Our Autistic son destined for a team?

I sit here. Watching my guy skirting around the ice, wobbling, “hockey ready” (our translation: keeping the stick aka:weapon on the ground) and holding my breath till he gets off the ice.

T is loving hockey. Like loves it in a way that he will put down the mouse, step away from the computer, go get dressed, stop doing whatever he is doing to happily head to hockey and get his skates on. You can tell he feels part of a team and embraces the notion of having friends at hockey that he loves to see.

We thought because of his enthusiasm, this might not be as bad as we expected..and that he would come out of this Hockey Skills program with the possibility of playing for an actual team…the verdict is still out..

There are good weeks (many of them in fact) as I watch, amazed, as he gets up and falls down, gets up and falls down, tries and retries to get the puck in the net, over and over again with an incredible amount of determination to keep going.

Then there are bad weeks. The kind of weeks were he is all over the place, skating off in numerous directions, nearly pelting his fellow players with his stick, not listening to the coaches, and seeing them get frustrated over his lack of focus.

They know he is Autistic and has trouble with broad or multiple instructions but you can tell with certain instructors, this is simply 1 of a dozen classes they are teaching this week and taking the time to chunk things down is way too much energy. I don’t blame them…most of them are young guys just making cash to do other things and working with a special needs kid is not necessarily something on their agenda. I’m not sure that at their age, I would have been any different.

So we watch, hardly breathing…keeping count of the good moments to compensate for the not so good ones…reassuring ourselves that he’s not the only one lying on the ice, getting into it with another player, or taking off because he simply does not want to listen anymore.

A couple of examples of our not so great moments..

1) The moment I had to run down to the ice to reinforce that your hockey stick should not actually be held like a tomahawk and attempting to show a friend that he was being mean by responding like a tomahawk was not the solution (he was like THIS close to schmuckin this poor kid in the helmet)

2) Having to watch a repeated antagonist (let’s call him a poop disturber) who constantly jars/jabs/hooks kids (especially T)  and then complains to the coach that one of the kids retaliated and pushed him back. Let’s just say I have already pegged this guy as one of the mean guys on Glee who throw slushies in everyone’s face to make up for their own inadequacy.

and a few great moments…

1) Watching the little guy head towards the goal…focused, driven, bound to score…and then he missed…and missed..and missed…but the fact that he would try, miss and go grab the puck to reposition in front of the net until he actually scored was phenomenal and a proud triumph for our whole family.

2) The time where he walked away from that antagonist…just asked him to leave him alone and simply skated away ??? #epicwin

I’m not sure if T will ever actually be a part of a hockey team (if he does ends up participating, for sure he will be a bruiser Defenseman…making sure NOBODY got near his goal) but for now…we have hope. Hope that this is an experience that he can continue to be a part of, not hurt anyone in the process, enjoy and take tremendous pride in what he accomplishes. That’s all we care about. Nothing more.

Well…and I hope if he makes the big leagues that he plays for the JETS 🙂 They are my hometown team after all ..:)

What I’m Thankful For: Twitter to Wine to Work/Life Balance

I am working on a project all about Thanks next year. I can’t hardly wait…but I have to exercise patience while we wait for people to make decisions, agree to ideas and come to the table with the support needed to make this effort as huge as we want it to.
While we wait, I have been reflecting on what I’m Thankful for after living through a fairly turbulent albeit incredibly exciting year. Below are a few “Thankfuls” I have realized have been a major part in getting me to where I am these days… happy, fulfilled, and getting closer to balanced every day.

