My MJ. Thinking about his future often keeps me awake at night. Not only because he is autistic but because he is Black and Autistic. I often wonder what will happen in a few years after he has graduated from high school and will be job training. What will happen when he is not around us? Will someone misinterpret his mannerisms? Will they shoot first before asking questions? If he can’t answer the questions, will they think that he is resisting because he doesn’t understand their directives? All of it is frightening to think about. We are doing our part to teach him as best as we can and prepare him for this world. The praying for Mj never stops. I pray this world really changes for the better after these recent events. I pray this is not just a show for many people. I pray that everyone truly believes that Black Lives Matter.
I recently signed up and ordered a card from a local police department. This particular card is one in which people with autism can carry in order to identify themselves as autistic and communicate clearly with law enforcement. The card even comes with a stress-sensing biometric strip that changes color according to a person’s level of stress. At face value this sounds great! After all, if MJ is ever stopped by an officer he can give them something that will help him interact with them. The question is, “HOW CAN I SAFELY TEACH MJ TO USE THIS CARD WITHOUT GETTING SHOT?” One of the rules on the accompanying brochure says, “As soon as possible, TELL the officer that you have a disability card and ASK if you can show your card.” As it stands right now, MJ would never TELL or ASK an officer anything. He would probably get nervous and reach for the card in his pocket! The thought of that makes me very frightened. I don’t want him to appear threatening at all. We all know that putting your hands in your pockets without informing them why you are doing so, is never a good idea. That being said, I am still glad that we received the card but it may be years before MJ really knows how to use it correctly. However, it is most definitely something that he must learn to use and use wisely.
Two years ago after private swim lessons, MJ would cling to us in the water and scream bloody murder! I was so excited yesterday after taking my kids to the pool. MJ began to swim and I quickly had to capture it on video. This is an example of how determination and patience pays off! He absolutely loves the water and I’m so happy for his improvement!
MJ went to camp this past week. It was not the camp that he is accustomed to going to. This is his first time not attending a camp for kids with special needs. As I said in an earlier post, his special needs camp was full so we had to find different placement for him. We decided to have him attend the camp that was run by his aftercare program. We felt more comfortable because the teachers and students know MJ better now as he has been attending the aftercare for 2 years. We were also pleased that his sister would be able to look out for him as well. We were still a bit reluctant because we knew that this meant more students per class and not as much supervision as we would like. On Monday he was excited and couldn’t wait to get to camp. I gave the camp director the “watch my son and make sure nobody messes with him talk” and went about my day. When I returned to pick the kids up I studied MJ’s face. Autism parents know to look at all nonverbal communication! Sometimes It is the only way to figure out what is going on. By looking at his face I can tell whether he has had a good or bad day. MJ had a huge smile on his face and said “hi mommy!” I was super relieved that his day went well. On Tuesday they went on a field trip. Again I gave the talk and went about my day. When I returned to pick the kids up MJ was again very happy. When we got in the car my daughter began to tell me how tired she was from “watching MJ”. I had to explain to her that it is not her job to watch MJ all day. I waited until we got home and had a heart to heart talk with her. The last thing I want is for her to feel burdened with looking after her brother and not having fun with her friends. I explained that the teachers should be looking after MJ and that she needs to play and have fun. Wednesday and Thursday went well and MJ was in a great mood when I picked him up. On Friday they went on another field trip. I returned just in time to see them come off of the school bus. As we got in the car to head home, my daughter began telling me about something she saw. “Mommy, MJ’s friends weren’t acting very nice to him. They were grabbing him and MJ was saying let me go.” I immediately got this ache in my stomach. I wanted to pull the car over and get more information but I didn’t want to have this conversation in the car in front of MJ. I told her to wait until we got home to finish explaining it to me. When she continued she said that they were mostly having fun and that was the only bad incident she saw. She is only 8 years old but I have to listen and believe what she is telling me. I tried calling the camp after we had our conversation but there was no answer. I will definitely be speaking to the director on Monday and will request demand that they speak with the other boys. My husband and I tried talking to MJ about it but with the limited communication we could not get any information from him. The only thing he did say was that he had fun. I am trying not to overreact but it bothered me for half of the weekend. I asked MJ if he wanted to go back to camp tomorrow and he said yes. All I really want to do is keep him home with me everyday all day but I know that is not good for him. I am a total “helicopter mom” and I am trying to slowly give him more freedom but it is So Darn Hard!
A few weeks ago I wrote about the fact that MJ was beginning to wander. He began wandering when he was out with me at the store and while at school. I meant to buy him a medical alert bracelet years ago and never did. I have actually battled with the thought of, “if he has a bracelet on that labels him autistic will he be a target for predators?” Due to the increase in his wandering I have had to put that thought to rest. I have to do what I can to help keep him safe. I went online and searched various websites until I found one that specialized in medical jewelry. I bought a simple ID bracelet that has “autism” written on one side and our contact info on the other. I pray that I never have to get a call from anyone saying that my son is lost. For now I will settle with the little “token of peace” that I have since I received the bracelet in the mail. Now, here’s to hoping he keeps the bracelet on!
MJ at this year’s swim program beginning to float on his back! Yeah!
MJ’s two week swim program at school is now over. After last year’s program he was able to swim with the “float board”. After this year’s program he is so much more comfortable in the water. He is now jumping in the pool, sliding down slides, floating on his back, and swimming!!!!! Don’t get me wrong, he is not ready for the Olympics, but he has made awesome progress. Yesterday I took the kids to swim in their grandmother’s pool. MJ was playing around and then all of a sudden began to swim from one end of the pool to the other. He would not do it again if asked to (that kid!) He only did it when no one was looking! I don’t have pics of that this time but I hope to have that soon. So grateful for his teacher, swim teachers and his progress. He will hopefully be swimming like a fish in no time!
MJ swimming with the “board” at last year’s swim program 🙂
Starting Monday MJ will be able to receive 10 swimming and water safety lessons for FREE! The best part is that it is during the school day for two weeks. It is actually a part of the curriculum for the special needs students in his elementary school. The school bus will take the students to the swim classes during the day from about 9:30- 1:00 pm. I have to tell you that 2 years ago we paid for private swim lessons for MJ. He went several times a week for 3 months and it was a horrible experience. He would scream at the top of his lungs and say “I can’t do it”! He would cry and yell off and on throughout the lesson. The instructor claimed to be trained in teaching kids with autism how to swim but we saw NO evidence of that. I believe she made MJ more scared of the water than he was before. Last year, MJ was able to participate in the school swim program and it was awesome. By the end of the two weeks he was swimming from one end of the pool to the other using a “board”(can’t remember the name of it). I am so grateful for this because we had nothing even close while living in Georgia. In fact I was turned away from the local park/pool because they didn’t have anyone that taught special needs kids how to swim. My son loves being in the water and I know how important it is for our kids to learn about water safety. I am determined to make sure he learns how to swim one way or the other!
Letter from the school regarding the swim program.
Yesterday at our local civic center, there was an event called Autism Swims. This event was for kids with autism to come and receive free water safety and swim lessons. There was also the local fire dept. and police officers in attendance as well as the autism society and other related vendors. It was a really fun event and I only wish that it happened more than once a year. We have been trying to teach MJ to swim for over 2 years now. We even had him in private one-on-one lessons and it was actually horrible for him. I am really grateful for the experiences that MJ had with the wonderful people at this event. I found it very interesting that a middle school student thought of creating this event and eventually made it finally happen. MJ saw it on the calendar in our kitchen and he was thrilled to be doing something special just for him…It was a great day!