3-2-1 VIOLENCE
There and Back Again

Nine

It's been a few years since one of their birthdays really and truly unnerved me. Nine, for some reason, is an age that does. 

Nine.

NINE.

One year until TEN.

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I don't feel old enough to have a nine year old. But obviously I am. My years of parenting babies and toddlers are almost completely behind me now, and that's only "almost" if you include Ike under the toddler umbrella, which: Okay, but barely. I've got maybe six more months before that's officially ridiculous. 

Nine.

He's a quirky nine, but self-aware of his quirks and self-accepting of most of them. Frustration swirls to the surface occasionally, sometimes anger, but mostly an over-the-top positivity and excitement that can only be expressed at top volume while he tells you absolutely everything he knows about Ninja Turtles. 

He can stop himself now, though. He'll ask you first now, like an earnest, door-to-door missionary: "Are you interested in Ninja Turtles? Would you like to talk about them?" 

A yes brings a look of immense relief and happiness to his face, a deep breath before he can uncork the thoughts and words in his brain and let them out. All of them, at once right at you. Sorry, polite obliging adult. This is just how it goes. 

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We hung a hammock swing in the middle our basement, so there's clearance to really move and spin and rock. He knows exactly when he needs to go swing in it for awhile. He created a "cave" in his bed out of pillows, blankets and a Bilibo he wears like a helmet over his head. It freaks me out every night because I'm convinced he can't breathe, but he can. It's his safe place, his sensory-free zone, something he'd already built for himself by the time we even learned it was something we should consider creating for him. (Non-sponsored plug there: The videos and training tools on that website are brilliant and chock-full of OMG DUH lightbulb moments.)

I said autism out loud to a stranger for the first time recently — it was time to take Noah for a "real" haircut, vs. one of those kiddie salons with TVs and one-cut-style-fits-all. We'd put it off for far too long, and his hair was getting increasingly bushy and out of control. He had a specific style he wanted and seemed motivated to try getting his hair cut by someone new. So I took him to my hairdresser, who knows him and understands him, and who has a nephew just like him. I took him at lunchtime so the salon would be mostly empty, and it was.

She had to use thinning shears on his crazy thick hair, and the wisps of hair were falling on his face and neck and the polyester drape was driving him crazy and she was cutting as fast as she could and I was holding his hands and brushing hair away and whispering to him about Ninja Turtles. He was trying his hardest to stay still but the sensory overload was building and his volume was increasing and people were staring and another stylist came over and started scolding him, asking him how old he was, then telling him to act like a big boy and to stop yelling. 

Then she winked at me.

Like she thought she was helping.

"He's autistic." I said. I hope I said it politely, matter-of-factly. I probably hissed it a little though. "He's doing the best he can. Just give us five minutes."

She apologized. "Oh, I didn't know."

Of course she didn't. We didn't either, really, for a long time. But knowing has made a huge difference for us, and for him. It's not an excuse or an apology. It's an explanation. It's who he is. 

He's nine. And he's amazing. 

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Comments

Lindsey

Happy, happy nine ... I have a nine year old son too and I keep thinking it's the last gasp before they get really big and gangly and smelly - I hope not! xoxo

Jean

Happy Birthday Noah!!!! May the year ahead be filled with fun and adventures :) I think you are every kind of awesome.

Isabel @alphamom

love the haircut! and he looks even more like a mini Jason in the last photo. Happy Birthday, Noah and happy birthing day, Amy!

Suzy Q

Great haircut, awesome boy! I have enjoyed watching him grow up from afar. Hayy Birthday, Noah!

JenVegas

That is a great haircut. Happy Birthday Noah. Please come over and talk to Tommy about Ninja Turtles. He could talk about them all day too.

Lori Stelma

Great haircut! Happy Birthday Noah!

Brandi

Happy Birthday Noah!

I've read all your archives Amy, and have been reading you for a long time, but I still can't believe Noah's 9! Ah! Where does the time go?!?!

Robin Wyatt

Wow, love the hair cut he looks just like a little man! You should be proud of him and I know you are!
Rude hairdresser!

the bee

He is amazing and so are all of you. We love a 22 year old young man who just happens to be autistic and also is amazing. Rock on Noah !

Beth

Happy Birthday Noah! Hope you have a spectacular day!

Sue W.

I remember when you brought him home. How in the hell did he get to be 9 overnight?!
Happy, Happy Birthday Noah. Here's to many more!

SarahB

Happy birthday, Noah!

And that is a great hair cut. Kid's got style.

Well-handled with the stylist.

Rebecca

Oh, how I have loved watching Noah grow up through this blog. He is such an amazing, special kid.

hebiffle

Beautiful. You are making me tear up.

