Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Glimpse of Sorrow

There are times when words are not enough, when there are no answers for the hurt.  This is one of those times.  My heart breaks tonight for so many in our nation who have been devastated by the storms that have ravaged.  So many people have lost everything, so many paid the ultimate price with their very lives.  I cannot express just how deeply my heart aches.  My own family was in the storm’s path at the very beginning.  We were blessed and did not experience the true wrath of the storm.  My boys and I huddled in our downstairs coat closet and I prayed as the tornado sirens blared.  Fortunately they soon quieted and our lives continued on.  Many in my extended family were not as lucky.  They were in the path of pure destruction wreaked by these storms.  Though all my loved ones walked away safely not all of their loved ones did.   My heart breaks for their loss. 
So much tragedy has happened on a global scale over the past few months, so many lives have been lost.  It is beyond my comprehension.  I do not pretend to have the answers to the questions that are plaguing much of the world.  I don’t know why.  I don’t pretend to understand why God allowed these things to happen.  There are many pat answers that we are tempted to give in times like these; many insensitive platitudes that we think will somehow lessen the pain.  As Christians it is very tempting to utter one of these instead of admitting the truth: the truth that we too don’t know why, that we too sometimes question.   We feel we are being unfaithful to admit aloud what we are feeling in our hearts.  I once felt the same way.  I once uttered the same worn out phrases, meaningless well intentioned platitudes.  Then when I was in my darkest moments, when I hurt so bad that it was all I could do not curl into a fetal position and just give up, well-meaning friends and relatives began to offer the same meaningless encouragement to me.  It did not encourage me.  Instead it made me rage all the more.  I was shamed by the naïve insensitivity I had shown for years.  I was finally honest with myself and God.  I finally screamed out my questions and hurts to the Almighty.    God is big enough to take the questions; God is large enough to hear your thoughts, fears, and even your anger.  King David spoke to God over and over again in Psalms about his sorrow.  I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God. Psalm 38:8-9,15 
You don’t have to pretty your thoughts and feelings up for God.   He already knows them anyway and he loves for us to come to him when we are hurting and at our lowest.  Like a loving father he knows how to love us.  He doesn’t always answer they why’s but he does know how to bring peace to our hearts.  At my lowest point he reminded me that true faith isn’t the absence of questions.  True faith is having the questions and trusting him enough to bring them to him.  In my case I questioned his justice, I questioned his goodness and I questioned his love.  He answered me in the most tangible ways; ways that were impossible for anyone other than God to orchestrate.   He took me at my lowest, at my angriest, at my most defiant.  He loved me and he answered me.
No I still cannot answer the questions but I now trust that He can.  My heart is with so many of you tonight.  I wish I could reach through the computer and hug you as we cry together.   I pray that God will meet you where you are tonight.  I pray that He will provide all your needs. I ask that He will surround you and protect you despite all the havoc that has been wrought.  I pray you will be kept in the palm of his hand and by his grace we will meet again.  - Kristine  

