Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Muppets

This weekend a much anticipated movie was released.  The Muppets.  Ever since we saw the ads for this movie, we have all been really excited to go see it.  Unlike many kids, my children have watched a lot of the old Muppet Movies.  The original The Muppet Movie, Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppets from Space have actually been not only rented or checked out from the library for years, but we actually own some of them.  They have been a staple in our household.  In the fall of 2006 Kermit was the Grand Master of Michigan State University's Homecoming parade. Here is a small clip from You Tube.  You can seriously find anything on You tube:

Daniel still talks about that.  It was the most star struck I have ever seen him, and honestly, I was a bit thrilled to see the little green guy perched on the back of that convertible waving to the crowd.  The theme was Bein' Green.  Get it.  Green like a frog, green as in recycling etc.  It was awesome.  When we were walking to our car after the parade we saw a limo parked on the street.  My husband joked that Grover was driving it and waiting for Kermit.  There is a scene in Elmopalooza that Grover drives a limo, so it was a natural connection, but to this day if we drive past a limo Daniel thinks Grover is driving and Kermit the Frog is in there.  Just yesterday we passed a limo on the expressway and Daniel craned his neck to see if Grover was driving.  He wasn't, by the way.  So you see.  The Muppets and really ingrained into our lives.

Thanksgiving night Zachary was on the laptop at Grandma's house searching for movie times.  I was honestly not really looking forward to it.  Another Muppet Movie, yeah yeah....I have spent the past 15 years watching these same movies over and over again.  Our kids with autism often stay in these stages, forever. Unlike other families where they may have a 6 month Teletubbies obsession, with us, it. never. ends.  If you would like to take a quick look at A Diary of a Mom's blog where she talks about this regarding Halloween this year, go ahead.  I'll wait.  See, it's not just me.  Our kids don't have the social filter to care that Teletubbies is totally inappropriate.  They just know what they love.  So this is why I know these movies inside and out.  When Daniel incorporates a movie line into a conversation, flawlessly I might add, I usually know where it came from.  If there was a kids movie version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I would be ALL over that. 

So the afternoon on Black Friday, which I never participate in, I much prefer to sleep and lay around like a slug all day digesting my turkey with all of the trimmings, we headed out at about 2:00 to the 2:30 movie.  Except when we got there it wasn't a 2:30 movie, it was a 3:15 movie.  Zach was looking at the wrong theater so we were one hour early.  There was NO WAY in the world we could leave that theater.  Daniel would never leave without seeing that movie.  The explanation that we would come back, wouldn't fly.  He would melt down.  All 6'1" of him would be screaming and yelling and causing a huge scene.  So we stayed.  Todd got a bunch of tokens for the game room where they luckily had a Simpson's pinball machine (Daniel LOVES pinball) and we settled in for the wait.  I have never seen him so patient in my life.  Proof that this was a huge deal for him that he was willing to do just about anything to make it happen.

We finally settled into the theater.  Daniel with his kids size popcorn and Sprite.  Standard fare for him.  After a new Pixar short about Buzz Lightyear that was rather enjoyable and about 20 minutes of previews after an hour of waiting, we were in business.  As the movie began I was at first dismayed that the story is exactly the same as The Country Bears (2002).  Not that anyone else in the world would realize this but us.  Who else has seen that movie?  Anyone?  I have, approximately 15 times.  The basic outline is an evil man is going to take over Muppet Studios, the Muppets have to raise money to save it.  They are spread out all over the country so they go on a journey to get them back together for one last show.  EXACTLY like The Country Bears.  That annoyance quickly dissipated and I found myself sitting there, literally grinning from ear to ear.  I was excited, happy and laughing out loud.  It was awesome.  During The Rainbow Connection Daniel and I were singing together he was playing the banjo (air guitar style) and we were in heaven.  There were lots of wonderful original songs like "Am I a Man or am I a Muppet" that were hilarious.  There were wonderful guest appearances.  It was just super enjoyable.  I love watching Daniel when he is watching something he loves.  The joy is contagious.  At one point in the movie a woman punches someone and Daniel yelled out "WHAT A WOMAN" which is a line from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame".  It was funny.

