Archive for December, 2008

NYC

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

I have been trying to get a handle on this blog/podcast venture, lately the technology side of things eclipsing the content. What should the iTunes logo look like? What blogging software should I use? These and other questions have kept my nose to the computer and my mind off the stuff that engendered the site: my son’s autism, being a father. My wife calls my office “a man cave” and I’ve been deep in the man cave, even as our holiday guests were noshing on cheese and crackers in the living room. We are going to New York to visit my sisters and maybe that will sever my cyber umbilical cord and force me to interact. Or maybe I’ll just borrow my sister’s computer… My son is thrilled to be going. We live across the country from his five cousins–all girls–who he sees once a year. This trip started as a bedtime story. “Tell me about going to the cousins’  house,” he’d tell me night after night. The story told of how a character based on my son (but never actually my son himself; a purist, he would never allow such an intrusion) how a little boy boards a plane in the early morning: the long drive to the airport, the darkness, boarding the plane, the shudder as it lifts off. “Tell me the story about the cousins’ house. When are we going to the cousins’ house?” he then started to add. Finally, as if coming up with an ending to the story, (a story I had probably repeated a hundred times!) I told him, “I don’t know. Maybe this spring. Maybe for Christmas.” So tomorrow I will get up at 4:00 AM, jostle him awake. We will be groggy and jet lagged, and in Brooklyn, at my sister’s house, there will be no time to think. We will lapse into the next year and maybe once we return time will slow down a bit. We will think about those impossibly gentle therapists that interviewed us at Friendly Helpers, the special school in the basement of the church. I will wonder if I can get some surfing into the blog even though I don’t surf myself. Whether I can work  some “California” into California Father, or for that matter some “Father.”

Getting Lazy

Friday, December 26th, 2008

This is a pretty funny (and terrifying) video I found on YouTube.  Hope you enjoy it.

Season’s Greetings

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

A friend of my wife wrote of the importance of assessing our son to “learn who he is.”  Well, we are on our way.  The Consent for Assessment form is on its way to our school district (listen to my first podcast), and we have met with therapists at a private special education school.  In the coming days and weeks we will investigate other options of evaluation and treatment (Regional Center, UCLA.)  I hope once I get into the flow of things I and this blog can pull away from the gravitational pull of new and disturbing news, to explore the weightlessness of fatherhood.  I also hope how to use Garageband and RSS feeds… But my son is up and wants to see what Santa Claus.  I better go.  Happy Holidays!

Podcast One

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Housekeeping

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

I react to my son’s autism the same way I react to manuscript rejections: I blog. First of all, I enjoy the imagined feeling of control that technology gives me. If I can figure out how to use Garage Band or the ins and outs of podcasting (I’ll be posting one soon) the world, at least for a moment, seems a more orderly place. Anyway, I will continue to block comments until I get more familiar with what I’m doing here. Maybe I will never allow them. I want the blog to be helpful to me and others. And I don’t want it to be just about autism. I want it to be a record of one father in the early 21st Century in the great state of California.

