Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It takes a little snow

Christmas is tough for Norrin. I know he likes it - the presents and candy and Santa. All of those things he can see - they are concrete things. But the idea of Christmas, the feeling and excitement that comes with the anticipation of Christmas. I know he doesn't get it. Christmas is full of abstract concepts that are so complex for his mind to grasp. It's religion, the birth of Christ, faith. How do you explain faith to a child with Autism? 

Monday, December 13, 2010

I think Charlie Brown has Autism

Charlie Brown: Actually, Lucy, my trouble is Christmas. I just don't understand it. Instead of feeling happy, I feel sort of let down.
Norrin loves Charlie Brown. Obsessed would be a better word. Over the last few months, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas dvd's have been in serious rotation.  Norrin's fascination with the cartoon surprises me - there is nothing sophisticated about the animation and the dialogue is complex for a four year old. But still, Norrin will ask to "sit and watch" any of the three dvds. I explain to Norrin that Halloween and Thanksgiving are finished, it's time for Christmas. Christmas is the dvd he has the least interest in.

Watching it the other day, I couldn't help but think that Charlie Brown may be somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Whatever It Takes

I toured another school this morning. A school that was so financially out of my reach. It would require a lawyer or an advocate. And a deposit on the $92,000 yearly tuition.  Did I have the deposit? No. Would I get it? If I had to, yes. Knowing that I'd have to go through the legal process every year.

While touring the school, I couldn't help but think of that scene in Forrest Gump where his mother, Mrs. Gump, sleeps with the school principal.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Long Term Concerns & Wishes

I spent the better part of my afternoon filling out a school application for Norrin. One application. Nine pages long. I took my time, printed as neatly as possible - even at the end, as my wrist began to ache. I needed his application to be perfect; the application was for the school that I loved. The one place where I believed Norrin could truly thrive. The school that could break my heart.

I tried to answer honestly and objectively, though I was tempted to write: Norrin is amazing and adorable; accept him.  

I reached the ninth page and the final question. What are your long term concerns and wishes for your child? I was given three lines to answer the question.

Our greatest concern is that we won't be able to secure the most appropriate academic environment to meet Norrin's needs. What if there isn't a school that can nurture his strengths as well as his weaknesses? We know for many parents, mainstream is the holy grail. That does not matter to us. We are realistic about what he can and can't do. If mainstream is a possibility, fine and if not - then that's fine too. We would never want to push him into an environment where he may be set up to fail. We know that he's bright and that he has the capacity to learn.  We don't need general education to prove that. Norrin doesn't need to be the popular kid. But if he wants friendship, we want him to have the tools to develop one. We just want him to be happy.  To feel good about himself.  To enjoy his life. To be productive.  To be himself and know that he's okay, he doesn't need to be cured or fixed.  He is a lovable little boy with a charming smile.  And we never want him to lose the qualities that make him special.  We hope that as he gets older, people will appreciate him just as he is.  

They got the edited version.      


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Turning Five (part 1)

When Norrin was first born, Joseph and I had high expectations.  We would not allow him to make our mistakes.  Norrin would go on to college after high school and graduate within four years - five years max.  We never wanted Norrin to have to choose between a college education and a job; forced to take classes that fit around his work schedule.  We wanted Norrin to choose the career he wanted, not settle on the one that paid the bills.  He was going to be better than us.    

This was before the diagnosis, when I believed a school is what you made of it.  And if Norrin was a typically developing child I would place him in the zoned public school or a charter school and be done with it.  I would be an involved parent, help him with his homework, enroll him in after school the life of a typical parent with a typical child.  Knowing that my child would not be left behind.
With a child on the autism spectrum, we cannot afford that luxury.  Norrin needs more than the public school system can provide.  And we need reassurance that Norrin will not be left behind, our own parental commitment to Norrin's education is not enough.  We still have high expectations for Norrin - the diagnosis will never change that.         

The "Turning Five" process is daunting; it's a path that so many parents walk alone, unguided and uncertain.         

Since October, I've toured six schools - only one is truly suitable for Norrin.  I have three more schools to tour.  (Not including the public schools and the CBST referrals) I have no idea when my Turning Five meeting will be - I am waiting to hear from the Committee of Special Education (CSE).  All I can do is tour schools, fill out applications, consult an advocate and possibly an attorney, attain a neuropysch eval and wait.      

Norrin isn't entitled to the best. He's entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and to be placed accordingly to his Individualized Education Plan (IEP). But I often wonder: what is appropriate?  Appropriate can mean different things to different people. And the IEP might as well be called the GEP because administrators hand out placements and services based on what they "generally" assign. Administrators will refer to Norrin as a number. CSE is thought of as a business rather than a public service. They will make a decision and it will be up to us to fight it.   

But for now, I am at the mercy of the CSE. 
That is the threat in AutismWonderland.   

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Four Months After Miscarriage

It's been four months since my missed miscarriage.  My body has healed.  My heart still has not. While the sonogram image of my baby whose heart stopped beating no longer haunts my every thought; I am constantly reminded of what I have lost.  Ironically, Norrin reminded me today.

During my pregnancy, I urged Norrin to be careful with my belly. "A baby is in there," I had said.  But in a moment of excitement, he would pounce.  I'd hold my stomach and give him a look.  And he corrected himself, "Careful with Mommy's belly." Then he would kiss me. Once on my cheek, once on my stomach. 

Having a baby after Norrin was not an easy decision.  And even during the pregnancy we had our doubts, our fears.  For us, for Norrin and for the baby.  I purchased The New Baby by Mercer Mayer (one of Norrin's favorite authors/illustrators) and a few other books to introduce to the idea of new brother or sister.  I incorporated the books into his bedtime reading routine.

After I lost the baby, I immediately removed the books from his bookshelf and never mentioned the baby again.  For the first time since the diagnosis, I was grateful for autism.  Pregnancy was such an abstract thought, Norrin could easily forget. No questions could be asked, no explanations needed.  It was not a reality for him and in some way it made grieving easier.   

This morning, after brushing our teeth.  Norrin lifted up my shirt and stuck his index finger in my belly.  "There's a baby inside," he said.  He looked up at me and smiled as if he suddenly remembered. 

"No, Norrin.  There is no baby inside."

Of course he didn't ask "why" or "how come," the way a typical four and a half year old would.  And again, I was grateful.   How could I explain such a loss to him, when I didn't even understand?

