Thursday, January 26, 2012


Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can.

-John Wesley

Dear Fellow First Grade Parent,

Our son has Autism and spends part of his day, with an aide in your son's First Grade class. The rest of the day he spends in a self-contained class with other children like him. Given his communication impairments, we do not really know much about what happens with him at school, or how he feels about it. We get daily reports from the teachers that give us a small glimpse into what his day is like.  But a lot is unknown to us. The other day we received a note that said when our son entered the first grade class your son went out of his way to say "hello" to him. Almost always, our son will not respond to a "hello" without an adult prompting him specifically what to say. However, the other day, he responded to your son on his own with a "Hi Dominic." It might be hard to imagine, but that response from him is truly amazing. Hearing about that simple event lit up our entire house and put smiles on all of our faces. Upon further inquiry, we learned that your son often goes out of his way to befriend our little man, which is no easy task. Clearly, your son has had a tremendous positive impact on our little boy!

We just wanted to let you know that which we are sure you already know, you have a special little boy on your hands and he has brought happiness to our family just by being himself.


The Little Man's Mom & Dad

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. ~Author Unknown

Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. ~Life's Little Instruction Book, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


One of the best parts of being a parent, from my perspective, is what I like to call the “rock star” effect. On most days I work well into the evening. As I arrive home at the Fortress of Autism –(so named because of the redundant locking system used to keep the flight risked little man from whimsically fleeing), my three little groupies greet me with such an incredible level of exuberance, I literally do feel like a rock star exiting a limo in front of his latest gig. I often joke that it is hard to imagine that some day these little ones will grow up to resent me and curse me to their therapists. I know some day, not too far in the future, these little angels will come to find out the little secret I have kept from humanity over the past 37+ years: I am really not that cool.

The Little Man can sometimes take that “rock star” effect to a whole other level – often expecting me to readily possess skills equivalent to those of the greatest composers and artists of all time.

I am a sub-amateur piano player with a piano that is out of tune. (Fortunately, I am also tone deaf- so I am not sure which keys are out of tune.). I would consider myself to be slightly better than someone who can sit and play chopsticks - so I am “Chopsticks Plus,” if you will. I am painfully slow to read music, so if I try to play something unfamiliar, it takes me a long, long, long time to get it right. That is, unless I give up in a Don Music fit of head banging in the meantime.

So as I hunt and peck away an out-of-tune tune one day, the Little Man comes over and puts his hands on top of mine and exerts some force to stop me from playing. He then removes his hands, looks me in the eyes and says “Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.” HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAH! Good one! So I go right back to what ever out-of-tune I was playing. He stops me again, ““Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.” I mean, I appreciate the confidence, my good man, but I am musically challenged and am only slapping at the ivories to get faux applause from mom when I’m done.

But, he is insistent. So, I turn to some Tchaikovsky piece and laugh. Not a chance I can play that, or anything that closely resembles that in less than 6 to 8 months. He stares at me in anticipation. So I begin my journey. And by journey, I literally mean journey. Too slow reading notes, too slow looking for keys, too slow getting the tune out. This is clearly unacceptable to him who then weighs in with an “allegro!”  Ugh.  He wants it faster.

Fortunately, he wasn’t too demanding. The sound that came out of the piano that day sounded not much different than the sound of a cat walking across the keys. But I gave it the try – and he seemed content enough with that.

I gave The Baby Einstein Company a hard time in an earlier post, but I will say that the show Little Einsteins, which has an artist and composer of the day, has certainly struck the right cord with the Little Man.  He loves all of the great composers and all of the great artists.  Nice to get away from letters, numbers and planets from time to time.

Friday, January 6, 2012


“Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression. Do not repeat them in the future.”

-Swami Sivananda

Some children on the Autism spectrum are flight risks. Ours is one of them.

I still remember the first time I discovered that our Autism puzzle included the flight risk piece. That was several years ago now, but it still makes me sick to think about it.

On a bright, sunny and crisp Saturday morning , following one of our son’s night waking episodes, I thought the least I could do for my wife was get the kids out of the house and let her sleep peacefully. Our oldest had a soccer game at a large multi-field outdoor complex, so I figured I could do it all – watch the game starring the oldest, manage the effects of Autism in his little brother, and claim to be a super-husband. (Yea, right).