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Glimpse of a storm

The storm was fierce.  Lightning violently slashed the night sky, hail beat the windows a deafening staccato drowning out even the sound of thought.  Wind howled, bending the trees as if they were made of rubber.   The rain came down in sheets so thick that you could scarcely see your hand in front of you.  Listening to the storm in the darkness we huddled together on the sofa.  Mom kept saying “It’s not as bad as all that guys.  Really it isn't.  You are safe and dry in our house.  It’s ok to go to sleep.  We won’t let anything happen to you.”   But I knew that she was wrong.  I had seen the constant weather warnings on the tv before the power had gone out.  I knew that there was a tornado watch.  I knew for sure our house would be picked up and twirled through the sky Wizard of Oz style.  Heck I could barely tolerate the munchkins once a year when we watched the movie as a family on Thanksgiving.  No way was I going to be able to take actually meeting them.   If my house had to land in some other reality it had better be somewhere cool like an alien planet in Star Trek.  Now that would be awesome!!  No little munchkins with squeaky voices, carrying lollipops for me.  No sir!!  Give me an orange alien with a laser gun any day.  Yeah that would be way cooler……..
So this is a slightly dramatized version of what our night was like last night.  North Texas weather in the spring is unpredictable at times.  You can start the day sunny and warm only to end the night with fierce thunderstorms, golf ball sized hail and tornado warnings.  This season doesn’t last long and leads to a fantastically hot and beautiful summer.  However on nights like last night my boys tend to freak out a bit.  Ok let me be honest here they freak out A LOT!!  No matter how any times that I reassure them we are safe in our house.  No matter how many times we survive the night.  The moment the weather warnings start popping up on the tv visions of terror fill them.  This is not particular to my boys at all.  I know many moms who are up with their little ones as the storms pound the windows.  But like everything else autism amplifies this reaction.  One of the traits of Aspies in particular is the need to acquire knowledge of ever thing but in particular the things they fear.  This gives them a sense of control in the midst of the uncontrollable.   So when a storm hits my sons Paul and Alex have wellsprings of terrible knowledge to draw from.  I doubt there is a book on tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, Tsunamis, lightning strikes, or freak alien abductions (gottcha ;-) in their school library that they have not read.  Being the little professors they are they then decide to enlighten the rest of their brothers on every worst case scenario imaginable and I am left with five scared little boys.    I have found the best way to handle them is just to change their focus.  I sing songs until I’m hoarse, we tell each other stories (with the stipulation that they cannot be scary nor have anything to do with the weather ;) and then when it is all over they go back to bed.  Luckily these storms move pretty quickly.  I can only sing so many songs before my voice gives out.
Last night we still had company when the storm hit.  Usarian stayed downstairs talking with our guest while I was upstairs giving a concert that included such hits as The Winnie the Pooh song (I think I may have to lose this one from my act….I was told in no uncertain terms they are way too old for that now) and Never Smile at a Crocodile and we cannot forget the ever popular Sponge Bob theme song.  I felt more than a little foolish to know that my not so great voice was being over heard by company.  I felt a little embarrassed to have an outsider over hear the hoops I jump through to achieve normalcy to be painfully honest.   Just when I thought I had overcome that awkward feeling it pops up at the most unexpected times.  I had to step back and remind myself of the important things.  Jamie falling peacefully asleep on my lap as I stroked his hair and sang, Paul telling a silly, funny story to his brothers instead of being frozen in fear, Benny falling asleep in the midst of it all, the sound of giggles instead the sound of tears.  Suddenly my feelings of foolishness and embarrassment seemed so small.   
Well I’m off for the day.  Mt Washmore has now dwarfed Mt Everest.  I’ve considered offering climbing expeditions instead but alas my family needs clean clothes.  Have a great week  friends.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Glimpse of Easter

I love big holidays.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or 4th of July it doesn’t matter.  I love to open up our home and have as many of our friends and loved ones over as we can possibly fit.  I love to make a big feast.  I love decorating the house.  But what I love best is standing back and watching those I care about talking, eating, laughing…  It is moments like these that I treasure.  
My parents began the tradition of opening their home to anyone on the holidays when I was a young child.  We lived away from all of our extended family.  So my parents created a family for us through our church friends and anyone else in the community who wanted or needed a place to go on the holidays.    They even started to announce it on our local Christian radio station.  It was amazing.  Some of our most treasured family friends were met through this.   We didn’t have the fanciest house or nicest things but our house was overflowing with love and people were drawn to that….my father’s amazing cooking was a big draw too ;-)  There are many great things I learned from my parents but one of the things I most important things that I want to emulate in my own home is their amazing ability to open their hearts and home to any and all people.   This is especially true at Easter time.
As I said previously, I love all the holidays but Easter holds a special place in my heart.  Easter is the celebration of Jesus amazing love for us.  A love that is so boundless, so amazing that he made the ultimate sacrifice.  God humbled himself and became man.  He lived out every bit of the human experience in his 33 short years on earth and remained blameless and without sin.  Then he took our sins upon himself and received our punishment.  He was tortured mercilessly, killed in the cruelest fashion available (death on the cross was the most painful death, reserved for the worst criminals) and was buried in the tomb of someone else.  Three days later he arose from the grave victorious, having defeated death!!  It is this that we celebrate on Easter.  We celebrate Jesus.  We celebrate his life.  We celebrate his amazing love for us.  What better way to celebrate God’s love for us then to love those around us?  What more fitting way to embrace what Christ has done for us than by willingly, joyfully serving those God places in our path?
I have been very blessed to have learned this by the example of my parents.   It is my desire that my children will look back years down the road and understand the importance of truly loving people, loving people not just in word but in action.  Our world today speeds by us, our crazy schedules dictating our lives instead of us dictating our schedules.  So often in the midst of all the madness we lose sight of what is truly important, what is truly eternal.  So many people are alone or hurting.  So many individuals have need of just a glimpse of kindness, a glimpse of love.  Happy Easter to you my friends.  I pray that God will bless you with the opportunity to love on someone this week, this special Holy week.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Glimpse of Time

