Tag Archives: Family

It can’t be done.

I have said repeatedly in this space that I have issues with full-time work and things like writing. At the same time, I’ve struggled with the desire to do well in the job and succeed on all fronts. From day to day, and sometimes even from hour to hour, I’ve thought that the best thing to do is leave the position or that the best thing to do is to muddle through. Consider this another of those moments.

I gave my work four weeks’ notice so they wouldn’t be irretrievably screwed by my departure. They understand why I have to go and have been very supportive. They have also been, to a person, effusive about my successes on the job and how much they like working with me, both personally and professionally. Just yesterday I was called a “great manager” by one of my people.

On the one hand it would seem terrific to know that everyone likes you and thinks you do a good job. On the other hand, it’s a total nightmare because as much as you know that you have to go and as much as you feel it’s the appropriate thing from the standpoint of family, writing and so forth, it’s difficult to turn away from people who want and need you to stay.

So I wavered. I started trying to think of ways I could remain on the job while still covering all the bases. Maybe I could work out the writing thing. Maybe other problems could be solved. Maybe I didn’t have to go if I could find a way to plug the gaps.

The big reason I’m going is not the writing. Yes, that’s important to me, but from a practical standpoint it’s the lack of childcare that put the final nail in this particular coffin. I started thinking, therefore, about seeking out childcare alternatives. These would cost, but I make good money and can afford it… maybe.

Anyway, my wife and I started looking at our options. Daycare is out of the question because my son is too old for that. No daycare takes thirteen-year-olds, even if they’re neurotypical. Add into the equation my son’s disability and there really is nowhere that would take him. They just won’t.

Given that this is the case, we’d have to go with a one-on-one caregiver. I hate to use the word “babysitter,” as it doesn’t really cover all the things these people do, but we’re talking about a sitter who would pick up my son at the bus stop three or four times a week and then watch him for two to three hours until someone could get home and take over. This person would have to be experienced with older children and have at least some inkling of how to deal with kids with special needs. That’s even before we get to great references and all of that.

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Light it up blue.

World Autism Awareness DayToday is a Tuesday, so as usual you get a couple of reviews. But today is not an ordinary Tuesday, and that’s what I’d like to discuss with you now. Today is World Autism Awareness Day.

If you’ve read Tequila Sunset, you know about the character of Freddie Salas. Freddie is a ten-year-old boy with autism whose mother works as a police detective. Freddie is verbal, but he has impulsivity and temper issues, plus he keeps a fairly regimented pattern of behaviors that, if disrupted, causes him great distress. Those of you who’ve read my blog for any length of time know that Freddie is essentially my son. On the blog we call him Nemo, though that is not his real name.

We first learned that our son was autistic in 2003. He seemed to be developing normally in all respects save one: he was essentially nonverbal. Oh, sure, he could speak a handful of words, but he should have had a vocabulary of a few dozen words by that age. He understood them well enough, which was good, but his speech was a mess. We took him for an evaluation, thinking that he might need speech therapy. We learned far more.

It took a while for the actual diagnosis of autism to come down. He was seven before they would say without reservation that he was autistic. Even then they continued to say that he had Asperger Syndrome, which is a kind of high-functioning autism due to be folded into an overarching diagnosis called Autism Spectrum Disorder. He had been in special education from pre-K onward, receiving various therapies related to his disabilities, which grew in number the older he became. Obsessive behavior was the first after his speech issues, and thankfully he did not develop major problems with his motor skills, though his fine motor abilities were eventually, and continue to be, affected.

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The state of the cat

So you may recall that last week we adopted a cat, and if you don’t recall you can skip back just a few entries to read all about it, plus my thoughts on what it means for me, an avowed cat-disliker and allergy-sufferer, to have a cat in the house.

At the end of that entry I pointed out that my wife and I came to the agreement at the outset that if I were rendered miserable by my allergies, we would find the cat a new home. This was the potential deal-breaker of deal-breakers, and the one I was primarily concerned about going into this situation.

