Sigh. I’ve waited to post this (and actually wondered if I ever would) because it gets my emotions so raw. Let me start at the beginning…
Brian and I decided that it would be a good idea to put both kids in swimming lessons this spring. Liv has never taken “formal” lessons. Christian took “special needs” lessons last winter. Christian enjoyed the water, however, Brian and I were concerned that they didn’t focus enough on swimming skills vs. the-love-of-water. Christian has never had a problem with the latter. We really wanted him to learn some basic water survival skills.
About a month before the classes were set to start (and we were ready to register), I tried emailing the aquatics director to see if it was feasible for Christian to partake in “regular” lessons. I waited and waited. A week passed and I hadn’t heard from her, so I stopped into her office to talk with her directly.
She didn’t seem too concerned about anything that I wanted to tell her about Christian. She just asked (more than once) if Christian was OK without me in the water with him.
Well, yes, he is OK without me.
Her answer to me then was to enroll him in whatever class I wanted to. She didn’t seem to have time or attention to listen to any of my other concerns, so I left her office and signed him up for “regular” class at the same time as Olivia. Easier for me. Awesome.
…or so I thought…
I arrived with the kids on the first night of class. Both were excited and couldn’t wait to get into the water. When all of the children were divided into smaller groups, I could sense a rumble of concern about Christian from the instructors. They were nervous about him. One of them went and asked the aquatics director if she was “OK with him being here.” Her reply was, “If he’s OK without Mom in the pool, then I’m fine with him being here.”
I started to get nervous and anxious about my son being referred to as him. I was starting to get irked, but tried to stay calm and positive for Christian.
I backed out through the door and watched carefully. As I stood there I was horrified, crushed, and angry as one of the instructors (right in front of Christian), started tearing up and shaking. As I tried to read her lips, I could see that she was saying, “I can’t handle this! I don’t know how to teach him! I can’t do this!” She was panicking, shaking her hands, and looking at him like he was the plague! I wanted to run out there, grab Christian out of the water, and shield him from her reaction.
Eventually, the aquatic director came out and talked to the teary-eyed instructor, went and talked to one of the other lifeguards, and then headed my direction. Sigh.
Aquatic director walked right over to me, and in front of all of the other parents, started telling me that Christian could not be in these classes. She told me that he is not capable and that thankfully they were overstaffed on lifeguards that night so one of them could spend time with Christian for the rest of the allotted class time. She told me that I would have to enroll him in the “special needs” classes if I wanted him to continue lessons and that she supposed that she could “roll him over” into the special class that started in two days. She made this sound like she was doing me this huge favor. Sigh.
Had it not been such a long day by that point, I might have been more vocal with the aquatic director. However, as I watched my beautiful boy now happily splashing around with extra lifeguard, I just nodded and told her that I would like to continue the lessons and to go ahead and put my baby in the other class.
I’m sure that aquatic director said some more things to me, but I was done listening. I was too busy watching Christian and fighting back my own tears. I was lost in thought wondering whether Christian had heard and how much he understood about what the swim instructor had said about him at the beginning of the class.
As soon as aquatic director walked away, I could no longer hold myself together. I started bawling, uncontrollably, by that window, in front of the other parents. I tried to stop. I really did. But I just couldn’t. There were too many emotions washing over me all at once.  I donned as brave face as best as I could and attempted to pull myself back together by the end of the class.
Two days later, Christian started lessons in the special needs swim class again.
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Three weeks passed and my emotions were not as raw as they had been. The kids are thriving in their swim classes. I made an appointment to talk to the CEO of the place where the kids were taking their classes. He agreed to meet with me the next day.
I recounted our story. He listened to my every word. He asked questioned and repeated me, just to make sure that he fully understood what I had said. He promised to use it as a “teaching moment” and asked that I let him know how the swimming class turned out in the end.
I was satisfied.
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Swimming lessons have now come to a close.
Olivia did fantastically well and loved every minute of her class.
And Christian … well, Christian did great. He also had the most excellent of teachers, Mr. Tim. Mr. Tim was genuinely happy to see Christian every week. Mr. Tim was energetic, caring, and resourceful. He got Christian to try things that I wasn’t sure I would ever see him do – like putting his head underwater to grab a ring off of the bottom of the pool! I know! Awesome, right?!? Mr. Tim had him working on paddling with his arms. Once Christian could do that pretty well, Mr. Tim had Christian start working on his kick. Christian still may be a long way from swimming on his own, but he is now on his way thanks to the patience and understanding of Mr. Tim.
I wish that there were more Mr. Tim s in this world…
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It is World Autism Awareness Day. Autism is thrust into the spotlight and buildings, monuments, businesses, universities, and homes around the world light up blue for the day. It seems especially significant this year as the CDC released new prevalence numbers last week now saying that 1 in 88 children (1 in 54 boys, 1 in 252 girls) will be diagnosed with autism. The numbers are staggering. They remind me of why educating others about autism is so important.

I have felt like I am at a loss for words about our journey lately. So much has happened. We have reached some joyous highs — like a field trip in which spaghetti was eaten and actually enjoyed!!! 😀 — to some of the lowest of lows — headbutting teachers at school and needing to be removed from the classroom with tears that just never seem to end 😦 . We have had to adjust medications that no 7-year-old should have to take. I have had to have meetings with heads-of-companies about mistreatment of individuals (and parents) with autism. We have spent too many nights up at 2 or 3 am because sleep will no longer happen for our beautiful son. All of this happening since January. I know that I have felt overwhelmed and exhausted in every way possible. I can’t even begin to imagine how my dear boy has felt through all of this.

Our 1 in 88 (1 in 54).

Our 1 in 88 (1 in 54).

