Want to create chaos in a room full of mothers? Talk about vaccines. I know, we are all sick of the vaccine debate, but without clear-cut answers, we still do not know what is causing our children to be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. There is so much speculation that it is jading what is our reality. And the reality is we still don’t know anything.
Do you believe your child was diagnosed with Autism as a result of vaccines?
I personally do not. My son was never a typical, smiling, talking child who received a vaccine and was gone the next day. My son had delays as early as 3 months old and believe me, vaccines were not the cause. I have many years with a science background and I do believe in medicine. I also believe that medicine and science can change in the blink of an eye. One of the many reasons I find it so fascinating. I have always kept an open mind but I have yet to find an article that says the risks of vaccines outweigh the benefits. I just can’t find it.
However, I do believe that vaccines should be separated. Kids on the Autism Spectrum usually have low immune systems and their little bodies shouldn’t be overwhelmed with antigens all at the same time. Absolutely. But not to vaccinate? Child abuse, in my opinion. I ask you- would you rather have a child with Autism or a child who dies from the measles?
New Jersey has a 1 in 54 rate of Autism. Why is NJ so much higher than the rest? Are we vaccinating more? No. We live in a state with chemicals in the air and chemicals on our food. Is that reason? Hell if I know. I do know my progressive Ob/Gyn allowed me to eat tuna once a month and sushi occasionally. Did I cause my son’s Autism? Maybe. But I doubt it.
I think there is more to this story. I also firmly believe that our community needs answers and we need them now. Moms need to know that vaccines are not causing Autism so that they can start vaccinating their children again. We do not need to worry about diseases that were eradicated years ago that are only being brought back out of fear of Autism. Please. Think about it.
Right now, we have the anti-vaccination moms vs. the pro-vaccination moms. We all just need to be moms again. To protect our children, from everything we possibly can.
On my son’s 4th birthday, he threw an etch-a-sketch at my head. Of course, he hit an artery and blood started gushing like I had been slashed with a machete. My other children were horrified, hysterical and completely panicked. My son looked at me and said matter of factly, “I didn’t know you would bleed from your head”. He didn’t apologize, didn’t cry and was absolutely not terrified by the amount of blood pouring from my head. Welcome to life with Asperger’s.
After a quick trip to the emergency room and a big bandage on my face, we went to his My Gym birthday party to celebrate. I strategically tried to place the hair over my bandaged face but it was impossible. I felt like a battered, abused wife trying to cover my secret. At this point, I desperately wanted my son to be like the other 4 year olds in the room. I didn’t want them to know he had the ability to hurt me. I remember wishing that it was my husband that had hurt me. Abusive husbands you can leave. Abusive children you cannot. Say what you want (I am sure I will get a lot of scathing comments) but any special education mom has had at least one moment where they wanted to pack their bags and run. Be honest.
Of course, my son didn’t intentionally hurt me. He lashed out and I happened to be in his path. His reaction is typical of kids with Asperger’s- very literal and almost no emotion. I wanted to shake him, make him understand that he should be feeling sad that he just hurt his mommy. But he wasn’t and years later, he still says “mom, remember when I threw the etch-a sketch at your head? I didn’t know you would bleed from your head.”
I never thought emotions could be taught. I was wrong. Years of behavioral therapy showing my son pictures of faces with different emotions, acting out the emotions and lots and lots of teaching by example have helped him be able to identify and demonstrate his feelings. He has always allowed me to hug and kiss him, but the other day, he hugged me on his OWN!!! Progress.
I will leave some advice for our moms with newly diagnosed children. Hide the etch-a-sketch, Mr. Potato Head can be vicious and you may want to rethink buying any kind of sword/wand or heavy guitar. They can really leave a mark. And remember, above all else, if you are bleeding from your head and you think it really can’t get any worse, allow yourself to be sad and cry. You just might teach your child with special needs how to express emotions.
Life can change in the blink of an eye. One minute, you are singing songs and dancing around your house with your 5 kids, making dinner, pouring a glass of wine to have a relaxing evening with your husband and life as you know it is normal. And you have no idea how much longer it is going to be normal but we don’t think like that. We continue our dance and enjoy the fun night with the kids. And all is good. We will look back on that night as the night before hell broke loose. The night before our whole world changed.
Last week, our daughter was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. We knew something was off but chalked it up to immaturity. Sure, she struggled in school but we thought she would pull it together. After the 100th call from her teacher telling us that she was having increasing difficulties, we decided to get her tested. And all I can remember in the past week is dancing around my kitchen with my 5 screaming kids and feeling happy. The rest is a blur.
What I do know is this:
If your child is really struggling, pay attention.
If your child is taking hours and hours to do homework, speak up. It may not be the teacher’s fault (I used to curse the teacher out every night- for this, I am sorry).
If you ask for a child study team evaluation, don’t take no for an answer. We asked a year ago and are now a year behind because they said no and we didn’t fight it.
