My First Born Has Reached the Big 16!

16 year old boy in polaroid frame with autumn leaves background_my son_rockinrandommom

It’s official…. My first born, Adam, has turned 16 years old! Two days before Thanksgiving, my wonderful son has reached another major milestone in his life. We celebrated with cake and gaming at an 80’s style arcade/bar/restaurant called Quarters. For real, the games actually cost a quarter just like they did when I was a kid playing at the local arcade with my siblings.

Adam loves the “retro gaming” as he calls it. Super Mario Brothers was the first game he got into and has been into it ever since. Since then he has added Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Tetris to his list of favorites. Of course he plays modern games like the Lego series (Batman is his favorite) and Skylanders but it’s old games that sparked this birthday party theme.

Starting 10th Grade, trials and triumphs:

Adam’s second year in high school hasn’t been met with rainbows and kittens. As we all know, high school is tough. It can be tougher on those who don’t exactly fit in. We are talking about kids who may be dealing with more then they need to at home or kids who have a learning or neurological disadvantage within the school system. Most kids feel abnormal in their teens. Their bodies and brains are changing and add hormones on top of everything else – yeah, high school is tough.

my son eating_first born 16_rockinrandommom

The first semester has been tough but Adam is doing a great job of staying on task, getting good grades, and following the rules. Adam, himself, has even come up with a game plan to help him navigate better when to take a breather and how to deal with difficult situations at school.

Make Way for the Gamer!

Because Adam really wanted the old Nintendo controller to be the center of his theme for his party, I had to come up with a design that was unique to him. First, I searched Etsy for retro gaming designs. Most of them were Xbox related but I did finally find the NES controller. So, the candy bar became the goodie bag.

Next, was to design Adam’s party invitation. Again, I went to Etsy but I found nothing that suited Adam. So I did what I usually do when I can’t find something unique – I made it myself, with Adam’s input. I used PicMonkey to help me design the perfect invitation for my boy.

Finally, there was the cake. I only found one cake design on Etsy and it was again, related to Xbox. While Adam likes the Xbox, he’s more of a Wii U and Switch kinda guy. So PicMonkey came to the rescue once again!

firstborn16_invitation cake design candybar wrappers_nintendo_rockinrandommom

When Only One Kid Shows Up:

So after all the planning and every kid responds with a yes, it’s finally party time. One problem though – only one kid shows up. This is a tough blow but it was tougher on me and Adam’s dad than it was on Adam. The kid that showed up was Adam’s closest friend. Therefore, Adam was totally okay with the other kids not coming.

Of course he had his brother and two of his cousins there. All Adam really cared about was getting to play all the games with his friend, eat great food, and finish it off with cake and gifts.

At the end of the afternoon, Adam was really happy and it didn’t matter how many kids showed up. He got to have his fun and celebrate with the ones he cares about. Later that night I did get a call from a mom of two of the kids. The one teen had a soccer game and she got distracted by that. Totally understandable.

By Monday, four other kids were distraught that they forgot and was really sorry to have missed it. Since Tuesday was Adam’s actual 16th birthday, I figured I’d bring in what was left of the cake and surprise him and his classmates with an impromptu party.

collage of birthday party pictures_firstborn16_rockinrandommom

Reflecting on Parenting this Amazing Kid:

Every year my first born gets older, I reflect back to his baby days. Now, as he has turned 16, I reflect on every year that has passed. I am reminded of what an amazing gift he has been to me. My first born didn’t talk until he was 3 1/2 years old. He could read by age 3 but conversations were limited to echolalia. Since then, I have watched this amazing kid go from barely talking to making us all laugh with his comedy skits.

I have watched this astounding human being go from only socializing with adults to making a few really good friends with his peers. I have seen him go from many meltdowns, to communicating his needs daily.

He has developed into a compassionate and intelligent young man who is full of life – and full of love. He walks into a room and it immediately lights up. Everyone who knows him, loves him. As a mother, I couldn’t ask for more than that. He amazes me every day!

So here is a little semi-poem I have written for my first born on his 16th birthday…

a poem for my first born_16_rockinrandommom

Happy Birthday, Honey Bear!

Thanks so much for reading!

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My Son’s Participation in Autism Awareness Night

autismawarenessnight_rockinrandommom

As most of you already know Every April we celebrate Autism Awareness all month long. Adam was really proud to participate in his first presentation this year on Autism Awareness. The high school has been running a workshop for the past two years where the middle school and high school students present to visitors what Autism is. They go beyond that though and talk about their own experiences living with Autism. My son was so proud to be a part of it. I’m going to highlight a few things from that very inspiring night.

 

So let me give you a rundown of events

Junior High!

