Dear Store Clerk–

I understand that you only spend a limited amount of time with each customer that comes through your lane. You probably have to make some snap judgements just to spark conversation with those in your line. But please understand that sometimes you may judge too quickly.

You see, I was the Mom in your checkout lane this morning. Yeah, the one with the child sitting in the cart, even though he seems way too big to be in there. The child who was “happy screaming” (a.k.a. vocal stimming) quite loudly. I was the Mom with bags under her eyes from years of sleepless nights. The Mom who was very aware that I only had a limited amount of time in your store because of the lighting, sounds, and smells.

You saw me and my boy, the one with the iPad, and chose to say, “Wow! Someone sure is spoiled.” Then you shot me what appeared to be a disapproving glance, like if he was your child there is NO WAY you would let him have something like that. Part of me wanted to cry. Part of me wanted to punch you in the face.

You see, I spent countless hours writing grants to get my son his iPad. Not for the games or videos or music. Not so he could look cool to his peers. I wanted this device for him so that he could communicate with me, my family, and his teachers. I longed to know his thoughts. I longed to give him something portable enough to take with him and ease his anxiety when we are away from the familiar.

My beautiful son has autism. Verbal communication is extremely difficult for him, but he can type. And I am forever thankful for that treasured communication link. His iPad has opened a world between us that was closed before.

Guess what I’m trying to say is that before you deem a child “spoiled” for having a piece of technological equipment, take a second look. Look at that parent — she is wearing an autism lapel pin. Look at that child — he is working so hard to not lose it in your store. We are just people trying to get through our day and we could use your support instead of your disapproval.

my autism lapel pin

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I have shared many of the positive notes that have come home from Christian’s classroom this year. I have been excited that there have been so many of them. 🙂

This week has been a hard one for Christian, though. Here are the notes from the last two days…

[Yesterday] Christian has been going to first grade math sweep. The tasks that they do are a challenge to him and his behaviors are not good. Today we had to leave because of headbutting, screaming, and crying. Part of me thinks that he should be able to do the work, but he really isn’t even trying and becomes frustrated with trying to keep up with the fast pace.

[Today] Christian was MAD today. He was obsessed with [Bus Driver R] and Mom topics. He cried several time and lunged at me several times. I did not try first grade math because of his mood.

Christian has been struggling with sleep lately and maybe cutting some new teeth. The weather has been all over the place, which never helps sleep or mood. I just wish that he had the words to tell me what is going on and how I can help him.

Doing all that I can for now and just praying for “happier” notes tomorrow.

Here are a couple of notes that came home with Christian today…

Christian shocked Mr. G (the principal) this morning by stopping him in the hallway, giving him great eye contact, and initiating a greeting!!! 🙂

He also initiated a great conversation about my dog, who he heard me say had hurt his leg.

Good Day!!! 🙂

I’m always so excited to get great reports like this from school, but even more thrilled that it contained smily faces. Especially since it has been a rough couple of weeks!

I just wanted to share another AWESOME note that came home with Christian today!:

Day started with Bethany [teaching assistant] saying “Good Morning” and his response was “Good Morning, Bethany.” When I said “Good Morning,” he responded, “Good Morning, Mrs. B.” Usually he says Julie, if I coax him to say my name.Today no coaxing, just very natural response! We are super excited for him, too.

Yippee!!!  Anyone doing cartwheels with me??? 🙂

Our intention in pursuing an iPad for Christian was to have it as a communication device for him.  To teach him how to use it for when he is too tired to talk, can’t find the words, the words won’t come out, etc.  It is amazing for that!

The ironic thing that is happening, though, is that since he received his iPad he has been communicating more with us VERBALLY!  This is totally HUGE and awesome and overwhelmingly fantastically unexpected!!!  Most of the phrases that he is using are scripted (especially from the cartoon, “Peppa Pig”), but he is using them at appropriate times!  Hooray!!!  [insert all sorts of happy dancing and cartwheeling here!]

Here are some of my favorites from the last couple days:

*”Daddy, I’m definitely not extremely tired!” with a BIG smile on his face. 😉

*Liv got a new piggy bank for her birthday.  Christian grabbed her old one and was trying to shake something out.  I helped him recover a couple dollars.  He said, “I want some of that!”  Then, “Dollar!”  Grandma gave him one.  He put it back in the bank and said, “It’s like money in the bank!”  Then he asked for “more” and followed Grandma out the door when she was leaving asking, “Money? Money?” 😉

*”I need vacation!”

*”To church. To [Mc]Donald’s. To waterpark.”  (What he thought his schedule should be on Sunday.)

*”I love McDonalds! And I want cheeseburger. It’s true!”

Olivia and I had a discussion on the way to school yesterday about communication.  About how some people can’t use words or have a hard time using words to tell other people what they want or need.

Liv was  taking this in and thinking seriously about it.  Then she said, “Some people use sign language.”

“That’s right, honey.”

“And Christian uses ‘hand language.'” [Huh?]  “When he tells us what we wants by showing us instead of talking.”

Absolutely.

Then our conversation meandered back to her birthday.  However, I was still stuck on her simple explanation to Christian’s non-verbal form of communication.

“Hand Language.”

She gets it.  She really does.  🙂

You, my fellow American friends, may not be aware of the phenomenon that is “Peppa Pig.”  It is a primarily British children’s cartoon and shown throughout other European countries.  My first encounter with it was via youtube through Christian searching for things “Nick Jr” related.  I see that it has now started gracing a half-hour time slot on Nick Jr. over the weekends.  Perhaps it will sweep the nation. 😉

Anyway, what started as a curiosity for Christian has turned more into an obsession with Peppa.  He is starting to echo lines from the show.  Which, honestly, is really cute since Peppa speaks with a British accent. (“Jump up and down in muddy puddles!”) 🙂  He walked into Brian’s classroom at the end of Sunday School this past weekend and announced, “Daddy Pig’s Classroom!”  (Too funny!  Especially when followed by a snort!)  Christian still loves to watch Peppa whenever possible via youtube.

He is now starting to search for Peppa on youtube in other languages.  His favorite — Russian.  I have heard him quote lines from these episodes, snort, and then laugh.  😉 [sigh]  Now I will have to learn Russian with a British accent to keep up with my not yet seven-year-old son all thanks to an English pig named Peppa.