Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Autistic Deployment.

I write about a lot about military or autism, as those are the two main components to my life. Every day those two things intertwine. I can't have one without the other. It is just my way of life. A very chaotic life. I know that I am not alone, trying to muddle through this lifestyle. Which is one of the reasons why I write.

 I sit here in my sleep deprived state, watching my children, who have been up since o'dark thirty, just how does this lifestyle work for them. For us adults, we process things differently then children. Autistic or not, children see the world differently. For us, since the children have been born, we have had three four major deployments. This doesn't include any of the small ones. I am talking 6+ months gone. Each deployment has been different. At various stages of life. When they are young and small, they don't understand distance and time. For them, they just know that a parent is missing. I know that my eldest is fully capable of letting me know how he is feeling. I know when he misses his father and I know what he is upset about it. As look at my other two uniquely different children, I can't help but wonder just how this might seem to them.

The past couple of weeks, with my husband home on R&R, I have seen some good memories being made. Especially with our two autistic children. Memories that my husband got have with his children. But they were also memories that my children got to have with their father. I think in a way it was beneficial for all of them. My autistic children may not be able to express how they are feeling in regards to their father, but that doesn't mean they don't experience the range of emotion that comes from making those memories with their Dad or those emotions that follow when he has to leave. It when you see the joy on their faces, when they see him. The love that they express when they are near him. That raw sadness when he has to leave.

In their own way, they deal with this military lifestyle. Like any child, they will have their moments. I look back at the past deployments, I remember just how they coped. For them to find understanding, it was done through different means. Whether it was always putting Daddy in drawings, asking 20 bizillion questions about him or even trying to initiate the type of play Daddy normally does. I have found that my unique children have their own ways of coping. Sure it doesn't fit into how the rest of the world does it, but it makes sense to them. 

I think that special needs children get lost in the flag waving, support the hero, military children are the bomb, mentality. People assume that they are unaware of what is going on. That they don't understand what it means to miss someone. When my husband was in Afghanistan, people thought my daughter didn't have a clue that he was gone, simply because she didn't talk about it, where my eldest did. But if you look at all of her art during that time, it didn't matter what the theme of the art work was, there was always her Daddy drawn somewhere in the background. Even with my non verbal 4 year old, it has been said to me.. " Well he probably doesn't know that his father is gone". I bet he does. Do you know how I know? Every time he sees a picture of his father or hears his voice, that little boy's face lights up like a Christmas tree. He might be able to express how he is feeling, but it shows that he misses him.

I guess what I am saying, is don't discredit these children. As they experience deployments or absences in their own right. What would be nice is if all those organizations that do things for military children, would do something for those who are special needs. It doesn't have to be much. Partner up with an EFMP coordinator. Get something going for families with special needs, who are going through deployment. I know that some areas to have social mixers for special needs, but not every place does. And when you see a special needs military family out and about, remember that every child in that family is going through the same range of emotions of having a family member deployed.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Remembering Those Times..

As I sat at the last IEP meeting for this school year, discussing, finalizing and making sure my child's next school year is going to one that is supported and sound, I couldn't help but reminisce about how things used to be. I do this every year. I always try to make a point to talk about how this child started out in this wonderful world of Autism.  I go back into the recesses of my brain to get back to the time when everything was a fight. Where as a parent, I looked at my child and wonder why people didn't want to help. Its funny, as it would have not taken much to get the ball rolling for this child. What was a consult to a specialist going to be worth just to set my mind at ease. That I wasn't going crazy and there was something going on with this child.

As I am listening to my child's SpEd teacher go over the demographics of the IEP, I am remembering a time when I was begging and pleading with my child's Doctor, just to get something. I honestly didn't care if it was a referral to a Gastrointestinal Doctor. I honestly felt that my maternal  instincts had been ignored. I remember throwing myself at this Doctor's mercy just to give me something. It took a year for this doctor to finally refer me to someone. Rather out of compassion, but annoyance, we got in to see a speech therapist. Finally something. From there we were put in touch to a developmental pediatrician. That is when we got the diagnosis. I knew what it was going to be. Intellectually, I accepted it. But my heart refused. From there we were put into a shitty school system, a psychiatrist that seemed to be crazier than a bag of hammers and wonderful world of judgement and ignorance.

I am flipping through the IEP, remembering where this child was when she started school. A 3 1/2 year non verbal, un potty trained shy child. One who hated loud noises and crowded areas. A child that would scream bloody murder when we had to go to the commissary. Or not play with the other children, because she didn't know how to. A child that was so scared of water, bathing was almost impossible. I remember sitting at my first IEP meeting, not knowing what to expect. It wasn't until her second that I wised up. I didn't let them bowl me over.

Looking at the part on whether or not this child qualifies ESY, I remember those summers where we couldn't do a lot because of this child's needs. The fear of water or fireworks. Unknown places and faces would set this child off.And of course there were the people who didn't get it. The ones who thought it was funny that this child flapped their arms wildly or the ones who thought this child needed to suck it up when it came to things they feared.

I remember all of this, as it is important to look back at your children's progress. Whether it be leaps and bounds or small baby steps. I look at this child's IEP as way to remember the struggle they once had. Sure it is always going to be a fight, but it shows you the strength these children have. It shows when faced with a challenge they face it head on and prove to the world that they are fighters. Along the way they are going to have a lot of people in their corner cheering or sometimes its just a few. But either way you are going to be that constant cheerleader.

I have three kids, that all have IEPs.This is just the story of one of them.  And each time I am sitting at their IEP meetings, I look back at where these children were. Through the times where they struggled and the times where they triumphed. I know that as long as the equation is right, these children will continue to grow and prosper in the own time. And when they peak, watch out world.