Thursday, December 8, 2011

Autism...Smurfs...and Joy

**A non-stampin'/crafting post**

This is just one of those posts where I need to just get my thoughts down and pour some of this "stuff" out of my brain and my heart.

I'd really been looking forward to going with Mike to Lindsay's first evaluation for her internship with Project Search today.  For an autistic person....change is one of the hardest things to face and when she started this new adventure as the school year began she really was having a rough time.  Actually she had a very rough summer realizing that she would not be returning to her class at the high school again.  (Students with special needs can stay in school until they are 22).  Having already graduated and then returning for one year as a "super senior", Linz was comfortable and extremely successful.  She'd found her niche.   She knew enough to realize that her future was unsure....what WOULD she do when she grew up?  
We couldn't answer that....as much as we wanted to be able to.


Now understand that life with kids with autism gets harder as they get older because they aren't just "cute little kids" with autism anymore.  People look at them differently and the expectations...well I have no words on that subject.
We have been praising God with all of the milestones with this new venture because she's just beyond happy and content in this program.  The program has only five students left out of the 8 who started the school year together at the hospital as the inaugural year of the program began.  There are two job coaches on site working with the students every day and Linz has had an awesome first internship working in the IT department. 
Tomorrow marks her last day there and she will spend the next week working again on learning about resumes, workplace expectations and how to be good in an interview etc.  Then she'll be off for Winter Break and start her second internship when school begins again in January.



Her first internship was a perfect fit for her.  She loves the ladies in her office and she was made to feel like one of the team.  She had her own desk and office "space" and they couldn't keep up with the speed and accuracy of her work.  Her daily tasks would just blow your mind!  
So Mike and I met at the hospital today eager to hear about her progress and all of her successes.  Well....when we sat down and her teacher there on site began talking to us my eyes were fixed on the Evaluation Form on the table.  As he was talking, my eyes were looking at her scores for each criteria.  The highest score possible for each was a "4".  I'll admit there was a long column of "4's" that I noticed first and then I noticed that there were a couple of "2's" and even a "1.6"..  Let me just say here that Linz always was excited for report card day in school because for the most part....she'd get all "A's". 


When I looked to see where her "trouble" areas were I noticed the dreaded heading which read "Social Skills and Interactions".  Great...just great.  For all those who love to chat with her or read her "Linz Quotes of the Day" on Facebook, apparently that doesn't get a girl too far on an evaluation.  While he was talking, her teacher and job coach praised her work ethic, all of her skills and a lot more.  It was when he started talking about her "interest in Disney and cartoons" that my stomach started to roll.  For years there was absolutely nothing that she hated more than the thought of having to read a book.....ANY book.  Now, she has created a library in her room..."Lindsay's Library Palace" as she's dubbed it... and not a day goes by that she's not reading.  Is it War and Peace or Little Women or The Works of William Shakespeare???  Well NO, it's not.  but she LOVES going to the used book store and even the "normal" bookstore, as she calls it, to buy new chapter books to read.  It's her passion.  It gives her pure JOY.  Plain and simple.


So today we were advised that we need to work with her to start to "curb" her interest in Smurfs, Disney and other things cartoony and "help" her "find" new interest that are more "age appropriate".  My heart sank.
Now it might seem like a logical step to you but let me say that if you asked me to find a word....one single word that best describes my daughter Lindsay....it would be JOY.  Best of all...she's LOVES bringing joy to others. I don't want that joy to be dampened....I don't want her spirit to be squashed....  Those things make her happy.  She has NO friends.  NO ONE that she can have over to visit, have a sleep over, go out to see movies with, go shopping with....  Well...that's not true.  She has me.  I'm her "Lady Twin".  In my humble opinion, Linz was dealt a pretty shitty hand of cards to live with and if Disney and Smurfs make her happy...then so be it.  If that means that she isn't one of the first kids in the program to be offered permanent employment from the internships (and she wasn't)...so be it.  Doing those things....drawing Smurfs....visiting Disney....reading junior chapter books....they all make her the happy go lucky girl she is and we LOVE her just where she is.  While we want what's best for her....I will NOT squash her dreams and be responsible for extinguishing that joy.  She has SO many gifts to share and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has the perfect place for her where she will bless SO many people.  I have to believe that.  I stay awake at night worrying and praying about what will happen to my two autistic children when something happens to me and to Mike.  My only comfort is that God is in control and I know that He holds them in the palm of His hand and will never let them fall.  And guess what...He loves her, my little Disney Princess....Smurfs and all.
I'll claim responsibility for instilling that love of Disney.  If you know me...you  know I'd be happy working and living in Orlando.  Seriously.  I love spreading a little pixiedust  and making people smile.  What's wrong with that?  I hope no one at my school system finds out I love Disney.....
Oh wait!  I think they might already know!  Gasp!


If you've read this post thus far....well....Mom, I'm going to bed now.  :-)  I just needed to pour it all out.

So now let me wish you a most Magical and Smurfy Day!
Blessings to you and those you love,

P.S.  I love all things Disney too....I hope they still let me teach kids at school tomorrow!

