Update – My boy is in college!!

Ugh…Life just got ahead of me and I never came back to this blog.  So sad.  Wonder if one day I’ll have time to really fill in all the details.  Well, I’ll have to settle for an update right now.

So…here we go…

In 2014 my son graduated from high school.  It was such an amazing day for me and when I went over to give him a hug after the ceremony I completely lost it and started crying because ALL THOSE YEARS of hard work and struggle had paid off.  Let me back up.

Anthony spent a lot of years lonely.  He wasn’t very social and spent countless hours in his room reading his books.  He never went out.  Never went to a friend’s house except the one friend he made in middle school, but who then went off to a different high school.  It never seemed to matter to him much.  And then social media happened.  When he got to high school he became active on Facebook.  Or at least he followed a bunch of his school mates and would check out what they were up to.  He would see them hanging out and going to parties.  He never did any of those things.  So we started working on that.  I felt awful that he was 15 and every time he wanted to go to the movies he would ask me to accompany him.  A 15-year-old should be going to the movies with his friends…not his mom.  So I told him to ask the kids he sat with at lunch if they’d like to go.  We actually role played because he was so uncomfortable doing it.  Every day he’d come home from school and I’d ask if he had brought it up to them and he always said no.  I was getting so discouraged but I pressed on.

Then one day he came home and told me that he needed a Halloween costume because he was going to a party.  A PARTY??!!  WHAT PARTY?!!  He said he heard some kids talking about a Halloween party and the kid throwing it happened to sit in front of him in one of his classes.  So he just asked the kid if he could attend.  Just like that…he was off to a party.  So I made him a costume (Scarecrow from Batman…my straight jacket was epic by the way) and off he went.  Said he had a great time and talked to a few kids.

scarecrow costume batman

He had befriended this one guy who was really nice.  They went to the mall together once which was another thing that was foreign to him but that he always wanted to do.  He didn’t remain close to that specific friend but through him he found other friends.  He became part of a group.  MY SON…part of a group of close friends.  FRIGGIN’ baffling for me.  I was SO HAPPY!!  He started going to out with them regularly and attending some more parties.  He was so happy.

He also got his driver’s license.  It took him an extra year because he really had no interest in driving.  Said he didn’t feel responsible or focused enough to be on the road.  But when he turned 17 and didn’t have a permit, I got concerned.  I sat him down and made him study for the written test.  Then I quizzed him.  I said “Ok, sounds like you know it…let’s go.”  He was like “WHAT???”.  Yes, I drove him to DMV and made him take the test then and there while it was fresh in his mind and he passed with flying colors.  Then it was time to learn to drive.  Oh my God…I’ll save that for another post.  Seriously…I think it’s how I started getting gray hair and I may have traumatized him just a tad.  But he drives all over now so mission accomplished.  Another huge milestone down in the books.

1234007_10151607172932984_314637847_n

Senior year came around and I was so upset that he had decided he would not go to prom.  I was beside myself.  I just kept thinking…that’s one of those experiences you’ll NEVER have the chance to redo.  EVER!  You miss it and it will be gone forever.  That’s it.  No do-over.  We went back and forth over it.  Repeatedly.  He had this friend (a GORGEOUS and unbelievably talented sophomore named Alexis) so I told him he should ask her.  He lit up and said “Wow…that’s a good idea!”.  What?  Just like that??  That’s all it took was for me to come up with someone he could ask to prom???  So he asked her and she accepted.  OH MY GOODNESS I was in utter HEAVEN that day!!!!!!!!!  I made sure their outfits matched, that she had a beautiful corsage, I rented them a beautiful car.  And of course I made them come to the studio and take photos.  Am I allowed to say they were the best dressed?  Well I’m going to say it anyway.  Her dress had an anchor with a skull on it, he had an anchor pin and anchor socks.  She rocked her signature red lipstick and he rocked Chuck Taylors.  They were modern, with a not to vintage and definitely whimsy.  What’s not to love?  Damn…I want a redo on my own prom.

autism success story

Our school has this thing called a promenade where all the parents and family members come watch the kids be announced and they basically walk a runway and everyone cheers and takes photos.  It’s awesome.  My parents were NOT about to miss this so they came down to watch.  It was just amazing to see him all smiles with this gorgeous young lady and wonderful friend on his arm.  Seriously I get teary eyed.  Just thinking about it.  It’s just a right of passage for some parents but for me it was something I never thought I’d get to see.  My boy going to prom.  Sounds so simple doesn’t it?  Yet for us and many like us, it was a breakthrough.

asperger's story

Needless to say he had the time of his life and I, once again, was proved to be right.  And isn’t that what’s really important here?  Ok, I’m joking.  Kinda.