If you can't tell, we all enjoyed it.  A lot.  The man in front of me was probably 45 and laughed LOUDLY and often to the point that it made me giggle with how much he was enjoying himself.  When the lights came up Daniel said, "In the scene in Walter's bedroom (which was filled with Muppet's paraphernalia) there was a picture from my July calendar of Kermit the frog!  I just stared at him in disbelief.  In explanation;  a.) Daniel has a monthly Kermit the Frog calendar hanging on the wall of his room and b.) within that very quick scene with hundreds of Muppet things in Walter's bedroom, he picked out the picture from his calendar and knew that it was the "July" picture.  His mind is the most fascinating thing.  I don't understand how he could have picked that out, but he did.  No one can say our kids don't know what is going on.  I think bigger problem is they know everything that's going on and they can't filter it out.  No wonder they are overwhelmed so often. 

I'm just happy we had a successful day at the movies and I am SURE we will be seeing it again.  I am glad I liked it too, because I am 100% sure we will be owning this on Blu Ray/DVD some day and I'll be watching it hundreds of times in the future. 

Oh and p.s.  My 11 year old started his own blog.  My little writer decided to do kid's movie reviews.  His writing is much better than mine, so please don't hold that against me if you decide to check it out.  I am very proud of him.  I think it's a great idea.  Adults reviewing kids movies, doesn't always add up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


With the words, "make that call" I was thrust toward my next journey.  Daniel's three words were about the high school swim team.  I had explained to him that the high school has a swim team, the same way they have a football team,(this would have never occured to him) and I wondered if he was interested in becoming a part of it and if I should call the coach and talk to him.   I was expecting a stressed "I DON'T KNOW".  Which is usually what he says in these situations.  He becomes agitated because he doesn't know what to expect.  It is so uncertain, he doesn't know what to say.  Not this time.  He said, "make that call".  Okey dokey.  I guess we are doing this.

Today is the first day of practice.  For Daniel at least.  Yesterday was the "official" first day.  We didn't make it.  I was still waiting for the forms from our pediatrician saying Daniel has had a physical and is fit to swim.  I got those yesterday afternoon.  Now we have what we need.  So today's the day. I thought I would write this blog before I actually know what happens.  I'm not sure if  that is a good idea, because then I am letting you in on my secret.  That I am a total obsessive compulsive wreck planning for these things.  Is that what helps it work?  That I think of everything (or almost everything) and perseverate until it happens? Maybe.  Maybe it would all work out anyway and I just cause myself a ridiculous amount of stress and I should just trust.  Nah. Not going to happen any time soon.

After I was requested to "make that call". I sent an email to the swim coach.  Well several emails because our schools website, in my opinion, kinda sucks.  I looked him up under athletic coaches and emailed him.  I got something back immediately saying it was an incorrect email.  Of course.  Then I went on a hunt and finally tracked it down.  I didn't hear anything.  I called the elementary school where he works as a PE teacher.  Several days later, I heard back.  He did email me back, I didn't receive it.  This seems to be happening with some frequency from the school.  I'm not sure if it's them or if it's me, but it is super annoying.  I had a great conversation with the coach.  I had heard he is a great guy and my conversation would lead me to believe that is true.  He was totally open to whatever worked for DANIEL.  What a relief. 

I also talked to a teacher about where Daniel could eat a snack after school but before practice.  He is like a hungry grizzly bear after school and there is NO way he could do this without eating.  I got that part arranged.

When I found out practice was 2 hours I thought.  Wow.  Maybe not.  The coach said, Daniel can stay as long as he can handle it.  When I said that he is committed to his MSU swimming until December 8, he said, that's fine.  He can come when he can.  When I asked about meets, he said he would absolutely be able to compete.  Everyone gets to.  This sounds amazing! How wonderful!  He said I should stop by after school some day and get the needed forms.  We missed the initial meeting because Daniel was sick.

So, not once but twice I went walked into the high school at the end of the day.  Walking against the flow of teenagers streaming through the doors.  The PACKS of kids, who all look amazingly old to me.  Each time I walk in there I am so thankful that Daniel is over 6' tall.  I feel like he would get swallowed up into the crowds and feel trapped and panic.  Instead he at least is big enough to look over the top of most of them, and while he's super solid and bulky I can't help but wonder what he feels like getting bumped and jostled in those crowds.  For a person who likes to be touched on HIS terms only, it must be a nightmare.

