Today 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.
I’d like you to take a look at something. Here it is:
That image brings more people to my blog than anything, anything else. Yesterday I had 145 visitors. Of those 145 visitors, 128 were here to look at that image. How do I know this? Well, take a quick look at the top search terms from yesterday:
pictures of nemo
photo of nemo
image de nemo
I also had a good one, “why is starship troopers 2 so bad,” but as you can see the thing people want, nay, demand to see is a picture of a cartoon fish. You may notice that my name does not appear anywhere on that list of search terms, too, in case the blow to my pride wasn’t sharp enough to make me feel really badly about myself.
If you’re a regular reader, and I assume there are some of you out there, then you know I try my best to make this blog interesting and eyeball-worthy. I’m not as colorful as some crime writers who blog, choosing instead to maintain a certain level of decorum, but I do want you to have a good time reading what I’ve written. And if you happen to get something of value out of my ramblings about writing and publishing, so much the better.
Or you can stare at Nemo. Just stare at him. Be hypnotized by his stripes.
Probably the most frustrating thing about the whole Nemo situation is that I have no idea how to fix it. The easiest thing would be to delete or rename the image, thus forcing web searchers into a broken link, but Google is such an efficient mechanism that it would find the picture wherever I put it, whatever I called it, and we’d be back in the same boat all over again.
It 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.