bodies, kids who have violent outbursts, kids who need to have diapers changed, kids on the spectrum, kids with ADHD, kids that hit, kick, spit and cry.  Parents who look to you for guidance, support and help. Cuts in funding for already struggling programs, Grant writing (aka begging for money) and making do with what you have. A physical, and mentally challenging career that takes a special person to do, and do well.

You may ask- WHY IN THE FUCK WOULD YOU WANT TO DO THIS? Simple- because I love kids- all shapes, sizes and colors. And since beginning this journey with Autism- I have had an opportunity to meet so many different kids, with different issues, and they need someone like ME! I am vocal, I am tireless when it comes to advocating. I believe EVERY child can learn. What they NEED to learn and WHEN they need it.

This is why I need a paltry $3000. This is how a scholarship would make a difference in my life- so I could FINALLY  start to finish my education and  make a difference in  so many other's lives. So what if I am  starting at 40 years old? I have A LOT to give, A LOT of years to go.

So c'mon- show me the $$$$.  Pretty please??

Monday, January 23, 2012

Selfish, Spoiled and Pampered- Raising kids in the GIMME MORE generation

I spoil my kids- if you consider spoiling them loving the hell out of them, making their favorite desserts out of the blue, making sure they have a really good breakfast the morning of an exam, letting them have friends over, taking them to the doctor and dentist, putting braces on their teeth so they don't have snaggle smiles- you know all the things a parent does. I buy them stuff-  1 or 2 extravagant toys at Christmas- when I can afford them.  Cute clothes, take them to movies, again- normal stuff a parent does, or tries to do.

Let me paint a picture of the modern teen. Rather spoiled and generally obsessed with shopping for labels and brand name items. Today,fancy electronic gadgets are everywhere, and every tween and teen just HAS to have them- because of course "ALL my friends have one"  so parents, in some bizarre competition with other parents make sure they get whatever they can- and call it love. From cell phones to laptops to iPods, many youths have established themselves as walking, talking digital units who devote a good portion of their day on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and of course the incessant texting.

Not as preposterous as one might think
But now let me paint you a picture of the modern elementary school child. *See above*.  Yes- kids as young as 6 & 7 have fancy cell phones, iPads and PSP's- IN THE SECOND GRADE!!!  Ridiculous- right? 

My oldest, The 20-Something got his first cell phone at 16. In the last 5 years, I have bought him one other cell phone. Until recently, when he turned 21- and I got him an iPhone. At 21 years old.  With the promise that he will be moving out..SOON. 

My Teenzilla got her first cell phone and mini laptop at age 11.   "But mooommmm...ALL my friends have one". And I don't want her to be the one to go without. So pester power prevails, and BAM- now at 13 she has  a regular laptop and was pissed- PISSED- that I bought her 21 YEAR OLD brother an iPhone and not her!  I got her a new cellphone, it's a smart phone, it's cool and all, and best of all it was FREE. But all she needs it for is letting me know where she is and texting her friends- she does not need the latest supermegafancyawesometastic phone out there. SHE IS 13!!!  But you would think I was telling her I was cutting off her arm, because now ANOTHER friend got an Evo- and why didn't I get that phone..wah, wah, wah. 

Overall we’re all just doing our best to raise well-rounded, caring human beings aren’t we? In my opinion that means people who treasure friendship above material possessions and who don’t stress the small stuff , like cell phones, and such.

And- if we indulge their every whim at such a young age- the newest, bestest, neatest cell phone, the newest, bestest, neatest portable game system, what do they have to look forward to? If they get all this stuff at 7,8,9,10- what do they have to look forward to when they turn 13,16,18,21?? These are milestone birthdays- and telling a kiddo that they have to wait until one of them to get something  supermegafancyawesometastic - doesn't that make it more special? What do our kids have to look forward to- if we keep letting them grow up too fast?  

