Life is not easy. Especially when you are in a family of invisible illnesses and disabilities. It can be serious, funny and downright hard! But we make it. Just like everyone else. We just do it in a different style.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Road Less Traveled a.k.a. There are Weeds Here

Today is Saturday, February 20th, 2010. I want to mark that day because it is today that I decided to throw out all conventions of motherhood toward teenagers.

You see, I have two of them (one 13, rapidly approaching impossible, and another 17, who already shows the blithe unconcern of a 19 year old - such a prodigy!) But, while that sounds completely normal, the truth of the matter is that both of my lovely boys will be with me for some I better get used to them.

The oldest, though showing rapids signs of the 20-something self-centeredness, has autism, and at any moment, well, at regular moments throughout the day, gets the whole world wrong. I don't mean he says something cute and autistically-eclectic. I mean, he doesn't get whole concepts, like the idea of weekly shopping and the four food groups. Now, mind you, he is trying. We started him recently with a student Paypal account. He has his little credit/debit card, and the world smells like microwaved Hot Pockets. But, we are working on the concept that the Quickie-Mart is not a great place to shop long-term and that he, too, can purchase vegetables.

Some mothers may think, "huh, is that all you have to worry about?" Yes and no. I realize many of my other Mom friends with autistic children have MUCH BIGGER issues at hand. But, I am talking about the hand I was dealt, and I struggle with the idea that his only favorite food for going on 15 years is pizza.

But, in the spirit of "I have got to make this better or I will explode," we have decided to supplement his "diet" with a huge, horse-pill vitamin/mineral/every-other-thing-you-are-supposed-to-be-eating supplement.

I am out for some peace in 2010, and watching a 6'2', 114lb boy eat yet another pizza pocket (because he had money, now!) is not going to destroy me. I am trying my best to keep his arteries clear and his blood sugar levels stable. Good thing, my dear son has a fear of being sick, so random Yahoo! news announcements of the latest food study help a great deal.

Now, my youngest son is not quite so easy or humorous.

We are faced with the prospect that the only way to teach him may be through special education, homeschooled over many, many years. Now, again, some of my readers may mutter, "Big deal, we have been there since day one!" I have not.

My youngest was nearly skipped from pre-school into first grade. He rapidly took on more advance work (twice he was put in advanced math) until the age of 7-8. From there on, we saw the steady decline in memory (retention and recall), comprehension, speech and language skills, and so many other abilities, I need a school specialist to explain them.

What happened? I do not know. Somewhere along the line (hindsight being 20/20), my son is more comparable to a mild Alzheimer's patient with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) than just a struggling, slow learner. I just order several resources from and Lash & Associates Publishing. It is my own little resource section as we attempt to tackle high school with no IEP, only a very weak 504, and the possibility of home-schooling due to him being too fatigued to go through even a moderated schedule.

From what I can piece together is that since the viral attack at 2, and what everyone thought was a seizure at 3, my son has been set up for this decline. Undiagnosed moderate sleep apnea, dysautonomia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and a couple of good hits to the head (first one at six years old) and we have my youngest son; home-bound and needing 24-hour support. Not the support of someone wheelchair bound, but support nonetheless. There has to be a schedule for eating, sleeping, taking medicine, bathing and every other daily task. Without it, he can become a smelly, disheveled teen with bad breath and bags under his eyes.

According to one neuropsychologist, my son has no short-term memory. He lives in a world of moments. And, those moments are not easily recalled, even after being experienced.

Any of you familiar with dysautonomia understand the crushing fatigue, the stomach issues, the lightheaded feelings, the fog. We also have two sleep disorders, sleep apnea and one I call Broken Circadian Clock Syndrome, major memory deficits and a persistent inability to see the whole picture. I know that doesn't sound medical, but until I get a better term, I am stuck with always picturing the blind men, touching an elephant and declaring it to be something completely wrong. Imagine that in English, Science, World History and Math. Imagine a brain that does not process analogy or comparison. Imagine only have memories once in a bluish moon. The rest of the time, you live in an angry attempt to make sense of a world of which you are no longer a productive part.Imagine a brain where all of what I just talked about will be beyond recall two weeks from now.

That is my youngest son.

No one has ever answered my question. How do you teach a child who cannot remember? Is it really learning, if the concepts are gone in two weeks? The ability to master is there, but without the ability to recall, we are stuck in a loop of constant relearning. It turns ESY (Extended School Year) programs into (LL) Lifetime Learning programs.

But, remember, this is the year I make it easier; on him and my poor, constantly-grieving heart.

Starting in the summer, we, he and I, will embark on the most different kind of home-schooling program I can afford. Videos, movies, animations, trips and audio will replace 100% of the books. I know that sounds radical, but that is what works, and as a disability awareness guide (my own term, thank you!), I am out for what works. Not another frustrating year. We know that his procedural memory is relatively strong, so he must do things with whole body, over and over again. I welcome any suggestions from the home-schooling online community. This is uncharted territory for us. I am flying blind (no pun intended) here, but I intend to finish with a child who has some purpose in the world, even as someone has to remind him to comb his hair and brush his teeth.

So, today, all well-meaning friends who have children who are doing well, please understand if I don't share a lot. I am on a different road. One not everyone can handle and master. And, I intend to do both. Brilliantly.