These two trips left me formless.  The head coach wasn't there when I was.  We had different ideas of what "after school" meant.  I did find the assistant coach and talked to him, with Daniel present and we got to check out the pool, which was very good.  It is a newish facility and pretty impressive.  Daniel loves a pool as we know and this one definitely measured up.  So something good happened. One coach met Daniel, he got to see the surroundings, which he always needs.  But I still didn't have what I needed.  What I also saw was the hallway/locker room area, after school.  Full of "jocks", kids screwing around, hanging out and generally doing all the things that freak Daniel out.  That is unpredictable of the highest order.  What other people see, I do not.  My mind rushes through all of the things that could set Daniel off.  It ticks off all of the problems we will have to over come.  I don't see anything as I used to, and when I'm planning something like this, to make Daniel a part of something, he hasn't been before, I see the problems.  I see the problems first so I can (try to) find the solutions and clear another path open for Daniel.  I firmly believe our kids need to be exposed to as much as they can tolerate.  That's how they learn.  With Daniel in high school, I am feeling the opportunities might be peaking.  We need to seize them. 

I talked to the coach about staying for practice.  At least for a while, until he is settled in.  I can't imagine just leaving him.  I know I probably should, but there are so many problems that could arise.  He needs to get settled.  Know the routine.  If he is having a hard time I can assist the coaches, but otherwise I plan to stay far out of the way in the stands.  I also need to decide when he is ready to leave.  He is used to swimming for an hour.  But right now, I don't know what the plan is.  I fear if they try to instruct him too much, he'll get upset.  I have no idea what to expect.  If things aren't going as Daniel expects he'll get upset and not be able to communicate well.  I don't know what he's thinking because he can't really express that to me.  It's a guessing game and a waiting game.  It's us jumping in and me holding my breath and hoping. The coach was hesitant about me staying but agreed as long as I stayed out of the way. 

However I was still formless after these two trips to the school.  I emailed the Athletic Director thinking he might be easier to get a hold of.  He was.  I got the quick answer to go the Michigan High School Athletic Association website and print them off.  Really wish I had either thought of that myself or someone else had mentioned that to me....I always feel self conscious asking so many questions. On one hand, I have to in order to prepare Daniel as much as possible, but I also don't want to come off as a crazy person.  I could have asked them approximately 100 other questions and didn't.  Honestly, I still don't know if it would have made me feel better, or feel more anxious.  Like I said, it's a balance that I am constantly trying to find. 

The truth is, what I'm really afraid of is the locker room.  I can't figure this one out.  Zachary always comes out of the locker room rolling his eyes, horrified at Daniel in the locker room.  Zachary is prudish, Daniel is......NOT.  He just walks around naked, singing and "air drying".  This never fails to make Zachary crazy and scurrying from the locker room in a frenzy just to get away.  Daniel doesn't care.  I, never having been in a men's locker room, am not sure what the protocol is.  I have asked my husband, since he was in a high school locker room for 4 years of football.  I haven't gotten an answer.  He's probably afraid he'll send me into a state of panic if he tells me the truth and really, come to think of it, it may be better if I don't know.  High school boys locker room.  Really,  that sends a shiver down my spine. 

Last night I made a list of locker room rules at the high school.  Yes, this is an actual list that I typed onto my computer and saved under "locker room rules":

1.  You will not take a shower at the high school unless mom or dad says it is OK that day.  You can either take a shower when you get home or in the evening before bed when you usually do.
2.  You will quickly dry off with a towel and get dressed.  no sitting on the bench naked to air dry.  You will keep the towel around your waist if walking around naked.
3.  There is no singing in the high school locker room. You can do it at home.  (somehow I don't think singing "I love trash" ala Oscar the Grouch will be a good thing.
4.  The team practice goes until 5:30.  Daniel is probably going to leave earlier than that. In the beginning Daniel will only stay for about 1 hour of swimming.
5.  Daniel will not yell or bite. You can take a break if needed or talk to the coach.
6.  In the beginning either mom or dad will be there in the bleachers in case you need help.  Eventually you can stay with your coaches and the other kids. 

I have also asked the Teacher Consultant in charge of the friends (ELFS) group at school to see if there are kids who can be his" buddy" so to speak during practice.  Haven't heard anything back.  Asked for that weeks ago.  The wheels of information seem to turn very very slowly.  It is frustrating.

