Saturday, August 29, 2015

More Texts from Tate

My readers keep asking for more texts from Tate and Tate keeps providing them. So I will share some more of the best of the best. And if you need to catch up then follow these links to past texts from Tate: Breaking Bad News and Tate's Texts

Tate sometimes makes grandiose plans that would be impossible to carry out. I am sure he himself is even aware that many of his schemes are just for fun. Almost always they are linked to a movie or television show he has seen. He loves to plan. Occasionally he becomes upset if we do not take him seriously enough but most of the time he is happy for us to just play along a little, even knowing his plans are only fantasies. 

Tate recently became interested in my blog Quirks and Chaos. He doesn’t really read it although he knows where to find it on the web. He likes looking at the pictures. He also likes that he is on the web. Although when I have teased him saying he is famous he says, “Mom. I haven’t even been on television.” He decided he wants to surprise me by making a commercial for Quirks and Chaos. He has enlisted the help of his siblings. He’s been texting them individually and in groups with ideas. He let me in on a bit of it and revealed to me he would like the commercial to air on ABC Family. And apparently his siblings need to learn some dance moves for their part in the commercial.

Tate's sister Bailey is in blue in this text. Tate and his siblings are in gray, although Tate does MOST of the talking here. Notice he even says, "I will ask the questions." That is definitely a movie line. 



Lately Tate has had an obsession with Black Friday and he wants to plan our day, months in advance. He wants active participation from all six of his siblings. Tate’s siblings enjoy his planning and texting, probably as much as Tate does himself.

Nebraska Furniture Mart is a favorite of Tate's. They have dvds and lots of technology there. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Executive Function and Al Capone

I’ve been thinking a lot about this thing called executive function lately and I have been watching Tate and Sydney try to problem solve. I have to jump in often to help them solve very simple problems they should be able to handle. By “should,” I mean they WOULD be able to handle these things if they did not have a disability. Executive functioning allows a person to sequence events, problem solve, multitask, get organized and make plans. One of my autism heroes, Temple Grandin, speaks about executive function on occasion. She has said, "I cannot hold one piece of information in my mind while I manipulate the next step in the sequence." Can you imagine? Can you imagine always being lost in the steps it takes to complete a project or deal with the unexpected things that come up in any given day? Not being able to organize your thoughts and make a plan, then follow through and execute the plan?

This afternoon I took Tate to get a haircut. Tate’s been going to the same barbershop for many years. If I can get a parking spot right in front of the door and if there is no wait for the barber chair then I just wave at the barber and Tate goes in alone lately. Today I had to park several parking slots away from the shop so I walked Tate in and sat down with him. Why? Because I couldn’t tell if there was a line from where I was parked. I knew if Tate went in and there was a line for the chair he would not have known what to do. He would not have been able to figure out when it was his turn because a line for the next chair in a barbershop is not really a line at all. Although our kind barber would have given Tate instructions, there would have been potential for Tate to misunderstand or become confused and he would have been nervous. Remember that tyrant we fight everyday called anxiety. He’s brutal. And so I walked Tate in mostly because he does not have the executive function it would take to figure out what to do in a crowded barbershop without help. But stay tuned for the rest of the story.

This morning, before we left for the barbershop, I decided to give the kids’ bathroom a make over. I took down the old, mildewed shower curtain and threw it out. Then before the haircut, Tate and I went into a department store and he helped me pick out a new shower curtain and rug for the bathroom. We went with a fish theme, by the way. When we got home from town, I got busy with some chores. And then I realized I could hear the shower running. Tate was taking a shower without the curtain up. He always goes right to the shower after a haircut but I had not thought about it. (Where were my executive functioning skills?) Of course, the bathroom floor was standing in water by this time. I do not often lose my patience with Tate but I scolded him in my frustration. I know better than to do this but I did it anyway. I talked to Tate about what a mess he’d made. I told him he could have used other options and discussed those with him. He could have taken a shower in a different bathroom or waited. He could have asked me to put up the shower curtain right away too. None of those things had occurred to him. There was no executive function. And then when he saw the mess himself, it never occurred to him to clean it up. It probably never occurred to him that anyone would need to clean it up. There was no executive function. And because of my lecture to Tate about the mess he had made, he is perseverating about it. Not so much because he made a mess but because I was aggravated he made a mess. I’ve assured him several times that all is well and the mess is cleaned up and the new shower curtain has been hung. All is right again. But, he cannot get past the fact that I was annoyed with him and told him about it. Texts have been flying as he needs to let his siblings know of the injustice he received. 

This evening we were sitting at his school in an assembly to kick off the beginning of the school year. Tate leaned over to tell me that sometimes teenagers make messes. I said, “Tate, can we drop it now? It’s ancient history.” He said, “Messes are not history. I know a lot about history. Al Capone robbed a lot of banks and then he died in jail. That is history.” And there we have it. Tate made a mess that was easily wiped up. It was only water. I made a mess that will take days to clean up because I used words. Tate is not the only one who sometimes lacks executive function. I could use a little more of that myself. I wonder if Al Capone lacked executive function? 

If you like this post you will probably also like: The Hardest Thing About Autism

Monday, August 10, 2015

You May Be An Autism Parent If...

Tate, aged 13
My son Tate has autism. He is thirteen years old. I will never appreciate the challenges that autism causes my son and our family but I do appreciate the people I have come to love that are part of the autism community. As Tate grows older and I meet more and more people affected by autism I find so much we often have in common. I came up with this list. Not all of it will apply to you but a lot of it might.

You may be an autism parent if…

1. you toss around words like perseverate, echolalia, and reciprocity in casual conversation.

2. you do not even have to stop and decipher acronyms like IEP, IDEA, ESY and BCBA anymore because they are part of your everyday vocabulary.

3. you know what a visual schedule is and have relied on one to help your  child to get through the day.

4. you have alarms on the doors of your home and your heart breaks just a little more every time you read about another child from the autism community who has gone missing.

5. your inbox is flooded with messages anytime there is a trending new “cure” for autism or a new theory about its cause. Relatives, friends, and even acquaintances are willing to help in this way. Got broccoli?

6. you have no need to keep track of a grocery list because your child only eats five things. (Broccoli is not one of them.) 

7. you know the names of almost every character from almost every animated movie ever made and you can quote much of the dialogue.  
8. you have learned the name of every Thomas the tank engine character, read train books until you are hoarse, and put together countless train track pieces with your child.

9. there is someone in your life who could use a breath mint, ought to get a haircut, or needs to lose a few pounds, your kid will break the news to them. No problem. It is just a service he offers. 

10. you hear clichés every day. “Everything happens for a reason” and “God only gives special children to special people” are phrases you have heard from complete strangers.   

11. you have tee shirts and jewelry with puzzle pieces on them and your car sports an autism awareness bumper sticker.

12. you never leave home without a tablet and a charger. And if the battery on your kid’s tablet goes dead you and your kid both may cry.

13. you know where every restroom and every exit is for all the places you frequent with your child.

14. the people at the few restaurants your child will eat at, know you and your child very well. They even know your kid’s order before you give it.

15. you use a transition warning before most changes, large or small.

16. you have ever laid awake at night either wondering how you were going to afford all the things your child needed or worrying about his future.

17. you silently scream inside when your child is taught about something like germs at school knowing it will probably begin another obsession.

18. you have ever had someone ask, “Your child has autism? So, what is his ‘special gift?’”

19. you wish there was some way you could convey your thanks to all your child’s therapists and teachers and paraprofessionals to show them just how much they mean to you. But you know there is no gift big enough and no words strong enough to tell them how thankful you are for all the things they do for your child.

20. you hate it when those in the autism community debate vaccinations, the use of the word “autistic,” or whether or not a “cure” for autism would be a good thing or a bad thing. And you wonder why we cannot all just respect each other’s opinions and get along.