Anne

Happy birthday, Noah!

Alice

First time aloud? You've pretty much made sure that he has no choice to disclose (or not) to his peers because you've been saying it very very loudly, for him, on the internet. This is on the first page of Google results for his name. And he's not the only one who is nine, so are his classmates, and they will soon start Googling, if not already.

Superfantastic

I love, love, love listening to autistic kids talk about what they're interested in. You just don't get that kind of unbridled enthusiasm anywhere else in your day. Especially when the rest of your day is neurotypical teenagers.

Happy birthday, Noah!

Natalie

Dang that made me tear up. He's a pretty amazing kid and you guys are the best parents. Happy birthday, Noah!

sarah

I know that the whole point of the post is "nine, yaaay!" but I can't help but give you kudos to meeting him where he is, and telling people that he's doing the best he can. That is some good advocacy there, as well as good support of him. What a great day to celebrate - happy birthday, Noah!

Jess Z.

I love his haircut :)
Happy birthday Noah!

chris

Totally crying, which you'd think I'd be used to by now after reading about Noah his whole life, not to mention he's not even my kid. But gosh darn it if you don't get me every time.

Also Alice, why don't you crawl back in your troll hole now. If you don't like it, don't read it.

Kristabella

Happy birthday Noah! This post just made me weep with joy! He's such an amazing kid!

(I actually just shared this post with a friend. Her nephew is 3 and got diagnosed on the spectrum and I wanted to show her that it isn't a bad thing! Look at Noah!)

Stephanie

I refuse to believe you have a nine year old. And what an awesome nine year old he is!

Anyway, you have such a wonderful way of expressing the love you have for your kids. It will be so great someday for your kids to come back and see how much their mom loves them.

Karen

You know, there are SO many kids with autism now...so many who are mild or aspies (though DSM not using that label anymore.) My son is one of them. I am so proud of you for educating the hairdresser. I bet there are a handful of kids each week with sensory issues who she sees and judges "without realizing it". Thank you for telling her where to stick her helpful attitude.

As for Noah, please do not ever stick your head on the sand about ASD...I already saw a troll on here having words to say about you outing his "secret" Puh-lease.
Kids in his class already know there is something different about him, and there are probably one or two more just like Noah in his class alone. How do you not talk about him without mentioning such a huge part of his everyday world. (Love the hammock, by the way. I will look into that since we are over the weight limit for the Ikea one.)

Happy Birthday to Noah. He is awesome and handsome and talented in so many ways!

(could you message me about how you told him about having autism? I asked our therapist about it and she didn't think my son could handle it right now. So, we are going with sensory processing and he already gets depressed about it)

Not Beehive

My son isn't autistic, but getting his hair cut used to be a nightmare because he has really didn't like having his head touched. He found that chewing gum helped A LOT. It was as if his brain couldn't concentrate on the touching annoyance if he was chewing at the same time.

Chi

That. Kid. <3 Happy birthday, Noah!

Christine

NINE! How?

I hope Noah has the happiest of birthdays and an awesome year.

Wendy

You know, it's really easy to forget from your posts that Noah is, indeed, on the spectrum. And this post... this post, for some reason, really brought home to me just how fucking lucky and blessed he is to have born into your home. Of course, Noah gets credit for being the innately awesome kid that he is, but you and Jason also need to give yourselves a ton of credit for being such amazing advocates, loving and empathic parents who take the time to just get to know Noah. Not a kid with ASD, but Noah, with all of his quirks and idiosyncrasies that make him who he is. There are so, so many kids with the same level of "disorder" as Noah out there who were not as fortunate, and did not receive the unconditional love and early intervention and their future is much bleaker than his. Noah - Noah has a bright, bright future. He is awesome, but so are you all! Great job, mom and dad and Ezra and Ike and Noah!

Lisa Y

Another teacher and I were just celebrating that a very intelligent fourteen-year-old we have has started recognizing that he might be talking too much about Pixar movies and that others might not be interested. So WOW--Noah already asking at nine is amazing!

Issa

Happy birthday to the amazing Noah. Love the new hair cut!

Jules

And his hair looks *awesome*!

Emily

Happy birthday, Noah! My son just turned 8, and watching your journey with Noah has always been a huge source if inspiration and hope for me because we're tracking just about a year behind in so many of the same special needs areas. It makes me so happy to see Noah's successes, and it really buoys me when we're struggling.

His hair looks super cool. Perfect for such a super cool NINE YEAR OLD. <3

Raquel

LOVE the haircut!!!

Kirsten

Okay, the earnest, door-to-door Ninja Turtle missionary image just makes me so happy. I love kids.

