Star Trek and Autism–Boldly Going Where No Mom Has Gone Before
When we recently found out that my 8 year old son J had Asperger’s (which is a form of Autism), I was incredibly upset. A lot of the dreams I’d had for him were shattered or at least significantly altered. It took awhile to bounce back but as always, I leaned on Trek to help me make it through this difficult period.
1.Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before–when I think of these iconic words from the opening narration of TOS, it reminds me that we have to find new ways of doing things, new ways of looking at things so that we can make our journeys out and about as smooth as possible for my son, who also has Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD. Bright lights, loud noises and even crowds can cause him to have a meltdown of epic proportions so each trip out somewhere requires a lot of preparation beforehand so that we can avoid the pitfalls that can make an outing that’s supposed to be loads of fun totally miserable for him.
2. The Needs of The Many Outweigh the Needs of the Few–sometimes, despite our best efforts, J does have a massive meltdown in public. Out of respect for those around us, we do our best to remove him from the situation by taking him outside the building or even out to the car to calm down. Because we don’t want to be THOSE parents–the ones with the kid who is obviously not having a good time, kicking and screaming and tantrumming to make their wishes known while the parents go on blindly as if nothing is happening.
3. Too Much Emotion Can Be Just As Bad As Too Little–J has, fortunately, never had a tough time expressing how he feels. But it’s part of our job to teach him to rein in his emotions sometimes, especially if he’s getting really angry or frustrated. It’s tough to teach him to channel those sometimes frightening emotions into something positive but we do our best. We don’t want him to repress or hold back anything though, because holding things back can be just as unhealthy as letting it all out all the time.
4. Impressing the Captain is ALWAYS a Good Thing–Since the beginning of the school year, J has been struggling with adapting to his new classroom and his new surroundings. Although it is in the same building, the teacher is different and he has different classmates than he had before. Most days, he’s had a rough day and it shows. Today, however, he came home with a sheet full of smiley faces, indicating he’d been able to stay on task and do his work without much prompting. His teacher wrote on the paper “I was very impressed today. Good job!”. I think that meant more to him than anything else in the world. I can always tell when he’s had a good day because he tells me how happy his teacher (who he loves to death) was with his work.
5. If You Don’t Want to Get Noticed, Don’t Wear A Red Shirt–red is one of my son’s favorite colors and I’ve noticed that when he wears red, he draws the girls in like bees to honey. I don’t know what the attraction is, but an 8 year old boy surrounded by girls is almost never a good thing.
6. If You Don’t Know What To Say, Make Use of the Dramatic Pause–J often has a tough time finding the right words for what he wants to say when he’s trying to express himself. Oftentimes I have to remind him to slow down, think it through and come up with the right words to say what he needs to say. Usually after I remind him to slow down, he’s able to speak more clearly and tell me exactly what it is he wants to tell me.
7. NEVER EVER Doubt The Power of Friendship–there is a girl in J’s class named S. S and J have known each other since their preschool days when they both attended the same special ed preschool. When J is having an off day, S cheers him up and hangs out with him, even if nobody else wants to. They also go to physical therapy sessions at school together and are each other’s cheerleaders. I am extremely thankful for S and for the other kids like her who ‘get’ my oddball son, who don’t think twice about how he has to have his sandwiches cut just so or how certain things really bug the crap out of them even if nobody else seems to mind. They don’t think twice about it, it’s just who J is and they accept that.
8. Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations–when my sister in law and her husband told the family they were adopting a bi-racial baby, we didn’t think twice about it. I know that some people might have asked “Why didn’t you wait for a WHITE baby?” or “Aren’t you afraid of what the baby’s going to say when he/she is old enough to ask why they aren’t white like their brothers and parents?”. Not my sister in law and her husband. They’d been thinking about adopting again (they’d adopted their eldest when he was only a few weeks old) and when this opportunity was presented to them, they didn’t even blink. I for one am glad that they didn’t decide to ‘just wait for a white baby’…if they had, then N wouldn’t be a part of our family and things wouldn’t be the same. I can’t imagine never having this sweet, lovable, funny, brave, BOLD girl (she smeared her already gorgeous brown self with home tanning cream AND painted her face with Mommy’s makeup one evening) in our family.
9. The Struggle Yields Its Own Reward–over the summer, we took our son to a place called Going Bonkers which is basically a big room with cargo-mesh enclosed climbing frames up to the ceiling with slides and ziplines and giant elastic thingummys that you can grab onto and bounce up and down. Getting J to climb up to even the first level (which was about 3 feet off the ground) was a struggle. He didn’t like the mesh enclosure because it wasn’t solid under his feet. He didn’t like being off the ground and said so. Loudly. He was afraid of the slide because it was very tall and slicker than most of the other slides he’d ever been on. The zipline was downright terrifying because he had to hang on to a handle, which he struggles with because of the weakness in his hands. He HATED the whole thing and wanted to go home. RIGHT NOW NOW NOW NOW! But we had been encouraged by his physical therapist (whom we love to pieces) to bring him there to do physical therapy as play. We pushed. We grunted. We groaned. J pushed back. Eventually though, after about a half an hour of wheedling and standing behind him so he couldn’t turn around and go back down the way he’d come, he decided he liked being up high and climbed up to the highest level which was about 20 feet off the ground. He thought that the superslick slides were the BEST MOST WICKED THING EVAR!!! Complete with fist pumping. If we hadn’t pushed and prodded and continued to assure him that everything would be ok, that it wasn’t as scary as it seemed, he wouldn’t have learned that it was perfectly fine and he would have fun climbing in, around, over and through waaaaay up off the ground.