But it occurred to him, four months later, that there had been a baby inside.  Was he curious?  Did he remember?  And at the thought, become excited? In the last month, he's had more play dates.  Does he want a sibling?  Is he lonely?  I may never know.

My husband, the eternal optimist, said, "Maybe he knows something we don't know." 

Maybe?  Though I doubt it.

Or maybe it's Norrin's atypical way of telling me, it's time to try again.   

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday

In retail world, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. The stores are crowded, the tables filled, the lines long. Holiday music is blaring from the speakers. It is sensory overload multiplied by one thousand.

Yesterday morning, I took Norrin to Macy's in search of a sweater that I knew would be on sale.

The sweaters were located right in front of the escalators.  Of course, Norrin wanted to go down the escalator.  And I knew if I let go of his hand, he would make a run for it.  I knelt down to search for a size, not letting go of his hand, but in fact holding it tighter.  So tight, it made my hand hurt.  When holding a child's hand there is no way to shop without making a mess.  And I did. With one hand, I moved some sweaters to another pile, flipping and tossing sweaters - tissue paper flying all over the place. I used to be a considerate shopper. However, shopping with a four year old on the spectrum all consideration is lost.  

I finally settled on two sweaters, because I couldn't find the one I wanted.  I went to the ladies shoe department, looking for a pair of boots that I tried on last week.  I waved the boots in front of the sales woman "I'm going to buy these boots.  Will you ring up the boots and the sweaters?"  

She looked me up and down. "Have you tried them on?"

I nodded and within minutes, she returned.  Norrin is playing with his cars and every so often I have to tell Norrin not to touch something or someone but for the most part, he's good.  

Of course it couldn't be that easy.  She didn't have the device to remove the sensor from one of the sweaters.  So I had to go back to the men's department to have it removed.  As we were walking out of Macy's I saw the sweater that I came in for, in the color and size that I needed.  It was the only one left.  I picked it up and went back on line. This line was long.

The woman at the counter was taking her time, folding everyone's clothes neatly, asking if they needed boxes and gift receipts. What I would have done for incompetence?!

Norrin was getting impatient and no longer interested in his cars. He started scripting; in a high pitched voice he says, "Oh No!  I've forgotten something really important." He hasn't forgotten anything, it's a line from Charlie and Lola.  He started squirming and asked to be picked up.  I calmly told Norrin that "we are waiting."  I stroked his hair, I squeezed his hand, gave him kisses, told him he's being such a good little boy.  But he's ready to go.  

The man in front of me, looked at me and Norrin.  "Benedryl usually works," he said.  

"Not on my kid."

We both laughed.  I am used to strangers putting their two cents in, offering advice or just staring trying to figure out what's wrong with him.  I don't let it bother me.

Norrin started pressing his face against my hand, his mouth open as if he's going to bite me.  He won't - he craves the deep pressure.  He then raised his hand to hit me.  "Don't hit Mommy,"  he said.

"That's right Norrin.  Do not hit Mommy.  That is not nice."

And then Norrin hit me.  (Not hard, just a little tap) The man in front of me turned around.  The cashier stopped ringing.  They both looked at me.  Judging.  I smiled and said, "he warned me."



Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things -

This Thanksgiving I feel extremely lucky and grateful.
Here's my Top 10 List of what I'm thankful for:

10. My job. It may not be the ideal job, but it pays the bills.
  9. My cozy little apartment - it's home.    
  8. My writing - it's therapeutic 
  7. The teachers at Norrin's school and all of his therapists.
  6. My friends - They make me laugh even when it's really hard to.

  5. My family - I have a great support system. 
  4. My Mom -  I would completely lost without her.  
  3. My husband - He is a phenomenal partner.  
  2. Norrin -- (my list within my list)
  • He's said "I love you" all on his own
  • he's pointing;
  • jumping;
  • clapping; 
  • singing;
  • reading;
  • dancing;
  • playing appropriately;
  • riding his bike;
  • he's almost fully potty trained!
  • he's asking questions
  • he says please and thank you
  • he's realizing that on Halloween you get candy, on Thanksgiving you eat turkey and for Christmas Santa comes and brings presents
  • he's building his imagination
  • He's cutting and coloring
  1. That I'm able to appreciate all the little things every single day.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Bronx Dreams Big

On Saturday, November 20th, 2010, a group of volunteers, parents and children gathered at Bronx Works to discuss ideas about the future Bronx Children's Museum. The event was sponsored by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Assemblywoman Vanessa L. Gibson

The conversation has begun.  

Currently The Bronx is the only borough without a museum dedicated to children. However, yesterday's group was passionate about making the dream of a children's museum into a reality. Set to open in 2013, the Museum will be located in Building J in the newly renovated Mill Pond Park in the South Bronx. The targeted age range is birth to eight. The Museum will be a true reflection of The Bronx community, its culture, diversity, history and beauty, to inspire and educate children.  

However, for this to be a collective effort, The Bronx Children's Museum needs your input. They want to hear what parents have to say; they want the opinion of your children. Yesterday's forum was the first but it will not be the last. The vision of the Dream Big Initiative, doesn't belong to one person, it belongs to all of us. Have your say. Be a part of the conversation.            

The Museum also needs funding. Donations may be sent to The Bronx Children's Museum  P.O. Box 1381 Bronx, NY 10451.

For more information about the Museum please see article in the NY Daily News and be sure to add the Museum website to your favorites.

*Please forward this information to other parents and educators.  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Three Little Words

I was up most of last night, nursing the boy's fever. It spiked to 104 and I hate when he's that sick.  This is the time when autism becomes really frightening because he's not able to convey his feelings.  It's a round of 20 questions and I played it alone.  "Does your tummy hurt?"  "Do you need to spit?"  "Does your head hurt?" "How do you feel?"  He stared at the walls, at the floor, at the speck of dust only he can see.

This morning I woke up at my usually time, ready to make my calls: to the bus matron, to the office, to my mother.  Letting everyone know Norrin was sick, he was not going to school and that I will be home with him.  The faint stink of last nights vomit still lingers in the air, even though I've sprayed Lysol and opened all the windows.

By the time I returned to my room, Norrin had moved from his bed to ours.  His eyes were half open.  I brushed his hair back, his face was hot and red.  I passed a cold wash cloth over his face; he swatted me away and I was so tired that I gave up, hoping the medicine will work.

