Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Archive for January 2013

Wordless Wednesday 30 Jan 13

with 9 comments

Okay, I’m adding a few words just so you can get some context.  This photo, kindly supplied by Pudding’s teacher left me speechless, which is a kind of wordless. 

This morning, I posted this on my Spectrummy Mummy Facebook page:

When it comes to Show and Tell, Pudding prefers to adopt a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. We’ll see if she wants to explain why there is a Luxembourg flag in her backpack today.

And then her teacher emailed this:

Show and Tell

With these words:

Pudding did her first real show and share today…so cute!

It’s the first time she wanted to go up…I thought it might be a Welsh flag, but she corrected me and told us that it is from Luxembourg. 

Your girl is amazing…just love her 🙂

If you are familiar with Pudding’s challenges, you’ll probably share my joy.  If not, let me tell you that this is the picture of an everyday miracle. 

By the way, yes- she came from Luxembourg, but the really amazing thing is gettting to see where she will go.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 30, 2013 at 11:44 am

Comfort Zone

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In case you hadn’t dropped by lately, this blog has been pretty quiet this year. For someone who normally has an overabundance of words, I’ve hidden behind pictures.

The day after Christmas, I lost one of my closet friends. Even as I type know I feel a pain that I can’t find the words to describe. Rachael was truly one of the best people I have ever known. I’m mad that she was only in my life for twenty years, but I cherish every moment we shared.

She made a disability advocate of me years before parenting would take me that extra step. The world was a better place for having her in it, and I will miss her for the rest of my life. She would have been 35 tomorrow. In the midst of grieving, we had another sudden death in our Consulate community. I’m once again lost for words, and without my outlet, I find it hard to process all this loss. I can’t make sense of the senseless.

Without writing, I am out of my comfort zone. I turned to the next best thing- my camera, and tried to content myself with viewing life through a lens. But there is always more going on outside of the frame.

In the midst of all this, Pudding has truly found her place. She is reaping the rewards of all the support and effort that goes into teaching a different thinker. My girl is reading! Not just odd words and signs, brand names and adverts. She is reading books, and learning to write her own stories.

My biggest wish for her- that she can narrate her own life story- just took a huge leap forward. She will have words. They will delight her, they will inspire her. They will give her comfort when needed. And she will own them. She will own her story.

Last week I met with the Director of Teaching and Learning at Pudding’s school. She asked me if I would take part in the conference they are holding about inclusion in international schools.

I was overwhelmed with anxiety. I can’t do public speaking. I express myself best through the written word, I couldn’t even imagine talking in front of that many strangers. This is way out of my comfort zone.

But how can I not? How can I not persuade other international schools embarking on a journey of inclusion that they need to develop programs for children like mine? They need to open up their doors.

They need to get out of their comfort zone, and so do I. I sought permission from my boss, and he went one better- he offered me his support. He reminded me that what might seem like weaknesses can be our biggest strengths.

I don’t mind stepping out of my comfort zone, if it means helping to persude more schools to do the same thing.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Wordless Wednesday 23 Jan 13

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IMG_3950

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 23, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Wordless Wednesday 16 Jan 13

with 2 comments

Yeah, not so wordless.

Yeah, not so wordless.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 16, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Wordless Wednesday 9 Jan 13

with 4 comments

Budding

 

These flowers become an impressive riot of purples and blues in full bloom, but it is when they are in bud, bursting with potential, that they are most special.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 9, 2013 at 7:02 am

Mother Like Me

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After yesterday’s post, I had some people question why I didn’t react more to what happened during our flight.  It is a valid question, and one that had whirled around my own head ever since Saturday.  You see, my instinct was to protect my children.  Adrenaline was coursing through my system, and my body felt like it needed action.  My brain even pictured the various actions which would have satisfied it- all were physical, and all of them would have landed me in trouble with aviation security.  But I wasn’t thinking about that.

I was thinking about what the children would do if I raised my voice, or had a physical altercation, or even moved to argue face to face with the man in front.  Pudding had already had a meltdown over the change of seats.  A meltdown during which she became violent, briefly clawing at my face with her fingers.  Pudding is not usually an aggressive child, but she already felt threatened, and was lashing out. And this was with me being calm.

If I get worked up, if I raise my voice, if I give in to strong emotions, it is absorbed and reflected back at me by two people who need me to stay in control.  That isn’t to say that I never get angry, or I’m always in control of my emotions, but I do know that when I explode, so does everyone around me.  And I really didn’t need that.  Nor did the rest of the passengers crammed on to that painfully full flight.

Well, all apart from one, that is.

Before I actually confronted him, calmly, I’d spent several hours with Pudding and Cubby sleeping on me, peacefully oblivious to the barely-contained rage I was feeling.  Any parent who knows this forced calm- and I’m certain there are a few of us with children on the autism spectrum- know that this inertia is a hundred times more difficult than acting on our feelings.

We do it, because we can.  They can’t.

We can take a deep breath, calm ourselves down, refuse to let things escalate.  My kids don’t know how to do that yet.  They are learning, and like with many of life’s lessons, they need them modeled time and time again.  Even when there are jerks within hitting distance who totally deserve it.

Now, maybe you have children who don’t follow your every move, hear every word you say (even if they conveniently don’t pay attention at times), or detect every change in your pitch.  That way you don’t risk the same consequences.  Maybe you haven’t had years of learning to show Zen when you feel anything but.  I’m glad for you, and I’m jealous of you.  You don’t have to hold it all in until you find a suitable outlet.