From Twitter to Wine to Work/Life Balance, life is good.
  • I am Thankful for a husband who is truly a partner & gets that in this period of our lives he is the cheerleader, supporter, parent, chief bottle washer and laundry keeper upper. These days I have definitely been the worker bee (this pendulum has swung many times throughout our relationship) but I think he sees that I am energized and excited by what I’m doing vs coming home in a big giant stressball.
  • I am Thankful that being forced into a career change has helped create a much stronger work/life balance than I’ve ever had before in my life. I had a friend recently post on her blog about the time element of work/life balance, discussing the fact that you are never really “on” and “off” working freelance or for yourself. I look at it from a different perspective and see all the other positive elements of that work/life balance, opportunities I have had a chance to enjoy since starting up my business again. A few examples…I can take my son to his speech pathology appt every week without having to beg permission or explain to a boss: I have been able to volunteer at my children’s school, which feels good and right: I can choose when to go workout to stay healthy and focused (certain weeks it doesn’t always work, but I am doing it a heck of a lot more than when I was working corporate side): and my overall happiness is balanced and positive..I don’t rush to get out of the house in the morning…I take a deep breath to enjoy a quiet moment at times…because I can.
  • I am Thankful that I am working on projects that truly resonate with me vs. slogging/marketing products for the sake of a paycheque. Figuring out and coming into my own on what I like to do, the strategy I enjoy developing and the social media engagement that plays a major role in my business.
  • I am Thankful for Social Media. I think in a world of working on your own and working from remote locations, Twitter and Facebook is a way to keep in touch..meet around the virtual water cooler and maintain that base social need people have to stay connected. I am also incredibly Thankful for Twitter. In the past year, I have met online and in real life, some of the most beautiful (and hilarious) people I have ever had the privilege of getting to know. I have such fondness for so many of them and enjoy the daily laughter, quips, support and encouragement that these tweeps have sent my way, and I in turn want to do the same.
  • I am Thankful that I can now fit into Banana Republic sizing (They have fabulous work/life balance cross-over clothing for the fabu working from home gig) because of actually getting into exercising and running specifically, learning to endure it and proudly achieving some major accomplishments this year.
  • I am Thankful for wine…this just an ode to the fact that a glass of wine can somehow magically soothe the day away, be enjoyed at a party, insinuate a romantic moment, and be the perfect company to a girls night out…
  • I am Thankful for friends. Real life, got your back, biggest fan, encouraging friends.  I didn’t realize how deeply those friendships went until so many changes happened in our lives. When I lost my job, I got Congratulations : When I decided to start my business again, I got absolute faith that I could accomplish it: When T was diagnosed,  we got “what can we do?”: When I don’t know how to talk about Autism and the roller coaster of emotions I have felt, they have listened, talked, hugged, been a shoulder, asked questions and quietly waited until we have found the ability to ask for help..Those friends have gotten me through so much and I cannot express to them how much I love them but hopefully as they read this post, they realize how very special they are.  THANK YOU.

Change is..good

Something’s going on these days..Our beautiful little guy who was displaying significant “behaviors” relating to ASD has been listening, conversing, even engaging us in his thought patterns. Something that up until now hadn’t been that common. I don’t want to get my hopes up but these days I need a bit of hope. Many friends of ours are announcing that they are close to separation or divorce, I have a couple of friends going through serious medical issues and I myself am trying to figure out a few issues physically that I hope I can get resolved soon.

I’m trying to be more positive. Conscious that when T sees us stressed or upset, it only lends to him getting upset. (Which is never good)..We are still adjusting to the changes this has taken on our life but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is so much about the balance within our family. When we are crazy busy or I’m away on work…he doesn’t do that well..but when we are all here and supporting him- he thrives…and that’s exactly what he did this weekend.

We went to the zoo. (Usually an incredibly stressful situation when I have gone along in the past with my 2 children) but something was different this time. We are trying not to be “NO sayers” and helicopter parents and our kids are starting to listen more. The key…we tried a Trust and Go plan with them yesterday at the zoo. I can see our little guy desperate to establish some independence and we are desperate not to have him run away (a habit that he has demonstrated many times in the past)..so we established rules as soon as we got to the zoo and talked about trust. We gave our T an opportunity to run ahead (which he is desperate to do all the time) and identified markers for him to stop and get a high five…

If you can believe, as much as we weren’t sure about this..it was the best thing for all of us. T got his independence and with a little deep breathing, we learned to chill out a bit and just let him have some fun…

Looking at the Bright Side


I didn’t want to write last week because I had hit an incredible downward spiral of sadness. I couldn’t even figure out WHAT exactly it was that was making me SO depressed…I just kept launching into teary, almost can’t breathe convulsions…an ache in my throat and in my heart so vivid that I started wondering if I was manifesting some crazy physical ailment from keeping everything inside.

