Monday, August 30, 2010


Benji has a game he likes to play--it's called "play Thomas?" Here's what it sounds like:

(mommy typing furiously on her computer)

Ben: play Thomas, please? (big doe eyes)

Mommy: you want to play Thomas? (duh, dumbass)

Ben: (jumping up & down) Play Thomas! Play Thomas!

(mommy gets up to go arrange the track for Ben. She sets up the track and places a few cars on it. For a few minutes mommy & Benji play with the train cars, adding them on to one long train, watching them go through the tunnel. Then unexpectedly, Ben pulls up the track causing major derailments and proceeds to destroy the whole track system, leaving the train table in a post-Katrina-like shambles. Ben then runs out of the room.)

Mommy sighs and grabs a beer.

It's pretty much the same each time--a few variations mind you. Sometimes I pour a glass of wine. But I've noticed that Ben has this fixation to destroy the tracks each time he is "finished" with playing Thomas--and that my only function in this game is to set the stage for Godzilla to roll through.

So the other day, when Ben came to me asking to "play Thomas," I was a little peeved at the idea. Other moms may get this--the idea that I'm only here to serve meals and set up train tracks was beginning to grate. So this time I switched tracks, so to speak. When I went into his room, I told him that I wasn't going to set up the tracks, but that I would help him. Of course, I don't think he understood a word of that, but he did seem to understand that I wasn't setting up the tracks when he pushed one into my hand and I pushed it back to him. The usual whine/cry/shout fest began, but them I told him to put one down on the table, pointing to one piece of track already there. With a little fine motor wrestling, he attached the track piece. So I handed him another. And another. And suddenly a track was being created, with the pieces he wanted, going in the direction he wanted. My only job was to "help fix it" when we came to the closure and it needed some engineering with the last pieces. That track was his, and I think he knew it. It did not get torn up for the majority of the day--I think Godzilla or Mothra struck @ 4:48pm, but I did not personally witness the attack.

Later that night--after I filled Mr. Mommy in on the new plan of attack, Ben built an even more elaborate track with his daddy. (they usually play trains better than Ben and I do, so he was more willing to be patient and get help from daddy and resist his internal urge to destroy) That track was still standing 24 hours later. Hell, I think it's still standing now--only missing a bridge piece that frankly falls off if you just look at it wrong, so I'm not sure that counts. I'm not saying it won't fall before the day is over, but he seems to have taken some pride in that track.

What happened here wasn't just brilliant parenting on my part, but rather a type of therapy called "floortime." it involves getting down on the floor and playing with your kid. It's a little more work than that--but you get the picture. You play with your kid, looking for and creating opportunities for communication, letting them guide/rule the play. You play the way THEY want to play, not the way you want to, obstructing or guiding when they get too focused or inward. Now granted, he wanted me to set up the tracks, and i didn't--but this was the "obstruction" part of my play. It's not just about him being a play tyrant.

The method was developed by Stanley Greenspan in order to help kids on the spectrum and like conditions to learn to communicate effectively. What I love about it, other than the utter simplicity of it, is that it seems so positive. There are mental steps each kids has to meet, and once they are met, you move on to the next one. Kid is changing body language when you engage him? He's ready to start making eye contact and getting your attention. Kid is making eye contact and pointing? He's ready for closing conversation "circles" (back and forth conversation in its simplest form). Closing more than one circle? She's ready for more pretend play and emotional ideas. It is scaffolding at its very best. That's a fancy term that will be familiar to my teacher friends--its building upon what you have instead of bombarding them with what you know. Benji was obviously ready to move on to the next level--he knew how the tracks were built--having watched mommy create them, and he had also developed the finer motor skills to put them together. A little budge (or rather hard shove) from me, and he was on his way. When it comes to scaffolding, you can always spot the good teacher and therapist: they can do it effortlessly (or seemingly so).

For me, I will admit, floortime can be a struggle. Raised as an only child, and fairly a loner in all things, play doesn't involve a lot of speech for me. I can get down on the floor and play with Benji anytime, but it isn't always effective speech time. Sometimes we're just building Lincoln Logs (old school baby!) quietly, and sometimes we're just kicking a ball back and forth. I don't have a natural inspiration to turn this into a lesson for speech other than "don't hit the TV with the ball" . In this kind of activity, or anything creative, I'm not a chatty Cathy. In my own studio, whether alone or working with others, my workspace is generally quiet. I actually have to remind myself to turn on some music--it isn't a natural inclination to do so. Even at the bar, which is a social place by nature, I'm not the chatty one. I will respond to conversation--well, WORTHWILE conversation--but I rarely initiate it, except perhaps to shake my empty glass at the bartender. So to imbed speech into Ben's play isn't just work for him.