My kids aren't lacking- don't get me wrong.  I know what it’s like to want to give your kids everything. I struggle to keep myself from buying stuff for the kids when we are out. I want to see them happy and it’s a super feeling seeing a kid’s face light up when they get something new.  And yes- I am guilty of over compensating for time not spent. But not often- I am always broke, as Teenzilla likes to point out to me all the time. 

And what about the pressure on the kids themselves? Yeah- kids feel the pressure too...not considered good enough because of their lack of the newest gizmo.  But these are problems that don't normally arise until late middle school and high school. And that extends to everything from clothes to cars and has been going on FOREVER.  But it's  now getting to be that way as early as 1st and 2nd grade- with 10-11 years in school to go! 

I say- give them something to look forward to- yes it's hard to hear how they are being left out of a particular group at school, and yes it's hard to say no sometimes- believe me- I know! But having something to look forward to is a great thing- it's a great way to be happy. And don't we as parents really want that more than anything else for our kids?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Changing the definition of Autism will not end the Epidemic- but it may ruin lives.

If you have a child on the spectrum, or with ADHD, or any of the acronyms associated with behavioral and/or  psychological  disorders then you are quite familiar with the DSM-IV

Right now, the DSM-IV criteria for Autistic Disorder is as follows:

A. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):
(1) qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
(a) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors, such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
(b) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
(c) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)
(d) lack of social or emotional reciprocity
(2) qualitative impairments in communication, as manifested by at least one of the following:
(a) delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)
(b) in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
(c) stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language
(d) lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level
(3) restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities as manifested by at least one of the following:
(a) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
(b) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
(c) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting or complex whole-body movements)
(d) persistent precoccupation with parts of objects
B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play

The criteria for Aspergers Syndrome/High Functioning Autism (HFA) are:

An Asperger/HFA screening tool must meet all six areas defined by the DSM-IV description of Asperger Syndrome (A-F below) to qualify for a positive rating from First Signs:
A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
(1) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors, such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
(2) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
(3) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
(4) lack of social or emotional reciprocity
B. Restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
(1) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
(2) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
(3) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
(4) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years).
E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
F. Criteria are not met for another specific pervasive developmental disorder or schizophrenia.

The latter is what The Boy is diagnosed with- High Functioning Autism or HFA. I can't tell you how many times I have heard someone say "Well, he doesn't LOOK autistic"   because as we all know autism has so many physical identifiers (heavy sarcasm).  If you read the criteria for Aspergers/HFA  and if you met my son- you would see that even this diagnosis isn't all correct. He DID have a speech delay. He DIDN'T have age appropriate self help skills, and there IS a significant cognitive delay. But under A & B- he meets most of the criteria. *Sigh* It's confusing, I know.

Now- a so called panel of "experts"   is changing the definition of autism- because apparently the current definition is too "vague" (refer to the above references- how vague is that?)  You can read the article here How many individuals is this new definition going to exclude? There are no numbers yet- but I am guessing it will be a staggering amount. "The proposed changes would probably exclude people with a diagnosis who were higher functioning."   

This absolutely terrifies me. MY son is considered high functioning- yet with a cognitive delay of 1.5-2 years, inability to write legibly, struggles in math and reading comprehension, and definitely issues with social situations- he needs all the supports he can get- which now that he is "mainstreamed" are very few. But he does get OT, he does get Speech, and his work is modified, and he is allowed to use his AlphaSmart(keyboard) for a good portion of his assignments. Would this all be taken away? Would he be put in a fully mainstreamed class, with no supports at all- left to struggle and regress? Hell no- because he would be home schooled. A possibility I have been researching for a couple of months now.

 His insane preoccupation with dinosaurs could be the foundation of lesson plans. I could teach him Math, Science, Reading, Spelling and History- all through dinosaurs. And he would be more interested, more attentive and still LEARN. 

And what about adults that depend on social security and other services? What happens to them? Will they be kicked out of assisted living environments? Will the caregivers be able to support them if their social security benefits are stopped?  The impact of this spans all age groups, ethnic groups, financial brackets you name it - of those diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, HFA, or PDD. 