You see, my intent with this blog was to help people stay positive in coming to terms with a child who has special needs. When I was searching the blogs initially, I felt like there were two kinds of bloggers…those who gave the raw straight up goods (which was causing complete anxiety  on my part) and those who kept focusing on how beautiful, bright shiny star and loved their children were…(I would kind of hope everyone feels that way but I think it was the stay SUPER positive coping mechanism)

I have seen a number of parents through various “resource” meetings we have gone to, either angry, confused, sad, or frustrated. I haven’t seen that super positive but then again we are all at the beginning of this.

The truth of the matter is, I have been through challenges in my life… and fought through them. But this experience of discovering my child has Autism, is something that caught me off guard, threw me for a loop, kicked my ass and no matter how much “fight” I have in me..obliterated all the positive for awhile. But I’m back…hiking up the hill on this journey focusing on What’s next vs. the Why..

So what caused me to totally lose it last week? Completely… confusing my husband as to why his usual bubbling wife kept falling to pieces in a heap on the floor?

I haven’t been talking to anyone about this. I didn’t know how to bring it up…

I WANTED to talk about it with my friends but didn’t want to become that friend who only ever talks about one particular piece of their life and trying to explain all the ups & downs we have gone through already…I felt ashamed to admit that I was having a hard time dealing with the term “Special Needs” (given I grew up in an environment where both my parents worked in a sector of government that supported “Mental Retardation”.)…and those Special needs kids were very different than my son. I felt like a number of my family members just didn’t want to accept it, and I don’t think I did either for awhile…

And then a beautiful friend sent me this out of the blue..

I just wanted to say that I hope you realize that you don’t have to be brave all the time. That you don’t have to put a smile onto all the shit that has happened. I know you have to deal with it and I know you will, but I hope you know that I am here for you and if you’ll let me, I will be that person that listens to all of it, all the tears and the rage and the anger. Anytime. Always. You know there is no judgment here, that is the thing I hold onto most sacredly in our friendship. I know you have to move forward, but those moments of letting it all out are part of saving your sanity and I want you to know that I totally understand. And I’m totally here. 

It was exactly what I needed to hear. Someone there to listen, no judgement, and accepting of all the stuff I needed to say. If you are overwhelmed and on this giant learning curve, remember to keep talking. It will get you past the tough and keep you focused on the positives all those great bloggers were writing about.

Competition is fierce..

This feels true on with so many elements of my life right now. The good side of competition..My friend and I have actually managed to start running and are currently out there every few days trying to get our groove on and waiting for this fabulous running high that is so famously talked about…Instead our comments are mostly, “Oh my god, my legs feel like lead” or “are we done this round yet?”

See part of the Running Room philosophy is working your way up to your goal distance and then exceeding it so you are not dying at the end of the race. Our goal is 5k and so far we have done a number of runs at 7-1’s…which means we run 7 minutes and recover for 1. Repeat. Except now are we on 10-1’s…& that sudden jump to 10 minutes of straight running has totally kicked my ass! But here in lies the good part…my dear friend is highly competitive.. and while I didn’t think I was that much, I find that I am enjoying her need to compete as an incredible way to egg us on and keep us going (cause there is NO way in hell either of us are going to be the one to give up first!)