Our first stop was the Junior high school table. Two young boys, both in the 7th grade, each talked about their experiences having Autism. These two brave young boys talked about the teachers who have helped them while praising their parents for being there for them through all of their tough times. We also got to see how each boy talked about the differences they had within the spectrum. One boy loves anime while the other boy was all about Science! They helped to spread Autism Awareness through their presentation.

 

Next Up

ADAM!!

While the high school kids had a group presentation, which I will get to in a minute, Adam put on his own. He worked really hard with the help of his paraprofessional and Special Education Liaison. They told me though that it was all Adam. He came up with the theme of his power point using old cartoons and the Simpsons, and wrote his own speech. You can view the video below.

 

 

The rest of the high school group

High School!

There were four other high school students and they all spoke about their specific issues within the Autism Spectrum. Two of the kids have ADHD as well as Autism. They are all high functioning but they all have slightly different social drawbacks too. One girl was very talkative and communicative while two others were quiet and spoke softly and slowly. They said this was because if they talk faster, their words get jumbled. I know I, myself, have done that quite a few times. These kids also spoke highly of their teachers at the high school but also spoke highly of their parents. One boy said if his parents weren’t so understanding and patient about his meltdowns when he was younger, he wouldn’t be where he is today. His meltdowns centered mostly around social situations.

 

Now to the last group

The College Kids!

I will be honest here. While I loved Adam’s presentation and am so very proud of him, I really enjoyed listening to the college kids. The main reason for that is because Adam wants to go to college. He wants to study video production and script writing! So, naturally my curiosity about what college life is like for young men and women on the spectrum filled me with excitement.

There were four young people at the college presentation station. Two of them go to one of the local Community Colleges while the other two attend a small college in Vermont that was designed for men and women with various disabilities. I don’t know much about the college but the two young men praised it for the small campus and the welcome home feel they receive from the professors, students and staff.

A lot of questions were answered but one thing the young woman said really stood out to me. She said, “Let them find their way.” Now that is a scary notion for any parent regardless of their abilities. The young woman made a good point though. She added that we should help our kids do research to know which office to turn to for help. She also pointed out that most college students don’t know there is help on campus. Having had that experience myself, I understand what she means.

autismawarenessnight_rockinrandommom

And the night went on

After the Autism Awareness presentation the Special Education Department treated all of us to dinner at a local restaurant. They are hoping to add in the elementary school kids next year. It was such a great night for everyone. All of the children gave high praise to their teachers and parents during their presentations. The night was pretty magical and awe-inspiring. The best part is afterwards I got a huge sense of relief that my boy will be okay. He has a bright future ahead of him and I couldn’t be a prouder parent!

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Thanks so much for Reading!

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Rockin’ Quote #25: Another Autism Quote

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Here is another autism quote that Conner wrote to his big brother for Autism Awareness Month but this is also something he wrote for Adam when Adam came home one day, anxious about Autism Awareness Day coming up and it being talked about in school.

Adam is very fortunate to have such great classmates that really take the time to try to understand him and are very patient with him and saying that about Middle School kids is really saying something. So when he came home and expressed nervousness about it, Conner and I had a conversation with him about Autism and that having Autism doesn’t have to spark negative feelings towards the disorder or towards himself.

Adam is pretty comfortable knowing he has Autism but sometimes knowing that it is going to be talked about raises some anxiety for him but not because he is afraid of what others will say but more because somewhere along the line, in his own head, he has associated raising awareness for it as a negative thing. I’m not really sure what exactly is going through his mind to put that thought into his head because he is not very good at expressing his thoughts verbally.

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Another Autism Quote from Conner to his brother!

Conner and I were successful though in helping Adam understand that raising awareness for Autism, or any other great cause out there, simply means to educate those who aren’t familiar with Autism. It means helping others understand what Autism is and what it isn’t. Once Adam understood this, he felt better about Autism Awareness Day and about April being Autism Awareness Month. This conversation is what sparked Conner to write the above quote for his big brother. It may be just another autism quote but it’s out of the mouths of babes.

How do you feel about Autism Awareness Month? For parents out there with children on the spectrum, how do your kids see it? Do they see it as a positive thing or a negative thing? A great question for parents to ask their children who don’t have Autism, what do your kids think of Autism? How much do they know about what Autism is and what Autism isn’t? For children going to school with kids with Autism or Down Syndrome or anything else, they may know more about these things than we did at their age.

Thank you so much for Reading,

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Rockin’ Quote #24: Autism Awareness Day

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So, as most of you know yesterday was Autism Awareness Day and the month of April is Autism Awareness Month. Conner and I had a conversation during the week about the importance of Autism Awareness and how important it is that people understand his older brother Adam. So, Conner came up with two things he wrote for his brother. It shows how much he loves his big brother and how much he sees what his brother goes through.

