Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bully: The movie and it's message

Teenzilla and I went and saw the movie Bully today.  I want children to see this movie. I want educators to see this movie. I want parents to see this movie WITH their children... and to TALK about it.

I am sure most of you heard the controversy over the initial "R" rating- the word "fuck" is used 3 times in the beginning- and that is it. Now it has a PG-13 rating and I hope that middle and high schools around the country will show this film to their students and administrators.  Yes-the talk of suicide is disturbing- but not as disturbing as the fact that these CHILDREN are taking their own lives

Lee Hirsch's film  follows five families whose lives are irrevocably changed when their child becomes the victim of school bullies. The movie follows two families who lost their sons (ages 17 and 11) to suicide because they just couldn’t take the bullying anymore. Tyler Long, a 17 year old boy with Asperger's who hung himself after years of abuse when school administrators and law enforcement turned a blind eye, despite all of his parents efforts.(They unfortunately do not talk about his Asperger's in the movie) And Ty Smalley, an 11 year old who also committed suicide as a result of years of bullying. Kirk and Laura Smalley started Stand for the Silent- dedicated to stopping more children from taking their own lives because of bullies.

Then we meet  14-year old Ja'Meya who is living in a juvenile detention facility while she waits for the courts to decide her fate, after taking a handgun she found hidden at home on the school bus to try to exert power and intimidation over the ones tormenting her. 

We also meet  13-year old Alex Libby, a young man who is punched, hit, threatened, and called ugly names on the school bus and  at school. Repeatedly seeing all of the adults in his life fail to help him- his parents, the bus driver, the assistant principal and even the guidance counselor. It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch- and it had Teenzilla and I in tears- just wanting to reach out to this young man.

Then there is Kelby- the 16 year old girl who came out as a lesbian and endured not only students but TEACHERS mocking her,  and was forced to quit her basketball team, and even had a group of students HIT her driving their mother's mini van. 

I was pissed  at the Assistant Principals who do nothing, and actually make THE VICTIMS feel bad!  Superintendents who talk the talk but don't act to stop a problem... or worse.. deny there is a problem! I was livid listening to some of the political bullshit doublespeak- and seeing the helplessness on these parents faces.  I cried, and wanted to reach out to the kids who were living this hell every day, and cried more when I thought of how this could be my child. 

This movie was about as raw and real as you can get.  No special effects, no actors, no "interviews", just REAL life. And when thinking about how this was just a tiny sampling of schools and families- I can't even begin to wrap my mind around the hundreds of thousands of other schools, here and across the globe- and how many kids are being tormented daily with NO help from those who are supposed to be keeping them safe.

Bullying is an issue that has always been there but now seems to be coming more prevalent. In this age of social media students can be tormented and bullied more easily  than ever before. Bullying is not always physical fighting, outward bruises and physical injury. It goes so much deeper- taunts, and name calling, and threats that occur on a daily basis- these are the scars that last- and that build to destroy a child.  .

Many kids feel their cries for help are not being heard. There needs to be better education for students, teachers and their parents so these kids can be helped. 


Ty Smalley

Ja'Meya Jackson

Tyler Long

Kelby Johnson

Alex Libby

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I LOVE winning stuff!!

First of all let me say- I am an attention WHORE! Those of you who follow my FB page Red Vines and Red Wine are already well aware of that fact! But I also ADORE pimping others that have inspired me, made me laugh, made me cry, made me wonder, made me question, and gave me answers.

So I was THRILLED when  Katie at The Somewhat Sane Mom  nominated ME for the Liebster Award!  Liebster is German for friendship, and having just found The Somewhat Sane Mom- I was thrilled she thought of me!   Katie is the mom of THREE daughters (she must have a lifetime supply of Xanax!) and ALSO runs a daycare out of her home! (I think "Somewhat" Sane might be an overstatement!)  She is a very funny gal, and her blog The Ultimate Reality Competition Show: Disney vs. Nick Jr had me cracking up! My kids are beyond those channels now(well, The Boy has lapses and watches every now and again!) but I can remember those days WELL! ( and I do not miss them...nope, not at all!)

So here is how it works: 

  1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
  3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
  4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 lesser-known blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed & give a little blurb about why you chose each blog.
  5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog.

    1) Bacon and Juice BoxesJerry is the dad of 2 kiddos, his 7 year old has autism. He and his wife Jo Ann are navigating the world of raising their kids and learning all the time. I love "Daddy" blogs- and this one is no exception. He refers to his blog as HIS therapy- and his post Aren't we all on the spectrum? mirrored so many of my feelings, especially as I have learned to be so much more observant of people around me, as well as being more introspective! A wonderful blog that you need to check out!