He kissed me on the cheek. "I love you," he said, looking right at me.

The words took me by surprise.  I had never heard them before - well, not unless I've said it first.  He's never said it on his own.  Usually at bedtime, I'll repeat "Good night.  I love you." until he's said it back to me.  He usually says "goodnight," it's only recently that he's repeated "I love you." And on the rare occasion he did say it, it sounded scripted, as if he's just saying the words without any understanding of what they mean.  I've always felt wrong about this, like I'm forcing him to say something that he doesn't feel.

I've never doubted his love for me, but to hear him say it made it seem real.  As cliche as it sounds, they really are the words that every mother longs to hear.  Especially to parents with special needs children.  So many people take those words for granted, without realizing that some may never hear them.  Then are those who say the words so freely, the meaning is lost.                

I don't know when I'll hear those words again.  But there is something wonderful in knowing that he'll say those words only when he truly means them.       


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Working Holiday

It's Veteran's Day and I have to go to work.  The boy has off, as does the husband.  It's his first Veteran's Day off in more than 20 years.

Yesterday, my husband called me while at work and suggested I take the day off too.  "So we can go to the museum, do something fun." he said.

I can't tell you how many days, where the boy and I have had off and my husband has had to go to work.  So many days, I've had to wake up early and find new and exciting ways to keep the boy entertained for 8 to 10 hours.  And on these days, I managed to go to the market, do chores and entertain a four year old.  Just me and the boy.  No therapists.  And no naps.  

It is my husband's turn now.  We can do the museum or something fun on another day.

This morning I was able to hit snooze until 6:37 am.  I was able to wake up and not have to brush anyone else's teeth but my own.  I was able to take a shower and get dressed at my leisure without worrying about making the school bus.  I checked my email, applied lipstick, brushed my hair.  This morning I didn't have to make breakfast or wash dishes.  I didn't have to make any beds.  I walked out of the apartment, without throwing away the garbage.

This Veteran was able to get up, get dressed and go to work.        


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"You look really tired..."

I must admit, I hear this a lot:  You look really tired.  In fact, I just heard it a few hours ago. 

As if I didn't know.  As if I didn't look in the mirror every day.  As if my tube of under eye concealer goes untouched.  I cannot help but wonder what is the use of night-time facial creams, de-puffing eye massage serum and department store cosmetics if the result is: You look really tired.  As if my exhaustion is fighting its way through my carefully applied make up.  

And I guess it's because I am really tired.  Because I didn't really sleep last night.  Or the night before.  Let's face it, I haven't had a good nights sleep in more than two years.  

Our days consist of therapists, evaluations, school tours and applications. EIPs, CPSE, CSE, OT, PT, ABA, BCBA and other abbreviations that do not make sense until absolutely needed.  I don't go to bed till after 11.  And by the time I fall asleep - maybe 12.  Often I wake up around 4 in the morning - running through my mental to-do list, hoping I can bore myself into a few moments of peace before the alarm clock rings.    

And then the boy doesn't sleep.  Though, I admit - it's gotten so much better.  We used to give him "night time candy" (melatonin) to help him relax and calm down so that he could go to sleep.  But then he would wake up at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning with so much energy and stay up for hours.   

Now that we've taken him off melatonin, he's sleeping better.  Though he still wakes up in the middle of every night and wedges himself between me and Joseph. He'll toss and turn and squirm for a while before finding that perfect position - all forty five inches taking over the width of our queen size bed. I suppose a fat flat foot in my face is better than having to physically get up and bed hop until the boy falls back asleep.   

I used to make such a big deal, spending hours of precious sleep ushering him back to his room.  Arguing, reasoning with a boy that could not be argued or reasoned with - least of all at 3 am.  Now I could care less.  If it allows me one more hour of sleep, I'll take it - gladly.  I am hopeful, very hopeful that he will grow out of it.      

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Power of Imagination

I watch The Boy in fascination.  "Down by station, early in the morning..." he sings.  The first lines are the only ones I recognize and remember.  (The Husband sent me the lyrics last week,  I will have to memorize them so we can all sing together.)  The Boy sings in a high pitched voice and the rest of his words are mumbled.  Since The Boy's been talking more, trying harder to communicate, I always feel guilty when he says something I can't understand.

He is singing and playing with his trains.  Setting up the tracks, attaching the bridge, connecting it to the tunnel.  I am always amazed that he always creates the tracks in different and complex patterns.  When he's finished, he lines up the trains and starts pulling them through his pretend Thomas the Train world.  Calling each train by their proper name - Bertie,  James, Gordon, Toby - engaging in pretend play.  He creates dialogue between the trains.  Most of it scripted - a combination of lines memorized from books and cartoons - though he's using the lines appropriately, as if recreating a story line.  While scripting may be considered a self-stimulating behavior, I allow The Boy to continue since the elements of pretend play are there.  I sit with him and incorporate my own dialogue with the characters so that we are sitting and pretending together.

When The Boy was diagnosed with autism at 2 1/2 years old, he had no language and the developmental pediatrician said he had no imaginative play skills.  As a writer, to hear that my son lacked imagination seemed ironic and almost cruel.  I had such a vivid imagination, I wanted to build a career on it.  The Husband is a photographer and comic book fanatic.  How do two creative individuals produce a child with no imagination?  One of the joys of childhood is the limitless possibilities of pretend play; where the mind can go anywhere, before the grim reality of life sets in.

However, for all of my imagination, I never realized that pretend can be taught.  Through intense center based and home based therapies (ABA, Floortime, TEACHH, SEIT, Speech, OT and PT), The Boy has learned to imagine and to understand the concept of pretend.

The Boy loves his rocket ship tent and together we count down from 10 and then he says "Blast Off!"  The Husband shakes the tent.  The Boy giggles and I watch as he squeezes his eyes.  I wonder what he sees.  I imagine he sees himself rising above the clouds, floating in outer space.  He giggles some more and screams, "Again, Daddy!  Again! It's time to blast off!"  The Boy's eyes open again, and they are bright, glistening with excitement and joy.  He walks out of the tent, looks The Husband in the eye and makes his request again.  But before counting down, The Boy grabs his Buzz Lightyear action figure, so they can journey into space together.

