Saturday, June 13, 2015

Autism: If Things Were Different

Autism:  If Things Were Different 
by Pam Mari

Today is my nephew's 16th birthday party. It's a surprise party.  His Mom, my sister in law, has been working her tail off to make it extra special.  She's a graphic artist. She designed the invitations and sent them via instagram.  The party color scheme coordinates with the colors on the invitation.  She is detail crazy and will drive herself to the brink of exhaustion to make sure every detail; food, games, music, pool toys and poolside seating are all creatively presented and arranged.

It's a rite of passage for her son and she wants it to be memorable for both him and his friends.  

My son, his cousin, is 17.  And has autism. 

Were we invited?  NO.  Am I upset about it?

But, I can't help thinking if things were different how the day would go.

There are over 30 teenagers on the guest list.  It will be loud.  The music will be blasting.  My son could not tolerate this sensory overload. 

There will be girls singing along with the music. My son hates other people singing.  

There will be kids jumping, diving and running around the pool.  Swimming races.  Pool basketball. 
Pool noodle fights. Loud voices yelling "look out"!
Girls shrieking with excitement.  Splashes in your face.  Too much excitement and noise for my son. 

30 kids and not one of them would have an idea in the least of how to interact with my son.  That is not to say that they don't want to.  They simply don't know how.  You can't give a crash course in autism during a birthday party.  

My son would probably end up smushed in a corner of the pool by himself trying to avoid all the excitement.  I'd probably have to rush him into the bathroom after he got out of the pool as he doesnt' understand you just don't take off your trunks in front of other people, especially girls.  Somewhere along the line I would, with 90% accuracy, predict a meltdown.  

And the fact of the matter is, I just wouldn't want to go there.  I wouldn't want my nephew to have to deal with this at his special party.  I wouldn't want my son to have to endure this just to say he went.  

But I can't help thinking if things were different. 

"Hey", the voice on the phone says, " don't forget to tell Joey he has to come to Thomas' birthday party.  He would want his cousin here."

We would pack up and make sure we were there on time and bring a present that my son would pick out because teens know what other teens like. 

My son is a good looking kid much like his cousins.  I'm sure the girls would want to hang with him.  He's a good singer and would probably be singing along with the group to the blasting music.  

"Hey Mom, I tried some of that spinach dip Aunt D made.  I've never had it before.  I like it. Can you make some for us at home?"

"I appreciate the chance to sit and relax" my sister in law says.  "Where's Joey?" she asks. "Oh, I dunno he probably went for a walk with the other kids", "they will be fine, probably walked over to the shopping center to get some pizza".  

"Mom, can I stay here and you go home?"  "Aunt D is gonna make a bonfire and I want to stay until later". "Ok, text me when you are ready to come home", I reply. 

On the way home my son tells me about one of the girls he met at the party.  He says he might like to meet her at the mall and see a movie next week. 

It was a good day for him and his cousin. 

But instead, we will stay home.  We will make peanut butter and banana sandwiches.  None of which he will eat.  We will watch the same video ten times during that day.  I will try to avoid making loud noises or saying the wrong word or god forbid, singing.  And my nephew, hopefully will have a great time and his stressed out Mom will see the fruits of all her labors give joy to her son. 

But I can't help thinking - if things were different. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Random Acts of Coffee

Autism: Random Acts of Coffee
By Pam Mari

My son has autism and a self restricted diet. I'm at McDonalds every day. We have one local McD's that he refers to by location "top of the hill McD's ".  The other day I went on my usual french fry run. One of the regular staff was on break and standing outside. We started talking. She asked about my son.  

I explained a little about kids on the spectrum and how many times due to sensory issues they only eat a few food items. I told her how my son used to like to feed the seagulls that invade the parking lot each summer. 

"I cry every stinking day" I told her,"because now he cannot see the seagulls. He can't see anything." I explained to her what we have been through in the past three years in regard to my son's vision problems.  She listened and then announced that she had to go back to work.  "I hope things get better for you" she commented. 

I decided to take the drive thru method since it was raining and as I approached the pick up window the girl said to me "do you want a cup carrier?".  "No," I replied "I only have one drink, the large Hi C". 
She held in her hand a coffee cup.  "Isn't this yours?" she asked.

"No not today", I replied.  "Oh well our manager said you usually get a vanilla latte so she made it by mistake so here, it's on us", she announced.

"Oh thank you" I said.  " Well she's right here, if you want to thank her" she noted.  She moved aside and it was the young lady that I had been talking to outside the McD's earlier.  

It made my day.  A Random Act of Coffee-A Random Act of Kindness. 

I told everyone I met that day how thoughtful it was of her to take notice of my sadness and make a small effort to brighten my day.  

You might say to yourself "I wouldn't know where to start" to do this for someone.  Any small gesture will do.  Take a shopping cart back to the store for someone.  Bring their trash cans back from the curb after pick up day.  Put a cupcake on a co-worker's desk.  Making cookies?  Take some to school for the office ladies.  

Know a Mom of a special needs child?  She may appear to have it all together as he plays chauffer, doctor,therapist and teacher to her child but trust me, there's nothing nicer than a little surprise from someone to keep you going.  

Random Acts of Kindness.  Random Acts of Coffee

Spread that stuff around-a latte!