What is your opinion on this? I am scared, this is a life changer for so many, and I am desperately trying to form a contingency plan. Because above all else- The Boy comes first. HIS needs, academically, socially and emotionally.  This is gonna be a rough road for sure. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I don't swear that f&*%$ing much!

 *Warning: This post contains liberal use of many swear words. Especially the "F" word.  If you tend to be put off by four letter words -stop here.

I really don't

Fuckshitdamnbitchhellcrap. Swearing. We all do it to some degree. And don't you dare play all innocent with me. I am willing to be that just about EVERYBODY has uttered at least one expletive in their life- even if nobody was around to hear it.  

I have tried to be that mom- the one who demoralizes swearing. No words are BAD words- depending on the context. Not that I wanna hear FUCK coming out of my little darlings pie hole ( oh - and it has, on more than one occasion) but I feel that if I tell them not to do it-but yet I turn around and do it- it's not much of a lesson, right?  I am not a "do as I say not as I do" type parent.  I don't advocate using profanity- I just don't make a HUGE fucking deal out of it.  (see what I mean?)

I was having a conversation with my mister this morning. Just a normal, run of the mill, husband/wife type conversation. Both Teenzilla and The Boy were in the same room.  I can't remember exactly what prompted it, but I left the room, and over my shoulder I said "Fuck You" to the hubs...not angrily- we had been joking about something and that was my response. Neither kid reacted- well- The Boy does censor me- when I use spicy language he says "HEY" very loudly- and I usually apologize and continue on with whatever I was talking about.   


This got me thinking- growing up I heard my share of swearing. Shit, dammit, asshole, sonofabitch, these were things I heard, albeit sporadically. If either of my parents uttered the word Fuck it stopped me in my tracks. That was a word that just wasn't said out of the blue- if at all...not when I was growing up anyway. My parents uttering the mack daddy of all swear words was reason for me to hide- shit was going down and I didn't want to be around.  

But now- raising my kids- the word fuck is just that. A word. Not a very nice word to be sure- but just a word that has a time and place. Not at school, not at Grandma's house, not in front of younger kiddos, but there are times. Hurting yourself really bad for instance- that is cause to say Fuck.  Being irritated at school and saying "What the fuck" not OK. (Yes that happened- The Boy said that at after school care. Luckily I was there and diffused the situation quickly)  

I don't spew curse words in every conversation, around other people's kids, or in public. Like I said- there are times and places for these "language enhancers" (thank you Spongebob) and in the middle of Target or surrounded by kids at the local park are not them.  I would NEVER dream of using the word fuck in any connotation around my Grandma.  But in the comfort of my own home- with only my family around? You bet your sweet ass I use them . All the fucking time. Unless The Boy is censoring me- then I just say them quietly...

So for all of you that think I am a terrible,cock-a-doodie dirty sorry. Words are words are words. How we choose to wield them is what gives them meaning- good or bad.  I could say fuck off ya fuckin fucks- but that is pretty rude. I did put a disclaimer at the top of this blog- AND the title alone should have given you an idea you wouldn't like this subject matter- so I can only assume you kept reading so you could get all pissed off and make a rude comment- so in that case Off is the direction in which I would like you to fuck... 

This is fucking amazing!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Play Dates with Autism and a host of other acronyms

There are certain words and phrases automatically strike fear in the hearts of parents of autistic children. Summer vacation. Low battery. Out of Goldfish crackers.  

The one that has always got me is "Play date"  The boy is 9 now- is it still considered a "play date?" What else could I call it? Hanging out? Bouncing off the walls followed by an overstimulated meltdown? That last one kinda takes the shine off what should be a fun time.  