We read books that introduce creativity and imagination like Harold and the Purple Crayon, Tar Beach and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  I encourage him to make up his own stories, using the books he loves as models.  I'll begin with, "If you give a Boy a piece of gum."  The Boy will say, "He will ask for some juice."  It doesn't always make sense, but it's a foundation.  We are communicating, taking turns, having a conversation, he looks me in the eye.

I like to imagine that The Boy will be a writer or some kind of storyteller.  One day, we may be reading his blog or a book that he's written.  And in that book or blog, he will introduce the world only he knows.  And we will be awe - because it's a world no one else could have imagined.  There was a time, when I couldn't have seen this.  Just as The Boy needed to learn the concept of pretend play, I needed The Boy to restore my sense of imagination.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The White Rabbit

I'm late. I'm late. For a very important date.  No time to say Hello. Goodbye.  I'm late, I'm late, I'm late.  -- 
The White Rabbit

I feel this is how I must look to the outside world: hands on head, brows furrowed, eyes closed in concentration, constantly checking the time and frantically running.  There is always a meeting to prepare for, an IEP or an IFSP to review, a therapist to call, a therapist to see, a bus to wait for, a question to ask, an appointment to schedule, a new therapy to research.  

And now, as Norrin is about to turn 5, I am in the midst of researching and touring schools, reviewing the NYS special education law and regulations, and preparing my case against the Committee of Special Education. 

There is still the supermarket to get to, the bills to pay, the laundry to wash, fold and put away, the apartment to clean and wait - did I lock the front door?  And while at work there's the document to revise, the daunting stack of papers to file, the conference call to schedule, the meeting to plan, the expense report to calculate, the bosses to appease.  And it's Tuesday night, my school night.  Did I read the handouts, bring my notebook, or complete my short story for submission?

There is dinner to make, dishes to wash, the boy to bathe, the bedtime story to read, all before its time to tuck the boy into bed and kiss him good night.  And then there's my husband. And all we want is at least 5 minutes at the end of our day where we can just be the people we were before we became parents.  Some days are more successful than others.   

I feel like I'm late for most things, as if there is always a countdown to something.  Like there is something terribly important I can't remember. Like there really is no time to say hello or goodbye.  I'm always trying to catch my breath, constantly scrolling down my mental to do list.        

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Pool of Tears

There are moments when the pressure, fear, frustration and anxiety of being a parent become so overwhelming and so daunting that a meltdown, at some point, is inevitable.  That is how I felt last Friday.  (Even in Wonderland, there is a threat; though it's not the Queen of Hearts - it's the Committee of Special Education.  But that's for another posting.)  I came home from work, threw myself on the sofa, I put my head in my hands and cried - loudly.  It was the kind of cry that takes over your entire body, my shoulders shook, my head hurt and my chest ached.  I kept wiping away my tears with both hands but the tears continued to spill out from my eyes. And I felt as small and as helpless as Alice, drowning in the pool of tears. 

I had spent the last week researching schools for next year, toured two schools (one of them featured a padded room).  I questioned whether or not I was doing the right thing by Norrin.  And I couldn't help but wonder if there was a place for him...and would I be able to find it?

And then in the middle of my hysterical sloppy meltdown, Norrin walked in the room.  His eyebrows furrowed and he looked at me with genuine concern and confusion.  He put his hands on my face and said, "Do not be afraid Mommy," and gave me a kiss.  Of course, this made me cry even more. In addition to everything I had been feeling, now I had guilt; I hated for Norrin to see me cry.  Norrin then jumped off the sofa and ran away.  He returned with a single square of toilet paper and dried my tears. 

I've read numerous reports on Norrin where someone has noted on his inability to relate.  But in my moment of sadness, he related to me - in the sweetest and most appropriate way.  I knew that I could not be afraid, because I could not fail him.  And it was a comfort to know that as much as I am willing to fight for him and protect him - Norrin was willing to do the same for me.          


Monday, October 4, 2010

The Great Puzzle

"I almost think I can remember feeling a little different.  But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?'  Ah, that's the great puzzle." -- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventure in Wonderland
Norrin is not the same as a typically developing boy his age.  I've known that for quite some time.  And it is obviously apparent, on Saturday afternoon during our first appointment with the neuropsychologist.  It is another attempt at solving the great puzzle: Who is Norrin?

"How old are you?" The neuropsychologist asks Norrin.  Although he knows the answer, his eyes are void of any expression as if he hasn't heard the question.  I often wonder where he is at these moments, when his eyes glaze over and staring off into some world that only Norrin knows. She repeats the question.  

Joseph gives Norrin shoulder a nudge.  "I'm fine."  Norrin answers in his high-pitched voice.  The neuropsychologist smiles and says, "You're a big boy for five."  "He said 'I'm fine'," I say, correcting her.   The neuropsychologist looks at me then back at Norrin.  She nods, "Auditory Processing Disorder..."  

We spend the next two hours in a small office where the neuropsychologist asks question after question.  Sometimes Norrin answers quickly, other times Norrin stares off or wriggles his fingers in front of his face.  When he retreats into his little world, the neuropsychologist looks at me and Joseph.  "What do you do to bring him back?"  We repeat his name until he wakes up and then (if he knows) he'll say the answer; I wonder if he's been listening all along and just pretending he's someplace else.   

There are some questions, the neuropsychologist thinks Norrin can't answer and she is impressed when he does - especially for xylophone.  She wanted to skip that picture after asking once, but I point to the picture and say in a firm voice, "Norrin.  What is this?  It starts with the letter X."  From then on, I repeat all the questions that I know he knows.  (When he answers, he uses that high pitched voice and when I tell him to "fix it" he repeats it in his deeper natural voice.)  But still there are questions he cannot answer, i.e., "what are shoes for?" or "what do you say when you leave?"

I am often surprised by what Norrin knows.  Like the time when Norrin held up a blank piece of paper and a pencil and said: architect.  He said it so clearly and so sure of himself that it caught me completely off guard and I wondered - where he heard that word and how he knew to associate it with a paper and pencil.  Or the day that I found his magnetic letters arranged into words: Dora, red, bird, home.  Or when he's in his room and picks up a book - reading out loud.  Always beginning with announcing the title, author and illustrator.

And then there is so much about Norrin that I long to know.  What is it about Kipper the Dog he loves so much?  I'd like to know about his day when he comes home from school, to talk about it at the table over dinner the way families on television do. Does he know he's different?  Does he care?  Where does he go when he stares off with that blank look - is he listening?  Does he dream?  If so, what does he dream about?  But dreams are an abstract concept that he cannot comprehend.  

