The inevitable “Big Bang” post

I love “The Big Bang Theory”.  I L-O-V-E it.  No matter how many times I see the same episodes over and over, I always find myself cracking up at the same parts that I already know are coming.  I have a day off today and watched a few reruns in the DVR this morning.  The first episode that popped up was called “Guitarist Amplification”.  All through the episode the characters are arguing with each other over various things, causing Sheldon, the not-diagnosed-with-autism-but-definitely-has-it-in-some-form character, to have meltdowns.  He turns on a loud blender in his apartment to drown out his roommate and girlfriend arguing, screams at his roommate to let him out of the car when he is having a pretend argument with his girlfriend, throws a tantrum in the comic book store when his two friends are fighting, and later runs back to the comic book store again when the Leonard/Penny argument continues.  Oh how I can relate.  Any arguments in this house will set Michael into a screaming, biting tantrum.   I find it bemusing, though, that he only seems to get upset when someone ELSE is getting yelled at.  Yell at him for making a mess, teasing the dog, or stealing food and you get no reaction.

Another episode showed Leonard trying to avoid a particular acquaintance and thus ignored his phone call as he and Sheldon ate lunch together.  Sheldon began to have an anxiety attack when Leonard refused to answer the phone or check the voicemail.  How many times have I noticed a “private” or “unknown” number pop up on my caller ID that I refuse to answer, only to have Michael hand me the phone and repeat “HELLO, HELLO” to me indicating “Answer this – it’s what you do when the phone rings!”.

The thing about that show that warms my heart is something that wouldn’t be obvious to anyone who hasn’t dealt with a child on the spectrum.  It’s the practically invisible caring that Leonard has for Sheldon.  Leonard is always explaining Sheldon’s behavior away to people and has even left his apartment in the middle of the night to go rescue him after breaking into “Chuck E. Cheese”-type place to use the ballpit.  (One of the BEST scenes EVER on that show –  Bazinga in the Ball Pit)

Leonard is Sheldon’s roommate and it dawned on me today that he has CHOSEN to live with all that crazy.  I’m sure the writers of the show don’t have any of those pragmatics in mind, but that’s just my own interpretation.  It reminds me of my boys’ relationship, as well as some of my other friends who have kids on the spectrum alongside typical developing siblings.

I read an article recently where the author expressed his opinion on why Chuck Lorre and the writing/production team refuse to acknowledge that Sheldon is on the spectrum and it made sense to me, from a television/we-need-this-show-to-be-successful standpoint.  If they diagnose Sheldon, it might take away from some of the comedy of the show and could spark any number of uproars from those in the autism community who view everything under a microscope.  Sheldon has proclaimed numerous times on the show “I’m not crazy – my mother had me tested!”.    So somehow, I think we can at least recognize that Mary Cooper must have been through at least some of what we special needs’ parents have endured.

I can only hope that Michael will grow and develop into an independent adult, and have people around him like Leonard, Penny, Howard, and Raj.

I love this shot; all are looking at the camera but Sheldon who is more interested in the shiny ball. Perfection.

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“Spring Break” in the land of autism…….

So most of the state of Florida seems to be enjoying a lovely Spring Break.  I see Facebook posts from my public school friends about hanging by the pool, going to the beach, getting nails done, etc.  I teach in a Catholic school, and we are NOT on Spring Break yet.  In fact, we are in the throes of standardized testing this week.  Don’t even get me started on how draining that in itself has been.  Michael, who DOES go to public school since he’s in an ESE cluster, IS on Spring Break this week.  However, it doesn’t seem like much of a vacation for him.

Michael attends a special-needs aftercare program that offers mini-camps throughout the year on public school teacher workdays, holiday breaks, and things like that.  Unfortunately, he didn’t get a spot in the Spring Break camp this year, due to under staffing, cutbacks, blah blah blah…….same old stuff.  So Mike and I had to scramble to find babysitters to cover four days this week. Thankfully, I at least get Friday off – a welcome reward after a week of “Now turn to page 26 of your testing booklet; find question 1; select the best answer for the question”.  I am starting to see the kids eyes glazing over every day.  Anyway, I digress……  We got most of the grandparents to come over this week and help out.  But staying home with Michael all day is hard……….heck staying home with Michael HALF a day is hard.  Both Monday and Tuesday when I came home from work, I arrived to a screaming, eye-rolling, biting, maniacal kid who seems like he wants to jump out of his skin.  Add to that the oh-so-fun attitude of Christopher whose listening skills seem to get left at school every day.  I don’t think Spring Break for Michael is a break at all.  I think he NEEDS to be in school daily.  Being in an unstructured environment is really detrimental to him.  Mommy doesn’t want to sit and force him to do workbaskets after school, or sit on the floor and put puzzle pieces together all afternoon.  Mommy’s beat.  Mommy needs a glass of wine and a house full of quiet.  Well, Mommy’s out o’luck this week.  Oh, Easter, you can’t get here soon enough!  Eight days of quiet……………oh wait, Christopher is on Spring Break with me.  Well, so much for that idea…….

Tesseract

There is such thing as a tesseract. – Madeline L’Engle

I thought about A Wrinkle in Time tonight – in the most unrelated setting you could imagine.  Tonight our family attended the opening ceremonies of Christopher’ baseball league.   Families with children of all ages watched the kids round the bases as their names were announced, listened to a local school’s marching band, and ate pizza and snowcones.  Afterward, the kids ran around playing tag, tossing baseballs, and jumping in the bounce houses.  As I stood in the middle of all of this, something struck me.  This was all so effortless for these kids.  No one has to work with them to teach them how to interact with each other; they don’t have to be prompted to socialize, reminded to not touch strangers, or taught a script about how to speak to new friends.  How is it that what comes so naturally to most children is so completely elusive to children like Michael?  I watched him in the bounce house.  He was having so much fun…………but it reminded me of those movie scenes where the focus is on one character and you see the characters around him fade away (supposedly in his/her imagination) leaving the character alone in a street or party or whatever.  I wonder if that’s what life is like for him.

Getting back to my original quote……….I began to think tonight if somewhere along the way in Michael’s development, his brain “tessered”.  In the children’s sci-fi story “A Wrinkle in Time” the main characters learn how to travel through time by way of a method called “tessering”.  Tessering is explained to the children in the story as:

Mrs. Who took a portion of her white robe in her hands and held it tight.
“You see,” Mrs. Whatsit said, “if a very small insect were to move from the section of skirt in Mrs. Who’s right hand to that in her left, it would be quite a long walk for him if he had to walk straight across.”
Swiftly Mrs. Who brought her hands, still holding the skirt, together.

“Now, you see,” Mrs. Whatsit said, “he would be there, without that long trip. That is how we travel.”u see,” Mrs. Whatsit said, “if a very small insect were to move from the section of skirt in Mrs. Who’s right hand to that in her left, it would be quite a long walk for him if he had to walk straight across.”

I wonder if Michael’s mind “wrinkled” over that part of it’s development, as though it couldn’t be bothered with the long trip it would take to learn how to socialize normally.  Unlike that insect in Mrs. Whatsit’s description, though, Michael’s mind didn’t quite get to where it was supposed to go quicker.  I feel like his brain NEEDED to make that long trip – not tesser from one place to the other.  He NEEDED to slow down and notice people, learn to acquire language, and pick up those social cues and skills.

There are people in the autism world who are obsessed with playing the “blame game”………..blame it on the vaccines, the environment, missing prenatal supplements, family members with neurological issues, etc.  I don’t think about those things much.  My focus is on how to help Michael now and in the future.  But for some reason tonight, standing among all those families who never have to give the social and developmental development of those children a second thought, I  got to thinking about all of this.  As we know, when clothes “wrinkle” the fabric is all still there – just a little discombobulated.   I believe that once we figure out how to smooth out those wrinkles, we’ll have the key to unlocking all that is hidden within these special children.