If your child is increasingly having negative thoughts (I am stupid, I can’t do anything right), listen to them. Do not ignore it and get them help. (especially this one)
It is our job as parents to advocate for our children and the system will not allow us to do that without a fight. It is ridiculous to think that we have to fight to get the help our children need, but we do. It is the most important job we have. Sometimes, we don’t know what we are fighting for. Especially if it is our first time working with a child study team. They really know how to spin it so you think you are getting everything your child needs but I can assure you, you probably aren’t. This is where you need to speak up and ask questions. Ask your friends, your neighbors, an advocate- anyone who may be able to help you help your child.
So, put on “Eye of the Tiger”, get the Rocky gloves out and be prepared for the fight. I guarantee your child will thank you for it someday.
I have had some trouble writing lately. Mostly, because my son has been doing so amazing in his new school that I am having trouble coming up with material. (not complaining) He is happy again, confidence is building and he has three friends. The three friends actually have names which leads me to believe he really has friends. Get it? This is a first...
He hasn’t redecorated the classroom once, books are pretty much staying on their shelves and he hasn’t stabbed anyone with a pencil since the first week. Success!
Today, the tables were turned. My son went on a bowling trip with his school and another little boy threw his bowling ball at his back. Twice. The second time the teacher blocked it (can you imagine how bruised this poor lady’s body must be???) but what amazed me was I didn’t even get a phone call. I am guessing this Aspergers related behavior is so standard they don’t even waste their time on the email/call anymore? Maybe it would take up too much of their day?
It got me thinking. Was it bad that I was actually relieved that he was the one to get hurt and not hurt someone else? I would never want my child hurt but I was beyond happy that he wasn’t the one throwing the bowling ball. And, why on earth, are they taking kids with behavioral issues BOWLING??? With heavy balls? Maybe mini-golf is more like it?
Don’t think I am an insensitive mother- of course, I checked his back and it looks perfectly fine. I hugged him and kissed him and told him we all have bad days. And I reminded him of his bad days and he paused. I think it really got to him. I actually think another little sad boy acting out might be just what my son needs. And I hope, in time, my son just might be able to help the bowling ball kid learn how to breathe and count to 10 before throwing a 10 lb ball at someones back. Maybe, he might even be friend #4.
I love my husband, I really do. But right now I could strangle him. With a dish towel. Or use the kid scissors and cut off more of his balding head of hair. Or simply put some ex-lax in his dinner and see if the shit hits the fan. Literally.
When a woman becomes a mother, she automatically has the innate ability to fight to the death for her children. It appears with the stretch marks and inability to laugh without peeing. She will destroy anyone that stands in the way of her child getting what they need- including the co-creator of the child himself.
Co-parenting is hard with typical kids but insanely hard (obviously- I am thinking about poisoning my husband with ex-lax) with kids with special needs.
Yesterday, we went to see a private school for our daughter who was recently diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. I pulled up and to be honest, I almost cancelled our appointment. It was a run down house with classes being run out of a trailer. I am not a snob, but it just didn’t look right. I took a deep breath and went in. You know the saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover”?
This school was incredible. The classes were small, the staff was wonderful and the way they taught these kids made me jealous that I didn’t get to go there. More importantly, my daughter loved it. She felt at home- her words, not mine. I was ready to sign her up on the spot.
My husband seemed more concerned about the look of the school than the actual program itself. He envisioned a prep school with beautiful trees and uniforms. I get it. And before you get mad at him, know he is a loving father who would do anything for his daughter and 4 other children (maybe not give me ex-lax and cut off my hair but you get my point). He just isn’t seeing the big picture.
What do you do when you and your husband (or wife) completely disagree on your child’s treatment or where your child should be placed in school?
Dear my beautiful, smart and amazing 9 year old daughter,
Words cannot describe how much I love you. But, I can’t look at you right now. To look at you, see inside you as I so often do, would mean to kill a little piece of me. Because I failed you. And I am so sorry. It hurts to breathe right now, but I know in time, with the right help, we will both be better.
You see, my love, I was so focused on the obvious problems in the house, that I failed to see you were struggling. Failed to see that your grades, although close to average, were slipping below average. I thought you would just be the kid that had to work harder. I did not know how much you were struggling or how lost you felt. You didn’t tell me. Not your fault. I am your mother and I should have known. I am sorry.
It is no excuse that the last 8 years have been focused on your brother with Aspergers. It is true, but not at all fair to you, and something I will have to live with for the rest of my life. My heart hurts for all the times you struggled in school, academically and emotionally and I did not know. I failed you and I am sorry.
I thought you were immature. I thought you were procrastinating. I joked that I would rather stick pencils in my eye than do homework with you. How did I not get you evaluated?
I pride myself on being a warrior mom with a kid with Aspergers. Early intervention began when your brother was months old. You weren’t as obvious and I missed it. I kept thinking you would catch up. I missed it and I will forever be sorry.
My beautiful, amazing, smart 9 year old daughter, here is my promise. I promise I will always do everything I can to give you the life you deserve to have. That will include full testing and evaluations to make sure you will learn the way you need to learn. I will surround you emotionally with peers that make you comfortable and help your self esteem. You are amazing and need to know so. I will listen to you and know when you need help.
We will figure this out and I promise, this time, I won’t let you down.