Monday, January 7, 2013

Red, Green Lellow: 40 hours of ABA? No Way!!!

Red, Green Lellow: 40 hours of ABA? No Way!!!
This mother is one phenomenal woman. She works very hard to serve her son and family. I am glad my book A Real Boy inspired her. Some people just amaze you and she is one of them!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Can lessons from autism make every day Valentine's Day?

My new essay for Valentines Day, published in The Autism File Global Newsletter

"I love you too." Can lessons from autism make every day Valentine's Day?

Posted on 08. Feb, 2011 by Kelly in Featured Articles, Library
By Christina Adams -

Sometimes when I do something nice for my husband or compliment what he’s wearing, he flashes that slow grin and says, “I love you too.” Cocky, I think – I didn’t say “I love you.” I do love him, even though he always does the dishes…but forgets to wipe the countertops. But my husband, who soaks up love with great satisfaction, is onto something. It’s both saying and doing that reveals love. And if autism is in your life, love can’t wait until Valentine’s Day.

With autism, there are so many things to do. “Normal” parenting tasks like washing a child’s hair or getting him into the car operate in their own autism space-time theory, warping into black holes of minutes or hours. Agony, patience, fear and even amusement are inevitable. “My God, is this really happening?” I asked myself when my then-young son wedged himself into a tiny crack between a McDonald’s Play Place wall and a tall attached shoe-shelf. Trapped to his chin, he yelled for help as his chest compressed. Five dads pulled him out – no fire department needed! None of those dads were my son’s. His dad didn’t go to Play Places.

Alone and autism aren’t a happy combo, but a common one. I parented mainly alone when married to my son’s father. When I became a single mother almost six years ago, the “alone” part intensified. Then almost two years later, I met the man I’d wed. When he invited himself to doctor’s appointments and school meetings and scanned labels for dairy products, I watched in wonder. I’d assumed a new man would be just a supportive bystander. Instead, he became an expert on autism…and me.

My emotional needs had gone dormant during the marriage, and as a single mom my strength was sapped just fending off the multiple legal actions of my attorney ex-spouse. I wasn’t used to someone observing me, grinding a child’s medications, making school lunches or preparing medical notes. In return, he only asked to be loved. Who could not love a man like this? (Handsome and smart didn’t hurt.) I never asked him to join our world the way he has, but he’s immersed in the triumphs (at thirteen, my son has a best friend, does his own laundry, has wickedly deployed a college-level vocabulary for years, and is an empathetic, funny, and remarkable son!) and the disappointments (he needs meds and special diet to maintain his focus). My husband is fine with making two batches of pancake batter – one using vegan butter – and bringing our own desserts everywhere. On top of this he runs his own companies. I fear we have affected his work performance, but again, this is what happens when you love in the universe of autism.

On our first Valentine’s Day, we’d been secretly engaged for four months but still grappled with our tangled divorces (his divorce and property division took five years, mine three). He’d planned a romantic trip to Palm Springs for us, but a pending court date had me as close to a nervous breakdown as I’d ever dreamed possible. So we stayed home and ate at a pancake restaurant. My fear and stress made me like an injured wild animal, unable to be touched or soothed. I couldn’t even sit on the same side of the table with him. The red carnation in a cheap cut-glass vase reminded me of blood. Still, he was always there – daily, quietly, giving me space and time. Our love survived that terrible period, and when I bowed to the legal threats (I didn’t have twenty-five thousand dollars to go to court), he was there to nourish me back to health. By the next Valentine’s Day, we were juggling our two houses and four kids, and hoping to wed. Yet another court date was approaching and I’d lose the money I lived on. We can’t remember what we did, but we were happy. On our third V-day, we were already married, with two kids at home and two out in the world. We were waiting out a lengthy home loan approval process, which depressed us both. Again, we can’t remember what we did, but we were happy.

This year, naturally, I have another court date coming, of key importance for my son and with the usual ridiculous legal bills. Our new home flooded before Christmas and is now a dusty construction zone. Yet we are still happy. How? True, we’re a great fit – intellectually, physically, and in other ways. That’s huge. But a partnership worth keeping must cultivate emotional maturity and sincerity. Parents of kids with autism know how to be alone. When we’re dropped by friends or unable to access schools, community activities and churches, we get very self-reliant. The same dynamic happens in many autism marriages when the duties, losses and sadness overwhelm and divide us. Single parents also have their hard moments, often without the solace of financial support that couples may at least have. How do any of us keep it together? The only way to succeed in relationships, as in life (married or single), is by being honest. It takes our best and bravest selves to keep talking, to listen to hard words we might deserve to hear, to spill out feelings we don’t even know we have until we say them. It takes doing tasks which say “I am here,” serving our needs. It means getting up and being the best person you can. It sometimes means not getting up at all one day so you can survive the next. It means rediscovering the love we had before autism or finding the love we seek in a new place.

It’s me, packing lunch for my husband and son in the mornings, which says “look, you’re as important to me as my son,” an unfathomable statement for an autism mom.

It’s him, hauling loads of laundry downstairs, doing it, and us folding it together.

It’s me, buying him the English biscuits he loves or a spy movie as a surprise. Or simply encouraging him, a former bike racer, to exercise.

It’s him, bringing me water in a blue antique glass every night in bed.

It’s us, having time without the kids.

It’s us, holding hands under the table at school meetings, or calling ourselves “the happiest people in the divorce courthouse” as we breeze in for another awful court date.

It’s him, getting tears in his eyes when he says, “I love you so damn much” and smiling.

It’s us, using pompous words we find funny.

It’s me, telling him I had never had this much closeness in a relationship and it makes me afraid I’m depending on it, because what would happen if I lost it?