He is my son, and yet in so many ways, a fascinating stranger to me.  I know his favorite color, book and toy.  I can tell you what Norrin loves to eat and describe how he eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a donut.  I can tell you that Norrin loves to swim and that he can be on a swing for hours without getting dizzy. I know he's really tired when he's sitting very still.  But what he thinks?  How he thinks?  Or how he feels?  I still have no idea - I am waiting just like everyone else.   

Norrin on his 4th birthday - HHG

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Norrin & the Royal Flushing Privies

Ren Fair 9/25/10
 Last Saturday, we ventured off to Renaissance Fair in Tuxedo, New York.  As we got ready that morning Joseph asked, "Hey babe, should I put a pull-up on Norrin?"  I just looked at him. "You do know that at some point we're going to have leave the pull-ups behind," I say, not really answering his question.        

We have been potty training for almost two years.  And in the last few months, he's been doing really well with minimal accidents.  I smile with pride when I hear the clopping of his flat feet down the hallway to the bathroom as he clumsily throws up the toilet seat.  I peak from behind the wall, watching him stand there wriggling his little fingers in front of face and listen as he hums or repeats lines from his favorite cartoon or books.  Absentmindedly, he rolls all the toilet paper down, ripping off long strips, crumpling them up in his hands only to toss the thick wads into the toilet, sometimes waving the paper around inside the bowl and that's when I run in and say "No!"

It was a long drive from the Bronx up to Tuxedo. When we finally reached the parking lot I realized his shorts and t-shirt were wet.   We changed Norrin in the parking lot within seconds.  Shamefully, I admit putting Norrin in the pull-up I snuck in my bag before leaving the apartment.  

I asked the parking lot attendant where the bathrooms were.  "Well there's one real bathroom, right over that little bridge - just before you go into the park.  Inside, only The Royal Flushing Privies," he said.

The "real" bathrooms were medieval: dull lighting, clogged toilets, empty rolls of toilet paper and dirty floor tiles cracked and missing.  (It was only 11 am and the park had just opened.)  Navigating that bathroom with a sensory kid like Norrin was not easy.

Shortly after lunch, Norrin started to pull down his pants - right in front of The Washing Well Wenches.  "Have to pee pee," he said.  "That's good asking for the potty Norrin."  I smiled at him, though for a brief moment, I wished he just went in the pull up. But he said it so clearly and so spontaneously and so appropriately that I had no choice.  We were on the other side of the Fair, and it was quite a walk back to the Royal Flushing Privies. I grabbed his hand and dragged him across the field.

The Privies were three rows of port-o-potties.  I wished I had anti-bacterial.  I took a deep breath and opened the door to the handicapped port-o-potty.   I held both of Norrin's hands with my right hand while pulling his pants down with the left.  "Stand still and do pee pee."  As soon as these words left my mouth, I knew I would regret them.  We were standing in a small puddle - of what, I could not think about.  And I was wearing flip-flops.  Norrin looked up at me and smiled.  Then he stomped his feet and the puddle of mystery water splattered all over my bare feet.  I couldn't look down.  I focused on Norrin using the potty; he had asked me without any prompting.  It was my small price to pay.     

Joseph & Norrin at Ren Fair 9/25/10

Monday, September 27, 2010

Easy Rider

Norrin on his big wheel
When I was about six years old, my mother tried to teach me how to ride a bike; it was my older brother's bike and she had put the training wheels back on.  I didn't even make it down the block, as soon as she let go, I fell over, scraped my knee and I haven't been on a bike since. 

Norrin's first bike wasn't a hand me down.  Joseph and I were very excited when we bought him his first tricycle - it was shiny red old school Radio Flyer.  It had a handle bar so that we could push him.  Norrin liked sitting on the bike, but we did the pushing while he let his sneakers drag across the pavement.  He didn't seem to understand the concept of peddling. 

This was in 2008 when Norrin was starting his ABA services (15 hours a week).  That summer, it was me, Joseph and Gen (our ABA therapist) all outside trying to teach Norrin how to peddle.  But he would get distracted or tired and he didn't have the strength in his legs to peddle.  When the months got colder, we practiced in the hallway. 

After a while, he outgrew the tricycle and we ordered a big wheel.  I was so excited; I thought for sure this would be easier for him.  When we put it together, we realized, he was too small to ride.  It stayed in the corner of our living room, for over a year.  Every so often he would go over and sit on it, putting his feet on the peddles but never really moving.  When the weather was nice, Joseph and I would take it down to the front of our building and take turns pushing him - but after a few minutes of bending and pushing, our backs would hurt and Norrin was more than happy running off to the park.

This past spring, I was determined to make him ride the big wheel.  We took him outside and he started peddling - all on his own.  Every so often he would get distracted and crash into something.  But I figured - who cared?  He's peddling, finally!  The steering can come later.  (Check it out - Norrin riding his big wheel )

Now when we take him outside, I have to jog to keep up with him.  Though he still gets distracted and starts to flap when he sees the bigger kids whizz by on their skateboards and razor scooters.  He showed so much interest in razor scooter, that we bought him one.  It's in a corner and every once in while, Norrin stands on it and says "go."  He doesn't have the balance and coordination to maneuver the scooter just yet - I know that he will.  And it will be worth the wait. 

To Flap or Not To Flap (4/7/10)

Norrin eating a cupcake (cupcakes are flap worthy)

Months before Norrin was diagnosed, long before autism was even a thought in my mind - I would watch Norrin standing in his play-pen or exersaucer as he jumped up and down flapping his arms and hands. I encouraged it and often laughed with amusement, thinking it was the cutest thing ever. I thought he was imitating the "Little Einsteins" conducting music or Zee the owl (Moose A. Moose's friend) flapping his wings.

But after Norrin's second birthday, when he wouldn't (or couldn't) point or wave or speak - I started to ask questions, do research and begin the evaluation process. And then I learned that the adorable hand-flapping was a self-stimulating behavior associated with autism and other developmental disabilities. Immediately I wanted him to stop. I remember trying to hold his arms down whenever he flapped, feeling his little body tense up as I told him "no" or "be still." The stimming became priority number one, and I wanted every therapist that walked into our home to work on eliminating that behavior. Our ABA therapist, said she would do her best but that the stimming was often the hardest thing for kids on the spectrum to overcome.

