Monday, March 17, 2014

A Better Kind of Spring

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything! I hate when I do that, and I think I figured out why it happened this time. I tend to write more when I’m struggling. It’s a means for me to get my own thoughts and feelings straight. I’m not sure why writing works for me, but it does! I want to share my struggles in the hopes that just one person would see it and might realize that they aren’t alone on this scary journey. I’ve gained so much insight and help from reading about other families that I hoped to pass a little of that on.

I guess that means the good news is that we aren’t struggling so much. It just sort of snuck up on me. All of a sudden every thought and action wasn’t tied up in something related to autism or figuring out what the next move is. All of a sudden we’re in a good place, Liam is happy, and we’re content with where things are. All of a sudden I’m back to thinking about taking care of other things and maybe even thinking about taking care of myself.

I think back to where I was this time last year. I was not in a good place. We were in the midst of preparations for the huge transition to public school and saying good-bye to full time ABA therapy. I was terrified. I was sure Liam would end up in a broom closet somewhere with people who didn’t care about him at all, scared to death and regressing into who knows what. I was preparing for the battle of a lifetime with the decision makers and the service providers at this school. I was considering leaving a great company simply because I was positive that Liam couldn’t handle before and after school care – and summer camp? Forget it.

None of my fears came true. Not one. The IEP team offered everything I was prepared to demand and defend. His teacher-to-be asked thoughtful questions about our son. The summer camp allowed Liam to become familiar with the school and the LOUD DRYERS and the playground and the gym and the fire alarms. He also met some kids that are the same kids he’s with before and after school. This group truly looks out for Liam. He started first grade and has definitely had some challenges, stumbling blocks, and meltdowns along the way. Homework is HARD, Friday test days are HARD, sitting still and being quiet are HARD, knowing how to talk to others is HARD. But he’s winning everyone over like he always does with his sweet self and his fascinating mind. Both his teacher and the resource teacher are accessible any time I need or want to chat. Liam just got his second invitation to a birthday party for a classmate. He has a group of girls who mother him and make sure he’s okay. He talks to the custodians and the lunch ladies and the nurse and the ladies in the office. He knows kids who aren’t in his class and what teachers they have. He is talking so much and saying things all the time that just shock us! He has come so far out of his shell that sometimes even I don’t recognize him. Liam LOVES everything about this school.

Liam is in a mainstream first grade class. No one would argue that he has the most aggressive first grade teacher in the building. He actually says that he wants his first graders to be ahead of all of the other first graders in the state. That would have been great for a kid like me, but for Liam it made me nervous. However, his teacher is great at getting to know each student and reach them where they are, and gets creative when he needs to. Liam has an aide in the classroom at all times who helps him to stay focused. He gets speech and OT, encouragement socializing on the playground if he is having trouble, and extra breaks during the day when he needs them. He takes his hardest tests in the resource room so there are fewer distractions. I get a head’s up when there are planned drills or assemblies so I can help prepare Liam. I can come to school whenever I want. Liam is getting good grades. When we got his first report card, he had a C in reading. At our parent-teacher conference, I asked if you can pass with C’s. Apparently C is average and is indeed a passing grade…Ha!!

Today I dropped Liam off at the before school care group, and on my way out, ran into his resource teacher. She said, “Hey Becca! Send me some dates and times that work for you and your husband for Liam’s IEP.” I said “Okay, do I need to call someone to schedule that?” She gave me this blank look and said, “No, I’m taking care of everything. Liam’s mine until he finishes fifth grade.” I know that as parents we have certain rights and can request certain things at certain times…I’m just so glad that this isn’t a constant fight. I’m so relieved that it really feels like we have a team. I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that we’ll never have to struggle with all of this again. If at any point this becomes not the right thing, then I’ll jump back in and figure out what is. For now, though, I’m going to rest knowing that Liam is in good hands. He’s come so far in the last year…and so have I!

I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if the people at the school have specific experience and proven success with autism. What matters most is that the people that Liam is with every day care about him enough to get to know him and what makes him tick. That goes for every child, special needs or not. So far, I’ve seen this demonstrated over and over, and I believe that is why it works – not because they have tons of special training, but because they care.  

This is the first spring in several years that I haven’t been buried in one mess or another, and I intend to enjoy it!!        

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Picture Day

Today is picture day, and Liam was so excited this morning. He only argued only for a minute when I put a shirt on him with a collar and buttons. I asked him how he was going to smile, and he gave me this crazy, exaggerated grin that would scare turn even the saddest person happy. “No, not like that, Liam! A REAL smile! Can you do a real smile?” I asked. General confusion followed. Then I felt bad, because I certainly didn’t mean to steal his joy, and his cheeeezzzy smile is still cute and miles past the blank stare that we used to be so familiar with! I am still learning when to let him be himself and when to try to correct him or guide him in another direction. One thing I know for sure it that I’m happy when he is happy!

Happy picture day! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

This may be familiar to you...

Good news! I'm published!  Of course, if you're one of the three people that read my ramblings, this will mostly look familiar to you, because its basically a speedy "from then til now" about my boy and the beginning of our journey.
A friend I met through the ABA center has struck out on her own and started this amazing resource: Autism Companion. It is focused on the Indianapolis area, but of course the information and content is universal! It will be available in print and online. I am lucky enough to have played a very tiny role in this, and am excited to see how far it goes!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Next Thing

Liam is officially done with ABA therapy. It's so strage because we worked SO HARD to get it for him, and now we're voluntarily moving on. I'll write about the recent IEP soon, but for now, for the summer, Liam is going to the YMCA day camp that is held at the elementary school where he will be in first grade next year. 