I knew that keeping the Little Man in a relatively small area in an extremely large, open outdoor soccer complex, with hundreds of kids, would not be easy. He almost never stays still, acts impulsively, and has a non-stop motor. So I formulated a simple plan: 1) Hold him for as long as I could; 2) give him snacks; and 3) give him electronics. I only needed to kill an hour, so I figured that would suffice. I was confident that the day would be a resounding success – perhaps a little too confident. I thought I accounted for everything. And, maybe I did. That is, everything except my own personal failings.

The holding and the snacks got us though about half the game. Still, I tried holding out the electronics as long as I could. Electronics are like a drug to him, so we really try to limit exposure as much as we can. In any event, I was so certain that once I gave him the electronics he would be so engaged in that activity that he would be easy to corral. Still, I waited. Every few minutes he would wonder behind me, down a slight grade into a water retention area. He loves splashing in puddles. I would promptly chase him down and lead him back to the sidelines. A few minutes of that and I was ready: electronics time.

I showed him the little portable V-Tech game and sat him on a blanket right in front of me. He sat calmly and quietly and started to play. As a fail safe, I decided to stand in such a way that he was under me, sitting right between my legs. That way, I thought that if I looked up to watch the game, I could feel him move beneath me. I thought wrong.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. Sunny. Not a cloud in the sky. The joyful sounds of children playing and parents cheering. I remember my oldest: running down the side line, chasing the pack of would-be soccer stars. Smiling. I remember thinking about how I could help him be a better player. I remember thinking about when I played soccer and trying to compare my oldest to me. I remember thinking a lot of things. But that is the problem. I was thinking. Worse, I was daydreaming. I do not know how long I was out of it. But, one thing was for certain- it was too long.

When I looked down to see the Little Man, he was gone.

The panic did not set in immediately. When I did not see him, I figured he just went back to the little gully behind me, back to the puddle. He did not. It was then the panic struck.

I looked around in a frenzy. All over there were little boys and girls running up and down soccer fields. There were waves of parents and grand parents clapping and cheering loudly. There was so much noise and motion. I didn’t see him. He does not respond to his name, so yelling for him would have been useless. I was almost paralyzed with fear. I quickly ran back toward the parking area and away from the fields of play. I figured that he would either be walking toward the parking area, or that I would have a better vantage point to survey all the fields unobstructed by nearby spectators. I slowly scanned every field back and forth. No sign of him. The adrenaline in me had now reached the level where I am sure I could have lifted a car. My heart was beating so loud I could fell it and hear it. My hands were shaking. I started running back to ask for the assistance of the parents on our sideline.

As I was running, I scanned the fields again back and forth. There was a break in the line of parents standing on the opposing team’s sideline. That is where I saw him. Two soccer fields over with a ball kicking it into the net. Not a care in the world.

I would say that all is well that ends well. But, I can not put a positive spin on this story. To this day, I cannot forgive myself – my carelessness. I would say to err is human. But as parent of child with special needs, particularly one who is a flight risk, you can not err. The one day you do not lock the gate, or the door, or the one day you get lost in thought or get distracted, could lead to terrible, horrible consequences.

Fortunately, I learned that lesson the hard way without the consequences.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


“Everyman has his own destiny: The only imperative is to follow it, to accept it, no matter where it leads him.”

― Henry Miller

Sorry, Sheriff, but your speaking days are numbered. There is really nothing I can do about it. I will try. Oh, believe me I will try. But, you see, you are a marked man. That little string that comes out of your back with that little plastic circle tied to it is, dare I say, destined to be cut. I will delay it as long as I can, but the question isn’t if – the question is when.

Poor Sheriff Woody.

You see, when our Little Man sets his mind to something, it will get done. I think the author of the Gospel of Matthew was speaking to our little boy when he wrote “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you.” Hide the ipad from him, he will find it. Lock the entertainment center, he will find a way in. I could bore you to tears with stories of the Little Man and his Sherlock Homes-ian ability to figure something out and to get what it is he desires – consistently out-foxing our feeble efforts to restrain him. We finally had to password protect our computer since no hiding space was safe. Still, we think he will figure out how to hack or bypass the password. It is comical to the nth degree. Except, of course, when it isn’t.

