Tag Archives: Aspergers

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone – When Plans Change

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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone – When Plans Change

Friends – I am sure that you are wondering where in the heck I have been… I haven’t posted any hilarious things that happened during the day and trust me… that was hard….. I have always been open on Facebook, so now I feel that I am at a point that I can solve the mystery (and dispel the rumors).

I am blessed to have the best husband ever. You know that one person who wants you to be happy no matter what it takes? Yea, that is the relationship we have – we want each other to be happy. So that is where this starts.

When I started working I just did whatever I needed to do to contribute and you know what? It gave me a pretty good foundation that I still use today. Denny did the same thing – he didn’t necessarily like working a machining job in the hot, hot days of summer and the cold, cold days of winter, but he was good at it, it provided for our family that we started so young (19 & 18) so he continued to do it. Everything happens for a reason, I fully believe that in my heart of hearts.

Three years ago, I absolutely LOVED my job. I loved the people I worked with, I loved the challenges it brought me, I loved that people listened to my ideas and valued them. My hubby? Not so much. He hated going to work, liked some of the people there, and then he was drafted to go to a facility three hours away to work the machines when their employees went on strike. Another reason he didn’t like his job, it took him away from his family. So, he began looking and looking at the bid board. He found a job an hour and a half away from our home. I was skeptical, I wasn’t sure if he would like it any more there, but it seemed to be right up his alley as far as job description and skills needed. Knowing how much he disliked his job, I wanted to give him the chance to be happy too. So, we moved. I had to leave my job for a lateral move. Lateral is not always bad, I wasn’t necessarily happy about it, but I learned some more things to add to my tool box of skills. Hubby liked his job, in the beginning. Sometimes in big companies they change your focus… that happened to him and he was given other things in addition to his project which weren’t in his realm of expertise and it left less time for the job he was hired for and it wasn’t what he accepted the job and move for. Now, by this point, I was working a huge transformation project that really utilized my education in organizational development. I loved it, but I realized that as time passes you forget more and more of what you were taught. It really, really called attention to that fact. I went back to school to complete my bachelor’s and master’s degrees so that I could use them to really make a career that helps make a difference in other people’s lives – by making their jobs more efficient, helping them to get their voices heard, etc. Most importantly it was taking time away from my family to do the education piece while I still worked full time. A lot of time. As I looked at what I accomplished with getting my education the hard fact was that I was still working a job that they don’t require a bachelor’s or a master’s degree for and all the informational sessions I had scheduled weren’t helping as I hadn’t gotten an interview for any of the 30 jobs I had posted for. And not like Vice President jobs either, some were a promotion, a few were lateral moves to get me in the HR door. But nothing, nada, nilch. Very disengaging when you are a hard working employee. I had to face the fact that this company that I had worked for so long for, wasn’t necessarily interested in my career future. Why would they be when I am doing management type projects at a supportive role pay? I started to feel that I had let those memories with my family go for nothing. I can’t let that happen, that has got to change. However, when you work for a Fortune 50 company:

You can’t just get a position at a consulting firm, because they want to work for your company. Additionally, you can’t go to contract/agency because they have non compete with the company as well. So, this meant that I needed to leave my company and you all already know that I did do that, so no shocker there.

Now, this epiphany wasn’t an all of the sudden realization. It happened in spurts. When we were on vacation in Florida, we just kept discussing how we hate snow, we hate the cold, cold weather, and we hate being from a state where the previous governors make your license plates. Let’s face it, Illinois is not on the top of the list of places where anyone wants to move to… but it is pretty high on the list of places people want to move from. We were in agreement about that, even before we moved from Decatur. I kept telling hubby every time it snowed this past (horrid) winter, you moved me the wrong direction, this is not right. We discussed on vacation and decided that it was time for a change. (Can you hear Peter Brady singing time for change in his squeaky voice?)

At this point, things had changed considerably any time that we made a major change in our lives:

– Alyssa is out of the house, living on her own.
– Brian just graduated high school, no more concern on what school districts we are in. This is exactly why we bought the house we did in Peoria, because of the fantastic school district!

Bottom line is that we so close to empty nesters it is not funny. We can now be a little more riskier!

Now the facts:

-The house we had in Peoria was huge. I couldn’t keep up on cleaning it.
-We hate Illinois and the terrible winter weather, taxes and such.
– Brian needs to be near a good college for his passion – television and film production. He needs guidance and an advocate.
– I wanted to really use my organizational development education and try consulting. I really liked being a part of that project it was invigorating.
– We lived north of Peoria so it was a longer distance and more out of the way for anyone to travel to visit us, so we didn’t get a lot of visitors, it was kind of lonely.

From this we decided it was time to downsize. From previous homes we have sold (4) it generally took about 60-90 days to get a contract. We would list the house for sale and decide the rest as it unfolded during the 60 -90 days. Well… of course you know the time we are counting on the 60-90 days, it sells in 48 hours to a cash buyer. Krikey!! So, now it was go time. What is next? Well, without the house payment and associated utilities to run the big monster, my income wasn’t necessary, so I put in my notice with the company. It was really, really hard to leave so many friends I had made and thoroughly enjoyed working with. But, it wasn’t fulfilling me, it was eating at me every day that I could be doing what I love, consulting, full time. It was a hard move, I still feel weird that I don’t work there any more, and I miss so many of the people I worked with, but I have been keeping busy with manual labor – I’ll explain later. This is where my mystery starts to be unraveled, so don’t quit reading yet.

Of course, you all know about my excursion to LA when Brian took the bus there unexpectedly. Let me tell you, I was a small town raised girl. I moved from mom and dad’s house in with my hubby. I don’t know real independence and the thought was completely terrifying. But you know what? I took the plane by myself, drove around LA by myself (until I picked up Brian that is) and Brian and I toured schools and called apartments to find there wasn’t anything available in his price range. We then had a heart to heart conversation about his future steps and he came back home with me. Well, our temporary home… remember we sold it!! I felt empowered, I felt like a big girl!! Never had that kind of an adventure without my hubby!! So, I am ready to sew some wild oats and get to chasing dreams!!

My hubby knew I wasn’t happy with my job position and frankly, he wasn’t really happy that I hadn’t been moved up either. He knows that I would love to work for Disney’s organizational Development department, so we built that into the plan. However, I need the job title or any consulting firm/OD position is going to be extremely difficult to obtain. He wants me to be happy and we can do this together and then we will both be happy! Thinking outside of the box, this is what we decided and where we are now:

I introduce you to DABL Consulting. While jointly owned by hubby and I, I will start the networking and obtaining work. In order to pave the path to someday working at Disney’s Org Development team, DABL is based in Orlando, Florida.

YES… we were fortunate enough to work with the moving company to store our items for a short time period while we decided where we would land and went to looking for a house to lease in Florida. Lease: Because I don’t know that DABL will be a success. I don’t know the area down here… if it works out, we have an option to purchase the house. If not, I can elect not to renew the lease. The catch is that…. We can’t afford to not have benefits and set income that the company still provides my hubby. He is still employed there and will continue to be employed there whilst I am kicking off DABL. (We have some awesome family members who are housing him near Peoria while we are in transition.) This gives him the opportunity to continue working the project that he is so passionate about – machinist training. He really loves that project.

Not only is Orlando near Disney good for me, it is also great for Brian’s education and growth. We had already decided in LA that he would live at home and complete his general education requirements, then transfer to University of Southern California where they have housing, meal plans, etc. Why didn’t I elect to have DABL in LA? LA is scary to me, it is not homey. Yes, I survived those few days, but I don’t want to do that on a long term basis and Disney’s Org Development department is based in Orlando. Orlando offers both Brian and I to be close to Disney. Additionally he has Universal, etc to look for job shadowing/intern opportunities. Oh, and I know people in Florida. I don’t know but a couple in LA and those are through Facebook. In Florida we have a couple of family members and several people I’ve met through Facebook. Not completely getting out of my comfort zone.

Now, where do we go from here? Will my hubby quit his job? Well, not right now… but, eventually, I certainly hope so… Our plan is to get DABL running so that we need BOTH of us to run it. You dig?

So, in the interim, I have driven down here, been unpacking, learning my way around, and learning how to keep my pool clean. I wanted a pool because it is so nice to get exercise in a pool when the weight of your body isn’t a factor and it is imperative I get into good physical shape to keep my MS MonSter at bay. Ain’t nobody got time for the MonSter!!