But before I get to that, let me talk about the good stuff. As we had hoped, Blossom is as friendly and outgoing as she was at Animal Control. She’s an extremely curious cat, which means she likes to poke her nose into places she might not belong, but the rest of the time she’s perfectly content to curl up next to (or on) my wife and purr and sleep. She even gets along with the dog, despite a few early hisses before she came to realize that the dog meant her no harm and just wants to be friends.

I have rarely met a cat so enamored of people. My usual experience with cats is that the animals have little use for people and sometimes are outright hostile. I don’t know if that’s because most of the cats I’ve known have been outdoor cats — a practice I abhor, by the way — and therefore have too much wild in them, but as Blossom is one hundred percent indoor, she behaves as though people are the center of her existence. As I say, highly unusual.

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NemoIt was almost a year ago today that I wrote about my son’s latest IEP meeting. A description of what IEP means and how it affects special-needs students is included in that entry, so I strongly encourage you to read that one before continuing here, as I don’t plan to go over the same expository ground.

At any rate, it seems like year after year my son loses a little bit more in terms of services, even as his apparent need ramps up. Last year he lost the occupational therapy that focused on things like teaching him how to form his letters when writing (his handwriting is godawful) and this year he’s going to lose his occupational therapy altogether. The woman in charge of that says he doesn’t actually need the service, but I have to wonder if he’s been shortchanged. As a parent I can fight back, but I require some stronger reason than, “I don’t want him to lose it.”

This year, as with last year, I also fear that my son will be removed from the school where he’s learned and thrived for seven years. It should be patently clear to anyone with eyes to see that he is spectacularly ill-suited for “mainstreaming,” as they call it, but I know the school district would love to save the $42,000 a year they spend on his “separate, private day school.” As it is, the representative of the school district is always very hot to keep him from having access to an aide during the day, which is a key reason he can’t be mainstreamed; aides are not allowed in the budget for most standard schools.

As is her usual, the representative from the school district will also take issue with his disciplinary record. Nemo, as we call our son in public postings like this one, has intermittent bouts of explosive anger and, while he’s mostly under control, this often results in him having to be physically carried to “Resource,” an area where students are taken to cool down. Sometimes this involves isolation in a small room with the door closed. Not something I would personally choose to do, but if it’s effective, then so be it.

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Cold turkey

Yesterday I did something that I haven’t done in a couple of years, at least: I did not touch my computer all day long. It sat unattended during that entire period, wondering when I was going to come back and caress it with my gentle fingers, but bravely kept its silence. Warning: if your computer starts talking to you about using it, you may need medication.

Anyway, there was a dual reason for this, so my absence from the internet was completely understandable. One was the usual Wednesday stuff. At my son’s school, Wednesday is always a half-day, so instead of coming home at 3:30pm, he comes home at 1:30pm. This is the reason that, if you happen to watch my word-count tweets during the week, I usually only write 2,000 words rather than 4,000 words on Wednesdays. If I get lucky and the child goes to his grandma’s for the afternoon, I can get that elusive extra 2,000, but it’s not a guarantee. As I have said before, I really don’t write well (or at all) with other people in the house.

Second reason for dereliction of my internet-related duties: we got a cat.

If there’s one thing most people know about me, it’s that I don’t like cats. It doesn’t help that I am very allergic to them, and consequently can’t even touch them for fear of an allergic reaction. So it may be a little surprising that my family has adopted a feline. When a cat is right there in your house, there’s no escaping its dander. I’m setting myself up for a fall.

The thing is, my wife and son are not allergic, and for years they have been advocating for a cat adoption. I’ve been able to ward them off all this time by reminding them just how allergic I am, but when we visited Animal Control this Saturday to pay our dog-licensing fee, my family fell in love with a little, tan female stray that was just as tiny and friendly as could be. And because I’m not made of stone, I agreed to let the cat come home with us.

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