Tag Archives: living with autism

Having a Daughter with Autism

Someone asked me the other day – What’s it like having a daughter with autism?

The flippant response would be – I don’t know what it’s like to have a daughter without autism.  But the more thoughtful answer is a bit longer and more complicated.  My own experience of being a daughter to a mother with whom I feel deeply connected to, a connection that many, I have learned over the years, do not have certainly plays a role in my answer.  I have always felt my mother and I share something that goes beyond the usual feelings of responsibility and gratitude toward someone who gave so much in order that I might have a good life.  It is as though we share something much more than the history and past of living under the same roof for the first 17 years of my life, something I cannot adequately put into words.  We have a closeness, a bond and yes, a friendship that only a few of my female friends can relate to regarding their own mothers.  I have often said that if my mother were not my mother, I would wish she were.  I don’t actually know many people who can truthfully say that about their mothers.  I am lucky.  I get that.

So when I was pregnant with Emma, I fully expected to have a similar experience.  I knew right away she was a girl.  Don’t ask me how, I just knew it.  For one thing I began to wear pink, a color I never liked until Emma entered my being and for another I craved spinach and blue cheese during my first trimester, as opposed to steak and all things meat when pregnant with Nic.  Okay so I’m not being completely serious – though all of this is true – the pregnancy was different with Em, it just was.  Without meaning to or even consciously trying to, I visualized my soon to be daughter.  I knew she would have blonde hair, blue eyes and broad shoulders, as both Richard and I share these things, but beyond that I couldn’t know. I sang to her, just as I did when I was pregnant with Nic, I talked to her, read to her and dreamed about her.

While pregnant with Emma, I was walking on Fifth Avenue one afternoon, when I passed The American Girl store.  It reminded me of my first and favorite doll, Maribelle, a gift from my mother to me when I was little.  Maribelle came in a blue and grey striped trunk complete with shoes, gowns, dresses, she even had a fur coat!  (I still have Maribelle – she and her trunk reside upstairs in my mother’s house.) I saved her, intending to give her to my own daughter, were I fortunate enough to have one. Looking through the large windows of the store I fantasized of the day I would bring my daughter there and how she would choose a special doll.  A doll that would be like Maribelle was to me – a companion, a doll she would whisper secrets to and spend hours upon hours playing with.

Richard and I were not the kind of parents intent on placing our yet-to-be-born children on waiting lists of the most coveted New York City preschools, looking to the day we could sit listening to our child’s speech having graduated  from Harvard Summa Cum Laude.  Ours was a more unconventional approach – at one point we fantasized about putting all of our belongings in storage and traveling the world for a few years.  We spent many an evening discussing the places we wanted to travel to, which included Tanzania, Lebanon, Egypt, Brazil, Morocco and Laos.  We poured over guide books and vowed that once both children were out of diapers we would make our fantasies reality.  We had no way of knowing that Emma wouldn’t be out of diapers until she was eight and a half years old.  We couldn’t know that once she was out of diapers we would be scrambling to cover the staggering cost of her care, making any dreams of extensive travel abroad impossible to seriously contemplate, not to mention the sheer logistics of traveling to a foreign country with a child with special needs.

(To be continued.)

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

Autism’s Murky Future

Yesterday the New York Times ran a front page piece entitled – Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World.  I am always so grateful when I see anything on autism, even when I am not told anything I don’t already know.  I am particularly grateful when I see something on autism on the front page of the New York Times.  For those of us who are parents of a child with autism, the looming question of what will happen when our child becomes an adult is something we do not have the luxury to ignore.  Yet, the answer is not readily available to us, either.  There is no road map by which we can look to.  The future of our children is very much up in the air.  It is a tricky balance keeping the fear at bay, while also being practical and realistic about ones child’s future and how we might ensure she is taken care of should she not be able to hold down a job and live independently.

My message of hope on The Hope Installation at the entrance to the High Line

The truth is we cannot know what Emma will be like in another eight years, all we can do is continue to work as intensely and extensively with her as we currently are.