So, we are taking a risk that could be a very difficult time, yet it could be the most rewarding challenge we have ever encountered. And maybe a bit more riskier than we should’ve been… considering that we didn’t really know where we were moving when we sold our house… we were working on trying to get the DABL dream into the horizon, determining if it was a real possibility. We were able to make all of this come to a real possibility just days before we needed to be out of the house. So, the picture is about how I feel right now… I feel like I have on a brand new set of shoes and I am ready to take on the world!!

Oh, you wonder what DABL stands for? Denny, Alyssa, Brian, Lisa. Our greatest asset who’s worth cannot be measured – our family.

The Week My Son Went Missing

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The Week My Son Went Missing

So, here it is, it is Monday. Since it was my last week of work before embarking on an adventure to move my career forward in the fields of Organizational Development, I went to work and was diligently putting together standard work for all my job functions, cleanup files, plan what else needs to be done. Go to the chiropractor to get rid of severe pain between my shoulder blades, then go home and start to organize for our upcoming move. I enter the house and say hello to my Coco in the kennel and she just looks at me with a sad look…. I went to kick my shoes off and notice that the front door is cracked open…. Weird. Denny, my husband, ran to basement to check on Brian and ran back up worried because he wasn’t there and told me to check upstairs. I started freaking thinking someone came in and kidnapped him, but when I didn’t find him, his iPad, his phone, nor his clean jeans that were on the floor…. And then….. My heart skipped a beat when we called his phone and it immediately went to voice mail- it was off. Then we sent text messages to family and friends that were in central Illinois asking if they took him somewhere or heard from him…. No on both. While I called 911 and explained the situation 18 year old with Asperger’s, no government ID, no credit card, likely headed to LA unsure of how…. My husband was calling the airport and got nowhere due to the privacy act (who else thinks the HIPPA privacy act is a PITA??) (if not sure what PITA – you fill in the last word… Pain In The A**.). By this time my report was finished and I was listening for hope in my hubby’s conversation with the Amtrak station. I was hearing hope from the lady who understood his pain and worry, unfortunately it seems she didn’t know much about their system… “I see he purchased a ticket through the app via Galesburg but they wouldn’t let him on without photo ID so it was cancelled.” “Oh wait that was on August 1st, uhm, oh yup, same thing on today. You need to call Amtrak police and they can track this better and find him. Then she kept talking for like, FOREVER. So hubby handed me the number to call when it became apparent that this gal didn’t realize that he can’t call the train police when he is on the phone with her babbling about different scenarios of what he may or may not have done…. The Amtrak police were of little assistance telling me I need to file with local police.. “I just did, can help me before they get her to write it?” “No they will put out an alert and we will respond to that”. To me this was, “I’m really busy playing candy crush, about to beat level 141, and I don’t have time for your missing 18-year-old and I really need fired.” So I hung up and hubby STILL on the phone with the lady at Amtrak. He told her we called and they wouldn’t do anything. She then, bless her heart, asked Jason (last name unknown) to check the train and report back. Well, apparently Jason was busy reviewing what’s for sale in online Facebook groups because he NEVER reported back. Ever, even when the police called-stellar job performance dude. So, the police show up two officers. They search the house and didn’t find him. They ask questions about why we were concerned and then call their commanding officer to confirm we have an endangered missing person. Then, more police showed up… just a few….

LA IMG_6211
(Side note: if you have anyone that’s over 18, but they have medical issues- like autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, you do NOT need to wait 48 hours to call police and file a report because they are missing and ENDANGERED. You MUST use the word endangered, and so read on to learn what that lil word does- one word, HUGE response.)

Anyhow, one officer was looking at his Facebook account for clues-recently added people on his laptop that was left behind, because he’s always logged in and likely didn’t take it because it is SLOW as crap, but we made do. I looked to see if I could get lucky to get into his email account but no such luck. One asked command to ping his phone no luck. They then asked for phone records for activity. While the other officer and I called people on his recently contacted numbers through our AT&T Billing, unfortunately it lacked the most recent 24 hours. (Side note: Sorry to the two friends who we freaked out a little!). While this was happening, within 15 minutes three more officers, including their commanding officer, came to the house. The new policeman asked me if I could get into his email account or “find my iPhone” account. I told him I didn’t know the password. He asked if I could guess it. Then I thought of when Brian and I met my friend Jennifer at McDonald’s and he went to check his Facebook and was seriously typing for a minute straight. He takes passwords seriously.

So our kitchen became command central. Each officer was calling a different entity. One officer thought of taxis and asked if we had a phone book. We actually had just gotten one the week before. He looked through a few seconds, then asked, “I know I’m not old school, but what would taxis be listed under in the yellow pages?” I laughed because I asked on Facebook several weeks ago who still used the book. So he found it and started calling. No luck. They contacted Amtrak to get ahold of Jason, who was busy looking for Brian and would tell him to call back. It’s amazing to me that the response to the police on the phone was little to no response. They contacted the bus station, no luck. So they decided to go out and canvas the area. Jason…. Must have gotten lost or something because he NEVER called back.

By then it was 8:00 pm and it was just Dennis and I. While I was freaking out, he was hacking his email account. He had helped him set it up, so our email was the back up for lost passwords. Boom we were into the mail. Not much in the inbox, but found a reservation for a taxi he used to get to the bus station. We called the officer and advised. A little bit later, an hour or so, the officer called back and advised that the people at the bus station remarried Brian. He came in and was holding the door for people and talking to them. (Is it bad that at this point I was extremely proud of him for being helpful?!) He continued on to say they were working on confirming that he was on the bus and would keep me updated. At about 11:00 he called back and said that he is confident he is on the bus and is working with St Louis greyhound and local police to assist. Although with the riots in St Louis he wasn’t sure how much help from officers he could get. He asked what they should do if it is him, do we have court docs indicating he can’t live on his own? I know so many recommended guardianship and I’ll explain in a bit why I didn’t do that. The officer and I discussed options and ultimately, I didn’t want them to detain him because he is 18, obviously determined and if forced to return he would likely just run again… I don’t want to do that because it would just frustrate him more. He said he likely couldn’t detain him anyways. I told him my concern was that (1) he was SAFE, (2) that we could contact him, and (3) through contact find out what he has lined up when arriving at LA. So they found him on the bus and ensured he was safe and recommended he turn his phone ON and contact us. Which he did and he kept in contact with us via text. We talked about what next? Would we come to LA? Would we let him find out himself? Could someone local meet him? We decided to have a local meet him so that he had some autonomy. At about 2:00 am Tuesday I went to sleep, then got up at 5:00 am to get ready for work. I’m one of those people that will drive myself insane if I don’t have something else to focus on. While I worked, my husband stayed home keeping in contact with Brian. My boss told me any flexibility I need to handle this, just do it. And I thought about it, but Brian didn’t arrive in LA until 330 pm Wednesday, so I had soak time. It wasn’t until I spoke with my other boss (Yeah, I have two…) Anyhow, he called me to talk to him. Not about meetings needed, or anything regarding work. Just to specifically ensure I was ok and if I needed anything. I told him I was ok, besides the fact that I had minimal make up on (foundation only) and frankly I had done my hair better to scrub toilets, I was ok and would feel much better when he got to LA and I knew he had a residence (not a shelter, group home) and was ok. Then he said something that flipped a switch. “You should be on a plane to LA. It’s not a good place for him to be alone. Don’t be sorry later.” Sorry, meaning my son is permanently missing or killed…. Then I got to my desk and texted Denny. “I’m going to la if you don’t.” He searched options, I searched options, and I left work because there was a 6:00 pm flight out. It was 2:30 pm and I realized when I got home I needed to pack, grab essentials Brian would need (SS card, birth certificate) and would surely forget something if I rushed/ you know…. like my clothes. Important stuff. There was a 6:00 am flight and I booked it. I told my hubby I didn’t care how much it cost because I would pawn everything so that I know he is safe- I didn’t want to call Melanie Schelling, my insurance agent to collect life insurance.

I have never flown before alone, or driven in a humongous city like LA before… I won’t even drive in Chicago. :). So for me this was a new thing. I admit it, I was a little scared traveling alone, but had to keep my mind on the prize!! Not only was I afraid of just the travel, but also the fact that my flights could get delayed or cancelled them I would miss his bus!
So if you know me… Ya know, I don’t like getting up early, early and being somewhere before like 7:00 am but I do what I need to do for the things I’m passionate about. (So all you Decatur Cat folks that saw me at the plant digging around in a cooler for your choice of soda… Know that it’s because I love you all!!

