Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Slowing Down for the Holidays

I’ll be off until the New Year at this point – although I will continue to nag…rather encourage my son!

Merry Christmas and all the best in 2010!

Monday, December 21, 2009

He Might Not Write It...But He Should!

A few months back, I had forwarded a link to this blog to the Asperger’s Association of New England. The executive director asked if my son might be interested in writing an article for their newsletter on adjusting to college life while dealing with Nonverbal Learning Disorder -- which might be helpful to students with any social communications issues. She suggested focusing on the social scene, roommates, or staying organized while carrying a full course load.

This is my way of reminding my son that he should really take a stab at this while he’s home. I think he would do a great job.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Good Morning, America

The Good Morning, America show reported today on the 1 in 100 statistic for children diagnosed with some form of autism that was just confirmed by the National Institute of Health. The diagnosis is four times as frequent in boys as it is in girls. Astounding. It’s not much, but the GMA guest reported that $60 million has been allocated for research into the cause (unknown) and treatment of disorders on the spectrum.

They reiterated that early intervention is critical for these children. Although my son was not diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder until he was nine years old, he had been receiving public services for recognized developmental delays since the age of two. Looking back, I don’t think he would have been diagnosed as on the spectrum at that age (and, technically, NLD may not be anyway); but an autism spectrum diagnosis can often be confirmed as early as eighteen months of age. Pediatricians are on the lookout for the toddler’s social interaction, language development and movements (especially repetitive behaviors, movements or tics).

An encouraging statistic is that most states offer preschool services (as did the state we were living in when our son was a toddler). On the minus side, only ten states require insurance companies to cover services for children diagnosed with autism. Outside services, which can cost up to $50,000 a year, are critical in helping the child overcome the challenges that such a diagnosis can present. Preschool and classroom services are great, but the more frequently the child receives the different therapies (speech, social, occupational), the better the outcome later in life.

If you have a diagnosis, or suspect autism or a social communication problem, ask for help.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Does It Work or Not??

Last night I got home and plugged the Ethernet into the laptop and was able to open the Internet. Today, my son left me a voice mail that – again – he was not able to establish a connection with the cable.

Is it my son or is it the laptop? Given the problems he has had with it since the beginning of the school year, it might be the laptop. I’ll try and figure that out tonight.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Organizational Skills and Executive Function

This is a very broad topic, but I will file this little sliver under that heading.

I don’t know how many times I thought I confirmed with my son that he was finished with all his coursework with the exception of the two finals on Friday.

Obviously, “thought” being the operative word – I clearly did not get confirmation. I think I probably got silence or a shrug.

In any event, my son called me at work to ask if we had an Ethernet cable at home because he had and assignment on his laptop that had to be emailed to a professor. I told him we did, told him where it was and how to connect it. His next call was that he still could not access the Internet from the laptop.

Mom: “Are you sure it’s connected correctly?”
Son: “Yes.” (This does not sound feasible to Mom because the Ethernet cable, router and modem were all in good working order.)
Mom: “Try one of the other outlets on the router. If that doesn’t work there is a flash drive you can use in the drawer. Then call me and let me know if you were able to get the file mailed one way or the other.”
Son: “Okay.”

Well, I have not heard back from him. No news is good news and all that; it’s not like I could do anything more until I get home anyway.

Had he mentioned to me when I asked that there was an email that had to go out, we could have gone over the “how-to” sometime while I was home, instead of trying to figure it out from work. Anyway, I am assuming that he got it taken care of.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Losing the "Spare" Bedroom

First of all, last Friday’s fundraiser was a huge success and a lot of fun for both my son and me. Although I didn’t feel particularly eloquent (so much I meant to say and didn’t!), some people who heard it thought it went well.

My son is home most of this week, but will return to school Thursday because he still has two finals to take on Friday. Then he’ll be home until mid-January.

It should be interesting. I’ve been writing here thinking he would be reading this and absorbing some of what I’ve been saying. The reality is that he probably has not; and I will be faced with everyday reminders while he’s home that he still needs – will always need – encouragement and reinforcement of some of the basics.

I expect I will be writing less frequently for the next few weeks, but I will post as often as I can. If there are any specific issues or questions out there, let me know and we can chat about them!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Time To Give

Back in early September, one of my entries was about the pediatric rehabilitation hospital in which my son spent several weeks following hospitalization for meningo-encephalitis. That particular page was forwarded to lawmakers in my state because the hospital had lost some vital funding.

I included the hospital’s development office in on my correspondence with my local representative, so they would know how much we appreciated what they had helped my son accomplish in the period following his illness. The hospital subsequently wrote an article about my son in their monthly newsletter.

Now they have asked my son to help out with their annual fund-raising radio-thon. He is very excited to be doing this, and will take the bus into town for the event tomorrow as soon as he has finished his last class. I hope to be there with him, work schedule permitting!

If any readers would like to hear my son talk about some of his experiences, health issues and rehabilitation therapy please visit the radio station’s web site and click on “Listen Live.” The fund raiser will be going on all day, and my son should be on the air between 5 PM and 6 PM, Eastern Time. If you can give a little to this great cause, that would be great. If not, I hope it will be uplifting to hear my son’s story and some of those of other past and current patients. Thanks! Back Monday.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Headlines

My husband is a graduate of Indiana University (BA, ’72, MLS, ’74) and we receive the school’s alumni magazine. In the most recent edition (November/December 2009) was yet another article about the prevalence – “The Tidal Wave” – of autism diagnoses today.

Despite the increase, diagnosis is dependent on behaviors and there is no cure. An interesting point in the article is the fact that “everyone on the spectrum has a unique combination of symptoms... ‘If you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism.’”

My son’s struggle in social situations that comes as a result of his Nonverbal Learning Disorder, might strike a familiar chord with some readers. Others might identify to a lesser extent; still others not at all.

But I hope that some of what I’ve been writing is helpful to some parents or some young adults that are following this. As this blog becomes more widely read, I believe we will uncover strategies that will help each other.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Coming Back to Haunt Him

Late yesterday, my son called in a bit of a panic. The Stage Tech teacher had sent him an email asking when he would have the sewing project completed. She had not mentioned this in any of the previous meetings with the Office for Students with Disabilities, or with the Provost and Dean of Students. I’m not sure what my son’s expectation was; maybe that she would have already graded him on the progress he had made on the assignment before moving on to the building task.

In any event, I suggested that the fact that she contacted him was a good sign that she would be willing to help him. I think he will be glad to be able to say he got through this particular course successfully, except for the fact that he was brow-beaten into changing his major because of it. Just kidding.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Exciting Weekend Life of a Commuter College

More often than not our son comes home on weekends, largely because there is not a lot to do on campus. But this past weekend, he stayed put.

Friday night he called to say how bored he was, although one of the kids had decorated the common area on his floor with some cheerful holiday decorations. He texted a short movie clip showing the new decor. Very festive! It also happened to be the first time I realized that I could take and view moving images on my cell phone; but that’s neither here nor there!

Saturday evening, he went to see a show on campus (he has a paper to do on the show as an assignment for one of his classes). Some time (long) after the curtain fell, my son and another fellow chipped in on a delivered pizza. While parents of high school and college students who are not dealing with social communications issues are used to this sort of thing, it was yet another momentous occasion for me!

While my son and his equally hungry fellow freshman were chowing down on pizza until 2:30 AM, another young man (apparently under the influence) was trashing the newly hung decorations.

Never a dull moment on the college campus. Thank goodness the school has a no-alcohol policy.

Friday, December 4, 2009

One Thing We DON'T Have to Worry About

For the first time is several weeks, my son is staying on campus this weekend.

Even coming home most weekends, it did not take him long to realize that the statistics about underage campus drinking are pretty accurate. When he arrived home with his laundry for the Thanksgiving holiday, there was an empty beer bottle stashed at the bottom, courtesy of his roommate or one of his roommate’s friends.

On a Tuesday evening before a rare midweek holiday (Veteran’s Day), my son called around 9 PM and said he was “wandering aimlessly” because some girls had arrived at his room with alcohol and he didn’t want to get in trouble. I thought he’d be safe to go back by 10 and told him they would probably be gone by then. I found out the next day that when he had arrived back at his floor it was pretty much a free-for-all. He ended up leaving with a few other students until the atmosphere had quieted.

I would like to think it’s the solid values we’ve instilled in him, but I have to admit that part of the reason he’s not yet ready to drink is that he knows it’s illegal. Most college students (present company included) that live in the neuro-typical world don’t really care about the legal aspect as much as they do the “getting caught” aspect – the empty bottle salted away in the hamper.

Either way, he doesn’t drink yet; one less thing to worry about for now.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Obstacles All Over the Place!

Yet another speed-bump on the Theater Major road. My son is taking a class in Movement for the Stage. As part of the final exam, the class will be doing a short presentation open to the public. However, not every student in the class will actually be on the stage and participating; my son is among a handful of students (though I don’t know how many others) who will not.

Question: how will the professor grade those not chosen to be in the show? Presumably, the fact that they are not going to be onstage is not a reflection of their competence or enthusiasm for the class. Are the students who will be on stage the ones who are very well coordinated – talented dancers (or “movers”)? Do these students get “As”, while those who are less talented get less than “As?”

There comes a time, and maybe this is what college is for, when that mantra we’ve given our children all of their lives – “Just try your best” – no longer applies. And learning disabilities and/or physical disabilities have to be considered. College is preparatory for the rest of their lives, and it is time to find out not only what they like to do, but also what they are good at.

My son really loves theater; he is a talented performer. But performance as a career is reserved for a very small number of people. He learned early in his college studies, that backstage work was not as appealing to him as being onstage, regardless of whether or not he was capable of succeeding at it.

For a young adult with Nonverbal Learning disability, my son is very well-rounded. He has a variety of interests and talents. He is currently leaning toward something in the Communications arena and I think he can be happy and successful with this option (even while acknowledging that it might not be his final choice!).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How to (Re) Enforce the Rules

We would really like to see my son keep his dorm room moderately neat. We are considering bribing him; it was my husband’s idea.

We may ask him to send periodic pictures of his room between now and the end of the semester – if it stays reasonably organized, we will reward him…maybe with a car…just kidding...sort of.

But it would be money well spent ($50??) if he could get in the habit of putting things in the same place.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Long Break

I meant to pick up yesterday, but things got away from me over the long holiday weekend.

My husband and I drove our son back to school yesterday morning and helped him get his stuff upstairs. Walking into his dorm room was like walking into the Tenth Circle of Dante's Inferno. So we spent fifteen or twenty minutes (once again) helping him organize. But a system is only as effective as it is easy to stick to.

He clearly has difficulty in seeing the big picture…how will putting his books, toiletries, dirty laundry, etc. in the same place all the time help him in succeeding. Well, in our efforts yesterday, we came across loose paper in the bottom of the closet that turned out to be something he would need as a study guide for one of his finals. So yes, he needs to master the art of organization.

This is what we ended up with: a box with snacks and the like in the bottom of his closet; the laundry basket (you put dirty clothes in that) on the other side of the closet; a plastic container on the side of his desk with bathroom and shower items (soap, toothbrush, deodorant, etc); a plastic bin under his bed for extra books, DVDs and games; slots in the desk organizer for current class work, often-used games, etc. Finally, I know you might find this hard to believe, but he’s generally been using the floor as a trash and recycling receptacle, even though there is a handy trash bag on the bedpost and a recycling container near the door. We encouraged our son to try and use those; the dorm room definitely looks nicer without stuff all over the floor.

You see how I cleverly reinforced where everything goes by writing it in this blog (and hoping he looks at it)?!