Today, Todd will come at the end to facilitate the locker room process.  I simply don't have the necessary parts to get into that locker room.  So today is the day.  Daniel is supposed to practice with the boys swim team.  I don't know what to expect..  I have no idea what will happen.  I don't feel prepared.  I feel neither confident nor panicked.  I've done this enough to know that our weeks of preparation is as much as we can do.  I am, however, hopeful.  This would be a great thing for him.  He loves the water so.  It's his only chance to be a part of a high school sports team.  It's great exercise for him.  It's all good. Right?  Please tell me it's all good.  I need some positive reinforcement.

So all of this leading up to today.  I still feel like I know nothing.  My stomach is in knots.  This might be the first and last day of his swimming career at the high school, it could also be the best thing that ever happened to him.  I think it's about 50/50.  I am second guessing myself.  Maybe we should wait a year, but it's too late. Daniel expects it and I need to follow through now.  For better or for worse. Wish me luck.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Autism and Church Part II

Saturday night we told the boys we'd be attending the 10:30 service the next day.  Everyone was on board.  We were careful to explain to Daniel that he would not be hanging out in the Youth Parlor, we'd be in the sanctuary.  On these first trips anywhere you have to be so very careful.  Whatever you do, he will want to do each and every time.  If we had allowed him to play pinball, by gosh he'd be doing that every single time.  It is nearly impossible to change.  That is one reason why we waited until this day to go.  They have had some other special weeks of Youth Sunday etc. but it hasn't been the "standard" service.  We wanted his first church experience to be what it would look like MOST of the time. 

All went well most of the morning.  When we got to the church and the parking lot was full the anxiety set in for him.  I could see him start to stress.  He got rigid and irritated.  Todd dropped us off and set off in search of a parking spot.  This also caused him great stress.  But we have determined through other experiences it is better than Daniel driving around and looking.  We waited on a bench outside while Daniel perseverated about when dad would come and where he was.  I was on high alert because of Daniel's stress level.  He just didn't know what was coming and frankly, neither did I.  We sat on the bench on the mild November day while people continued to walk into the church.  With every opening of the door he got more stressed waiting for Todd and listening to the very loud screech of the door.  Daniel commented that it "definitely needed oil".  I agreed but was continuing to put on my happy face while Zachary paced off to the side. I could see how upset Zach was getting.   I'm sure he was thinking what a terrible idea this was and he was preparing himself for embarrassment and disaster.  I have to say.  So was I.

When we finally saw Todd striding across the parking lot toward us I think we all let out the breath we were holding.  We looked at where Zachary would be going for Sunday school and sent him off.  That was one thing I was relieved about.  If Daniel did scream and break down, Zachary would be far away in the Youth Parlor for Sunday School and wouldn't have to witness it. 

We entered the sanctuary and positioned ourselves near the back at the end.  Ready for a quick exit to the Friendship Hall if necessary.  We were given programs which we started to look thorough.  The program!!!  What a wonderful thing!  For those of you with kids on the autism spectrum the program is essentially a visual schedule!!!  It showed all of the things that would happen, in order.  Something for us to point out where we are in the schedule thus helping him determine what is left to get through.  This was good.  This was very good.

Then a woman took a seat in front of us with an adorable little girl.  Probably 1 1/2 or 2 years old.  Todd and I looked at each other, with Daniel in the middle of us.  We both immediately knew what the other was thinking.  "This will never work".  He would be watching that little girl wiggle and want to leave and the mom would be doing  whatever would need to be done to keep her there, which is fine,  but that won't work for Daniel to see the whole time. He would be very irritated and would only focus on her.  The next thing we simultaneously thought was "how do we get him to move?" Because once he has a spot.  He doesn't move without a fight.  I said, "Hey let's go say hi to Mrs. Spicer, I saw her come in!"  He loves her and was willing to get up and do this.  Then I threw in, then we'll sit in a different spot.  We said our hello's and moved to the other side of the back, hoping another mom wouldn't have the same big idea to be close for a quick exit like the rest of us.  This also gave us a view of the bell choir and we used that as our excuse to move, "Look, now we can see them play the bells!"  He seemed suspicious, but went along with it.  I love those parenting moments when Todd and I are on the exact same page and with a look and not a word, go into the same mode!

Soon after the bells started playing and I could see his body relax.  The music would be the saving grace.   The church has a new pastor whom I have heard a lot about. He is young, he is kind of cool and I've heard nothing but fabulous things about him.  As soon as he spoke, I watched a smile form on Daniel's face.  He was everything I'd heard about and more.  He is engaging, funny and makes you feel like he is talking to you.  My confidence was building. 

We heard from the Book of Ruth and of Gleaning.  I was enjoying the stories.  He relates them so well to his life and ours.  And as Daniel would start to get antsy the choir would sing, or we would have a hymn to sing and he would stand and sing along with the words in his sweet clear singing voice and it would break up the mood.   I was really starting to feel confident.

I desperately wanted to know what time it was.  I finally asked Daniel, who always has his watch on,  and he said 11:05.  Darn, just over half done.  I knew it was a risk to ask, because it could set him off if it was too long before it was over, but my curiousity was getting the best of me.  Then what happened next, was not what I was expecting.  Daniel was sitting there quietly and a huge smile came over his face.  Then it started.  The giggles.  He had the giggles.  Big time.  He was trying SO hard.  Covering his mouth, trying to be quiet.  As it goes with the giggles, they are contagious.  I couldn't help it either.  I looked at Todd and we both were smiling and giggling ourselves.  It eventually subsided.  I don't remember what it was that broke it. Probably because I love when he gets the giggles.  It is infectious and it makes me happy to see him happy. 

At one point I heard Pastor Andrew talk about a discussion he had with some people of the church.  I must have missed the beginning of this and been watching Daniel, but I snapped to attention when he mentioned that a person on a committee was talking about the expense of installing a handicapped door and if the large amount of money should be spent on it.  The discussion was saying that they don't really have anyone at the church who needs that (as a man was at the end of our row in a wheelchair?).  I am a bit confused on what Pastor Andrew said in relation to this and I'm sure someone else who was there can clear it up for me, but my mind immediately shifted to a story I heard once at a training.  I still don't know if this story happened or if it was metaphorical, but it stuck with me and applied so perfectly to this discussion that I missed part of it.  It was this:

on a very wintery day when the children arrived to school the paths were still not cleared for the kids.  The custodian was working feverishly to get it cleared and safe for the kids.  Shoveling and salting and laboring, sweating under the pressure that the kids were arriving.  The children wanted to get into the building on this very chilly day and were asking when he would be finished with his work.  The custodian was working and working to clear the steps to the school when a girl in a wheelchair asked if he would clear the ramp first.  The custodian said no, if I clear these steps more of the kids can enter this way, you will have to wait since there is just one of you.  To which the little girl replied, "but if you clear the ramp first, we can ALL enter that way". 

I love that story.  People often wonder why you accommodate for that for one person.  The lesson obviously being that if you make it accessible for that one, you are actually clearing the way for everyone.  If you have a door that not only one can enter through, but all can enter through, you make your church open to everyone.  Maybe you don't have as many people at the church who need it, but maybe they don't feel like it is handicapped accessible enough?  Maybe people are being left home and excluded because of it. 

This story always affects me so much.  Autism, while not the same as being in a wheelchair and physically excluded from a place, is a very isolating thing.  My mind went back to 1st grade and I was waiting at the school to go on a field trip with Daniel.  There was a large group of moms waiting to do the same.  They of course all knew each other and everyone was asking this and that.  It struck me at that time that I didn't know one parent there.  I had missed on all the play dates, the phone calls, the chatting at the park and at the school.  I was just working to get my child TO the school every day.  You don't get invited to as many places, if anywhere at all.  You don't fit in.  It is lonely. 

