Living Life Between The Dumpsters

Dumpster

Photo by Steve Snodgrass

Every morning when I am dropping my son Austin off for school, I can always count on being greeted by the same two faces. Day in and day out; rain, snow, sleet or shine they are there, waiting for on arrival. They are older and a little weathered now but still stand tall with strong backbones. Their names are Bruce and Betty and I can always count on them to be sitting with anticipation awaiting our arrival.

Well, Bruce and Betting is what I have named them. In fact, they are not human but do have faces per se. You see, Bruce and Betty are large brown dumpsters.

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You Can’t Enjoy Church Sitting In The Car

on the road

by Flood G.

Well, it is 11:15am on Sunday morning and where am I? I am sitting in the car in the church parking lot. Does that count as attending or do I actually have to be in the building? It has been one of those Sunday mornings with my special needs son, Austin. You might be wondering why I am in the car. Well, I will tell you.

The morning was mostly manageable getting ready to leave for church. All of the boys and I were successfully able to get in the car and get to church on time. Michael got out and went in with the high school kids and I dropped Luke off at his classroom without a hitch. Now it was time to get Austin to his class, which recently has become a challenge in itself. Austin will turn 13 next week so you know what that means.

autism + puberty = a parental nightmare

As we were walking down the hall I was reminded that all junior and senior high students were going to be meeting together in a large meeting room for their morning class. Austin is now in the 6th grade class so I knew that meant he would be in there as well. Once Austin and I arrived, I could tell by the crowd of students that this might not be the best option for him this morning so I decided to take him to the worship center with me. Even though his shadow was there, I knew Austin might have trouble with a loud, crowded room of kids.

Austin and I found a seat in the back at the end of a row. We had no problem sitting down and it looked as if it would be a normal morning service for us. Everything was fine until the singing was over. That was when Austin decided he wanted a ring pop, which of course I did not have. We usually give him a ring pop when we are in the worship center to keep his mouth busy so he will not talk so much but I was not planning on him attending in the worship center with me so I did not think about bringing one. In the past we have forgotten ring pops and were able to manage but not today. Austin quickly became very vocal in his disapproval and began doing the one thing I hate more than anything else he does, he began squawking.

Have you ever watched the movie Dumb and Dummer? There is a part of the movie in which Harry asks Lloyd, “Want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?” Well, that is almost the same sound Austin makes when he is unhappy about something. If you are unsure what I am talking about here is a clip.

Now imagine someone making that sound in a quite room with about 800 other people. Austin started right when everyone sat down and became very quite waiting on the senior pastor to begin speaking. I could tell it was not going to stop anytime soon so we quickly left the worship center in order not to be a distraction. We tried the overflow room, which was relatively empty, and made it a full 23 seconds before the noises started again. We then proceeded out to a couch in the foyer which turned out worse than the other places. Not only was he squawking, but he refused to sit down and was walking around hitting his head with his hand. Of course, everyone was looking at us as they walked by so we went to the one place I knew would be safe, the car.

So here I sit, in the parking lot, staring at the church building, in a parked car. I tried.

So how am I feeling? Guilty first of all. The churches in which my wife and I were raised stressed the importance of church attendance. Growing up we were there basically there every time the doors of the church were open. That mentality is still stuck in my head somewhere and the guilt is very heavy that I am not inside the building right now.

I am feeling a little lonely. Not just because I am sitting in a car alone with my son but more in regards to our interaction with other church members. The way you get to know others is by becoming involved but at the moment, because of Austin, we are not able to be as involved as we have been in the past. So, after attending our current church for almost 3 years, we still basically have no substantial relationships with others in the congregation. I am blaming no one. It’s just that we are not able to get involved like other families and because of that, not able to develop deeper friendships.

I am a little saddened as well. I think about all the other families who also might not be able to participate, or even attend church, on a regular basis. I am concerned that they too feel lonely even in a crowded church building or guilty because they have to miss another Sunday.

So here I sit. This is not the first time I have sat in the car with Austin during church and it definitely will not be the last time. I do like the fact that we at least made it and that Michael and Luke are able to participate. The other part of me at least takes some comfort in the fact that this was another opportunity for Austin to learn how to interact with other individuals in a group setting, though today would go down as a complete failure. All I can do is try and I believe that is enough. Though not always successful, I hope our determination to at least try to get to church sets an example for the other two boys as they grow up and have families of their own.

So now, back inside we go to pick up the other two. Austin is in a better mood now and hopefully we will be able to walk down the halls without indecent.  Trust me, if there is a problem, I will tell you all about it later.

When Your Son With Autism Doesn’t Want To Get Ready For School

Austin Not Smiling

Austin Not Smiling

This morning was one of those mornings at the Parker house. I am completely frustrated and it is not even 7:30 AM. As I sit here drinking coffee while Luke eats his “white donuts” for breakfast and watches videos on YouTube about Jurassic Park toys, I am counting down all the things I must do today before I can go back to bed. This morning I almost called it quits. Who needs school anyways? I am pretty sure they can learn whatever they need watching TV or playing XBOX.

I am sure for most families, school days can be a real struggle. For many like us there is the high school kid who doesn’t want to get out of bed until there is exactly 75 seconds remaining before you need to leave the house to get to school on time. Then there is the 4-year-old who eagerly gets out of bed but takes forever to get into the car because they are walking out the door carrying two blankets, a Power Ranger, a Batman, a sword and a glass of milk. “Please leave your blankets here.”, I said. “But I ‘meed’ them.”, is the reply I got.

Then there is Austin, our middle child with autism. Waking him up each morning is like choosing a piece of chocolate out of a Valentines box of candy. You may choose something really sweet and delicious or you may get something filled with chalk flavored toothpaste that makes you gag and spit all over your new shirt. Some mornings he is eager to get his shoes on and head to the car. Other days he is grabbing his shoes from the closet and throwing them across the room as far as possible. Today was more on the later end. There are days when everyone can wake up on the wrong side of the bed. For a child with autism, sometimes its like they woke up on the wrong side of the bed and it was the side next to the 100 foot cliff. Continue reading

Typical vs. Special – How Schedule Changes Affect My Children Differently

Austin getting a haircutOur family is a giant ball of crazy! You never know what is going to happen when the Parker Circus rolls into town. My wife and I have three boys, each in a different state of life. Our oldest, Michael, just started high school this year and the amount of teenage attitude has significantly increased. Our middle son Austin, who has autism, just started middle school and that has been a significant adjustment. Then there is the youngest, Luke, who is four. He is a three-foot tornado! No matter what we do or where we go, you can bet there will be people looking at us wondering if we are from another country, or even another planet.

What makes our lives the most challenging at times is the varying reactions we get from our children in different situations. Vary rarely are they all happy and usually someone is in an emotional tirade. Our daily outings are like walking through a mind field, trying to navigate our surroundings and not trip the bomb waiting to explode. This most often happens with our special needs son as it is hard to predict his reaction to what we are asking him to do. Sometimes they are funny, other times they are embarrassing spectacles.

In this series of posts, I want to share with you some of the different reactions I notice between my children as they react to different life circumstances. I will be comparing how my special needs son’s reactions differ from the reaction of my “typical” classified children. Feel free to think they are funny because they sometimes are very funny. Take them as a learning experience as to how special needs children differ from typical children.

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