Last week, Noah decided that he wanted to quit karate. I've always told him it's okay if he wanted to quit karate (usually mid-argument over getting his uniform on and out the door in time for class), but he's always insisted that no, he doesn't want to quit. He wants a black belt. Well, that's not technically true, I guess. There was one point in kindergarten when he said he wanted to quit, but didn't like our stipulation that sure, you can quit, but you need to go tell your teachers in person. He waffled for a bit, then finally made it into the office, where he quickly changed his mind after 30 seconds of pep talk from a specific instructor. (Who he worships, but kind of in the same way one worships a terrifying, vengeful god.) He kept at it and seemed to be even more dedicated to the black belt goal than ever, after that. This time, that particular instructor is out on maternity leave, and he had no such qualms about sauntering right in and quitting. And my bluff was called. I don't WANT him to quit. Sure, I can think of a million other things I... Read more →


Noah first met his occupational therapist at summer camp. He was three-and-a-half years old and had already developed a fierce dislike of school (and any school-like activities) and a deep distrust of teachers (and any teacher-like adults). But for some reason, Ms. M___ was different. He liked her. He liked her a lot. For over three years now, she's worked with him. First, almost daily, at preschool, then weekly. She was his anchor, the thing he looked the most forward to all week, the one person who could always — ALWAYS — coax the most and the best from him. Balance, coordination, motor planning, social skills, play skills, handwriting, attention span, self-regulation. She's encouraged him, pushed him and challenged him. But most of all she's believed in him, and loved him. Genuinely, unconditionally. She's the first person to hear about Noah's victories and breakthroughs, big or small. She is one of his biggest cheerleaders. She's also the first person I talk to when I'm having a rough time, or need ideas or strategies or some empathy from someone who gets it. Or maybe just to geek out about The Hunger Games. She's kind of been my cheerleader, too. Yesterday she... Read more →


I don't know about you, but I'd give money to that face. Before anyone jumps to the wrong (yet probably all-too-common these days) conclusion: No worries, Noah's photo wasn't ganked from my blog or Facebook. TLC is the non-profit organization that has been helping Noah (and us) for years now. It's where he attended the Miraculous Summer Camp of Miracles and The Preschool That Changed Our Lives. He still receives weekly occupational therapy there for ongoing issues with rigidity, self-regulation, social skills, etc. A couple years ago they asked if they could take photos of Noah and his therapist for brochures and stuff, and we agreed. I always forget about it, though, until one of the photos shows up somewhere, blast-from-the-past style. I don't know how much longer Noah will require OT. (After several ridiculous tussles with several ridiculous insurance companies, we are finally on a plan that covers the weekly sessions without protest, so I am admittedly in no rush to change anything or draw the slightest bit of attention to ourselves.) All around, the reports are good-to-excellent: his teachers, his therapists, even his karate instructors are singing his praises and talking about corners turned, strides made, breakthroughs and... Read more →


We met with a new child psychologist this morning. So I spent last night organizing and re-filing the mountains of old paperwork we've collected over the years. Old evaluations, assessments, treatment plans, progress reports, IEPs, re-evaluations, insurance rejections and appeals and God knows what else. Something old, something new, something photocopied, something blue. (The cup. The cup is blue. The cup is also full of vodka.) Reading through those old files is both oddly inspiring and completely masochistic. On the one hand, how far he's come! The things he says and does! The mind-boggling number of victories, both large and small (and medium and miniscule!), that we've celebrated since that fateful day when I took my non-verbal almost-two-year-old to the pediatrician. When that pediatrician cocked his head to the side and asked, "Does he walk like that a lot? On his toes?" He did it. We helped. I have no doubt that the things we've done and the people we've worked with have absolutely helped. There are miracle workers in that pile of papers. Bona fide. And yet. Ugh. The mistakes are all there too. The consent to discontinue services form I signed for Early Intervention. The progress reports from... Read more →


Once upon a time, I was the mother of a little boy who was scared of the bathtub. Who was scared of so, so many things. He wanted to be brave. He tried to be brave. But when your brain sends you into fight-or-flight mode over the sound of a nearby lawnmower, or the feel of grass on your bare feet, it's hard to brave. It's hard to try new things when you can't process them, when you can't articulate what you're even afraid of, when you can't work those new things out to their logical conclusion. Even when the logical conclusion is: This is supposed to be fun, dammit. "I know what that is!" he said, pointing at the rental snorkel gear. "It lets you breathe underwater! Can I try it?" Uhh. Okay? Sure. Yes. The thing is, if we'd asked or offered, he probably would have said "NO." And that's okay. We've finally figured out how to sit back and wait for him to ask. To surprise us. And to always say "yes" when he does, even if it scares us, a little. Way to go, Noah. You're officially and for-real the bravest kid I know. BONUS: !... Read more →


