OK so you're all familiar with my pathetic attempt to post a blog from work earlier today. I tried, really I did, but our IE5 browser and our 3 gerbil powered server prevented me from filling the last 2 hours of my work day with a lively blog posting. But I'm home now, so that's no longer an issue.
So, as I attempted to say earlier - Yes, I'm posting another autism related blog. What, did you think you'd get through autism awareness month with just one blog posting from me?! Oh no, no, no my darlings, you've obviously forgotten who you're dealing with.
On Wednesday night my father and I attended a discussion on autistic adults acting as their own advocates. The discussion was sponsored by iCan house, which is a place for autistic kids and adults to go for social interaction groups and activities. It's a wonderful idea, and something I'd love to have Wyatt involved in, but at over $200 a month for their after school program, and over $300 a week for their summer day camps it's just WAY more than I (and most other families) can afford. But, their lectures are free, so I can go and pick up some knowledge, and hopefully apply it to meeting Wyatts needs.
So, Dad (who is always willing to learn something new to help Wy) and I went, listened to some really amazing young adults talk about living with Autism/Aspergers, and about how they learned to stand up for, and advocate for themselves. I got to ask them what was the most difficult thing about Jr high/High School for them and how they dealt with it, and I got a little peek at what Wyatt will be like in his late 20's. One of the men who was there was in his late 20's. he works at a local grocery store, and also at a local community college in the computer lab. Of all of the panelists, he reminded me most of Wy, in terms of his level of social functioning and his verbal skills. One of the things that most impressed me about him was how aware he was of what the difficulties of his Apergers were. He was very much aware of the fact that he had difficulty recognizing subtleties in facial expressions, and that he didn't understand sarcasm. These are both things that Wyatt struggles with as well.
By hearing this man talk about how he learned that these were things he would always have trouble with, it helped me realize that I was going to have to start working with Wy to help him recognize the areas that he struggles with.
One of the things that I think is always going to be a challenge is teaching Wy what he DOESN'T get. That's a really difficult thing to do. How do you teach someone who is color blind that there are colors that they don't see? How do you get someone who is tone deaf to understand that there are notes they don't hear? How do I help my little boy understand that there are rules to a game that he doesn't even know is being played, and that the game he doesn't know is going to be part of every aspect of his life for the next 6 years of school and beyond?
I listened to these young adults talk about how difficult school was for them, and it was as if I was living out the lyrics to "Killing Me Softly". Been there, done that, don't want it for either of my boys. But of course, we don't always get a vote when it comes to the things our kids will have to go through. So I gathered what I could from what these people had to say, and tucked it into my arsenal of weapons I'm going to pass along to the boy when he has need of them.
It doesn't seem like much of an arsenal - the whole "I have trouble understanding subtle facial expressions" arrow seems kind of dull when you shoot it out against the terrifying dragon of pre-adolescent scorn. But I know that Wy is a pretty confident kid. As one of his teachers said at his IEP meeting "Wyatt knows exactly who he is, and he really likes himself". So I have to hope that at least some degree of that follows him into the bog of hormones and insecurity he's about to wade in to next school year.
Of all the challenges I've faced with Wyatt over the last 8 years since he was diagnosed, none has frightened me more than him entering adolescence. It's looming on the horizon now, and I'm still scared, but I think we're both ready to face it. It's good to know that there are people who have come through the other side, and are happy and well adjusted, in spite of (or maybe because of) the difficulties they've come up against.