Wednesday, November 26, 2014

For The Lost

   Today I am doing a shorter, (ish), post since I am far from home typing on my cell phone. In fact I will apologize a head of time for any errors. Today a story on my Facebook time line made me really wanted to touch on something very near and dear to my heart. That something that has brought me many tears over the last six years and it is wandering.
   I will give you some statistics. I am sharing these to educate, not out of fear mongering. Please do your own research too. According to the National Autism Association an estimated 48% of children with autism are likely to wander or bolt from a safe place. That is almost four times that of their non ASD counterparts. A staggering 91% of ASD children 14 years and younger who died during the years 2009-2010, was by accidental drowning. Most were due to elopement. Children with ASD are more likely to be drawn to water.
   If you haven't experienced this you might wonder how it could happen. And even question the parents ability to do their job. It's not that simple.  Some children are always in the bolting mode. A split second of looking a way can be all that it takes. Having to be in a hyper vigalert state 24/7 is exhausting. Not being able to even use the bathroom without your child being locked in the bathroom with you.
   Another example of elopement that is a bit trickier, would be a person who blots when they are suddenly overwhelmed. This is the type that catches you completely off guard. They may go months inbetween episodes. You may think that you are in the clear. Maybe, just maybe, they have out grown it. You relax your guard a bit. But, then you find yourself running in flip flops trying to catch them before the make it to a busy road.
   One of the scariest examples may be someone who when they suddenly become upset not only runs but hides too. Just as you give up and are about to dial 911 you find them and have to get them to calm down, so, that you can remind them that they have to answer when you call their name. You tell them how you love them and need to know that they are safe.
   You might get to hear from other parents how you should spank your child and teach them a "lesson." You on the other hand know better. You know that when your loved one leaves the safe place they are it is not because they are being definent, naughty, stubborn or malicious. It is much more complex then that. And your best defense is to try and get your loved one to realize that when the feel that way running will only hurt them.
   Maybe you also will find yourself praying. Praying for those who have lost their child in this tragic way. Praying for those who have someone missing. Praying for your child, that they will never become another statistic.
   Two days ago little 2 year old Malik Drummond walked out of his Searcy, AR home while his mom was bathing. As of this morning they sill haven't found him. He is whom I pray for today. I pray that, against all odds, he is found safe and alive. I don't know that there exists a solution for every case.  Remember the next time you come across a story like his that it could be you. It could be your child lost and alone. Share their story and pray. The more people who know the facts then maybe more people will pay attention if they see a child alone.

Lord have mercy on Malik and his family.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Holidays

   Next week is Thanksgiving and also the official start of the Christmas season. For most people it is a time of year to dread. It is a time of crowded shopping malls and long lines at the stores. A time that is supposed to be filled with joy is instead filled with disappointments and failed expectations. I may be an odd ball, but, it is non of that for me. I get excited over Christmas, more than birthdays,(that deserves it own post). The forty days leading up to it is spent fasting,(according to the tradition of my faith). So when Christmas arrives the fast is broken and it is a joyus feast.
  I grew up in a bigger family with a father who was a seasonal worker. Needless to say that the winter months were leaner. No matter what though Christmas ALWAYS happened. It may not have been at the scale that other kids were accustom to but that NEVER mattered to me. I think in the long run that helped me more than my folks will ever realize.
   You might be thinking, what the gifts are the best part. My friend you are missing out on so much if you think that the gifts, perfect meals and Pintrest worthy crafts as the best part of the season. Now you are worried about your kids only focusing on the gifts then set the example and they will follow. I think that us parents underestimate the power that we have to influence our children's moods more often then we realize.  
   In our country there is also a negative association with not having things. If you don't have X then you won't really be happy. The reality is that having your basic needs met is a luxury that most of the worlds population doesn't have. Happiness is an emotion that comes and goes. True joy and contentment is priceless and not directly tied to things. In my life I have met people who literally glowed with an inner light. They had joy and peace beyond anything that I have ever seen. These were people who had very little. When I was younger I spend a large percent of my energy on trying to be skinny. This went on until I had an epiphany. That was that no matter what I looked like, what I wore, what I drove or where I lived true joy can only come from inside of me. It is independent from outward forces. 
   Since I became a parent I started from the get go, no matter how broke we were, to teach the kids to give to those who had less. I also realized that I wanted Christmas to be centered on giving, kindness, and love. Being religious we put focus on the Nativity of Christ. But, I also use it as a time to set a wonderful example of how to respect those of different faiths and those who aren't religious. My husband and I also agreed to have a lower spending cap. I have always said that when they are very little if you set the bar too high by the time they are teens you are done for.     
   Christmas is the one time a year that everyone believes in miracles, giving to others, (not necessarily material gifts), and being joyful. It is a time of year where hope is spread. Halloween even though it is fun is not about light it is about darkness and fear. As a stark contrast during Christmas time there are few places you can go that isn't full of lights. And just in case you miss all of this,(the love, joy, peace and lights thing),there is music about it.  
   My hope is that when my kids are old and grey the things that they will remember won't be the toys they got. Hopefully, it will be the memories of love. As you prepare to get launched into this next holiday season please take a second and pause. Think about the thing that you remember about this season that gives you joy. Look for ways to share that joy with others. Small, random acts of kindness can completely change someone's day. And perhaps without you knowing it will change you too. May the remainder of this year, for you, be blessed with peace, love, joy, kindness and goodness. May your dark winter days be filled with light.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Life Choices

