In the Crosswalk

What is it with Aaron and crosswalks??!!

I was asking myself this question yet again yesterday as Aaron and I exited Wal-Mart.

I could also ask the question, “What is it with Aaron and Wal-Mart??!!”

Oh, the stories!

As we got out of the van yesterday, while we were still rather obscurely hidden in the parking lot, I reminded Aaron to pull up his jeans.  He did that while tucking in his shirt, but for some reason yesterday his shirt tucking had a rather dramatic and unsettling beginning.  It involved Aaron fully sticking his arm down the FRONT of his pants, getting his shirt settled down there, and then working his way around the remaining waistband.

I told you it was unsettling.

“Aaron, good grief, you don’t need to make such a production of tucking your shirt in,” I instructed him as we walked through the store and he decided that his jeans and shirt needed repositioning several times.

Several times in the same manner mentioned above.

When will I ever learn to quit walking ahead of Aaron in Wal-Mart?

You would think after the nightie story and the falling cereal display story and the singing story…that I would know better.

I was in full “ hurry-to-the-van-while-mentally-checking-off-my-to-do-list-and-plan-my-next-stop-for-that-one-missing-item” mode as Aaron and I exited Wal-Mart.  Which means I wasn’t paying attention to lagging Aaron.

Instinct kicked in, I guess, because I turned around IN the crosswalk, with cars and staring drivers on either side of us, just in time to see Aaron pulling up his jeans and tucking in his shirt.

And doing it in that same disturbing manner!!!

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CROSSWALK!!!!!

“AARON!!!” I calmly insisted, “STOP IT!!”

I said this while continuing to walk as if nothing was amiss at all.

Aaron knew then that he had erred, so he scurried up beside me as we left the embarrassing crosswalk.

“Well, I had to pull my pants up!” Aaron explained.

“In the middle of the crosswalk?!” I asked.

“What’s wrong with that?” Aaron questioned.

I just took a deep breath, reminded myself not to shame Aaron, and proceeded to once again remind him of how some things are best done in a less public setting.

Trust me, many of Aaron’s actions are best done in a MUCH less public setting!!

But Aaron truly doesn’t have a concept of social norms like you and I do.  No amount of proper parenting, wise advice, careful instruction, and repeated modeling of acceptable behaviors has…or ever will…change him.

I mean, he does show some improvements in some areas.  He hasn’t made his loud farting noise with his mouth in the middle of Wal-Mart in some time, come to think of it.

He can be so funny, but he can also be so exhausting.  The exhaustion is mostly mental for me and Gary with some emotional thrown in as well.

A big part of it is Aaron’s talking.  He loves to follow us around the house, sometimes a LOT, and talk…always a LOT!!

Our son, Andrew, drove home from Indianapolis for Thanksgiving.  Aaron had fresh ears to listen to all his talking, but he also had competition.  The competition comes into play for Aaron because now he must share our attention.  He is not the only person in the house, and he must share his podium with his brother.

This is difficult for Aaron, try as he might to be patient.  Another issue is the topic of our conversations.  Aaron’s topics are typically about aliens, Star Wars or Transformers or Terminators or whatever else he is watching, relational issues at his day group, and more about aliens and outer space and droids and what-do-we-think about aliens and outer space and droids, etc., etc., etc.

All of us are like the drivers in the crosswalk, where Aaron has the right-of-way and we must wait for him to cross.  No amount of confirmation from us toward Aaron can change the fact that his mind-numbing conversations dull our responses to him…and he senses this.

He also truly wants to be the ONLY one talking, and this is where we must step in and remind him to take his turn.  This creates anger on his part and resentment toward the person who has pushed him off his podium, albeit unwittingly, but done none-the-less.  We all understand this about Aaron, and even expect it, but still it’s tiring.

On the day before Thanksgiving, Gary got home early from work so we along with Andrew picked Aaron up from his day group and went out to eat in Old Town.  Aaron had a seizure early that morning, and another one about an hour before we picked him up, but it didn’t dull his tongue.  Not one bit.  😊

IMG_1710

 

IMG_1709

 

But my favorite picture of our Thanksgiving was when Aaron waddled into the kitchen wearing his shark blanket – a gift from Andrea and Kyle for his birthday – and proceeded to continue talking.  It was just hilarious to see him standing there, oblivious to how he looked, and still talking up a storm.

IMG_0212

Again, we were trapped in the crosswalk…all of us with hidden smiles on our faces…and Aaron unaware of how comical he looked.

Living with Aaron isn’t always easy, especially when we’re already stressed about other life events and concerns.  Having to stop on a busy day for people in the crosswalk isn’t always fun, either.  So, when we’re rushing to get ready for the holidays in the midst of having some remodeling done, with lots of furniture to move around and mess to clean up – thanks for your awesome help, Andrew!! – and Gary is having foot surgery on Monday and will be incapacitated for a long time in a house full of stairs!! – and there’s decorating and shopping and surgery prep and just LIFE!!…

Those crosswalks can be very, very irritating and draining.

