Wednesday, December 25, 2013

American Christmas Calendar: Beginning with Halloween and Thanksgiving

Enter the Americans.  We'll let the rest of the world celebrate Christmas any way they like.  After all, we mix ours up with a little bit of Hanukah music and freshly minted Kwanza traditions.  Although, surprisingly for a country based on religious freedom, we still have a problem with some parts of the world that don't celebrate at least one of these three.

Please do allow us to dictate the schedule, though. 

Bringing light to the darkness?  One can see why the early Europeans would have wanted some comfort pre-winter solstice!


Halloween is not a pagan orgy of Satan worship, debauchery and child worship.  Sorry to disappoint.  It is a prelude to The Season.  On October 31 entire neighbourhoods practice putting up decorations before the snow hits.  They are orange and black instead of red and green.  These are the warm up colours.  Parents and children parade through the neighbourhood knocking on doors and asking for candy.  Done properly - and en masse - it is the most family-oriented holiday ritual I have ever been a part of.  It's not too cold to be outside after dark yet.  Kids are happy.  Parents are happy.  Entire communities are happy.  Happy kids high on sugar spread joy.  Think of it as carolling, if it makes you feel better.
 
Counting up the loot post trick-or-treating in Narangba, Qld!
 

And the logistics of coordinating trick or treat groups while still managing to keep one person home to pass out treats (or risk having their lawn toilet-papered) begins to prepare everyone for the massive coordination efforts required at Christmas time.

Thanksgiving, too, is a misunderstood holiday.  Why WOULD we celebrate the fact that the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims out through that first horrible winter, taught them to grow native plants, to hunt and to survive when we turned around and basically wiped them off the face of the continent only a few short years later?  It's a bit like rubbing salt in the wounds, isn't it?  Talk about sore winners!

Or we could have made pumpkin pie with them!


Thanksgiving is important because it falls on the last Thursday of November.   Commandment number eleven in the American, secular Christmas code is this:  THERE SHALL BE NO CHRISTMAS BEFORE THE LAST THURSDAY OF NOVEMBER.    None of this putting up the Christmas tree on November 14 because you can't wait to get started, mates.  This is as ludicrous as the Germans waiting until December 24.  Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the go ahead for Christmas madness to commence.  Although, it IS nice that the Australians don't kill anyone to do it. 

This year I started to think of Thanksgiving as a tribute to one man, to Squanto, who as legend tells it was the main intermediary between his tribe and the suffering newcomers.  Can you imagine the scene?  This new group of strange people, who have entered your land without permission or courtesy and begun to hack down trees and destroy land, are dying en masse.  They are starving before your eyes.  How easy would it have been to slaughter the rest of them and have done with?  Threat averted.  Problem solved.  How many of us would have shown the level of compassion Squanto and his people must have shown in order to overcome their (very justifiable) fear in order to treat these people as humans and offer them help?

A pirate, some Saracen knights and a zombie.  Not speaking well for ourselves!


It would be a holiday to commemorate generosity and compassion and mercy.  People all over the world could relate to it:  Tibetans, Aboriginal Australians, the Irish, any people who have been shunted aside in the name of progress and imperialism.  It could honour Ghandi, Mandela and King.  Sure, Jesus too. 

Maybe call it forgiveness instead of thanksgiving.

Aw!  Now THAT's what I'm talkin' about!


To make it more fun and less threatening to the old imperialist order still in charge we could have Squanto come bearing gifts to leave under the turkey and pies.



Holidays and Why We Have Them! Part One : Aussie Christmas

Argh!  The Season is coming!  The Season is coming!

It's come and gone.  It's come and gone.

And I'm still just trying to get used to it!  (And get those Christmas cards out before New Year.)

Christmas in Australia is like nowhere else in the world.  It's not just that it's summer here and that it's hot hot hot!  (I love it hot hot hot....Merry Christmas!!!)  It's also the end of the school year and the start of the next.  It's summer holidays and beaches and camping.  It's carols in the park with bbq and picnics.  It's travelling at night in the car, the kids dressed in their pyjamas, walking through the Christmas light wonderlands people around the area have put up for display.  It's Santa in the shops WITHOUT the crazy shoppers.  Although this last bit you wouldn't be able to appreciate as an Australian.  Listen, mates, women KILL each other in the USA on Black Friday to get to the Walmart's Christmas specials. 

It's reindeer antlers on cars and Santa hats on adults.  It's surfing in a Santa suit.  It's picnic on the beach and pool parties and neighbourhood gatherings.  It's light out.  (LONGEST days of the year instead of the shortest as in the Northern hemisphere.)  It's warm out.  It's get your boat out.  Bring your togs.  Other people can moan about missing snow at Christmastime.  Usually people who have never experienced it.  Snow, mates, is COLD.  And wet.  Wet and cold.  And it's DARK where it snows.  Most of the day.  Which makes it colder.  It LOOKS pretty and yes, it IS more dignified in Germany than Australia.  Grown-ups don't wear Santa hats.  Ever.  In fact, there is no Santa in Germany.

What's a Christmas without Santa?  Nice.  It's traditional.  There are Advent wreaths and Christmas markets.  Christmas is nice wherever you go. 

I  missed Santa in Germany.  The Christ Kind doesn't hand out reindeer antlers at the mall.  And the trees don't get put up until December 24.  No Christmas lights.  And certainly no bbqs.  It is COLD COLD COLD.  Drink the Gluhwein.  And sing carols around the Advents wreath....it really is a nice time of year there too....Germans do Christmas well...it's not their fault they don't have the beach or the climate for a TRUE Australian Christmas!

Of course mixing lengthening daylight hours  (which have been linked to increased mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia) with the end of school, the summer holidays AND the most celebrated secular Christian holiday of the year does take some getting used to. 

You really need to get into the Aussie spirit.  No worries, mates.  She'll be all right! 

One thing I have learned is that "no worries, mates" is harmless.  But if you hear "she'll be all right" you're probably up shit's creek without a paddle.

Christmas in Australia is like the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving combined with school summer holidays all rolled into one.  Or, for the Germans, like when the World Cup Soccer comes every four years and the entire country comes out of its shell and sits outside in the warm sunshine at the Biergartens watching the games on large screens, wearing German colours and celebrating together.    It's a time for family.  But also a time to be outside and a time to celebrate with others.  It's a time when the whole country comes together to be happy at the same time. 

Call it anything you like.  Wouldn't it be nice if there was a day the entire world felt like one family?




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Linkin Park Lyrics for Ryan

Track number 7, RPM class, and I always think of Ryan.

If she WERE thinking of how she feels, might it be like this?