We spent the next year, trying to get Norrin to stop - the phrase "quiet hands" was constantly repeated. Whenever I took him to the park, he'd run around, get excited and start his flapping. Last year we took a drive to the Stepping Stone Children's museum with the ABA therapist and her seven year old daughter, when the little girl saw Norrin flapping, she turned to her mother and asked "Why does he do that?" She's not the first child to question Norrin's behavior. Just last week, a little boy asked me "What's up with Norrin? Is he okay?" And there I stood, completely dumbfounded by a six year old boy's question.

There are various opinions regarding self stimulating behavior. Should it be eliminated? Redirected? Or ignored all together? (Even me and my husband disagree on the issue.) I'm at the point where I don't care if Norrin flaps - who is it hurting? I don't encourage it like I used to, but I don't try to make him stop when he does; unless of course, I need him to complete a task, only then do I redirect him. Truth be told, sometimes I join him. I sit next to him, put my hand in front of my eyes and wiggle my fingers or flap my arms or hands. I can understand why he does it, it is somewhat calming.

The way I see it - we all do something that doesn't make sense to anyone but ourself. Some people bite their nails or twirl their hair. Some people whistle or hum. My husband paces back and forth whenever he's on the phone. I say "huh," even if I've heard the question, and I like to arrange books in size order and I need my hangers to face all one way.

And my Norrin flaps his hands when he's excited. Why should I make him stop, just so that he may be socially accepted? Why should children or adults on the spectrum be conditioned to change to gain social acceptance? Why can't society adapt? April is Autism Awareness Month - Parents, I urge you talk to your children about autism and/or children with disabilities. Because children who accept and understand, grow up to be adults who accept and understand. Parents of children on the spectrum spend a lot of time teaching them to pick up on "typical" social cues, shouldn't parents of typical children teach their kids to pick up the social cues of children with special needs?

Norrin at his school birthday party 1/20/10 (he wiggles his fingers when he gets excited)

Child's Play (3/5/10)

I remember going to the park as a child – walking up to another kid and just asking “Hey, wanna play?” and off we would go. Instant friend, it was that easy. It’s probably one of the things that adults envy about childhood – the ease and simplicity of friendship, of playing without a care in the world. It seems so basic, so natural. At least to some.

I watch Norrin in the park. From afar, he looks like every other kid – running, laughing, playing. I watch as children try to include him and I try to be his voice – the mediator, even though he sees right through them - completely unaware that these kids want his attention. I watch as they quickly lose interest in him and I try not to let it bother me. Because I realize that maybe it doesn’t bother Norrin, the way that it bothers me. Maybe bother is the wrong word - hurt. It hurts to see children walk away from Norrin because they don't understand him. It hurts because I feel like maybe he's missing out on something special. That he's being cheated out of the joy of just being a kid.

On days that I go to Norrin’s school, I watch as he points to each picture on the wall and listen as he tells me the names of his little classmates – yet he does not bother to play with them or look in their direction. They are just pictures on the wall to him. His teachers say it’s his socialization that’s holding him back. And I can’t help but wonder – how do you teach socialization? How do you expect children to socialize with children who don’t want to socialize?

At the sensory gym – I watch as Norrin enters the room. He acknowledges the OT by name. She prompts him to say hi to Nick (the other little boy in the room) and he does. Norrin likes Nick and Nick likes Norrin. yet neither boy makes eye contact even though the two therapists in the room try to get them to interact with the other.

I sign Norrin up for a Social Playgroup – they meet on Sundays for about 2 hours for the next 16 weeks. I watch through the glass wall as the therapists teach them to play group activities – like tag and soccer. (It seems strange doesn’t it - teaching a child how to play.) The therapists prompt the children to cheer and clap for each other. And I find myself cheering along with them even though I know they can’t hear me. I watch as one therapist jumps up and says "come catch me" as she runs around in a circle. All the children stare blankly at her, including Norrin, until another therapist prompts the kids to get up and run. At the end of each activity they organize the children in a circle – use hand over hand to put their hands together to say “Yay team!” It’s cute, but Norrin doesn’t look that interested. I look at the other kids – none of them seem interested either. I look at the other parents, who are watching their kids with eager anticipation. I know what they are thinking because I am thinking it to. We are all waiting for the same thing.

Birthday parties are the hardest; the most recent one, at a My Gym. All the children know each from school or the neighborhood, Norrin is the only unfamiliar child. He is scared at first, but after a few minutes he is running around like every other kid. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the mothers who are able to just sit back and gossip while their kids play. I roll up my sleeves, pull back my hair and run around after Norrin - helping him with the party activities. He likes the ball pit best. I stand by and watch as he plays happily by himself, even though there are 5 other kids in the ball pit with him - all laughing and playing. Norrin sees right through them, as if they aren't even there.

I try very hard not to think about the future, I think of how far he has come in the last two years and I tell myself that it may not always be like this. That one day, he will know how to play with other kids. That he won't always need me to be at his side. That one day, when a kid at the park or at school asks him a question, that Norrin will know how to respond appropriately. He doesn’t need to be the “popular kid,” I just want him to be able to have one friend – if, of course, that is what he wants.

The other day while getting Norrin ready for school he says, “Go see Adrian-na-na-na-na.” I correct him and prompt him to say his cousin’s name properly. Norrin and Adriana are the same age, born a week apart.

Although the same age, Adriana
and Norrin don’t like playing the same games and as a “typically” developing child, April is much more advanced than Norrin. After five minutes of playing, Norrin usually goes off to do his own thing and I have to redirect him. Aside from watching catching, they have one common interest: play-doh. But even though the kids sit at the same table – Norrin hardly looks at Adriana. And Adriana tries very hard to get Norrin's attention.  

Though hearing Norrin specifically ask for Adriana, makes me happy. And he asks for her often.  It assures me that he does see us, that he does want some kind of social interaction – that the people in his life are not just objects or pictures on a wall to him. All those moments of watching him at the playground, at school, at the sensory gym or the playgroup – it happened when I really wasn’t watching. All I have to do is listen.