It helps to be able to smile and sometimes laugh and to think of Aaron in his shark outfit, not to be derailed from talking!

The pulling up his pants thing, though.  Some things are best forgotten.

My apologies to all the drivers at that crosswalk.

It was memorable, I’m sure.  😊  😊

Aaron usually is.

 

Fixing the Broken

Last night I felt like this:

IMG_1445

Mangled.  Broken.  Greatly in need of repair.

These were Aaron’s glasses a couple weeks ago after an incident at his day group.  Mixing all the various special needs can at times be volatile.  Even I, who have dealt with many pairs of broken glasses, was surprised at the level of damage done to this pair.  I honestly wasn’t sure that they could be fixed.

I took the rather hopeless mess that used to be glasses into our eye doctor’s office a couple days later.  I hoped that maybe, just maybe, they really weren’t beyond repair.  The kind technician couldn’t hide the look of surprise on her face, which didn’t fill me confidence that anything could be done for them.

Imagine my surprise, though, when before long she returned with this:

IMG_1463

WOW!!  Talk about a miracle re-do of what I thought was hopeless!  She received my profuse thanks with a smile on her face and the comment that she loved a good challenge.  I’m thankful that she did, indeed!

Being the mother and caregiver of an adult special needs “child” with behaviors can be exhausting…physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  I believe that about covers it.  And while I don’t want to come across as complaining, facts are facts and truth is truth.

If there’s one thing I’ve wanted to be on this blog, it’s truthful…truthful without being unkind to Aaron in my honesty.  Talking about being truthful, Aaron is just that…at least in his mind.  He has few filters, and totally does not get social norms.  He is often unaware of other’s feelings.  He gets stuck in his own mind about certain issues and is truly stunning in his inabililty to switch gears and judge those issues with good reasoning.  His own comfort is paramount to him, most of the time, so if his comfort is interrupted or his wishes unmet, we are often met with his anger.

And I get tired.  I get angry.  I did last night, when Aaron who had been happy decided to be rude just before bed.  He and I didn’t have our normal cheerful bedtime routine.  He was still out of bed, on his computer, when I went to bed.  I didn’t even challenge him.  I have no idea when he went to sleep.

I spent time with the Lord this morning, reading about the compassion of Jesus and knowing that I needed that same compassion for Aaron.  Somehow, it’s easier to show compassion for ones I seldom or only occasionally see.  Showing that similar level of compassion for Aaron can be very hard to do over the long term, day after day.

I was very surprised this morning to hear Aaron’s floor creaking before 7:30. Most mornings I must roust him out of bed…very unhappily on both our parts, I might add.  I thought this morning he would definitely be a hibernating bear, but no, he was awake and downstairs early.

He knocked politely on the bathroom door, and when I opened it with some dread, I was so relieved to see him with bright eyes and a sweet smile.  He even received the hug I offered!  We were off to a good start!

We sat in the living room, enjoying the warm fall decorations and soft twinkling lights.  I had intended to sit there and pray, but sitting with Aaron was important, I knew.  We talked softly about some of this and some of that.  Then Aaron decided that he could take his pills, but I reminded him that it was too early.  He wondered why, and once again I explained how he really should take them about 12 hours apart.

“So, Aaron, it’s nearly 8:00 right now,” I began.

He immediately looked at his left arm, pushed up his sweater sleeve, and gazed down at his wristwatch perched halfway up his arm.  I just watched with a smile on my face, waiting for what I knew was coming.

“It’s not 8:00,” he blandly stated as he stared down at his watch.

“Well, I just meant that it’s ALMOST 8:00,” I explained.

“It’s 7:41,” he flatly continued.

Gone was the lesson on the 12-hour rule.  Gone was my caring at all at that point about the 12-hour rule!  In its place was my laughter, deep from inside…much needed laughter.

And Aaron tolerated my laughter, even though he had no idea why the time of 7:41 made Mom laugh.  Many times, Aaron gets angry when I laugh, so I don’t…until he is out of earshot.  But today Aaron let me laugh.  This was a gift.

Later, we sat at the table where Aaron ate a plate full of fried eggs with the yellow hard the way he likes them and where he talked and talked and talked…about separatist droid armies and Trandoshans and commandos and clones…and anything but heart matters.  Or the 12-hour rule.

But it was good.  Very good.

It was our normal.

And it was a gift.  A gift from the same God Who also fills our hearts…my heart…with love and compassion for our Aaron.

I know all too well that we’ll have this again:

IMG_1444

 

But I also know that we’ll have this:

WP_20180513_11_22_57_Pro (2)

Thanks to God who fixes our broken!

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  (Psalm 147:3)

 

 

 

Cool Aaron

My phone rang the other day and even before I looked, I pretty well knew it would be Aaron making his daily call from Paradigm, his day group.  Yep, there was Aaron on the other end of the call, talking the second I said “hello.”  He was excited and laughing about Chris, one of the Paradigm staff.

