Posted in Asperger's, autism

Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month.

To those who are not aware of autism and who it may affect, I want to broaden your mind.  Although I could fill this post, and many more posts, with the facts about autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, as it’s more commonly known, I’ll only mention a few:

  1.  ASD affects 1 in 68 children.
  2. ASD is more common than childhood cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.  It’s one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the United States.
  3. You cannot get ASD from vaccines.
  4. I have a sister and a daughter who have ASD.

To best broaden the minds of those not as aware of autism as others may be, I want to describe my own ASD experiences.  As I said above, I do have a sister and a daughter with ASD.  They are two of the most special and important people in my life.  Not because they have ASD.  But because of how remarkable they are.

My sister Peggy is 35 years old.  Had she been born before 1984 she probably would not be alive today.  She is a twin, born eight weeks prematurely.  She died, and was resuscitated, three times after being born.  At three days old she developed hydrocephalus or a build-up of fluid in the brain.  She was fitted with a hydrocephalus shunt which will remain inside her for the rest of her life.  She has had it malfunction many times throughout her life and as she grew, she had to have it lengthened.

Peggy didn’t walk until she was three and began talking at age five.  It was quite clear from an early age Peggy was autistic.  She would constantly flap her arms and hands, rock excessively (she was known for destroying many beds and couches from her rocking!) and became obsessed with letters and numbers.  After trying to mainstream her into the public school system, they discovered Peggy would best thrive at a residential school.  Having Peggy leave our home and attend and live at a school forty miles away was very difficult.  We only got to see her on the weekends and the transition from one extreme to the other was rough on all of us.  At age 22 Peggy graduated from The Evergreen Center and moved on to where she currently is.  She lives in a group home not very far from me.  She attends a day program and is very active in the community.  When I see her each week I can tell she loves where she lives.  One of her favorite activities is going out with me each weekend and going to lunch and doing a little shopping.  She still flaps and rocks now and then, but it’s nothing like it used to be.  She hasn’t destroyed furniture in a long time!  Her obsessions are now play balls and clocks.  Her number fascination still stands with her love of the numbers 3, 4, 8 and 11.  In fact, all her clocks, always must have one hand on the 11 and the other on the 3.  So in Peggy’s world it’s always either 11:15 or 3:55.

One thing I love about Peggy is that she’ll love you unconditionally.  She is the easiest to please and the easiest member of the family to get along with.  And contrary to the fact that people with ASD tend to not be affectionate, Peggy is just the opposite.  She’s also a social butterfly and we always say that if Peggy were not on the spectrum, she’d probably be out and about all the time.

One thing I’ve learned from her is how to love life.  Because as tough as Peggy’s life has been, she still seems to really love it.

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When you have a child, you always want everything perfect.  You don’t want to believe there could be anything wrong with your child.  You don’t want to have in the back of your head the thought of “what if my child has ASD”?

After eight years of trying, Melanie was born in 2005.  It had been a completely normal pregnancy.  I didn’t even have morning sickness.  Aside from her being born via C-section, everything was fine.  She slept through the night at two weeks.  And there were hiccups along the way but we got over them.

She rolled over at three months.  Her first tooth came in at four months.  Was not a finicky eater until she was introduced to solid food.  Made great eye contact and reacted appropriately to those around her.  She smiled a lot.  Then it was discovered she was not as quick to sit up as most six-month-olds.  She could but it seemed to be an effort for her.

Her pediatrician referred us to Early Intervention.  From them we learned Melanie had low muscle tone.  Which is also why when she began to crawl she “combat crawled” by slithering around on her stomach.  She received occupational and physical therapy.  Then speech therapy when she wasn’t speaking as much as she should have been for a one-year-old.

We really began noticing things with Melanie when preschool began.  She didn’t socialize with the other kids.  She refused to eat or use the bathroom at school.  She had great separation anxiety.

As she grew older more things became apparent:  she didn’t like loud noises, especially in public places (such as the hand dryers in restrooms), there were certain words she would freak out at hearing (mainly “accident”, “death” and “blind”), there were certain things she didn’t like because they were “creepy” or “felt weird”.  I really knew something was wrong when she was seven and was invited to a friend’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese.  Up to that point she had seen all the commercials on TV for the pizza place and always talked about wanting to go.  For Melanie the party was a disaster.  She had what would become the first of many meltdowns.  To this day when we throw a birthday party we cannot sing “Happy Birthday” because she gets upset.

