SHARP DRESSED MAN
July 24, 2017

My boy is growing up.

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Sometimes it’s hard to see the subtle changes in his personality, demeanor, and interests as he ages. There are delays to be sure, and some changes are diminished because he simply doesn’t have the communication skills necessary to adequately express everything that he’s feeling internally. I like to think, hope, that we’ve all (me, Dan and Cole) got some of the communication down to where the important things, especially, are eventually made known.

This past weekend, after running a few necessary errands, Cole vehemently did not want to go home. Having groceries in the hot car, we agreed to stop at home so Dan could run things inside, while I talked to Cole about where he wanted to go. He actually really seemed to need to go somewhere. Turns out he really wanted to go to the mall to do a little clothes shopping for himself.

I’m a big fan of on-line shopping, especially for his clothes. He hasn’t shown much interest in what he wears until recently so it works out pretty well. I made a promise along time ago not to dress him stupidly and I’ve managed to keep it thus far. I frequently ask for his opinion of things and recently he showed interest in selecting a new swim suit ( a cute crew cuts pair of navy trunks with little orange embroidered stars) and rash guard for an upcoming beach get-away.

Needless to say, the mall excursion came as a bit of surprise. He happily searched through Gap Kids looking for, what exactly, I don’t know. We left with a cheery striped polo shirt and a pair of madras plaid Bermuda shorts. Both confidently selected by the boy. He tightly held on to the bag as we continued through the mall (and even into the car). We didn’t find anything else he was keen on, and he made it pretty clear that this trip was not intended for parent browsing or shopping (though his dad did manage to snag a little something on sale at Lucky, despite protests from the boy).

He proudly wore his shirt to summer school today, and has already requested that it be cleaned and ready to pack for our trip. I’ve promised to involve him in any future shopping for his needs. It adds another layer to the process but it will be interesting and fun to see where his taste takes him. Just another reminder of how important it is for him to have every opportunity to express himself, with wardrobe, words, and whatever other ways he finds.

HAPPY
July 17, 2017

Just found this unposted blog…Sort of relates to the one I just posted…

We’re now almost a month in and dare I say, high school is going well.  There were big bumps leading up to the first day, and a small one on the actual first day – the aide who was supposed to ride the bus with him didn’t show up in the morning so he rode alone with the driver until they picked up the next kid.  Apparently, not legal so we made the wrong decision in allowing him to go, but the aide did eventually catch up to him on the route and he arrived safely for his first day.

His schedule got sorted out and he even has a close friend from CHIME in one of his general education classes.  I think it’s helpful because having a typical, cute, volleyball team, girl chatting with you and laughing with you goes along way to inspiring other kids, kids who have not previously attended school with someone like you, to talk to you too.  He’s making friends, slowly, but it’s happening.

School friends…not necessarily the friends you do stuff with on the weekends.  That seems harder to navigate in high school, where parents are interacting in the same way and the community itself if much larger.  At this age, kids generally start to take charge of their social lives so for a kid like Cole, that becomes a bit more challenging without parental support and intervention.  We’ll see.

Overall, the school has shown a great interest in making sure he’s supported, challenged and engaged.  He really likes his main teacher, his special education teacher, who he has for several classes, and the general education teachers likewise are making efforts to ensure that he’s participating and part of their classroom community.  It’s really quite impressive.

All that said, and I’m really not complaining, but it’s still not exactly what was promised.  The LAUSD high school system is very different in terms of how it approaches kids like mine.  Inclusion is not a concept that is implemented at the high school level.  They mainstream, which is more a sink or swim concept, and where I’m thankful he’s at a school where the administration has more than a passing interest in inclusion more so than mainstreaming.

At the end of the day, this month has gone well.  He comes home tired, but happy.  He’s adjusting to the crazy schedule – being picked up at 6:10 am by the bus and returned to our door sometime before 5 pm at the end of each day.  Him happy, it’s all that matters.  The other stuff can work itself out.

 

 

 

 

Summertime Blues
July 17, 2017

I’m baaacccckkkk…

For better or worse, it’s been nearly a year since I added new posts to I Love Your Brain. I think about it often and I miss writing but these months have been charged with all sorts of new stresses and joys.

The most notable event of the “lost months” is that Cole started high school. He’s actually now successfully and happily completed his freshman year at a public LAUSD high school. He did well, enjoyed school, made friends (even had a girlfriend) and is now contentedly enjoying four weeks of summer school.

Filling nearly ten weeks of summer with two working parents is challenging, so we take activity where we can! Thankfully, he still loves school so summer school is a good, free option for part of summer.

The relief I feel about Cole liking his new high school and adapting to the new environment, teachers, schedule and transportation can’t be measured. The stress leading up to finding what we hoped would be the right school was immense for all of us. We’d been spoiled by CHIME. Cole had only known inclusion. How would this work at the high school level, in a school district that doesn’t practice inclusion at the high school level?

Interestingly enough, his school was open to allowing him to take some classes under general ed and some, including his home room under special ed. At first he really liked having his day split between the two, and he did well in all of his classes. He had support for the general ed classes through his special ed teacher and made some friends outside of the special ed class.

But somewhere midway through the year, he started to prefer his special education classes to the general education classes. He made more friends in that class and felt more comfortable and confident there. For the first time in his fifteen years he’s starting to identify more with kids who have disabilities or are more similarly abled to him. One hand it seems like a natural trend. High school is where most teens start to regroup and find their peeps.

On the other hand, it’s been harder for my husband and I to accept. We both recognize that it’s Cole’s choice and that his happiness is most important but in that way that most special needs parents have to let go of their own notions of what their child’s experience is supposed to look like and adapt to what it does look like, we have had to let go of the idea that having an inclusive education at this level is what’s best for Cole. It’s hard.

Despite the successful school year he’s had, it’s also come with a fair amount of loneliness. He’s made a lot of friends at school, kids he spends every school day with and some riding the bus to and from and school with (so spending roughly from 6:15am until 5pm together), but he doesn’t see these kids outside of school, except one movie date night earlier this summer.

Nor does he see much of his old friends. There are some kids who he was really close to at CHIME who he hasn’t seen since leaving CHIME. I understand it’s the ways things naturally go at this stage in their young lives, but I’m not sure how much he does. The reality is that there’s little intervention that I as a parent can offer. It breaks my heart.

Right now, I’m just hoping the rest of summer will pass quickly and that we can get back to routine of sophomore year, full school days. We’re in the process of building a swimming pool so next summer Cole will be able to enjoy his favorite activity any time he wants…swimming – in his own swimming pool in his own backyard! Hopefully it will provide some social opportunities for him too!

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SOUND OF YOUR VOICE
September 26, 2016

A friend recently shared information about a service that can create a voice for people who do not speak and rely on the use of a voice output device to communicate. Vocal ID can create a voice that closely resembles what your actual voice likely sounds like by using both sound recordings of utterances if you can make them and accessing a voice bank they have to find your vocal match.

I love the sound of Cole’s voice when he uses it successful to speak, and especially when it rings with laughter. I can’t quite imagine how I’d feel hearing him speak and sound like him. The voice his Tobii device uses is a computer generated voice that is somewhat age appropriate, but a voice that is shared by countless others who are of similar age and sex and who use voice output devices. It’s not unique.

Our voices are one of the most unique things about each one of us. With closed eyes, I think I could correctly identify most people I know by their voice. Cole’s is a voice I never imagined hearing, save for the limited vocalizations he makes. To have conversations with him using his Tobii but sounding like Cole would be overwhelming and life changing. I feel like conversation becomes that much more intimate in knowing it would be his voice, unique to him.

I’m just starting to explore how to go about having his voice imprinted and put on his Tobii. I’ll share more as I myself learn more and begin the process. I signed up as a donor too, to bank my voice with the hope that it could be used to help shape someone else’s own voice.

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

TAKE A CHANCE ON ME
February 23, 2016

The high school process continues. The great news is that Cole got into our top choice for him. The bad news is that the hard work is still ahead of us. The school he got into is an independent charter high school. It’s small, fully inclusive, and open to the challenge of having a diverse student body. It’s a performing arts charter but Cole was accepted to their liberal arts program.

They’ve never had a kid like him, but the reality is very few schools have. Cole’s unique beyond just his obvious challenges. I’m not sure where kids like Cole go to school but this process has shown me that very few schools are open to the unknown. Spectrum diagnoses are now apparently commonplace enough that they do not rattle most mainstream schools, and there are endless private options available to these kids.

The task of managing a child with physical needs is apparently more daunting to school administrations, than say some of the significant behavioral issues that can accompany many spectrum diagnoses. Add in the non-verbal component and he becomes even more so. The reality of a kid like Cole, who is by all accounts friendly, interested, cooperative, and bright in class, is that once people know how to manage his physical needs and to work with his technological accouterments (i.e. his Tobii), he’s a pretty easy kid.

Yes, he needs modifications for some of his schoolwork, and even the occasional accommodation, usually extra time, but even that isn’t terribly taxing. The big problem as I see it is that there just aren’t enough kids like Cole in general, and more pointedly, who want to be fully included. There aren’t even enough to motivate an innovative school or non-profit to start a specialized school for kids like him, as we’ve seen happen in the last decade or so for kids on the spectrum.

Neil Young started a very tiny school, which I believe emerged initially from a camp program that focuses on assistive technology for kids with cerebral palsy. It’s for younger kids, and handful at that, who can afford the private tuition. I’d love to send Cole to the camp to better his Tobii skills, and to perhaps help motivate him use it in social settings, and not just at school.

For Cole, whose only education experience has been in fully inclusive settings, and his only social group is a diverse pool of kids, mostly typical, the best, least restrictive setting for him is a high school that can provide the same. He’s motivated by peers and teachers who are seeing him, Cole, not the wheelchair, not the Tobii, just Cole, the boy.

Getting a school to take the chance of having him as part of their community is proving to be harder than anyone led us to think it would be. If the school of our choice can be convinced to take the leap and to go for it, the rewards of having a kid like him in their student body would be far greater than the accommodations and modifications that would be required to do so.

He brings something unique to the party and it happens everywhere he goes. I know I’m his mom, but I’ve seen it happen everywhere he goes. He has the ability to attract people, to make peers feel comfortable, cared for and important, and to make a lasting imprint on teachers and staff. He has countless checkout people at our regular haunts, and waitress staff at favorite restaurants that count on smiles from him and return them just as openly.

If he can continue his education at this school, he’ll find his place quickly, routines will become established, and life will go on, just slightly altered, and most certainly improved, by him being there.

Please!!!!  Take a chance on Cole!

I AM THE DJ (Series – 12)
January 12, 2016

I’m still feeling blue about the death of David Bowie. It’s amazing how much influence he had on nearly everyone I know. His music was a constant of the playlist of my life. My dad had his late ‘60s folk album, David Bowie, and I loved There Is A Happy Land and Uncle Arthur. They still occasionally appear in current playlists. As my dad transitioned a bit out of Bowie, I fell deeper as I approached my teens and Bowie delved into glam and rock. There was no one like him. I remember watching him on SNL, and the show that followed SNL in Los Angeles, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert whilst babysitting. I had the great fortune to see him live a few times and he never failed to thrill. He was innovative, unique, passionate, and fabulous. By all accounts, he was kind, generous and caring too. A man among men, and a brightly shining star in whatever universe he chose to illuminate.

The search for music Cole will enjoy during car rides and downtime continues. I’m getting better at honing into more likes than dislikes. Here’s the January list we’ll try this weekend:

Young Americans – David Bowie
If the Stars Were Mine – Melody Gardot
Song For Someone – U2
Give Me A Try – Wombats
Way Down We Go – Kaleo
Talk To Me – Kopecky
Rebel Light – Strangers
Gone – JR JR
My Type – Saint Motel
Get Off This – Cracker
Could Have Been Me – Struts
Ready to Start – Arcade Fire
Money Maker – Black Keys
Nobody Really Cares – Courtney Barnett
Rebel Rebel – David Bowie

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CRUEL TO BE KIND
January 11, 2016

I had a bit of a revelation this past weekend. Perhaps somewhat overdue revelation but I had it (finally) and it’s put me to shame.

A discussion about something Cole related with my husband turned, as it often does, into an argument. I took my frustration out on him and got nasty. It’s my M.O. – not one I’m proud of but it happens a lot when we get into these emotional conversations. I think a lot of people do the same, and it is a learned style of fight that got passed on to my by my mom and brother. Hurt the ones you love.

The revelation I came to, is that my frustration when discussing difficult things in my life, is that we’re discussing difficult things in both of our lives. Shared frustrations, concerns, fears, anxiety, and stresses. When I talked to friends about these things, I have an outside opinion to bounce things off and to bring in different views. When I discuss things with my husband, the frustration is that we’re both in a similar place and it doesn’t help to remove me from where I’m stuck.

I’m not sure if I’m expressing that properly but in my head it makes sense and it struck me that it’s the root of some of the anger I direct at him. He can help me resolve some things because he’s looking for the same resolution, and I can’t necessarily help him. Sometimes you need a trusted or knowledgeable outsider to provide perspective and insight.

While I know that my fighting style is cruel, and not appropriate, especially when aimed at my partner, someone I love, this recognition I had gave me cause to reflect on my misguided anger in a way that I haven’t before. It gave me a deeper awareness of my failing. When I’m hurt, worried, concerned, or even appropriately angry, it’s not useful or helpful to deflect it upon someone else, especially someone who is often sharing the same emotions and therefore doesn’t need the additional burden of my wrath.

We’re going to fight still, everyone does, but I’m really going to make a bigger effort to stop to better understand the whole of a situation and what might really help to resolve it before I lash out.

Maturing can be a real bitch sometimes, especially when the mirror reflection is of someone were not proud to see…

IF MUSIC COULD TALK
January 6, 2016

I realized today that I haven’t provided the songs and artists that title my blog entries for quite a long while. I thought I’d use this rainy gloomy day as my chance to get you caught up with the songs and tomorrow with a new playlist for Cole for January.

Music plays a huge part in our lives. It was always in my house growing up and my dad used to take me to see live music, heavy on the jazz. I discovered punk rock in the late ‘70’s, which influenced my youth in a big way. While I like all kinds of music and as a teen, young adult, went through phases where in addition to the punk rock, I’d listen to Patsy Cline or the ‘60’s girl groups incessantly.

My husband too grew up around a lot of music. He played in bands, sang with a somewhat tongue in cheek quartet and spent much of his formative years seeing bands in clubs in the Baltimore/DC area.

Music has been in Cole’s life from the start. We sang to my growing belly, and broke out every Beatles and Elvis Costello song we could remember once he was born, singing to him in the NICU while he was healing and recovering those first tenuous frightful weeks after his birth. He’s been exposed to everything we love, and shot down most of it, opting for discovering his own favorites. Our influence doesn’t really interest him but he does love music and is interested in exploring which is why I started creating monthly playlists for him.

When I started blogging last year, I decided to try to title each blog with a song title that somehow, in my mind, related to the blog topic. Following are the titles with the song artists for the past couple of months, including today’s:

If Music Could Talk – The Clash
Girl, Afraid – The Smiths
Innocent – Taylor Swift
Christmas Present – Andy Williams
Smile – Lily Allen
Thank you – Sly & The Family Stone
Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles
I Am The DJ (Series 11) – David Bowie
Say It Isn’t So – Hall & Oates
Ball of Confusion – Love & Rockets
Frustration – Soft Cell
That Old Feeling – Frank Sinatra
All Together Now – The Beatles
Run The World – Beyonce
Love & Happiness – Al Green
Sweet Dreams – Eurythmics
Baby Elephant Walk – Henry Mancini
Reinvention – Superchick
I Hate My School – Redd Kross
Phenomenal Cat – The Kinks
Restless – The Bangles

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GIRL AFRAID
January 5, 2016

The New Year always brings thoughts of improvement, change, and resolve. It always seems like the time to devote oneself to overhauling ourselves, our finances, our jobs, our lives, and despite my reeling against making resolutions, I do find myself in that same contemplative mindset.

The big ah ha for me is that I am my own worst enemy. I seem to get in the way of my own success or interest far more often than I don’t. A big part of my problem is that I have become a creature of comfort. Where I once barreled into things head on, I now research, create excuses, and find myself sitting resolutely where I am comfortable.

Comfort however should not be construed as content or satisfied. It’s simply a place where I know what is expected, or how to do maneuver, or how to behave. Some of this comes naturally with age and some of it comes from trying to maintain some sort of control in a life where I often have very little and some of it comes from fear.

Fear can be debilitating. I don’t think I’m that extreme but I do have a level of fear of the unknown that frequently keeps me from reaching a perceived goal or intention, or from trying new things.

I really started thinking quite a lot about this as we began contemplating our annual family trip to Mammoth so Cole and Dan can ski. We’ve been doing this for several years now with three or four other families in tow.   I learned to ski when I was nine and skied often until I was in my early 20’s. I was actually pretty good and really loved the sport.

I haven’t skied on any of the recent trips. The first year my excuse was that I needed to be available for Cole, who skis with an amazing adaptive program, Eastern Sierra Disabled Sports, in case he wanted to stop or needed anything. The next year, I got it in my head that I would fall and hurt myself and it was all over.

This year, I’m skiing. So what if I fall. I’ve fallen lots of times in the past and I know how to fall and to get up. I’m not that fragile and I want to have fun skiing with my husband and friends.

I do the same sort of thing to myself concerning my weight. I know how to be the fat girl. I know how to be the curvy one. I know how to handle myself with extra padding. When I start to lose weight and am working towards becoming fitter, stronger, and yes, thinner, I sabotage myself. The minute it becomes noticeable, I feel less confident with the attention and begin the slow decline of success. I’m not good at envisioning myself at my goal where I will likely be less comfortable, even if I’m healthier and smaller.

This past year or more I’ve actually managed to keep weight off despite my best efforts to thwart myself.   I’m intending to rejuvenate the efforts to improve my health and to lose weight, to lose baggage. The reality is that there is more to fear in staying where I am, as I am, in terms of longevity. It’s time to learn how to deal with my own discomfort and my own pathos so that I can become a support to myself, not a hindrance.

I’ll save some of the other fears for another time. I know I’m not alone in this pathos and I know it’s a challenge to get out of my own way, but I face challenges all of the time as Cole’s mom and I don’t view them the same way I view my own. I would move heaven and earth to make every day of his life better, easier, more fulfilled. I just need to try to give myself the same care and attention. The better off I am, the better able I am to rise to his needs.

Here’s to a New Year! One filled with first steps, second steps, and new steps.

SMILE
November 30, 2015

I’ve heard Tears of a Clown several times this past week, which is kind of random and unusual. The song always reminds me of a dear friend, who once asked me to promise that it was played at his funeral. A strange request, especially since it was made when we were in our late teens, if my memory serves me correctly (which it doesn’t always). At the time both the Smokey Robinson and The Beat versions were in play.

It used to strike me as an odd choice, especially for my friend. He and I met under funny circumstances in high school. He was a grade below me, and we had a mutual friend who had decided we looked alike so she started calling us by each other names. At some point it only made sense that we met. We became fast friends, he one of my best.

Thirty some odd years later, he is still a dear friend. I don’t see him nearly as often as I’d like but every time I hear that song, he leaps into my thoughts, and the more I contemplate the song choice, the more I’ve come to understand that even back when we were kids, there were parts of him I didn’t know.

To me, a somewhat insecure, but likeable girl, he was the full package -bright, handsome, very funny and popular.   We shared a lot of interests and sensibilities, which is why we got along famously. We still can pick up from the last point whenever we do manage to get together and fall back into a comfortable ease. I treasure him.

But I’ve also come to recognize that the smile sometimes does hide tears. Maybe not quite that dramatically but that there is a underlying current of sadness to him that I couldn’t distinguish when we were young, but that feels somewhat familiar to me now. Life has seasoned my compassion and when I look deeper into his smile, I see so much more.

I understand why the song resonated with him, and perhaps what he was trying to tell me even back then when we were young.

I now sometimes feel like it’s an appropriate song for my life as it unfolded. I don’t have just one song, I’ll probably create a playlist when it’s time because that’s what I do…but this song will likely be on it because I’ve come to understand that sometimes people just need to believe that your smile is a smile, and not a façade for what’s really going on inside, and sometimes you just need people to think it’s a smile too.