“Mom!!  Me and Chris are playing a game where I can’t talk!”

Well played, Chris, well played!   I just thought this.  I didn’t say it to Aaron.

“But Aaron,” I replied, “you’re talking now.”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!”  Aaron bellowed.  “I guess I forgot the rules!!”

I laughed as well.  In fact, it felt very good to be laughing with Aaron.  I never know when I pick up the phone in what condition I will find Aaron.  Happy, sad, mad, crying, excited…I never am sure, so it’s with some dread that I answer his calls.

I had reason to feel dread this week because Aaron has been in a state of some anger and belligerence for awhile now.  We’re not totally sure of the why, but we are totally sure that his ups and downs are tiring to us and to his staff and friends at Paradigm.

This past Monday morning was rough at home.  I always let Aaron decide if he’ll go or not, knowing that forcing the issue is a recipe for disaster.  But Aaron also knows that if he does go to Paradigm then he gets extra treats and his meal of choice over the weekend.   He nearly always decides to go, but my reward system can also come back to bite me because the reason he goes is sometimes just for the future reward, and this stresses him to the point of bad behaviors.

Sometimes it’s just a perfect storm for a stormy day from Aaron!

Monday was that day.  Anger at home…then a calming…a fun ride to Paradigm because his music cheered him…and my last admonishment as he left the van.

“Aaron,” I said, “try to have a really good day.”

“I can’t make you any promise,” he seriously replied.

And I had to laugh at that as he walked away.  He was borrowing my often-used phrase when he tries to pin me down to doing something at a certain time, and I tell him I can’t make a promise.  How well he listens and mimics when it suits him!

And boy, it’s a good thing he didn’t make a promise to have a really good day because it was anything BUT a really good day!!  I’m very thankful for the patient staff at Paradigm!

Tuesday saw more issues at home, though not as severe as the previous day.  I was encouraged by his good day at Paradigm, but our evening at home hit bottom again.  He was not happy that Gary and I talked to our daughter on the phone before supper, in our bedroom with the door locked so that Aaron couldn’t come in and interrupt.  Aaron was very rude before supper and during supper.  Tough love ensued, ending with Aaron’s Cheddar Pasta Salad being taken away by Dad before he was through…and all his snacks being bagged up by Mom and put inside the locked van.

Well!!

Aaron finally calmed down as the evening progressed.  He turned a corner, looked at me as we watched a show, and surprisingly…and nicely…said, “Mom, I’m sorry.”

“Thank you, Aaron,” I replied.  “I’m sorry, too.”

“I like you, Mom,” he quietly said.

“I like you, too, Aaron,” I affirmed.

But the snacks stayed in the van, a test of his sincerity.

The next morning, yesterday, saw him irritable again and not wanting to hurry out of bed or hurry to get himself ready.  I don’t tell him to hurry – I’ve learned better – but he knows the underlying theme.

“Don’t rush me!!” he stated.  “I have no time to hurry!!”

Oh, Aaron!  I want to both laugh and cry when he talks that way!

So, this morning, we were getting ready to go to his yearly support plan meeting.  Again, he was sleepy and frustrated, and dreading this meeting.  It helped that we meet at Carlos O’Kelly’s and get to eat out, but Aaron still does NOT like meetings.  He wonders if he can stay at Paradigm, can he stay at home, and all sorts of other concerns.  I felt bad that he was scared so I assured him that things are staying the same for now, but still he was on protective mode.

“Mom, I’m telling them that you and Dad are starving me!” he declared, threatening to tell them about the locked away snacks.

Again, I didn’t react and told him he had every right to do just that.  But at the meeting, as he chomped down salad and chicken fingers and French fries, he was happy and loud and talked away at everything except his starvation.

We’ve been very weary lately, honestly.  I don’t know if his mood swings are because of medicine side effects…because of strong low fronts moving through this week…because of seizures last week…because of who knows what??

As we signed papers today, I laughed at Aaron’s signature.  This is his very favorite way to sign his name.

IMG_1475

 

Aaron has such a very hard time playing by our rules…the societal rules that dictate how we talk to others and respect others and give and receive love.  Try as we might, we cannot get him to tell us why he’s unhappy…at least not if his emotions are coming from someplace other than the fact that his snacks are locked away or he can’t stay home on his computer all day.

Aaron can convey plenty of facts.  What he can’t convey easily are his emotions…his deep-seated reasons for his angry actions.

Gary and I know this about Aaron, but sometimes it’s hard to remember it in the heat of battle.  That’s when we need to back away…take a deep breath…lean on each other and God…and remember one more thing.

Aaron Moore is cool.

He’s cool when he tries to sneak another notebook in to Paradigm to give away, knowing he’s not allowed to do that.

IMG_1433

 

He’s cool when he leans against my legs after he’s been so angry.

IMG_1470

 

He’s cool when he’s trying to feed an ant on the table at a restaurant.