I was a very young girl, big eyes and big bows.  Giddy and free I rode my horse for hours on end.  There was no place we did not explore, no fence we did not jump.  Then his springs slowly lost their bounce, his batteries were replaced no more and I grew up a just a little bit.
I was a school aged girl, loose toothed and untied shoes.  I rode my bike for miles on end.   The wind whipped through my hair as I explored the twist and turns of our mountain roads.  Slowly my bike lost its shine, its tires lost their air and I grew up just a little bit more.
I was a teenaged girl, all pouty lips and heartfelt sighs.  I could drive my shiny car anywhere I chose.  I drove to work so I could pay for the car, and the insurance and the gas.  Slowly I learned that true freedom always has a cost and I grew up quite a bit more.
I was a young married woman, rounded belly and glowing eyes.   I traded in my shiny car for a practical minivan.  I learned that parking close to the cart return is more important that parking close to the door, that infant baby carriers get really heavy after about three months and that someone else’s safety was way more important than my freedom and I finally grew up all the way.

The past week I have been thinking quite a bit about the passing of time.  There is something about the way my oldest is beginning to look more like a young teenager than a child that made me sentimental. Time marches quickly on and I am mostly oblivious to it.  I am so wrapped up in my daily life, the important things that I must accomplish that somehow I miss the moments they change from baby to toddler, toddler to child, and now child to adolescent.    I just look up one minute and they have changed.  I want to put this time in a bottle and put it on a high shelf so that years from now I can look at it and smile.  I love where we are in life right now.  I love watching the boys learn and explore life around them.  I love having friends that can share the smiles and tears of the everyday, normal things.    I want to hold tight to all these moments because time is still marching forward.    Pretty soon all my boys are going to be men.  I know that time will be precious also as I watch them venture out into the world and have careers and families of their own.  But for today I want to slow it all down just a bit and draw everything I can out of the little, every day moments.   So I am signing off today with a challenge to live life fully in the moment.-Kristine

