COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN (Led Zeppelin)

November 12, 2019 - Leave a Response

Twenty something years of being together and I’m realizing that my husband and I have some serious communication issues.  Instead of developing a shorthand, instinctual and deeper sense of understanding one another, as couples are apt to do after being together for so long, we seem to be doing the opposite and it’s causing hurt, frustration and distance.

He thinks I treat him disrespectfully, with responses that are mostly piss and vinegar.  I think he takes things too personally.  My being frustrated when I get home from a long day at work, spend three of those hours in stop and go traffic each day, needing just a few minutes of down time to transition to being home and taking a breath, is not a sign that I’m not happy to see him or that I see him as the cause of my angst.  I’m simply not always able to burst through the door, offering smiles and kisses the second I get out of the car.  It’s absolutely nothing personal.

I’m not always kind.  I know this of myself and I’m not proud of it.  I work hard to try to be better but I think the unfortunate nature of marriage or relationships is that we have a tendency to take things out on the people closest to us.  Part of that is simply proximity.  Part of it is a sense of trust – people we love can see us at our worst and still love us.  Part of that is a belief – however wrong it may be – that they know they’re not the root of the anger and frustration just the dumping ground.  I’ve come to understand that these theories are not actually true.  Particularly in the case of my relationship, the latter.

I’m not sure how one goes about changing patterns and habits that are well established from childhood.  I suppose the fact that I can admit to or have awareness of my behaviors is the first step, though I struggle to get past that one step.  I also feel like I can’t be the only one stepping.  I can take responsibility for my words and my actions but I cannot influence how they are heard or taken.  I can’t change someone’s expectation or anticipation of my presence.

The nature of our communication is stunted in some ways because we are almost never together without Cole present as well.  it’s hard to have adult conversation, or even complete conversations about anything without him being there and often not pleased about us talking to one another or the feeling that a particular conversation may not be best had in front of him (like discussing our concerns about his upcoming surgery or my husband’s travels or a night out).  It’s not natural and we rarely pick any of those conversations back up because we’re almost never alone, just the two of us in a room when we can have real conversations.

Anyone else have communication issues?  Any thoughts on how to improve things?

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I recently heard about a colleague’s attempt to do so by having a night a week where she and her husband turn off electronics and spend the evening playing a game and talking, be it cards, Yahtzee, or whatever.  She says it’s done wonders in terms of them appreciating one another more…A fun idea that sounds worth the try!

THREE LITTLE BIRDS (Bob Marley)

November 11, 2019 - Leave a Response

Several months ago a dear friend asked me to be part of one of the segments of a podcast she created.  It would be me, and another close friend, and her talking about the effect of having children with special needs on our lives.  The three of us know each other well so despite my nervousness, I agreed to do it.

I arrived at the designated address and was directed to a studio where there were big microphones (the furry ones that get placed right up near your face) and some chairs.  There were lots of audio crew people and producers and Amy, the host, our friend Dawn, and me.  We sat and started chatting under Amy’s topic direction.  The three of us each have a child with special needs.  Amy’s daughter is Cole’s age and we’ve been close for twelve or thirteen years now.  Cole and her daughter continue to be pals despite being at different high schools these past several years.  Dawn is someone Amy and I met a few years ago at a support group.  Her daughter is younger than our kiddos but she became a fast friend.  So the set up felt comfortable and the conversation somewhat familiar though we delved deeper than we might over cocktails at a mom’s night out.

After a point, the other people and equipment sort of melted away and the conversation flowed easily.  We recorded for an hour or more, shed a few tears, laughed a little and left our vulnerability on the floor.  I left feeling pleased about doing something new, getting out of my comfort zone and not allowing my nerves to completely defeat me.  Happy to have spent a little time sharing with two people I love and trust, and curious to know how it would all sound if and when it aired (is that what podcasts do? Air? Stream?).