I knew from my experience with my sister, Melanie did not have autism.  But I highly suspected she had Asperger’s.  My suspicions were confirmed when Melanie was nine and we finally, after months of calling and researching, was finally able to connect with a doctor who would make a clear diagnosis.

That was five years ago and it’s been a long road since then.  We’ve gone through countless therapy sessions, ABA therapy (Applied Behavioral  Analysis), cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, meltdowns, refusals to attend school, reward charts, routine adjustments.  You name it, we’re still going through it.  As we delve deep into the teen years, we know there’s a lot ahead for us.  All I know is that we’ve made it this far so we’re going to keep going.  I know Melanie has the potential and ability to one day drive a car and hold down a job.  She’s already expressed an interest in getting a little job next year when she turns 15.

I look at my daughter with pride when I see how far she has come and how much she has achieved even at a high anxiety level.  Her loves have changed from her childhood fascination with The Flintstones and Looney Tunes to adoring The Muppets, The Fraggles, anything Jim Henson, Minecraft and the TV show “Riverdale”.  She’s gone from wanting to be a chef someday to wanting to be an interior designer.  Tomorrow it’ll probably be something else.  And that’s okay.  She has a creative mind and amazes me with the stories she comes up with.  I always tell Melanie that she can be whatever she wants to be.  Maybe she’ll be a writer.  Who knows?  For Melanie the sky’s the limit.

 

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Posted in Things that make you say "hmm...", Things that piss me off

A not exciting but still important post

This post is going to be about something that’s not very exciting, but it’s very important.  It’s something that most of us have, yet most don’t really think about.  Until we need it.  It’s called insurance.

There are countless different kinds of insurance you can have:  auto, home, renters, life, pet, insurance for priceless pieces of jewelry or art (sometimes covered under homeowner’s, but often offered individually), even individual insurance options for body parts.  You name it, you can probably get insurance for it.  With all the different kinds of insurance available out there for just about anything, why is it so many people balk at having health insurance?  Especially our not-so-wonderful “president” and his moronic posse called the GOP.

All but two states require you have auto insurance—New Hampshire and Virginia.  And although it’s not mandatory, you’re still responsible if you cause an accident.  And you’re stupid if you don’t have it.  Not only for yourself but for others.

For most people who have a mortgage on their home or rent an apartment, it’s usually a requirement to have some kind of homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.  It’s stupid if you don’t because insurance is there to protect you.  Even as a liability.  If someone visited your home, fell down your icy stairs and broke their leg or worse, was killed, that’s a liability on you.  If you’re not protected by insurance, good luck.

Life insurance is probably the most overlooked, yet valuable, even affordable, type of insurance.  No, it’s not meant for you directly, but for your family to use indirectly for you in your passing.  Would you expect your family to go into bankruptcy because they couldn’t afford to bury you?  Do you think everything can be paid for with a GoFundMe page?  Please.  That’s relying on others who may or may not come through for you.  Life insurance is a definite.  Just don’t default on your premiums.  Which you shouldn’t with any kind of insurance.  That would just be stupid.

And now, let’s discuss the dreaded health insurance.  Believe it or not, it is actually easier to get health insurance than it is to get life insurance.  With life insurance, you can be turned down because of a pre-existing condition.  But guess what?  With health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, health insurers can no longer charge you more or deny you or your child coverage because of a pre-existing health condition.  They cannot limit benefits for that condition either.  Once you have insurance, they can’t refuse to cover treatment for your pre-existing condition.

But our not-so-wonderful “president” and his moronic posse called the GOP want to change that.  First they just wanted to have it so insurers could deny you if you have a pre-existing condition.  Now they just want EVERYONE to NOT EVEN HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE!  ISN’T THAT WONDERFUL????  There are 30 million Americans who risk losing their health insurance benefits if these assholes get their way.  The lucky ones will be left with paying way more than they are now for much less coverage.