IMG_1189

 

He’s cool when he’s giving and sharing.

IMG_0075

 

He’s cool when he’s “drying the bubbles off,” as he says.

WP_20180820_18_17_56_Pro

 

He’s cool when he’s playing a trick.

WP_20180626_17_52_05_Pro

 

He’s cool when he says, “MOM!!” at the grocery store and laughs and laughs at my reaction to him holding my LEAST favorite creature!!

IMG_1466

 

And in so many other ways, our unique Aaron is very cool, even when he makes me lose mine.

Let me remember that, Lord, in the heat of the moment.

Let me remember that you crafted and created Aaron’s coolness.

Aaron Moore IS cool!

 

A Normal Thing

One evening we were eating supper and Aaron was talking.

That sentence makes me laugh because I could just leave the first part blank – to be filled in, you know – because any place and any time and any meal and absolutely ANY scenario could easily end with:  “…and Aaron was talking.”

After all, the name of this blog IS, “He Said WHAT?!”  I write about lots of other things, too, but I started out wanting to convey the amazing way that Aaron expresses himself.  Sometimes he is not only amazing.  He is also funny, maddening, complex, insulting, and so many other adjectives.

Anyway, we were eating supper and Aaron was trying very hard…and largely succeeding…in monopolizing the conversation.  I don’t remember Aaron’s question to Gary, but Gary decided to answer in a joking way.  Gary must have had a momentary loss of focus or memory.  Aaron rarely appreciates joking, at least not joking in the way that we…and all of you, no doubt…would understand.  Most joking does not compute in Aaron’s autistic brain.  Instead, he is most often angered by the give and take that the rest of our family enjoys.

So, when Gary offered a little joking response, Aaron’s response was not at all light and funny.

“Dad!!!” Aaron responded.  “I’m trying to talk a NORMAL thing!!!”

Oh, how I wanted to look at Aaron and ask, “Aaron, please define normal!”

Aaron’s definition of normal would most assuredly not be our definition of normal.  And that’s OK, really.  It’s just that sometimes we have a hard time not bending over in a belly laugh when Aaron responds to one of us as he did.  Instead, Gary and I share a fleeting look of understanding with each other…a slight and very quick smile so that Aaron won’t notice…and wait until later to laugh at the whole situation.  Or sigh, very deeply.

But we can’t sigh when Aaron is around.

“Mom!!” he said once after I sighed.  “Don’t breathe madly!”

You would think that if Aaron notices my sighing then he would also notice and then copy how to engage in conversation, joking, excitement, and all sorts of other regular communication.  Yet that element is often missing from Aaron’s abilities.  It’s one of the mysteries of the autistic brain, that lack of being able to connect the social dots like you and I do.

As I mentioned earlier, our joking often sets Aaron on edge.  But what Aaron thinks is funny is usually not at all funny.  Aaron thinks it’s funny to whack a person on their bottom, for instance.  I’ll never forget the day he hauled off and whacked a resident doctor in the hospital.  That was an interesting moment, and so embarrassing for me.

And Aaron’s response when corrected was, and always is, this:  “But I was just trying to be funny!”

We had this recurring scenario one day, with Aaron telling me he was just trying to be funny, when I repeated what I often say:  “Aaron, what’s funny to you usually isn’t funny…at all!”

He looked at me for a few seconds and then answered:  “Mom, I don’t know what I could use as funny.”

And THAT is a very true statement!  It’s also a very insightful look into what makes Aaron tick.

Yet Aaron truly is very funny sometimes, although he doesn’t know that he is.  He says things in such unusual and comical ways, but we often can’t laugh because we don’t want him to be self-conscious or to get angry.

A couple examples from this past week:

“Dogs are more trainful than cats.”

 

After dumping Parmesan cheese on his pizza:  “Mom, you’ll need to  buy some more of that spaghetti powder!”

 

And a favorite from the past, after I once again reminded him not to ever ask a girl how much she weighs:  “Mom, I didn’t ask Tiffany how much she weighs.  I asked her how much she eats!”

🙂  🙂  🙂

Aaron’s talking can also be very draining to Gary and me.  Sometimes we try to slip out of the house without Aaron hearing us.  We sneak out the garage door, closing the door to the house as softly as possible, and then we sit on our front porch for a few minutes to ourselves.  We feel like two teenagers who are trying to sneak out without permission, and it makes us laugh.

 

IMG_0668

 

But usually it isn’t long before we hear the unmistakable sound of Aaron in the house, clomping down the stairs and most certainly looking for us.  He has something he must say and so he searches until he finds us.

Here he was one evening, standing on the sidewalk talking to us as if he was on a stage and we were his audience.

 

IMG_0669

 

His subject was no doubt something like Star Wars and the Jedi Knights…or Transformers…or whatever else he was playing on his computer.  Talk of androids and Anakin and Padme’ and Darth Maul…of Sith Lords and Jedi knights and clones and Queen Amidala…of light sabers and droids and the force and motherships.