Did I mention his grandmother has some beautiful urban wall art in her study? Yep. It says MONKEY.  Right there on the drywall.  It miraculously appeared right after the Little Man found the hiding place for the Sharpies. (Sorry again grandmom).

But, back to our ill-fated law enforcer. Poor, poor Sheriff Woody. Santa was kind enough to bring the hero from the Toy Story series to our youngest, replete with an operational, voice activating pull string. Then the thought entered the Little Man’s head. The demons...

Attempt One: He comes to my wife holding the small stuffed doll, with the string pulled out and says…”Mommy, I want scissors please.” Uhhh… No we are not going to give you scissors to cut the string.

Attempt Two: This time sans Woody doll. “Daddy, I want scissors please.” Okay, not an unusual request since he frequently cuts his artwork out of paper. So I get the scissors out of the hiding place, I prompt him to say “Daddy I want to cut………” and he responds “Woody, please.” No. No. No.

Attempt Three: The Little Man stealthily discovers the hiding place for the scissors. And the Little Boy, who normally talks non-stop from wake up until his body shuts off, is silent. Silence is bad. I catch a glimpse of him running out of the kitchen and into our “playroom.” I got there just in time. The string was extended and the scissors were in place as I ran in and grabbed his cutting hand. New hiding place for the scissors!

You better get while the getting is good Sheriff. I hear the Sunnyside Daycare is nice this time of year.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


“Know that everything is in perfect order whether you understand it or not.”

― Valery Satterwhite

Sleep Issues (Part 2 of  ∞)

Yesterday provided us with the quintessential example of our falling to sleep issue (which has nothing to do with the actual staying to sleep issue -- stay tuned you will enjoy that too!)

So yesterday its January 2. The winter break is over and the school bus will arrive promptly at 8:20 a.m. the following morning.  And by “promptly” 8:20, I mean – not really promptly at 8:20- give or take 10 minutes. Like every other family on the spectrum or otherwise, we have to have the Little Man up, dressed, fed, and ready to go or we shall feel the wrath of the bus driver and/or the drivers of the cars who sit not-so-patiently behind the school bus waiting for him to get in and get strapped in.

[As an aside, you will not believe how impatient morning driver’s are. The short little yellow school bus stops outside our house. It is no secret what the short little bus means. It’s a universally understood symbol. We live on a relatively infrequently traveled suburban residential side street. But heaven forbid if you make a morning commuter, who could turn and avoid our street altogether, wait. We get looks, honks, huffs, and occasionally gestures. Really? I mean, really? Hey Mr. Impatient – the Little Man is a flight risk okay. We can’t stand by the curb for extended periods of time as we wait for the sometimes – on –time school bus to pull up. And, yes, he needs to be strapped in a harness. I know he is six and handsome, but he is also smart and strong, if he’s not strapped in, he’s running around. Again, did I mention it is a short, yellow, bus??? Sorry our little Autism got you a little late to your latte.  Maybe you should plan better. Or go on a diet and give up the latte - fatty.]

Wow, that felt good!

Anyway, my wife and I did it all. I took him and his older brother out for some heavy physical play and some new experiences. (Okay it was Bowling. I would tell you how went, but let’s just say I will confirm that the lanes on the other side of the foul line are VERY slippery and make it difficult to catch your child as he runs down the lane after the ball he just rolled toward the pins).  We wrestled at length.  I then took him out for a late night walk to gaze at the stars. We read books, got a bath, and he climbed in the “white bed” in a seemingly tired state at 9:00.  At about 9:15 Autism struck. A burst of energy you would not believe. I swear if I could bottle whatever causes that, I would make a killing selling that to professional athletes as a performance enhancer. Unfortunately, my poor wife had the difficult job of playing defense against that performance enhanced exhibition put on by Autism, as I had the much more difficult job (hehe) of getting the brothers to sleep. You, know the “typical brothers.” Let’s just say I fell asleep with them and woke up to the sound of the Little Man hooting and hollering something about Baby Einstein or some other muckety muck.

I would bore you with the details, but to steal a line from Seinfeld: yadda, yadda, yadda – he fell asleep at midnight.

Did I mention that you don’t tell Autism when to sleep – it tells you when its ready to go to sleep. Oh, yea, I did.  See my post: Wherefore-art-thou-sleep.html

UPDATE: The so-called SuperNanny has not yet taken me up on my challenge.