So this evening when I come home from work, I will work on the word – does.  After we spend an hour or so going over the word, both using it in hand written sentences and as well as typing sentences with it, we will also use the word verbally as when I lay out a frog, a boy, a bus and a dog and say, “Hand me the one who does not eat.”  After we have done all of that we will play some games using the word “does” and finally we will go over a list of words she has already learned and review them.  Somewhere during all of this – dinner will be prepared, Nic’s homework will get done, stories will be read and everyone will eventually go to bed.

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

Emma’s Sense of Humor – Autism

Emma’s sense of humor, much like everything else about her, is… quirky.  As a baby, Emma squealed with excitement when we popped out from behind things and yelled, “Boo!”  As Emma grew older she continued to delight in anything resembling silliness.  We were filled with hope when, during one of Emma’s many early intervention therapy sessions, she offered some play-doh to the therapist, only to pull it away just as the therapist reached for it.  Emma howled with laughter as the confused therapist realized Emma was playing a joke with her.

Afterward the therapist made a point of telling us how Emma’s sense of humor suggested tremendous potential, how she was expressing a desire to interact, how unusual this was for a child with autism to want to initiate in such a creative way.  Emma continues to display her silliness and creativity in surprising ways.

Emma with what’s left of her cokie  (this use to be a crib blanket filled with down).

When I came into her bedroom and saw her I said, “Em!  What are you doing with cokie?!”

To which she laughed, “Stick cokie up your nose.”

“That’s so gross, Em!”

“No not going to stick cokie up your nose, stick cokie in your ears,” she replied, still laughing.

“Ew!”

“That’s funny,” she then said.

It reminded me of when we took Nic out to eat at a Japanese restaurant.   “Look Mommy!”  He said as he unwrapped his chopsticks and stuck each into a corner of his mouth.    “I’m a walrus,” he managed to say.

My grandmother was known for, after a few drinks, rolling a napkin up, and placing it above her upper lip pretended it was a mustache – so maybe it’s genetic and not a display of extreme intelligence after all.  Not that she wasn’t extremely intelligent, she was…

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

Asking – Autism

I remember the first time Emma’s older brother, Nic asked permission to do something.  He was about 14 months old and he asked if it was okay to take a particular toy with him to the playground.  It was noteworthy for a number of reasons, but as his mom, I remember thinking how incredible it was that this tiny child understood that if you asked, rather than just did something, chances were you would be able to do whatever it was.  The whole “polite” thing wasn’t part of the equation yet, but it soon came to be, shortly thereafter.

With Emma it was different right from the beginning.  For one thing, she didn’t ask questions as much as demand that her basic needs were met.  Because her language was severely delayed, she would often drag one of us to the refrigerator and indicate what she wanted.  As she didn’t “want” our attention, toys or many of the things other neuro-typical children do, there was less motivation to ask for things.

As Nic grew older his questions became more complicated and interesting.  Suddenly we were discussing such topics as religion, questioning the existence of God and if there was a God, who made him.  Could there be a heaven without a “God”, why did people die, was there life beyond our planet earth, how did we come to be and what was our purpose, where did the earth come from, how is it possible that the universe is infinite and what does that mean, exactly.  Nic also became curious about Richard and my experiences.  He wanted to know if I’d ever felt scared (yes!), whether I was nervous when in front of new people (often), when did I know what I wanted to be when I grew up (that concept continues to evolve), when did Richard and I meet, and the questions have never stopped.

Emma does not ask questions about life and the world.  She has never asked me a personal question.  But she has learned to ask for things that she needs or wants.  Often the question is a demand with an upward lilt added, making the demand more palatable, as in  – “Go to the zoo?”  “See the snake bite boy?” “Apple juice?”  However lately her questions have changed slightly.  It’s a subtle difference, but I have noticed it a number of times in the last few days.  This morning she came into the study (this in and of itself is startlingly new as in the past she would simply ask from where ever she was and then when no one responded because no one heard her, she would begin to scream until someone appeared) but today she found me and said, “Mommy?”  Then she waited for me to respond.  When I looked up, she said, “Can I have a caramel yogurt?”  Again she waited for my response.  This too is different.  In the past she might have asked if I was standing nearby and then after uttering the words she would have raced off, not waiting for a response.  The question was rhetorical.

