Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying where there seemed to be no hope at all.  - Dale Carnegie

Every day is a chance to try harder, live better, dream bigger, and not forget to have a little fun.  - Bruce Littlefield 

All I know about Marine Biology I learned from Disney’s Finding Nemo.   Truly.  You know the scene.  Marlin and Dory –on their path to find the East Australian Current -- find themselves trapped within a colony of jellyfish. As Marlin attempts to guide Dory through the dangerous stinging field of jellyfish tentacles, he drops a little knowledge on his Blue Tang Fish companion.  Clownfish are resistant to the sting of jellyfish due to their repeated exposure to the sting of sea anemones.  That's right – clownfish are routinely exposed to the sting of sea anemones where they reside, so their skin secretes a thick layer of mucous which stops stinging cells from reaching the surface of their skin and inflicting damage. 

All of which leads me to this… 

A few weeks ago my wife and I embarked on a Grand Adventure –we took all 3 of our young gentlemen to a child’s birthday party at a friend’shouse.   Not just any house, but an aspiring Martha Stewart style, knick-knack filled, a place for everything and everything in its place house. A place where children shall be seen and not heard.   This Autism family’s greatest nightmare.  We often decline invitations to parties such as this in somewhat unfamiliar environments, or we split up our army of young soldiers with the "Autism regiment" remaining at the home base as the “Typical regiment” goes to the party.  But, every once in a while we try to keep the army together to experience such “joys” together as a typical family would. 

We’ve been at this long enough now that my wife and I have these environments down to a science.  We are both on extra -super- mega high alert. (Okay, I may be taking a little liberty by saying we are both on the same level of alert – my wife has eyes in the back of her head, which I have not been blessed with).  We engage in a unspoken, unplanned dance of passing responsibilities.  One of us always on the trail of Autism and guiding the Little Man away from this breakable or that contra-banded food item.  Always intervening or explaining to this adult or that child that the Little Man is not ignoring them, etc.

Is it ever possible to be social when on Autism duty?  I guess it depends on the social partner.

As I was chasing Autism through this tchotcke filled house, I had a rare moment of respite.  The Little Man plopped down on a sofa in an empty room, not far from the restroom.  I did not use his respite for a moment of rest.  No way.  I surveyed the scene and strategically positioned myself in anticipation of the next stage of weaving in and out of the party go-ers repeating “excuse me” and “oh no don't touch that.” The next round of intervening and explaining, explaining and intervening.

As I stood there going over the plan for the next phase of the battle, I met a new father waiting in line for the restroom.  He has a beautiful brand new little baby, not 1 month old.  His first. Sleeping pretty well so far.  He feels bad that his wife has to go through the physical rigors of breastfeeding and wishes he could do more for her.  He and his wife could not be happier.   During our conversation, the Little Man became active in a “hey look at me I have Autism” kind of way.  A kind of maniacal laugh, a jolt of energy, a jump up onto the sofa, perhaps a little flailing or flapping,  some loud repetition of some TV show or something.  It was loud enough that my wife came in from another room to make sure I had not abandoned by post.  I had not.  She looked at me with a curious – why are you not intervening or explaining to this stranger what is going on- kind of look.  But truth be told, through his little outburst, I never batted an eye.  That is who he is.  That is how Autism manifests itself in him.  That is what our daily life is like.  I see it frequently.  Too frequently.  The nice young father, to his credit, did his best to ignore it too.  He gave a fleeting sideways glance, but it certainly was strange to him.  To that, I was oblivious.  I used to be so sensitive to how the manifestation of Autism appeared, and to try to intervene or explain the manifestation. But the Little Man was safe and smiling and it just seemed normal.

When did it happen?  When did I develop this thick layer of mucous that has made me immune to the sting of Autism?

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