Before you say “but I don’t have a pre-existing condition”, ask yourself if you are human.  If you ARE human, which I assume anyone reading this would be, then, guess what?  You DO have a pre-existing condition.  You may not have arthritis now, but chances are you will.  You may not have any one of countless kinds of cancers, diseases, ailments, mystery illnesses, but there’s a very strong chance you will.  If you are female and are planning on having children, there’s a very good chance you’ll have a pre-existing condition called “pregnancy”.  If you have children, you should KNOW there’s going to be some kind of pre-existing condition/need for medical care somewhere along the line.  I could go on and on.

Before you say “but I don’t want to have to pay for health insurance”, ask yourself why not?  You pay for auto insurance, don’t you?  Possibly homeowners or renter’s? Maybe even pet insurance?  You don’t squawk at paying for any of that, do you?  And you’re probably paying a hell of a lot more for the pet insurance than you would be for health insurance.  If you’re not paying for any kind of insurance, you either need to stop ripping someone off or get a life.  Or both.

The fact that these assholes are even CONSIDERING doing this to Americans should tell EVERY AMERICAN exactly what these assholes think of you.  THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU.  They really don’t.  They didn’t two years ago when they tried to take our insurance away and they still don’t.  It’s sickening to know this is what they think of us.  Our own government dislikes its own citizens so much they want to kill them.  Because taking away health insurance for millions will exactly cause that to happen.

Posted in The New England Patriots, writing

Forever Grateful For Gronk

I know all good things must come to an end.  Today was one of those days.  Today was the day Rob Gronkowski announced that after nine years in the NFL he was retiring.

Before Gronk came into the league I understand the tight end position was a position created for a player to stand at the end of the offensive line.  He could be a pass catcher.  He could be a run blocker.  He was smaller than an offensive lineman but bigger than a receiver.  The tight end would be the in between.  He’d be more a blocker for the running game.  When Gronk came in he did both exceptionally well.  He was a phenomenal run blocker and could catch a pass and run—because he was faster than most tight ends and had better hands than those that came before him.

The Patriots, being the Patriots, used him in both ways.  The question for other team defenses became how do you stop Gronk?  You can’t cover him with a linebacker; he’s too fast.  If you try having one of your defensive backs cover him he’s too big and he’ll run them over.  Gronk was the ultimate tight end who could do everything.  He changed the tight end position as we know it.  That’s what made him so special.  We’ve never seen anyone like this. And it will be a long time before we see it again.  If ever.

Throw in the fact he was a fan favorite, a good presence in the locker room, a fun-loving overall good guy and you have the perfect prototypical tight end and player.

I can’t blame Gronk for his decision of retiring.  He is going out on top, having just won his third Super Bowl.  He is undoubtedly a first-round Hall of Famer.  What else was there to achieve?

As a fan I will miss Gronk as a player and a personality.  Some of my favorite football moments were because of Gronk.  The football spikes.  The goofiness on the sidelines.  The goofiness off the field. The Gronk Nation Youth Foundation. His numerous product endorsements. The Gronk Party Bus.  He’s. Just. Gronk.

Knowing how Gronk is I’m sure we will see plenty of him in the future one way or another.  Whatever he chooses to do with the rest of his life, I’m sure he’ll do it in the same way he played football:  with greatness.

Here’s to you, Gronk!

gronkspike

 

Posted in writing

Haunted

It’s quite clear that the person who refers to himself as “president of the United States” is a haunted person.

He’s haunted by his own past. He’ll be haunted by his own future.

He’s haunted by past presidents; especially the most recent one because he’s haunted by the fact he’ll never live up to or exceed that guy. In addition his own racism towards that guy haunts him daily.

Sadly this person who refers to himself as “president” is haunted by a war hero Senator who passed away merely six months ago. He’s haunted by the fact that the Senator did more for his country than he’ll ever do. And it’s very obvious from this person who refers to himself as “president” and his many remarks on and off social media, that the Senator haunts him. May the Senator haunt him until the end of time.

The person who refers to himself as “president” is haunted by women. Women he has hurt. Women who he doesn’t respect. Which is every woman.

He is extremely haunted by immigrants. In fact, he’s terrified of them so much he’s become haunted by a fictional wall.

It’s a terrible thing to have to go through life being haunted. It’s even more difficult to “run” a country while being haunted. Little by little it will drive you insane.