Graduation Day was so epic.  We threw a party so all our family could celebrate his accomplishment.  I was beaming.  It has been such an emotional day and such a proud one for so many reasons.  Here’s the boy whom I was told may never be able to something as simple as WRITE!!  And here he was graduating from high school, with friends, not feeling lonely or isolated, and getting ready to go off to college.  Here he is with his friend Rob who is still one of his great friends today.  I wonder if these kids know what their friendship means to him.

Asperger's success story

asperger's syndrome story of success

Ok so even before prom, we checked out colleges.  He was an A-B student but was convinced that he should go to the nearby junior college because he was afraid of a big university.  I said hell no.  Well, at first the low price was appealing of course but I was concerned that he was once again just afraid to venture out.  So we check out two big schools and my boy ended up at Rutgers University…and dorming…with a complete stranger.  Know what sold him??  His favorite store is Barnes and Noble.  Rutgers’ book store happens to be largest Barnes and Noble in all of North America.  And this lucky son-of-a-gun ended up with a dorm right down the street.  He was sold.  This was the bravest thing he had ever done.  I was a nervous wreck but I braced myself.  We face timed so I could see his face and make sure he was ok.  His first night he said his roommate walked in with a crowd of people, a bottle of fireball and a bag of weed.  I said “welcome to college”.

10659381_10152338824257984_7623843997458122477_n

So he’s going into his junior year.  Has found a roommate he likes and is still very close with his high school friends including the beautiful Alexis.  He used to be SO BAD at keeping in touch with people and really nurturing those relationships.  Now he makes every effort to see his high school friends whenever he’s home.  And one of them is at university with him.  He still isn’t a social butterfly and doesn’t have a TON of friends at college.  He tried the party scene and it just wasn’t for him which is fine.  But he has some very close friends at home who he talks to regularly.

The first few semesters were rocky academically.  But I kept pushing him telling him that he could do better.  And he has.  The last two semesters he’s managed a 3.2 gpa.  He is still completely addicted to books and comic books so he’s an English major with a minor in History.  Lately he’s taken to reading about the history of England’s royal families.  Because, ya know…that’s what he does for fun.  LOL.  Maybe he’ll write the next epic series like Game Of Thrones.  OMG…that beach house I’ve always wanted may still become a reality.  No seriously…I think he would make an exceptional novelist and then he could live anywhere in the world while he writes.  Yes I put these ideas in his head because WHY SHOULDN’T I?  Why shouldn’t he aspire to reach them?  I truly believe that he can do anything.  And I hope that belief has made a difference in his life.  And I hope he has the same belief in himself.

College hasn’t been without its struggles.  I feel like I still do a lot for him.  Like for instance…last year he forgot to apply for housing.  Seriously.  So I had to write to the school on his behalf and beg for housing…which he got…A DAY BEFORE HE HAD TO MOVE IN!!  So shove everything into bags at the last minute and haul him back to school.  Thank God it’s only an hour away.  I gave him a brow beating he will not soon forget and he DID make sure to apply for housing as soon as the application came out this year.  Silver lining is that he ended up on a campus that was really better suited for him and he loves it.  But I was SEETHING!

He also went through a spell where he wasn’t sure he wanted to go back.  WHAT???  Over my dead body!!  He was feeling lonely because he had a group of friends first semester who he fell out with 2nd semester.  His roommate also moved out and this kid my son referred to as “Furniture Ken” because he NEVER LEFT THE ROOM moved in.  He was a bit miserable.  But we had a long talk and in the end…I said…”You’re going back!  You can’t base a decision on one semester!”  And he went back, had a great year and is very happy.  It helps that this year he has his car on campus so he could leave whenever he needed a breather and would go visit his family or just walk around the mall away from campus.

Food has also been a challenge.  He doesn’t eat a huge variety of foods and prefers crunchy things so he loves chicken fingers and french fries.  And being that we’re not there to monitor him, he over indulges in fast food and soda and he gained 30 pounds his first semester.  But he’s 20 now so all I can do is feed him better when he’s home and try to make him understand why he needs to make healthier choices.  But I know it’s hard for him and the fact that he now loves guacamole, lobster, fried calamari and a decent list of foods is a far cry from the boy who once ONLY ate bread and white rice.  He seriously lived on it.  So hopefully he’ll figure it out one day and be healthy and happy.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted for him.