Norrin the Night Owl (1/25/10)

1:00 am
The boy pounces on our bed and wriggles his way between me and Joseph. I open my eyes and he is staring at me – his brown eyes wide open. “It’s Mommy,” he announces and squeezes my face against his. This isn’t a sign of affection as much as it’s the deep pressure touch that he craves. I cover him with the blanket and tell him it’s time to go to sleep. I’m hoping that he goes to sleep quickly. I calculate our hours of sleep – the score is five to three, in the boy’s favor.

It’s rare for him to sleep through the night. Some nights, it’s easy. He wakes up, comes into our bed and goes to sleep right away. Other nights, he’ll stay up two or three hours before going back to sleep. (And no, it doesn’t matter whether or not he’s taken a nap during the day.) But the way he is talking so clearly, I know that it isn't going to be an easy night. For some reason, he’s always the most vocal during the early hours of the morning.

2:00 am
The boy is still rolling around in our bed and it’s time to switch strategies. I kick Joseph awake and tell him to take the boy into his room. Sometimes the boy will go to sleep quickly with Joseph. With them gone, I lay in bed facing the door ready to jump out of bed at the slightest noise. I close my eyes, but I’m not sleeping. I know better. After a while it’s quiet and I think to myself, he’s asleep. But just as I’m about to turn over, the boy is back in our bed. With Joseph asleep in his bed, the boy has more room in mine.

(NOTE: I just want to mention that I do not approve of Norrin sleeping in our bed. As a baby, Norrin always slept in his crib – even though it killed me to hear him cry, I stood my ground. But I guess a baby in a crib is much easier to control than a 4 year old in a twin bed. And at this point, do I really want to argue? It's about choosing your battles.)

“Time for sleep,” the boy says before throwing himself on top of me. I can feel that his pull-up is wet. I’ll need to change it. For a second I think about just letting it be. But I know that if I don’t, I’ll probably have to change his pajamas and the sheets. I change him quickly, hoping that he’ll go to sleep now that he’s dry and possibly more comfortable. But instead, he walks back into his room. I am foolish enough to think it’s to go sleep in his bed.

3:00 am
I hear the contents of the boy’s trains being dumped out on the floor. I pull myself out of bed and walk into his room. Joseph is half asleep. I tell him to go back to our bed – he’ll need to get up for work soon. The boy, oblivious to the time, is happily putting the train tracks together and pushing Toby and Bertie along. He presses the button of the musical caboose and the Thomas the Train theme song fills the room. I know that once he’s started with that caboose – he’ll keep pressing that button over and over and over again. I snatch the caboose out of his hands and hide it. “It’s time for bed.” I pick him up and put him in his bed. And then he says “Pee pee in the potty.” Of course, at 3 am he tells me he has to use the potty – he never finds it necessary to tell me at 3 in the afternoon. I sigh and I’m so tempted to just let him pee in his pull-up. But since he never tells me, I drag myself out of his bed and walk him to the bathroom. And he actually pees! Normally this pee pee in the potty act is worthy of the “Good Job Norrin” song and dance – but not at 3 am. I whisper good job and he looks kind of disappointed that there is no fanfare. Oh well – sorry kiddo – try me after my first cup of coffee.

We get back into his bed and just as I lay down, I remember that I really hate sleeping in his bed. (If I knew then all the time I would spend sleeping in his bed, I would have spent a lot more money on the mattress.) I push him toward the wall and cover him (again) with his blanket. But he’s still not sleepy – not even close. He's just talking and talking. He crawls over me and goes back to his trains. I get up and bring him back to bed and I hand him a train, thinking that would get him to go to sleep. But no. He climbs out of bed again and goes for the trains. I have had it. I pick up all the trains and take the box to my room and shove it in the closet. I go back into his room and say very firmly, “No more trains. It’s time for bed.” He starts to cry and raises his hand and hits me. As he hits me, he says “Don’t hit Mommy.” Dizzy with exhaustion and frustration, I smack his hand and say “You don’t hit Mommy.” I feel bad that I’ve hit him and he starts to cry louder. I’m almost tempted to say “You wanna cry? I’ll give you something to cry about.” But I don’t. Instead, I pick him up, toss him into his bed, cover him with his blanket and tell him to go to sleep. I go back to my room and lay down. He doesn’t come into our room and he doesn’t get out of his bed. I have won.

4:00 am
I am dreaming. It’s a strange dream. I’m holding two pies of Singas pizza and waiting on line at the nail salon. Why am I standing on line at the nail salon – who knows? But how sad is it that I am dream of getting my nails? The last time I had a professional manicure was sometime over the summer. Anyway as I’m standing on the line, I hear something in the distance. I wake up because I realize the boy is ransacking the kitchen. I get up and walk to the kitchen and sure enough there he is – drinking juice and eating sliced cheese. Caught, he quickly closes the refrigerator door and follows me back into my room. He climbs into the bed, in between me and Joseph. I don’t even care anymore. I just want to sleep and I hope that he'll want to sleep too.

6:30 am
The alarm goes off and I hit snooze. Norrin is sleeping peacefully next to me and Joseph is long gone. I feel as if I haven’t slept – which technically I guess I really haven’t. I think about how tired Norrin must be and I almost feel bad sending him to school. Almost. I pounce on top of him and shake him awake. “Wake up! Wake up!” I yell. He rolls over and motions me away with his hand. I pull him up out of my bed and stand him up on the floor. His legs go limp but I keep standing him up until he stands on his own. I remind him that he was the one who wanted to play with Thomas and eat cheese at 3 in the morning. He says nothing. He knows I’m right. Or he’s too tired to fight me.

Norrin the night after - exhausted.  Thank goodness!

Goodnight Norrin (1/12/10)

Norrin will not go to bed without a bedtime story. 
I hold three books in my hand and ask Norrin which one he wants me to read – although I know he will want me to read all three. Who am I to deny him? Especially when he says, “read to me please Mommy.” A five word sentence! So I lay down next to him and we read together. He has most of his favorite books memorized and even though it’s late, and the melatonin is slowly working its magic – I still ask him to repeat the words he has mispronounced or said unclearly. When all three books are read, I cover him with the blanket and kiss him goodnight.

I say, “Goodnight Norrin.”

“Goo nigh Nonin,” he mimics.

“Goodnight Norrin.” I repeat, emphasizing the ‘d’ and ‘t’ in goodnight and the double 'r' in Norrin.