His excitement builds as Gary and I slip further into a stupor.

 

IMG_0670

 

Aaron doesn’t notice our glazed eyes or fixed looks.  He’s having his version of fun!  But then the dreaded happens!  He asks us a question.  And we just look at him blankly while he, at last, is quiet as he awaits our answer.

Our brains scramble to link up to the last thing or person or alien or whatever that he was talking about.  If it’s a person, my usual answer is actually a question:  “Ummmm…is he a good guy or a bad guy?”

Aaron happily answers me, and once again he is off and running – thankful for any engagement from me or from Gary.

Ah, yes, we’re having Aaron’s version of talking a normal thing.

But sometimes…sometimes…Aaron is quiet, like he was on the porch during this rainy moment.  It was such a sweet moment, too.

 

IMG_0814

 

And I am reminded that Aaron needs me and Gary to understand his normal and to, when possible, allow his normal to be our normal, as well.

WHACK!!

Except for that.

Sigh.

 

 

The Colliding of Obsessions

How did such a small thing cause such a huge problem?!

That’s what I was asking myself yesterday as events unfolded at Paradigm, Aaron’s day group.

The small thing was a simple little Subway gift card.  I had used the remaining money on it last Friday when Aaron and I went to get subs for supper.  I had asked Aaron to throw it away in the trash can near the door as we left, but instead he saw the opportunity to keep something interesting.  He thinks gift cards are fun to hold, like a credit card, and to slip in his pocket for safe keeping.  When he asked if he could keep it, I agreed…with the further comment from me that I would one day be throwing it away when I found it laying on the floor of his room.  Experience is a good teacher, after all, and a good reason to hope that Aaron will keep the floor of his room picked up.

Yesterday morning, Aaron once again slipped the little yellow Subway gift card in his pocket as we were getting ready to leave for Paradigm.  Of course, I didn’t see it or know that Aaron had it in his pocket.  Even if I had, I wouldn’t have objected.  But that was yesterday.  Today might be a different story.

You see, Aaron tried to give the card to K, another client at Paradigm.  What I didn’t know, but I do now…as does Aaron…is that K is a hoarder.  Aaron has in the past caught on to the fact that she loves notebooks and papers.  He brought her two notebooks from our house, and wanted to continue until I said no.  I also found out that Aaron was taking paper from the computer printers at Paradigm, and trying to sneak it to K.

One day as we were leaving for Paradigm, Aaron ran back in the house to get something.  I followed and waited in the kitchen.  Soon Aaron rounded the corner, surprised to see me standing there.  Look at what was under his shirt.  BUSTED!!

IMG_0737

Aaron was laughing because he saw the humor in the situation, thankfully.  I had asked him if he was taking K a notebook, and he told me no…but he was laughing because the truth was very obvious!

Back to the Subway card.  The staff at Paradigm saw Aaron give K the card, but they had to take it away because of her hoarding.  Aaron was VERY upset by this!  My cell phone rang as I was on my way to get him at the end of his day.  There was Aaron, trying to explain the situation to me but getting more belligerent with each word.  Barb was there, trying to explain and to calm Aaron, but he would have none of it.  He yelled at Barb, very angrily, but Barb was able to explain things to me as I neared Paradigm.

Aaron came to the van, unhappy and frustrated and embarrassed.  We talked as I drove us home.  We talked after we got home.  We talked during supper.  We talked after supper.  We talked during the evening.  We talked out in the yard with our neighbors.  We talked on the way to bed.  We talked after Aaron was in bed.  We talked first thing this morning.  We talked during breakfast.  We talked while I was fixing my hair.

You get the idea, right?  Aaron must talk and talk and talk and talk as part of his method of processing these situations.

But here’s the deal…the thing that strikes me so much about all of this.

So many of the clients at Aaron’s special needs day group have obsessions of varying sorts.  An obsession is a “compelling motivation.”  And trust me, these special adults are extremely compelled in their motivations to satisfy their various obsessions.

One of Aaron’s obsessions is to give things away.  Now, that sounds very sweet, and often it is.  But he will give away his food.  He will give away his money.  And he will give away anything else he has that he thinks might make someone happy.

What he doesn’t understand is that often he is also feeding another person’s obsession…an obsession that the staff is attempting to help the person control.

Years ago, Aaron met Rosa at Paradigm.  They became special friends.  Aaron found out that Rosa liked crayons, so he would take her a few crayons almost every day.  I didn’t realize that Rosa didn’t just like crayons…she was very obsessed with crayons.  Too many crayons pushed her over the edge emotionally.  I learned this after talking to Rosa’s mother.  She and I are good friends today, and I was very thankful that she let me know that Aaron’s generosity was actually a detriment to Rosa.

Over the years, we have seen this pattern repeated over and over with Aaron’s various friends.  One wants his food.  Another wants his money.  One likes stuffed animals.  On and on.