We have some plans.  When he graduates in a couple of years we plan to travel Europe.  He’s always wanted to see London so I thought we’d go to London, France and maybe Spain.  It will be my graduation gift to him.  I’d love for him to study abroad but I think he’s afraid of getting homesick.  So fear still keeps him from doing some things.  But with a little encouragement, he’ll try them.  He still needs a push now and then but he’s getting old enough to know what’s best for himself.

Ok, big breath…that was a LOT to write in one sitting.  I really wish I had kept this up but I at least wanted to get the big points of the last few years down because THIS was the goal.  THIS is what I’ve always pushed him towards.  THIS is what I’ve always wanted for him.   And now that we’re here…on to new goals.  To help him have the life of his dreams in any way I can.  But I won’t do everything for him because my main goal for him is to be self-sufficient.  But I will push him, advise him and support him every step of the way.

This is far from the end of his story and I look forward to adding more in future posts and filling in all the past details little by little as best as I can.  I welcome any questions or comments.  You can post here or you can reach me at jmorse28@gmail.com.

Thank you to anyone who’s taken the time to read this.  I know this blog is buried way deep in the net but maybe someone will find it and it will give them hope, make them laugh, or just know that they’re not alone.

It’s The Little Things

Happy 4th Everyone! Or all 2 of you who might actually read this blog.

So yesterday was the 4th of July and I had family over. The plan was to go to the high school to watch the township fireworks. But we then remembered just how terrible the traffic was to get out of there so we opted to go to a park with an open field where we could see the fireworks from afar, without the crowds. But my Anthony had been texting a friend and found out that a group of them were going to the high school and he really wanted to go. We compromised and we dropped him off there and we went to the field.

Years ago, he would have never texted friends to see where they were going, let alone actually get upset at the thought that he might not be able to join them. His biggest difficulties have always been socially. That was the one thing that I never thought would go away. But he started hanging out with one kid last year, and then got to know some that that kid’s friends, and subsequently maneuvered his way into that group. Now I can finally say that he has a group of friends which he hangs out with and has become much more social. He doesn’t feel as awkward around his peers as he used to and it’s such an amazing thing to see. And such a relief. I used to worry that he would lead a very lonely life.

This winter he went to several parties, he went to support his friends in school talent shows, sports, etc. Even if he doesn’t participate in them, he attends for his friends. He became friends with a lot of Seniors and wasn’t afraid to ask for a ride home when he needed (which made me very nervous but I knew it was something I had to get over) and he just blossomed socially. He’s still somewhat of a homebody but I’ve noticed that his friends are too.

I did push him. I used to tell him to ask his friends to the movies and ask what their plans were for the weekend. I REALLY pushed. And then I’d let it go. And then I’d push, and then I’d let it go. And he finally did it at his own pace. He said that social media made him much more aware that kids his age were getting together and doing things and he wasn’t. And that made him want to. I just had to TRY to make him feel more comfortable. He used to tell me that he would barely talk around friends because he was afraid they’d think what he had to say was stupid. So I would say “well, do you think what they have to say is mind blowing? Of course not, but you don’t think they’re stupid for it. So why would they think that of you. You’re not an alien.”

Don’t know if anything I said or did made any difference but at least he knew that it was important to me that he learned how to be social. And he did. In his own time…when it became important enough to him. And I couldn’t be more happy for him.

Hope, love and patience,

Janice

UPDATE

I’m so very sorry that so much time has passed and that I have not kept up at all with this blog.  But life is just so unbelievably busy, that it’s difficult to keep up.  This morning I saw that someone left a comment and it inspired me to start again.  I’m just not not the best blogger so bare with me.

My son is now finishing up is Junior year in high school.  Just took his SAT’s and we’re looking at colleges.  We’ve come such a long way.  Next year at graduation, I will be a blubbering mess, because this was one big goal for him.  Too see him graduate high school and go on to college.

I was thinking about it this morning and I think the only way to really share our story is to share my journals.  I have kept a journal for each of my 3 boys from before they were born.  I hope sharing them will help you all see how we ended up here.  What we’ve gone through, our struggles and our successes.  I say WE because as parents we through it with them.  Sometimes we’re much more affected than our children.  A lot of times, actually.