And my hubby was on third shift for 9 years and I know he felt like the line ranger as far as things happening on his shift. Besides we had a fun time-serving dinners to ya!). So anyways, I set my alarm for 3:00 am. I got ready and while doing so, made sure I had everything we might need (SSN card, birth certificate, etc.). We got to the airport with NO time to spare, at 5:15 for a 6:00 am flight. Thank heavens for small airports and speedy processing, despite a change of security check in guards that delayed the line from moving for 10 minutes. Luckily, I had my shoes tied loosely, no belt, all my liquids in my carry on (no checked bags), boarding passes printed and license ready. So I made it… Now for a brisk walk to the gate, which for a small airport seemed like F.O.R.E.V.E.R. Away. But I made it, even got there before they started boarding. Yay!!

I have never flown before alone, or driven in a humongous city like LA before… I won’t even drive in Chicago. :). So for me this was new thing. I admit it, I was a little scared traveling alone, but had to keep my mind on the prize!! Not only was I afraid of just the travel, but also the fact that my flights could get delayed or cancelled them, I would miss his bus!

So if you know me… You know, I don’t like getting up early and being somewhere before like 7:00 am but I do what I need to do for the things I’m passionate about. (So all you Decatur Cat folks that saw me at the plant digging around in a cooler for your choice of soda at 3:00 a.m…. Know that it’s because I love you all!! ☺ Besides that my hubby was on third shift for 9 years and I know he felt like the lone ranger as far as things happening on his shift. Besides we had a fun time with ya!). So anyways, I set my alarm for 3:00 am. I got ready and while doing so, made sure I had everything we might need (SSN card, birth certificate, etc.). We got to the airport with NO time to spare, at 5:15 for a 6:00 am flight. Thank heavens for small airports and speedy processing, despite a change of security check in guards that delayed the line from moving for 10 minutes. Luckily, I had my shoes tied loosely, no belt, and all my liquids in my carry on (no checked bags), boarding passes printed and license ready. So I made it… Now for a brisk walk to the gate, which for a small airport seemed like F.O.R.E.V.E.R. away. But I made it. In fact, I even got there before they started boarding. Yay!!

So on my flight from O’Hare to Los Angeles, it went really smooth and I got WIFI! So since we have iPhones, I could text back and forth with Brian and hubby! I kept up to date on where the bus was in relation to my arrival time. My hubby was pinging Brian’s phone/ipad with the Find My Phone app through iCloud. If you have apple products and haven’t activated that app… do it. Now, we had originally told Brian we would find someone to meet him off the bus. It WAS the original intention but, after talking with my boss… I decided… Ya know what? It’s gonna be ME!! When you want something done and you kept up to date, it is best to do it yourself. Besides, I couldn’t inconvenience any of my people in Cali. Please note that it was not my intention to drag him back to Illinois, it was to help him set up shop in Los Angeles. If not, help him determine the next steps. However, since he ran away, I didn’t want to post that on Facebook because I was afraid he’d dart and get on a different bus. I know a lot of Facebook people thought I was crazy for not going… but I couldn’t let the cat out of the bag. When he asked if we found someone, I texted him and told him that “I have two prospects – one will definitely be there on Wednesday. You’ll recognize either from Facebook, I told them to wear a purple shirt, so they will and will call out your name. They both have your pic. :). Where are you at now?” So you can see that I kind of avoided the question. Ha! I really wanted to say… “My plane is above your bus! Wave!” But I didn’t. So we chatted back and forth a bit, and again he asked “Who’s gonna meet me at the downtown LA greyhound station?” I responded “Leslie”. Then he asked “Leslie who?” And I tried to step dance around answering it. Luckily I had to put the phone away because my plane landed and needed to pick up my car, or I should say figure out how to get my car! I found the shuttle bus, got my car and trusted Siri to direct me to the bus station. I made it, Siri didn’t let me down for once. Then after taking in the scenery around the bus station, I checked my messages and responded. “Sorry was on the phone. She’s in a maroon Nissan Maxima, wearing a purple shirt & jean shorts. What’s your location now?” He was still about an hour out… and let me tell ya, I thanked my lucky stars I flew out because that area was rather scary. I was happy he arrived at 3:30 pm, in the daylight… Homeless people sleeping all along the road, in parks, under bridges and when there wasn’t a person there, their shopping carts full of ‘prizes’ were left. The buildings had bars on all the windows and quite a group of people to watch. I saw this one gal that was rather chubby, wearing what appeared to be a tube top… as a dress. I mean for real… She was well endowed on the front and the rear. If she would’ve breathed in heavy, she would have lost both loads. I should have taken a picture, but I didn’t to protect her identity. There was a security guard posted right by my car so I stayed there as long as I could. While I waited I called several autism resources in LA to see if they can assist Brian in either talking out a better plan or helping find housing. One of them I left a message and the others needed an address within LA in order to provide services. I found this rather odd, as if I am seeking out housing, I don’t have an address.

At about 45 minutes till arrival, I went inside the bus station. Denny was pinging his iPhone and updating me on his location periodically. This feature came in handy because at one point, I asked, “Do I have time to pee??” He said yes, and I went! So when I finished with that necessity, I waited for the bus. LA IMG_6234It seemed like I waited…..and waited…. Then I started to worry I was at the wrong station, so to calm myself, I asked the lady at the counter if this was where route 1351 would arrive and if they were delayed. She told me she had no clue what route 1351 was….. So aggravating as later I found a board. They have one arriving daily…. Argh, good help is so hard to find. That’s ok, because I looked outside and realized, my wait was over, as the bus arrived!! I photographed the bus arriving and posted to Facebook so all my friends would know… Mom to the rescue!! So many were worried, so many had shared our missing picture and status and those that also shared it, who didn’t know us, were afraid for him. Since the original posting of the missing persons status, I had all my status updates as public. I know there have been times I have shared a status and you don’t know what ever happened – did they find them? So I wanted to be fairly transparent – except in telling everyone I was going to LA to meet his bus. That I had to keep a secret.

Since it seemed like it took forever to see him get off the bus, I will tell you why I never went to get guardianship for my son. I am a firm believer that labels create limits. I have always told my kids that they could be anything they wanted to be when they grew up and I hoped that they would believe it too. When you have doubts, you can be your own worst enemy, keeping you from reaching your true potential. I was afraid of getting guardianship because I didn’t want Brian to think that I didn’t believe in him. Do I believe he can live on his own? Most definitely. Do I think he is ready now? No. I also know that he inherited my, what some would call stubbornness, while others would call it determination, goal oriented. What he wants he is going to go after and if someone tells him he can’t he is just going to show you otherwise!! Which in most cases, I would be so proud of him for being that way – independent. However, at this time, I knew he didn’t have a plan when he arrived as far as living accommodations and without a government issued picture ID and credit card, he wasn’t going to be able to obtain a hotel room, forcing him to sleep in a shelter or the streets. While I want him to learn about life, I don’t want him to learn about it in such negative ways that it scares the begeezus out of him. Remember he held the doors open for people? He is a kind person and I didn’t want someone to take advantage of that. Remember he had some cash on his person… So, in summary, I didn’t want to label him as needing a guardian. I think as parents we are always guardians, it’s our job to help teach them the ways of the world no matter what age they are. Labels can cause limits and I don’t want either of my kids to think that they have a limit to their potential… because they don’t. And, if you have teenagers, with Asperger’s or not, and lived with them when they are mad at you, because they aren’t getting their way… it’s not a happy environment! I want a happy home, not a hostile one.

So, it probably took about that long as Brian was looking at all the bags, went back on the bus to see if his bag was there, but he came in with only his back pack. I started to worry about what his reaction would be when he saw me. Would he be mad? Throw a tantrum and run? Would he hug me? Or would he just say “hi”. As he walked in, the guy was telling him where to go to check for it. He was looking around, without his glasses on I am sure everyone was a little blurry.

LA IMG_6240So, I called his name, and he walked up to me and realized it was me, he said, “Mom?!! How’d you get here so fast?!” And gave me a hug! Then I told him I flew because I wasn’t going to let him be alone in LA. ✈ I asked him if he missed me and he said yes, but he was just so shocked to see me!