“Sure Em.  Go have a caramel yogurt,” I said.

To which she ran off, only to reappear a few minutes later saying, “Okay.  Last one caramel yogurt?  Eat one more and then it’s all done.”

“Yeah.  Okay, Em.  That sounds good.  Go have another one.”

“Okay!”  She yelled as she went back into the kitchen.

Last night she found me in the bathroom, where I was brushing my teeth.  “Mommy?”  She waited.

“Yes, Em?”

“Can I watch Winnie-the-Pooh?”  Again she stood looking at me expectantly, waiting for my answer.

“Sure Em.  But first put on your nightie and brush your teeth.  Okay?”

“Okay!”  she said tearing off to change.

I cannot describe my surprise at her actually waiting for me to respond.  This is new and a welcome change.

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

Siblings – Autism

Nic is Emma’s older, neuro-typical brother.   Nic is eleven, about to enter the sixth grade and an all around amazing kid.  Having Emma as his younger sister is often difficult for Nic, though he usually doesn’t complain.  The siblings of children with autism are often burdened with responsibilities far beyond their years.  Despite our attempts to encourage Nic not to take on the role of her personal body guard, supervisor and parent, he often does on his own accord.  He can’t help himself.  He worries about Emma.

Nic has witnessed horrific and violent melt downs.  He has seen Emma punch herself in the face, bite herself repeatedly on the hand or arm.  He has stood by helplessly as she screamed and shrieked her frustration at not being understood.  He has joined in countless searches for such bizarre and arbitrary items as a missing balloon string, a piece of packing tape, a scrap of paper, a specific photograph or a microscopic shred of what is left of her blanket.  He has panicked with us when one of us uttered the dreaded words:  “Where is Emma?”

Nic is older than Emma by 21 months, yet he is very much the adult to her childlike innocence.   In an effort to give Nic time to enjoy himself without the stresses that can come with Emma, Richard and I spend at least one day a week with Nic, alone.

So yesterday, instead of going into my studio I asked Nic if he wanted to hang out with me.

“I’d love that Mom,” he said, nodding his head.  “We’ll have some Mom and son time.”

We ended up going to Elephant and Castle (a place that’s been around for almost forty years and where I used to love going when I was in college because of their bowls of latte) for lunch.  We discussed the coming school year, who he hoped would be in his class and what teachers he hoped to have.

“What are the top five things you like best about yourself?” I asked.

“I like that I’m a good person, I’m kind, thoughtful, I care about people, I want to help people and I work really hard.”

“You do!  That’s all so true,” I said.

“I like that I’m an average skateboarder,” he added.

“You’re a really good skateboarder.  What do you mean by that?”

“I like that I’m okay, but not great yet, it gives me something to work toward.  Cause like if I was really great and already knew everything, that wouldn’t be as much fun,” he took a bite of his cheeseburger.  “Mom, you’ve got to try this.  It’s amazing!”  He offered me a bite of his burger.

“Okay, if you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?” I asked.

“I’d be a genius,” he answered without hesitation.  “What about you?”

“I’d be more patient and not so quick to anger,” I said.

“I think you’re perfect just the way you are, Mom.  I don’t think you have to change a thing,” he said, patting my arm.

“Wow, Nic.  That’s such an incredibly kind and lovely thing to say.”

“It’s okay Mom.  It’s true,” he said looking at me and smiling.

That’s Nic – kind, supportive, incredibly loving and thoughtful.

After we had lunch we went to the movies, then took a walk and talked some more.

“This was a great day, Mom.  Thanks for suggesting it,” Nic said as we made our way home.