So this summer, I will start sharing.  I’ll spare you the boring entries.  And I’ll also share the journal kept between myself and his teacher when he was 4 years old.  It’s daunting to read it now.  It just doesn’t even seem like the same kid.

They say these kids can’t show emotion very well.  Well, for a quick example…just the other day he was frustrated because he broke our push mower and had to use the ride on mower.  He hates it.  Doesn’t like to drive AT ALL.  So, because he looks so annoyed…and I’m that kind of mom…I went to take a photo of him and he flipped me off.  I almost pee’d myself.  Looks to me like he’s expressing himself pretty damned clearly.  And it made for a great Instagram pic.

Talk soon…Janice

Quick Update and Interesting Link

I haven’t had much time to write but I just wanted to drop in and write a quick update and share a link to another blog.

First my update.  I just wanted to share something with you moms who feel like you’re going to be taking care of these Aspie or Autistic kids of yours for the rest of their lives.  Well, you are because they’re your kids and that’s what we do, right?  But what I mean is that you will eventually be able to turn your back, let them go and they’ll be ok.  I’m talking to those of you who’s kids are more high functioning of course.  The reason I say this is because my 14 year old just spent 4 weeks away from me in (gasp!) another country, and he returned in one piece.  And he went with his father’s (remember I’m not a fan of dad) parents.  I’m not the closest to them so it’s not like he was going with my own parents.  So it was tough for me.  But I trust my son and felt that he could take good enough care of himself to handle it.  And he did.  He broke his Kindle, but at least HE came back in one piece.

So one day, you WILL be able to let go.  Even if just a little.  I’m not saying it’ll be easy.  I missed him like crazy and drove myself a little nuts, but it was a great experience for him.  And he needs to know that I trust him and needs to feel like he has some independence from mom.

Now for the link.  This is from John Elder Robison’s blog.  He’s an adult with Asperger’s, an accomplished author and he serves on review boards for the National Institutes of Mental Health and Autism Speaks.  He’s also a photographer which, of course, I think is tre’ cool.

I stumbled on his book, Look Me In The Eye by accident.  I was a HUGE fan of his brother, Augusten Burroughs’ books and he had mentioned in several of them that he had a brother with Asperger’s.  Then one day while look for a book about diets for autistic children I saw a book that said :  Look Me In The Eye:  My Life With Asperger’s by brother of Augusten Burroughs.  I HAD to read it!!!  He had a very interesting life.  You should pick it and read it.  It will enlighten you as to what an Aspie is capable of even with NO support.

So he writes this great blog and just had a great post about research they are doing.  Here’s the link.  I think it’s pretty interesting.

As my kiddies all head back to school…all full time for the first time in eight years…HALLELUJAH…I will try to be more consistent on keeping up this blog.  I have so much more to write.  There is SOOO much to this story.  Any my husband suggested I stop calling him Moose because my son REALLY hates it.  His name is Anthony.

In The Beginning… {Asperger’s Syndrome}

Sigh…This story is going to start like so many you’ve already heard.  “He was a normal little boy.”  Well, what else can I say but the truth?  He WAS “normal”.  Moose met all his milestones on time if not early.  He slept through the night at 4 weeks, walked at 10 months, said his first word at a normal age and he ate everything in site.  The only thing he did late was get his first tooth.  He was 11 months old before he cut his first one.  Not sure if that means anything but I remember it concerned me.

So what happened?  I have no clue.  I just remember that at some point he got weird.  He stopped communicating.  He used to speak English, some Spanish and understood Italian.  But at the age of about 2 1/2 he all but stopped speaking.  He spoke very little and constantly repeated things he heard on tv.  There was no such thing as having a conversation with him.

I told myself he was just a little behind and convinced myself that it was because we were confusing him.  I spoke English at home, my parents spoke to him in Spanish and his father’s family (we were divorcing) spoke only Italian to him.  So OF COURSE he was confused.  Understand also that I was only 22 or so at the time and believed whatever anyone told me and this is what my family told me.  I also wanted to believe it.  But deep down I knew something wasn’t right.  There were other signs.  I just didn’t know what they were signs of.