Glimpse of Seasons

Life is full of seasons.  Autumn cool and crisp: apples, cinnamon, leaves crunching under foot.  Winter cold and clean: stews, hot cocoa, fires cozily burning in the fire place.  Spring warm and wet:  strawberries, Easter eggs, colorful flowers everywhere you look.  Summer hot and lazy: barbeques, s’mores, pool time fun.  And then it begins again; year after year, decade after decade.  This is the beautiful cycle of life.
Our lives have other seasons though.  Ecclesiastes says it best “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.”  I have had many different seasons in my life, Seasons of blissful happiness, seasons of deep mourning, seasons of hardship and seasons of abundance.  I feel the stirrings in my heart that our season here in the Kingdom of Skiff is about to change.  We have been in a spring season for quite a while now.  New beginnings, new friendships, new purposes all coming into clear focus.  I feel the summer approaching. The heat is being turned up and all the new things have taken root.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store. 
I watched Secretariat with my husband last night.  I am not the horse movie kind of girl but this was a good movie...not great but good.  What I felt resonate strongly with me was the leading characters transformation.  She started the movie as an “ordinary housewife” and ends the movie a triumphant racehorse owner who accomplished what everyone said was impossible.  I have been feeling like the time for me to step out of my every day into more was fast approaching.  Starting this blog was a step in that direction.   I’m not sure what that entails completely yet….I certainly have no plans to buy a racehorse in the near future.   I have spent the past 12 years solely dedicating my life to those I love best.  I do not intend to stop but I do think that I am branching out.  I feel the winds of change softly brushing my cheeks, a lover’s gentle kiss softly compelling me to venture into unknown lands.    
Some of those unknown lands look a little intimidating to be honest.  I am looking at stepping further into the boxing ring known as Educational Advocacy.  Today I had the experience of having to completely disagree on my child’s ARD thus stopping the entire process and requiring yet another outside evaluation (the school is refusing to accept Alex’s medical diagnosis…..another story , one that I will definitely share in another post).  This is yet another step in my learning so that I can hopefully help other parents as they try to get their children the education that they need.
Some of the lands are exciting.  I look forward to furthering my writing and hope to begin the process of publishing articles in the near future.  I can’t wait to read the things that have been unfurling in my heart.  I know that sounds odd but I quite honestly never know what I am going to write until after I have written it.  I read it after I’m done and think “Ahh so that’s what that was all about” Call me crazy but it’s my process;-)
So here’s to seasons in our lives….my seasons and yours.   I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for us both-Kristine

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Glimpse of Marriage

This is the story of a girl who roams to a far off land and meets a brilliant, aloof prince.  This girl is not a princess, nor is she perfect in every way.  No this girl is broken and has sworn off charming princes forever.  She comes from a land by the sea; a land full of sunshine and a sea that absorbed her salty tears with no one the wiser.  She roamed to a land of clouds and cold.  A land whose inhabitants were so foreign she could scarcely understand them.  Then she met the prince.  This prince was not charming; no in fact he was aloof at times and at others rude.  He said what he thought and was honest to a fault.  To be sure the prince was handsome, so handsome in fact that the girl could hardly believe he would look at this broken, gardener’s daughter.   She loved this strange, honest prince.  She knew he would heal her heart, this strong, brilliant prince.  He asked her to marry him at the place of the magical waterfalls.  People from faraway lands came to view the beautiful, powerful waters.  They cheered as the girl accepted the prince’s proposal and a rainbow appeared in the sky, a good omen for everyone to see.  They married and the kingdom rejoiced at their nuptials.  And they lived happily ever after…..
That’s where the story always ends: and they lived happily ever after.  Every school girl hears a variation of this story and longs for her handsome prince to come, she plans her extravagant wedding ceremony years before she meets the groom, she even knows how many tiers her wedding cake will be.  Then the story ends.  So she enters into her happily ever after expecting eternal bliss.  It doesn’t matter that some naysayer may tell her that happily ever after includes lots of hard work.  No they obviously had never experienced her kind of fairy tale.  Her fairy tale never mentioned anything about hard work, or tears, or budgeting.  So the honeymoon ends and she wakes up to the reality that her prince has some very plebeian habits like throwing his laundry on her clean floor and in my particular story the prince remains aloof and sometimes rude.
The first year of marriage is always difficult as couples adjust to living together in the state of Holy Matrimony but the first year of marriage is usually a fun adventure as well, discovering new things about each other as individuals and who you are as a couple.  Usarian and I certainly had moments like these but they were few and far between. Mostly we fought about EVERYTHING.  I could not understand why it bothered him so much that I would call it a grocery basket instead of a grocery cart.  I certainly had no clue why I was accused of lying when I said I spent $40.00 when in actuality I spent $41.00.  To compound the problem I was already broken and very naïve to top it all off.  I really had no clue how men thought.  I was the oldest of 8, five of whom were male but they were still little boys when I moved away.   In spite it all we kept pushing on.  We started a family…..boy did we start a family, five little boys of my own in four very short years.  Needless to say, our already fragile bonds quickly became completely unraveled.  I had no idea how to communicate with this frustrating man (he had lost his princely crown years past in my eyes).  When we talked it was beyond frustrating….if I agreed with him I was patronizing him, if I argued I was being argumentative and when I didn’t say anything I was being uncommunicative.  I finally just gave up trying.  For five years I just didn’t talk to him at all unless it was about the mundane or the unavoidable.  Many people find this hard to believe but it wasn’t as hard as you would think.  He worked 65 to 70 hours a week plus had an hour commute each way and I had five babies 4 and under.  We just co-existed.  Then God intervened.  Our son Jamie was diagnosed as autistic.  I began researching everything I could on autism.  I learned about Aspbergers.  At the same time our oldest son Paul entered Kindergarten.  This brilliant child (and I mean that in a very literal sense) could not function at all in a classroom setting.  He began the process of diagnosis and sure enough there was absolutely NO DOUBT he was on the spectrum.  He has Aspbergers.  Paul is Usarian’s mental clone.  It didn’t take long for us to realize Usarian was also an Aspie.  The doctor confirmed our suspicions.  Suddenly so much of his life that had not made any sense added up.  I began to use the communication techniques I learned to communicate with my boys on him.  Whalla things began to improve.  In all of this I found the one who changed the most was me.  My young girl fantasies of marriage and my husband grew up into the real life relationship of a woman and her husband.  Believe me it was not instant, nor was it easy.  I didn’t want to change.  But God is so faithful in our weakness.  He step by step moved us forward to a much more peaceful, happy home.  This is not to say that all is perfect in the Kingdom of Skiff.  Indeed last night is a perfect example.  I was hurt over some pretty insignificant things and I lost my temper.  When thinking about it this morning I remembered our whole journey and just how far we have come.  As the saying goes, it is important to remember lest we forget.  So I decided to share a little glimpse of our marriage journey. It is most certainly not the fairytale at the beginning of this post but something so much better, so much richer.  I love you Usarian.  Thanks for the journey.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