Norrin doesn't say anything. He lifts up his shirt and positions himself so that he can rub his stomach on my leg. My first instinct is to tell him to stop – but that would be reinforcing the negative behavior. So I simply adjust his shirt and tuck him back under the blanket. We look at each other and I’m waiting to hear the three words that every mother longs to hear.

“Goodnight Norrin. I love you.” Still nothing. “Say ‘Goodnight’ to mommy,” I ask.

“Say goonigh to mommy,” he says.

“No Norrin. Just ‘goodnight mommy.’”

This goes on a few more times until he finally says ‘goodnight mommy.’

He looks so peaceful and calm that I can’t help but give him another kiss goodnight. I tell him again that I love him and wait. Norrin will be four years old next week and he’s never said “I love you.” I know that he loves me. I see it on his face when I walk in from work and I feel that he loves me when he’s sick or hurt and wants know one else but me – still it’s something I want to hear. But the thought of prompting him to say it, I don’t know, it isn't right to me. Does he understand the concept of love? I have tried to explain it to him. He understands happy, sad, silly and mad – he recognizes those feelings. But not love. I know that one day he’ll say it, completely on his own and that he’ll mean it – of that I am certain. I say goodnight again and he pulls me in for a kiss. For now, a kiss will do. And then he smiles at me, I realize that 'I love you' is just a three word sentence to him - the kiss and smile say it all.

If you like this - be sure to follow our adventures on Atypical Familia.

Looking Back: A Year After Diagnosis (May 2009)

Norrin putting together a 60 piece puzzle

There is not a book in the world that can prepare you for parenthood – not a single one, I know because I’ve read more than a few while trying to do so. And even though I believed I prepared myself for Norrin’s diagnosis, it was still a complete shock. There was that small part of me that thought the doctor would say Norrin was “typical” and that there was no need to worry. If there was ever a moment in my life that I could actually feel my heart break, it was that moment when the doctor said: Norrin has been diagnosed with Autistic Disorder and Global Developmental Delay.

At 2 years and 3 months Norrin, had the cognitive level of a 14 month old and the language level of a 7 month old. Norrin didn’t point, wave or clap (a behavior that had regressed). He had no real words – at one point he had two or three words, but his language had regressed also). He didn’t jump or imitate behavior. He was extremely hyper and very self-directed. And he flapped his hands. Every evaluation score was either low or moderately low. And while the doctor recommended ABA/Speech/OT & PT – he offered little hope.

Walking into the doctor’s office my husband, Joseph, had been so optimistic, so certain that it could not be autism that I couldn’t look at him. I knew by the way he squeezed my hand that his heart was breaking too, that all the dreams that a father has for his son were crumbling. Joseph opened his mouth to ask the doctor a question, but stumbled over his words. He let go of my hand and put it to his mouth and cleared his throat. His leg was shaking next to mine. In our eight years together I had never seen him like that, he was always the person that held me together. I put my arm around his shoulder – we were in this together and it was my turn to be the strong one.

Later that day, when we walked into the babysitter’s house to pick up Norrin, the television was on and the other children were all sitting together, laughing and playing while Norrin sat in his playpen, alone and staring blankly at the television. Any other day, the image wouldn’t have bothered me but on this particular day, I couldn’t help but think that this was to be a foreshadowing of his life: isolated from his peers and alone in his own little box. Would he ever speak? Would he have a “normal” life? Would he ever participate in sports? Would he ever go to college? Would he be able to make friends, live independently, fall in love or get married? All these questions and thoughts about his future raced through my head. I picked him up and hugged him as tight as I could.

I couldn’t help but feel guilty. Was it my fault? I was angry, overwhelmed, depressed and guilty – always guilty. After a diagnosis, there is a series of emotions that a parent goes through, I felt them all – and some emotions are better left unsaid.

For the next year, we had a therapist in our

apartment 5 to 6
days out of the week for 2 to 3 hours a day. Talk about having your life turned upside down. Imagine having a stranger in your home every day – making your child cry, forcing he/she to do things they don’t want to do, teaching them things that come so naturally to other children (like pointing a finger). Joseph and I alternated our days, rushing home from work for Norrin’s daily therapy – with just enough time to wash the subway filth off our hands before a therapist rang the bell. It’s time consuming and intrusive but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The progress Norrin has made astounds me! In the beginning there was a lot of crying, biting and tantrums, but with patience (lots of patience) and a lot of work he is getting it – really and truly getting it! He can point, he can clap, and he can wave. After months of waiting to hear him speak, the first time he said Mommy was one of the best moments of my life. He can verbally communicate enough to get his needs met. He answers some questions and follows 2 to 3 step commands – he puts his empty cup in the sink, puts his dirty clothes in the hamper and throws away his garbage (I often joke that he’s better trained than most husbands). He can tell me all the names of his classmates. He knows all of his letters (upper case and lower case), can count to 20 (can even do it backwards!), and he can complete a 60 piece puzzle. He loves books and like all “typical” boys his age, he can watch Disney Cars over and over again.

The other day after I scolded him, he started to cry and then said, “sowweee mommeee.” I wanted to jump up and down – he knew what it was to be sorry! He understood my feelings. And at bedtime, Norrin has no problem saying “goodbye mommy” and taking me by the hand to kick me out of his room – it’s his time with daddy. And even though it kind of hurts my feelings, inside, I say to myself, “that’s good talking” because it makes me happy that he is using spontaneous speech. You see, in our house we celebrate everything – there is no such thing as a small feat.

People often tell me that Norrin is lucky to have parents like me and Joseph. I don’t know about that. Joseph and I are the lucky ones. Norrin has changed me, he has taught me patience and compassion and he’s made me realize that I’m a lot stronger than I ever thought I could be. 

I used to worry so much about all the things he couldn’t or wouldn’t do. I used to worry constantly about his future. And for a little while, I may have even lost hope. But just watching him grow and develop over the last year has made me realize that there is plenty of time. There are still many things he cannot do but a year makes a world of difference. So now I look to future with hope and excitement. Because if he’s come this far in a year, what will he be like in 10 years? His future is full of possibilities. But I’m not going to rush it. I want to sit and enjoy my time with him now – everything else will fall into place. Because as much as I tried to prepare myself for parenthood and for dealing with a child with autism, I realized that you can’t prepare for it – it’s not a test that you can study for. You will never find the answers in a book. The real answers come with time, patience and love – and Norrin taught me that.