Doubt

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

“Denial” is one of those cheap pop psychology terms everyone throws around. “He is in denial,” they say as if the denier inhabits a fantasy land. Do I inhabit a fantasy land? It is two years ago. I start noticing that my artistic two-year-old likes to draw boom boxes.  He draws them all the time, at his art table, in his sketchbook, outside on the driveway pavement. Hundreds of boom boxes. Thousands. They become more intricate, more detailed. He talks about boom boxes all the time. My wife and I think his passion for them is cute. We are impressed by his prodigious output. I make videos of him drawing the boom boxes.  My wife takes pictures.  We draw boom boxes with him.  I start to wonder, Isn’t this a little strange? A little boy who does nothing but draw boom boxes?  I discuss it with my wife but we decide that he’s just being quirky.  We encourage him to draw other things. People, for example. He’s not interested in people. He wants to draw boom boxes. I am somewhat relieved when the boom boxes morph into cars. The speakers become headlights, the handle the outline of a windshield. Now he draws boom boxes and cars, all the time. It worries me. But why should it? Didn’t I like to draw when I was a boy? I drew spotlights and TV cameras (my father was a television producer). But did I draw as many spotlights as my son draws boom boxes? Not nearly. And was I two? No, I was eight or nine. Our friends call him a prodigy, a genius. When he’s almost four, I make a video of him drawing a race car. I speed it up five times as fast, put it on YouTube. Our friends can’t believe how detailed the drawing is. They’re blown away.  ”But isn’t this a little weird,” I ask my wife. “No. He’s just very artistic.” But I know a thing or two about autism. I teach special education. A few of my students are autistic. One day, I’m in a meeting discussing a kindergartner. It’s called a Student Success Team meeting and we (the student’s parent and teacher, the assistant principal and the school psychologist, the speech therapist, the nurse and I) are discussing the trouble the child is having in class.  It’s a pretty sad case. The child, a boy, has little self control. He hits the other children and punctures his own skin with pencils. I’m sitting there listening to this depressing story  when something strange happens. I become the parent. The speech therapist seems to be talking about my son. Does he like to stare at fans?  Yes, all the time; he likes to draw them too.  Does he like to run back and forth? Oh, my God; all the time. No, the little boy is not artistic, and luckily my son doesn’t poke himself with pencils. But in many other ways, behaviorally, emotionally, they are identical. After the meeting, I take the speech therapist aside and tell her about this sudden revelation. Should I have my son assessed? Yes, you should. I get on the phone with my wife to tell her what on some level I suspected all along. “Our son is autistic.” But today I am in this place called denial. It’s a place where I see my son, now officially diagnosed as autistic, as anything but. It’s a place where all four-year-olds seem just like him and he seems just like them. It’s a safe place where he should stay, a place from which no adult should ever drag him, especially when that adult is me. But where was I going with all of this? Oh, yeah: that term I hate. Denial. Can’t we just call it doubt?

Painting Cars

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

My son can make friends.  It’s just that when he makes them he doesn’t always know what to do with them.  On a recent afternoon, we were at a children’s museum where one of the exhibits is a VW bug that visitors can paint.  My son loved slopping on the thick yellow paint with the other children and soon he struck up a conversation with another boy.  They joked a little about the car needing a wash and eventually the boy wandered off.  My son kept on painting for around an hour.  He would have stayed there forever if we hadn’t urged him to explore the rest of the museum.  But he wants to make friends and he wants to please his parents and while other autistic children might throw a tantrum when pulled away from an activity of interest, he tries to comply.  He is malleable.  He responds when spoken to.  ”Your son,” the psychologist tells us,  ”is going to be just fine.”  It will be my challenge, from now on, to believe that she’s right.

Linoleum

Saturday, December 20th, 2008


I feel it in the morning, like a linoleum block gouged out in the middle. I think: we need to slow own, check all options—Regional Center, UCLA. Get the most bang for our buck. I need not to be autistic, to realize that the teacher smiling isn’t “laughing at me,” as my son might think, that my boss, the principal at my school, regards me primarily as a part of a machine that she is responsible for running. “Well, that might be difficult,” she said when I told her about a program for my son that would require me to miss a half a workday per week for three months. From her viewpoint (“Will the children be missing instruction… Will these times off interfere with state testing?”), it might be very difficult. That’s all I need to know. That like some little puppy I feel wounded by her gruffness doesn’t matter. My feelings don’t matter. What matters is my son.

PM

Friday, December 19th, 2008

My son is in the living room making books with ribbon and bows and paper. He knows how to handle the scissors but can’t use the hole-punchers yet. I wonder if I’m completely wrong about this autism stuff. Nothing seems to be wrong.

The News

Friday, December 19th, 2008

We got the news two days ago. Our son is mildly autistic. Now we have to get him intervention. He’s four years old. There are many options out there, but we don’t know what’s best. One private school requires a half-day per week of family therapy for fifteen weeks. I’m not sure I can swing it at work, but will try. Most people have been very helpful and willing to listen. The assistant principal at my school (I teach special ed), a school psychologist at our home district—everybody has given their time, been good listeners. I feel clotted inside. Dried up. Constipated. I am scared but hopeful. They call autism a spectrum, but it feels more like a spiral galaxy.