  Frequently in life you have to make choices, sometimes big choices. When you are a parent it is even scarier because those choices don't just effect you. You are making decisions that can have long term affects on a whole other generation. Three years ago next month my husband and I made such a choice. We did it with out a crystal ball to see the many repercussions that followed like ripples on a pond from a rain drop.
  To properly tell the story I have to go back almost five years ago. The economy was almost at the bottom and the construction industry that my husband had come from was gone. I had taken a job working grave yard shifts at a local CVS Pharmacy. I would be up all night moving freight and up all day with a 9 month old and a 21 month old ASD. My husband would take on any odd job that he could. We were horribly broke and never used public assistance. Some may wonder how I managed during that time to potty train a moderate ASD boy.  Its called having no money to buy diapers. We couldn't even afford meat. We were literally on our last dime and I will never forget confiding in my co worker that one more month and we would be done, and homeless. Before that week was over, out of the blue, a man,(the one that my husband still works for), called and gave my husband a job. It was and has been a good job with good pay. I had prayed so much. For the first time in my life I truly began to believe that someone was listening.
   A year after my husband got this miracle job I was able to completely quit mine. My husband was also promoted numerous times and he wound up on the crew who went to Oregon every winter to mechanic. Also, the next year was supposed to be a whole lot of moves. With my husband working seven days a week we realized that we were faced with a huge decision. So, we chose to give up our rental and moved into a RV. My son was three and daughter was two. At this point we knew that our son was way behind on language and had a ton of odd quirks. But, neither of us had completely realized the scope or long reach our choice would have. I will never forget just how angry my son was. Everyone would say, "oh, just make it into a fun adventure," even after I told them that it didn't make a difference.
   We left the stores that he had always gone to, the church that we had always gone to and forced him into a new small space with over stimulating Laundromats. That year we moved our trailer six time in twelve months. He regressed and became more angry and withdrawn.
   By the time my son was five I knew for sure that there was something going on. At the time my husband was gone for about seventeen hours a day seven days a week. We were still in the trailer and I was trying to home school thru a local charter school. I told my husband that he needed to be assessed. And when we did sure enough he was diagnosed as moderately autistic with an additional language diagnosis and borderline ID. I had never guess that. The date that I got the call is etched in my brain as well as his birthday. It was February 12, 2014. I will never forget the women at the Regional Center telling me that he would need substantial support.  I thought that it was mild maybe not even autistic,(a paranoid mom). When we got the report it was seventeen pages long. I read it and my husband read it too.
   Like a lightning bolt from heaven, I remember realizing just how hard he must have worked to get where he was. It hurt, a lot. We realized that we had to find a good school and a house close to that school. And that even though my husband was down to six days a week that it would mean time a part. Miraculously we found his school and a teacher who loves our son. She is dedicated to helping him be the best him that he could be. We found a nice house in a good neighborhood that is only about five minutes from the school. Everything was coming together it was like a fairy tale. As they say, "all good things must come to an end."
  There was a fire. Not a house fire, but, a huge forest fire started by lightening. The company that my husband works for sub contracts to anther company that lost billions of board foot of timber to the fire. That means that they sent my husbands company to harvest it before it becomes rotten. I got to hold back my crying children as their dad drove away knowing that he would be gone for a week. When he gets home we would get maybe twenty hours to see him every week. That is including sleep time. My heart was torn in two. My husband and I were sure though that this was the right decision though.
  That brings us to this last weekend. I somehow missed that the kids were going to have a four day weekend because of Veteran's Day. Instead of my husband driving for hours to come see us we drove two hours to the RV and stayed until yesterday. I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it was to be a family. My husband is the kind of husband that when he is around my life is a million times better. When I was much younger a very wise person once told me that you know that you have found the right person to be with if with them your joys are doubled and your sorrows are cut in half. As corny as it sounds that is what my husband is to me.
  Yes it is so much easier on me to have a washer, drier, dishwasher, space and a fenced in back yard. I would trade it in a heart beat if it meant being back with my husband in that thirty-one foot RV. The reality is that I am a mom and even if we are all heart broken apart, this is what is best for my son. He is over all happier with the stability and a good school. You can't forget that it also means no more Laundromats,(yay). I may not know what the future may bring, (until I get a working crystal ball), I will only be able to do the best that I can with what I know. Anyway that is all any of us can ever do. I will end this post with an appropriate quote, "Love is unselfishly choosing for another's highest good," C.S. Lewis.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