It’s us, booking a hotel room just to get away for one night, because hours of happiness sustain days of obligations.

It’s us, letting go of little arguments and talking through bigger ones, because we know winning really means losing.

A few days ago, he was fantasizing about a very fast, impractical car and I told him, “I want you to have everything you want.” He said, “I love you too.” Cocky, yes, but right.

Everyone knows autism is strong. But we need to know we’re stronger. If your child is flying high at school without an aide or you’ve just found a good group home (and the two are not mutually exclusive over time), you have special strength. Autism has given and will keep giving you the ultimate test of endurance, patience and fortitude. You will pass the test over and over. Even when you fail, you pass. Whether you want to walk out the kitchen door and never come back, or you’re feeling perfectly peaceful and a bit smug, you’re strong. Because you’ve loved another human being with an intensity that most people never know. Devotion, patience, listening and not accepting the status quo – this is love. This is also how you handle autism. Remember that, and share your love with people who deserve it.

“How do we do it,” I asked him? Is it the card he writes me every Thursday? The way I dab sunscreen on his unwilling face before a sunny walk? How do we manage to stay happy despite our constant challenges?

“Every day is Valentine’s Day,” answered my husband. I love you too.

Christina Adams writes and speaks on autism and families. She lives in Laguna Beach, California, with her husband Tony, her son and stepdaughter. Her popular memoir “A Real Boy: A True Story of Autism, Early Intervention and Recovery” (Berkley Books/Penguin) is now available on Kindle. She hopes to make this Valentine’s Day one to remember.

Monday, May 24, 2010

late at night, it's calm here

Laguna Beach is calm tonight, just like the inside of my home---few people moving around, slightly cool air temp, unclassifiable but picturesque architecture....the main difference is that the kitchen never closes here. I can serve myself all the treats I want...and I often do. My son, my husband and I wandered around town for a dream trip together tonight after the homework was done. We slipped down a tiny backstreet and found a gelato store, which we nibbled from small cups with delight. We visited the second-smallest Catholic cathedral in the world, a tiny little dollhouse of a church with lots of old crosses and tortured oil paintings visible through the murky glass. We crossed the corner near the Hare Krishna place, and wondered why we always see these vague-faced young people parade in their glowing coral robes through Prague, London, Vancouver, and other cities, but we've never seen them do one of those drum-beating parades in the US? It was a lovely night. I would not trade it for the chance to go to the Oscars, see the Stones, drive the racetrack, or any other kind of exciting outing. Nights like this, however rare, are what I always dreamt of. A real family. A little piece of this joy is all I need today.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Trial over! The five-year divorce is nearly finished

My husband just finished his trial to divide property from his previous marriage today. His ex-spouse refused to entertain any ideas of settling over the past five years. He got divorced ages ago, but she had such strong urges to hang on to the marriage by litigating the burnt ashes of it, that she couldn't let go and settle the case. He was quite generous in his offers, which never made any difference. When we were dating, I admired him because he said, "She deserves half of our property under the law and I don't resent giving it to her." So different from other men! Let's hope when the verdict is handed down in a couple of weeks, he will be recognized for his attitude and attempts at fair play--not penalized, as many people of both sexes are in Orange County family courtrooms.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Artist accepts his unknown destiny?

My one-room house neighbor, the Laguna Beach artist and Vietnam vet who is being evicted, seems to have accepted his fate. This worries me but also comforts, I suppose. The damn guy may smoke and drink too much, too soon in the day, but he's a really decent guy. He came over to help me with a busted electrical breaker yesterday when he had other things to do, like a lovely lady visitor and a bottle of wine. But up he pops of his own accord, and chased down breaker panels all over this oddly wired and vast old Tudor house in his bare feet, so I could take care of the dripping load of laundry stalled helplessly in the dead dryer.
He's got 35 days, he says. "Tryin' to get some money together, so if you wanna buy a painting, now's the time, it's a good deal." And it is. He has a painting I love of a huge blue-gray sky with laundry whipping on an outdoor line, no people in sight (why is it I love paintings without people?). It won't go anyplace we can hang art in this heavy-beamed house. But we spotted a small painting of a tomato twisted amidst it's green vines, and I might get that for someone. That will be our donation to the fund, a fare-the-well fund for a fifty-something man who listens to Moody Blues like the teen he once was, has a talent he's fiercely proud of, and a future he hasn't yet figured out.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sundays and beer go together in downtown Laguna

Sunday afternoon and The Marine Room on Ocean Avenue smelled strongly of beer from a block away. Lots of middle-aged men and women eyeballed one another, either contemplating a roll on the mattress in some nearby apartment, or walking away to sober up for Monday's work, the sensible choice but so monotonous perhaps. Inside, it was noisy and the beer was flowing---the band was on a break but not the people. So nice for me to not be inside, but to be strolling past with my son, happily married at long last. The tipsy Sunday crowd with their sexy tops and flashy shirts reminded me that I hung out on Sunday afternoons too in bars, not often, but enough. It was in Manhattan Beach and I was much younger than these hardened but hopeful LB players. Yeah, it was fun, but the music, drinks and sexy banter wore off with a sickly taste at sunset, like cotton candy when you're hungry, sweet fun with an aftertaste of emptiness.
I don't judge single people as hard as many married people do, because being single is damn hard sometimes and we are not meant to be alone all the time. As much as I enjoyed living alone and my solitude, which I truly did because I am just made that way, there were times when loneliness would gather like an unseen mist, filling the air in my apartment and although I was mostly a sensible girl with strong willpower, which saved me from a lot of mistakes, now I understand how people might do things to push that alone feeling back for just a short while, 'til they can go to work Monday morning and forget it again.