It’s what I call the colliding of obsessions.  Aaron will give ANYTHING away, so if he finds that someone likes something, he will do anything within his power to see that they get it.  He is feeding his obsession while feeding theirs.

Few of these special friends of Aaron’s can fully understand the situation in which they find themselves.  Reasoning through this with Aaron was extremely difficult yesterday.  He blamed Barb.  He was angry with me, and with Gary.  He firmly informed us that he was NOT going to Houston with us to see Andrea and Kyle over the 4th.

And he obstinately folded his arms while telling us that he didn’t care!

But he does care.  He just can’t rationalize this like we can.  And neither can his special friends at Paradigm who struggle with their obsessions.  It’s a volatile mix!

Kudos to the staff at Paradigm, and at so many other special needs groups, for all they must handle when it comes to these situations.  Most are like Aaron and can’t connect the dots in order to make a complete picture.  There is anger and yelling from the clients while the staff must remain calm and focused.

Every.  Single.  Day.  The staff diffuses these situations every day.  Just this morning Barb told me that she had already taken a whole sack of used QT coffee cups and empty containers of disinfectant wipes away from K!  And I’m sure K was not one bit happy.

I kept Aaron home today to allow him more time to decompress, and to decide that Barb really isn’t the enemy here.  He loves Barb – she’s his second mother – and tomorrow he’ll probably be fine.  I’ve had time to further explain K to Aaron.

As we talked, Aaron told me that K saw the card and wanted it.  I don’t know if that’s totally true, but he also said that she told him it was her birthday and he should give her the card.  His statement to me, though, was so telling…said in Aaron’s very special way.

“Mom,” he said, “I fell into her idea.”

I chuckle at how he words things while also being amazed at his insights.

Oh, if only he would remember not to fall into other’s ideas…and into many of his OWN!!

And if he would also remember what I tell him on many days.  I tell him not to give away his money, but to give away kind words and friendship to others.  No one can get enough of those!

That’s an idea worth falling into!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Turn Signal

A few months ago, as I headed out of our neighborhood taking Aaron to his day group, I noticed that my right turn signal didn’t sound right.  The second time that I pushed up on the turn signal lever and heard that very fast clicking sound, I knew what it was.  Either my front or my rear turn signal was out.  I drove across town, dropped Aaron off, and then before leaving I got out of the van to check the turn signals.  Sure enough, the rear signal wasn’t working.

Bummer!  Of all the days to have this happen, it had to be on the day I had several errands to run instead of just going straight home.  One of the places I had to go was McConnell Air Base…and they are super picky there about things like the speed limit and vehicles working correctly.  Imagine that!

I drove under the speed limit the entire time I was on base and was thankful that I only had to use my right turn signal once.  But I was sure that this one time would be the one time that an MP was behind me!

I had also promised Aaron that I would take him to one of his favorite stores, Big Lots, after I picked him up.  Our local Big Lots had closed, so I had to once again do some extra driving in my defective van.  I never knew how many times I needed that right turn signal until it wasn’t working!  And I decided a possible conversation with a police officer was a better choice than the conversation I would need to have with Aaron if I told him our Big Lots trip was cancelled.

I wanted to paste a sign in the rear van window that explained my situation…to let others know that I knew my light wasn’t working…to tell them that I really DO know how to use a turn signal.  How many times have I said that very thing out loud about other drivers who don’t use their turn signals?  I was feeling a little guilty, wondering how many of their signals were broken, too.

Sometimes we just can’t see and don’t understand what a person is going through, do we?  We look at the outside and think things look fine, but the inner workings of a person are far more complex than what we outwardly see.  This fact is very true for every single one of us but is very VERY true for our Aaron.

To be clear, I am not saying that Aaron is broken.  What I AM saying is that Aaron’s responses and handling of life situations can manifest outward behaviors that are extremely frustrating for others around him to understand and handle correctly.  His brain is wired way differently than typical people, and so his turn signal often doesn’t let anyone around him know the direction he is getting ready to take until he’s turned that corner and there’s no going back.

Karen Williams wrote in a paper years ago concerning students with autism:  “Rage reactions/temper outbursts are common in response to stress/frustration.  Children with Asperger’s Syndrome rarely seem relaxed and are easily overwhelmed when things are not as their rigid views dictate they should be.  Interacting with people and coping with the ordinary demands of everyday life take continual Herculean effort.”

Williams was writing about young students, but this same description also applies to adults with autism…to our adult with autism…our Aaron – who definitely flipped his turn signal on last week at the theater.

First, the set-up:  Aaron had been home for three days this past week due to our severe weather chances and flooding concerns.  Aaron loves being at home where he is totally relaxed and able to do all the things he enjoys.  But when he must re-enter normal life, like going back to his day group at Paradigm, it is often a huge struggle for him.  And therefore, for everyone around him.

