Category Archives: Nigelisms

Not Alone

Most of the time, we like to be right. We like that feeling of validation when something goes the way we thought it would. But there are, of course, times when our intuition kicks in, we get a hunch, and it’s not a good one. We hope like hell that we’re wrong.

I wrote recently that I’d been noticing what appeared to be postictal signs from Nigel, that I thought he might have some seizure activity going on even though I hadn’t witnessed it. Unfortunately I was right. He had a seizure on New Year’s Eve while visiting his father. What timing, right? Way for 2010 to get in one last jab on its way out.  Anyway, Nigel’s okay; apparently it was milder than the first one. But still – I so wish I had been wrong. A new year began just a few minutes after I received the call from my ex-husband, and I paced the hallways of my home, crying and swearing at autism for providing yet another issue to continue worrying about. Sobbing about how it never ends. Wishing, again, that I had been wrong.

But the next day, somehow, I felt better. It was a beautiful, clear New Year’s Day (a clean slate!), and I felt determined not to let the event of the previous night get me down. That evening I picked up my boys from the airport (they flew alone again!) and we drove home. It was so good to have them with me, to hug them (even though one can’t really hug back), and to feel the peace that their presence brings me.

I also felt better because I know that I’m not alone in my experiences. I have been blogging for almost three years now, and it has been my lifeline. I cannot put into words how much I have benefited from all the encouragement and advice I have received from readers and fellow bloggers out there. That’s right, from you. You reading this right now, my friends. You have offered much-needed recommendations when I was searching and deciding about medication. You have celebrated Nigel’s accomplishments with me and lauded his progress. And you have empathized; you have supported me when I worried. There are so many more posts I could link to. Through your beautiful comments and your generous emails you have buoyed me up and helped me along this leg of the journey. My gratitude is boundless.

And so, I’m very sorry to say that I’m at a point where I need to stop blogging. This post is my swan song for TeenAutism.com. Basically, as much as I’ve loved blogging, my energy – what little there is – is needed elsewhere in my life. Aidan will soon be doing something that will change his life, and Nigel’s, and mine. But he is fourteen, and that is his story to tell, should he choose to. He deserves so much more of my energy than I have been able to give him over the years, so I want to focus on him now as much as I can. Nigel, of course, will continue to consume a lot of my energy, and whatever’s leftover I hope to channel into some more fiction writing.

I wish I had more time and energy so that I could continue to blog – to do this thing I have enjoyed immensely. I feel like I’m leaving so much unfinished! For example, I’d wanted to post a book review of Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning. I’m not even half way through it, but I can already tell that it’s a fantastic resource, and I highly recommend it. Another thing I wanted to do was get back to the “What It’s Like” series that I started a while ago. I wanted to hit up my wonderful extended family members for interviews about what it’s like to have a nephew and grandchild with autism. I wanted to talk more with Aidan about what it’s like to have a brother with autism, and write about it. I wanted to do posts called “What It’s Like to Have a Child with Autism” and even “What It’s Like to Have Autism,” from Nigel’s viewpoint. Then I thought about it, and I realized that it’s all here, contained in the existing posts of this website. The social challenges, the sensory issues, the bullying, the obsessive thoughts, the medication and therapy, and much more.

It’s all here.

But there are so many unanswered questions about Nigel as he closes in on adulthood – will he drive, will he continue to have seizures, will he be able to have a job, live independently? How will he be as an adult? Some of that I might mention on Facebook periodically, if you’d like to find me there. I’ll also keep this site up with a home page that I’ll update from time to time with information about how Nigel’s doing. This website has become the resource that I was looking for over three years ago as Nigel entered his teens and I searched desperately for information. Not finding much, I decided to create TeenAutism.com. I figure there will be many more parents Googling “autism in the teen years,” and I’d be honored if they might consider any of my 436 posts to be a resource for them. I’m also touched by the fact that many parents find this site by searching the phrase “so proud of my son blog.” Because I am – of both of them.

My friends, I want to thank you once again for being there, for being part of our lives, for joining us on the journey. I appreciate you more than I can say. I leave you now with one last Nigelism:

The Scene: Interior of suburban family home. A mother enters the bedroom of her teenage son who has autism. She is coming to say goodnight to him, and he is in his bed, expecting her. As is their nightly ritual, she shuts off the bedroom light and comes over to the side of his bed to kiss his forehead and tell him she loves him. As she leans over and kisses him, he holds out his arm and reaches over to turn on the small light on the headboard of his bed.