Conner has been writing a few things here and there about his brother and this month I will be sharing those things here on my blog. While I don’t make Adam’s Autism a major priority in my house because I don’t believe in using any illness or disorder as the end-all, be-all of their lives, I educate both of them on what Autism is and acknowledge when Adam might be having a problem that is related to his Autism.

autism_rockinrandommomConner has seen this since he was very young. When he was about 5 he started to notice certain things like Adam not wanting to play with him or anyone else because he very much prefers to be alone. That’s when I started to explain little things about Autism.

When we are driving, Adam has to wear his headphones and listen to his iPod because outside noises get to him. It especially bothers him when Conner sings in the car. As a way to allow Conner to sing but being considerate of Adam’s sensitivities, I encouraged Adam to wear headphones and it makes car rides so much more peaceful than they used to be.

Conner had a hard time understanding these things when he was little but he also always accepted his brother as he is with a level of understanding that I wish the rest of the world would embrace. As he gets older and learns more about Autism, as well as his own ADHD, he is even more accepting and understanding towards his brother.

Next week I will have another quote by Conner as we will be celebrating the month of April with Autism Awareness. Adam might even make an appearance with a few of his own quotes. My boys are a great example of how Autism doesn’t hinder brotherly love or the sibling connection! It’s a day late but Happy Autism Awareness Day!

Thank you for Reading,

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Preparing For High School

preparingforhighschool

I know Adam has just started the 8th grade. Preparing for High School might be too soon. This is his last year of Junior High and his next step before adulthood is high school. In fact, High School is his LAST STEP before adulthood. Last year, he had such a great year.  He got Honor Roll all year long but the year didn’t go without it’s minor hiccups. It was as much of a transition for me as it was for him. It was more so for me because rather than keep in touch with the teachers through notes or phone calls, I was now being expected to use email and Power School in order to get informed of his grades and his progress.

Power School doesn’t tell me if he is making any friends (neither does he). Power School doesn’t tell me how he is getting along with his teachers or how often he is participating in class. With a child who has Autism, keeping an open and honest communication with the school is so important.

powerschool

Last week I attended Open House for Adam’s school and everything went well.  Most of his teachers love him and think he is such a great asset to their class. I did say, Most though. The last two teachers, Science and Social Studies, I didn’t get much good feedback. These are the same two classes that Adam excelled in last year but last year he had two teachers who were more understanding and had more personal experience with people on the spectrum. The vibe I got from these two new teachers, both of whom came from the high school he will be attending next year, were less than encouraging.

They both said he was disruptive but that he is getting better. He has a paraprofessional working with him in the classroom and from what all of the teachers told me, the paraprofessional is amazing with Adam. While I am very happy with that, I am not happy with the look of annoyance on the Science teacher’s face, and I’m not happy with the remark from the Social Studies teacher when she said, “His behavior just won’t be acceptable in high school.”

So, now I am a little worried.  I’m not stressing to the point that I can’t think straight and I need to down a bottle of wine in order to cope, but I am conflicted about things now because I am thinking two things:

  1. There’s the part of me, the protective mother side, that says, “What the hell do you expect? He has friggin’ Autism and he’s doing the best that he can. He is in a class of 20 students where he is bound to get a little overwhelmed at times.”

nothappymomma I’m going to vent a little here because this is my boy and I want to protect him from the world. I want to shield him from all of the nasty, impatient people he will meet in his life and it’s only going to get harder from here. This is just middle school.  What’s going to happen when he gets to high school? If High School can’t handle him, what about College? Is this why so many people on the Spectrum DON’T go to college?

2. Here’s the other side of me, the fighter who knows what her son can do: I need to prepare him for High School and I need to start now.  I need to get him ready for those teachers who aren’t going to be too happy with him when he blurts out a statement about not liking the class or the lesson of the day. I need to get him ready for peers who will be less than understanding.

Up until now, he has had it made. We’ve been very lucky that he has the classmates he has. In Elementary school, he grew up with all of the kids. He had the same classmates from kindergarten to 6th grade. When going into Middle school, they all followed him there. He just gained about 50 more classmates. High school will be even bigger though and College will be bigger than that. These are the steps they take as they grow and prepare for the world.

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I’m going to start small. He’s already an independent person so I need to take advantage of that and help him build on his strengths. I will recruit his IEP team to help with his independence but mostly, we need to help him with the social aspects of this world. This is the biggest issue right now. People with Autism don’t understand tact. That’s because they don’t understand the abstract. At the same time, I want people to accept him for him. Compromise is key. I know he can do this! I am going to help him!

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