Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sing, Sing a Song, make it anything

Scene from Elf:

Scene at our House:

Mom (from bottom of stairs in a sing song voice): "Good morning, good morning, good morning; it's time to wake up; it's the last day of school before break; it's your day to swim at the Plunge; it's time for breakfast so you don't miss the bus..."

Reid (from upstairs on his feet, entering bathroom): "Stop singing Mom."

The good news: Music motivates. He got up.
The bad news: I do not have a hit single on my hands.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Documenting Miracles

God is always answering prayer. If we are alert, acknowledge it and mark it down, we remember. If not, the results can be as fleeting as a spring zephyr. More than anything, I hope this blog chronicles what God is doing in Reid's life, ours, and others' around him as we journey through autism to the promised land.

Truly in the last few weeks, there is more happening than I have time to articulate. Our cups are overflowing with every imaginable flavor and scent of His presence. I long to turn the winsome face to face praise reports I give my Bible study girls from vapor into lasting ebenezers of His power and faithfulness. December is a swirl of goodness.

The school psychologist at Reid's school helped me out this time. He sent this email last week titled, "Prepare to Hit PRINT." It made our year! (names changed for privacy)

Greetings. I was on campus today doing some research with 4 different students. One of those was Reid and he is doing an outstanding job maintaining his attention and responding to different stimuli.

The more notable thing today was something that occurred during lunch. Another student, Billy, one Pioneer's more noisy students, was not in the best of spirits today. While eating his lunch in the cafeteria Billy would randomly shout and scream out loud, crying, covering his ears with his hands. It was pretty rough for everyone else in the room; Billy had been occasionally going off like this for over 2 hours.

Well, the various students in the room slowly started to filter out. Some had finished their lunches, others were moving away from Billy. After about 5 minutes into this one particular scream session over half a dozen students had left. Billy was the only one left at his table.

At that point, Reid slowly got up from where he was sitting. I was watching him; Reid tends not to to break down any further when other Pioneer students are having a rough time. In this case Reid sat down right next to Billy. Billy was yelling, then quiet, then yelling, putting his hands on his head, waving them in the air. Reid sat on Billy's left, and ate his lunch. He didn't move. Occasionally he would look at Billy, then at the table.

Well, Billy slowly started to calm down. First the hands stopped waving, then the voice got more quiet. Billy started to eat his food. He even reached in his lunch pack and pulled some other things out. After about 120 seconds he and Reid were sitting there together in silence.

Then, Reid left. He stood up, first pulled his right, then left foot over the bench of the "table," gathered his empty plate and cup, and headed to the door. All the other students were outside at this point, playing. No doubt Reid was heading to the couch in the courtyard where he likes to soak up the sun. I approached him as he got to the door.

"Reid," I asked. "Why did you do that?"

He looked at me for a moment, then at the floor. "Billy needed it," he said. Then he walked out.

I went over and sat next to Billy myself.

Cheers, Jake

Flooding my mind after I absorbed this, were verses I'd prayed in years prior all coming to fruition in seemingly a single stroke. The fullness of time. This boy, my boy, over whom I've prayed believing prayers that:

...he would grow in wisdom, favor and stature with God and man...

...that the Spirit of the Lord would be upon Him, a spirit of Wisdom and understanding, counsel and power, knowledge and the fear of the Lord...

...that he would be filled with the Holy, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control (ohhh self-control)...

...that his little light would shine....

...that God would bless him indeed as he had Jabez, enlarge his territory and keep him from evil...

Lo and behold, He did, He had, and He was.

This joyful boy whose hands and head we've anointed with oil and Psalm 23 this month, is not only maintaining his own self-control but also coming alongside others to offer the ministry of presence.

How tender the heart of God to provide me with a detailed, objective glimpse through the keyhole to see the evidence of prayers He is answering.

The celebration widened as Jim shared with our church small group who had trudged the pits of April with us. Equally agog, they chimed in:

Tears….sitting on an airplane back from DC with a stranger next to me wondering what the heck is going on…it’s a family of Christ thing

Killer story…..i can say that reid has a similar effect on me when I hear him chanting in the background at our study. His presence and comments are one of the things that make the Moriarty house a home

Oh my. Joy. "...i think i'm feeling that feeling again..."

Goosebumps. And from Allie, "this is the kind of thing you hear about happening to other people, but not to us."

For this, I can honestly say, it's been worth the wait.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 1o Things I Appreciate about Reid's New School

10. their intentional "Empathy, Invitation, Plan" approach

9. a preponderance of male staff (which is a subtle but critical component to Reid's adolescence and my husband's engagement)

8. allowance for some naturally occurring elbowing and shoulder tapping (who wants to raise a robot)

7. the "practice makes permanent" (not perfect) ideal

6. true partnership with parents

5. daily interaction with the local community (this is valuable even when it, especially when it breaks down)

4. a careful, positive use of the power of words to affect behavior

3. the cohesive team approach of the staff and students

2. a palpable acceptance kids can feel (which fundamentally enables them to trust teachers enough to be vulnerable and learn)

1. the occasional photo text they send that's worth a thousand words (see left)

Last June when it became obvious we had to find a new placement for Reid, we revisited a place I had loved 3 years prior. Pioneer Day School has only improved since then and retained it's intentionally small size.

The teddy bear of a director sat catty corner from me at a conference table explaining the founding principles of his school. Resisting the urge to hug this man, I leaned back--likely scooched my chair away--so as not to block my husband from catching the full drift of truth he was speaking. I wanted them to relate man-to-man. As Mr. Banks said in Mary Poppins, "Enough of this slipshod, sugary, female way of thinking."

Hearing about empathy, social thinking, music instruction, and kinesthetic learning from a beefy man who's educated dozens of challenging boys is very different than hearing your wife say, "let's wait til he's calm to finish the homework." Jim Leiner described how he trains his teachers to first give empathy (ie. "I know this must be hard for you Billy, math was always difficult for me too"); then offer an invitation ("If you'd like I can show you something I learned that helps); and make a plan ("How 'bout if we do 5 problems today and save the rest for tomorrow?")

In one sitting, what my husband used to perceive as "coddling" became logical, within reason, even wise. We listened (well actually, I nodded like a bobble-headed dashboard ornament) then toured the school. This move would represent a return to our original follow-your-gut instinct on what was best for Reid. By moving him, we would abandon the "research-based," straight behavior mod program for something far more holistic. It was a battle between the head and the heart for both of us.

As we got out to the curb in front of the building, I refrained from jumping for joy. I don't like to stack the deck or be subjective. (ha!) My new intention these days is to submit to my husband's wisdom.

Our other set of eyes was a dear friend Kate, who has credentials up the wazoo from evaluating classrooms around the world for a living. Even at first glance observing the classrooms of Pioneer, Kate noticed countless examples of student work and real curriculum which indicated a place of learning. This was a vivid contrast to the starkness of the previous place where the curriculum really was behavior.

Was it just me? Or was this gonna be unanimous? After giving her professional opinion, Kate asked the obvious, what did I think? As I stifled my enthusiasm still wanting Jim to arrive at his own clarity, she ribbed me with the now infamous line, "He had you at empathy!" She knows me too well.

Confirmation came after the 30-day placement meeting where the aide, director and teacher reported how Reid had taken to this place like a fish to water. The most pleasant surprise was that he had done a page of division problems after being shown and invited to practice. (Another distinction since the previous placement had removed him from the diploma track and all but tabled academics in favor of teaching compliance.)

As we left that meeting my husband elbowed me in the ribs, "ok now I wanna hug the guy!" (I resisted the irony of yapping back, "hands at your side; personal space.")

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Colloquial Vocab

Who doesn't have vocabulary development on their IEP? Like greetings, increasing vocabulary has been one of Reid's goals for more than a decade. Lately though, his gains in other areas make this one simmer to the top like grease on the top of the turkey soup--ready to be skimmed off.

With new vigor I am explaining idioms and narrating each drive in the car as if I were a thesaurus on I have a Word-a-Day tear off calendar in mind for under the tree. (Shhhh...) Grateful for good training from so many speech and language pathologists, we are "emphasizing new words in conversation and generalizing them to various settings. This becomes habitual after years of practice, but we can all use a refresher right?

Several times lately, Reid has asked me, "what does ____ mean?" This is quite an exciting developmental milestone at any age. Last week, Jim was out of town for a night, which was occasion enough for Allie and I to watch Sleepless in Seattle. Catching wind of this plan in one of those running monologue car rides, Reid inquired, "what's a chick flick?" I gave what I thought was an adequate explanation. That is now debatable.

At our house, Reid customarily "does the controls," meaning he holds the remote, cues up the DVD's, introduces the film, and adjusts the volume. Electronics are totally his department. Even if he walks out in the middle of a film, when those credits roll boy, he never fails to bolt back down. With a flourish he insists he must "do the honors," eject the disk, and close up shop. So it was tonight, after a peaceful Thanksgiving day, that he rejoined us for the summation of the movie Elf. As he turned the power off he delivered the punch line under his breath, "That was a good chick flick."

Jim and I chuckled in cahoots later...a chick flick...compared to what? Bourne Supremacy or Barney? We'll keep working on that goal....progress noted.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lending and Borrowing

"Good Morning Andrea. This is Kay down at the Solana Beach Library."

They open early the day before Thanksgiving I thought, expecting it to be my mom gobble gobbling on the other line.

"Oh hi Kay, how are you?" I'm on a first name basis with many of our local librarians, as previously mentioned.

"I'm fine, but I should be asking, 'how are you?' Well, listen, we're having kind of a slow day down here...going through some lost and found...and we have a darling photo album with pictures of your family from Christmas 2009...I have no idea how it got here but you know...sometimes things have a way of getting shoved back behind on the shelves....." (gobble gobble)

"I know exactly how it got there...and yes, I'll be right down to get it. Thank you!" Those glossy coffee table albums cost me some time and coin to make.

Grateful for Reid's share and share alike attitude. Grateful they didn't catalogue it for general circulation among my neighbors. Grateful they know us and took the time to call. Grateful to have it back.

P.S. Which Dewey decimal classification do you suppose it would fall under? Social Science...Biography...Arts & Recreation...History

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 1o People in my Neighborhood

10. the mustachioed traffic director at Reid's school

9. Laura who works Sunday mornings at Panera

8. Kaye at the library who has authority to waive fines

7. Alex at Henry's Marketplace whose "got my back"

6. Debbie with the "oy i'm late" license plates who waves vigorously

5. you-know-the-stockboy at Trader Joe's

4. a greenskeeper for our association

3. Larry, the greeter on our church patio

2. another mustachioed carpool line attendant at Allie's school

1. Jona at the Solana Beach Rubio's

I have friends--some really good friends--but I don't necessarily see them on a daily basis. This list of more anonymous types are people who, in truth, I barely know. Yet they brighten my day immensely with their undeniable joie de vivre. As you can see, I don't even know some of their names. They are familiar faces though, "people in my neighborhood" who like Mary Tyler Moore, "can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile." Each of them hasmade my day more times than I can count with a simple wave, a significant smile, or a gutsy greeting.

It doesn't take much. I am sure the greenskeeper waves to many residents as they pass by but boy oh boy when he puts that spade down to wave to me through the car window, well...I feel like his favorite!

Although we've only exchanged a dozen words ever, "Oy I'm Late" (the plate on her maroon van) flags me down in the "2 BY 2" (my Eurovan plate) as if I were driving on the rims or my engine was aflame. By the time I realize she's just waving hello, I feel like the president in a motorcade. Whether I bump into her in the produce aisle or a swim lane, she never fails to ask about Reid by name. She doesn't know our last name, wouldn't imagine that I blog, but she cares and she seems to get the gestalt of us. We are a piece in her puzzle, and she sees the big picture.

Likewise, the clerk at our nearest Panera has our Sunday morning goodies practically bagged and ready before we get to the counter. She is a bright spot of familiarity and belonging in our week, always asking, "how was church?"

Reid is a definite vehicle for this kind of VIP treatment since we call his name outloud in public places more than the norm. It seems we are repeatedly prompting him back to wait in line, away from the sneezeguard, or over to place his order. Before you know it, we've attained infamy at many local haunts. His ritualistic ordering of the same thing every week also aids her memory. Just the same, she has a gift of hospitality and uses it liberally to love on us, if only for the short exchange.

I could go on about each one (and may in future posts). For now, let's just ask each other, whose day can we make?

The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Galatians 5:13-15

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man?"
Luke 10:35-37

Monday, September 13, 2010

Heroes and Miracles

Sitting in the stands spectating at a Miracle League baseball game Saturday morning , Allie and I took a deep breath. Having just handed Reid off to his 1:1 buddy, we knew we'd have 2 innings of relatively uninterrupted talk time. (Quality time comes in various zones.)

At a whisper she confided, "guess what that lady just said to me?"

"Is that your brother out there? Then you are a real hero."

To which she politely replied and wisely corrected, "the real heroes are the ones who sign up and show up every week to make this possible. They choose to be here. We have to do it!"

True. The miracle of this local phenomenon is the dedication, enthusiasm, and sheer volume of volunteers who create a slice of heaven on earth.

Every Saturday 12 teams of special needs kids aged 5-18 of all abilities come bedecked in uniforms ready to play ball with whatever modifications they need. An amazing announcer, Alan Moore, treats each one as an MVP coming up to bat replete with nicknames and stats from the previous season. Whether they bat from a wheelchair, standing or hand over hand, every one has a buddy and everyone gets a hit.

Reid's first time at bat, he connected with a solid hit which Mr. Moore proclaimed "a home run!" With requisite prompting, Reid ran all four bases and enjoyed the applause from the stands. Well, can I tell you, every single time since, he rounds that diamond at full tilt in a beeline back to his seat in the dugout. Whether he's fouled, bunted or slugged it, the precedent has been set. Hit = homerun in his locked tight mind. One time he passed a couple other runners in the process. No worries, no tantrums; every game ends in a tie.

Coaches range from off-duty therapists to high school age siblings. The one on one buddies come out of the woodwork of the community at large to don a flourescent t-shirt and help. Every week I see another familiar face and ask how they learned about it. Parents cheer from the stands or visit like comrades in arms; brothers and sisters are proud; players grin ear to ear.

For that one hour a week, I feel like everything is really going to turn out fine. It is miraculous!

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. Psalm 77:13-15

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Matthew 25:39-41

Saturday, August 21, 2010


"i'm ready for our epic adventure:D" read the text from Allie.

We all had the same sense that a week in Montana's Glacier National Park with no wifi, cell coverage, or television would be just that: epic.

How would you define epic? Something that's the first of its kind? The last of a kind? Anything of unsurpassed, one-of-a-kind quality--be it exceptional, boring or just lengthy?

At take off I anticipated the timing of this trip would make it epic. We had derailed our de facto Nantucket plans in favor of family bonding in the wilderness on the heels of major transformation in each of us: Reid is off all medications and rocking mastery at a new school; Allie freshly home from two weeks of studying flute in Italy; Jim has a new tenderness and mercy that can only be explained by the Holy Spirit; and I am celebrating newfound liberty that comes from surrender.

Maybe it's the realization of what's coming down the pike that constitutes an epic. Only two more summers before Allie is outta here to college. How many more times will she and Reid be buckled side by side in the back of a car amusing themselves with inside jokes and snuggling their heads in a silent twin language?

Could it be the grandiose scale of the destination? Or the dismaying myth that we were headed to a place set apart by its remoteness. "Who goes to Montana?" was a phrase I heard more than once as I scrambled to find vacancies at one of the lodges within the park.

Allie could have coined the "epic adventure" tagline recalling previous trips. We once tracked Laura Ingalls Wilder history through the middle of South Dakota. Wherever we go, we seem to end up in some larger-than-life, atypical dynamic. (Picture paddling in large, lost circles of freezing rain with purple lips at nightfall in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota bailing, literally, on the camping with mosquitos concept.) defines "epic" thus:

1. pertaining to a long poetic composition in which a series of great achievements is narrated in elevated style

Waking up in a converted caboose cabin in the silent woods was poetic (and elevated, come to think of it). I actually heard God speak to me through the trees over coffee.

2. heroic, majestic, impressively great

Our lives committed to God become narratives of great achievements in which He is the majestic hero who saves us, lifts us to higher ground, dramatically delivers us, and shows Himself to be extremely impressive. Miles McPherson at The Rock Church has an online sermon series right now about historic Biblical narratives: stories about real people in real time involved in real drama.

This family trip was the capstone of a real victory God won in the very real battle autism wages in our daily lives. I am really glad He reigns!

3. of unusually great size or extent

Montana is epic. Effortlessly, it symbolizes God's majesty. Returning the rental car, Jim calculated we had clocked more than 19 hours on the road to see merely the northwest corner of "the last best place." The glaciers, the color of the lakes, the hugeness of the sky, the massive mountains visually dwarf the largest, widest, most obnoxious convoy of RV's you can even imagine. We are as nothing to Him and yet cherished as everything.

"Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy. Exodus 15:5-7

"Who among the gods is like you, O LORD ? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? Exodus 15:10-12

Do your best, prepare for the worst— then trust God to bring victory. Proverbs 21:30-31

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Antiquated Words to Baffle Your Children

10. pedal pushers

Preferring not to get her cuffs wet or greasy, mom's pedal pushers were perfect for beach combing as well as bike riding.

9. peckish

Pass me a cracker, I am feeling quite peckish having skipped lunch today.

8. shades

Those new shades are just the right shape for your face.

7. frock

I love that new frock on you!

6. get up

That get up is not as flattering as the frock you wore yesterday.

5. succotash

I think I'll whip up some succotash with this summer squash from the farmer's market.

4. co-ed

Here comes a nicely dressed co-ed who might point us to some hot spots on campus.

3. grocery

When the fridge is bare, we must head to the grocery.

2. rap

Wanna rap with me until dinner's ready?

1. cruise the strip

After church shall we cruise the strip or check the surf?

I find a weird sort of pleasure sprinkling these dated expressions into my daily jargon, especially around Allie and her friends, who react with mortified expressions of utter dismay. They look cross-eyed, first at each other then back at me. What is she saying? Where is she from? Is she always like this?

Their reactions amuse and encourage my inner prankster. It's the same sort of glee I get from Anne Taintor's stationery. And since it's summer and we homeschool no more, it's as close as we get to educational lately. History and language all rolled into one. If my sample sentences don't offer enough contextual meaning, feel free to cross reference on Wordnik or A Way with Words.

Am I the only mom who is simultaneously hip and out of it? I think not. Will the rest of you chime in with an antiquated word in comment box. I am running out of material.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What's in a Nametag?

We have spent years and hundreds of dollars working on some permutation of an appropriate greeting goal for Reid. The wording has changed over time as we process from preschool to high school but even to the untrained eye, it sounds pretty similar. Call it what you will: Good morning Miss Sue...hello I'm Reid...yo...high five...knuckles...handshake. Teams of teachers, speech therapists, tutors, and helpful adults plug away for the prize: a spontaneous greeting from Reid.

Little do they know the eruption of pleasure Reid spontaneously bestows on those he knows and loves (e.g. those he knows love him). Just ask Carla who was nearly accosted at the door everyday she'd arrive to visit. Or my mom when we deboard the plane in Nantucket. Reid can greet!! In fact, no one makes you feel as important as Reid does with a greeting.

At this point it's clear to me that Reid knows what an appropriate greeting is, how it wins social favor and influences people. He is also in full control of when he wants to use one.

Case in point: Reid and I frequent three Rubio's stores in the area. Whether after school, Saturday after a hike, or a night I don't feel like cooking, he is always game for some fresh Mex at this San Diego establishment.

Recently after ordering, we waited for our food to be ready.

"Order for Kim" came blasting over the microphone.

Reid was hovering at the pick up counter waiting for his familiar take out bag. A girl walked up giving nonverbal "excuse me cues," when I heard his cracking adolescent voice, "Oh hi Kim!"

She startled pleasantly and returned, "hi."

Great pick up line? Perhaps.

The same day at Vons, our local grocery store, he was negotiating to buy a video or Tracphon at the customer service counter. At the time, my best strategy seemed to be to get him to agree to leave it on hold with the clerk until we could "go home and talk to dad about phone plans." (He has yet to grasp how the monthly billing concept differs from the purchase price.)

"Ok," he acquiesced. Then boldly, "Celeste, how much is this?" he propositioned the clerk wearing the name badge. He is so endearing and genuine, I think if he'd have asked for her phone number, she would've written it down for him.

At Henry's, our other local market, he never fails to call the checker by name when asking for a balloon. Why don't teachers and speech therapists simply wear nametags if they insist on profuse greetings?

In my book, the greeting goal can go. It's been mastered.

As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
Mark 9:14-16

Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.
Genesis 32:28-30

Friday, July 9, 2010


We are not big on sunscreen in this family. Although we are avid beach goers, and live in sunny San Diego, we forego conventional prevention strategies in favor of deferred maintenance. Scumscream, as we prefer to call it, is just too sticky, too greasy, too pore-blocking, too messy, and too get-in-your-eyes. We can't be bothered.

Hats, the same. Sunglasses too. Beach umbrellas? No. Only on occasion (like a baptism party or everyday-beach-week) do we lug out our pop-up shade tent. Fact is, we prefer to travel light for our brief stays at the beach. Chairs? Leave 'em at Longs. Towels, maybe one to share. A book, get real! We wear our suits, drive down, take a dip, dry off and swing back up the hill.

We spend most of our time actually waiting for a parallel parking spot to open up along our favorite strip of isolated beach. These coveted spots grant access to a crowd-free section of beach between two more popular public parking lots (ok, maybe I am anti-social). They also accommodate Reid's propensity to "wait in the car" until he's ready for the sandy transition across rocks to water or if he needs to escape the wind. It's a coastal variation on car camping one could dub, car beachgoing.

This presents a problem on vacations in Nantucket where Natty and Papa Jim move at a different pace. They take chairs which strap onto your backs, coolers of food, books, last month's periodicals, today's paper, ipods, cutlery and linens.

Literally, by the time they got their cups situated in the cup holders of the folding director's chairs, Reid was charging out of the surf announcing, "I'm done now, let's go home!"

Our compromising solution to gradually change his habit, build flexibility, and meet divergent expectations, was to designate a specific time that we'd leave. Jim let him hold his waterproof watch which he studied like a pixelated Disney trailer. Each day we inched the time up from 10 to 30 minutes of imposed reclining in the sun ("chill-axing" in the family vernacular), after his ritual dip in the waves.

Making it concrete like this part. That's not to say he played frisbee, relaxed, or read the paper. Picture him instead buried under a towel so the digital LED numbers were visible in the bright daylight. He burrowed there clock-watching like I used to do in gym class until dismissal time.

On the minute, he shot up erect with the announcement, "It's 4:30, let's go! Pack up everyone." Handing them paraphernalia and scooping up his towel, he beat feet back to the car. Always first and undeniably decisive, the kid has "therious leaderthkip thkills, as Kip would lisp. (Napoleon Dynamite being the flavor of the month last summer.)

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait
for it patiently. Romans 8:24-26

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. Isaiah 11:5-7

Do stims?

Our beloved home program case manager, Danielle, taught me many things. She listened to the ponderings of my heart for many hours, "played guys" (Playmobil and Winnie the Pooh) with Reid several mornings a week, and trained more tutors than I can recount. Our front door was a turnstile of professionals and paraprofessionals who all delivered: early intervention.

Very early in my education, Danielle shared from her researchers' point of view that if all of us could be plotted somewhere along the autism spectrum (which ranges from normal to severely autistic), then we must all have at least one defining tendency or trait or ritual or stim. If we were honest. Once she confided hers, I was quickly able to identify mine. Over time this enables my empathy with others.

Danielle had a thing for counting the joints on door hinges in her mind as a diversion during meetings or in homes or whenever. I have the anxious, oddly pleasurable habit of running my fingers through my hair and pulling out individual strands like farm girls in Ohio used to do with blades of grass before whistling through them in their thumbs.

I will also confess to a word game of my own creation that I've played with myself since school days. Seeing signage or titles, I get sucked into sorting the words into symmetrical patterns of vowels and consonants. The invisible, consuming game continues until the entire word or phrase comes out even like a division equation. It's akin to diagramming a sentence only by individual letter rather than parts of speech. Hyperlexic much? Danielle's response when I described it was, "Yeah, that's one!"

Reid watches Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks logo trailers backwards and forwards as if memorizing them in his head. He stops and starts the DVD action in order to get a still shot in his brain of each frame. Then in bed or in the car, he rocks his head back and forth which seems to aids in the playback of those memorized scenes. If anyone knows of a paying job for which this skill is useful, please do tell. Here's an all time favorite. Oh the thrill of watching that white glowy trail encircle the castle!

After reading A Slant of Sun by Beth Kephart in those same early years, my mom went out and bought a dozen copies for the extended family. Then she commented, "as I read about her son's fixations, I have to admit I do that too. It made me realize how much I am like Reid." Bear in mind we are a family by adoption so this is more than evidence of the genetic predisposition.

If you care to take this a bit more seriously, here is an online Autism Quotient test which indicates traits that constitute the autism diagnosis and also gives some idea of where you might fall along the spectrum.

Elvis Sightings gives an excellent explanation of the repetitive movements associated with autism. It may be "unproductive, obsessive, obstructive, annoying, consuming" but I know and you know that it is also"pleasurable, centering, meditative, regulating, communing."

Go ahead, do tell us in a comment one of yours...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On Earth as it is...

Need a summer movie rental (for mature audience)? As It Is In Heaven, a Swedish film nominated for Best Foreign Film Hollywood Awards available from Netflix, is incredibly thought provoking. It is a compelling story about how to really love your neighbors. It is also a testament to the power of music to transform a entire community. And how can you speak about love without inclusion!

Tore is a young man experiencing developmental disability in the film. Some in the community call him a "cuckoo" others accept, comfort, shepherd, even learn from him. The filmmakers realistically depict the interdependence model Kathie Snow extrapolates here in her Disability Is Natural newsletter. As God would have it here on earth, Tore is not the only one with special needs who needs a little help now and then.

Despite his innocence, he is wise to tension often sensing what others miss or ignore. This closing scene is meant to intrigue not to spoil. (If you want the preview instead click here.) As the town choir takes the stage at a choral competition without their conductor, Tore takes an unplanned leadership role. The result weaves together several threads of the movie.

Life is not about being able. It is not about achievement. It is not about winning. Redemption is messy and beautiful. It requires vulnerability and courage. In some measure, both require finding your own voice and joining a chorus of others.

God has a will and a purpose in each of our lives. The conductor in the movie states his calling early in life: to open people's hearts with music. A tutor of Reid's asked me recently, "What is yours?" I hemmed and hawed awkwardly, having just met her after all. "Go ahead," she urged, "there's no one listening, just you and me, what is it?"

She was unrelenting as I stuttered in embarrassment and false pride. I choked out what was pounding in my chest but had never been articulated: to convince people that there is always hope. I was grateful for her insistence last night as Reid and I lounged in the hot tub. Out of the blue he blurted, "Mom, what's your destiny?" I had an answer!

When I turned the question on him he shot back, "to sing."

What's yours?

This, then, is how you should pray:
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Signs it is Time to Change Schools

10. you have to ask them to reinstate a homework binder

9. music and sensory integration are withheld for poor behavior

8. parents are not welcome to observe class

7. school officials do not reply to emails

6. you have a pit in your stomach sending them each morning

5. child's not invited to be in the talent show

4. IEP meetings extend beyond 5 hours

3. you need two hands to count the incident reports

2. student comes home with bruises that match the weave in his sweater

1. child asks, Is God keeping me safe in the belly of the whale, like Jonah?"

'Nuf said. I have much to report and am grappling with how to best do it. Suffice it to say, for now, that we were painfully aware of autism during April's Autism Awareness month. DId you notice my breadcrumbs peter out? July may just as well be New Life Month then, for all the growth God has brought out of the fire we experienced. I am glad to be back in the saddle, writing and looking for His hand at all times.

But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:1-2

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Reasons to Volunteer at KidsGames

10. You can act like a 6 year old for an entire week

9. You will receive more hugs and high fives than you ever have in your life!

8. Adults mentoring young adults…young adults mentoring students…students mentoring children

7. You get that really amazing FARMER’S TAN!

6. You get to participate in an experience where kids experience Jesus

5. You will get to see a high ranking church official take a pie in the face!

4. You get to participate in the inwardly strong vision of our church family expressed tangibly in the outward focused mission

3. It’s the only time each year dancing is REQUIRED in a Presbyterian Church!

2. You will be part of changing a life forever

1. Yet, another Free T Shirt!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Autism Awareness Month-day 30

April 30
Praising God! The Tide Will Turn!

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NIV)

“What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.” (Isaiah 46:11, NIV)

Praise God that He will fulfill every one of His promises, and that we will live to see Him turn the tide of autism for good.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Autism Awareness Month-day 29

April 29
Children of Destiny

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NIV)

“but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us. For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels won't, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God's love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are-high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean-nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.” (Romans 8:37-39, TLB)

Pray that those struggling with autism would know who they are in Christ despite their current challenges.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Autism Awareness Month-day 28

April 28
Wisdom for Practitioners

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (Proverbs 24:3-4, NIV)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5, NIV)

Pray that practitioners who treat persons with autism would have great wisdom, understanding, and creativity.