13 comments:

  1. What a wonderful Mother you are for not letting them put your daughter into a cookie cutter life. Some people just do not appreciate the unique and wonderful differences in each individual. They think we should all do everything alike. If God wanted that He would not have created so many different and wonderful things.

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  2. Hi Michelle
    It still bowls me over how many people don't "get" autism and that each individual is different and has different needs. I have spent most of my career as an autism intervenor and let me tell you, you can only judge their successes by your standards for them. Bravo for you, she is beautiful and has accomplished so much. All we all want and need is to be happy - your children deserve it too!!
    Hugs
    Irene

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  3. This teacher sounds like a Scrooge! I know lots of adults who are totally into Disney and Smurfs. I hope they bring joy to Lindsay for life. The comment under "Social Skills and Interactions" on my report card always said "Wendie talks too much". Well, that skill has served me well through life. Thank you for sharing Lindsay's story. She seems like an incredible young woman, and you, an incredible mom.

    From a demo in NM

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  4. Hi Michelle, I love reading your posts and LOVE when they include Linz and Zach. I have a Niece who is Autistic and now she lives across the street from me. I am thrilled. She loves cross stitching Dolls and all things Disney as well. We are kind of going through a bit of the same thing with her and her job coach. She even suggested Jess sell some of her dolls because that was for kids. I feel the same way as you. Don't squash what they love. Hey I absolutely LOVE Tinkerbell myself and everyone at my work knows it. Am I a bad worker because of that NO. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being passionate about things that make our hearts smile. Thank you Thank you for your post. It has really made me want to keep Jessica passionate about her favorite things. I so wish we lived closer. I know Lindz and Jess would just have a blast together. bless you all

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  5. Oh Michelle, Your post made me tear up. Lindsay has such a wonderful advocate- you! I can understand how upset you would be over this. I was just talking to my friend the other day who teaches and her supervisor was fussing that the kids in her special needs kindergarten class were not reading! Reading! She was trying to get them to speak! When I taught Remedial reading, my program was to teach with games and activities. I told the parents, even if they are reading comic books ( this was the 70's) that if they are finding joy and interest it doesn't matter if it is a comic book or a cereal box or the comics in the newspaper. The main thing I wanted to instill in my own children was a joy of reading. If Lindsay finds so much joy in her Smurfs, etc, so be it, it brings HER joy and happiness. You are entitled to your feelings and I agree with you! barb

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  6. I guess I have not grown up because I am overjoyed and thrilled with anything snowmen or teddy bears!!! Oh I don't like what that instructor is saying to you!

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  7. So - I just found you after seeing your adorable Hand Sanitizer project on Stampin Connection. I also have a child with autism and am a Stampin' Up! Demo. Anyway, I truly believe that your daughter will find a job doing something she loves. If it involves Disney or Smurfs, then so be it! Look at John Elder Robinson - he has found happiness in fixing cars! I just read this post, so I'm not sure extent, but can she become an illustrator? Do Illustrators have to deal with people that much? My sister in law and her family are so obsessed with Disney that they had to buy a separate shed to store all their Disney Collectibles! She now works for the Anaheim Convention Center, across the street from DisneyLand! Keep up the good work! (Both as a Mom and a papercrafter)!

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  8. I am 45-Love Disney and just this week all 3 of us-all adults just watched the Smurfs movie & loved it! I doubt the person who told you to "change" her, smiles 1/2 as much as Lindsay does!

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  9. Michelle, my heart is aching for you. Have you considered finding Linz a pediatric employment setting in which her "JOY" could be shared with "age appropriate" clients that need to feel some joy and would appreciate her gifts? a pediatric oncology/psych clini, Children's hospital/floor or daycare ctr would seem the perfect place for her and she could use her administrative office skills as well. Sometimes we have to "inspire" those educators to think a little harder to find the right fit. Just open your heart and mind to hear God's direction. He will point you to advocate for the right placement for Linz as He likely did to motivate me to respond to this post. I NEVER post ;o) Keep the faith working girl!

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  10. You all bless me beyond measure! I had NO idea when I started my blog that it would be read by anyone...let alone all you wonderful blog friends I have found.

    I pray God will richly bless each and every one of you in all that you do.

    Much love,
    Michelle

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  11. Hey girl, Big Bear Hugs to you and Linz. Good for you for being such anadvocate for your kids!Keep the faith, you know God will provide the right place for her and her love of ALL things Disney and Smurfs without shutting her down. He did not give her that joy to have it be squashed.

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  12. I am so glad a friend of mine sent me the link to this post. I can so relate... we have "Autism, Princesses and Joy" in our house ;-)
    Your blog is awesome and I would love to be a follower. I have tried several times over the last week to join, but keep getting an error message. But I will keep trying.
    I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas filled with God's blessings!

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  13. I just wanted to say thank you for the post I have a soon to be 7 year old son who has autism and my heart knows how you feel these kids find joy in the simple things and in return it makes our joy for them explode!! I can't express how I feel after reading your post my little guy is still little and I do not know what the future holds for him but I know he will be great and I will not let anyone tell me differently he will succeed and he will be amazing at what ever life holds for him. Your beautiful kids are in my thoughts! Thanks you for posting about them. Have a very happy new year!

    Kathy Marcoux
    SU independent demonstrator
    Grand Jct CO

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