Happy Birthday, Noah. You are the best. And your haircut rocks.

Amy in StL

Noah, that haircut looks great! Definitely worth the aggravation of a regular stylist!

Amy in StL

Noah, that haircut looks great! Definitely worth the aggravation of a regular stylist!

Liv

He is so handsome! I've been reading since the faux smackdown days and I can't believe how grown up he is!

Arnebya

He's 9, he's amazing, his hair looks awesome, he is who he is, and I need to know all he knows about the turtles. And I have a confession (OK, 2!): 1 - Splinter weirds me out. I can't look at him except for sideways and then I still see rodents run across the room if I look sideways too hard and 2 - I couldn't see the actual movie this year because their faces looked too real and OMG wait, there's 3 - WHY IS APRIL THE ONLY GIRL? WHY IS SHE HUMAN? WHY IS THERE NO TURTLE GIRL? OK I'm done.

Kari Perry

Amazing and damn handsome. Happy Birthday good sir!

Rachel

Happy 9th birthday Noah! Next year, double digits! I can't believe you're 9, but then we've never met, so I'm not sure why it surprised me. I don't know anything about the ninja turtles (well, very little abou them) but would love to have Noah teach me all he knows. =)

Allison

Happy birthday NOAH!

Congratulations Amalah. As a mom, I've learned that childhood birthdays are a celebration of motherhood too. You're doing great.

Trasherati

That hair style he chose is KICKIN'.
And what a great kid.

Jelourai

Happy birthday, Noah! We are all so proud of you and your success! And Amy, thank you for sharing your story, it has helped so many people. Noah is an amazing kid and he has wonderful parents to support him. You're doing a great job!

*ignoring the troll*

Erin

Happy birthday, Noah!!!!! You're a great kid! :)

Katie H.

SO SO SWEET! I love Noah and feel like I've known him his whole life since he was born right before my daughter (I was on bed rest for the last two months of pregnancy and that's when I found YOU!). I always see such joy and amazement in his face and it makes me reflect on how I can find that joy too, just by being me - just like Noah. I know it's been a long, hard road, but it's wonderful to hear he's coming into his own and discovering he has tools HE can come up with to get through it all. He's blessed to have a mom and dad and brothers like you guys. <3 x a million!

Ladotyk

Happy birthday Noah! I've loved watching you grow up. And by the way that haircut is fantastic on you.

Nichole

I've been reading since the very beginning, and (15 days from now) will have my own NINE year old. Where did it all go? Happy Birthday to your NINE year old Noah! (And happy birthday to you too mom, since I feel like everyone forgets that they just arrive on their birthday, we do all the work)
**Also ignoring trolls**

Christina

I have been reading your blog since before you had your boys. This is my first comment..ah, I sound like one of those radio callers ;)

My 9-year-old daughter Emily has Tourette's Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She also buries herself every night at bedtime and I am urged to uncover her face so I know she can breathe.

Thank you so much for sharing your stuggles with us (the collective internet). It has made my struggle a little easier knowing that I (and my daughter)am not alone.

Also, tell Noah he is a handsome NINE year old.

Kirsten

Also, yes, thank you for speaking up to the "helpful" stylist. For the sake of the next child she sees who's struggling. Maybe she'll think twice before reacting.

Dani

Happy Birthday Noah!

And Happy 9th Anniversary of being a mom Amy!

Stacy

Happy birthday to a lovely young man who I've been cheering on for quite a while. Enjoy it all!

Elise

He's one amazing little man, surrounded by one amazing family. Happy birthday Noah!

Lisa

Yes. He. Is.

Kate H

Brava Queen Am(id)alah. Bravo young padawan.

Abbey T.

De-lurking! Happy birthday Noah!

I found your blog while I was pregnant and considering cloth diapers (your novels on the subject were so helpful and your pregnancy guide was a much needed comic relief!!). So, I went back and started reading your blog from the beginning when I couldn't sleep at night. I'm a school psychologist so when I discovered you had a child just like the ones I hang out with every day - I knew I had to keep reading! He is so lucky to have a family that is such an advocate for him - and you are so lucky to have such an amazing kid in your life! :)

Elaine

Happy Birthday Noah!

Sharon

Tell Noah that my friend from High School, David Yost, is the ORIGINAL Blue Ninja Turtle from the T.V. show!! Hope it gives him a kick. BTW, my kid ISN'T on the spectrum (or I just don't know it) and he's obsessed with Pokemon and talks about it all the damn time and we're constantly working on him recognizing when people aren't wanting to hear about it. Only, 1/2 of his class is into it, along with his sister, and my ears are going to fall off if I hear about Pokemon one more time!!