“I loved it, Nic.  I loved spending today with you.”

“Yeah, me too.”

We walked together in silence for awhile, then Nic said,  “Mom?”

“Yeah Nic?”

“Do you think we could get a dog?”

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

We Have to Keep Trying – Autism

When Emma was first diagnosed, she was four months away from her third birthday.  Since that fall, now seven years ago, we continue to show up for her in ways we could not have imagined.  As many of you with a child with autism know, engaging your child can be complicated.  Emma cannot have a “conversation” the way her neuro-typical brother, Nic can.  We cannot have discussions with her, there is no easy back and forth of ideas and opinions.  Because Emma is rigid in her desires, outings can become problematic if they are not kept to a strict schedule.  The central park carousel must be ridden and then we must go to the zoo, but only after we have watched the brass animals go around when the clock strikes every half hour.  Once in the zoo we must watch the seals being fed and then go see the penguins, followed by the aging and now blind seal, then the polar bear and finally a visit to the bats, before we can leave.  Often Emma will then insist on a visit to the petting zoo where she is more interested in patting the metal replicas of the animals, which then make the appropriate animal sounds, than the real animals.

When both the children were toddlers we were frequent visitors to the American Museum of Natural History on the upper west side of Manhattan.  During the winter months I often took the children four or five times a week.

“Once the kids are older, I hope never to go to that museum again,” I grumbled to Richard one afternoon after an exhaustive five hours spent there.  “And can we add every playground that exists?”  I added.

And then we got the diagnosis and everything was up for grabs.

My time with Emma now includes listening to music and dancing together, walks and yes, lots of playgrounds, amusement parks, the zoo, the various carousels the city has to offer, swimming, but also reading and her literacy program.  Richard still takes Emma to see “the snake bite boy”, which is Emma’s name for the American Museum of Natural History.  But it is during Emma’s “study room” sessions that I see her progress in real, identifiable and concrete ways.  It doesn’t matter whether I am feeling optimistic or not, the evidence is there, right in front of me.  We have kept a record of those first hours when she was learning to form the letter “a” to now, when she is struggling to write two and three sentences at a time.

This morning was a difficult session.  She was required to write three sentences from memory.  At a certain point I said, “We cannot give up, Em.  We have to keep trying.  I know it’s hard, but you can do this.”

Those words were probably more meaningful to me, than to her.  They would be an apt mantra for me to repeat to myself every morning.

No matter what, we cannot ever give up.  We have to keep trying.

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

Literacy and Autism

We have been working intensively with Emma on her reading, writing, typing and more recently math and verbal skills.  The reading, writing and typing program we began in January.  It was at this time that she painstakingly learned how to form each letter of the alphabet.

This morning Emma wrote this, in answer to the written question – Did the cat jump? – after I had made the cat jump.

In answering the question – Did the boy jump? (the boy as seen in this photo was lying in a bed) Emma wrote:

In accessing Emma’s progress, I need to compare her to herself and not other children.  I have seen over the years how easy it is to become discouraged when I compare Emma to her brother or any neuro-typical child or even other children on the spectrum – unless they are much more severe.

“This isn’t going to be a sprint,” Richard once observed, after seeing yet another neurologist.

And it isn’t.  Emma is making slow and steady progress.  We work with her for about three hours every day on her literacy, math and verbal exercises.  There has been no instantaneous miracle.  She has not begun to write on her own in complete, complex and revealing sentences.  She has not gotten to the point where she is able to tell us what it is like for her to be her.  She cannot answer questions regarding anything remotely abstract.  (Which doesn’t mean I don’t continually hold out hope that one day she will.  I do.)  But at the moment, I am happy to reflect on her slow, steady progress and it fills me with joy to work with her each morning and to see these beautiful sentences that she constructs on her own.

Someone once asked me – Is it good enough?

The idea being that I had a preconceived notion of how I wanted something to be and anything short of that meant it was an utter failure.  Sometimes being “good enough” is still pretty fabulous.  So yes – Emma’s progress is good enough.  In fact, it’s better than good enough, it’s wonderful.