So, first things first… LA IMG_6241
we took a selfie in the bus station to post on Facebook for all those that have been looking, praying and following knew he was in good hands. I looked terrible after traveling all day and getting up before the roosters, but I posted it anyways because I was so happy that he was happy to see me!! Then we went to the counter to check on his luggage, it was not there, but they have buses at 730 pm, 9:30 pm and 10:30 pm. They would call if it came in. (I had no plans of going there after dark!!) I told him we would see what we could find in the line of clothing if they did not find it by the next day. But first, we should go and check out LACC and see if we can get the assessment testing completed. The school was relatively clean and seemed to be on a nice street, and it was open. (The show “The Community” was filmed here.)

We went to the counseling office to speak to a counselor on what classes to sign up or, etc. They asked for his student ID, which surprisingly he didn’t have memorized. We needed that in order to speak with a counselor. They directed us to the kiosk and if that didn’t work, to the admissions office to retrieve it. We tried the kiosk but it was not helpful so we headed to the admissions office. The guy behind the window said that he didn’t give those, that we would need to go to room 105. As we headed to room 105, I saw room 101, 103, but no 105. So, we just went into 103, which was the assessment office. The gentleman was apologetic as he directed us to the admissions window for the number. I told him we had just come from there, but since we were here, we needed to take the assessments and could Brian do that today after retrieving his student ID number? He said that he didn’t have any openings until the 20th of August and that they fill up FAST. I had called previously on the assessments and while they didn’t have to be taken at LACC, they could be taken at any community college in California… just not in Illinois. So I didn’t get too upset since I knew we had alternative options. So, we headed back to the window, where the guy told us room 105… I told him that they sent us here, we have a number and we just didn’t know it. To which Brian handed his high school student ID and received the number. We then went to the counselor’s office, which closed at 6:00 and it was about 5:30. Luckily someone was able to speak with us and told Brian if he was planning to transfer to University of Southern California they liked A’s and gave the list of general ed classes needed along with the film and cinema program courses. She also explained the costs of tuition – in state vs. out-of-state and that he needed to establish a residence as soon as possible. I told her that was next on the agenda. She also directed us to the financial aid office that we should go into the courtyard, turn between those two buildings and then there are bungalows on the right, one is financial aid, the other is student services to discuss Brian’s IEP. As we walked to the first turn, Brian said that he was tired and I agreed, “me too.” He said he didn’t sleep for the last two days on the bus and asked what time I got up. I told him 3:00 a.m. and he said, “Oh my gosh, what?” I said, “Yes, I got up at 3:00 a.m. to get to a 6:00 a.m. flight to LA so that I wouldn’t miss your bus arriving. See how much I love you?” To which he responded, “I am starting to see that, yes.” Well, by this time we had turned the corner and I saw buildings for Radiology Technology and other things, but not the financial aid or student services building. Since it was nearing 6:00, I told Brian, let’s just come back tomorrow after we have gotten some rest and can maybe find the building? He agreed, so we left for the hotel. He did ask me if I wanted to see some sights that we didn’t get a chance to see when we were out here on vacation several years ago, like the La Brea Tarpits or the Santa Monica Beach? I told him we could do that if we got his apartment, college classes and job secure because that is what I was out there for.

We checked in and walked up to the room to find that the key cards they gave us didn’t work. So, we went back downstairs… and they gave us new keys. We went to the 8th floor and this time, they worked! Brian said he needed nail clippers and I said he needed a shirt that wasn’t able to stand on its own. There was a Walgreens caddy cornered from the hotel, so we went on an adventure. We got the clippers, a California t-shirt, some breakfast bars and chocolate milks to drink. Then we decided to walk a few doors down to Chipolte to grab dinner and return to the hotel to relax/rest. We got to the room to find that they didn’t have a fridge in the room. So, we just drank our chocolate milk like dessert. That was pretty much it for that day.

Tuesday morning I wake up rather early in California time, about 4:30 a.m. – it would be 6:30 a.m. in Illinois. So, I got up and got ready, then woke Brian up so we could go looking for apartments. First he tried calling Greyhound to see if they had his luggage, but kept getting a busy signal. Brian found two different studio apartments that he felt he could afford and would be relatively close proximity to LACC. We started by calling them. The first one, the landlord answered and said that he had no vacancies, but to check back at the end of the month and he may have some once he knows who gives their 30-day notices. I thanked him and called the next apartment. I got a message machine, left our name and number and what we were looking for. Then we started looking at other options. I looked up the second apartment on a review sight and told Brian it said that they intermittently shut off the water during the day with no notice, the electricity goes out often and that there was a considerable amount of gang violence. He said we could mark that apartment off the list then (the landlord never called back anyhow.) Brian found another studio, so I dialed it up. Lucas answered and was very helpful. He said he didn’t have any studios, but did have a one bedroom that rented for $2,900 a month. I told him that was a bit out of Brian’s budget (about $2,400 over). He looked at sister properties but they were all higher rent than what he offered. Then he gave us two great websites to use. The websites sorted by price and I started with the lowest and called about 15 different entries. Out of those 15, 12 had disconnected numbers. I told Brian that I was kind of concerned if they couldn’t keep their phone on! Two of them I left a message and the last one there was not a message machine – so it was crossed off the list. If I can’t get ahold of you to rent, how much better will it be when I have an issue in my apartment?? Then the person from the autism resource center that I had left a message for called me back. She was very helpful without being helpful. Again, since he didn’t have an address, she couldn’t help him because they serve by address and that it would take 120 days for intake to determine services needed, etc. I asked if she had apartments that would be a good fit for Brian but she said she did not. Once he establishes a residence, they can start the intake process and will offer life skills, budgeting assistance, provide student advocacy – all of which will be important for Brian starting out on his own states away from his family. So, we will keep that information for when Brian does go to LA. At this point, I had given up on apartments, but thought, a call to University of Southern California might be a place to try – if nothing we could get the assessments taken maybe?

This conversation was one of the most pivotal turning points. While they had no counselors on site (they just finished summer semester and everyone was on break until fall began) she said she could try to help me. Essentially I told her that Brian wanted to go to LACC, then transfer to USC and what would be the best classes to take, is there a documented transfer student plan, etc? She told us that USC really prefers that their students for the film and cinema production only take their general education requirements then transfer. They do not want them to take the film classes because they will not get credit for the class itself, only for the credits the class was worth. So, any film classes he would take at LACC would not credit him with film classes at USC, meaning he would have to take all the film and cinema classes over … again. At this point, I told Brian that a residence wasn’t in our cards for the day and I could not leave him to be on his own without a place to stay. Based on that, I looked at how much USC was a year (Wowza… $60k), how much LACC was a semester and housing. Then I drew up the cost picture for Brian. Since he wants to attend University of Southern California, I left it out of the picture:

Attending LACC (no campus housing)
In State fees $46/credit hour
Out of State fees $246/credit hour

Typical full time is 12 credit hours a semester – 12 times 2 = 24
Best case – say he has In State fees at $46/hour 24 x $46= $1104.00
Books $1500.00
Apartment – $500/mo. (best case) 24 x $500= $12,000.00
Food – $100/wk x 104 wks (2 years) $100×104= $10,400.00
$25,400.00

*He would have to work close to full time to pay his rent, tuition, and food bills.
*He needs to keep in mind he HAS to get A’s and B’s to enter USC
(Even once you enter USC, if you get a C, or below… you are dropped
from the program.)
*Mom and Dad cannot pick up costs, it is all on his pocketbook.

Alternative – take General Ed classes and live with mom and dad:

Tuition Mom and Dad pay $0
Books Mom and Dad pay $0
Housing – lives with mom and dad Mom and Dad pay $0
Food Mom and Dad pay $0

*Time – he wouldn’t have to work full-time, could work part-time if wanted. *Allows more time to focus on homework and get A’s and B’s.
*Saves him $25,400 minimum.
*Mom and Dad pay for ticket back home
*When general ed is done and accepted to USC, we will pay for his ticket out there and travel with him to get him settled.

He wasn’t enthused that it wasn’t working out in LA for him to stay, and it sucked to see him disappointed…. but he agreed that scenario two was the most cost-effective for him and agreed for me to book his ticket back with me. We did agree on a “to do” list for the day we had in LA:

-Go by Greyhound to see if they have his luggage
-Drive by first apartment building Brian found, observe area.
-Drive by second apartment building mom found, observe area.
-Visit Griffith Observatory
-Visit the La Brea Tarpits
-Eat at Yogurt Land
-Eat at Buca di Beppo
-Go to Santa Monica Beach if time
-Meet up with my fantastic scriptwriter friend

So the first order of business was to go to Greyhound. Low and behold, they DID have his luggage!! This saved us a bunch of shopping, as all his jeans were in the case and 29×34 are HARD to find on the shelves!