10 Ways to Effectively Advocate for Your Child

Before I begin let me say unequivocally that I support our schools.  We would not be where we are today without the amazing support of some fine teachers and programs.  I have to give a big public Thank You!!! to Ms. Erin R  who forever impacted our lives by teaching us so much about autism and bringing our son Jamie beyond what the doctor’s predicted he would ever go.  Early intervention rocks and you are our hero.  I have made friends with many teachers, administrators, therapist, diagnosticians, and aides over the years.  We have been very blessed indeed.
That being said, our road has not been without its difficulties.  Moving from VA (which had an amazing early intervention and school age program) to small town TX (which was easily 20 years behind the current educational norms in autism education) was beyond shocking.  From the moment we enrolled our boys it has been one major battle after another to get them the education that they need.  We have seen improvements emerge slowly throughout the battle but it is still a difficult road.  As I have reached out to other parents in the SPED community I have found that our battle is unfortunately not unusual.  In fact our battle has become quite common.  Many parents have expressed frustration at not knowing how to fight for their children; others have simply removed their child from the public system all together.  Today I am going to give a few tips that I have learned through my own experiences.  These pointers were not learned easily, in fact more often than not they were learned at the school of hard knocks.
1)     1)   You are your child’s best and only advocate.  You are the one who has seen your child grow and know them better than anyone else.  You know their strengths, weaknesses, and needs from year to year.  You see the whole picture.  Everyone else speaks only from the perspective of one school year at a time.
2)   2)    Educate yourself!!!  This is of the utmost importance.  The Special Education system is overflowing with acronyms, paper work and processes.  You will be better served sitting in a meeting with everyone speaking Martian than attending an IEP meeting if you do not take the time to learn the language of SPED.  There are several ways to do this: you can do research online, join parent support groups, hire an educational mediator or simply take advantage of the resources at your disposal and ask one of the teachers or therapist to outline the process and to explain the acronyms.
3)      3)  Get an outside diagnosis from a trained professional (Developmental Pediatrician, Pediatric Psychologist or Psychiatrist).  This will be invaluable of the schools decide to disagree with you on your child’s IEP (individualized Education Plan).
4)   4)    Keep EVERYTHING!!!  You will feel like you are drowning in paper work but KEEP IT!!!  This is your proof.  Do not EVER give the school your originals (make the copies yourself and hand them to the staff).  Keep copies of all emails and try not to have any conversation that does not have a documented paper or electronic trail.  This is your lifeline.  If it isn’t documented it never happened as far as these proceedings go.
5)      5)  Find support for yourself.  This can be an emotionally exhausting process.  You need to find friends who can walk this path with you, let you rant when you need to rant and let you cry when you need to cry.  There are online support groups.  One that I highly recommend is ASPIRES.  There are many, many community support groups, Just go online and Google your area and Autism Parent Support.  You will be amazed at the results.
6)     6)   Talk to your child and listen to their answers.  I know this sounds very New Agey.  However, you will be amazed at their answers.  Sometimes what you think is the problem is in fact not.  As a parent you know your child enough to know when they are trying to weasel out of responsibility and when they are in fact struggling.
7)     7)   Do not be afraid of the “LABEL”.  For years we have been taught that labeling our kids is detrimental.  Sometimes the only way to get your child the help they need to succeed is to get a diagnosis for them.  You can’t fix a car of you refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem.  Same concept applies here.
8)    8)    Do not be afraid to disagree.  If what the school is proposing does not sound right to you say so!!!  You have the right to an independent outside evaluation (that the school has to pay for) if you cannot reach a compromise.
9)     9)    Learn your rights and the rights of your child.  Read the IDEA (The Individuals with Disabilities Act).  Underline relevant sections and bring it to your IEP meetings.
1010)     Focus on the good.  It is so easy to focus on only the negatives when dealing with disabilities but there is always something good to be found.  If you look for storm clouds your life will feel dreary but if you are actively looking for the bright spots suddenly you are not so overwhelmed.  I know it sounds crazy but training your own mind to think differently is half the battle.
I hope that this will save someone some of the frustrations that I have faced learning it the hard way.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.  Ok it’s time for me to trade my keyboard for a mop.  Clean floors here I come.-Kristine