    2)Mama's Turn Now- Sharon is the mom of 2- her son has Asperger's Syndrome. Hubby travels a lot, and she is BUSY! Like so many parents (moms especially it seems) she is looking for balance- a very elusive thing for any parent, especially one with a child on the spectrum. I love her post Things To Do When You Are Home Sick- by my 8 year old daughter Gracie- her daughter who is not on the spectrum sounds like she is a handful, and this post is adorable, and sweet! 

    3)Laughing Through Tears: Two women, four autism diagnoses, many cocktails. - Erica and Lisa are on my 20 top people to meet and get shitfaced with! They are hilarious, down to Earth and amazing- each one has a distinct personality and both are amazing! The songs have to be my favorite- especially Boy, Put Your Pull Ups On!

    4)Caffeinated Autism Mom- Really, what mom isn't caffeinated? She has 2 boys on the spectrum and needs all the caffeine she can get to run them around, and chase them around! I love how she describes herself as "slightly crunchy" too! Her blog World Autism Awareness Day 2012 was wonderfully written- with facts, and hopefully anyone who read it was sufficiently frightened enough to do just as she said-speak to your legislators. 

    5)And last but not least- White Picket Fence? I think Not- She is the only one on THIS list of awesometicity that isn't autism related- but this chic is funny as hell!!  Read her Here Goes Nothing post- she gives us a glimpse into her life, and her survival of domestic abuse (even though she says that sounds cliche!)  A full time mom and student too- she cracks me up- and her little man is ADORABLE! 

    So there they are- my nominees- each one an amazing blogger in their own right, and each one definitely worth your time!

    Also- the first 4 (and me too) are onTop Autism Blogs- so go find them (and me too!) and give them (and me too!) a "like"!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It really is the little things in life

When you have a child with autism, you learn just how many things you take for granted. Especially if you have other children that aren't autistic. You learn it  really is beyond impossible to compare your Autie kiddo to anyone else. I have learned a lot of hard lessons since The Boy was diagnosed 6 years ago. He is 9 years old, and should  be getting loads of birthday party invites, riding his bike up to get a Slushee, having sleepovers, you know- all the things that are part and parcel of being 9.

But we don't get birthday party invites, he is only allowed to ride his bike to the end of the street and back without one of us, has not been invited to a sleepover, not that I know if I would let him go. He has friends, other kids do ok with him, but these are just parts of life he has yet to experience, and may never get to.

But, as easy as it is to let myself get disappointed with the things others associate with "normal" life, I can't let it rule our lives. Yes, occasionally I wallow, and throw myself a pity party, but I get past it, move on and revel in the beautiful soul that The Boy is. I choose to focus on his huge achievements, his wonderful smile and silly sense of humor.

Today was one of those days that I felt truly blessed, and experienced a moment of pure happiness.  At school the kids earn yellow "tickets" for exemplary behavior and helping others. They can put these tickets into a drawing for a prize at the end of the week, into a drawing to be Star Student and read the Pledge of Allegiance and the school pledge over the loudspeaker for the whole school, or save them to buy things at the student store.

Twice now, The Boy has put his ticket into the drawing to do the pledge, and today was the second time he got to do it. The first time I didn't even know about it until the next day- he forgot to tell me. I heard from teachers and the principal what a wonderful job he did.  Yesterday, I happened to see the Star Student List and his name was on it to do the pledge today! I asked him about it, and he was very laid back about it- "Yeah, I'm gonna do the pledge again mom"

So I stayed at the school today just so I could hear him. He has this speech issue- he is very "breathy" when he talks, and is sometimes hard to understand as he takes a lot of breaths between words, and sometimes between syllables.  But he did not have one "stutter" one stumble or one mistake today. He read in a clear , steady voice and sounded amazing. I sat in the cafeteria and I cried pure, happy tears.  Just a few years ago, he wasn't even speaking, hell just a few months ago he would never have even tried to earn one of the yellow tickets.

A parent that doesn't deal with autism, or any other special need for that matter, would have probably thought I was ridiculous. These are  the little things that keep us from curling up in the fetal position and living in a constant state of depression. Little things that parents of neurotypical kids may take for granted This one little thing, just a day in the life of 4th grader, was a HUGE deal in my life.  And the pride that HE will feel from a job well done- well that is priceless.