Since social and play skills are a pretty standard deficits amongst children with autism, parents are encouraged to organize play dates with typically developing peers so that our kids can model their play schemes and behaviors.  I used to do this. When The Boy was in preschool and in kindergarten- I went out of my way to go to any and all play dates that were offered...and became a part of a babysitting exchange just for the opportunity to watch some neurotypical kids- and give The Boy an opportunity to go to their homes.  Because  we all know everything that neurotypical children do is so great and our ASD kiddos NEED to learn how to play like them. (Heavy on the sarcasm here...ok)

Try organizing a play date with other kids on the spectrum- or that have AD/HD. Or OCD. Or ODD. Or are EI. (emotionally impaired) That also gets tricky. Because - and I am being brutally honest here- there are days I can barely stand my own kid's incessant chatter about dinosaurs and Pokemon,  bouncing off the walls, picky eating habits and tendency to be drawn to all things electronic as opposed to real life interactions. I have never thought to myself  "Hey- The Boy is completely unpredictable at times, let’s invite  another one into the mix and see how crazy shit can get up in here"

Not to say we haven't had successful play dates over the years- sure we have. With both neurotypical kids AND kids on the spectrum, or AD/HD, or any other acronym you wanna throw out there. The dynamics are COMPLETELY  different of course, but one thing never changes- and that is my hovering, making sure to explain something The Boy may have just said or done that has the typical kid looking at him strangely, or diffusing what could be a very dangerous situation when two kiddos on the spectrum disagree about something- anything.   But we have survived them, and not been any worse off after. 

The scenario now: The Boy has this friend. He is in the special ed class he is in. Yeah- the school where he was to be fully mainstreamed and yet still goes to a special ed class... that is a rant for another time. This friend is the same age as The Boy. He is also EXTRAORDINARILY AD/HD. He is also very immature for his age and I suspect very emotionally impaired (EI). I have had the opportunity to work with this boy in the after school program where I work as well. I know him pretty well. And when he has a bad day he has a BAD day. An only child, he is VERY bossy and insists everything be done his way, and The Boy will do whatever he says to do- because he thinks this is how to be a good friend. ( remember the social issues thing?) We are working on that.  I truly like this kid and I feel bad because he really doesn't seem to have any other friends- with the exception of my kid anyway.  This makes my heart hurt. I see and hear how he gets picked on- and - at least in my program anyway- it is NEVER allowed.  But I only have these opportunities  for a few hours a week, and believe me - there are times I could just sit down and cry after he gets picked up. Especially when The Boy is with can get wacky.  This friend can be VERY aggressive, and shouts things like "LEAVE ME ALONE I'M GONNA KILL YOU!" when other kids are upsetting him. I have had to stop him from hitting a few times too.  But he truly seems to like The Boy, and the feeling is quite mutual. There have been times when my boy has told him to "Calm Down!"  making me feel pretty damn proud- but also wondering if fostering the friendship will cause The Boy to pick up bad behaviors not previously had- or grown out of. 

I mean, everyone wants their kid to be around, if not typical, then “higher-functioning” kids. But if most of us are somewhere in the middle, there’s always someone “higher” and there’s always someone “lower”.I may be leery of having The Boy  have a  play date with a kid who displays aggressive behaviors,  but trust me, there are plenty of kids that AREN'T lining up for play dates with him.  In the long run- I just want The Boy to have fun and be happy- regardless of the "functioning" abilities of a friend. Now- if that friend hurts my kid, starts setting fires or neighborhood puppies start disappearing- that would be a game changer. 

So today- I dove right in- talked to the mom- invited the friend over for a few hours. Now- just so you have an idea - here we have 2 nine  year old boys- both VERY into dinosaurs and Pokemon.  Both with developmental delays. One with Autism, AD/HD,  and OCD. The other severely AD/HD and suspected EI.  
It all started out great- both excited, both wanting to play different things on different electronic devices, but getting along ok...I mean- they weren't interacting a whole lot, and I was doing my best not to hover or shove them together.  There was chasing of the cat, running up and down the stairs- "normal" stuff. Then the Nerf Guns came into play. Which I was all for- they were playing TOGETHER and not on the Wii/computer/DS/iPad either. But our house is small- and it is unusually mild for January in MI, so I sent them outside. 