But Christian doesn’t give up. He powers on and inspires those around him. His braveness has encouraged me on this journey and looking back I wouldn’t ask to be on any other path or I would have missed out on all of these unexpected lessons that I have learned along the way. And I am thankful for God’s goodness (Jeremiah 29:11) — “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We have also been blessed to have our beautiful Olivia. Christian’s “big” little sister. She is his advocate and friend and loves him without condition. She “wore it up blue” in honor of her brother today. I am so proud of the great sister that she is…

Olivia wears it up blue for World Autism Awareness Day.

Just know that each person’s/family’s journey with autism will be different. We are all on a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. Some of us will want help and some will want to go it alone. Some of us are willing to share our stories and some will just not be ready to let others into our realities. But we are all here. We are your family, friends, neighbors, members, customers, etc.

To read some other great posts about World Autism Awareness Day, please click here to visit Jess at Diary of a Mom and click here to visit Jeneil at Rhema’s Hope.

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For those of you who have wondered where I’ve disappeared to, feel free to visit my running blog http://2012myyearontherun.wordpress.com

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.

Christian has been a little more emotional than usual lately. More weepy. More irritated. I’m pretty sure that it has been stemming from some new teeth fighting to poke through his gums. That’s my best guess, anyway.

I find it interesting that over the last couple of weeks, when Christian has been emotionally falling apart, he asks for us to play the song, “There Will Be A Day” (by Jeremy Camp). I’ve included the lyrics to the song below because every time that my tear-stained Christian asks to hear this song I wonder if these words are sinking into his soul like they are to mine. Is he longing for the day when he will no longer be in pain? When he will no more be overwhelmed by sensory issues? When he will no longer be “different”? … It just makes me wonder…

I try to hold on to this world with everything I have But I feel the weight of what it brings, and the hurt that tries to grab The many trials that seem to never end, His word declares this truth, That we will enter in this rest with wonders anew
But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings That there will be a place with no more suffering

(Chorus) There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always

I know the journey seems so long You feel you’re walking on your own But there has never been a step Where you’ve walked out all alone
(Chorus)

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart Cause joy and peace he brings And the beauty that’s in store Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting
I can’t wait until that day where the very one I’ve lived for always will wipe away the sorrow that I’ve faced To touch the scars that rescued me from a life of shame and misery this is why this is why I sing

As detailed happy notes come home from school everyday, I can’t help but share them. Here was today’s…

Christian was high energy this morning. Lots of running around, but still focused at table activities. He went to the bean bag chair at free time and fell asleep. [Oops. Apparently I forgot to let them know that Christian had been up since 12:30! The med & sleep issue that I thought we had figured out when I wrote this post is not totally true. 😦 ] He slept for an hour and got up, finishing off the day just fine. [Former teaching assistant] J[first name] P[last name] visited today. She was surprised at her greeting from Christian. He went up and initiated, “Hi, J[first name] P[last name]!” 😀

We were SO unaware that Christian knew the last names of his teachers and assistants at school! A big reminder to all of us that Christian knows and understands SO MUCH MORE than what we think he does. I love rejoicing everyday with each new step he takes. God is good! 🙂

We had a tough time at a family event. Niece’s birthday party. The difficulty started before we even left the house. Christian didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to swim. He didn’t want to party.

Brian tried to talk to him calmly. Christian’s panic left. For a second. Until I tried to slip his sandals on his feet. Panic returned.

So, I picked him up while he fought me with all of his might, grabbing onto each doorway as we made our way out to the car. We reassured him that he didn’t have to swim. He seemed OK as he started frantically typing out credits on his iPad again.

OK, until we pulled up to the house and parked the car. My heart sank. I knew that we were not in for an easy afternoon. Yet breathlessly prayed that things would calm down.

Unfortunately, they only escalated. We tried any calming measures that we could think of, but nothing seemed to help. Everything we tried actually seemed to make it worse.

At a loss, I resorted to leaving with Christian. Does our niece really want a screaming, crying, angry 7-old at her “happy” birthday party???

Sigh.

I walked out to the car with Christian and Brian came out to grab a bag of swimming stuff that we had packed. Christian was livid that we were leaving Brian and Olivia behind. He threw his iPad and sandals at me. He clawed and cried and screamed. I cranked up the music and drove.

(Thankfully we weren’t too far from home!)

Eventually, Christian realized that he could unbuckle (since Liv wasn’t in the backseat policing his every move). Since we have the child-proof locks activated in the backseat, he decided that his escape route would be the windows. He started to roll them down and tried to climb out while I was trying to get us home as quickly (and safely) as possible.  I grabbed his leg with one hand while I clung to the wheel with the other and prayed that no wild animal would dare cross our speeding path.

Christian fought me more as we pulled into the garage, not wanting the door to close, really proving that Brian and Liv would not be home with us.

But they want to party, I said. They are at the party and will be home when it is done.

So, we wrestled about the garage door remote. I wrestled him into the house. He continued to claw and scream and cry and kick for the next (at least) half-hour. I just wanted to cry.

Once I calmed down, I found myself wish that Christian could TELL me what has going on. Why he was so angry and sad and mad. Did he hurt? Is it the teeth that are trying to make their final push through his gums? Is it the full moon? The weather changes? Is it the tag on his shorts? His sore finger? A belly ache? Is it the smells of a different house? The sounds? The textures?

I just wish that I knew. I want to understand. I long for the words coming out of his mouth telling me what IT is.

Because how can I really help without understanding the root(s) of the issue at hand???

Wondering about my new header pic?

It’s a picture of our porch light turned blue.  It will remain blue for the month of April.  Maybe it will spark curiosity or interest among the neighbors.  Maybe it will open a door for conversation about autism.  We are willing to talk and/or answer questions for those of you who want to know more.