Drove by the first apartment, it looked like a possibility, as did the second. Then we drove towards Griffith Observatory…. I was not prepared for this drive up Mt. Hollywood…. I got sort of dizzy at the top and we couldn’t find a parking spot for anything so I begged Brian if we could just go to the tar pits. Reluctantly he agreed and I was relieved to be on regular roadways. The tar pits were neat and they really did smell like hot tar.

We took a few photos there, then headed out for Yogurt Land. After we left Yogurt Land, my scriptwriter friend, Lisa called us. She couldn’t meet us for dinner at Buca di Beppos, but did have a conversation on what Brian should do to break into the business. He will start looking at internships in the spring.

Then we took off for the Santa Monica Beach and to eat at Buca di Beppo, where the stars are seen eating at times.

Well, we didn’t see any stars at Buca di Beppo, but we ate a dish of cheese ravioli with meat sauce and headed out to the pier. We walked the pier, then walked the beach, then returned to the hotel and began preparations for our departure the next morning at 7:00 a.m. While this trip did not occur in a manner that I would have preferred, we did have some fun together after working to find a place for Brian to live. And he is still going to go to LA, it is just a matter of when. Brian says 5 months, but I don’t think he will get the general ed classes completed in that amount of time. I told him if he gets all the general ed classes done while living with us, going to internships in LA during the summers, when he transfers to USC, he will have housing there, food there and it will be an easier transition.

While we were in LA, I asked Brian if he remembered how he felt when he went out to feed the dogs and bring them in the garage because it started to snow and Beau was missing and he couldn’t find him before he got on the bus? He did. Told him that was how his dad and I felt when we came home and he was gone, times 100 at least and then we couldn’t reach him on his phone. I asked him to promise never to do that again. All I can do now is pray for the best and help him get his general education requirements done, scholarships applied for, and college admissions forms completed.

It’s tough being a parent. I have an Asperger’s son and a non-Asperger’s daughter. Each came with their own challenges. One thing I can say about raising an Asperger’s son is that he has taught me more about how to interact with others in the workplace – Asperger’s causes them to see things and understand things in black and white, they take things very literally. So, you have to be careful how you word tasks that need completed. In addition to that, not everyone thinks the same, sees things the same, and when you let all those different aspects out in a room, you can make some wildly innovative ideas. People might say that people with Asperger’s have quirks… I argue that we all do and we need to learn to understand each other.

I do want to add that I am so grateful that my Facebook friends shared my status when Brian went missing and how many kept following along, praying and keeping in touch to make sure Brian was found, that he was okay, and that we were okay. So many people messaged us and it really was heartwarming to know that there are people out there that do care about the safe keeping of others. Within an hour, I had 1,000 shares on my status. By 2 am, I believe it was up to 5,000. Simply amazing and we are overwhelmed by your concern and assistance in finding Brian. We even had people offer airline miles, to take a collection, etc. Not necessary, but so very heartwarming. Thank you for your shares, prayers, and concern!

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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This has to be the way of life of an Aspie, I am convinced. My son has been diagnosed with Asperger’s for the last 6 years. In the very beginning, we were learning all kinds of things about dealing with Brian and his new diagnosis. The first thing was learning the inability to differentiate between social cues, eye contact and making inferences. Next was a lesson in don’t ask, don’t tell.

I learned when I came home from work that my daughter, Alyssa, had arranged to go to a movie with a friend. His parents picked them up, we were to pick them up. I wondered how much time we had until we needed to pick her up, so I asked my husband what movie they were watching. He did not remember. Looking up the movie theater schedule there was a variety of movies and ending times. So, we all loaded in the car and I questioned my husband about how he could possibly let her go to a movie, with instructions to pick up, without knowing what movie or what time it was over. Since our drive to the movie theater was 25 minutes, I questioned this over and over the entire way there. We ran through the list of movies playing and none of them really struck and bell.

While sitting in front of the theater, I turned around and asked Brian, “Do you know what movie your sister went to see?” He immediately answered, “Yes, Kicking and Screaming”. I couldn’t believe it and at the same time, I found it quite comical. He sat in the back seat and listened to me questioning my husband to a level of badgering the witness in a court of law, but never shared that he knew which movie. Mainly because we didn’t ask, lesson learned.

I ran in the theater, found the ending time of the movie and we picked up the kids as promised. This was the beginning of our learning that Autism is very literal. There is black and white, it does not have shades of gray. I still find this rather comical. 🙂

To find out more about Autism, specifically Asperger’s Syndrome, click here.

When a Hug Just Isn’t a Hug

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Ok, so…. It was 50 degrees the first three days of last week. Then on Thursday, it dropped to 10, started snowing and blowing. As any other weekday, I was getting ready for work and my son went out to feed and water his dogs as usual. He returned and hastily informed me that his dog, Beau was loose. He had put the other outside dog, Daisy, Beau’s sister, in her cage in the garage to keep her warm, which is where Beau would have went had he not broken his chain and took off for exploration. Beau breaks/shreds his chain at least every 3 months, and they are heavy duty chains, well, more like metal ropes, so we have spares on hand. (After several 3 am trips to Wal-Mart to purchase a new chain, we recognized this was going to be an ongoing issue). It was dark outside and, of course, the back porch light was burnt out and we couldn’t find the heavy duty flashlight. Brian was worried about his dog, he knew it was cold and feared he would get lost or worse. He wanted to find him, I could see the anxiety building. I told him to get on the school bus and I would look for Beau before I went to work. Thinking I would go outside and find him quickly…. Ha ha. So, I drove around the neighborhood, no sign of Beau. I drove to work to fetch (pun intended, ha ha) my laptop so I could sit at the dining room table and watch for him to return. An hour later, I was back in the neighborhood driving around looking for any sign of Beau. Nothing. I walked around the yard, yelling his name, still nothing. I could hear dogs barking, which led me to believe he was nearby being social. The wind had died down and the sun was warming things up a bit, so I came up with a plan to lure Beau back. I put Daisy outside on her chain. Then I put Beau’s food in his bowl along with a BIG rawhide bone Santa left for him and went back inside to start working. Not even 40 minutes later, I looked out and saw Beau jumping around, playing with Daisy, as if he was taunting her because he was off gallivanting around. I quickly grabbed my coat and boots and went to reconnect Beau. Much to my surprise, he came to me (my outside dogs are very skiddish). I rubbed him behind his ears, brushed the icicles off his fur and asked him, “So beau beau, did you have fun gallivanting around?” and I am not kidding you, if he could talk, he would have said, “YA!! It was a blast and a half!!” then he led me to his circle to be chained up…. I guess he just had some wild oats to sew.

All I can say is I am glad he is back, but he could have picked one of those 50 degree days to sew his oats. It would have made it much more enjoyable to walk outside looking for him. When my son came home from school, he busted in the door and immediately asked me if I found his dog. I said yes that Beau came back to tell Daisy about his adventure. He said, “Thank God!” And then, he walked over and gave me a hug and said a very heart felt “Thank you”. And he’s not a hugger, with the Asperger’s Syndrome, (high functioning Autism), picking up on those social cues and showing affection are HUGE. The last time he voluntarily gave me a hug was at the cemetery after my grandmothers funeral. Another time the hug was unexpected, but very needed and welcomed. So, even though I was aggravated beyond all get out to miss work and tromp around in the cold and snow, it was worth it for the hug from my son. Parenting is hard with any child, but with parenting an Aspie it can be SO rewarding in moments like this, that you haven’t experienced since they were toddlers and now are a teenager (when parents get cooties)…

I remember so vividly a time we went to visit my mother-in-law (Nana), Brian was about 2 1/2-3 years old. We got out of the car at the end of the driveway and Nana was standing near the front door. Brian got out of the car and ran towards her with his arms out yelling ‘NANA’ and she put her arms out ready to give him a big old hug. But, he stopped just shy of the hug, and with a little wave, said, “hi”. It was so funny, because everyone thought he was going to jump up and give a huge hug, but settled for a wave of the hand and hi.

So, you can see why the hug was so special. I will cherish the memory forever and not just the hug, but the fact that he is maturing and picking up on those social cues…. ❤

There is no “ï” in “Team” But There Must be “Team” in Your Child’s IEP

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I will start with a *Disclaimer – I do not lump all people, all educators into this blog. It is not meant to insult educators. It is meant to highlight a parents perspective on the strides that educators will go to help children. In my experience some are below par and some are going above and beyond. The thoughts on how we are failing our teachers and our children are mine. That said, I think that when people dream about being a teacher, they think about how funny kids are, how eager they are to learn and summers off are a plus, but we all know that they don’t get into it for the high pay. Believe me, I do not feel that our tax dollars are well spent in this arena. I know I would not have the patience to deal with kids and feel that those that do, thus they should be paid a mint. And I think colleges that have education degree programs should prepare teachers for all students – high IQ, low IQ, special needs, accomodation and a class in the benefits of an IEP as well. I don’t think that they do that very well, if at all, which is a shame for both the teacher and student as both could be far less frustrated. That is a whole nother soap box and not the point of my blog today. And my other concern is the fact that people trained to recognize these issues are not allowed to tell parents due to the HIPPA act. This act is more of a pain than anything else, again, a whole nother soap box. Any how, they don’t understand up front that not all kids learn the same, not all kids learn easily, not all kids are “normal” (what ever that is). Some kids learn extremely fast and become bored with the material and some need introduced to the material in multiple learning formats (visual, audio, hands on, etc.). Some kids need structure, check lists, common processes to be successful. And some kids require a special level of learning styles that they normally wouldn’t implement. Teaching any grade level is not easy, it is sometimes very much a challenge and requires assisting those children sometimes more than others.

So, any how, to move to the real purpose of my blog is to share my frustrations as a parent that had a very intelligent child that needed the additional tools to succeed in getting good ‘grades’. So, this is my experience and may not mimic yours. When the time came for Pre-school screening, I was excited and sad at the same time – my youngest was growing up. Brian had been in day care and social settings, but didn’t really interact with the other children, he was very much self entertained. Which, by the way, is not necessarily a bad thing – I grew up as an only child, it was a necessity. However, when I had an opportunity to play with other children, I took it! He didn’t test well for pre-school. He very much had a fear and screamed when within a certain spatial circle to people he did not know. Even though I sat with him and held him, he didn’t know the proctor and screamed bloody murder throughout the entire event. I gave up, obviously pre school was not his calling. And amazingly enough, he learned some new skills and coping mechanisms besides screaming at strangers so that by the time he was set to start kindergarten, he was ready. Well, so we thought. Hand to eye coordination was difficult, so use of scissors was challenging for him. Another issue was that he didn’t favor one hand over the other, so he used them both, which caused him some confusion as his brain would switch over from giving instructions from one to the other. This we worked on. I didn’t force him to be right handed. He chose to write with his right and eat with his left. His kindergarten teacher was very frustrated because he struggled with the simple things – he didn’t understand lining up in a boy girl line to go to the bathroom. We told the teacher that we didn’t do that at home, so it is new for him. 🙂 But her main complaint was that he didn’t pay attention, he didn’t follow the conversation with eye contact, he didn’t pay attention. Since we didn’t notice him lacking in any of the lessons of the day, we told her to call him out on it when she noticed it. She did and to her surprise, Brian repeated, verbatim, the last 3 sentences she said. At this point, she changed her teaching strategy with him and the rest of the year was pleasant for us all.

Between Kindergarten and first grade, Brian read all summer. We were shocked when the first grade teachers (it was a co-taught class) said he couldn’t read. Well, we told them that he read all summer, but they said he couldn’t read when asked to in class. This little turkey had decided he didn’t want to be called on to read to the class, so he opted to pretend he couldn’t read. One day, they paired up for math story problems. There were several in the class that had problems reading. Brian was paired with another little boy to complete the problem. When they were done, each pair read the problem (if they could, otherwise, they shared how they interpreted it) and gave their answer. When it was Brian and his partner’s turn, Brian knew the other boy could not read, so he started reading the story problem and the teachers were elated. Brian had the eyes of a deer caught in headlights… the jig is up. They contacted us and said, “He can read!!” Of course we weren’t surprised at all, we knew he could. I for one found it very interesting and comical that he had pulled off his ‘inability to read’ that far into the year. A true indication that stubbornness truly does run in my family. 🙂 So, the cat was out of the bag, he can read. During his first grade year, we were offered speech services for Brian to help him as he had difficulties in spatial questions – Who, what, why, when, where and how. If you asked who, he would tell you when or where.

As we went from each grade to the next, I would meet with the teachers to discuss things that I notice in Brian’s learning in order to help them understand how they can help him. Through many, many parent/teacher conferences, we noticed trends that affected Brian the most. The WORST class room experiences were not in the lessons, it was in the structure of the class. The simple things – rules to follow, a schedule. The teachers who gave the expectation to turn in your work before you sat down, was good enough for him to note, and do every day. The teachers that varied between passing it up to the front, handing it in at the beginning, then at the end, and sometimes when they got their book out for the lesson. These were awful! He never turned in his homework. It was done, he was overstimulated by the surprise that he would forget where he placed it, etc.

Brian attended this school from Kindergarten to Fifth grade. We moved the summer between fifth and sixth grade as I had had far too many parent/teacher conferences that went absolutely no where. The IEP goals were created and ignored by the teachers. The IEP conferences were not attended by the speech therapist, the teacher, the principal, counselor, other services as it should be a collective environment to share in the child’s progress. We had one meeting with all, but for the most part, it was us and the speech therapist. For all those parent/teacher conferences, I could tell beyond a shadow of a doubt which teachers were caring and which ones found him to be a nuisance. First of all, they would contact me with a constructively detailed concern and looking to meet with me to resolve. They were looking for my help. Second, they would actually meet me before school started, I did not have to leave work to accommodate their “prep” period. And third, they would actually take to heart what I told them and involve me in helping him be successful. This school never once offered up resolutions that included them tutoring on a one on one basis, they just wanted to claim ADHD. Poo on ADHD, it is not the answer to everything.

His fourth grade year, we had been contacted on a daily basis in some form or another with a list of grypes from the teacher. One or two of the teachers mentioned learning disability testing several times, but my husband was against the testing for learning disabilities, he didn’t want to put Brian through that. But we talked about it and I told him, we have to be able to help him. I need a good resolution, instead of stumbling through every year. I knew that there had to be something that I could do to help him. I scoured learning disabilities on the internet, I finally came across something called Asperger’s – high functioning autism and it described him to a “T”. So, during fourth grade, I requested the learning disability testing and was told to go through my pediatrician. So, I did. As I discussed the issues, (and this is why I love this doctor) he got really upset with the ADHD reliance. The entire time we were talking Brian was sitting quietly, being good. He had this pediatrican from the minute he was born. The pediatrican then gave me the rights as a parent – if the school district is requesting it, they need to perform and pay the costs of same. Further, the Dr. said, “he does NOT have ADHD or ADD” and noted that in his file. I then shared Asperger’s Syndrome and he asked a series of questions and agreed it was a possibility. He gave us a referral to a psychologist. This took some time, as all of the school records and medical records were sent to the psychologist for review. This was referred in the spring of his fourth grade year and our appointment was the following fall. From there, we requested him to go through the testing for disabilities. Much to my surprise, we were denied the testing because he was “an average student” per said fourth grade teacher that contacted us daily. And she shared that we were taking him to a psychologist for Asperger’s determination. Of course the board said no, they didn’t want to pay for testing and it was their way out. Really? I was enraged!! Apparently “Average” is D’s and F’s and a C or B thrown in? It became painfully obvious to me that this district that I graduated from had lost sight of what was important – educating children. It is just sad first of all, to be competitive in the job market, the economy, we HAVE to start putting the expectations in education of our children. I believe that I told her and the principal face to face that if that was this school’s expectations from its students that instead of diplomas at high school graduation, they may as well hand each one a McDonald’s cashier application, as they would be lucky to get that with the poor education they were given. Because who will be running this country when we are in nursing homes?? They will! So give them an excellent education. This was a very emotionally enraging time for me as a parent, as a graduate of the school district, as an American, and as a human being. Second, if he is average, why were they calling, emailing and scheduling conferences to grype about how they can’t figure out how to teach him. I asked her straight up, “Do you do this type of correspondence with all of your other ‘average’ student’s parents?” To which, in true politician style, she back pedaled. OF course all this would be done during the school day, because 1 minute after the buses departed, they were outta there, the school was locked down. Very convenient for people who work a town away to leave mid day. Especially those that work in a cruddy office environment that expected you to make up every single second or take vacation time to do so – again, whole nother soap box. I appealed to the superintendent many times who refused to do anything because it was a “building specific” problem. Gosh, I thought he was the boss over all the schools?? I don’t think he had a clear understanding of his position, with the exception of when pay days were. (I still haven’t figured out what his job was and quit trying since we have moved.) We had it, the teachers were not helpful, the kids were unaccepting (he had one friend and many, many bullies, because the school tolerated it) so we made plans to move to another school district. A plan that took a whole year to implement, but well worth it.