Because of this, I know when families are excluded from their church too,  is very difficult. For the families who attended church and were asked to leave that is a terrible thing.  Then there are some of us who just don't put themselves out there and avoid being excluded as a self protection.   It seems it should be the place that welcomes you with open arms, no matter WHAT.  It is a community.  A safe haven.  And with that I heard Pastor Andrew say something about the church being a place "inviting all people".  That is how it ended.  On the first day that we were there. They ended talking about inclusion.  We said the Lord's Prayer which was written in the program and Daniel read along with everyone else, something I learned on those Sundays at the Catholic church and recite every day to myself and we sang another hymn.  Then it was over. One hour, successfully completed.  Our first day in church.  I didn't get a chance to talk to Todd about it after.  He was leaving town and we went into that mode.  But I felt so happy and content all day that we had accomplished that.  That Daniel had enjoyed it.  That the message was about inclusion in the end. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Autism and Church

This fall our family resumed a discussion that we have had on and off for years.  The discussion was about church.  Zachary, my youngest came to the age when he could start attending the middle school Youth Group that happens to be run by a good friend of mine.  She does amazing things with her teens and they get to experience things they wouldn't get to anywhere else.  Zachary happily became involved and quickly fell in love with his Wednesday Youth Group. 

Church is not something we have ever done as a family.  Todd did with his family as a child, but my memories of church only revolved around going with which ever families house I had slept over at the Saturday night before. I spent a lot of time in the Catholic church but only because my best friend was Catholic!   Church was not a part of my immediate family.  This set me apart from a lot of other people growing up in a city that is literally referred to as the city "with a church on every corner".  Church, after all, is supposed to give a sense of community and belonging, among other things.  At least I think so. 

Over the years, discussion of bringing our boys to church would surface we would have a short discussion then it would quickly dissipate.  There were so many questions of not only how Daniel would react and if he could sit through a service but would he be accepted.  I can't tell you how many families I have come across that were not welcome in their church because the congregation could not accept the differences of their child. The fact that they couldn't sit still or blurted out, or whatever happened, made them unacceptable.  I still can't understand this.  How could a CHURCH tell someone they aren't welcome?  That is just mind boggling.  It has never happened to us, but I've heard it many times.  That is enough to scare me. It is just another way that autism is so isolating to families.  Not to mention the fact that our lives are a LOT of work anyway.  Thinking about all the prep it would take to get Daniel prepared for church...well, it's just overwhelming.  It has been much easier to just keep Sunday a day of relaxing.   Therefore, the discussions would end and we would go back into our Sunday routine of sleeping in, hanging out and swimming. 

On Wednesday's before Youth Group, the church serves a dinner for all who want to come.  We have attended a few times when the food works for us, because between Zach's allergies and Daniel's pickiness, it seems like it would be impossible but we have actually all eaten there!  During these visits, we didn't realize it, but Daniel was acclimating himself to the church.  One of the first steps of starting something new is getting used to the surroundings themselves.  Without even realizing it, we were doing it.  Frankly, it was nice to be falling into Step 1 without even worrying about it.  It also gave us a taste of the church community.  I liked being there, with the elderly church ladies and the little toddlers and the teens and the families.  It was nice to feel a part of something and I could see Daniel liked it too.  Even if only for a few minutes.  Even if the pinball machine, and snacks are a lure.  Who cares?  It's important for him to feel comfortable.  That is something we can build on.

Then Daniel went up to the Youth Parlor with Zachary one night.  Just for a few minutes before it started.  Most of the kids are up there "hanging out" so Daniel went up with a friend of ours to check it out.  Much to his surprise the youth parlor, among other things, has 3 of Daniel's favorite things:
 1.  a full sized pinball machine!
 2.  a disco ball hanging from the ceiling and
 3.  popcorn

Any one of these is enough to sell Daniel on a place, so having all three is like the Holy Trinity! (look at me getting all churchy)  He was hooked.   So now if time allows, he goes to the youth parlor for about 10 minutes before Youth Group starts on Wednesday to play a game of pinball, or pool (oh yeah, a pool table too) walk around and have a few bites of popcorn.  The first time he ever went to the Youth Parlor a boy named Jack who is Zachary's age offered Daniel some of his popcorn.  It was only a few weeks ago that Zachary told me that now whenever Daniel goes into the Youth Parlor he goes and finds Jack to ask for popcorn.  After all, he gave it to him the first time, he MUST be the keeper of all of the popcorn! 

Watching Daniel become familiar with the church made Todd and I think it just might be possible.  So the discussions began again.  I contacted my friend who is in charge of the Youth Group and sort of got the schedule of what was coming up.  Today we took the plunge.  We jumped in. Ready or not.  But, for this, you'll have to stay tuned for part two. . .