That being said, floortime is an awesome way to get to know your kid. When they aren't as communicative, it can be hard to get a grasp of who they really are, other than an occasional screaming pile of hair or banana chugging monster. But by getting down on the floor and playing the way THEY want to, you start to get a clear picture of the personality inside your offspring. And sometimes you need that change of perspective. As grown-ups, we tend to get comfortable in one world view--we own the world and control it--but how liberating it can be to see the world from a kid's point of view! Not worrying about cleaning up the latest spill, not thinking about bills to be paid and the TV fall line-up but instead marvelling in the mix of colors on the paper and hands, creating a scenario where trains knock down walls of pigs and chickens or feeling the joy of being surrounded by bubbles on a hot day. Floortime definitely takes you out of the mundane--something a lot of adults could use. Yeah--I'm talking to you miss "I can't stop talking on my phone while I drive and drink a soy latte."

If you think about it, it's kinda awesome. I have a legitimate and scientific reason to postpone my chores and play with my kid. You hear that, Laundry? Now, if only I had the same scientific backing for a daily cocktail...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

reality vs. reality

So, I found myself the other day watching one of those shows about "real" housewives. I catch myself watching them from time to time--never enough to know what the hell is going on, but often enough to fulfill my need to just hate on someone. And their hair alone sure makes it easy.

Then I started thinking--what if they made a show about the "real" moms of Autism? Not the celebrity moms who have almost all avenues open to them, but the REAL moms--you know the ones. The frazzled, haven't worn make-up in a year, tired of eating gluten free pasta, wishing she could just put in earplugs at some point in the day, and definitely 2 cocktails short? Yeah, her. What would THAT show look like?

I've noticed these shows break down into the following kinds of episodes:

Dinner parties:

A lot of us have adopted special diets for our kids. Evidence has shown that it does help some kids (I think I saw a doctor say about 50%--which makes it a pain to try, but also a necessity). So our dinner parties would have to be a gluten-free, nutless potluck--hardly Real Housewives material. There might (read WILL) be recipe swapping, especially if Bertha brought a gluten free dish that actually tastes good and the kids haven't resorted to creating giraffe-based murals on the walls with it. This would also be an effort to get our kids to socialize, which they may or may not do. But they will eye one another suspiciously, and perhaps take a moment to try the black-bean-and-beet hummus with homemade pita chips. Or maybe it's the hummus they're eying suspiciously. I know I am. It looks a little like a lumpy bowl of Steve Buscemi.


In our world these are referred to as playdates. Again, an attempt to force socialization. Because even if they won't talk to one another, they have to learn to be next to one another without throwing punches. It's the precursor to developing "personal space." Something we all have to learn--like the asshat at the bar standing a "tad" too close to you and NOT picking up on the body language and verbal clues that you would rather he take a hike into traffic than tell you about his pet iguana and its crazy lettuce-eating antics.

By the way, never feed an iguana lettuce. At least not sober. Ya gotta get the iguana drunk first. Rookie mistake.


So instead of hitting Rodeo Drive or whatnot, this would be an episode of how we get the errands run with our kids in tow. Keeping them occupied in the cart; keeping their hands off of EVERY item within their reach; listening to their whines, your whines, and the people around you's whine, while you try to shop for your own wine; coping with the meltdown just as you get to the checkout stand--this close to escaping--and having to see every dirty look and "harrumph" from the old biddies around you. Luckily though, the screaming tends to drown out any comments, and the biddies are easily distracted by the haunting fluorescent light shining off of the tabloids that steer their "family values."


This usually accompanies the Outings episode. It's what we're doing when we're chillin' on the side of the playground while our kids get busy eating sand or obsessively going down the slide. Usually about whose marriage is on the rocks, what some old biddy said to us while we were shopping, how much a particular therapy or treatment costs, or the latest crazy antics of our child in public.

Of course that's just the venting stuff. It's also where we share the milestones met, and the little things that may not mean much to the Typical moms, but mean the world to us. The kids of events, like your kid saying "I love you" or giving you a spontaneous hug, that require around of cocktails and a few handkerchiefs.


