Autism News You Can Use, the YouTube program I launched a few months ago in conjunction with Flaws Are The New Black, now has its own channel. This is bad, because all of you who subscribed to Flaws will no longer get to see it, but good because you can subscribe to it separately and you should!
I was telling someone recently why I launched Autism News You Can Use and honestly, it’s not just because of my son or to help my son. It’s because I never want another parent to spend as many hours (hundreds of hours!) as I have on the Internet researching how to help their kid. Getting online, Googling forever, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. I have been blessed to have the time to Google and Google and Google some more, and to find some really great needles in the endless haystacks of information. But other parents don’t have that time and they need all the resources they can get. I started Autism News You Can Use in order to share what I’ve found – and continue to find – in an effort to make other parents’ lives easier.
If you know someone who can benefit from the resources available on Autism News You Can Use, I hope you’ll share the link above with them.
Like every other kid on the planet, I wanted my driver’s license. It didn’t matter that I was an absolutely terrible driver, the kind that clips corners, hits curbs, and knocks down street signs when making a right, and who has an uncanny ability to make a left onto a divided highway, end up on the wrong side of the road, and come face to face with oncoming traffic. None of it mattered. Not nervousness, nearsightedness, or my abysmal lack of skill was going to deter me. I wanted my license. And somehow I got it. Can you imagine how petrified my parents were?
When my eldest reached driving age however, it was a different story. He couldn’t navigate the high school driving class and I was too busy caring for my husband to call and demand accommodations. And since all my son has ever wanted is to fit in, he was happy I wasn’t on the phone or in the school office making a scene. Instead he dropped the class and we decided to wait until after his dad passed to deal with it.
It’s funny, when Casey was diagnosed we were told he’d never drive. And yet he was driving the farm truck with almost no instruction. He had incredible focus and never drove fast. If anything he drove too slowly and hey, what parent doesn’t pray for that?
When it finally came time to find him a driving school, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I called school after school and none were equipped to teach an ASD student. One man even said “Oh no, ma’am, we can’t be responsible for that!” My son is not a “that.” He’s a human being who deserves to learn to drive and pass that damn test no matter how long it takes him.
By some miracle we were contacted by the Department of Rehabilitative Services and Case was given the chance to learn to drive at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville. And we thought we lived in the boonies. This place is no place. And it looks like a psych ward. Case was not happy. I pretended to be happy. Case refused to go. I dragged him there.
He stayed just long enough to get the basics. Then he escaped and showed up at the front door. I said, “How’d you get here?” And he pointed to his friend and replied, “He drove me.” Oh really? I then informed the friend that he would be finishing my kid’s training and getting him to pass the written test. Yes, I paid him, but I wanted to shoot them both.
Since you’ve probably seen my son in town, delivering pizza, you know he passed. What you don’t know is he passed the first time. He still drives a little slowly but he’s never turned into oncoming traffic like his mom has. Recently. Yeah, let’s not get into that.
So what’s the moral of the story?
One, young adults with ASD, don’t despair and parents, don’t give up hope. There are driving schools popping up all over the country that specialize in teaching kids with ALL KINDS of special needs.
Two, if you live in Virginia, Woodrow really does have a great driving program (despite it’s being ugly), staffed by talented, patient professionals, and it’s not your only option. There are other resources available to you. Yes, there are. I found them. Too late for Case but just in time for you.
And three, don’t believe everything the professionals tell you. Just believe in your kid.
We’ve all got something that makes us different, thank God. Can you imagine a world of cookie cutter, Stepford people? Beam me up, Scotty, ’cause I’m not sticking around for that. But we all have things in common, too. I always wish we’d look for the common ground in dealing with people. And believe me, I’m not perfect. I remind myself constantly to do just that.
For example, my eldest has autism. I have anxiety. These are just two things that make us different. There are dozens of others. He remembers everything, I haven’t held a memory in my head for more than 20 seconds in years. I think. I can’t really recall. He’s incredible with computers, and digital thingies like getting Amazon Prime linked to our TV. It’s a miracle! There’s a beam , bringing cool shows and movies – like magic – into my little house! His focus is enviable. It should be patented and sold. We’d make millions. And then there’s me. My adult ADHD has me writing this, responding to work email, and Googling “best cameras for youTube” at the same time. Is it any wonder I’m always tired and he’s so chill?
We are different. And we are alike.
The other night over dinner, completely out of nowhere, he says to me, “You know what kind of days I like the best?” I said, nope. He said, “The days where I don’t spend any money!” I was floored. The kid’s a clotheshorse.
The folks at Amazon and Hot Topic send him birthday cards, for Pete’s sake. But you know what? That’s my favorite kind of day, too. I had no idea we had this in common. We both love Tostitos, can’t add, can quote Tropic Thunder line for line (not something to brag about, but still), and more, so much more. But this new common ground cracked me up and comforted me. He’s not going to put himself – or me! – in the poor house! Praise the Lord!
More importantly it reminded me to see past his autism, and to push our conversations away from the countless soccer videos and Star Wars memes he wants to show me in lieu of talking. Those things are within his comfort zone but clearly, it’s expanding. I need to encourage it. Remind myself of all the common ground my kid and I share and reach for topics that pertain to them.
He is so much more than his autism. I am so much more than my anxiety. We are all so much more than we appear to be. We all need to reach for the common ground that connects us. It isn’t always easy. We may not always feel like making the effort. But when we do, it makes a world of difference. For us, for others. For the world.
Autism speaks through music, and for my son Casey, it always has.
As a very young child, a rushing, swirling, full-bodied overture in a movie would bring him to tears. I recall thinking, “How sweet, he’s a mush like me!” but no. His tears were his attempt to tell me he was overloaded by the volume of the song and the emotions it evoked in him.
He has come a long way since then. Today he loves a wide variety of music and he loves it loud, so loud I can hear him coming ten minutes before he gets to my house. It’s ok though. I hear the blaring cacophony of Sleeping with Sirens, throw in the linguine, he walks in the door and boom! dinner is served, piping hot and perfect for my baby.
He plays music, too, on the guitar. He studied locally, at Drum and Strum, and now plays open mic nights around town. He does all of the things and more the “experts” told us he wouldn’t. I harbor no ill will toward those experts and thank them for setting the original, albeit low, bar for my son so we knew what to push toward and past. If could find them I’d tell them how wrong they were. I think they’d be thrilled.
I know I’m thrilled to share this article with you. It’s running in the September issue of Warrenton Lifestyle magazine. My colleague, Pam Kamphuis, made it happen. I can’t thank her enough. If you click the above photo, you can read it in full.
Share it with someone you know who has autism.
Share it, and this post, with that person’s loved ones.