Noah's IEP meeting went very well, by the way. (The plot points! They are dangling!) Of COURSE it went very well. I always get myself so needlessly lathered up about these meetings ahead of time -- a peril of being overly-informed about other people's horror stories, probably -- and then we show up and remember that oh. Right. These people actually give a shit. About their jobs and their students and that whole "making a difference in the life of a child" thing. I'd gotten a somewhat...strange phone call from the school psychologist the week before that knocked me a bit off my axis, and then a conversation with a classmate's mother at a birthday party set me even more on edge. Because this same psychologist was causing problems for them and everything about their IEP was contested and a struggle and the whole thing sounded crazy combative and stressful. Just like another mother had described their experience this year to me a few weeks before, at another party. Sternly-worded letters! Hired advocates! Parents storming out of meetings! Peace negotiations all blown to hell! I think I need to stop attending so many birthday parties. Or find something else to... Read more →


"Teachers Don't Have Phones."

And with that, the question over whether or not he was telling me the truth was answered. We caught Noah in his first big, sustained lie yesterday. The details are exhaustively boring, but suffice to say he'd figured out a way to game his token/reward system at school and make us think he was earning more points for good behavior than he was. Then exchanging those points for treats at home like playing video games or getting some Halloween candy. (That is not actually from Halloween, but just what the boys call candy year-round here.) I'd grown suspicious and questioned him a few times, and he remained consistent with his cover story (his teacher couldn't find the stamp so she marked his paper with a crayon instead) and insisted that he was telling the truth. "I promise, Mom," he'd say, cooly and calmly, with perfect eye contact and an earnest, dimpled smile. That was what made me back off, every time: the eye contact. Noah remains a jumble of different quirks from both on and off the Spectrum -- at his last IEP his teacher said she absolutely didn't want to change his diagnosis code from the catch-all "Developmental Delay"... Read more →


We have an IEP meeting today, the first of two IEP meetings scheduled over the next few months. For this year is Noah's re-evaluation year, the year he's due for...wait for it, oh, you'll never guess...a re-evaluation of his strengths and weaknesses and needs and services, up to an including the Big Label that keeps him in special education and keeps my mother-in-law up at night for fear of his PERMANENT RECORD and her continued, unshakable belief that the public school system is legally allowed to tie him to a cheerful Circle Time Chair and forcibly inject Ritalin into his veins. IT HAPPENS. SNOPES IS IN ON IT TOO. This particular meeting is, quite frankly, going to be bullshit. Not much more than a procedural checkpoint. We will show up and be told about all the different evaluations and testing procedures they plan to do before our next IEP meeting, the big one that will determine his placement for first grade. (Where there are no Circle Time Chairs, but I believe you may be able to request one of those coin-operated massage recliners for your child's Clockwork Orange-style med drip. Fingers crossed!) They will hand us five trees' worth of... Read more →


I woke up this morning to discover that a big giant kid crept in and ate Noah up last night. I was pretty annoyed, so I walked him to the neighborhood bus stop and sent him off to school with a bunch of other big kids. Whatever. *** The other parents snapped pictures as their kids lined up and boarded the bus. I just stood there. I'd abandoned my camera on our front step because Noah was having a hard morning and me standing around trying to capture the preshus memories of childhood rites of passage was clearly NOT HELPING. He didn't want to get out of bed, he didn't want to get dressed, he didn't want a shirt with too many buttons and he didn't want breakfast and he CERTAINLY didn't want to walk to the bus stop. But of course the minute we rounded the corner and he spotted other kids at the bus stop his anxiety melted. He cheerfully climbed on the bus and stopped mid-step to turn around and give me the most picture-perfect first-day-of-school wave in the HISTORY of first-day-of-school waves. I waved back. I bit my lip. I turned around and walked home. Noah... Read more →


Noah spent four weeks at a OT/social skills camp this summer, and then we set him loose for two weeks at the YMCA's swim camp. It was our first crack at mainstream program in over three years. It ended on Friday. He received a certificate for "Honesty." Which as far as I can gather he earned mostly because 1) everybody got one, and 2) whenever he got in trouble, it never occurred to him to lie about it. But he did it. He made it through all 10 days of camp. We signed one incident report for hitting and one for towel-whacking, and by the time the kicking happened...well, his counselor went easy on him and skipped the written report, which spared him from getting kicked out on the third-to-last day. We explained and reminded and begged him each morning to keep his hands to himself, to use words instead, come on, dude, you know this. We had to remind him to respond when other campers said hello, we had to provide the teenaged CITs with strategies to help him transition without tantrums or play competitive games without rigid frustration, and we had to face the hard fact that none... Read more →