• autism,  high school,  milestones,  teen years

    The Cat Job

    I wasn’t sure how kitties and autism would work, but J and dogs has been working since 2014, so when my friend Sarah (who is also a talented writer!) was looking for someone to cat sit while she went out of town for a few days, I asked her if she would be okay with J taking the job. J has never had a job before and the only person J has ever had to take care of is himself (he can make a mean bowl of spaghettios, soupy Kraft mac n’ cheese, and a salty bowl of ramen topped with about a cup of parmesan cheese—we cycle through a…

  • anxiety,  autism,  high school,  teen years,  track

    The stories we tell ourselves

    Self talk. It’s that narration we use to look through at the moments of our life. That voice in our heads that tells us that we’re having a good hair day or that we look fat in that shirt. The voice that tells you that you’ve done a really good job getting through something tough or that you’re a complete failure and always will be. J’s had a lot of training in self-talk and coping skills, but he always needs someone to walk him through it, because usually he’s in a state of distress when he needs that motivational story told to him. This week was the first time I’ve…

  • anxiety,  autism,  Early Intervention,  Education,  high school,  mental health,  middle school,  modifications,  special education

    Violence in the Classroom: From an Autism Mom’s Point of View

    Violence in the classroom has become a really big issue. In Fargo, it’s been in the paper and on the news. And it’s something that’s been happening across the country. Here’s a news clip from a Utah TV station: This is a topic I have really struggled with over the last few years. I have a son who sometimes does those things. I have a daughter who witnesses those things in her classroom or in the hallway. I have teacher friends. My mum was a teacher. I’m a teacher (I’ve taught at the university level as an adjunct and at the preschool, elementary, middle, and high school levels as a…

  • autism,  cross-country,  high school,  teen years,  track

    Still behind, but still moving forward

    Wednesday afternoon before track practice, a reporter and a photographer from the local paper met with J to ask him a few questions and take a few pictures for a story featuring J, his autism, and his running experience. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. J’s not much of a talker–at least a talker that stays on topic. J and the reporter met for about 20 minutes and it was a bit of a struggle–J couldn’t give him any great quotes to use for his story–but boy, J is a million times better at small talk than he used to be. I don’t get to watch him…

  • Education,  family,  high school,  mental health,  siblings and autism,  teen years

    Golden Students

    Two weeks ago, W and I were sitting at the kitchen table, talking through her AP Human Geography Packet answers. She’s been struggling to keep her grades up in that class, so Steve and I have been doing a little more intervention. We’ve been monitoring her homework in that class. We never, ever monitor her homework. But this is a “college” class, and will count for “college credit” if she passes the AP exam. It will also permanently affect her transcript when she applies for college, so we decided we better see what’s going on. Our first strategy? having her read her homework responses to us and talking through them…

  • autism,  high school,  teen years

    An Unexpected Week

    I look back at last week and feel like I’ve had 3 different weeks packed into one. It started last Monday morning with a 2 hour late start for the kids. I should have expected it– J had a really rough Monday. It was the 28th of January and he had kept track that there still hadn’t been a fire drill yet for the month (I think the two hour late start and change of schedule triggered an extra fight/flight response in him). I picked up J a little early from school Monday (because he was absolutely non-functional in the state he was in) and took him to visual that…

  • anxiety,  autism,  high school,  learning strategies

    Temple Grandin Still Hates Algebra

    Temple Grandin absolutely hates Algebra. I knew that already–she had mentioned it during her 2013 lecture here in Fargo–and six years later, in Crookston, Minnesota, she said it again. Multiple times. In a college gymnasium–GYMNASIUM–full of people. Overhead lights off. Stage spotlight on. People restless trying to find a comfortable position in the wooden bleachers. A service dog on the basketball court pacing around the floor. The exit doors wide open with people still trickling in and out throughout the lecture. I was astounded. This couldn’t have been a worse venue for sensory overload for an individual with autism. It was a venue in stark contrast to the ones I…

  • Education,  family,  high school,  siblings and autism

    All hands on deck

    This week was “all hands on deck” and by Tuesday night we very quickly realized that we were in desperate need of more hands. This was W’s first experience with finals, and to get her through the week took as much mental muster for me as it did when I worked with J (although in very different ways). W, on her own, got up at 6 am every morning to study for the finals scheduled for that particular day and didn’t go to bed until 10 pm each night. She was very stressed out (I think partly because she didn’t know what to expect and partly because “everything from now…

  • anxiety,  autism,  high school

    To Be J.B.

    Friday was a day. Not a terrible day, but not a great day.  J’s got a great support team at school. He’s paras are and case manager are phenomenal. He’s got great peers in his classes who help him out and encourage him when he needs it. But even with that support structure in place, to J, school is a really, really stressful place to be. Friday was one of those stressful days. J was on his way to PE and during the passing period, overheard someone say the word “evacuation,” and the rest of the day was spent getting J off the edge of the panic attack cliff and…

  • autism,  exercise,  high school,  milestones

    Practically Glowing

    J has just completed 1 month of running on his own. I call it the “off-season off season.” It’s that time after regular season XC finishes and before the “off season winter running” begins. Because we’ve had an early winter and J’s a better runner, I haven’t been able to trail him with my bike or run a close distance behind him like I have in the past. J’s been running almost every single day after school, on his own, on the XC practice routes that run closest to our house and have the minimum amount of road traffic or intersections. As proud of him as I am, it made…