Ahem....are any of these guys perhaps single and into horses?!


"Numb"

I'm tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface
Don't know what you're expecting of me
Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)

[Chorus:]
I've become so numb, I can't feel you there
Become so tired, so much more aware
I'm becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you

Can't you see that you're smothering me,
Holding too tightly, afraid to lose control?
'Cause everything that you thought I would be
Has fallen apart right in front of you.
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you.
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)
And every second I waste is more than I can take.

[Chorus:]
I've become so numb, I can't feel you there,
Become so tired, so much more aware
I'm becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you.

And I know
I may end up failing too.
But I know
You were just like me with someone disappointed in you.

[Chorus:]
I've become so numb, I can't feel you there,
Become so tired, so much more aware.
I'm becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you.

[Chorus:]
I've become so numb, I can't feel you there.
(I'm tired of being what you want me to be)
I've become so numb, I can't feel you there.
(I'm tired of being what you want me to be)


Monday, December 9, 2013

Joy To The World?

Sunday night at the Santa house should have been the picture of family peace and harmony.

Instead we left the almost-fourteen year old standing outside of the car.  Why have her ruin it for all of us?

But when her eleven and a half year old brother started sulking as well, I had a brief, but frightening glimpse of what this family would be like in five years, with two more in early puberty and the older two as teenagers. 

It was going to make the first few years with four kids under six look easy.

"Listen," I said to Damon.  "If we only had the kids we'd actually TRIED for we'd have ONE seven year old and a two year old."  (I realise this doesn't say much for our family planning either, but we weren't nearly as frightened of having children before we had them than we are now.)

"Let's pick one of the twins and Ian and make a break for it."

Sigh.

Neither of us could decide which of the twins to take.  (They are both really rotten at times but have their good points too!)

And then we remembered we really HAD wanted Andrew after all.  And he is a decent sort most of the time.

"If Ryan were from your first marriage, though," I told Damon, "she'd be going back to live with her mother."

She'll make someone an excellent daughter-in-law though.

We could really use the spare bedroom.

Did I mention she comes with a horse and several belly dance costumes?!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New Perspective on Child Marriages

Like a good western - educated liberal woman, I've always been appalled at the idea of arranged marriages and child marriages in particular.

As a hippy do-good international volunteer type, I've always heard that if you can keep a girl in school and educate her then her chances of teen pregnancy and marriage are much lower.  (Hmm....gotta work on that here in Queensland a bit, don't we?!)

So these recent commercials on sending aid money to impoverished girls so that they are able to stay in school rather than face marriage in their early teens should be right up my alley.

However, as the mother of a recalcitrant, obnoxious, ungrateful, almost-fourteen year old girl in the midst of puberty, I'd do almost anything to get her out of the house at this point.

Any takers?  We're prepared to pay a really decent bride price.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Baby Words of Wisdom

Conversations like these are why we have children:

1.  Me to Andrew:   Aunt Laura and I are nine years apart just like you and Ian." 
     Andrew's reply:  "Oh.  Which one of you is older?!"

2.  Ian:  "Shit.  Fuck."  By which we are fairly sure he meant "sit in the truck."

3.  Ian:  "Fuck it."  By which we think he means "Fix it."  or   "Broken."    Why does everything a two year old says sound like "fuck."?

4.  Andrew playing police officers with Aidan and Matthew:  "I am sure the bad guys are here.  I can smell the cocaine."  Oh.  Maybe we shouldn't be letting them watch so much "Cops" on TV.  On the other hand, what better way to learn what happens when you don't get an education, do dumb things, take drugs, break the law and don't own up to your bad choices?  And for all those Queenslanders who keep wanting to know if people like that really exist in the USA, have you taken a look around our neighbourhoods here?!

5.  Ian as I slowed down in traffic the other day:  "Shit."  When I asked the kids where he had picked that  up from they all turned to Aidan.  Apparently he's been cursing in the car without me knowing it.  BUSTED by the baby! 

6.  Ian:  rat a tat a tat sound like a machine gun makes.  Aiming his Legos at me.  "Shoot Mommy.  Shoot Mommy."  At least he isn't cursing.  Or talking about smelling cocaine.

Yet.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Better To Home School Than One School


I was trying to overlook some of the comments such as :

"We've got over 2000 students and it sure is nice to have the seniors out of here this week,"

"There are the temporary classrooms for next year since we are so overcrowded and the building of the new school has been delayed yet again by budget restrictions,"

and "Argh, only one sports oval for 2000 kids,"

as quirkly British humour that I just didn't quite get yet.


Expectations at Soul Dance studio!


Except he was quick to point out that he was British, almost in a don't blame me, I'm not the idiot who came up with this school system, I'm just the idiot who couldn't find a better job when he emigrated here kind of way.

And, if this, like some of the embarrassingly ludicrous stuff I was shown and told while working with the US military, was supposed to be top secret and worthy of my trust stuff, I apologise. I haven't blabbed on the US military – except to Lori – and trust me, it is nothing new or surprising, what happens when you stick a bunch of jocks in isolation with guns and people they've been told are the bad guys – but I don't think Narangba Valley's reputation will be hurt by my one and only dissenting opinion. (Two if you count the farrier, but then, somehow noone ever does!) 

Saddling up for PE!


DISCLAIMER:  IT IS ONE OF THE BEST SCHOOLS IN THE STATE.  It has an awesome reputation, excellent NAPLAN results, schools of excellence in academics, sports and the arts.  Really, I have nothing against this school.  IT IS A FINE SCHOOL.  It just didn't show me that it would be the place for my daughter.  I blame the system, not the school.  (Man, I am turning into such a wuss!)

I'd like to think that there is a big warning written all over my childrens' One School records from a previous principal at „our old school“ warning anyone who opens the records that they, under no circumstances, want this mother in their school.

Something along the lines of: WARNING: THIS WOMAN IS GOING TO HAVE EXPECTATIONS!!!  

Because this would explain the lack of help. Was he trying to discourage us from sending our daughter there?

Crafts?  Home-Ec?  ICT?  Whatever.  My daughter made a hay-net.  Without me.
 

Sadly, I don't think this is true. For one thing, I think parental expectations are just that low to begin with. Secondly, he was so proud of that damn computer program.

As if Australia's ability to get all of their schoolchildrens' academic records inputted onto a computer program amounted to its ability to give them a decent education.

I cannot be the first to consider One School to be Done School.

"They're proud that they've got the second names of all the family members in there?“ as Damon asked.

Not that it isn't a tough family to keep straight!
 

How would we be able to monitor Ryan's progress? One School.

How would we be able to communicate with the school? One School.

How would her teachers be made aware that Ryan needed special help?