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

Do We Have An Obligation to People With Autism?

The scene in the airplane last week involving the man with autism, has stuck with me.  I keep wondering what the airlines would need to help them cope with situations such as the one we witnessed.  Of course I am approaching this question with the assumption that they are interested in mitigating the damage and distress such a scene may cause, not only for the man with autism, but for the other passengers seated nearby, as well as the flight crew.  At the very least – the airlines and all such companies who may come into contact with persons with autism should be educated enough to know how best to deal with most situations that might arise.  Given the current rise in autism, it seems scenarios such as the one I described last week will occur with increasing frequency.  At the very least, it does seem obvious that when a person with autism has requested a window seat they should be accommodated, just as someone who requires a wheelchair is given an aisle seat.

Why is it that neurological differences are treated any differently than physical?  The answer is –  for the most part neurological issues go unseen.  We cannot see inside the person’s brain and so we make assumptions.  Assumptions that the person has a psychological “problem” or are simply behaving badly because they are – poorly brought up or have emotional problems.  We have words for people like this, most of them cannot be written without using a lot of keyboard symbols.  We have little tolerance for those who seem to indulge their worst desires and allow themselves to act out on those selfish interests.  But what of the people who, like the man we encountered last week, have autism?  Do we not, as a society, have an obligation to these people?

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

The Hurricane – Autism

Explaining to Emma why all the museums and most stores were closed and subways and buses had stopped running as of noon this past Saturday because of the threat of Hurricane Irene was difficult.  Particularly as the weather was not cooperating with all the dire predictions.  There was a vast disconnect between the news coverage and what we were actually experiencing on our street in Chelsea.  Since we are not near either river, the winds were mild if even present and though it certainly rained, it was minor compared to what many others along the eastern coast experienced.

Emma gazed out the window and said things like, “It’s raining.”  And then she would add, wistfully, “Go to the carousel.”  Followed quickly with, “No not going to go on the carousel, it’s broken.”

Try as we might to explain that the city had shut down in anticipation of the impending hurricane, she seemed unable to make sense of it. It was all the more implausible when the hurricane never actually arrived.

New York preparing for the worst?  May I just point out – this is masking tape.

Sandbags in front of the AT&T store.

One of hundreds of signs – these guys had just been through the tsunami, so they get to make fun.

Sixth Avenue – Saturday, August 27th.

Looking toward New Jersey from a pier in Chelsea – Sunday AM.

Nic and Em feel the wind on Sunday AM.

The only sign of damage we found the next day.

Merlin looking majestic through it all.

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

One Last Night

Sunrise

It’s hard not to feel the overwhelming beauty of life when seeing a sunrise over the mountains, like this one, as we did yesterday.

Emma has asked to go back to our little rustic one room cabin almost every night since we last spent the night there about a week ago.  Since we are leaving tomorrow, returning to New York, we decided last night was our final chance to spend in it.

“Hey Em, do you want to spend the night in the cabin?”

“YES!!!!” she shouted, jumping up and down.  Then she dashed upstairs, returning a little while later carrying her backpack.

Nic opted to stay with his Granma, so the three of us set out, Emma racing ahead of us up the little trail.  When we arrived and had settled in, Emma threw on her nightgown, despite the fact it was only 7:30PM and still light outside.

“Don’t y0u want to sit with us and watch the stars come up?”

“No, not going to sit outside.  Time for bed!”  Emma said snuggling under her sleeping bag.

Richard and I watched as the sun set, whereupon the bats came out.  Just as a bat whipped past us, less than two feet from where we were sitting, Emma appeared.

“Em, did you see the bat?”

“Bats come out.  Bats going to bite you!”  Emma exclaimed, looking up anxiously.

“No.  They eat bugs, Em.  They’re not going to bite you.”

“Okay, okay, sit with Mommy!”  Emma jumped onto my lap, pulling a blanket up around her shoulders.