Teen son (softly): I can’t see you. Let’s do it again so I can feel like I’m not alone.

Mother (with lump in throat): Oh, honey. You’re not alone. You’ll never be alone.

Sixteen

Hello, it’s me, Nigel.
My plans for my 16th birthday, which actually is today, are of going to the Family Fun Center with my friends to have the party there on Friday. The Family Fun Center is where you can play video games or do some stuff outside like the batting cage, mini golf, or my favorite thing to do, in my opinion, is the go-karts. I’m really wanting to get my learner’s permit in driving, because I feel free, when I have my own ride.

Things at school are going fine for me, I have Algebra I, Video I, Theater Arts II/III, English 10, Life Science, and two study periods. As for my favorite class, I have two favorites, Video I and Theater Arts II/III. Speaking of which, for my theater class, I wrote a script for a musical play that I suggested to them. The homecoming dance was fun and exciting. But not as much as my uncle’s power washer. This is what I call empowering.

As for how I feel about my autism, I feel just fine about it. Earlier in the month, I saw the Temple Grandin film and it showed me someone else’s life that was sort of similar to mine. For when I grow up, I’m just wanting to be a filmmaker. Here’s one of my first short films, “Allosaurus Attack”:

Everything’s a Competition

The Scene:  Interior suburban family home. A mother and her two teenage sons are seated around a wooden coffee table in the living room, playing the board game Risk. Her older son, who loves military history and geography, is rapidly gaining control of the Western Hemisphere. The mother marvels at the fact that he now has the patience to handle long, strategic board games. Her younger son, influenced by his Eastern European ethnicity and a recent interest in dictatorships, sets up Moscow as his home base and systematically conquers Asia. The mother hangs out in Africa and Australia as the two brothers conspicuously gang up on her. Secretly, she loves the fact that they are working together and considers it a bonus that the tediously long game appears to be winding down (or at least her role in it), although she has enjoyed the family time and hopes that her sons have as well. She smiles contentedly as she surrenders another territory.

Younger son: This may not be the appropriate time to mention this, but I can feel my first armpit hairs growing.

Older son (keeping his eyes on the board): Mine are longer than yours.

Pun and Games

The Scene:  Sunny but cool day on the Oregon coast. Waves crash on the shore, birds call as they fly overhead, and a few people walk by with their dogs. A small waterfall rushes out of a fern-covered hill at the back of the beach. The water gurgles over a rocky area and forms a little creek that meanders out to the sea. Two teenage boys, their uncle, and a friend of one of the boys are building a dam out of logs, dried grass, and sand. Nearby, a woman watches as she reclines against a large driftwood log and enjoys the sun.  She is glad that the boys are outside instead of sitting around in the cabin they had rented for the weekend, watching more DVDs than most people could watch in a fortnight. The dam is working; a pond forms as the water collects, and the eldest teen boy stands in it while pouring sand out of a bucket.

Teen boy (calm, even voice):  This water is damn cold.

The woman, his mother, thinks it is probably a line from one of the movies he had watched the previous night  – The Abyss – which involves a lot of cold water. Her son repeats the line a few times, and the mother realizes that he is most likely expecting a response from her.

Teen boy (fourth time, in same tone): This water is damn cold.

Mother: Yes, I’m sure it’s pretty cold.

Teen boy (same tone as before): This water is damn cold [gestures to the dam wall, then smirks]. Get it? ‘Dam cold’?

A Second Thought

The Scene:  A mother is driving home from work. After eleven miles, she is back in her town, and remembers that she had driven her older son to school that morning instead of having him ride his bike because it had been raining heavily.  She turns around, goes back to the high school, and pulls up to the curb in front just as her son, who is already outside,  starts looking around for her. He gets in and the mother starts driving home. Then she remembers that she needs to go to the post office to check the mail, since they do not have mail delivery to their home, and she turns around and drives back towards the post office. She parks and gets out of the car while her son waits in the passenger seat. She goes in the building, opens and looks in the box, and there is nothing there. Realizing that now she is late getting home to let her other son, the bus-rider, in the house and that he is probably waiting in the rain, she jogs back to the car and gets in.

Mother: Well, that was a waste of time.