I'm happy to report that he is doing great! Two of the four staff members have experience with kiddos with autism and sensory stuff, and so far there have been no more than eight kids there. EIGHT! There may be as many as ten. I think we lucked out. As a bonus, Liam will be familiar with the school itself by the time August rolls around.

He keeps asking, "Mommy, I work at camp tomorrow?" He's never had a summer break that he can remember.  He'll be working at home, but only if I can keep him awake past dinnertime! Poor kid doesn't know how to handle playing all day.     

The transition is bittersweet, as he had to leave people he knew, loved, and who loved him back. For me too, because of the fear of the unknown.  So far (if two days count) those fears have been unrealized.

I've been so terrified of this change and I'm feeling some relief in the fact that little Liam has not shown a single ounce of fear or nervousness.

Here's to the next thing, and to taking the next breath.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I'm sitting here waiting for Liam's van to get here so we can go home.  They are late,  and my mind is wandering.  I've spent what feels like a good portion of the last three years waiting for this van, and it's all over in two and a half weeks.  I can vividly remember being choked up watching the van with "Applied Behavior Center for Autism" painted on the side drive off with Liam. I used to get such crazy mixed up emotions: disbelief that my child could be on that van in the first place,  gratitude that we were able to make it happen for him,  and worry. Always worry. I'm coming full circle now because the van and everything it stands for has become familiar. Comfortable. The gratuitude is still there,  for how far Liam has come. The worry is there too, about the next steps.

That's what life should be about,  though, right? Always taking the next step, even when it's scary.

Monday, May 13, 2013

What should I write?

It’s been a long time. It’s not that I have nothing to write, or that I haven’t thought about it. In fact, if I have a free moment, writing is all I think about, and I’ve started several times. I NEED to write. I have this urge to put things in print so that they become real. It helps me to really flesh out the answers to life’s tricky questions. My problem is this: What should I write? How deep do I go? What will the four people who see this think about my scariest darkest thoughts? The things I’ve wanted to write lately are not the happiest of topics. I’ve been stressed and confused and does anyone really want in on all of that???

I started thinking about why I read the things that I read. Sometimes I read for entertainment, but mostly I’m looking to connect. I want to know that someone else out there has similar struggles, and I want to know what they are doing about it. I want to feel connected and supported. The words I usually get the most out of reading are those that don’t just scratch the surface of something. I want to read the words that dive deep into someone’s thoughts and fears and joys. I want to feel what they are feeling.

So. I made a decision. I will write. It’s mostly for me, but its also for you, if it helps you to know that someone shares your struggles and joys on this journey. If it doesn’t, don’t read it. Please don’t take offense if I write something that you don’t agree with. I don’t write to offend or discourage, but because its for me, I can no longer be concerned about what anyone else will think.

Thank you for your kindness and your grace in allowing me to write freely. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Eleven years ago, I was a young, optimistic twenty year old preparing to marry my best friend.  I knew from the very first day we spent together that I wanted to live this life with him.  We were engaged in a month and married in less than a year.  We like to say that it was probably a crapshoot…but we’re glad we took the risk!!

We loved the time we had as a couple, especially since we hadn’t been together long prior to getting married, and saw each other only on weekends for much of that time. We closed on our house two days before our first anniversary, rescued a couple of dogs, and after four years decided to add to our little family. Planning for a baby with the love of your life might be the most fun a girl can have. We were so excited, planning and dreaming together, talking about names and discussing how we would raise our children, deciding what they might like and do, what we wanted to do the same as and/or differently than our parents had done. It was pure joy sitting together in the heat of the late summer watching our little boy move across my bare belly. 

Looking back on the first half of our marriage, I know that we had it easy. Life was good and we had very few worries. I know we’re lucky; not all couples have that luxury starting out. It allowed us to get to know each other and build a strong foundation. We had no idea how important that would become. Liam, now six, has continued to bring us much joy, but his issues have also been a source of grief, confusion, anger, sadness, regret, guilt, fear, and anxiety. Our plans for life have had to change drastically. 

In our marriage counseling, the pastor told us that my expectations were higher than those of my husband to be. I have never seen that as a source of trouble for us. In fact, I think it helps balance us out because he is able to see things objectively when I am too emotionally involved. On the other hand, sometimes emotion needs to play a role. We bring unique perspectives to each obstacle. The reason that this works instead of causing a rift is because we share a desire to be a team. We know we are better off together. We know there are things that the other is better at, and we let the other person take the lead when we know that is best for the family. There are also times when neither of us knows the answer, or even the direction to travel. It is these time that I know that I am with the exact right person, because we are always able to talk through things and come up with the best plan. Side by side, we keep pushing through, trying to have fun along the way. He told me recently that everyone gets dealt a hand of cards, some good and some bad. It is up to us to decide how to play them. He’s so right. We do the best we can with what we have when it comes to the “bad cards”, and we are thankful for the “good cards”, using them to our full advantage.

There are so many things about him that I respect, appreciate, even NEED that I had never considered in a partner at twenty years old. My love for my hubby is stronger and our friendship is deeper. I believe that happened because over the last eleven years he has proved so many of the vows spoken on that beautiful sunny day to be true. They are no longer merely words spoken by a couple of kids in love; they are unyielding truths that we can depend on.

Eleven. I’m a lucky girl.  :~)

And we're dancing in the minefields
We're sailing in the storm
This is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that's what the promise is for

Andrew Peterson – Dancing in the Minefields