Moose never played with toys the way they were intended to be played with.  He didn’t race cars up and down his raceway carpet.  Instead he lined them up.  If I mixed them up when he wasn’t looking, he’d run right back and put them back in the same order.  I never understood how he remembered what order they were in.  I’m not talking 3 or 4 cars…I’m talking like 20.  He also became obsessed with telephones and fans.  I still can’t tell you why to this day and neither can he.  He finds it pretty funny and bizarre now.  But it was incredibly frustrating back then.  Everyone’s house we visited, he’d instantly become attached to their phone and in many cases break the phone.  Didn’t make for a pleasant visit.  If we went somewhere and he found a ceiling fan or and standing fan we’d have to stand there and let him stare at it until he was satisfied or he’d have a meltdown.  Maybe it soothed him.  I don’t know.  I do remember one day reprimanding him for something and KNOWING that he just did not understand me.  I could tell that he had no idea what I was saying.  And I started to cry and said to my husband “What if he’s autistic?” and he just said that I was crazy.  A mother knows.  We don’t want to believe it, we want to bury it, but we know.

The food situation just got worse and worse.  That’s something we still struggle with but it’s much better.  He went from eating anything and everything to basically living on pizza crust, bread and white rice!!!  It was awful!  He was so thin and he just looked unhealthy!  We just couldn’t get him to try anything.  It made him gag.  We couldn’t eat anywhere unless they had pizza, bread or white rice and he was very picky about the kind of white rice he ate.  It really was a nightmare.  Even medicines were a nightmare because we couldn’t get him to swallow them.  There were countless other things.  Like he hated haircuts.  He cried when I took him for a cut.  Getting him out of the bathtub was a battle.  He didn’t like strangers picking him up.  I warned my old boss not to pick him up once and he didn’t listen and Moose slapped him.  I rather enjoyed that actually.   When I ironed his shirts I had to let them completely cool off before putting them on him or he’d say I was burning him.  He never slept in his room with the lights off.  I mean, the lights had to be completely on!  No nightlights.

But I just kept telling myself that these were little phases he was going through and the terrible 3’s.  So we enrolled him in preschool.  I was TERRIFIED.  I was scared that now it was inevitable that his teacher would notice there was something “off” and would bring it to my attention.  But I HOPED that being in a school setting with structure he would mature and snap out of it.  Yeah.  Wishful thinking.  One can hope, right?

Then the letters started coming home.  I still have them.  Those heartbreaking letters from his preschool teacher.  The letters that started it all.  But the letters that ultimately lead to his early intervention.  Understand that 11 years ago, age 4 was considered early intervention.  Nowadays it’s considered at age 2.  But I was so ahead of the game back then because Asperger’s was still considered a very new diagnosis.

Back to the letters… “Dear Mrs. M. ” … Oh that reminds me, I had JUST remarried at this point.  Literally 5 months before he was diagnosed.  Like your first year of marriage isn’t hard enough, right?  Not to mention that my husband and I were barely 24 when he was diagnosed.

“Dear Mrs. M., Your son has been having some trouble during circle time.  While all the other kids are sitting down participating, he’s running around in circles making animal noises.”  Hmmm…well, at least he gets the concept of a circle.  Maybe that’s what circle time means to him?  I know I’m reaching.

“Dear Mrs. M., We’re having an issue with your son and personal space.  He seems to get right up in the kids’ faces when speaking to them and they don’t like it.  Sometimes he growls at them and it frightens them.”  Umm…ok.  Well, at least he speaks to the other kids..sometimes.

This one was in a sealed envelope.

“Dear Mrs. M., You may want to to sit down and have a cup of tea before you open this one.”  Oh shit.  “Today I was busy tending to another student and when your son couldn’t find the appropriate way to get my attention, he grabbed me by the back of my hair.  I had to grab him by the arm to get him off of me and as I did so, another parent was looking in the window.  To the parent it appeared as if I was being abusive while all I was trying to do was get him off my hair.  It caused quite a situation in school today.  We need you to come in for a meeting.”  Oh dear God.

I have a stack of these letters.  These are just a few of my favorites.  So off to meet with the teacher I went.  My worst fear was that they’d tell me there was something really wrong with my son.  I thought MAYBE they’d say he had a behavioral problem and, honestly, at this point I was HOPING for that.

To my surprise the principal joined her.  And my worst fear was realized when they suggested that I have him evaluated.  They said they thought he may have some type of PDD.  They only said “a learning disability of some sort, or maybe it’s nothing” but it was my worst fear.  They recommended a hospital to have him evaluated and off I went not really knowing what to think.