Hmmm. I suppose any time you get a bunch of women together, one of these is bound to occur. Although I'm not sure what we'd fight about? Vaccine causality vs. genetics? DAN! vs. ABA? Being a "everything is rainbows and puppies" kind of mom vs. "pass me the vodka"? Sounds like my kind of fight - the kind I can win, as I am well-armed with tiny, plastic cocktail swords in 4 colors.


I don't know what kind of man we'd be trying to steal, unless it was someone's therapist or doctor.

"I heard she was taking her son to him, but she just doesn't appreciate what he's trying to do!"
"Why does SHE get the good therapist?"
"If he would only see my son for a few minutes, I know it would change everything!"

Because, let's face it ladies--we are too exhausted to be spending our time trying to make time with someone else's husband. We barely have time for our own--why would we want ANOTHER one?


Inevitably someone on these shows needs help in some way to get themselves out of the whorish--I mean selfish--I mean, oh hell--situations in which they find themselves. An intervention with the Autism moms would probably sound like this:

"Bertha--we're here to help. No--put down that damn gluten-free pasta and listen. You need to take a break. You're making us all crazy. Your son has Autism. It's not the end of the world. And he hates that pasta--we all do. Stop trying to be the perfect mom, and just be a mom. Your son will appreciate it more if you play with him more and see the world from his point of view. By all means, keep trying new things and trying to improve his situation as best you can. But remember--you have to take care of yourself too. Have a spa day. On us. But just this once, mind you. We're trying to maintain our sanity here too, so chill out, or I'll leave a bag of soiled diapers in your Lexus SUV."

In the end, it probably wouldn't be a very entertaining show because, well, it's just day to day living. We don't live for the camera, so it wouldn't always be a flattering light. We're not as skinny and made-up as those "real" women: we don't always have time to get put together. We're too busy parenting--which is something I notice those "real" women don't seem to do much. Maybe it's why we like to watch them--to think "at least I'm not that bitch." Or at least a glorious moment to think, "My kid has better manners than most Orange County housewives. I guess I've earned another drink."

Friday, August 6, 2010


So, my boy inherited a thick, beautiful head of hair. Thick like mine is (when it's short), blonde (like mine was in my youth--ah sweet youth!) and coarse. (I don't know who the hell gave him that one--both mr. mommy and I have soft fine hair, as do his grandmothers. I swear--his hair feels asian!) He also inherited my cowlick(s) which can be quite comedic as his hair gets longer. Lately, it was starting to get "moppy", and ever efficient mommy that I am, I declared it was time for a haircut.

He's had 4 so far. Or maybe 5. Let's just say it ain't a regular thing. First--his hair doesn't grow that fast, and second, like most toddlers, he hates having his haircut. Hates. I'm using the word hate here to describe a haircut. Hate.

I try to take him to my hairdresser, who will cut his hair for a reasonable fee. And while he gets a fabulous haircut--it is physically and mentally exhausting for all of us when we are done. She has a specific haircutting area--he never wants to stay in it. I never bring the right toy. He won't sit in a barber's chair for nothing. He WILL NOT wear that noisy cape. And he doesn't, not anyone, no way, forget it lady and your sharp scissors, want ANYONE touching his HAIR.

None of this surprises me. He rarely lets me comb it either (thus the comedic cowlicks). I'm not even convinced he likes me washing it. (but he tolerates it because he LOVES the rinsing part) He doesn't like us to dry his hair with a towel. He used to like the blowdryer, but that lasted all of a week. When it comes to this boys hair--HANDS OFF!

So, since the three times we've had Tonia cut his hair were so exhausting, I tried one of those "kid" places. The one I tried a while back sported a particular floating object--yellow in color. It was the only time Ben sat in a chair--and got the crappiest haircut I've ever seen. Nothing to thin out the thickness, or address the cowlicks. I had to spend more time on his hair after that cut than any other he's had.

So my thought this last week was this--he sat in the chair at the crappy haircut place…maybe he will again at a different haircut place. Maybe the stimuli in these places will be enough to engage him briefly enough to let a professional get in there and cut.

So I packed snacks and his favorite DVD into my purse and we headed off to Woodland hills to a "kid friendly" and even "Autism friendly" salon.