Son: No mail today?

Mother (backing out of the parking space): Nope.

Son: You should have made it a second thought.

Mother (pulling out of the parking lot): A what?

Son: You should’ve made getting the mail a second thought.

Mother (pauses as she turns onto the main street, somewhat flustered): I don’t know what you mean by “second thought.”

Son: You know how you people are always saying things like, “On second thought, maybe I won’t . . . go to the post office.”

Questions

The Scene:  Interior of suburban family home. A mother, exhausted from just another regular day, collapses on the couch in her living room. She has just completed her responsibilities for the evening, taken a shower, and dried her hair. Alone, looking forward to some time to herself, she takes a deep breath and picks up a book that she hadn’t been able to get back to for several days. A minute later, one of her teenage sons opens the door of his room and walks down the hallway. He stands at the entrance of the living room, waiting for his mother’s attention. She turns her head to look at him, thinking that he’s going to announce some historical or scientific fact that he has just discovered. Or that he’s going to remind her once again about the Goonies 25th Anniversary Event that he wants to attend the following month, in a city four hundred miles away. Or that he’s going to announce that he has to go to the bathroom.  His tone is serious as he begins talking.

Teen son:  My path is not out here [gestures to indicate the area in front of him], but in here [lays his fist over his chest and pauses before continuing.] Even if I find answers at that school in L.A., I will still have questions.

The Year He Was Indiana Jones for Halloween

The Scene: Interior of suburban family home. A mother is cleaning out the closet in her office. Storage boxes – some opened, some closed – surround her where she is seated cross-legged on the floor. She holds several papers in her hand and emits a chuckle as she reads things that her autistic son has said over the years. He started putting two words together at age five and gradually, with time and therapy, increased. She marvels at his progression from “Green is in the finger,” said at age 6 when he noticed green paint under his fingernails, to “If it gets too cold or too warm, then I would call out for you,” said at age 10 while his bathwater was running. But his lifelong interest in geography and history produced some of his most memorable quotations. The mother laughs as she discovers her scribbled notes from when her son wondered, at age 8, “Does Canada speak Leafish?” as well as the following discussion that took place three years ago, at age 12:

Son: Would it be offensive if I was Adolf Hitler for Halloween?

Mother: Probably to some people.

Son: What about Japanese Naval General Isoroku Yamamoto?

Mother: The one who bombed Pearl Harbor?!

Son [pauses, considering]: Mussolini?

One Way of Putting It

The Scene: Interior of a small SUV. A mother is driving her teenage son, who has autism, around to several different stores looking for the DVD of the original 1973 version of Charlotte’s Web. He is 15 and it is one of his favorite movies. The mother silently wonders if there are any other teenage boys who love Charlotte’s Web as much as he does. She marvels at his innocent nature. They are stopped at an intersection and the son begins reading aloud the bumper stickers on the car in front of them.

Autistic teen: It says, “Politicians and diapers get changed for the same reason.”

Mother (pauses, wondering if she’ll have to explain the meaning by using a phrase that includes the words “full of”): Do you understand what that means?

Autistic teen: That they are both stinky.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Some of you might remember this photo from a year ago, when Nigel first said hello to his new cousin as he somersaulted in utero.

 

And here they are a year later! Nolan is just about ready to take off walking, and he and Nigel had fun laughing together in the back seat of the car this weekend, making silly noises. “He’s kind of humorous now,” Nigel said. “But he’s still a little drooly.”

Deepest Desire

The Scene:  Interior of a suburban family home. The autistic teen has been spending most of a Saturday afternoon in his bedroom, at his computer, playing a CD-Rom game in which the player constructs and runs a Jurassic Park-themed attraction. He has owned this game for about eight years and goes through phases in which he plays it for days on end, and then moves on to some other Obsession of the Week. But he never lets more than a few weeks go by without playing this game again. It is his favorite “video” game. He studies the screen now, makes some changes to the sauropods’ feeding schedule, and gets up out of his chair. He walks down the hall and enters a room on the right – his mother’s office. She sits at her desk staring at her computer screen; spreadsheets surround her. He stands at the open door, and she looks over at him with an expression of confused amusement as he makes his announcement.

Autistic teen:  My deepest desire is to build a Jurassic Park and have a girlfriend.

Mother: Okay. We’ll see what we can do.