Within about 2 minutes of being outside- the friend decided to hit the basement window with the Nerf gun- "to see if it was plastic". It wasn't.  There was a slurry of  "I'm sorry's" and the threat of tears and a meltdown.  I didn't explode- I made sure nobody was hurt, and hubby got all the glass and boarded the window up.   I asked what happened-they told me and ran off.   So now I wonder- should I call mom? He's only been at my house for 30 minutes. I debated for a minute and then I.Let.It.Go.  Let it go! I mean- what the hell was I going to do?    

The rest of the afternoon went fine- excited and loud but fine. Then I started wondering- do I tell his mom? I mean- the kid did break a window- but it was the basement window and can be replaced fairly inexpensively (I hope). This was the first time they have played together outside of school, and it was an accident. Sort of. In the end- I didn't say a damn thing.  Right or wrong- I don't know and don't care. Maybe The Boy will go over to their house and break something. But with my luck it would be the plasma TV.  



Monday, January 2, 2012

Sippy Cups Anonymous

There are a few stages that all parents go through with their kids- usually at about the same time. One being The Sippy Cup.  This magical transition from bottle to cup, baby to toddler, a milestone to be recorded in the baby book and calls placed to all your family and friends touting your BIG KID'S accomplishment! (Unless of course it's kid # 3 or #4- in which case it's just a blip on your radar.)
The ONLY sippy cup I want in my house

 My oldest and middle kids both graduated to sippy cups between 1.5 and 3 (YES THREE..SHUT UP!). Teenzilla had a harder time than The Oldest, she was  is a very stubborn little girl.  The Oldest- he did pretty well giving his bottle up- a few tears, some back sliding when Nana would give in- but he was done with the bottle right at 2 years old- big round of applause for me! ( just kidding- really) Now Teenzilla- that was a nightmare. We did the water only in the bottle and what she really wanted to drink in the sippy- which she promptly responded to by hurling the cup as hard as she could. We let her cry it out - and she could cryandcryandcryandcry- her will was MUCH  
stronger than mine. She was well over 2 years old before she was completely "bottle broke" GASP! 

 Nowadays if you don't have your baby off a bottle, drinking from a sippy and feeding themselves BEFORE 2 years old- you are a horrible parent and you are destroying your child's teeth, creating speech problems and attachment issues.  I personally think that's all a load of bullshit- but that's me. 

Now there is The Boy. He is 9. He will be 10 in July. And he still drinks from a sippy cup. Oh- I could blame it all on the autism, I could say he has a hard time drinking from a regular cup ( he kind of does- he prefers straws all the time) but really - it is all about the meds he takes.  He started taking medication to help him sleep at 3 years old. Because up until then HE DIDN'T SLEEP.  So after the autism diagnosis- he was prescribed Clonidine - or rather it's generic equivalent- Catapres- which put him to sleep.

Initially we would crush it up and feed it to him in pudding. Then he started giving foods up he used to love, pudding being one of them, and caught on to us trying to feed him the crushed up meds in anything else. He quickly wised up to the "It's sprinkles" lie. So then- because we had liked  being able to sleep again- we decided to crush it to a fine powder and put it in juice. In a sippy cup. Yes, at night. Because- along with the bottle I finally got rid of at 3 years old, he also gave up drinking milk. No chocolate milk, no soy milk at all.  So watered down apple juice it was. 

Yup- this looks like ours
And now-even though The Mister swears he knows he takes medication-he gets a sippy cup with juice in the morning for the ADHD meds, and one at night for the Catapres.  We have had the same 2 Spongebob sippy cups for about 4 years now- and I refuse to buy more.  But until he can either A) Swallow a pill or B) Be persuaded to take the meds  crushed up in ice cream or something he likes I feel we are stuck.  

My biggest fear is that one of his classmates will find out about it. That is NOT the way I want him to give it up.  My heart is pre-broken just thinking about that disaster.   Now I need MY sippy cup....