On Friday, Aaron was reluctant to go to Paradigm.  Even the thought of Friday movie day didn’t really help him.  He decided not to go to the theater, despite having his nine dollars in his wallet for popcorn and the prospect of a fun movie to see.  I encouraged him to go to the theater, and his staff encouraged him to go after texting with me.  But no one MADE him go.  However, that is not at all how Aaron saw it.  His anger was getting deeper.

Second, the incident(s):  At the theater, Aaron took a behavioral turn that everyone could see despite his lack of a working signal.  I don’t even know all that happened there, and don’t really want to know.  I believe, though, that his day group staff was told by theater staff that Aaron needed to leave.  No matter what I know about Aaron and what I understand about his autistic outbursts, these times test my love and my patience.  I’m a normal mom who is terribly embarrassed when Aaron blows it, especially in public.

I wonder what all he did there.  Who saw him?  Did anyone we know see and hear our son acting that way?  Now what?

Third, the repercussions:  When I went to pick Aaron up at the theater, he was sitting in the Paradigm van.  Aaron emerged from the van with a very unhappy face, and I knew something not-so-good had happened.  Athena, his kind staff, gave me a very brief update, but Aaron’s still-angry mood told us it was not the time to discuss it.

He and I talked about it on the way to Wal-Mart, and again inside the store.  But Aaron was saturated with frustration and guilt so I knew I could only say so much before I would push him over the edge again.  Two repercussions that initially happen with Aaron, when that angry turn he took is over, are regret and guilt.  He truly wishes that he hadn’t gone so far in his anger.

Aaron was totally compliant in Wal-Mart, overly so.  This is his way of making up for his angry actions.  At the self-checkout counter, Aaron was super helpful.  He held my coupons, helped unload the cart, and couldn’t say thank-you enough to the clerk who assisted us.

“Am I being good, Mom?”  he asked at one point.  “Am I helping?”  And he looked me square in the eyes, waiting for my response and my affirmation.  It would have been so easy for me to say, “Yes, Aaron, but I sure do wish you would have been this nice in the theater!”

But when I saw his eyes, tired from the bad day and hopeful that he was finally doing something good, I nearly cried.  Right there in the check-out lane at Wal-Mart with holiday shoppers all around me, I wanted to burst into tears for Aaron and for me.  For Aaron, because I fully know that he can’t repair his broken turn signal in time to avoid that wrong turn.  And for me, because I love him and I want to “fix” him, but I really can’t.

I turned away quickly and finished paying.  Aaron helped gather up the bags out of the cart and we walked to the van, happy that the rain had stopped.  When we got home, another storm was coming.  Aaron was concerned about the lightning while he was on his computer, so he wanted me to be sure and tell him if he needed to shut the computer off.

“Mom,” he instructed, “come up and tell me, or call to me from downstairs, OK?”

He waited for me to respond.

“I’m giving you two decisions,” he finished.

I always smile at how he says that…two decisions instead of two choices.

But I thought of how true his saying was at that time.  I did have two decisions regarding more than lightning and his computer.  I also had two decisions about that turn signal issue of Aaron’s.  I could be angry and berate him, or I could be loving and instructive at the same time.  The decision is mine to make, despite how difficult it sometimes is.  It’s easier to lash out at Aaron, honestly, but harder to be loving and patient with instruction thrown in.  Yet the first decision only brings more anger and hurt.  The second decision, hopefully, helps to fix Aaron’s hurting heart and show him a better way to handle his anger.

Back to my van’s turn signal – Gary was able to pick up the correct part and repair it that evening.  Aaron was beside him the entire time, at one point using that moment to show Gary some scrapes on his legs.  Aaron is so oblivious about how he looks in public, and at times it’s really funny.

IMG_0311

But at other times, like the theater incident, it’s anything BUT funny.  How we wish that we could install the part that would make Aaron’s turn signal work correctly and avoid all the damage that’s done when it doesn’t!

How many times do I wish I could paste a sign on Aaron’s back that explains his behaviors?!

I can’t, though.  We just keep driving down this road with Aaron, trusting that some people understand and not worrying about the ones who don’t.  Easier said than done!  But God does give grace and He gives us wisdom to make that right decision…and He redirects us when we don’t!

Aaron’s turns aren’t easy when his signal’s messed up, but we’re there to repair the damage and pray it works better at the next turn.

And sometimes hang on for dear life!

 

Included

Last night, I peeked into Aaron’s room and saw this:

IMG_0712

THIS…is Aaron finishing The Meg movie by watching the credits.  He keeps his eyes glued to the screen as if he is looking at the most pivotal part of the movie and wouldn’t dare look away.  He knew that I was getting ready to go downstairs so that he and I could watch our nightly show.

“Mom, I’m almost done!” he said.  “It won’t be long!”

To Aaron, the credits are a part of the movie.  He will not end a movie when most of us say that a movie is over.  No.  The movie is over only when the credits end.

IMG_0714

If Aaron starts something, he will finish it in his Aaron way.

Aaron has started something else recently.  It’s not the first time we’ve seen him start this thing, but it’s the most recent.  It’s not something that we can touch or see, but it’s something that we definitely hear.  And feel…because Aaron feels it deeply.