At the IEP for the beginning of fifth grade year (where only the teacher and speech/social work teacher showed, I told them that he had been dx with Aspergers and poo, double poo on HIPPA because the speech teacher (God bless her, she made the most improvement on him over all) said, “I have suspected that from the first time we met.” Really? Because of HIPPA, she couldn’t tell me – if she could have referred me to a specialist it would have saved us so much heartache and really helped us to guide him better. She was truly the only thing I missed about that school district. Their culture was poor, there was no accountability, and all the people that I had been able to rely on assistance had retired 3 years prior. The WORST three years ever, by the way, as far as our children’s education goes – even my daughter was having ridiculous issues.

So, at the new school, we visited prior to the school year started. We were cordially greeted by the custodian who showed us to Brian’s new classroom. Along the way, she took great pride in her work, detailing how it was a mess right now, as every year she removes all the furniture from the class rooms and cleans ceiling to floor, including the walls, shampooing the carpets, etc. This to me was a sign of great things to come, as at the old school, the custodians would rarely ever look at you, let alone greet you. We met with the principal, who had reviewed Brian’s file already and had positive suggestions and ideas. We met with his 6th grade teacher before the first day, she was new too. She was excited and bonded with Brian very quickly. This was a very comforting feeling because I knew with Asperger’s the power of change was very unwelcome to Brian. He never liked the new school year. However, she was very empathetic and willing to go the extra mile to determine what really helped him. He never had an issue with changing schools, moving, which was a great relief. She highlighted his strengths to the other students and made him feel successful, she investigated papers that had missed 90% of the questions. She found that he was taking the directions too literally and when she applied his outlook, the answers would have been correct. So she took the extra effort to help him see what the instructions were really looking for. She contacted me a few weeks into the school year, not to gripe, but to express her concern over Brian’s troubles in math. She asked if we minded if she tutored him after school two days a week with a few other children. What a blessed day!! It was then that we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that moving was the absolute best decision we could have made. Brian felt like a champion, he made friends and the overall culture of the school was different. When we went to the first junior high open house, Brian had so many of his classmates saying hi to him and they had even nicknamed him, “Briguy”. So heart warming for us as parents to know that they made him feel like he belonged.

During 6th grade, the social work/speech therapist and I met to discuss Brian. When we discussed certain services for the autism spectrum disorder, she said that he was not eligible for them because the prior school district never gave him that label that would entitle him to them. I was enraged. So, in 6th grade, we completed the autism spectrum tests and paperwork to correct this issue. If you have ever taken these tests, they are full of questions like, “When child was 18 months old” “When child was 2 years old” “When child was 4 years old”. As so much time had passed by, many of the questions referenced things that aren’t in the baby book, activities, preferences, but my husband, daughter and I completed the best that we could. In fact, my daugther and I answered the question, “Does the child rock back and forth” with a no. I got up to put clothes in the dryer and out of the corner of my eye, Brian was working on the laptop, hands folded between his knees and rocking back and forth. So many of these actions had become a ‘norm’ for us that we just didn’t see them any more. I shared this experience with my daughter and we just kind of laughed at how we overlooked it. It is amazing the things you notice when you are asked if they happen. Since there were a couple of Asperger’s children, and the speech and social therapists were not too familiar, the school district sent them to a conference on autism and Asperger’s syndrome and they came back with all new ideas and strategies. It was a very ecstatic moment for us as parents to see the lengths that this school district would go to help its students achieve.

My wish is that all schools would go to this length. As teachers, educators, principals, etc., please remember that it is not always the algebraic equations that affect a child’s learning, sometimes it is just the culture and schedule of the class room. Being consistent may help improve some of the students that seem to be “unteachable”. Don’t write them off, spend a few minutes with them and get to know what makes them tick. They have so many strengths that other kids can really admire if you highlight them. Brian wasn’t picked to be in groups at first but once the teacher highlighted his intelligence and superb memory for facts and data, he was one of the first few chosen after that.

Don’t pass them to move them on to someone else, don’t fail them because they don’t understand the questions. Mainly because there may not be a someone else that will take on the challenge. They may all take the same road too and that fails these kids. These kids can all be successful in life, they just need someone to take a moment to believe in them, show them what they are good at and how to overcome their weaknesses. And if you are a parent in a similar situation – this is what I have learned. I should not have stopped at the superintendent, I should have attended every school board meeting and voiced my concerns as a parent. Talk to other parents, do they have the same issues? Get them on your cause, often parents don’t want to raise an issue because they feel that they are the only ones. And if that doesn’t work, I am just going to say that we lost money (thousands) on the sale of our house, but it was worth every dollar. In our new district, we gained time. Time not corresponding with teachers daily, not visiting the school to straighten things out, less time being angry and upset, less bullying (it is not tolerated there) and more importantly, I was relieved and delighted to know that my kids were cared for as people. When they were hurt, when they were doing good, when they were doing poorly, in all aspects, this school was in it for the education of the kids and that my friends is truly priceless.

I am a Community College Dropout!

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I am a Community College Dropout!

