Tag Archives: autism kids

A Phone Conversation With Emma

Speaking on the phone with Emma has always been challenging.  She tends to forget that there is a person on the other end and often walks away, leaving the phone dangling there before someone either abruptly hangs the phone up, not realizing I’m still there or answers it in a harried sounding voice.  Sadly, since I’ve been out here in Aspen working, both my children and husband remain in New York City, so the only communication I have with any of them is by phone.  This morning I called before the children left for camp – which meant calling them at 5:45AM Rocky Mountain time.  The following was my conversation with Emma.

A rustling sound followed by, “Hi Joe!”

“No, Emmy.  It’s me, Mommy.”

“Oh!  Hi Mommy!”

“How are you Emma?”

“I’m fine.  Have so much fun at camp.  Last day.  Last day summer camp.”

“Two more days, Em.  You have two more days and then it’s Saturday and then you and Daddy and Nicky and Jackie fly out to Aspen!”

“No more summer camp.  Fly to Granma’s house!”

“That’s right Em.  I can’t wait to see you.  I miss you so much.”


“I’ll be at the airport, Em, waiting for you guys.  I am so excited to see you.”


“Emmy, have you enjoyed camp?  What are you doing there today?  Anything exciting?”

Silence.  Then humming.


More humming of a carousel song – whose name I cannot remember.

“Hey Em?”

More humming and the sound of her moving away from the phone until the humming was from far away.


“Oh hi honey.  She took off.  Nic wants to talk with you though.   He was going to call you this morning,”  Richard said.

I then spoke with Nic who informed me that he missed me and Emma did too.  He now knows how to blow bubbles from a single piece of gum, a proud accomplishment and something he had become convinced he would never be able to do.  He’s practicing his Alto Sax and loves it, is playing the piano and is working on a blues composition for it, while learning the guitar, so he is not as good at it, but is still enjoying it.  The sax he is shipping out to Aspen so he can practice while out here and his skateboard he intends to leave in New York.  He explained to me that he plans to buy another one for Aspen so he’ll have one here as well as in New York.  He requested that I find him a bail of hay so he can set up a bulls eye to practice his archery, which I’ve promised to look into.  As he told me all of this I could hear Emma in the background, talking, singing and laughing.  I could hear that Joe had arrived.  As I spoke to Nic, mining him for more information there was silence.

“Hey Nicky!”




“Nic!  NIC!”

“Oh yeah, Mom?”

“Nicky, I was talking to you.”

Sorry.  Joe’s here, playing with Emma.  I got kind of distracted.”

Shrieks of laughter were then heard along with running and more laughing.  Talk about feeling out of the loop!  But also relieved everyone is having a good time and I will get to see them in another four days.  Just four more days…

Emma in her Pink Flamingo costume

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

What is Normal?

Having a child diagnosed with autism, one inevitably comes up against this question – What exactly is normal?

According to Dictionary.com – “Normal:  1. conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.  2. serving to establish a standard.  Psychology – a. approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment.  b. free from any mental disorder; sane.”

Autism is a neurological disorder, yet interestingly, if one goes to dictionary.com and looks up autism, the word “neurological” never shows up in it’s definition.  In fact, it is defined as:  1. Psychiatry – a pervasive developmental disorder of children, characterized by impaired communication, excessive rigidity, and emotional detachment.  2.  a tendency to view life in terms of one’s own needs and desires.”

Okay  – so the definition certainly suggests something outside of “normal”, though “a tendency to view life in terms of one’s own needs and desires” certainly describes a great many people I’ve come in contact with over the course of my life.  In fact, couldn’t one even say that this is one of the great flaws of being human?  We all tend to view our lives as our own private universe, and though we have grown to understand we are not the center of it, a great many still wish we were.

Have you ever engaged in a conversation with another person only to begin lamenting the problems of the world, our government, other governments only to conclude that if everyone just listened to us, the world would be a better place?  How many times in a relationship have you thought, if only the other person would listen to me, do as I wish, everything between us would be so much easier?