The day of his evaluation was the day before his 4th birthday.  He was having a good day.  He didn’t speak at all during the evaluation but he did what was asked of him when the doctor told him he could play with the toy horses if he did such and such.  Horses were his favorite.  So here I am thinking he’s doing amazing.  They’re going to tell me there’s nothing wrong with him.  Maybe just some speech delay.  They wrap up and the doctor says to me “I think your son has mild Asperger’s Syndrome or high functioning Autism.  I went cold.  I had no idea what Asperger’s was and all I heard was Autism…and all I saw was Rain Man.  I thought I would die right then I there.  I thought he had made a mistake.  I didn’t understand.  I thought he had done so well.  It was actually one of his BETTER days!!  So I leaned forward, all 24 years of me, toward this 75+ year old man who had obviously been doing this forever and I said “What if you’re wrong?  What if you don’t know what you’re talking about?” choking back tears.  And he just said, “I encourage you to get a second opinion.”  You bet your ass I’m getting a second opinion!!  But I was crushed because I knew he was right.  It was the worst day of my life realized.  I just wanted to hear that my son was dyslexic or had a learning disability or ANYTHING that could be cured.  NOT Autism!  He also said that fortunately I live in a state that has the best laws and services for Autistic children.  And that was that.  I left and didn’t know what to do next.

So I went home and cried.  I replayed my entire pregnancy in my head.  Ugh, and what an awful one it was.  Let me not bore you with all those details (actually, it’s a very good story but I don’t think it has anything to do with this), but suffice to say that Moose was not planned.  I was very young and in college.  Madly in love with his father so when I ended up pregnant there was no choice for me but to have him.  His father, on the other hand, couldn’t really think for himself.  One day he was happy and the next, after talking to his parents who were none to thrilled, he was nervous and didn’t know what he wanted.  There was much more drama than that but maybe I’ll leave that for a side story if any of you want to hear it.  But anyway, it was war of the families to say the least and I was seriously having a nervous breakdown.  I mean seriously, my nerves were shot to the point where I would shake.  Can’t be good for a baby in the first trimester.  So did that do something to the embryo?  Did I have a drink before I knew I was pregnant?  I got into a fight with my dad at one point and ran out of my house and fell down.  (I told you it was dramatic.)  Did I hurt the fetus at that point???  This had to be my fault somehow.  Somewhere along the way I had to have done something wrong and now this poor child was paying the consequences.  So I cried.  And I cried.  And I cried.

And then I realized that I wasn’t doing him any good by laying there crying so I got up off my ass and went online.  Looked up Asperger’s and was amazed.  I couldn’t believe that they were describing my very unique little boy!  I couldn’t believe that there were other kids out there with the same quirks!  OMG, there were others like him!  So then I started looking up organizations and found COSAC which is now Autism New Jersey, Inc.  And then everything started to change.

My next post will be my Board of Ed battle and how I got him into the school that changed his life.

5 Remarkable Achievers with Autism

I just found this link and wanted to share it.  I found it very interesting.

http://gimundo.com/news/article/5-remarkable-achievers-with-autism-or-aspergers-syndrome/

I know all autistic kids don’t have a savant-like abilities but they I do find that MOST have some sort of hidden talent and because they become so obsessed with it, they tend to really excel at it.  My son can read 5 plus books at once and will sometimes finish 1 or 2 in a day because he loves to read.  He can also build those tiny little Legos things like Bionicles and Star Wars in MINUTES!  It takes me hours to put one of those things together and months to get through a book (for lack of time).  I love to read too but if I read more than one book at a time I confuse the characters.

We’ve come so far – Asperger’s Syndrome Teen

Let me start by telling you why I’ve started this blog.  Basically, I’m sick and tired of reading (what I think) is bad advice on blogs and forums regarding children and teens with Asperger’s Syndrome and ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders).  This blog is about my son, our struggles with him and the AMAZING success we have found.  I will try to explain as much as I can but I don’t want this to turn into a book.  So please ask a question if you have one.  I’m very good about getting back to people so check back for a reply or subscribe to the blog.  It will take me some time to get from where we started to where we are today since he is now since he’s now 14.  So for this first post, let me give you a brief summary.

For the sake of this blog I’m going to call him Moose.  He HATES that nickname but it’s a joke in our house.  So we’ll just go with that.