Can’t you hear the song from Grease as Pinky contemplates quitting beauty school? Well, I have been a community college drop out, not once, but twice. Sure we can blame it on getting pregnant, played around too much, didn’t focus on school or “taking time for myself”, but really, I think it was just another reason for people to validate why I dropped out. Those excuses really are not the root cause. If you are a teacher or a parent, maybe even a high school student I hope that this helps you. I know I use(d) these as a guide for helping my kids. Let me just start by saying that I do hold both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Management and Organizational Leadership from Millikin University and Benedictine University, respectively. So, it turned out okay, it was just far more of a struggle than I think really had to be. In high school I was, what I call an average student – A’s and B’s. I hold education important, so I don’t feel that C’s are ‘average’. To stay competitive, we really need to up our game in the educational system. So, back to the story. I started college with a summer course immediately after I graduated. Pshychology 101, at 8:00 a.m. three days a week. Hind sight is always 20/20, I am not a morning person by any means now, and as a teenager, sleeping until noon during the summer was a necessity. Why I chose that time, I will never know. But, I did great at it and got an A – woo hoo starting out college with a 4.0! Then the fall semester came and I was signed up for a full course load for the nursing program. I was kind of lost, as all my friends were drifting away. We went to the same school, but their class schedules were different than mine and I don’t think I was sure of what I should do. That is really weird of me to see that as I have always been an independent person. Growing up as an only child, you kind of have to be, but in high school my friends and I hung out between classes, hung out at lunch, after school, etc. It is something you wait for your whole child hood, but when graduation happens, you really aren’t sure what to do, who you are, where you are going. It can get lonely. I was struggling with my course load, keeping up with the assignments, my heart just wasn’t in it, so, I dropped all my classes. Not really a stellar time in my life, it didn’t really make my parents happy. Neither one of them had a college education, so it was important to them that I attend. They of course, were in the working world and saw the importance that college educations had. Me? Well, I was a teenager, and what do all teenagers think their parents know? Squat. Yup, like I said, hindsight is always 20/20. But, we have to learn those lessons on our own. Best lessons are the hard lessons you learn by making mistakes. The love of my life (well, at least the last year at this time) was in his second year of dorm life at a four year college an hour away on a full grant studying engineering. He struggled with some of the roommates he had, calculus classes, and I think that same feeling I had… Where are all the people that I know? Who are all these weird people? 🙂 When he lost his grant, during the summer semester, he obtained loans, but those were weighing on his stress level. Ultimately it was all too much and he decided to return home to attend community college, the same one I dropped out of. I was thoroughly enthused as I missed him VERY much! Well, I bet you can tell exactly where this is headed… we were in love, I was almost 18, he didn’t want to move in with his parents, I was ready to get out of small town living so we got an apartment together. Really intelligent, since I worked at K-mart part-time and he worked for his dad’s machine shop that had just opened a year before, part time. I wish that I had that same belief that everythign would be great and just jump into decisions like that…. We were invicible! 🙂 Christmas came and I learned that a few months prior, he purchased an engagement ring which he gave to me Christmas day. On December 27th, reluctantly I took a pregnancy test that turned out positive. Well, that kind of put a little bit of a damper on our cloak of invincibility, but everything happens for a reason. Sure the first thing our friends asked was, “What are you going to do? Keep it? Abortion? Adoption?” Dumb question in our minds, as abortion was not an option (I will have to blog another time on the story behind my being an only child.) No way were we going to give a product of our love for each other away to someone who may not raise them with any morals or worse…. We did it, we were already planning to be together, this just sealed the deal. We planned a wedding and were married about 6 weeks later on February 20th. I can publish this as I have never hidden the fact from my kids that I was pregnant before we were married. Remember I hold education very important, I wanted them to learn math and the gestation period for a human being. 🙂 Obviously the story doesn’t end there, I said in the beginning that I had a bachelor’s and master’s degree. And it doesn’t. Basically through living life without a college education, I learned that I was the one who didn’t know jack squat. Frankly, I didn’t know jack or squat. What my parents saw was what I learned. If you want to be successful in your climb on the career ladder you need a college degree. My husband learned first. He worked for his dad for my pregnancy and he had a dream to work for Wagner Castings as a CMM programmer, which came to fruition when Alyssa was just a month old. A full time gig with benefits, but on third shift. Almost a year later, he obtained a position at a Fortune 50 company as a machinist when Alyssa was about to turn 1 year old. This gave us far superior benefits as well as an 80% raise. He worked a lot of overtime in this job, many 12 hour days, many weekends. Started out on 2nd shift, then moved to third shift. It was rough on a family. I had worked odd jobs as needed to get a little extra cash and obtained a full time job at a local credit union. After a few months there, Alyssa’s respiratory infections got progressively worse until they just didn’t go away. Poor thing at 18 months old we thought she would cough up her toe nails. Many missed days of work for me as I couldn’t take her to the sitter when she was sick. This continued for several months. Meanwhile, we were planning on expanding our family and after trying for a year, when Alyssa was just about 27 months, I found out I was pregnant. I stopped working full time and focused on family. We found out when we switched pediatricians that she had Asthma. With that diagnosis and breathing treatments, life was hunky dory again. Well, remember my husband had two dreams, well, his third was to become a processor at the Fortune 50 company. However, when he talked to the supervisor about moving, he was told that he would need an Associate’s degree. He was really reluctant to get it, but I nudged him to go for his dream. He graduated from the community college and guess what? He did not immediately move up. Very aggitated, he kept applying with no success. He went back to talk to the supervisor again and this time was told that now it required a bachelor’s degree. He was throroghly aggrivated and refused to do so. After several times of being told the lack of a bachelor’s degree was what was holding him back, I finally nudged him to follow through. He graduated after countless hours of studying and weekend classes. After six months of passing around his resume, he finally got that dream to become a processor. Even better benefits, day shift job and the sense of achievement. And no loans, his schooling was paid in full by the company. So, throughout all of this, I worked several more odd jobs here and there to supplement the income since he was not working as much overtime. I worked full time at a criminal defense law firm, which was somewhere I never imagined in a million years that I would work at, much less enjoy. I took a correspondence course and became a paralegal and moved to a bigger, civil law firm. Another job that I really enjoyed the work. I enjoyed my co-workers. My boss? Depends on the day. This law firms method of employee retention was to pay far over what other firms pay so that the employees do not feel that they can take a pay cut. Well, several things changed during the time that I worked there. Push was on velocity and quality. Well, we all know what happens when you rush through things – you make more mistakes. These mistakes were simple errors in transferring of information, but in the legal realm of representing banks in foreclosures, it can mean thousands of dollars in fees and lost time fighting to correct the error. Each of these errors was never forgiven as if they were etched into the drywall. When you work in conditions like this and they continue to push for perfection at a higher velocity, the only thing that happens is the pressure causes more mistakes. My boss was your best friend one minute, but the second that you crossed her (in her eyes) you were the spawn of satan. In my four years working there, I called in ‘sick’ the day of work only when it was a true emergency – people, I came to work with strep throat eating ice cream all day if I could. I came to work with a respiratory infection that I took the cough syrup with codeine as directed when I got to work and ended up passing out in the break room. I had a spinal tap done that ended in a spinal headache, but I attempted to come to work. My boss saw the pain on my face and increasingly getting worse and told me to go home and get well. This day she was caring. when that headache lasted a week, I had become the devil. This was when the light switch flipped on. not only did her ridiculous reactions annoy me, but the spinal tap confirmed a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. This diagnosis meant that I can’t plan for the future as if I am invincible any longer. I had to start thinking about how my life could change in the next minute and not be able to walk or something as equally as strange. I needed to work full time to get my kids ready for college and if I was going to want to retire someday, I had to do something different. So, my husband knew how frustrated and upset I was getting with my Jeckel and Hyde boss and told me to do the same thing he had – go back to school. As I look back some things that I think would have helped me would have been: – Having a specific career goal by the time I was a sophomore in high school to work towards. I just took whatever was on the schedule, if I had a choice, I generally chose a study hall, which didn’t build any skills for me at all. Sure, it was a good time with the other students and the teacher if you chose the right study hall, but nonetheless, not very academically challenging. – Career Cruising Assessment available to determine my strengths and weaknesses (or really anything of that type). If you don’t know what Career Cruising is, please check out their website. This is a skills, needs and preference assessment to help you determine what careers you would be good in/happy in. If you want to learn more about it, you click on the career and it gives you a host of information – the job title, description, average earnings and the education needed to go into the field. The down fall is that your school has to participate in it and actively push it to the students. And, I feel incredibly old saying this, but alas, when I was in high school, we were just getting computers…. the internet was years away. But something of the same nature would have been a great tool. – Once completed, some type of mentorship program or job shadowing opportunity with someone in that field. – (Neither of my parents went to college, so they couldn’t guide me. Students with parents that have not been in school need the extra coaching and guidance. Or workshops for the parents, support groups.) – RCC programs – have classes in blocks that compliment each other. Instead of fitting the classes into your program when able to, a nice schedule to follow. – RCC Counselors to schedule classes to fit the schedule of the student. No 2-4 hour breaks between classes. Maximize their time, they get bored between – it is not high school anymore not everyone is free at that same time. It gives you time to realize you are alone…. When I returned to RCC, I talked to a counselor and they had me going every which direction. I took the course book home and courses required by the program and I did the schedule myself. Took out an unnecessary class and as a working mom, utilized the evening classes to maximize the time I was at school so I could maximize the time I had with my kids at home. – Positive support of teachers and counselors throughout school, starting in Kindergarten. Help support their excitement, show them how to get there. One of the times that I will neverforget, when I realized that the radiology program was not going to be an option, I sought out my Bio 202 teacher, Mrs. Godin to pick her brain on her thoughts. She told me, “You are smart, you can do Anything you want. Can you be a Physician’s assistant? No doubt in my mind. No doubt in my mind that you could be a physician. You are very intelligent and I know you would succeed at any of those.” That one moment in time, changed my life. I no longer did status quo. I went for the gold! Excellence in everything I did. – Job shadow opportunities in careers the student feels that they would like to be involved in. At my son’s IEP last year, he had mentioned Auto Tech and they were going to put him into vocational. I asked that they not, I know Brian and he would not like it. Later that week, my husband said that he needed to take his car to the dealer for an oil change. My son said, “Why don’t you do it at home?” My husband asked if he wanted to help? Brian said, “Ok, as long as I don’t get squirted with oil, I don’t want to be dirty.” If we had put him in vocational, he would have failed. With his Asperger’s he never would have come to us and said, “I don’t like that”. He would have just been non-compliant. For me, in school, if I had been given a job shadow opportunity, I might have fell in love, it would have been visual what I wanted to do, I would have developed the dream/goal. – I went thorough several degree options. Rad Tech, nursing, biology, legal. The biology is an interesting one. I tested in math placement at RCC and I needed FIVE classes to qualify me for the program, so I gave up and went to work full time thinking that I would never finish – That is two and a half years added onto my school time. When I started Millikin’s PACE program, I didn’t place any higher but I only needed two 10 week courses to fulfill the void. More expensive, but well worth it. RCC and Millikin should partner up and leverage the accelerated classes to help people get up to speed, get their degree and get done. The longer you drag it out, the more likely they are to get discouraged and drop. (I was discouraged twice and MAD when I found out that I could have taken 2 classes at MU.) Put the options in front of them instead of them having to figure out how to make their plan work. To me, the counselor was more focused on RCC profit instead of my school ‘career’. Anyway, not that any one of these things was the driving force, ultimately it was my decision to drop out. And it was my decision to return to finish my bachelors and masters degrees. Unfortunately not every one of the drop outs will return.