Tomorrow, months since we recorded, our episode enters the world.  It’s available on whatever platform you listen to podcasts on like Apple.  The first five episodes of the podcast have all been released in the previous weeks and this is the final of this round.  I hope there will be more seasons or whatever podcast runs are called because it’s a really interesting, thoughtful and thought provoking premise.

It’s called The Challengers with Amy Brenneman.  It’s not a “I had a challenge and came through and everything is rosey” kind of look at challenges in life.  It’s more about how life challenges have us (collectively) stepping more into humanity because of or inspite of the challenges.  The guests she chose for the these first six are all fascinating and diverse.  I highly recommend listening to all of them.

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Here’s a link to the podcast.   I hope you listen…

The Challengers

STAY UP LATE (Talking Heads)

November 6, 2019 - Leave a Response

I’ve been solo-parenting quite a lot these past couple of months as it’s one of my husband’s big travel seasons.  He’s been jetting from conference to conference with just a couple of days home between.  The biggest burden for me is the push to leave early on work days in order to get home before Cole’s bus returns around 4pm.  When home, my husband is usually the bus greeter because he has a flexible schedule and works just twenty minutes from home. I work in Santa Monica, which on a good day is an hour drive and on a bad one up to two hours (truly, just to go nine miles!!).  I digress…I could bitch about traffic and rude, unkind drivers for days even though I try very hard to be zen about the commute!

So other than the pressure to get home for the bus, and missing my husband, I kind of love having the time alone with Cole.  We start each day with 5:30 cuddles while he has his breakfast, and then plot out the day while getting him dressed and ready for the bus.  He leaves laughing and happy and I sneak in a little exercise, coffee, shower and head out to the office.  When the bus returns I get to learn about his day, give him a shower (which now includes a shave or two each week!), and then hang out with him until dinner and bedtime.  We talk to his dad, sometimes to a grandparent or two and watch some of our favorite shows (Ellen, Modern Family repeats, baking competitions, Queen Eye) and then bed, sometimes later than we should.  On weekends it’s baseball, dance class, time with friends – sometimes mine, sometimes his, errands, cooking and more hanging out and staying up later than we should.  It’s relaxing, not wildly exciting, but completely soul filling.

I’m not suggesting it’s better than when we’re all together, it’s just special because I don’t usually have the afternoons with him and I don’t necessarily do all of the weekend stuff every weekend when there are two of us to split things up.  Being on our own, just the two of us, taking care of each other while his dad is away, brings us closer.  It allows us to just sink into our own routines that I think help him to deal with his dad being away.  If everything were just the same, it would be harder on him.  He loves his routines with his dad and definitely prefers some of them to me – like showering and shaving – but by approaching the afternoons with our own routine, it helps to not miss that it’s not what he does with his dad.  In Cole’s world, there are certain things that require a specific parent whenever possible.

As much as I love our family three, I’ve come to embrace and even need the occasional times when it’s just me and the boy…

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LIONS & TIGERS (Sleater Kinney)

November 4, 2019 - Leave a Response

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!  I haven’t written anything for ages. I don’t really know why because it’s truly therapeutic for me and I could really use the release of fret and fear that I have been carrying around for most of this year. Lions, tigers and bears seem minor in terms of the hurdles and challenges we’ve faced and are facing in 2019.  I plan to make time to write more so will use this first post as a bit of a matter of fact catch up.

Cole turned 18 in September so we spent several months getting things in order to set up a conservatorship so that we can manage his medical, financial and educational needs moving forward once he’s legally an adult.  All of the stress led up to a fairly innocuous court hearing whereby we granted the conservatorship rights.  It doesn’t feel great to know that we’ve essentially taken away most his legal rights, however he’s not capable of making a lot of major decisions on his own so it’s the best option.  We’ve always and will always consult with him and no one has his best interest ahead of all else than we do.  Though we received the official documents, there remains a lot of loops to close and loose ends to finalize, like closing the guardianship that was in place for most of his life.  It feels never-ending.