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Glimpse of the weary warrior

People often say I’m sweet.  They think that because I enjoy helping people when I can, am generally kind, and don’t have a pair of horns sticking off of my head that I am sweet.   They are completely amazed when I won’t just accept the status quo, when I vocalize my discontent with ineptitude, when I call a spade a spade.    No longer do they say I’m sweet… suddenly I am stubborn, arrogant, and I seem to have grown those horns rather quickly.  Yes people think I’m sweet, until they don’t.

It has taken much fighting to get my boys the adequate education they are granted by the government.  It has taken many, many hours of phone calls, research, meetings, networking, yelling, doctors, more surveys and forms than I can count, more research, more phone calls, more meetings, more yelling, and more tears.  It is an endless cycle.  A cycle I repeat for every one of my guys on the spectrum over and over again.  I have read the IDEA and have portions memorized, I have more copies of the parents’ rights book than I know what to do with (I have actually considered wallpapering the bathroom with it;-)  It is a full time job.  A job I am passionate about and take very seriously.    There are times occasionally though where I weary of the battle.  Times when I want nothing more than to hang up my armor, pull on my flannel pjs, curl into a ball and cry.  This is your glimpse of one of those times.  This is your glimpse of me at my most vulnerable.  I considered not writing about this time.  I fully intended to give a dissertation on the woes of our education system as a whole and more specifically those of SPED here in small town TX.  Never fear that day will come but for tonight I find I am feeling tender and bruised.  Every war has its casualties.  Every solider knows that nothing worth fighting for is ever free.    This war has cost me many things but today the cost was that of a dear friendship. 

Tomorrow I will once again don my battle gear and march into battle; the IDEA firmly in my hand.  Tomorrow I will once again be brave and fearless.  Tomorrow school administrators will tremble before my mighty roar.  Tomorrow……tomorrow……honestly I don’t want to think about tomorrow for a little while.  For a little while I will mourn what is lost and think not upon the battle.  I leave you with one of my favorite poems by Longfellow

The day is done and darkness falls from the wings of night, as a feather is wafted downward from an eagle in his flight. 