The dreaded 10 + 1’s weren’t as dreaded as I thought but I also am noticing that I am out of breath by the time we are finished…(I think our pace got faster and faster as neither wanted to be the “Lagger”) which is good right? They say getting your heart rate up is key to getting healthy and staying fit. Quite hilarious given that its taken me until I’m 36 to realize that perhaps healthy is something we should have been concentrating on. This has been largely motivated by feeling like we need to be an example to our kids vs. heading down to the couch and throwing on the TV/PVR. We have been witness to WAY too many kids shockingly overweight at such early ages in their lives, and are keenly aware how easily it can happen to our children. So we are bent on getting healthy.

My husband is back playing hockey, I’m doing running, the kids are in swimming and gymnastics and we have lots of plans for exercising this summer..& another part of the competition? In an effort to stay grounded through everything going on with our son, we are working hard at maintaining our relationship (we had read odds of increases of 80% on the possibility of divorce with a special needs child). So we have upped the date nights, set aside time for conversations that are painful but essential and are working together on this weight loss drive..part of that is agreeing to meet weekly for a game of Squash at lunch hour..and it our first one today was awesome! Nothing like two parents completely frustrated with “systems”, red tape and bureaucracy having the chance to WHACK a little tiny ball HARD against a wall…over and over and over again…HIGHLY recommended.

Hello Autism…

My son, T at 4 years old, was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) 2 months ago.

By the time the developmental assessment came up, it had been so long ago that we had seen problems, we almost didn’t take the opportunity when it came up. (It had been over a year since we were referred). The issues that had initially created the need for the assessment had seemed to subside (with a change in day care locations) and T wasn’t behaving the same way he had when he was there.

BUT there still were occasional questions of the way he behaved at times so we thought it was worthwhile to get a final answer once and for all and help us stop wondering the What If’s??

So we went. Well, T and I went for 2 full days. Two days of watching him get utterly exhausted as he met with everyone from a Psychologist, to a Speech Pathologist to a Play Therapist to an Occupational Therapist to a Neurologist..the list seemed endless.  I was able to sit in on a couple of the interviews but to be honest, I’m not sure if that helped or hindered. He kept looking at me with curious eyes wondering why I was making him do all of this. More than once, he asked if we could go home.

Internally, I wanted to leap from my chair, grab him and run for the exit, the momma bear in me uber-protective and desperate to give him a break. There were a number of times I knew he could have gotten an answer if only they asked it differently, but therein lies the rub…this was standard testing and in that world, T didn’t do so well.

At the end of the two days, my husband and I met with the team of experts who had gone through the tests with T. They each recounted their experiences, indicating he was a polite kid with a happy disposition and in certain areas, quite smart..case in point when they were doing social examples with dolls playing and asked T to tell them what the dolls were doing next, he just said “the dolls are sleeping, they want to go to sleep”. A true indicator to them he was DONE with the tests.

Even with all the summations, it still came as a complete shock when they told us he was diagnosed on the Spectrum. Autism hadn’t even entered our brains. ADHD? Sure..he had definitely shown signs of lacking focus and avoiding eye contact but we thought they might even say that we were over-reacting and he was perfectly normal.

We left the hospital in tears. In shock and not having a clue what to do next. I scoured the internet when I got home but to be honest, it was way too overwhelming and so much of it didn’t feel like it pertained to us. It wasn’t until a dear old friend reached out who has a son with Aspergers, and gave us a run down of what to expect at the beginning of dealing with this.

I must admit, the first month sucked. We both went through versions of the stages of grief- anger, pity pot, guilt, sadness, bargaining and are close…(almost there) to acceptance.

We are now in the throes of learning as much as we can about Autism…finding resources, reading books, meeting with the school, meeting with the daycare, adjusting slowly to what this means for our family. We are cognizant that this might have an impact on our marriage, we are aware that we need to be careful on how we manage both kids. Not excusing everything T does because of his autism and ensuring L (our 3 year old daughter) doesn’t lose out because all the focus is on him. As my husband said recently, everything has changed and nothing has changed…he’s still our loveable, sweet little guy who has a rather endearing obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine and has a ridiculous ability to memorize words…but life as we once knew it feels like its changed forever.