When we got up this morning and began packing up to return to civilization, Emma said, “Spend tonight again in the cabin?”

“No Em.  We have to fly back to New York on Thursday.”

“Get on the airplane,” Emma said nodding her head up and down.

“Yes, we get on an airplane.”

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

What Matters

We are leaving soon.  Back to New York City where our other life awaits us.  The children need to get ready for a new school year, medical forms need to be filled out, bus companies need to be contacted and confirmed, school supplies need to be bought.  Nic will be entering 6th grade and there’s a certain excitement in that.  Emma doesn’t enter a “grade”.  She will be placed in a class with other children on the spectrum, who are near to where she is academically.  I am always filled with trepidation at the start of a new year regarding Emma.  It is difficult not to give in to fears and worries.  Will she excel?  Will her new teacher and classroom be a good fit?

The truth is, Emma has progressed more in the past seven months than she has in five years.  We attribute this to the literacy program we began in January of this year.  We have now added a math program as well as a verbal program.  Emma is working each day for about three hours on these various programs.  It has been amazing to witness.  Progress.  This is the word every specialist we’ve ever spoken to has used.  Is she progressing?  And the answer to that question is a resounding – Yes.  We cannot predict what the future holds for Emma.  We cannot know how far she will go.  But as long as she continues to progress we know we are on the right track. I heard someone say once – Progress, not perfection.  It’s an apt thought for any of us.

Emma at dusk last night

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

Deficits and Assets – Autism

It is easy to see what’s wrong – with the world, with other people, with ourselves.  When Emma was diagnosed with autism we were told about all that was “wrong” with her.  Her deficits were listed with great care:  Her eye contact was weak.  She showed little interest in interaction with others, she didn’t point, she didn’t ask questions about others, she showed little awareness of others, she seemed oblivious to others pain or feelings.  Her verbal skills were delayed, her fine motor skills were delayed, her ability to play, to project, to engage in any sort of fantasy or pretend play was almost non-existent.  The list went on and on.

But what of her assets?  What about all the things she did that showed tremendous creativity and intelligence?  Where was the balance in her many and varied evaluations?

When Emma went to a Special Education Pre-School I met a little boy who couldn’t have been older than three.  He was pointing to all the signs in the building and reading them.  I exclaimed to one of the therapists standing nearby how incredible this seemed to me.  She then told me he was hyperlexic and that they discouraged him from reading as it wasn’t “normal”.

I have never forgotten that.  Here was a child with an unusual ability.  A talent that could be used to further his education and perhaps interests and yet it was being discouraged.  Is that what we want from our children – to be “normal”?  What do we sacrifice in our attempts to “fit in”, to adapt, to be like everyone else?

Emma has a beautiful voice and a love of performing.  If we have guests over she asks to “sing a song” for them as she did last night.  Sometimes she needs to be reminded that the song must eventually end as she can get into a loop, singing the same refrain over and over again.  She hasn’t mastered the whole concept of “losing ones audience”.  But we encourage her singing and desire to perform just as we encourage Nic to practice his Alto Sax and the piano.  Emma has a great many assets, things she loves doing over and over again.  With Nic we use the word “practicing”, with Emma we say she is “perseverating.”  Yet in her perseveration Emma is practicing as much as Nic is.  The difference is, Emma will do the same thing over and over again for hours, whereas Nic will practice for 20 or 30 minutes and move on to something else.

Last night as guests began to arrive, Emma was upstairs in her “study room”, sitting on the floor in her party dress writing.  When I went upstairs, this is what I saw.

She was talking to herself and picking up each piece of paper then reading it before placing it back down and moving to the next.

As we had run out of lined paper, she had made the lines herself, before writing the sentence – The kids can hug.

Now this scene isn’t exactly “normal”, on the other hand very little in our household is.