I see the lights of the village gleam through the rain and mist and a feeling of sadness comes over me that my soul cannot resist

A feeling of sadness and longing that is not akin to pain and resembles sorrow only as the mist resembles rain

Come read to me a poem, a simple and heartfelt lay that shall soothe this restless feeling and banish the thoughts of day

Not from the grand old masters, not from the bards sublime whose distant footsteps echo through the corridors of time

But read from some humbler poet, whose songs gushed from his heart like the rains of summer or tears from the eyelids start

Such songs have the power to quiet the restless pulse of care and come like a benediction that follows after prayer

Then read from the treasured volume the poem of thy choice and lend the rhyme of the poet the beauty of thy voice

And the night shall be filled with music and the cares that infest the day shall fold their tents like Arabs and as silently steal away

Goodnight to you my friends.  May you also find a respite from your battle tonight.-Kris

Monday, April 4, 2011

Glimpses of April

April wears many hats.  It starts off wearing that of a jester (I mean who doesn’t love a month that starts off with humor).  Quickly it puts on its gardening hat, trees budding and flowers blooming, the look and smell of spring everywhere.  Then quick as a flash it’s parading around in its Easter bonnet, displaying all its festive finest in celebration of the resurrection of our King-truly the most meaningful of all the roles that April plays.  But there is another, lesser known hat that April dons.  It is blue but it is confusing at times to behold.  When you look at it from one angle it looks to definitely be a derby hat and yet when you gaze again from a different angle it appears to be a top hat and when you look yet again you know for sure it is a cowboy hat.  And then you are confused.  Besides, who wears blue in April anyway? April is a festive month, full of laughter and life.   You decide to stick it in the back of the closet, such a confusing, out of place hat.  It’s better just not to think about it.  This is the hat of Autism Awareness Month.
I have to admit for years I too did not think much of it.  The organizations that pushed so hard were ones that I have deep philosophical differences with.  So I chose to just push it to the back of our closets and forgot about it.  Until this year.  This year I have decided to show just how beautiful that blue, confusing hat actually is.  April is the PERFECT month for Autism Awareness because the spectrum is as diverse, beautiful, and full of laughter and life as the month itself.  For too many years those of us who feel so passionately about neurodiversity have just sat back and allowed others with different opinions to speak for us.  I think it is time that we stand up and be counted among the beautiful angles of this complex hat.
Autism is not a one size fits all kind of thing.  There are many who believe just as passionately about finding a cure as I do about neurodiversity.  But one thing we can all agree about is the need to educate and celebrate Autism with the rest of the world.  I had a perfect example of why on the first of the month.  As I said I chose to celebrate big this year, the boys made their own autism awareness T-shirts.  They are fabulous as you can see from the pictures and I lit our house blue.  The boys were excited to wear their t-shirts to school.  Sam, my son not on the spectrum added a picture of two boys and the slogan “Autism is not bad” to his neurodiversity rocks shirt.  His compassion and understanding of his brothers brought tears to my eyes.  It was a beautiful day so after school we went to the park still wearing the Autism Awareness Month shirts.  We were the only ones there and my boys were thrilled to play in the sand in the warm TX sunshine.  It didn’t take long before other families started to arrive.  The more people to arrive the more my boys started to stim.    I started getting the look….the “why doesn’t she just beat their butts” look.  Honestly I have gotten used to those over the years and don’t let them affect me too much anymore.    But then one lady looked over and pointed at the t-shirt Jamie was wearing.  It said “Autism looks like me” suddenly her attitude and that of her companion changed.  This is what education does.  If we change just one person’s mind about their preconceived notions they will in turn share their new knowledge.  Suddenly it all starts to make sense and our children get to experience life in a more educated culture.  It is my hope to begin a cultural revolution.  A revolution that celebrates the neurological differences that God has created the same way we celebrate the color differences or cultural differences.   So this year join me in donning your own crazy blue hat.  I swear it will be so in vogue.  

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Kristine Meier-Skiff. Powered by Blogger.