Moose was diagnosed the day after he turned 4.  He had been having a TERRIBLE time in pre school.  Ugh.  Terrible.  I’ll go into more details in a later post.  So he was diagnosed.  He was non verbal except for echolalia (would repeat things he heard on TV), little to no eye contact, ran around in circles in class, had no concept of personal space and could be aggressive at times.  All I wanted was to be able to have a conversation with my child.

Fast forward to last night June 23rd, 2010.  My son graduated 8th grade.  Mainstreamed since kindergarten.  Graduated at the top of his class, made honor roll every single marking period all through middle school.  Although he is classified, he gets NO help.  He’s only classified in case he needs any help in high school, the classification is already in place.  Every teacher (even the really mean ones) adore him and he has a great group of friends.  He won an award given by our county that goes to the student who shows the most humanitarian efforts and is the most caring and compassionate student.   He is an avid reader and creative writer.  Had a short story published at the age of 10.  Is a budding artist having his work chosen to be displayed in the district wide art show 5 years in a row.  We were once told that he may never write properly and may need a word processor in the classroom.

He has more than exceed all of our expectations.  And this is WHY I think that is.  We NEVER expected him not to.  I read all these articles and advice and they say to set expectations low and set small goals and remember that “these are special kids”.  Yeah, they’re special because these kids are a lot smarter than most of us!!  It’s just locked in there and we need to find a way to unlock it.  Just because they have ASD or Asperger’s doesn’t mean that they can’t do something.  It just means that maybe they have to find another way of doing it.  Just like my son used to have issues with word problems.  I knew that he was paying to much attention to sentences that had nothing to do with the word problem.  So I had to find a way to explain the problem to him to he’d understand it.  Then I had to find a way to teach him how to weed out and block out those unimportant sentences so he could solve the problems himself in school when I couldn’t be there to help him.

Food.  Ugh food has always been an issue with him.  At one point he only ate pizza crust and white rice.  I got to a point when I said enough is enough.  He needs some protein.  I tried all different ways to get protein in him.  I knew he only liked crunchy things (that didn’t explain the rice), but I made him my version of chicken nuggets and I got him to eat them.  It was a slow progression but he now eats grilled chicken breast.  Along with guacamole, pizza, Japanese food, salad and an array of other foods.  I know he’ll never eat red meat, I know he’ll never mix foods on a plate and I know he’ll never eat lots of things we eat.  But the point is that I didn’t settle for pizza crust and white rice.

He’s become more and more social over the years.  That’s been a slow process and we have been careful not push too much just not to make him self conscious.  He’s done well with just one or two friends but this year he branched out.  He has become close with several kids.  He has a group he hangs out with at school and has a buddy he hangs out with at our house and at the mall.   I never thought he’s be the “hang out at the mall” type.

I do realize and understand that he DOES have Asperger’s.  And when I see him “stim” I sometimes either remind him to stop or I just leave him alone because he’s doing it in the privacy of  his room not bothering anyone and I know it’s soothing for him.  It’s also funny how self aware he is.  Like we were about the paint the living room and I asked if he liked the color and he said “I’m sure I’ll like it when it’s done but you know I don’t do well with change.”  And then of course he loved it when it was done.

But this child who was once so severe now SHOCKS people when they find out he has Asperger’s Syndrome.  They simply cannot believe it.  I don’t hide it.  It’s not something I’m ashamed of and I don’t him to be ashamed either.  It’s his choice if he wants to tell people or not though.  He’s 14 and that’s tough enough without your friends labeling you Autistic.  So I let him make that decision.  I do talk to him about it a lot.  I explain to him what he was like as a child and how we got where we are.  I think it’s very important for him to know.  I think it’s for him to understand and appreciate how far he’s come so he doesn’t throw it all away someday.

He is truly an amazing success story.  I don’t want to say that he has beaten Asperger’s, but he’s come pretty damned close.

My purpose is to let parents know that there is so much hope for kids out there.  I don’t think that all the advice out there is the best.  I don’t think that expecting less from these kids is the solution…I think it’s a BIG problem.  By all means nurture your children but, and I hate to put it so bluntly, but treat someone like a moron and they’ll act like a moron.  Know what I mean?  Probably not the best way to put it but I’m from Jersey.  We like to keep things simple.

Ok, so that’s my summary.  I’ll write more details in later posts.  I guess my next one will be about when he was diagnosed and the school we sent him to.

Please ask any questions you may have.