Friday, June 30, 2006

"We are here. . ."

I'm blogging from our last day at Autreat and I keep thinking about the end of Dr. Seuss' "Horton Hears a Who" when the Whos of Whoville shout, "We are here, we are here, we are here."

If you don't know the story, Horton, an elephant, befriends a culture of microscopic people, the Whos, who live on a dustspeck.

Because the other inhabitants of the forest of Nool can't hear or see the tiny Whos, they believe Horton is insane and decide to punish him by boiling the dustspeck Horton is trying to protect.

No matter that Horton get bullied and harassed, he has faith in his friends and begs them to make as much noise as possible so the others can hear them.

At the end of the story, all the Whos begin to shout, "We are here, we are here, we are here."

I am aspie.

I am here.

We are here.

We must not allow the majority to silence us.

We must not allow our fear to silence us.

I will not be silent.

We are here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Good news for the end of the school year

7th grade has been a difficult year for P. The academic requirements really ramped up this year from last year with probably twice the amount of homework each night. In addition to the workload, this was his prepare for Bar mitzvah year, with extra lessons with the Cantor, meetings with the Rabbi. Add to that the confusing mix of pre-teen hormones and the social minefield that is middle school, and it adds up to a lot for one young man to deal with.

There have been both high and low points to the year. Some highs: He connected right away with 2 of his 4 main subject teachers, finding a love of social studies (ancient civilizations this year) and math. He also learned and implemented some wonderful organizational skills around homework and planning. And as a 7th grader, had one of the secondary leads in the 7th/8th grade production of Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale."

Some lows: Subtle and persistent teasing and social isolation. And although he was nominated to become a peer mediator for 8th grade, he wasn't selected. That was a huge disappointment to him and to me. I thought P. would be a wonderful mediator.

Today, P. came home jubillant--the happiest I have seen him in quite some time.

Tryouts for "As you like it" (Shakespeare) were last week. Callbacks were friday. P. was called back for readings of two of the main characters.

This morning, he found out he will be playing Orlando, one of the male leads in next fall's production.

I am so pleased for him to be able to end the school year on a high note, a success, and something to look forward to for the start of 8th grade.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Speaking at the ASA conference

In a few weeks, I'm taking part in two panels at the ASA meeting in Rhode Island. It's taken me several years to get to the point of feeling comfortable with something like this.

It's not the speaking part. I've been an invited speaker in dozens of national conferences over the past 20 years, I've guest lectured at Universities, been interviewed on TV and radio. But *all* of that has been in my capacity as a physical therapist and an expert in my sub-field. By all accounts, I am an excellent speaker--I don't read prepared remarks or simply recite the information on my slides, and I connect with the audience. No, the speaking itself is not the problem.

It's the "Hey, look at me, I'm a successful adult with AS" issue. I dislike calling attention to myself. I loathe being turned into "a self-narrating zoo exhibit". (A phrase I first heard from my friend, Phil Schwartz, though I don't know if it is of his creation.)

So why did I agree to speak? Partly because if I don't, than I miss an opportunity to change the conversation--to challenge perceptions in the 'NT' world about living on the spectrum. There is more than one paradox/danger here: If I *do* speak up/come 'out', then I risk personal stress-overload, thus reinforcing stereotypes of Aspie failings. And, invariably, some will simply deny I *am* an Aspie, simply because I can be eloquent and display emotional literacy.

And for the privilege of taking several days from my work (I'm in private practice-if I don't work, I don't get paid), upending my own typical schedule (stressful--'nuff said), spending time and energy preparing my talks, and exposing myself emotionally in a charged venue, I get to pay the ASA.

According to their website, it is a discounted rate. (Gee. Thanks.) In EVERY OTHER conference related speaking engagement I have ever had, I have been given free registration. Even for small organizations that could not afford to pay transportation/hotel/honorarium fees. The registration was free.

Can I afford the $135? Yes. That's not the point. The point is the ASA is, in part, drawing in conference participants (and income) *because* of the work my fellow speakers and I are putting together. We are the value added of the conference.

I wrote a polite email to the organizers pointing some of this out. I received a curt response thanking me for my concerns and a promise to discuss it with the powers that be.

So the ironic conclusion: I am paying, in real dollars, lost work, and personal 'cost', to present in 2 panels for an organization I am not sure I want to belong to because I feel I owe it to my community of fellow travelers.

What's wrong with this picture?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hitting the wall

I'm almost reluctant to write this for fear that it gives the 'other side' ammunition to say how hard life is on the spectrum and wouldn't it be so much the better to have a 'cure' for Asperger's Syndrome. I also don't like to whine and I *do* understand how blessed I am with the support and love I have in my life.

Or maybe this is just my expression of a mid-life crisis and has little to do with AS, or raising kids with AS/NLD. I'm tired. Not physically tired, but emotionally tired. I spend a great deal of my life taking care of other people--both in my home life and my work life.

I've been a physical therapist for 20 years and I know I'm good at what I do. I specialize in working with people who have chronic pain and dual diagnoses (psychiatric and physical stresses). I think I'm burning out.

I'm so far behind in my billing that there are months of care provided I won't get paid for and the billing agent I've contracted with keeps threatening to quit if I can't get more organized and timely in submitting my billing. Whenever I think of dealing with my Medicare paperwork, I just cringe inside--the details and the following up are beyond me right now.

I missed almost a whole week of work earlier in the month with a bout of pneumonia and by the end of that week, was happier than I'd felt in quite some time. Getting back to work the following monday brought the same crushing stress right back.

I'm not looking for pity or for solutions, I'm just trying to work my way through what is 'garden variety stress', what is career burnout, what is related to my very Aspie self on the verge of overload.

I need to make some difficult decisions about my PT career, but I can't make them while I'm stuck in the day to day details of keeping my practice running. Currently, I'm planning on taking the month of August off from the practice if only to find a place where I can stand still and analyze what's going on.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"Maybe Sparrow" (a revision)

Because we are all works in progress, here is a revision of the poem I wrote for Charlie, in response to a blog post by Kristina Chew.

Maybe Sparrow

"I believe that the broken bird knew that it was broken." (Kristina Chew)

I am a killdeer pretending to limp,
leading danger away from our nest.

I sing the song I know best. It is not
always beautiful, but most nights it soothes

us both to sleep. This isn't about broken
things or crows. That black bird shivers

against the base of my spine. Morning
comes. A dark feather spirals to my feet.

You draw it across my cheek, flap it
in your hands, look up through the screen

of trees, a pinion primed for flight.
Sometimes I envy the mockingbird.

I thought I wrote it for her, but in fact I also wrote it for me. As a parent, (perhaps any parent, but as a parent of a child on the spectrum) I must be like the killdear mother--a ground nesting bird that when challenged by a predator will appear to be injured and limp, leading danger from her nestlings. When the predator thinks it has its meal, the killdear flies away.

"I sing the song I know best"--I am doing the best that I can. Perhaps not always the right thing, "not always beautiful", but at any moment, the best I can do for my lovely nestlings, my 2 beautiful sons.

"This isn't about broken things. . ." My life isn't defined by what we can't do, by what is difficult. Nor do I define my children's lives by what they struggle with.

"That black bird shivers. . . " But the fear is always my constant companion. Fear that I'm not doing a good enough job as a parent. Fear that my own AS blinds me to what my kids really need. Fear of what will happen in the wide world when I'm no longer around to advocate for my kids.

"A dark feather spirals. . .you draw it across my cheek" The world is full of beauty, if you know to look for it. And I share that wonder and beauty with my sons.

"pinion primed for flight" (Pinions are the bird's primary flight feathers) We are all primed for flight--made for growth and change.

"Sometimes I envy the mockingbird." The mockingbird can sing all the sounds it hears, I have one song, this one life. Sometimes I envy what my life might have been before AS entered my vocabulary. Sometimes, not all the time, not even most of the time. But sometimes, particularly when the greater world makes our lives so much more difficult than they could or should be.

I thank you, Kristina, for the inspiration to write this. May we all be "pinions primed for flight."