I can explain it by telling what happened a few weeks ago.  We were eating breakfast on a Saturday morning on our patio.  Gary prayed before we ate.  One thing he did was to ask God to take care of us, and also to bless and take care of Andrea and Kyle, and Andrew.  He named them, but for us three sitting at the table, Gary just said “us.”

No big deal, right?  Wrong.

Aaron’s head popped up after the prayer and immediately he said, “You don’t also want to love ME?!”

Gary NOT using Aaron’s name did NOT sit well with Aaron.

We talked about why Gary called us “us,” and explained that it had not one thing to do with not loving Aaron.  Aaron finally hushed about it, but we could tell he wasn’t totally convinced.

Like I said, once Aaron starts something, he will finish it…sometimes weeks later.  And even if we think it’s finished, one more little part of it may emerge at any moment.

Aaron has a very difficult time expressing his deep feelings in conversation.  He also has a blind spot when it comes to seeing how he is affecting others at times.  But to be so unaware of other’s reactions, he sure can see a difference sometimes in how we talk to him compared to how we talk to our other children.

For instance, when I’m on the phone with Andrea, Aaron will almost always stand beside me at some point and want to talk to her.  He waits and waits until I let him have the phone, or turn it on speaker, and then he goes on and on and on about his latest movie or game.  He doesn’t ask her about her life but gets his satisfaction by doing all the talking.  Andrea responds so well, and Aaron loves it.

But Aaron has also observed that the way I talk to Andrea, and she talks to me, is different from how we talk to him.  He doesn’t get why it’s that way, and he really isn’t able to change it, but he does know that our interactions with each other are not what they’re like with him.

This has been bothering him lately, and he’s been comparing himself to her or to Andrew.  Therefore, he strives for attention…and Gary and I strive to give him a share of our attention while we are getting more and more tired of the striving.

The other night, Gary and I snuck outside and sat on our front porch.  Just the two of us.  Talking.  Uninterrupted.

But then we heard the door in the garage close.  Aaron popped around the corner.  We were caught!

There Aaron stood, talking and talking and talking.  Talking about Terminators and Trandoshians and clones from the Delta squad and visor modes…

IMG_0670

Our brains freeze and our minds wander when Aaron talks non-stop.  Then he asks a question, waiting for an answer, and we do a mental hustle trying to remember what on earth he was talking about.  It’s a scenario repeated so often, and one that Aaron so often interprets as a lack of interest on our part.

A couple nights ago, Andrea texted during supper and sent us a picture of what is growing on the mystery plant in their yard.  Grapes!  It was fun to see the picture as we’ve all wondered if the plant was a grapevine.  Gary and I were happy!

IMG_2618

Then yesterday, she sent a picture of their first onion harvest from their backyard garden.  And again, we were happy.

IMG_2621

But Aaron was not happy.  Once again, he sensed more enthusiasm from us about Andrea’s life than his.  And once again we were doing damage control for much of the evening.  UGH!!

This morning, Aaron was up and on his computer at 4:30.  That’s 4:30 A.M!!!  I got him to go back to bed, but he was up again not long after.  And as I talked to him, he mentioned Andrea and her things and he hoped she wouldn’t call.

I sighed.  But not where he could hear me.  He heard me sigh once when I was on the verge of anger.

“Don’t breathe madly!!” he commanded me.

I went to the kitchen this morning, and then decided to do the hard thing that I didn’t feel like doing.  I walked back upstairs to Aaron, sitting at his computer.

“Hey, Aaron,” I said.  “Do you want some eggs and bacon?”

He did.  So later, there we were, sitting at our kitchen table eating eggs and bacon.  I wanted to be having my quiet time and talking to God, but here I was having a not-so-quiet time and talking to Aaron.

But before I prayed over our food, Aaron blew me away by what he said.

“I just want to be included,” he said.

That was truly amazing!  And as we ate, I was able to assure him that he IS included in our lives.  Yet no number of words coming from my mouth gave him assurance of that fact as much as my listening to HIS words coming from his mouth.

Really listening.  Asking questions.  Looking at his Ironman Guide Book that he ran and got from his room.

The flying fortress.  AIM.  Girl face statues.  Titanium Man.  The frozen ship.  The brain controls that make you dizzy.  And oh, SO much more!

Then I got a text on my phone.

“Better not be Andrea,” Aaron muttered.  “Like her grapes and onions!”

I wanted to laugh but knew better.  And I know better than to think that this inclusion and being loved business is settled.  I know it isn’t. But I was very touched by how Aaron calmed and responded when he knew he had not only my full attention, but my full interest.

The credits on this part of Aaron’s life movie are still rolling, and we must show interest…and also guide him to know when it’s time for a break.

And that a break doesn’t mean exclusion!

God, give us and so many other parents like us the grace to love ALL our children just the same, even when the expression of that love is anything but the same.

IMG_0713