And it is these little things we remember and celebrate.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Autism Awareness- NOT a Celebration.

April is Autism Awareness Month. I hear so many people asking how others are going to "celebrate".  There is no "celebration", unless it is celebrating the accomplishments our kids make. Autism is NOT cause to celebrate. It is now a cause for panic- why are the numbers climbing? Why is NOTHING being done about it? 

I intend to use platforms such as my blog, my Facebook page and my big fat mouth to push autism awareness, action and acceptance. I will shout it from the rooftops. I want to make people aware of the epidemic that is Autism. I don't celebrate it. I don't know many who do. I celebrate my son's accomplishments. I celebrate his milestones. I celebrate his amazing little self- but I DO NOT celebrate the fact that he is 1 in 88 children  that are diagnosed with this disorder.

I am not an advocate for a "cure" necessarily. I know many who say "curing" their Autism would be taking something away from them- making them less than what they were. These are adults I have spoken to that have lived with the disorder and are functioning in the world now. But when I talk to the mom who is still changing her 10 year old son's diapers or the dad is holding on to the hope that his daughter will one day make eye contact and say she loves him- I have to say would a "cure" be so bad? Hell- I want a CAUSE or CAUSES pinpointed for the huge upswing in Autism- then perhaps a cause will lead to a cure and so on and so forth.

But in the meantime- I will be an awareness junkie. I will read, research, talk, and write for Autism Awareness, I will shove facts, figures and stories in your face - just in the hopes that you will pass on that knowledge to someone else. This is how awareness is spread- from me to you, from you to your spouse or friend and from them to someone else. I don't expect you to become and expert- I am not an expert - but I know a hell of a lot- and you could learn a thing or two from me.
This is not a month to celebrate. This is a month to learn, and to teach. Parents of autistic children, and adults on the spectrum are a wealth of knowledge that only want the rest of the world to understand

Autism Awareness and Autism Action

Almost every time I tell someone The Boy has autism, they tell me the story of who they’ve met (or heard of) who has autism. Sometimes they ask questions, the most often asked "Do you think it was vaccines?" (I have my own personal thoughts about this, and I gladly share them- but that is not the purpose of THIS blog). They share their own experiences, and hopefully take something away from the conversation to share with someone else. Most of the stories I hear are of someone with unusual skills or abilities. I am often asked what my son's "thing" is. Is he amazing at math? Does he memorize important dates? And while he does have a "thing" (dinosaurs) it is not always a positive thing.  Yes- the memorization skills are amazing, but the inability to move on from the subject has hindered him at times.  I appreciate and will answer any and all questions that I am able to- and I will refer people elsewhere if I do not have the answer.

So  now that it is Autism Awareness Month- I have to ask myself  exactly what is it that I want people to be aware of?   Is it the rising numbers? Now 1 in 88.  Is it the sad state of our education system and it's inability to properly help our kids and not seclude, restrain or hurt them? (This is a broad statement- there ARE many great schools and teachers out there that advocate tirelessly for autistic students)  Do I want people to be aware that not every person with autism is "Rainman", that savantism only comprises a very small percentage of people on the Autistic Spectrum? How about that not all autistic people are non verbal- MANY (including The Boy) are very verbal- even though The Boy's words didn't escape him until he was 4 years old. How about the fact that not all people with autism hate to be touched? Many love physical contact and crave the sensory input  from hugs and cuddling.  How about that autism doesn't "look" like anything- that most of our beautiful children are physically indistinguishable from their neurotypical peers, and most likely you have met an adult on the spectrum and didn't even know it.  Yes- these and so many other things are what I want people whose lives may never be touched by autism to be aware of.  

I want people to be aware that Autism Speaks is NOT the only organization you can donate to. In fact- since most of the money they bring in goes to high priced salaries. I highly encourage people to Google LOCAL charities and organizations if they wish to donate, either time or money. Here are a few national organizations that I support and encourage others to as well.

I admire The Boy and am proud of all of his accomplishmentst. He is  sweet, full of fun, and ready to try anything because he loves adventure and trusts his parents to keep him safe.  And while I do worry about his future (what parent doesn't?) I try to focus on today- and what is happening NOW.  I have lived in the past, and I have dwelled on the issue the future brings- but here and NOW is what is most important. Here and NOW is what will help shape his future. 

"It is a tragedy when children and adults with autism are not able to fully participate in their communities because they cannot access the services that would allow them to do so. The more we learn about autism, the more hope we have for treatment and the more tragic inaction becomes..." Former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)