While all of the conservatorship stuff is going on, we also learned that Cole’s scoliosis has worsened to the point that he is having surgery in December to try to correct it as much as possible. His spine has curved to such a degree that the right side of his pelvis is nearly touching his lower right rib cage.  The distortion has caused his organs to squish together which can ultimately cause a lot of problems, including breathing and heart issues. It’s a fairly major surgery, with his back being cut open from top to bottom so that the surgeon can straighten his spinal cord and insert titanium rods to support the new position on either side.  It’s not without risks due to it being a lengthy surgery (about 10 hours), potential nerve damage, infection due to the size of the incision, but the outcome promises a lot of benefits and improved quality of life for him.  He’ll even end up appearing taller once his spine is straight, a benefit he favors most. I plan to document all of this as much as I can as I’ve not found a lot of parent information about the whole process and particularly the recovery and healing.

In the midst of these big events, we are also trying to prepare for Cole’s transition from high school to the next phase of his education and life skills training.  There are a handful of career transitional campuses (CTC’s) in our area that offer various programs for young adults with special needs where, dependent upon their abilities, they are exposed to different career tracks, in addition to life skills (basic computer skills, creating resumes, managing living spaces, finances, and the like), and continued education.  Cole’s next IEP, scheduled right when he’s due to return following the six weeks of recovery from the surgery, will start creating the foundation of the transitional IEP that will follow so we have felt pressure to make sure we are prepared in terms of knowing what we want for him moving forward.  Part of this has meant touring each CTC to get an understanding of what each offers.  There are two that are impressive, but only one that felt like it would be somewhat appropriate for Cole.  The next step will be to work with them to try to create the path for him that will feel wholly appropriate.  Never a dull moment!

If I stop to think about it and take everything going on at once, it’s overwhelming.  If I allow myself to think too much about the implications or potential outcomes of any one of these, there’s a darkness and sadness that creeps in.  At times it takes all I have to embrace the rites of passage that exist in my life, in Cole’s life.

More on that another time…There’s an amazing boy, young man, who needs me to be strong, smiling and his.  And I will be…I’ll be everything he needs.

 

IT’S DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS (Joe Jackson)

September 28, 2018 - One Response

I was not an innocent young thing when I was in high school.  I snuck out to go see bands play in Hollywood, went to parties as often as I could, and kissed a lot of boys.  I had a group of close girlfriends, what would now be called my squad, who I spent most of my free time with, sometimes including some of our guy friends in the mix, or meeting up with them wherever we would land.  We all experimented with drinking, some drug use and boys.  Not all of us left high school virgins, but some did. We weren’t wild or reckless.  We were actually considered “nice” girls.  We were pretty typical teens in the early 1980’s.

I met my first boyfriend when I was 15, and was 16.  I was in 10thgrade and he was in 11th.  We dated and hung out for quite a while before he became my first. I had it in my head that I should wait until I was 16 to have sex.  I don’t know where that notion came from but wait we did.  Despite having a caring relationship, we broke up when I cut my long blonde hair short as I got more into punk rock.  So much for young love!

Your first time is supposed to be the cherished memory you carry with you.  The general sweetness of the nerves and fumbling and genuine belief that you are in love and this is the next, natural expression of that young love. At the time, it was all of that…plus in all honesty, it was fun.

I didn’t have a boyfriend for a while after that first relationship.  I kissed a few boys at parties (kissing was probably one of my favorite activities – I know I’ve written about my love of kissing before) but I didn’t have my second boyfriend for quite a while.  However, my opinion of sex was forever changed not long after the breakup.

One Friday, we all found ourselves at a post football game house party. A fairly usual occurrence. To this day I remember what I was wearing (A black mock turtle next sweater that was my mom’s when she was in high school, a wool pencil skirt, fishnets and black pointy toe pumps) and I can picture the front entrance of the house, double doors, with the garage and driveway to the right, with a large BMW sedan parked in the driveway, close to the garage door. There were shrubs that lines the walkway to the right of the door that led to the driveway.  There wasn’t a light on the garage, but the porch light glowed brightly.

We arrived late.  The party was already in full swing.  Music was playing and kids were spilling through the sliding glass doors in the living room out into the lit up back yard. A guy I liked was there and though he didn’t often show me any attention or regard, he came up and started talking to me.  He gave me a beer and we continued to talk about bands we’d seen.  It was loud and he took my hand and led me out to the front yard.  No one was out there.

He kissed me and I kissed him back, thinking, wow he likes me.  He moved me over to the driveway, backing me up against the garage door, still sort of kissing me. Then he moved his hands to my shoulders and started sliding me down the door until I was on the cement driveway behind the car.  I felt uncomfortable and nervous and suggested we go back inside.  I started worrying about what was going to happen next and yet I couldn’t quite escape him.  He still had me pinned down and was sort of squatted over me.

He pulled my skirt up and reached down and ripped my fishnet stockings open as I squirmed and tried to get away.  Then he pushed inside me.  No fanfare, no utterances of care.  It was over quickly, though it felt like ages laying there in the dark, on a cement driveway, pinned between a garage door and BMW, while my friends and lots of other people were inside having fun.  All the while he acted like it was a normal thing.

No one worried that I wasn’t inside the party because my friends knew that I thought he was cute. They figured we were making out.  They were probably happy for me that he had shown interest in me.

He actually extended a hand to help me up after, though he smugly went back inside alone, while I attempted to pull myself together and get my clothes back in order.  Eventually I went back in, found a drink and shook.  I couldn’t understand why that had happened and I kept replaying it, wondering what I did to make him think that it was what I wanted or that it was okay.  I doubted myself.  I blamed myself.  I didn’t understand.

Date rape wasn’t defined for at least another decade after that experience.  Those kind of experiences were brushed off as boys getting carried away or girls leading them on.  You know, you can’t get a guy all lathered up and not let him get off.   Peers weren’t supportive and parents were fairly useless.  You were not believed, you were judged.  You learned to just live with it and carry on.  If you were lucky, you didn’t get pregnant (because this was early 1981 and AIDS was just emerging so condoms were not readily used). If you were lucky, no one found out and you weren’t branded a slut.  If you were lucky, this wouldn’t have happened to you.

Sadly, it seems that today, almost forty years later, it’s not that different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONNECTION (The Rolling Stones – also Eddie & The Subtitles did a good cover)

September 26, 2018 - Leave a Response

I took a basic watsu training class this past weekend, spending the better part of Saturday and Sunday in a 95-degree shallow pool with five other women, who were also taking the course.  I didn’t know much about watsu, other than Cole’s aquatic therapist was also learning it and thought it would be useful for me to learn the basics, so I could use it to help stretch and relax Cole at home in our pool.  I love water, and I love learning new things – especially when it’s something that can help Cole.

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I nervously showed up Saturday and met the others.  Three were women who were already in the aquatic therapy business, wanting to expand their practices and knowledge, one was a mom, who is considering a watsu practice when her four kids are all in middle and high school, and me.  We were joined on Sunday by a woman who does energy work already and has already completed about her watsu training.

The first half hour we learned about watsu and its benefits.  Watsu is a form of aquatic therapy that combines muscle stretching, joint mobilization, and shiatsu massage.  It’s done in chest deep warm water, where the “receiver” is continuously supported by the “giver” (or therapist) while back-floating.  The receiver is rhythmically and passively cradled, moved, stretched and massaged by the giver and water.  Watsu promotes deep relaxation and, in my experience, euphoria.

After the basic introduction we all got in the pool and watched part of a training video, so we could see an actual practice.  Then we began learning the stance, moves and an understanding of the symbiosis of the process.  We worked in pairs throughout the day, switching between being the giver and the receiver and working on different bodies.  The better the giver can connect and adapt to each receiver (every body is different, not just in size but in flexibility and trust too) the better the experience will be.  By the end of the day we had learned the entire basic sequence and practiced each element over and over.  We all left feeling empowered and connected by the day.

Sunday we all reconvened and immediately got back in the pool.  We were joined by a woman who does energy work and has already completed about half her watsu training hours.  Having a sixth person allowed us to all work on our technique and practice with each other while our instructor could move through the pool and give us each more hands-on training and support.  We all gave and received three full hours of treatment that day.  It was amazing.  Unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

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There’s something almost spiritual in the practice of watsu.  The relationship between the giver and receiver and water is harmonious in a way that at times you feel at one.  Breath plays a part in watsu as it does yoga.  There are quiet times when the giver synchs their breath to the receiver and as one you rise and fall slightly in the water as you breathe.  There’s a deep sense of relaxation and rejuvenation resulting from the treatment and connectivity that transcends the treatment. I’m completely enthralled with watsu. I plan to take more training even if I don’t complete a program for certification.  I just want to be able to give Cole (and other family and friends) the best experience I can.

FOREVER YOUNG (Eddie Vedder)

September 20, 2018 - Leave a Response

Cole’s turning seventeen today.  Yes, that’s right, the boy is seventeen years old.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been riding the wave of his life for seventeen years.  When we became parents to Cole in particular, our own lives ceased to be our own lives.  I think it’s a reality of parents with 24/7 children in a way that is vastly different from parents of typical children.  In many ways, kids like mine are forever young.

Cole’s at an age where most his peers are wildly independent.  They’re staying home on their own, managing much of their social lives and school activities, and many of them are driving.  They’re all starting to contemplate the move from high school to college and hunkering down with their studies to ensure they have top grades, interesting community service in place, and strong SAT scores.

Seventeen looks very different in our family.  In some ways it doesn’t look much different than sixteen, or fifteen or fourteen, which in all honesty breaks my heart, because I know eighteen will likely feel the same.  Cole has delays in his development and will likely never pass the four foot mark.  In many ways he’s neurologically on track, but in other ways his comfort is still found in the same things that brought him comfort and joy when he was little.  His needs remain high, though to us fairly simple and second nature.  We struggle with the same obstacles – encouraging him to want independence, to use his voice (his Tobii – an eyegaze voice output device), and to develop new age appropriate interests.

Yet, he seems content with his life.  He loves high school and has made some good friends who he sees outside of school too, while still maintaining some of his life-long friendships, and he does well in his classes, excepting his lack of interest in using his Tobii has proven to be a frustration to his teachers and peers as well.  Outside of school he’s still happily participating in iDance and enjoying playing in his Champions baseball league.

He’s developed an interest in photography thanks to his summer spent hanging with Nelson.  Art has always been something he enjoys dabbling in but the interest in photography is new and we’re hoping to help him to expand it.  We bought him a camera that he can operate using an iPad/iPhone as both the viewer and button or a switch to take the shot and are keen to see where this hobby takes him. In typical teen fashion, any curiosity we show in his photography is met with eyes rolling and the shut down…

Ebbing on seventeen has also broadened his willingness to expand his musical repertoire and his TV viewing.  There are still times where only the music of Ralph’s World or Sesame Street or endless Holiday music will satisfy him but there are other times, more frequent times, when I can introduce new bands or playlists to him and he’s pleased.  I’ve been having the success with his TV down time. I’m not willing to watch endless hours of Little Bill or even The Barefoot Contessa, so constantly try new things and movies and lately, as he neared seventeen, he’s been a willing viewer. It gives me hope.

I’d love it if he’d show an interest in books.  I feel like resources like Audible could give him some independence and off screen time but still engage and entertain him but he’s not quite there yet.  I love to fall into a good book and so does my husband. To have Cole develop the love of a good book would please me to no end.  Oh the places, people and adventures he could explore…

Turning seventeen brings him a year closer to being an adult and having more adult feelings and curiosities. He has always been very fond of girls and has had crushes here and there over the years but this summer he fell hard.  It’s unchartered waters for us and I don’t really know what romance looks like for him.  I feel like it needs to be treated differently than the way I facilitate or manage friendships, but I don’t know exactly what that means.

I am keenly aware that much of my mixed feelings about Cole aging, or not, are just that, my mixed feelings.  Feeling blessed to have my son in my life, and loving him more than I can possibly convey can live with me sometimes mourning the loss of typical experiences both he and I would have had if things were different.  I don’t know if he considers “what if” in his own mind, and I avoid it when I can, but I’m human and I sometimes can’t help but wonder, or be sad.

IMG_1768My boy is seventeen today. Yes, seventeen years old!  He’s remarkable and brings grace to every day of my life.  I celebrate him today and everyday and hope that he’ll remain forever young…

IT’S MY LIFE (Jon Bon Jovi)

September 19, 2018 - Leave a Response

Sometimes I marvel at the things I know about because Cole is my son.  While it’s now all old hat to us, we had an extra learning curve beyond simply being new parents, when he came into our world. We had all of the usual stuff and then all of the medical and therapeutic interventions to contend with, as well as quick introductions to agencies and supports and special education. And of course, random weird things that come into our life.

In case you don’t know, Cole is fed through a g-tube.  The only way we could leave the NICU, after five long weeks, was to have a g-tube inserted because he was not able to suck a bottle or boob.  We had hoped he would catch on when we got him home but seventeen years later he’s still tube fed.

Yesterday I was placing an order for his feeding supplies, which typically includes his formula, gravity flow bags and every other month a new mickey-button (the part that actually is inserted into his belly and held by a little tiny balloon that holds 5 cc’s of water).  I was asked what size, because they like to have you repeat every detail of the order, your contact details and lots of details about Cole EVERY time you call to place a monthly order to make sure you are who you say you are and are ordering supplies for who you say you are ordering supplies for – I’m assuming because there’s a huge black market demand for formula and mickey-buttons.  Anyway, I digress.  I give the size, 16 French, and it occurs to me that I would never know what that means if not for Cole.

Tubing, often catheters and feeding tubing, is designated by French or “Fr” to note the size of the tubing. It’s a French scale where every millimeter is multiplied by .33 (Fun Fact: The French are fond of the number “3” – I deal with withholding tax at work and the France to US withholding tax is 33.33%), so Cole’s tube is 16Fr multiplied by .33, making it 5.28 millimeters wide.  Pretty small.

In the years of parenting Cole, we have had to deal with some many different therapists, agencies, doctors and medical interventions.  He’s had surgeries and treatments that exposed us to so many new adventures.  When he was still small enough to be tucked in to a Baby Bjorn, he did acupuncture to help open his brain flow.  I’d wear him and spend the whole time trying to keep him from puncturing me once his head was full of needles!  He did botox in his hips and arms before it became mainstream for faces, he had his back and neck muscles supported with Japanese kinesio tape before it was available in the US, and now gets Watsu (aquatic Shiatsu) massage when he does aquatic therapy.  I’m actually going to take a two day Watsu training class next weekend so I can take advantage of our pool and support his aquatic therapy at home too.

Being his mom keeps me on my toes and keeps me expanding my knowledge and researching every little potential interest, development, resource, product, therapy, intervention that I hear about related to cerebral palsy, communication, inclusion, education, life as an adult with special needs, etc.  I’m sure I miss a lot but thankfully I have a community of moms who all do the same and we share.  It’s a unique experience that thankfully we share with a welcoming wonderful community of likewise unique families.

 

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS (The Beatles)

September 18, 2018 - Leave a Response

I saw a post today, shared by a friend in Australia, about a friend of hers who just had a baby. There were complications with the delivery and her daughter has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  The post was asking for donations for the baby’s current and future care.  I wanted to write on the post that with seventeen years of experience with a similar child, it’s going to be okay and that despite the dramatic entry and overwhelming sense of the unknown, life will be joyful and their child will be loved and happy.  I held back though because I’m never quite sure if people want to know this while they’re in the throes of trying to understand their new reality.

This doesn’t just apply to this particular situation.  I struggle with it in all kinds of situations.  I have come to realize that often people don’t want to know that there are other people who have walked the path before them and can shed some light on the journey.  I also worry that it comes off as “know-it ally”, which is never my intention.  So I often opt to hold my thoughts.

I, for one, am truly grateful for advice and support, and I cherish the guidance of those who have similar parenting journeys because between all of us working together we have quite a network of research, connections and experience that enriches the lives of our children beyond what one lone set of parents can do no matter how savvy.

One of my fantasies is to one day create a compound living situation, preferably near the beach, with a therapeutic swimming pool, accessible gym complete with an infrared sauna on the property, where other families like ours could all live with their 24/7 adult kids (either in independent homes or with family) and support one another.  Some of us have kids that will likely remain with us for life but there are ways to provide some independence for them within a fixed community and to allow parents to have some independence as well.  It’s a fantasy but not completely outside the realm of possibility.

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We can go it alone but in my experience it’s always better with friends…

 

 

 

TALK TO ME (Chris Isaak)

September 15, 2018 - Leave a Response

Cole’s first junior year report card arrived yesterday.  Straight A’s. He’s fairly consistently receiving A’s and a very occasional B on his high school report cards and always with E’s, and is always proud of himself when the grades are revealed.  We are proud too, of course.  For Cole, the grades are both a mix of subjective grading, his effort, and his understanding of the given subject.  He has modified work and the benefit of one on one class time with his Special Ed (SpEd) teacher.  It doesn’t diminish the grades and is certainly reflective of the attention he puts forth in class.  He takes a fair amount of pride in maintaining his grades and in the attention he receives for doing so.

I just wish he put forth the same interest and effort in developing some of his communication skills and independence at home.  He would gain so much by engaging in conversation with people outside of school, including me and his dad.  He has friends who desperately want him to use his Tobii (eye gaze generated voice output device) to talk with them.  Teens, even understanding, kind hearted teems, don’t always welcome the parent invasion when they’re hanging out.  Having time with friends, independent of a parent or even of a support adult to help facilitate conversation, would be so incredible for him.  It’s such a valuable facet of friendship.

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I’ve gone so far as to suggest to some friends that they tell him that they won’t chat with him until he starts chatting with them using his Tobii.  His friends are too sweet to listen to me and continue to talk to him despite his aversion to the Tobii.  He met a girl this summer who is very similar to him in diagnosis and also uses a Tobii, though she is happily reliant upon it and uses it well and often. I’m told she pressed him to use it during summer school and he was slightly more receptive, which makes me hopeful that he with the right motivation he’ll warm to it.

I understand part of his reluctance, or disdain, for the device.  Cole’s a people person.  He’s very keen on eye contact and adept at communicating some of his needs and reactions through small sounds and various facial expressions and smiles.  The Tobii obstructs his direct view of people he’s “talking” with.  It’s also taxing to use, both physically and mentally, so an element of laziness factors in too, especially if he’s asked to use Tobii with his dad and I.  We’ve developed a strong understanding of him, but even with us there’s so much left to our interpretation.  He’s often just not bothered enough to be frustrated or care. I really wish he were.

I just want him to use his voice…to express his thoughts, opinions, and needs.  I want him to deepen his friendships by opening them up through mutual communication and the intimacy that comes from friends sharing. I want him to engage new people in conversation or to initiate conversation. I want him to show interest in other people by asking questions or simply saying “Hello” aloud.  I want him to expand upon his education by using his voice to express his knowledge and understanding.  I want all of these things for him…

If only he did…