It all comes down to the degree.  I didn’t bother to look up narcissism, but I’m pretty sure people who have that tendency would fall under the second definition of autism – though the resemblance stops there.

When I think about my daughter, Emma, she is the antithesis of narcissism.  Emma is without ego.  She is also without malice.  It would never occur to Emma to tease or set out to hurt another person’s feelings.  These are not things she is cognitively capable of.  I remember the first time she told a lie, I was ecstatic.

“Did you hear her?” I asked my husband, Richard.  ”I asked her if she’d brushed her teeth and she told me she had, but when I went into the bathroom, her toothbrush hadn’t been used!”

“Things are all falling into place,” Richard said with a grin.

The idea that Emma understood that if she told me what she knew I wanted to hear, even though it wasn’t true, it might allow her to get away with not doing something she didn’t want to do, was a huge step toward “normalcy”.

I have grown to dislike these definitions and labels.  I find them utterly unhelpful.  Perhaps in the beginning when I knew nothing about PDD-NOS – the diagnosis first given to Emma when she was two – I had no idea what people in the field were talking about, and so it was imperative that I learn what these labels meant.  But now, some seven years later, those same labels do little to help us help our daughter.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Emma in Central Park carrying her dad’s “man bag.”

Explaining Travel to Emma

I flew back to Aspen, Colorado yesterday, alone.  Explaining to Emma why I had to return so quickly was difficult.  First of all I don’t know how much she understands and since she cannot ask me questions the way her older, neuro-typical, brother, Nic does, I cannot know what goes through her mind.  So when I told both children ten days ago that I was going to have to go back to Aspen because of my store, Nic said, “NOOOOOO!  You only just came home!  That’s so unfair, Mom.  Why do you have to go back?”

Emma remained silent.  I explained that there were things I needed to take care of at the store, that it was part of the deal with owning one’s own business, it’s just what one has to do.  After awhile, Emma wandered away muttering, “Sleep, wake up, camp on the lake, sleep, wake up, get on airplane.”

Nic meanwhile was angry, then teary, then resigned.  “I know, honey.  It’s a drag.  But you, Daddy and Em will come out in August so it won’t be so long this time that we’re all apart.”

“No Mom.  It’s not a drag.  This sucks,” he said, before turning away from me, his arms crossed, to stare out the window.

“I’m so sorry, Nicky.”

And as sorry as I was that Nic was upset, I wondered what was going on through Emma’s mind.  Was she just accepting that this was how things were, did she have questions?  What was she feeling?

Impossible for me to know.

This past weekend I pulled out a calendar and went over it with Nic and Emma.  Pointing to various dates, I said, “Okay so this is when I have to leave.”

“Get on airplane, fly back to Aspen,” Emma said, looking at the box with the number 19 on it where my finger was positioned.

“Yeah.  That’s right Em.  That’s the day I have to go back.”

“Sleep, wake up, get on airplane,” she said.

“Just me, Em.  You guys are going to go to camp and stay in New York with Daddy,” I explained.  “Then look, on this day you, Daddy, Nic and Jackie are going to fly out to Aspen.  That’s in twelve days.  And here, this is when Joe comes out and Jackie has to go back, then here is when we all fly back to New York together.”  I looked at both of them.  “Okay?”

“I don’t want you to go again.  We’ve only had you for like three days,” Nic said.

“Two weeks.”  I put my arm around him.  “I know.  I know.”

“It’s not fair,” Nic said.

“Sleep, wake up, sleep wake up…”  Emma began, counting on her fingers how many sleep, wake ups it would be before they flew out to Aspen to meet me.  “Go to YMCA with just Mommy?”  Emma said after she had finished counting out 12 “sleep, wake ups”.

“No, Em.  But Daddy will take you.”

“Go to YMCA with just Daddy,” she repeated and then scooted away on her scooter.

Yesterday morning as I was gathering my things to go downstairs, Emma ran over to me and threw her arms around me.  “Bye Mommy!” She said, burying her face into me.

“I’m going to miss you so much, Em.”

“Miss you,” she said, before pulling away.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com