Friday, January 11, 2013

The E-Man Chronicles: Through The Looking Glass

Earlier this week, The Thinking Mom's Revolution published Backtime's guest blog "What Makes You Beautiful." It was not only a thrill to be considered a "thinking Mom" even for a day, but it was also a coming-out of sorts as an autism dad.

So I have submitted a follow-up. I hope they have me back on the TMR, but in the meantime here is a sneak preview on Backtime, Through The Looking Glass:

As the saying goes, “To know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been.” The past is prologue. History shapes perspective.

I remember E-Man when he was 2 ½ years old, still head-banging and incessantly slamming doors and drawers. He couldn’t talk, didn’t nap, and could barely feed himself. But we invested in aggressive intervention: speech therapy, occupational therapy, college students that spent one-on-one time with him, floortime tasks and drills, and lots of valuable time.

There were fights with insurance companies, lots of parental squabbles, money we’ll never recover, and time from our lives that had to be re-channeled with only incremental results.

Six years later, the progress is astounding. E-Man is doing great in school and he is an engaging and empathetic young man.

You never say you’re “out of the woods,” because just a few months ago he practically tore my shirt off at a pizza joint when I told him no video games until after dinner. But for every step back, there have been two-to-ten steps forward.

Anyway, I was sitting with E-Man last week as he was waiting for a haircut. He doesn’t handle waiting well, so I was trying to engage him on a bunch of subjects. Which is when I caught a glimpse of the future.

A couple of seats away sat a dark-haired pre-teen, a pimply-faced cute boy with black socks and sneakers, playing intently on his Nintendo DS. He didn’t even look up from his game and interrupted our conversation a number of times.

When we were talking about football:

“Football is much better than baseball, but if you play you might get post-concussion syndrome.”

When I was talking about my recent trip to Oklahoma:

“Nothing ever happens in West Virginia. You never see anything on the news about West Virginia.”

And when E-Man was whining about the previous haircut taking so long:

“Cosmetology is a very precise science. Sometimes it takes a long time.”

He was the Asperger’s kid from central casting. And most people wouldn’t get that because he looks so “normal.”

I interacted with him briefly, though it was hard not to be a little uncomfortable. I was now “someone else’s” parent, through the looking glass. I was somewhat put off by an older version of my E-Man, and questions raced through my mind about what steps his parents had taken.

The boy’s mom was there and didn’t react to anything. She didn’t redirect him or even acknowledge that he was speaking.  She didn’t even throw him a disarming, uncomfortable laugh.

You don’t want to speculate about someone else’s family dynamic, but at first I found the mom’s inaction troubling. We were always taught to constantly engage and have as much interaction as possible.

On the other hand, maybe she had intervened tens of thousands of times already, maybe she was having a bad day and just wanted to ignore him and have some peace at the hair salon.

And maybe she was just happy about how far he’d come, and was unconcerned what anyone else thought.

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