WE get there and the place is LOUD. Benji is interested in the toys, not the chair. Strike one. The DVD players advertised online are not working and may have never worked. So the DVD I spent 15 minutes looking for that morning is useless. He is more interested in the train table. OK, she says, I'll cut while he plays. And I think--yeah! That's how we have to do it. I try to keep him in one place and she gets in there, cutting here, snipping there, thinning, thinning. And I think, this is going to work. IT really is. It's going to work.

"All done hands"

This was my son's way of saying, quit it lady! Oh dear. Only half of his head is cut at this point, so it's not like I can say, oh, just trim a little bit more and we're good to go. No. We're committed to a cut now, and it has to continue.

So now begins the chase. He wants to play on the airhockey(!) table. I corral him back to the haircut area. A few more snips. More running away, more herding, more snips. Now, I called this place because they advertised an autism friendly haircut--meaning it would not be rushed. Guess what. Her next appt. showed up and here we were, trying to finish this cut because the other mom had a snooty look on her face.

Then came the clippers.

Yeah--we'd had that discussion. I told her he doesn't like them. But to finish his cut (yes--we had gotten to that point, phew!) she had to either take clippers to the side, or snip with the sharp scissors, which required stillness. So I grab him, put him on my lap, hold his arms down and she gets one side done. With the clippers. The other side was well nigh impossible. So I told her to leave it with a few pieces I knew I could trim at home once he calmed down, paid the lady and high tailed it out of there. Once we were in the car, we were both able to take a breath and enjoy a moment of silence. That's before Ben began his mantra of "go through tunnel"--which is kind-of this phrase which could mean:

a) literally drive me through a tunnel
b) I want to go
c) I'm hungry
d) you're the worst mommy in the world, and I curse the day you ever brought me to this wretched salon with all its stimuli and smells and you let that lady touch my hair and to top it off you wouldn't even let me play airhockey! I'm calling child protective services as soon as we get home!

D is variable, by the way, usually in reference to whatever messed-up activity I just had him participate in.

So after we get home, alcohol is consumed and naps are handed out, I google "haircutting + toddlers+autism" Even without the "autism" search, the answer is a resounding "DO IT YOURSELF, DUMBASS!" which is what my gut told me about a year ago. I kinda knew with that last visit to Tonia that I should just learn to cut it myself and be done with this stress! But, as stated in previous posts, I don't always listen to my gut. I kept getting convinced that he needed a pro to cut his hair. And that was because I wanted it short. I mean short short. Practically high and tight. And he is cute as hell with short hair. But you know what, he's also cute as hell with the mop--a little cuter, maybe. And with a pair of scissors and a DAY (or 3)to cut his hair, I can probably keep it at a moppy exisitence until he is old enough to a) sit still and b) not scream in bloody terror at anyone wielding scissors. Luckily though, this week's cut is pretty short. So I've got a good 6 months before I have to even make a snip...

p.s.--sorry there's no photo. blogger just isn't cooperating this morning... but you can check out my FB page

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Social Rules

So, the other day I posted a link with a forum discussing "social rules" as those on the spectrum (that's the autism spectrum) see it. It was a poignant, funny and almost spot-on observation of those they call "NTs" or "neurotypicals" (for a lot of us, that's you and me)

It got me thinking about the social games we play. Personally, I've never been a social butterfly--I find a lot of the games people play to be inane and not worth my time. And no, I'm not on the spectrum, I just don't like people. I believe the term is misanthrope. Day to day interactions with people make me want to punch them in the face. Read the works of Jonathan Swift and you'll see where I'm coming from.

But I also recognize that humans are a social animals, and our need to be recognized and to recognize is strong. Before marrying, I was a bit of a barfly(shocking, I know)--did a lot of my writing tucked away in the corner of my favorite bar, sipping girly drinks and writing blather. Even though I wasn't always engaging folks, I still felt a need to be among people and watch their silly antics. (actually, I did a lot of character sketches there--making up stories for the people I watched. Good practice for any writer IMHO.) I remember once a philosophy professor said in class that if we went through life not being acknowledged or recognized by other humans, we would go insane. Now, I could have lived without being recognized by some of the sausages that frequent that bar, but then who would I fantasize about punching?

I suppose I've always envied the person who could walk into a room and control it with a smile and witty statement. They are the masters of all these social rules. I've got a couple of these rules down--I've been known to be charming when I want to be--but I don't think I could master them all. For one thing, that would mean being nice to people I really find irritating. For another, it would require more alcohol.