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

Bumps In The Road

Inevitably in life we have all experienced things that have forced us to slow down, perhaps take another route, do things differently than we would have liked.  I think of these things as bumps in the road.  I try to refrain from judging them as good or bad, but just as the way things are.  There are some moments I’m better at achieving this kind of calm perspective than others.  It’s easy for me to feel all that is happening at work is “horrible”, but the truth is, a series of events have been set into motion and I have had to make the decision to fight back, to defend myself or allow another person to harm me and in harming me, harm my family.

Emma experiences her own “bumps” along the way.  Things that happen, which force us to change well laid plans.  Plans she is excited about and is looking forward to.  But more and more, lately, Emma has taken these things in stride.  She is learning to adapt to a world that is often precarious, constantly changing and shifting.  It is a wonderful thing to witness.  We all must adapt to our ever changing circumstances.

Emma makes me happy –  Both my children do.  Try not to smile while looking at this next photograph.

I dare you.  No smiling.  Come on, it’s impossible not to feel a tiny degree of joy, right?  I love that.

Here’s another photograph that can’t help but bring a smile to my face.

This was done yesterday during Emma’s “study room”.  She is writing longer and more complex sentences.  Her reading is coming along beautifully.  Excuse me while I jump up and down with excitement!

So no matter how heinous things get at work, I have my family.  My beautiful, amazing family – and that’s all I need to bring things into the proper perspective.

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

Emma’s Rainbow

One of the wonderful by-products of this mess at work is that I am spending every day with my family.  Yesterday we ended the day with Emma saying to me during dinner, “Go outside with just Mommy?”

“Yeah okay, Em.  We can go outside together as soon as everyone’s finished eating their dinner,” I told her.

Once outside, Nic was already there throwing the frisbee for the dogs.  Emma said, “Hold hands with Nicky?”

“Sure Em,” Nic said.

“Run through the sprinklers with Nicky?”  Emma said, jumping up and down.

“I’ll run through the sprinklers with you, Em.  Here,” he said, holding out his hand.

And then they began to run together.

Through the sprinklers…

And then Emma changed into her bathing suit and they ran again, this time through a rainbow…

And out the other side.

Laughing and together, just the way any brother and sister might.

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

Work and Family

Things have been horrific at work.  Tremendous stress and upheaval, but despite it all, my children and family keep things in perspective.  I remember when I first heard the word “autism” and later read how those with this diagnosis tended toward anti-social behavior  I felt terribly sad.  Sad because I thought at the time it meant that Emma would miss out on the things that have made my life most meaningful.  My happiest moments have all been with my family, my favorite memories are all involving family and friends.  But so are Emma’s.  She still asks to go back to California to – “Uncle Andy’s wedding.”  When we’ve told her he won’t be getting married again or at least everyone hopes this to be the case, she says -“Go to California.  Andy’s wedding again?”

We’ve tried to explain that weddings are unusual celebrations, not the sort of thing one does every few years, at least for most of us.  But nothing we say fazes her.  She had such a wonderful time in Napa Valley at my brother Andy’s wedding, she wants to go back, be among my extended family.

My fondest childhood memories are of coming out to Aspen to visit my grandmother.  Her house was brimming with relatives, her brother, my Great Uncle Paul, a number of his children would come for tea every afternoon after skiing.  She had dinner parties, more relatives would descend and close friends were called, “Aunt” and “Uncle” even if they weren’t technically speaking.  The smells of cooking, burst forth from the kitchen, the upstairs always had the distinct smell of moth balls.  I loved going up to her attic and rummaging about through enormous steamer trunks filled with clothing and photographs from another time.

Emma is like me in this way.  She has a phenomenal memory and it is always about people and family that she refers to when she is recalling something she wants to do again from the past.  “Go back to Cape Cod” is one of her more recent requests.  Every summer Richard and I used to go to North Trurro.  We always had friends come and join us, a kind of revolving door of people – there was Kat and Randy, Christian and his girlfriend at the time, Anna.  Emma asks for these people by name, she hasn’t forgotten any of them.

So when things become difficult with work, problems arise, no matter how dire things can seem, it is my family who always bring things back into perspective.

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