When The Cost Is Too High

   It was summer of 2010. I will never forget when I first heard the news. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.  At the time my son was three, my daughter was two. I was working full time graveyard shifts and up all day because my husband was working too. It was two years before my sons diagnoses. I was exhausted all the time. A women had driven to where we used to live, to drowned her three year old daughter in our local river. The thought that some one would kill their own child was horrific to me. It was the first time where an act of violence had shaken me so much. I cried, I prayed and I cried some more. Her name was Sophia,(I will never forget her name, may her memory be eternal), she was three and now she is in the arms of the angels.
    Far too often, since then, have I paused and cried as I hear about yet another child. Children who have left this earth too early at the hands of their mother, father or care giver.  Frequently, drug use and mental illness is the catalyst. Some times it is burn out, a parent whose cries for help have gone unanswered. The tragic part is that no matter what the cause is the end result is almost always the same. A dead child, a torn family and a nation asking why?
  This morning I came home from taking the kids to school and scrolled thru my Facebook news feed. There is where I stumbled upon the story of yet another victim. A little boy the same age as my son and autistic. He was thrown from a high bridge not all that far from where we live. He was from all reports a sweet child. The mom was burned out, not by her son, but from her husbands health problems and financial struggle. She had a mental break and heard voices that told her to do it.
  The autism community seems to be frequented by this kind of occurrence more than any other group. Oddly though when the victim is an autistic child the media not only jumps all over it, but, it immediately spins the story in a way that the victim becomes the victimizer. The cause of the tragedy that gets thrown around is caregiver burn out. So, that you know of course, if any other person was in their shoes that they would have done the same. There tends to be very little emphasis on why the other parent, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even teachers for that matter didn't see the impending tragedy. When you victimizes the victim it takes the blame off of others. Ultimately, it sets us up to keep repeating history.
  I do not want you to think that I am implying that mental brakes and caregiver burnout aren't real conditions. Because it is a huge contributing factor in these tragedies. What I am saying is that there is never an excuse to hurt or kill a child.  Every parent, SN or not reaches a point where they are overwhelmed. It is how they deal with those feelings and emotions that make all of the difference in the world. We as a nation have to step back and accept blame for not protecting these children. Going back to Oregon and London McCabe. He was thrown off a busy bridge where other moms in the past have thrown their children off. There were motorists that saw her dragging him right before and yet nobody stopped. This cycle has to stop.
   Until our country changes and the system changes we have to look out for each other. The person next door, the coworker, our families and our friends. If we all stand up and say no more, never again. Tell each other that we will listen, hold your hand, watch your kids and if you are at the end of your rope give me your children, no questions asked. We are the first line of defense.
   I am going to ask you a favor if you are ever in a place where you are hearing voices, feeling like you are going to hurt yourselves or your child please, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you need a ear to listen to you, message me day or night. You can also call 911. I you are reading this and are in a good place let everyone that you know, know that they can call you. We all have to keep our eyes and ears open. sometimes the call for help is silent . Rest in peace little London may your death not be in vain. Every life has value, please choose life