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gut Wrenching

Allow me a little self indulgence today. 
This blog post doesn't have a direct relation to autism,
but I do feel it is related to all children.
Thanks for the opportunity to help me sort
out some of my own feelings through the written word.

I find myself obsessing about this Penn State mess. So much so that my thoughts are spinning around in my head.  I keep thinking about a blog post and I wonder why I think I need to write about it here, where the subject at hand is autism and special needs.   I am so mad about this fiasco I can't get it out of my head.  While I know everyone is disgusted and horrified, I seem to be a bit further over the top.  I know that isn't unusual for me to be over the top, but injustice is something that doesn't sit well with me. 

After a bit of time of self reflection today the pieces finally came together.  Age has an amazing way of putting things into perspective doesn't it?  I am going to assume most of those reading this know the background of the Penn State scandal.  However, I do realize that I get many visitors to this site from the other side of the Atlantic so unfortunately I should link an article.  HERE

The boy that is referenced in the article is "about 10".  The fact that my youngest is 11 is not lost on me.  I keep picturing him as the child so brutally taken advantage of by a man he looks up to with awe.  It obviously sickens me.  The amount of people who buried this is astounding.  Not just the coach, athletic director and university president, but what about the charity that was supposedly notified not once but twice?  How many people there, kept sending kids out the door with Coach Sandusky?  How many people just felt something was wrong but ignored those feelings?  They obviously aren't as morally required to follow through as those who knew information first hand (especially who witnessed with their own eyes) but not enough people stand up for what they think or feel. 

I have been thinking a lot these last few months about Zachary (11) as I send him off to school.  You see, when I was in 6th grade and 11 years old myself, a tragedy that changed my life unfolded.  My very dear friend Linda was kidnapped while she was on her safety post.  Taken off the corner and thrown into a car.  Never to be seen alive again. She was found later that day, dead, hands bound.  I won't go into the details any further than this, but it rocked our quiet Christian town and I was smack dab in the middle of it.  My mind today has gone back to the reports of people from a block away who saw Linda taken but were simply too far away to be of help.  I felt for those people when I was a kid and I feel for them even more now that I'm an adult with children.  They reacted, tried to chase a car, which they would never catch, in a morally reactive way because a wrong was being done.  How can a man, young man or not, walk into that locker room and walk away?  Did the child hear someone and become hopeful his rescuer had come only to hear descending footsteps?  These are the things that haunt me.  Did Linda hope that someone would catch her and save her from the horror that she couldn't believe was unfolding?  That snowy day looms in my mind, as I sit here and the first snow falls from the sky, as if a sign that someone is thinking about me too.

Now having a child that age, it is bringing back these feelings.  I have discussed them with him before, and given him instructions not to approach a car, no matter what the reason, no matter how innocent, only for him to say "but what if the person just wants to know the time?"  It is hard for an innocent child to understand the horrors of our world sometimes.  I, unfortunately, was not so lucky and was put in the middle of it.  The years following that, I was questioned by reporters at anniversaries of the kidnapping, at festivals in our friend's honor, put on the Bozo The Clown show to promote the children's festival.  I was a painfully shy child and this was very difficult for me.  I understood the need, but the same question of "do you miss her?" from reporters made me fantasize about punching one of them in the face.  I wanted to run away, but was constantly told I could do it.  We were helping families and children by getting the word out after all....

I have always been a person who listens to my "gut".  I follow it and it serves me well.  If I have a bad feeling, there is a reason why.  A few years ago I was in my house in the middle of the afternoon and walked outside because something felt wrong.  I can't describe it.  I looked around, couldn't find anything and walked back in.  Only to be pulled once more outside by that hollow feeling inside.   I then started walking up and down my street only to finally find an elderly lady 4 houses away that had fallen by her garage and couldn't move.  That was an instinct that made me look.  I was glad I followed it. How many people had an instinct about Coach Sandusky?  How many more boys are out there with stories to tell about him? 
How many people didn't listen to their gut?   Not only listen, but then stand up and protect those that need to be protected.  I see that in myself now.  My need to protect kids, to be an advocate for them.  To be the parent that points out when the system isn't working for their kid.  To advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.  I can now see where some of that came from in my life. As a child I watched an innocent girl taken from the world. I learned at a young age that we need to protect each other.    I only wish that in a place called Happy Valley, someone else would have done it sooner.