S

Happy birthday! The cut looks great. And a very sincere thank you for sharing. We're one week post diagnosis. Yeah, I just ... I would put more specifics if I knew what my thoughts were on what I'm thankful for ... but just keep sharing. I guess I didn't know it's ok to be accepting and positive and know the future will be ok, but also feel unready to say it out loud to strangers. Shit, yes, tears, that's it.

S

Woah. Also, thanks for the link. I couldn't finish watching video 1 yet, but I now understand the hand posturing the doctors pointed out. That's familiar. And not at all the point of the video. I'll come back to it.

Lynda M Otvos

Happy Happy Ninth Birthday, Noah, what a super haircut. My hair is really thick too and I dislike the little pieces of hair getting on my face. It's quite hard not to want to brush it off every time a cut is made-but I can't and that's challenging for me. You did great and your hair looks really good.

Ninja Turtles interest me, I'd love to hear what you know about them too.

Steph

I've been reading your blog since Noah was a baby, but I've rarely commented. I wanted to come out of the woodwork and say that it has been wonderful seeing him grow up and inspiring to see how far he has come. What a kick ass kid! With a kick ass mom. Way to go, and Happy Birthday Noah!

Cathy

I agree. I was completely undone by 9. Happy birthday Noah!

michele

that last photo is delicious! Happy #9 Noah!!!

Kati

I cried a little bit reading this. He's a wonderful, fantastic, beautiful nine.

Dawn

Thank you so much for sharing your life with your ninja turtle loving son. my three year old loves trains but besides that sounds very similar to Noah. it is important for me to know that there are other parents out there dealing with the outside world that doesn't always understand our kids.

Margaret

Oh my gosh, he's getting so grown up! Happy birthday, Noah! (He's a cutie!)

Charlene

Isn't it great when a special kid is born to just the right parents? Happy birthday, Noah! And Amy and Jason, keep up the great work!

Amy

My son was nine, now some eighteen years ago, and he loved, loved, loved ninja turtles. This brought back some great memories. His world, and hence mine, was ninja turtles 24/7.
I love how some things never change.
Happy birthday, Noah. You are rockin that haircut, dude.

DontBlameTheKids

All the feels. Yup. All of them.

Happy birthday, Noah!

Sarah

Which videos did you order from that website? I just watched the free one, and am trying to determine if I should just do the webinar, or get the whole course?

My son (almost 5) has tons of the same roadblocks that Noah has had.

Also - do you get people questioning Noah's ASD at all? The only reason I ask is that sometimes when I mention it people give me a confused "really?" like they don't believe it. I don't mention it often, but I think there is a large misconception out there as to what ASD really entails, because people have these preconceived notions.

Anyway - Happy Birthday Noah! :)

Kara

De-lurking to tell you how incredibly proud I am to hear about Noah and his identification on the spectrum. Kids like Noah are my favorite to work with--I'm a school psychologist and have been reading your blog for years. It's one of the many things that make him special! All of your boys are just too adorable. Keep the pics coming!

KImtoo

Aww yeah, Noah! He is doing so awesome!

My 4yo is dealing with sleep apnea right now , and the CPAP is on order, but oh lordy, she gets out and out cranky and snake mean when she's tired. The 7yo has ADD, and can throw tantrums at the drop of syllable (usually "no") Thank you for sharing all your experiences, good and bad. There are days when reading this blog, and remembering your stories, helps me remember that they are having the hard time, not me. It is a gift, and I appreciate it.

Jamie

I love this! My third child is two and has some pretty significant speech delay/autism spectrum stuff going on. Seeing how awesome Noah is gives me hope that we will get to the other side of this roller coaster. He seems like a great kid!

Missie

How ironic it is that he was the Turtle Baby, and now he is the Turtle Loving Boy.
He is nine different kinds of awesome, that kid.
(although Turtle Baby and Toddler Owen Wilson Hair will always have my heart).

Kris H.

Happy Birthday Noah! You are growing into such an amazing young man!

kat

At almost 9 the new dental assistant said the same thing to my sensory kid...he fled...we found him an hour later up a tree in a park...a mile away having crossed a 6 lane road. Panic attacks, sensory overload are real....boy...we and the dental office learned a lot that day and it started us on our journey from being "quirky" to needing meds/interventions and an overriding new understanding of what panic feels like...

Christine/Maud

Noah's birthday always takes me by surprise. I'm not ready for these boys to be that old yet. Mine still has half a year of eight; but it's going going flying by. Our crazy quirky cool boys. Love.

KImtoo

I miss the video.

I mean, I get it, I do, but you make really cool videos.

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