He kept swinging that laptop screen at us, as proud as a child at Christmas with his new toy.

For starters, Ryan has a medical diagnosis, not an education one, he said.

Okay, I said, let's get her the educational one.

Ah, that's just a lot of paperwork and a big hassle and that's all my job and let's just get her in here and deal with all this – 2000 kids you know – and then we'll worry about that once we settle down in 2014.

Huh?

Whalewatching.  Science.


(In retrospect, I think it is just that an overcrowded school of over 2000 kids with an already excellent reputation doesn't need to bother to impress us and doesn't particularly care whether our child attends or not.  We either take it or leave it.  They don't need us.)

Okay. Strike one. So, how does this special education centre work? Are there classes or groups?

See that room?

Uh huh. 

She can sit there if she has to.

Sit there?

Yeah.  If it gets too stressful she can come here to get away.

Damon and I must have looked underwhelmed.  

Or do her homework, he added.

Homework. Okay. I grasped for something tangible. Her psychologist recommends no homework, or minimal homework.

Tuck Shop!  (Lunch at Tickle Beach.)


He whipped out the school diary – at least it wasn't bloody One School – and showed us the assessment expectations – for every child, in every class, in every year, for the entire school for the entire year.

So much for tailoring education to meet ANY individual's needs.

What about a mentoring program, you know, other children in the special needs unit, who can mentor each other.   Ryan, as very high-functioning, would be perfect for that.

No. Don't have that.

Dead silence. I mean, where do you go with that? One of the top special education centres in the state doesn't have programs for the kids to help one another? Where is all the extra money they get (20,000 per kid/per year) going? AFL stadium? Dance costumes?

No Mom.  You never looked like this.  Even at 14.
 

We must have looked – again – underwhelmed – because he then mentioned that, if there were problems, she could drop a class. But she would have to speak up or how else would they know she has problems?

What, your bloody One School program wouldn't tell you that?!

I guess my shock made me miss the next comment – that or Ian's temper tantrum when Damon wouldn't let him colour outside of the lines (and, to be fair, on his hand, arm and shirt!) - but Damon told me later the guy looked over at him and asked

 „Is that one having an autistic moment?“

Understanding of autism as a developmental disorder (they act like 2 year olds!) - A. Sense of humour – British and therefore incomprehensible to us. Sense of place – in a special needs centre with a family of an autistic child seeking help for that child AND with said autistic child present – F. I actually find it funny, but it doesn't bode well for how seriously they are going to take my daughter's needs.
 
At least the 2 year old comes with a disclaimer!
 
But I hadn't heard it. Things were really quite civil – although he did not offer us tea – since I was getting calmer and calmer as every check was checked off. No. They were not going to do ANYTHING for my child. Guilt of staying home and riding and gypsy dancing absolutely ZERO!

So I tried some more. Again, how will the teachers be prepared to help her, how will they know she needs help. I guess he saw One School wasn't impressing us by that time – like a teacher with 8 classes of 30 students a day is going to take it upon themselves to look at the computer program of each of their students – because he brilliantly told me that the squeaky wheel gets oiled.

I actually squeaked.

But SHE has to do it, he said.

But she won't, I said. She will not throw chairs, she will not cause fights, she will sit in the back of the room, unnoticed unless we help her.

Oh, we like the quiet ones, he said.

I bet.

THESE are the ones you wanna watch out for!
(Two Saracen Knights - costumes courtesy of Soul Dance! - and one zombie.)
 

So, is she coming to Transition Day?

Uh? We haven't received an invite. How will they know she is coming?

Silly me. On the One School of course.

Could we SEE an invite, just to uh ,know what to bring and......?

Holds up a pen.

Hey dude, do you have alternative religious choices at your school?!  And what about surfing?
 

Okay. And when?

Tuesday.

Time?

9 – 11.

Was I supposed to know this?

Or was he just in a rush to get us out of there before the bell rang?

Christmas pageant.  The wise kings?
 

As far as interviews go, it was a perfect success. We left absolutely confident – without a doubt – that our expectations and our daughter's needs – would not even be attempted to be met by this particular school.

As described, this school program was a one-size fits all mold that they were quite proud to have gotten onto a computer.

I laud them for their data entry skills. But how much you wanna bet we show up for Transition Day next week and noone knows – or cares – who she is?  (Update:  No, they did not have her on the list .  But, they did get her name off the computer and give her a pass into the school anyway.)

Thank you so much, NVHS, for making it so clear, that as fantastic as your school is, there is no place in it for my daughter, that her needs and my expectations will not be met there and  that she will be far better educated at home.

Ryan's costume for Bohemienne Dreams, the community dance troupe we have joined.  Now she can dance at community functions during weekdays, guilt-free.   You think you miss opportunities not going to school?  Think of all that you are missing while you are stuck there!!!


Although I got younger siblings still keeping their options open, so don't breathe easy yet!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Excellent School, but Not Special?


I have nothing bad to stay about this secondary school in Narangba. And it wouldn't matter if I did. It is reputed to be one of the best in the state. (Note: the state we are talking about is Queensland, Australia, which might make one question the level of competition perhaps?!) Suburban soccer moms and yoga moms are raving about it. Families talk about moving just to get into the catchment area. (Then again: we've seen the alternatives!) The Australian government has given it hundreds of thousand of dollars for its Australian Rules Football Academy of Excellence and its state of the art drama, dance and music programs, including television and film capabilities with ties to the Brisbane Academy of Dance and the Australian Youth Orchestra. (Don't quote me on these: some artsy fartsy elite programs somewhere that are supposed to be a really big deal anyway.)
 

 
Kurwongbah State School:  F1 AND Choir Champions!
(We LOVE Kurwongbah:  Tough Consumer Satisfied!)
 

 
Today Ryan went for Transition Day - just to gather information and keep our options open for later - and another Mom told me it was Top 20 in National Scores - state wide or nationwide she wasn't sure but still, this school is supposed to be phenomenal, the kids look well-dressed and respectful, the programs on offer are varied and it fits the ideal a parent is looking for in a school for their child.

One brave farrier, with a shy daughter Ryan's age, was brave enough to break a gold brick in the wall of excellence. „If you ain't a guy doing AFL or a girl doing dance, you might as well be invisible there.“

It's the same comment I've heard about North Lakes. Both schools have over 2000 kids. They have schools of excellence. Kids shine.

Looking Good in Choir Uniforms
 

But this one – Narangba – is also supposed to have a special needs program catering to the visual and hearing and speech impaired, the physically and intellectually challenged and those on the Autistic Spectrum. Awesome. It has a place for Ryan.

I felt a little bad – after calling up one day last term, right after dropping her off barefoot and in her pyjamas at the neigbour's house to walk home alone – not taking advantage of the opportunities apparently being laid right at our doorstep. God – or the universe or Shiva or The Force – must have dropped us in Naranbga for a reason, right?

Ah, the universe has such a wicked sense of humour.

After not hearing from the school for a full five weeks of enrolment (already knowing by now, after being ignored by two secondary schools previously, Pine Rivers and Bray Park, that if you aren't enroled they won't bother to work with you), and after receiving the bill for materials for 2014, I finally called for an appointment with the special needs department.


The Ugly Truth Revealed!

If the goal was to meet with parents in order to set expectations so low that absolutely nothing is requested of the school for the following five years, then he did his job well.

Really, I would like to write a recommendation for this man, because, as a school politician, he was tops. He made it absolutely clear, from the start, what would be expected of Ryan for the next five years, how little we could expect from the school in terms of support, and how well we would all continue to get along if we just didn't bother with pointless individuals meetings like this anymore.

This, mates, is what happens, when we make schools a competitive business (rather than a cooperative institution); nationalise, standardise and computerise the whole curriculum; and leave it in the hands of bureaucrats.

Our license plates say Qld: The Smart State.
But if you have to constantly remind everyone, right?!
 
Not funny enough for you?

Wait until you hear about our interview!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Home Schooling: Year One


I've promised I wouldn't write anything about education unless I could make it into a comedy routine.

It's either laugh or cry, right?!

Maths sucks even if we use the Horse Land catalogue to learn about percentages~

Home schooling Ryan this past year hasn't always been a joke though. In December, 2012, about eight weeks into it, I had an autistic meltdown at the Asperger's Centre and was informally diagnosed with ASD. During Ryan's assessment interview. I bawled my eyes out while she held on to Ian. Way to make it about me, ay?!

In March we had such clashes over maths – the unfairness of having to do it, for instance – that I had to drive her to her dad's place of business for the day to remove the temptation to physically beat her. Really.

I did NOT put that into yearly report for the Home School Education authorities.

„Have not had urge to beat daughter since March, 2013.“

"Who me?"  Dressed at Gabriella Montez, from High School Musical, for Halloween.


Although it is a HUGE achievement and one most parents will relate to, I am not sure it is one I want on our government record.

I did drop her off at the neighbour's house sometime last term, barefoot and in her pyjamas, and make her walk back home. I just needed her out of the house for five minutes. The goal had been to drive her to the end of the road to give her something to think about on the way home but then she didn't have her water bottle, or her shoes, or clothes, and the neighbour IS a police officer and I thought it might be frowned upon.

Said neighbour is also a mother and thought it was a fantastic idea.

But mostly things have been good and I have a happy, well-adjusted teenage girl where a year ago I had a frustrated, depressed and misunderstood child.

Quirky but happy with Meka and Opa last month


This is good since I don't have much to threaten her with anymore. The horse is in the backyard and we are paying to feed it so it has to get ridden. We don't have a second story to throw her down. She's too smart to get in the car with me when I am angry at her. And I've tried the „well I'm sending back to school“ trick twice now. The first time, at Kurwongbah, they were so nice to us I just figured it really wasn't fair to enrol her when I wasn't expecting it to help.

And the second time, last week, at Narangba Valley State High School, well....

You really have to laugh and let it go.

You have to laugh.

And laugh and laugh.

And home school.




Thursday, November 7, 2013

On Happiness, Gratitude and Surrender



Something I have been noticing since Ryan started working with her second-hand, off the track, borrowed from a neighbour, thin and for the most part untrained Standardbred mare.  With borrowed tack and equipment, a small riding ring at the bottom of the paddock made by Andrew and a friend riding their dirt bikes around in ovals for an hour. 



Nothing pisses off a dissatisfied person more than when you are more satisfied than they are with less than they have!

Nothing pisses a competitive person off more than when you aren't competing with them and they feel you are beating them anyway.

Nothing pisses off an unhappy person more than someone who is happy with so little.

Ryan is so grateful for all that she has.  She doesn't worry about what she doesn't have or about what others have that she doesn't.  She is so happy with what she has: a friend in the paddock to ride and train.  This includes throwing volley balls around and chasing her around fields and all sorts of whacky stuff but the horse seems to be responding to and trusting Ryan more and more every day.

Nothing pisses off people who believe that life has to be hard more than to see someone enjoying theirs.

Nothing pisses off those of us who are struggling to attain our dreams more than a person who is already living them every moment. 

Animals live in the moment.  So do people on the spectrum.

Nothing is more mysterious than a curse (or a disease or disorder) that is also a gift.

She lives in the moment:  Buddhist scripture, Tao, Hindu and New Age Christian.

She doesn't care about possessions.  She knows that no living creature belongs to another and that she has what she needs from the earth at this present moment:  Native American, Indigenous Australian and other pre-industrial societies.

She is the creator of her own life:  Hindu and New Age.

Let me tell you, nothing is more annoying that struggling to make the world better for your special needs child, or to make your special needs child better able to face the world than the gradual awareness that she was born knowing the spiritual beliefs you have been working towards your whole life and that she is, in fact, already creating her own world. 

That she has done so, quite happily, with no interference from you!

And that you still aren't brave enough to completely surrender and follow her lead.





Round Hole

Ryan did, in the waiting room at the psychologist this week, manage to fit an oval peg into a rectangular hole, in order to save herself the trouble of having to figure it all over again from the beginning.  (She was cleaning up a puzzle Ian had started and left.)

This struck me as utterly appropriate.

Ryan DOES fit into round hole, just in her own way.

She DOES have her OWN set of autistic traits.

1.  Profound interest in one subject to exclusion of all else.  And, no, it isn't computers or the phone book or train schedules or numbers.  And, no, Luke Jackson, it never changes.  Never ever ever ever ever ever.  Did I mention never ever?  This debilitating trait is one of the most common traits of GIRLS with Asperger's Syndrome.  But since the obsession is often with socially acceptable topics - especially for girls - such as animals (including HORSES!), this is often seen as quirky but not particularly worrisome.  Add to that the fact that girls often obsess over reading and over characters and relationships, that they appear to have empathy due to an obsession with the cast of Harry Potter or Saddle Club, or are fixated on rock bands and movie stars, the obsession is often overlooked.

2.  Executive Function Disorder.  This is a new one for me, thanks to a book recommended to me by Ryan's current psychologist aptly enough titled "Understanding Executive Function Disorders."  This is where Ryan comes across as slow and lazy and unorganised and disinterested and immature and unable to get her act together.  This is what we were seeing all those years in Germany where she couldn't work fast enough in class, get her work organised, get herself together.  She is unable to start a project, to finish a project once it is started or to see the steps it will take to see a project to completion.

Yes.  Home schooling a child with Executive Function Disorder is a supreme joy.

3.  Inability to generalise from specifics.  This isn't as bad with Ryan in terms of behaviours - she knows how to share and how to deal with novel situations and how to work things out with people unlike a lot of people on the spectrum - but is bad in terms of academics and especially maths.  Her lowest IQ score, noticeably impaired in the lower 25%, was in taking concepts she already knows and applying them to novel situations.

So that, as hard as home schooling is, I question whether a traditional schooling system can give her the attention that I will.

4.  She is happy alone.  Perhaps even happiest alone.  And while this may not be a problem, it certainly is unusual. 

Ryan is lucky.  She really is.  Adults, especially creative, intelligent women, adore her.  She has a sweet, gentle nature that draws people to her.  (Ironic, isn't it?!)  She will be fine as an adult.  She is planning on turning her love of horses (sounds so much nicer than obsession doesn't it?!) into a career working to retrain troubled horses, she and I are working on her executive function skills (which are remarkably better when they involve horses!)and no, I am not giving up on maths skills!  She can write a great story when she wants to.   And when it involves horses.

And she is happy alone. 

As long as she is happy I don't care whether she's a square peg in a round hole or an oval peg in a rectangular hole.

Because you know what?

Ryan isn't playing that game anyway. 

She isn't a peg at all.  And she's out of the box!

Square Peg

Ryan doesn't fit the classical picture of high-functioning autism.

She's been reading - being forced to read (by me) - Luke Jackson's book "Freaks, Geeks & Asperger Syndrome", written by a 13 year old boy with Asperger's.  We - meaning I - thought it would be a good way for Ryan to learn about and understand her autism now that she has been diagnosed.

Uh yeah.

Trying to get one autistic child to empathise with another autistic child ranges right up there with getting a playgroup together for autistic children to socialise with one another.

What, about this whole autism spectrum thing, are we parents not getting?!

An earlier counsellor with ASD herself described Ryan as "exceptional special needs."

This is not bragging.  This means that Ryan really doesn't fit the mold even within the special needs, specifically the Autistic Spectrum Disorder, category.

She doesn't flip out with sensory overstimulation.  She has certain peculiarities about clothes, but not to extremes.    She is a picky eater but not as bad as most ASD children I know.  She doesn't flip out or become violent.  She doesn't rock or moan or collect string or play with batteries or keys.  She doesn't need to cover her ears to go out.  She isn't in any way obsessive compulsive.  She isn't violent.  She doesn't disrupt the classroom.  She can handle a fairly varied lifestyle.  Although she vastly prefers routine - especially at school - she can handle change.  She doesn't have problems sleeping. 

She doesn't fit the profile of the typical nerd either.  She doesn't memorise the phone book.  She isn't uncoordinated and clumsy.  In fact, she is quite good at anything athletic, including dance, having been asked to formally study ballet in Germany, try-out for the gymnastics team as well as join the swim team here and qualify for districts in long distance running.  What she is is supremely indifferent.  When I showed up at districts with Andrew, the teacher asked me where Ryan was.  Later that day I asked her why she didn't tell me she had qualified.

"Well, they made me run in PE class but I didn't see the need to do it again."

Swim team? 

"Well, I'm swimming as slow as I can and they still tell me I'm too fast for classes and have to go on to squad training."

Ballet?  She didn't like the pink tutus.

Ryan is her own person, with her own personality within her disorder.  This is what makes all of us, not just people on the spectrum, unique.  Although I wish she was more determined in her academics, it is her easy going attitude that probably makes the autism easier on her than on most.

She is very comfortable with who she is.

She doesn't feel like an alien.

She doesn't feel like the rest of us are aliens either.  I asked.

She doesn't feel different or think about why she is different or worry about why she had such a hard time at school both socially and academically.

She just is.

Other people really piss her off.  Especially boys with Asperger's Syndrome.  What a bunch of losers.  What are they going on about?  And what's the big deal?  Get over it and move on.  Deal.

Regular people piss her off too, mostly girls her own age.  Make-up and I-phones and hanging out in groups and who is wearing what and who owns what and who wants to be friends with who.  Don't get her started.  It's all too stupid to contemplate.

We went to a party recently at a friend's home from dance class.  Her friend, a 14 year old girl, ran out excitedly and introduced Ryan to her other friends from school, including her boyfriend.  Then the went off to play Truth or Dare.  They were playing in the open, on the lawn, within view of the rest of the party and with younger siblings running back and forth, so there was no concern.  I was profoundly curious, though, as to how Ryan would like the game.

She came back quietly, bored and disgusted with the whole thing.  They had dared one of the boys to dress in girls' clothing and wear make-up.  This was a huge deal, involving much giggling and teasing.  Ryan just found the whole thing stupid.

Being a teenager is going to be hard for her because she already knows who she is.

As we contemplate sending her to secondary school next January, the problem becomes her arrogance and her LACK of behaviour problems.

She isn't going to get noticed as a special needs child because she just isn't needy enough.  Or special enough, perhaps.  Her social problem isn't really a problem.  She is happier alone.  As long as she isn't bullied by kids who find this arrogant and intimidating, she will stay by herself.  And, as long as she isn't causing a problem in the classroom, who is going to care about the seemingly dumb, quiet girl in the back of the classroom?  She will do as little as possible to get by unnoticed.  She will happily convince her teachers that she is dumb so that she doesn't have to work so hard.

And she will slip by,  the picture of the stereotypical GIRL with Asperger's Syndrome,  underachieving and ignored.




Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Riding Her Unicorn


Who's Teaching Who?!
 
(The fairy analogy referenced back to 2009 when I first began blogging about Ryan's difficulties at school.  I am so glad I documented all of that and plan to organise and use it at some point in articles on recognising Asperger's Syndrome in girls.  Man am I glad I got her outta there.  I don't think any traditional school system can teach my daughter as well as I can, but Germany was the worst possible scenario for a child on the spectrum, or for anyone who doesn't fit the status quo really.  At least give us the option to educate our children ourselves, Leute, give these kids a chance.)

 
 
 
 


After a year of home schooling, Ryan and I are beginning to trust eachother more. Lucky, Ryan's new horse (on loan from a neighbour!) is helping each of us see that the other knows more than we gave them credit for. (I, at least, am learning this from Ryan; I sincerely hope she is learning this about me as well!)

Today, lungeing an uncooperative horse in our back meadow, I realised that everything up to this point in my life has brought me to this moment.



I have worked with horses, I have trained horses and – while I am not as good as Ryan – I have ridden horses. I do know some things. More, in fact, than I give myself credit for. (How can I ask my daughter to have faith in my abilities if I don't remember to have faith in them myself?!)

Ryan, for her part, has an innate understanding of horses and horsemanship. She was right about that magic lunge trick. She is getting results with patience. And I trust that she will know what she is doing with the side reins.

She has the empathy and ability. I have the experience.

 

It was like working with Pancho all over again!  Or Ryan, for that matter.

Lucky didn't want to work. Lucky hasn't had to work. Lucky is very smart and has figured out many ways to get out of work.

I have had five children.  She doesn't stand a chance!

I explained to Ryan that Lucky was behaving like a teenager who doesn't want to do her maths work, who doesn't like her maths work, who sees no reason to have to do her maths work and why is her stupid mother forcing her to do something she doesn't want to do?

Okay, maybe I got a little carried away with the analogy there!

 

There was no reason to be angry with Lucky. It isn't her fault she has gotten away with this behaviour up until now. But we weren't punishing her by expecting her to do what we asked.

Lucky, like the teenage girl she is, did the punishing for us.

She sulked and pouted. She forgot her eraser. Then she had to sharpen her pencil. Again. But when she went for that cup of hot cocoa, we said no. No, Lucky, you are going to have to do your fractions.

Or trot once around the circle without being a total idiot. Whichever.

 

I have learned, from working with Ryan, that anger never works. Patience does. Unrelenting persistence and never giving up. Baby steps at a time.

Ryan learned today, from Lucky, that sometimes you DO have to use that Pony Club Kick.

And Lucky learned that Ryan has that Pony Club Kick in her.

It's not cruel to be kind, Ryan. It IS cruel to be too kind. Or too lazy. Or too ignorant.

We don't punish our children – or our horses – in anger. Or ignorance. Or sloth. (We punish them through our anger, ignorance and sloth.)

But we do discipline them with love.

 

Lucky will enjoy the camaraderie of a riding partnership more than standing in a field on her own. Retraining her to listen to our aids improves her quality and enjoyment of life. Even if she isn't thanking us for it now. (She did, actually. Horses don't carry a grudge like teenagers do!)

Learning life skills - like reading, writing, maths and organisation – will benefit Ryan and make her a happier adult.

It's what I was put on this earth to do.

 

I'm not fantastic at any one thing; I know a little smidge of everthing. But I've known enough to be interested and to educate myself when I've had to. I have the skills to support her. I am developing the confidence to trust her. I've raised an (high-functioning) autistic child without outside help and I've done okay.

Ryan has all these fantastical notions and wild ideas about gaining Lucky's friendship – her trust and loyalty. She has been reading about Parelli techniques and is planning to run around the meadow with her like a mare and foal would in the wild. She feels this will help their bond. I feel this will help the neighbour's laugh their asses off. But I'm not going to stop her. For one thing, she's taught me not to worry about what others think. She's taught me that the traditional way doesn't work for everyone. She's taught me that it doesn't have to be fast, that results can take a while, and that results-oriented thinking makes you miss the journey.



She's taught me about magic, and that I don't always know or understand, that I don't always have to know or understand for it to work.

What's more, she's often right! (But don't tell her I said that!)

Somewhere between what I know and what I trust in Ryan, I am able to be the support she needs. I am meant to be the mortal link between my fairy and this world that doesn't understand her any more than she understands it.

I am the reality that makes her dreams happen.  And I was chosen to parent this particular child (and this particular child chose me) for a very particular reason.

 


Today, lungeing an uncooperative horse in our back meadow, I realised that everything up to this point in my life has brought me to this moment.

I watched my child the fairies sent me ride her unicorn today.

I am exactly where I am meant to be.






Sunday, October 27, 2013

Girlfriend!


Why the profound silence after Damon suggested he might have to get a girlfriend to take care of some of the things that aren't getting done lately? (Eh hem.)



 Honestly, I was trying to figure out when we could schedule her in!

 

And I know it's probably a lot to ask if she'll take the kids some times. (Maybe run a couple of carpools and do their homework with them? Piano skills might come in handy.)

 

But would she mind helping with the dishes and the sweeping up?

It would be awfully great if she could cook. (Dare I ask for healthy, home-made, gluten-free meals on a budget? Does she know how to garden? Or should I be grateful for pasta and bbq?)


'Cause that would give me LOADS...oh LOADS...what about the laundry? Sewing? Sewing skills would be really great.

HEAPS of time to spend with Ryan and her new horse.

Maybe even get some writing done.

Honey, on second thought, I'll be your girlfriend.

 

What we need to be on the look-out for is a better wife!

 




Saturday, October 26, 2013

North Lakes Park Run Suggestions



Now that North Lakes Park Run has celebrated it's first birthday, I believe I have several suggestions that might improve the running experience for all of us.



  1. Cake and lollies at the finish line every week.
  2. Points taken off for all those runners racing the course in under 20 minutes. What's the rush, guys? There is plenty of cake for everyone. No need to lap me in order to get to the biscuits faster!
  3. We need to kick out those guys running with the prams. Never mind that they are at the front of the pack and in nobody's way at all. I mean, honestly, as if we aren't dodging enough obstacles on our paths to self-esteem.
  4. I'm actually okay with one kid in the pram, but that man lapping me with two kids in the pram? Really. He has to go.
  5. At the very least I think we need to check those prams for motors.  
  6. Other people we need to come down on are really muscular looking guys who look like they spend time lifting weights at the gym. I'm okay with the lean and mean one's lapping me; that's what you expect from runners. But looking like a body builder AND running fast just isn't fair. Let's focus on one fitness area at a time here, shall we? Weights or cardio.
  7. Although those guys ARE nice to run behind. Maybe we can just ask them to slow down a bit once they lap me?
  8. I'd also appreciate a warning before they pass me. Just in case I feel an extra burst of energy, I'd like to have that option to at least attempt to beat them to the finish line! (I can't always hear them coming over the sounds of my own lungs threatening to give up the ghost. Maybe they could wear a bell or something.)
  9. And no, I don't think we need to quibble over whether it's their third lap and my second. I think it's very important to let me retain my fantasy, if not my dignity.
  10. (Speaking of behinds; do we have counselling available for those people running behind MINE?)
  11. I also think anyone running the course in under 20 minutes should be made to run a fourth lap.
  12. Lap four requires the runner to hand out bottled water to anyone he or she passes on the way. (In horse racing, they call this handicapping!)
  13. Anyone cheeky enough to not find this exhausting can do a fifth lap and a sixth as well. Dare I suggest using the prams?! To pick up the rest of us, I mean. It's obvious some of these people are enjoying the running. How do you punish someone like that?! They're already RUNNING LAPS. (And those pram guys HAVE their kids with them!)
  14. We also need to talk to the photographer. C'mon, we ALL like a GOOD picture. And who doesn't want to prove that they've been there that week? I know. I know. I still have a bit of weight to lose and the camera DOES add 10 lbs / 5 kgs. So how many cameras does he have on me? And that photo of me eating cake and talking to a friend. Yes, I WAS asking if I could have another slice. Did he have to document it?!
  15. Running with that balloon really DID slow me down. Who do I petition to have five minutes taken off my time that day?






What? What's that you say? Coffee hour after the run is open to everyone? There IS cake and coffee every week?

Oh. Never mind the rest of it then. I'll see you next week.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Customer service, capitalism, used car salesmen and lawyers.


The problem isn't that I have these newfound viewpoints of Australians, the problem is that I can state them so venomously.

Put in another context, I could probably turn them into a fairly good comedy routine.  (And honestly, it's something I'm considering.)

C'mon.  If you're really honest with yourselves, "fuck it," is a pretty good interpretation!  How may of you REALLY believe "Jamaica, no problem!" MEANS no problem!  Same thing, right?!  Same thing, only most people don't appreciate laughing at themselves as much as they enjoy laughing at others.

 "No worries, mates" is the general state of customer service here.  It sucks.  This is fine, it sucked in Germany too.  But all in different ways.  And, yes, I was raised in the most customer-service oriented country in the world.  Capitalism is so misunderstood by socialists.  It only works if you...well, work, quite frankly.  And then you work for the customers, not because Americans inherently love their customers more than Australians do, but because we have been taught to do so.  We learn it without knowing it but the fact behind it is that serving the customer brings in more money in the long run than telling them that they are wrong and worth shit (which is the German way) or chatting with them about their lovely family but then entirely ignoring the work you were supposed to be doing for them (the Queensland way.)

People here aren't going to work for you as hard as Americans, but they are going to be a hell of a lot nicer to you while they aren't doing what you ask than Americans are.  It isn't that Americans aren't nice, they are often just too busy working to take the time to be nice.  It isn't that Australians CAN'T work, they just haven't ever really had a need to.  Life is really really good here.  And it really doesn't usually matter that things aren't getting done on time, or properly, or at all really.  And they are used to this - they really DON'T worry about it, mates, and no, you might not get what you asked for, or when you asked for it and most likely it won't work when you get it or will break down fairly quickly and need to be replaced, but damn, if they aren't nice to talk to all those times you are together not dealing with what you really should be dealing with.  Americans are so darn busy getting it done, they miss a lot of good social time doing it right the first time.  Of course, they don't have the social services Australians have to rely on when their business goes bust due to lack of a business plan, accounting skills, budgeting, short term planning, long term goals and customer service. 

Oh shit.  Am I saying that hardships exist in order for us to become better people?  Friggin' evolutionist.

On closer reflection (oh no, REALLY?,you've thought MORE about this?!), people have more commonalities than differences.

I made a list of the people I have been having issues with.  (Yes, I DO these  things.  Yes, I know this isn't normal.)

1. Used car salesmen.
2. Real estate agents.
3. Landlords.
4. Damon's old boss.
5. ONE school principal.

To make the list truly universal, I would have to add lawyers, but I've always gotten along with lawyers.  I understand lawyers.  My guess is lawyers dissect things as much as I do.  And make lists.  They try to solve a puzzle, they try to win an argument through reasoning, logical or otherwise.  They try to win a game by playing with the rules.  This is all infinitely cool to me: understand the ins and outs of the rules and then play with them to suit your own purpose.  The rest of the world just misunderstands what being a lawyer is all about and expects justice and fairness to play into it. 

The rest of the list is another comedy routine.

It beats being vituperative any day!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Vituperative Reflections on A Nonconfrontation Nation

It says something about my state of mind when a close friend of mine (originally from Hungary)has to look up 'vituperative' on her iphone in order to understand my apology for my behaviour.  I also wanted to see if I was using it correctly, or if quite possibly, I had made it up.

"Vituperative:  bitterly sarcastic, harshly abusive censure."  Her phone said it better.  But some synonyms would be: abusive, contumelious,  invective, opprobrious and scurrilous."

In plain English, I have been a real bitch lately.

The problem is I don't know how angry I am until I open my mouth. 

This has been the month of such gems as:

"Well, of course they don't have a gifted and talented team to send to the F1 competition.  What are they going to do, send the Indians?  They can't do that; they sent them last year."  (This about our old school and about the four boys they sent last year, three of who were recent migrants to Australia.)

The fact that I retain my racist comments for my closest friends, use them sparingly, and then only to bitterly criticise the Queensland state schools, isn't really much of an excuse.  Neither is the fact that the racism is POSITIVE for the darker race and condemning of the white Australians.

Vituperative, right?!

It's also been the month of:

"You don't HAVE to be Australian to be stupid."  (This from Damon!)  

But me even thinking, "but it helps", is, once again, vituperative. 

(In Damon's defence, he was just saying that people OTHER than Queenslanders can be..oh dear, that explanation isn't helping any is it?!)

We can insult people more specifically as well.

"I swear my IQ drops by at least 50 points when I cross over the bridge into Lawnton."  This said by a friend of ours a while back, but admittedly something I think about every single time I cross that bridge. 

I KNOW!  I KNOW!

Look, I haven't posted and I've tried to hide it from myself.   Because I DO love it here and I DO think the people here can be among the greatest, kindest and most generous in the world.

Some of the kindest people I know are German too, though, and I don't have trouble tearing down their system, do I?

It's what happens after a few years, my other immigrant friends tell me.  You don't see it at first, because everyone IS so kind and because things DO work better here than in most other places in the world.  This is a phenomenal place to live and we are all grateful to be here.

But it doesn't mean you don't start noticing some things after a while. 

This is a nonconfrontation nation and they will tell it to you with a smile, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be reading beyond it.  Perhaps it's a British thing.   There are unwritten social niceties that a blunt German or straightforward American aren't going to get. One thing you can say about Germans is they DO tell it like it is!  And Americans are raised on confrontation and argument; we call it critical thinking.  I thought the whole nonconfrontation thing - meaning one thing but saying another, just not saying anything and hoping it goes away - was passive aggressive (or something limited to the military and politics) but I think, here, it is just a way of being polite and avoiding conflict.  Again, something Americans really don't worry about.

In short, this is what Australians (or maybe just s/e Queenslanders) REALLY mean:

"We work to live, not live to work,"  means " I don't want to work."