As I read through these rules, Some of them really spoke to me--made me stop and think about how observant and true they really are.

#3. How are you isn't literal, you are supposed to say "fine" then "How are you?" back.

It makes me think--should we even be asking this if we don't want to hear the truth? Or would we be annoyed that someone did not inquire over our health? Honesty--REAL honesty, has a bite that we might not be ready for in our social society. I mean, do I tell the clerk at Ralph's, when she asks, that I am constipated? Or that I am having the kind of day that makes we want to get into my truck and drive away from this life? Or that I constantly cheat on my "diet" so that I never lose any weight, which leads to feeling of guilt, which leads to more cheating? Am I ready to hear that she is being harassed by her boss, or that she has a new corn and her feet hurt? So we just smile at one another and say "fine", or maybe a little "a little tired, but ok", and we go about our day knowing that all is right in the world, if not in need of a beer or two.

And knowing we all lie about that answer, don't we all look askance at the person who answers with a resounding "GREAT! COULDN'T BE BETTER!" I don't know about you, but my first thought is usually--huh. Wonder where he hid the body?

#5. If someone asks you what you did over the weekend, and in honest, you stayed at home and enjoyed your special interest alone all weekend... DON'T tell them. Lie and say you hung out with friends.

Is it such a sin to say I laid around in my PJ's all weekend ? That I never left the house? When did it become a social problem to enjoy a little relaxation? It seems we all want to hear that we were swept away to a luxurious spa where we were waited on hand and foot by lovely men who rubbed our feet and did our laundry. OR that we drove two hours to get to the beach, dug out a little patch of sand, sweated in the hot sun, got a headache and then got sand all over the car when we got back in, only to drive two hours back. Call me anti-social, but I'll stick to my usual plans of lounging about reading bad fiction and convincing my husband to order in.

#8. If you hear one of your friends lie or embellish the truth to impress a guy/girl; don't point it out in front of said guy/girl.

Well, I guess I kinda agree on that one. Unless of course it involves removing a wedding ring or hiding the fact they drive a mini van with three carseats.

28. At all times, pretend like you know what you are doing. Other people are predisposed to believe you.

I'll say I learned this one in the classroom. If you are standing in a room of 30+ teenagers, and you look the least bit hesitant--they will pounce on you like hyenas at a kill. And laugh just as much. But I suppose it does fall into other realms as well. I mean, we are attracted to confidence. Who out there wants to have a drink with a spineless person who can't even decide if they want a martini or a manhattan?

42. if someone asks what you think about the work they have done, they do not want to know what you think. 

As far as I can tell they want: 
a) comment about a feature of the work to show understanding 
b) compliment their brilliance 
c) pretend you don't understand a second part so they get to explain

Um--I think we'd better own up to this one. I mean, how often do you really want to hear how something you have created needs more work? I wonder--do people on the spectrum take criticism better? (experiences I've had--I doubt it.) As good as it is for one's writing, I have ALWAYS dreaded the crit. Who wants to hear that your character development is shallow, or that the story line is cliché and not worth reading? (and yes--these are criticisms I have heard, and I still hate those people…)

That first choice--that one really rang out to me, because in essence we just want to be understood. I wrote a short story once for a creative writing class that I thought was brilliant. Actually it was crap--but at the time... During the crit, my "peers" (I use that term loosely since none of them could drink me under the table) questioned my villain's motives and methods. I had decided to use a woman instead of a man in a traditional killing role, and they raked me over the coals for it. And it wasn't that they attacked my method that irked me, it was that they didn't understand what I was trying to do. All I wanted to hear was

a) wow, using a woman in that role is new and exciting!
b) I only wish I could write dialogue like you do! (that one I did hear--what an observant fellow!)
c) why didn't she just have a drink?

When really, the issue was that I didn't write it in a way that made them understand. It wasn't their ignorance, it was mine. But who wants to admit they're a dumbass?

Rule # 58 - Do not run from police officers because you want to avoid social interaction.

Well, you'd THINK this one is obvious. Then you turn on the TV and watch a slow speed chase--that actually goes though your neighborhood, only to end badly just up the street. At 3am. Seriously--do people actually get away?

67. Truth is NOT important in most conversation beside serious academic discussions. Exaggerations can smooth or even make the conversation more funny 

My blog is evidence of this. I mean, if I drank half as much as I write about, I'd be sauced right now. Or would I? This might require a few tests...

btw--here's the link to that page: