Friday, December 12, 2014

Do Tell! Sensory Integration at Christmas

Resurrecting a recurrent feature today because sharing stories is a healing balm.

C.S. Lewis wrote, "We read to know we're not alone." I need to tell my story and I'd love to hear yours. Here's a question I bet you can answer with at least one example. Be practical, be personal, be painful, be my guest...

Do you have a Christmas tradition that accomplishes sensory integration?

Every year we buck the Norman Rockwell tradition and pile into one of our Priuses bound for our nearest Home Depot to pick out the freshest, tallest, cheapest evergreen tree we can possibly find. Inevitably rubbing shoulders with a few friends in the serpentine line, it is a seasonal sensory treat, even if it's not as picturesque as winter in Chagrin Falls or New York City.

Reid makes a beeline for the corner of the nearest corral, crouches down low and crawls into the crevice created beneath a pile of bound and bagged pines. That is sensory integration at its best; a squeeze machine and aromatherapy all rolled into one. He breathes frasier fir in sensurround. The needles surely prickle or scrape his face and hands; a little sap on the fingertips is free for the taking. The distinctive sounds of backing forklifts, buzzing chainsaws, and busy consumers ring in his ears until a familiar alarm goes off across the lot: "Reid, say 'here I am!"

"Here I am."


"Mom, I was hiding."

"I know you like to do that. Doesn't it smell so good?"

We load our tree into the hatchback along with armfuls of free boughs and breathe deeply the whole way home. All this--a rich, sensory diet--for way less than the going rate of an occupational therapist. I'll take it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Living Outside the Box

As we drove to the "mental exam" SSI requires to qualify Reid for funding (now that he's over 18), I prayed:

Lord, guard my heart. Whatever happens, I want to see Reid through your eyes. Whatever they say or determine, doesn't change your plans for him. Guard my heart and his from the world's misperception and lies.

I have learned from experience that these appointments, however routine, can leave me in despair. Not this time, I declared in Jesus name.

We walked into the generic medical office chosen to provide an outside opinion of Reid's capacity, despite the paperwork and access to records I had already approved. It was one block from the Social Security office, in a neighborhood we don't frequent. Nicer than DMV, yet reminiscent in a way.

Hellooo! Reid welcomed himself at the reception area appointed with framed prints of American veterans erecting flags.

Candy?! Miss, may I have one of those--from that bowl? There were two candy bowls. He gestured to the bigger one by "the lady on the computer."

We checked in. I answered inane questions, as if I were Reid, on a form and clipboard:

Who drove you here?
Have you ever hurt your self?
Hurt others?
Do you see things others don't see?
What disables you from working?
Have you received treatment for this?

The million dollar question on my mind was: Who writes these questionnaires? The process itself lacks dignity and reeks of ignorance and disregard. I wanted to rephrase every single one.

A woman called, "Rade" to which we answered. She took Reid's weight, height and photo, then we returned to watch another scene from The Nutty Professor.

An underemployed female doctor lacking affect called us the second time. A very standard cognitive assessment ensued.

I'm ready for the interview! Reid said taking the hot seat in front of her laminate desk. The blinds were closed. I sat on the side as directed.

Are you his mom?

Yes. So far this was easy.

When was he diagnosed with autism?

Age 3.

What behavioral issues does he have?

All those associated with the spectrum. Keep it simple.

Didn't he have any intervention, ABA therapy?  Maybe I was supposed to have listed those.

Oh yes. We did all that; it was just 15 years ago. He had a full-on home program, ABA, PRT, Floortime, the works.

Reid watched me, obviously wondering when it would be his turn. Seems like the interview is for me, doesn't it? It'll be your turn in a minute.

When it was, she asked his name. Check. Address? Check. Birthday?

June 4, isn't that right mom? I nodded.

What year?

19…. I helped when he got stuck.


That's okay. She made notes.

How many days in a week?


How many months in a year?

Well, let's see… He raised his fingers one at a time, in no particular rush.

January is 1, February is 2, March is 3….. He restarted around May…which is 5...then finished strong.

November is 11...December is 12. Twelve months!

Wishing she got paid by the hour, she smirked and moved onto another section.

What would you do if there was a fire in the building?

Get low and go! Reid said without hesitation in all seriousness, recalling two loud fire drills at school in the past month.

Our little-while doctor nearly chortled at the creative, appropo, and succinct response. She modeled a connect the dot numerical sequence. Reid completed his longer one in good time and handed her the paper.

It doesn't make anything, he pointed out as if to say, what was the point of that?

No, there's no picture, it took her a minute.

More than once, he took the easy road handing things back to her saying, it's too hard. He seemed to have some opposite of test anxiety--maybe a new condition we could call "test familiarity." He mimicked her prompts in anticipation like they were the lyrics on our Top 40 radio station.

She handed him the WAIS-IV blocks he's seen a million times. He literally said, let me get comfortable here and pulled his legs up under him criss-cross applesauce in the vinyl barrel chair.

She flipped forward in the spiral for harder material, then back when Reid was stumped. Recognizing the drill, he called her out to save time, I need an easier one.

Can he read? She addressed me now.

Yes. She handed him a list of single words in a grid.

Reid played to her expectations, beginning at a labored speed.


When he got to "qua--ran-tine" at the bottom of the page I couldn't help but think again about getting him a cameo acting spot on Sesame Street. He shines at dramatic decoding, with or without Elmo.

Okay, I'm going to ask you to write some words now.

Oh, like a spelling test!  

She was more than cracking a smile now. Reid brings joy to the most deadpan of faces.

We're all done then. I will submit my report. There should be no problem at all recommending him since he could not complete a 9-5 job 5 days a week.

Well, thank you for your time. What else could I say?

As we headed for the parking lot, the Lord gave me a word. It came out of my lips before I could think it up: 

Reid, you aced that! (high five) The gifts God gave you can't be measured on a test. That way God gets all the glory, not us!

I put my manila folders and sweater in the back seat. Mom, let's go! 

Yup, that was kinda boring but, at least you got to miss school. Let's go!

In Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority Colossians 2:10

Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:3

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:24

Monday, April 7, 2014

Who here remembers Moses?

I once suggested we join a small group of elder statesmen in our church. Jim, not sure it was the right age classification, joked how it might go:

Who here remembers Moses? (all hands raised)

Hey, that guy owes me money.

Seriously though, what if you could interact with people who knew Moses--watched him grow up in Pharoah's court, knew of his speech impediment, were familiar with his big brother Aaron, saw him climb down the mount with the stone tablets, calmed him when his anger flared?

To me, that is the magic of studying the Bible: meeting real people in real situations and reading what the Lord did in their lives. "Remembering His deeds" in their lives opens up the possibilities for what He is doing in mine.

At different times in different studies, I have identified closely with the experiences of Esther, Jochebed, Hannah, Elizabeth, and Miriam. Their struggles aren't so different from mine; their God is the same powerful one I want to know.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. Psalm 77:10-12

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.” Matthew 4:9-11 

Rebuke is definitely a Bible word, right? We don't use it commonly; nor do we do it. By definition to rebuke is "to express sharp, stern disapproval of." It's neither advisable nor politically correct to rebuke one's kids, neighbors, or congressmen.

Personally, I reserve my rebukes for the enemy. Even at that, I forget what an effective tool it is.  It took me most of today--the morning after an unpleasant episode--to realize what was required.

For me, the formula goes something like this: 

A difficulty + a disparaging word + my own discouraging voice = I'm down for the count (though I don't always know why).  

The disparaging word can be from someone in my inner circle or someone I barely know. That person may or may not intend to send me sailing in a sea of despair. On another day, their comment might not even register. But given the right circumstances, my thoughts start downward spiraling in agreement with their uninformed lies.

The enemy tried to get Jesus down. Remember His pattern of response? He did it three times in a row in the wilderness wielding a different Scripture as his sword of the Spirit each time. This is when Bible study pays off;)

Temptation (based on a lie) + Rebuke + Scriptural truth = Satan defeated

The taunts being dangled in front of me this time had to do with Reid's future. How did I get the monkey off my back?

My refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” Then I backed my rebuke with a quotation from Jeremiah 29: "This is God’s Word on the subject: For I know the plans I have for Reid,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper him and not to harm him, plans to give him hope and a future."

Believe it. It works.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Rejoice again

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4 

Not sure if you got one of these in the mail. It was our Christmas card in 1994.

We rejoiced in the Lord then, for he gave us more than we wanted--a baby, actually two babies, a boy and a girl, a whole family!

We rejoice in the Lord now, for he gave us what we needed--a purpose, a calling, redemption, healing, an glimpse of his glory--so much more than we deserve!

Maybe that's why it's repeated, you think? Rejoice and again rejoice. God is always up to something.

What are you rejoicing (ie. to feel or show great delight) in today?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4 

Friday, April 4, 2014

got idols?

Josiah removed all the detestable idols from all the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he had all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors.  2 Chronicles 34:32-33 

Does that sound like an ancient concept that has no bearing on your weekend? Or can you personalize it and fill in some modern-day idols that take center stage in your life? 

There was a specific period of time when I demolished a number of "arguments and every pretension that set itself up against the knowledge of God" as 2 Corinthians 10:5 describes.

An idol has been defined as anything that occupies the forefront of your mind. It probably won't be a bronze calf, we're more sophisticated than that. What does your life revolves around though? 

Being created to worship means that we are all susceptible to idolatry. Would-be gods are perpetually sneaking up on the altar of our hearts. They need to be removed and replaced with the One true God if we want what's best for ourselves. The very first commandment is that we have no other gods before Him.

I see it best when Reid walks around with a new VHS tape. He fixates on its front, back, spine, memorizes the back matter, copyright date, and fine print. Watches YouTube videos like this one by a similar collector. It becomes his world and precludes all else. His eyes are 2" from the image. His ears replay the soundtrack. His mind reviews each scene. His fingers cling to the black plastic casing. It is all he can think about. He begs me to go to a thrift store and buy another.

At first it's easy to dismiss or criticize as just bizarre, but then I begin to see what I am holding onto just as tightly. Go ahead, personalize it...

Andrea removed all the detestable idols from her territory--food, wine, dessert, being in charge, pleasing people, safety, comfort, her reputation, her children, her iPhone, autism itself--so all who were present served the Lord their God. 

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Let us run the race marked out for us fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-3

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Of lemons, limes and Reordering life

Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God. Let’s lift our hearts and hands at one and the same time, praying to God in heaven: We’ve been contrary and willful, and you haven’t forgiven.  Lamentations 3:39-41

Reorder our lives...

Who would do this unless under duress?

I know I didn't. It wasn't until everything fell apart that I was willing to say what we were doing needed to be re-ordered. Only then could I see how contrary and willful I really was.

Reid and I splurged last Saturday on lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. He got his usual cheese pizza, finished the word search on the kiddie menu, and was ready for the obligatory kid's sundae as he sucked on a lemon from my water glass.

Lemons are sour mom.

I know. They make you pucker.

Limes are too.

Yes, but you know they mix them with sugar to make key lime pie and that is yummy. I was fondling the  table tent that pictured their dessert offerings.

Key lime pie! They have key lime pie? I want that instead of my kiddie sundae.

Really? You're gonna change it up? He always gets the same thing. Here, at Sammy's, at Las Olas, everywhere. Everytime.

Yes, yes.

You're sure?

Yes I want the key lime pie instead.

Okay let me see if I can catch the waitress and re-order for you. Stay here.

I caught her mid-scoop, cancelled the kiddie sundae, and reordered. Then came the best part.

Mom, because I love you, you can have two bites. was so much better--and bigger--than the boring old kiddie sundae he has always gotten.


Reordering your life, marriage, and home takes a little longer. One spouse has to learn to submit and not do everything herself. The other has to lead after hours, not just at work. It takes practice; it spills and makes a mess; it's sticky and you fall into the old way without realizing it. 

But when it arrives, it's so much more delicious and satisfying than what you used to have. 

Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God. Let’s lift our hearts and hands at one and the same time, praying to God in heaven: We’ve been contrary and willful, and you haven’t forgiven.  Lamentations 3:39-41

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It's April and I'm not Blue

April to April. It was the working title for the book I thought I was writing before we received The Poppins Revelation. 

It's also a catch phrase in our family. We use it to express how far we've been delivered from a crisis in April of 2010. April marks a new year in the Hebrew calendar and commemorates God's deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery during Passover. In a pretty tangible way, we can relate; God delivered us from the bondage of autism (and more) during April. Every April we watch it come to more and more fruition.

April includes tax day....Jim's birthday...and Easter. It marks a full circle in our process of becoming rescued, redeemed, resurrected, re- people.

Thinking of April as Autism Awareness Month just pales in comparison.

Autism may be the presenting issue that takes me most often to the Lord. It might be one of the greatest challenges I have faced in life, but it isn't the only one, or the last one. And it surely doesn't have the last word.

Four years ago, I prepared daily posts during April. I had to abandon my post about day 13 when the proverbial #$%& hit the fan at our house. All that ensued is the subject of The Poppins Revelation book I am finishing. Through it, each member of our family was changed from the inside out. Frankly, autism is not the villain anymore. It was the vehicle.

This April I'd like to unpack one "Re-word" each day to remind us all that God's Word is the last word...on life, on autism, on cancer, on trials, on fear, on death. May it fall afresh on you...take root...and make all the difference.

Today's verse is a double portion: Review and Rewrote.

Every day I review the ways he works, I try not to miss a trick. I feel put back together, and I’m watching my step. God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.  2 Samuel 22:20-22

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bathroom or Bakery?

I can tell from his stride whether he's had a good day or bad.

Hii Mom! he projects stills 1000 feet away strutting his stuff.

I don't call back but do smile when he reaches the car door.

Can we go to Isabelle O'Briens. I have to use the restroom.

I burst out laughing, Are you kidding me?

I can think of 30 restrooms and 3 bakeries that were closer than Isabelle Briens.

You mean you want one of those almond croissants?

Why, yes I do, he said smirking with me.

He is nothing if not a connoisseur of musicals, soundtracks, and cinnamon rolls. A foodie after my own heart. Hers are the best, made of a legit French pate a choux rather than the heavy American pastry we settle for on Sundays from Panera. Don't even get me started on the almond croissants.

What could I say? Sure, let's go and I'll get some almond cakes for Dad. (Best gluten free pastry one could concoct.)

When do our kids learn that we will almost always say yes to a potty request? Toddlerhood? Grade school?

This is a new skill for Reid; call it theory of mind, manipulation, humor, or creative communication. Anyway you slice it, I'll take it.

“My dream went like this: I saw three wicker baskets on my head; the top basket had assorted pastries from the bakery... Genesis 40:15-17 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Someone Paid My Way

It's the second time in a month, so I guess I need to tell you. God's immense love gift manifested in my concrete day. All while I was out to lunch.

The first time it happened, Reid had had a tough day at school. By the time I saw him at 2:30, he had already apologized, had consequences doled out, and thoroughly debriefed with his multi-layered school staff. If, as they say, it's not over til the fat lady sings, I figured that was my job.

We cranked the radio up and moved on. Ready for a change of scenery, Reid suggested going straight to Las Olas, our favorite Mexican place on the beach. I obliged. Fringe hours before the dinner rush are my favorite mercy. I hustled after him as he entered through the margarita bar to the host stand.

Table for two pleeease!  He projected over the fray.

Then with elevated glee, Mr. Wickman!

There at the bar sat his classroom teacher, with what looked like the rest of the athletic department, having a pint.

How did he beat us here? I puzzled. Apparently, his day had been rough as well. We exchanged awkward niceties about the infraction.

Aw it was no big deal. 

He is always the one who rolls with the punches and relieves my sheepishness.

Reid and I had a lovely time doing a word search on the kiddie menu. We wolfed down our refried beans and several baskets of chips at a table on the patio. A woman eating alone smiled in our general direction. I half wondered if she had a son like mine or where I'd seen her before.

When the waitress told me someone had picked up our tab, I was dumbfounded. The woman with the knowing smile was the one I might have thanked but she had already left.

Reid's tough days leave me feeling depleted...tired of hearing about the same failures, inadequate as a parent...helpless to bring about lasting change. Like a flashing amber arrow on the freeway, this unexpected diversion woke me to the reality that God has it covered.

The incident, the bill, our lives. His Son on the cross paid the price for our sins--big and small, continual and integral to our very nature. Our inability to measure up is as human as our need for another meal. He knows us; He made us. He loves us beyond reason. Which of course, is why He took care of it.

By contrast, today was a good day. Reid finished his laps at the YMCA. To celebrate we headed to Sammy's Woodfired Pizza. Why not? Jim wouldn't be home til late. Our timing was optimal again, sandwiched between the lunch and dinner crowds. Still, I surveyed the landscape of other patrons to avoid offending or being offended. Smiling preemptively goes a long way if something goes awry later, I have learned.

After this messy sundae, the waiter returned my debit card, Someone paid your check but I can't tell you who.

What? Who? Oh that is so nice. Why...? 

I stammered looking around for hidden cameras and eyeballing neighboring tables. An Italian family of three generations? Two women slightly older than me? A teenager taking his little brother out? One of the waiters? No idea.

What possesses someone to do that? I never have...forty bucks is forty bucks.

I don't think we looked especially down-on-our-luck or needy.

Had they seen us taking selfies in the car?

Did they see Reid laying down between courses on the banquette and take pity on me? 

Perhaps they recalled pouring sugar packets in their own water glass once? 

Maybe when he picked the pepperoncinis out of the greek salad with his hands, they admired the kind and skillful way I inferred the desired action: Here's your fork.

Or did they just understand the amount of the practice that went into getting this even close to right?

My mind retraced the hour we had been there wondering what would have prompted such intentional generosity. Again, no idea.

I guess that's the point. It has nothing to do with us. God loves us that way--when we're dirty, silly, picking our noses, making bad choices, self-conscious. He's for us when we're good. He's for us when we're not. Our behaviors don't change His provision nor impact His forgiveness, healing, salvation, and deliverance, one iota.

We don't earn it. We don't see it coming. We don't ask for it. We definitely don't deserve it. We barely know how to say thank you.

Has this ever happened to you? Then you know the feeling. All you can do is receive.

While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples. Matthew 9:9-11

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! Psalm 32:1-3

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Door Dings

Have you ever stood up to a bully? I don't think I really had, until last month.

I can certainly recognize one; my inclination for most of life has been mostly to avoid, walk the long way around, or ask Jim to do anything remotely confrontational. But I'm changed by a vulnerable child/young man who seems a barometer for all the bullies and demons of the world, if not a magnet. Hanging with him as closely as I must, exposes them in plain sight. Then, one has a choice, whether to coexist, feed them, or put them in their place. Ignoring or denying them is no longer an option.

After long seasons of skepticism, scrutiny, and experimentation, I've emerged convinced, convicted and confirmed that we do in fact have authority in Christ to overcome all the power of the enemy. I had a chance to exercise it last month.

We go straight from school to piano lessons on Monday. There isn't quite enough time to run home, but we arrive with 10 minutes to spare beforehand. Our routine is to sit in the car with the radio on and brush up on Top 40 lyrics. When a car pulled up in the empty spot next to us, I had the fleeting thought to be careful the two open doors didn't collide. When its female driver sat still talking on her phone, I dismissed the concern. She'd be gone by the time we were done.

Ten minutes later, at the digital stroke of 3:15 Reid pushed power off, "Let's go up to Angela's!" He opened his door, tapped a dormant volcano and set off a torrent.

She went off like a rocket, "What the %^&%^;*! You just hit the door of my BMW. What do you think you're doing?! I can't believe this..."

Whoa! I circled the back of my car and put my sturdy body between our vehicles. She was up and out bumping her own rearview mirror. "I've been watching you," she addressed Reid.  Then me when I got between them, "I saw him acting disrespectful to you. I can't believe this."

Her nose was up against the glass of my resolve, close enough for spit to splatter.

Like a reflex fueled by boiling blood, my words stopped her in her tracks, "He has a disability. Don't worry about your car. We will take car of it. You need to calm down RIGHT now. There is no need for you to be this angry."

Reid has a tendency to reflect whatever emotion is in the air. Fear, anger, hatred as well as love, kindness, worship. Indiscriminately, his incredible sensitivity to his environment means he mimics the spirits he's aware of in and on people (even those who are able to stifle it).  He can magnify x10 what he senses around him. This is not always convenient.

My main concern was that her display might set Reid off in a dramatic instant replay, thus the physical blockade between the doors. A ding is one thing. Ramming do-overs would not be welcomed. Dousing her explosion like a bucket of water on a campfire was my first intent.

She was out like a candle in the wind. I turned my back on her to address Reid.

"Reid, I'm gonna close your door now and move the car. This woman is very angry so we are going to park somewhere else." He seemed fine.

As I walked back around to the driver's side, the spiritual reality flashed before me. I had just taken authority. I was not afraid. That had been a stand off with the enemy. I recognized rage as a separate entity from that particular woman.

We moved our used Prius to the far end of the lot next to a dumpster enclosure. I forced a few deep breaths to recalibrate my adrenaline level and heart rate.

"Okay Reid, that was an accident. You dinged her car door and she overreacted. I'm not mad, but she is. We might have to pay for her to get it fixed. Here's what we're gonna do. First, pray. "Lord, in Jesus name, we bind that spirit of anger and any unclean spirits associated with it." 

"Amen," he's heard this before.

"When someone is that angry, I want you to know, you don't engage physically or take it into your own hands. You take authority over it in prayer instead."

"Now, we still need to apologize to her in a nice voice. Let's go over and say, 'I'm sorry I hit your door' in a calm voice. Then, you can go up to your lesson and I'll talk to her some more."

"Okay mom. I'm calm."

As we approached, Reid delivered his line through her car window as directed. She hardly let him finish, "I had no idea. I'm so sorry. It's no big deal. I have this car on a lease. They won't even notice."

What had been cause for a tirade was now a moot point. It works people, it works. Whatever had come over her left without a trace.

Praise you Father for the victory we have in you. Teach us to stand in that authority.

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. Luke 10:18-20 

A curse on their uncontrolled anger, on their indiscriminate wrath. I’ll throw them out with the trash; I’ll shred and scatter them like confetti throughout Israel. Genesis 49:6-8 

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger.  James 1:18-20