"Family first,"  means "I am taking care of myself."

And, "no worries, mate" means "Fuck it."

And, oh dear, THIS is EXACTLY what I mean by 'vituperative.'

And if our education system was working better, you could have read the title of this blog and saved yourself the bitter acrimony.

But then again, you've already heard the crappy education rants.





Sunday, August 25, 2013

Would I Medicate My Child?

Halfway through the whole ASD diagnostic process, when comorbid ADD (and less strongly ODD) came into the picture, someone raised the question of medication.

Ryan and Ian on the way to Sports Day in June.  (This IS our chilly winter weather gear!)

Why was I getting a diagnosis?  Did I think medication would cure her?

Was I trying to cure my child?

Do I even consider autism a disease in the ordinary sense?

It is not only part of my daughter's genetic make-up but a large part of her personality.  She is who she is in part due to her autism.

Would I change her?  No.

Would I like her to be more easy to deal with sometimes.  Absolutely.

Is this a reason to medicate?  Absolutely not.

Sports Day at Kurwongbah State School

Would it make her situation easier?  Probably not.  Her doctor would only suggest it if SHE thought it would help her with attention difficulties later on in a classroom setting.  But she does fairly well - has always done fairly well - without medication.  Well enough that she escaped detection all these years. 

What my daughter needs is understanding, acceptance and alternatives to traditional teaching practices, not medication.

On the other hand I know a child who not only benefits from his medications, but cannot be himself without them.  His mother, after pulling him out of the stresses of a traditional school and home schooling him, after gluten-free, sugar-free diets and everything that she was told she should try, had such success with his behaviour that they tried stopping his medication.  Within a week he could barely function.

He told her that he couldn't find himself, that he couldn't see without his medication.  His condition was clouding his ability to see himself.

He was losing himself without medication.

That, for me, would be the gold standard with which to judge whether or not to medicate my child. 

Those of us who do medicate our children do it because the symptoms the medication alleviates hinder our child from finding himself.  We don't do it to make our children more manageable or because we are too lazy to apply proper parenting techniques.  We do it because proper parenting techniques don't work.

Did she KNOW there was a camera on her?!

We do it because we lose our child without them.

Medication or not, what all children on the autistic spectrum need are acceptance and understanding.

If we could put that in a bottle and sell it to the world we'd cure a lot more than autism.



Saturday, August 24, 2013

ASD, ADD, AOK!

We had our last visit to the diagnosing paediatrician on Tuesday.



My daughter has Autistic Spectrum Disorder with comorbid symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder: Inattentive Type. 

It is a permanent, non improving condition listed under legitimate disabilities by the Australian Government.  This, among other things, means she qualifies as special needs for schooling, and that we are entitled to free long distance state education  and extra financial help for home schooling a child unable to be traditionally schooled.  Our family also qualifies for a carer's allowance from the government - irregardless of income level - to compensate for the extra time it takes to care for a special needs child.  Ryan also qualifies for a health care card that entitles her to almost free medical care including medications as well reduced rates for public services such as transportation and also for reduced entry into attractions such as amusement, water and animal parks.



I shouldn't need the government to legitimise what I already knew but the acknowledgement is more important to me than the small financial compensation (although it helps, it does not drastically alter our life-style or our choices). It is acknowledgement of the extra work that goes into raising Ryan as a contributing member of society. 

It is acknowledgement that she is different, that it has been harder for us than for most, and that spending the extra effort to home school her is worth something to the community as well as to her.

It means that I wasn't just an overambitious mother looking for excuses for my daughter's lack of success at school or with personal relationships.

It means that my daughter CAN learn and CAN go to university, so take that and stick it up your asses, you pricks.



Oh sorry.  Still a little anger there!

No better cure for anger than a big "I told you so."  In third grade math you pricks.

It also means that Ryan is now starting to show more obvious signs of being different now that she is a teenager.  It means she won't be acting like a normal teenager, that she might not make friends like the rest of us, that she will need help with everyday tasks that take you through a day.  She might not marry (Temple Grandin says this is okay: deal with it Mom!) or make a brilliant career out of her many talents.  She might ride her horses for fun but never be able to make a business out of it or teach others.  She might be a brilliant artist but never get that work out of her sketchpad.  She will make beautiful music that no one ever hears, dance beautiful dances for herself alone.

She might need my support - and be my little girl - forever.



I have come to accept this gradually over the past year  and so no tears fell at the final say.  Let's face it, we knew she was different; were relieved last November when a new friend pointed out the obvious, were relieved when all of her signs exactly matched what was printed in the literature and on the internet (I mean, honestly Leute, HOW did you miss this in Germany?!  When I CAME to you with suspicions of ADD?!).  What it means for the future is still unclear, but it only shows me that nothing is certain, that I can take nothing for granted and that Ryan's future is hers, not mine.

Faces fall when you tell them you are home schooling an autistic child.  They are so impressed.  But there is nothing new about my situation, or about Ryan's, other than an official diagnosis.  We have both been struggling with this since she started showing signs around the age of five - even before that now that I know what to look for - and the only difference is that now we can give ourselves credit for our struggle.

We have both done amazingly well; so well that Ryan doesn't come across as autistic at a casual glance.  She is lucky; she will do quite well in the adult world, on her own terms and in her own way.  She won't be able to fit the mold, play by the rules, be like everyone else; mostly because she doesn't see the need to.



How awesome is that?!

How great is it that God saw exactly what I needed - a daughter who can't and won't fit the status quo - for me to finally be brave enough to escape from it myself?

And that Ryan, in turn, got a mom who is stubborn enough to fight for her, to advocate for her, to work with her even when it means working against her sometimes, a mom who loves doing it - despite the exhaustion and the burden - more than any other job she could do right now.

What does all this mean for Ryan?  Does she know what it means, what it will mean? 

It's hard to say. 

All I know is that she has been happier this week, since the diagnosis, than she has been in a while.  She has settled into her school work, babbles incessantly about the personalities, real and imagined, of the horses at the barn and jumps around - mostly joyfully - with her brothers.  She struts around the house with her hot chocolate in a travel cup like she owns the place; like any other normal teenager in fact.  (Although the turban on her head might be a bit out of the ordinary!) And then struts around the shops with a ball of yarn tucked under her shoulder looking like Quasimodo and attracting the stares of everyone walking towards us because she doesn't want to interrupt her crocheting while we shop.  NOT like a normal teenager,



Like Ryan.

My daughter has Autistic Spectrum Disorder with comorbid symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder: Inattentive Type.

It is a permanent, non improving condition listed as a legitimate disability by the Australian Government.

And that's okay.