Believe me, it gets hard, when you mother like me.  Certain situations are just harder.  But at least when the gory fantasies (I’m always like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in my daydreams) I had of what I could do when the plane touched down and the kids were handed off to the husband didn’t get to come true, I can always write about it here.

Because some how, some way, this stuff has to come out, if you are going to mother like me.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Air Rage

with 10 comments

It isn’t easy flying alone with young children with special needs.  I was returning back to South Africa from England where I went to pay my respects to a dear friend who died suddenly at Christmas.  Though I was traveling with a heavy heart, it felt a little lighter after the short connecting flight to Heathrow.

Pudding and I had embraced a whole new level of interaction.  I was writing short, simple sentences, and Pudding was reading them back to me!  I’ve always kept this blog with the intention of writing for her, not just about her, and every step forward in her language development makes my heart soar, higher than…well, higher than the plane we were flying in.

My kids are great travelers, though it hasn’t always been that way.  Pudding had visited 10 countries before she turned a year old, so we had our share of disoriented, overtired infant travel.  But more often than not, other people congratulate me on how well-behaved my children are on flights.  I just smile and nod, knowing it could just as easily be the other way.

Now though, with Pudding at 6 and Cubby aged 3, it seems easier than ever.  Pudding is content to draw, Cubby likes his little cars.  They both like free reign of the in-flight entertainment system, and they both even (miracle of miracles) actually sleep!

So we boarded the 747, and got ourselves comfortable.  The plane hadn’t even begun taxiing to the runway when the middle-aged man in front of Pudding and snapped at her for resting her feet on the bottom of the seat in front.  I was a little stunned because she wasn’t kicking his seat, she wasn’t pushing hard with her heels (both of which I’ve experienced from a child sitting behind me), but she was simply resting her toes.  Though she is as tall as a 10 or 11 year-old, her legs aren’t quite long enough to touch the floor, but are too long to keep up on her own seat without her knees pushing into the seat instead.

I asked Pudding to pull her legs up and she immediately obeyed, but moments later she forgot, and they were back on.  I gently moved them again, and repeat a few more times.  At this time I was distracted by Cubby, who was sitting on the other side of me, next to a stranger.  I wanted to remind him to keep in his personal space, and not to do anything to disturb other passengers.

I looked back over to Pudding’s feet, and saw that the man in front had reached behind to grab her ankles and throw them off.  Wait, no that couldn’t have just happened!  A complete stranger did not just touch my six year-old, right?

Pudding had clung on to me, and pulled in her legs.  We took off, with me holding on to her legs.  Cubby dropped his car, and when I went to reach for it, Pudding moved back.  A few minutes later her feet sneaked back into the forbidden position, and this time I watched in horror as the man again aggressively pushed her away.

She spooned back into me and I held her legs over myself and Cubby as the aircraft reached the point where we could take off our seatbelts.  I immediately took both children to the bathroom (no mean feat to have three of us in there!) to talk to them.  I told Pudding that she could not let her feet touch the seat in front.  Then I asked if she understood, and inevitably, she said no.

At this point, I figure my best option is to switch Pudding and Cubby’s positions.  His legs were too short to cause any trouble.  I returned to find the man in front has already reclined his seat, with over 10 hours of the flight remaining.  I put Pudding in Cubby’s seat, and before I even get her belt on, it is too much for her.  This is not her seat.  Normally flexible and cooperative, I’ve crossed a line.  Ten minutes of crying and screaming refusal convinces me that she could keep it up for the full ten hours.  I put her back in the original seat.

She exhausted herself with crying, and falls to sleep immediately.  I pull her feet up across my body, and Cubby joins her.  I daren’t fall asleep myself, so concerned am I with her feet touching the chair in front again.

Pudding actually sleeps for a good 7 or 8 hours of the flight, though the man in front was missing for most of that- I assume he had found a vacant seat elsewhere on the aircraft.  He returned for the last 40 minutes of the flight.  Before long, Pudding’s toes had again trangressed his comfort, and he again reached behind to remove them.  It was even more forceful this time, and after checking she wasn’t bruised, I took a deep breath and leaned forward.

In as calm and polite a manner as I could muster, I informed the man that she had poor body awareness due to a neurolgical condition, and was unable to help touching his seat.  But he simply replied that it was annoying him!

Now, I have a long list on any flight of things that annoy me, from the constant hum of the engines to people standing over me in the aisles, or even somebody reclining their seat for an entire 10.5 hour flight even though they weren’t sitting there most of the time, but nothing had ever annoyed me as much as this selfish, ignorant attitude.

So a little less calmly, I reiterated that she can’t help it, but if an adult like himself can’t help from touching a little girl inappropriately, then I needed to call a flight attendant.

And he didn’t touch her again…until we had already begun making our descent, and calling a flight attendant was no longer possible.  He and his wife gave me dirty looks, but I had the encouragement of several other female passengers in the vicinity and the man sitting next to Cubby, who made sure to tell me that there was no problem with the children on this flight, only the adults.

Because I took two car seats, I had a bit of a wait to get all my baggage.  By the time I’d collected all our belongings and made our way through customs to Spectrummy Daddy, there was no sign of this passenger.

You see, while my air rage was contained on the flight, it exploded once we were on the ground.  Here we were no longer vulnerable- a woman traveling alone with two small children.  Whatever this man’s problem, something tells me he wouldn’t have even thought about touching Pudding had a large man been sitting in my place.

On the ground, I didn’t need to worry about the consequences of venting my anger at this stranger.  I wouldn’t be separated from the children who needed me.  But on the ground, I’m left with an impotent rage that this ever happened, and I was unable to prevent it.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm