April 16, 2012

Easter Blessings

Posted in Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , at 10:44 am by autismmommytherapist

“Mom, is it okay if I run?” my youngest asks me innocently, even though he’s just heard our SEPTA president (Special Education PTA) tell all the kids not to barrel through each other during the Easter Egg Hunt. I ask him to repeat what she just said, and he looks at me and responds dejectedly, “no running”. He then proceeds to strike a perfect runner’s pose, teetering on an imaginary line keeping him from conquering hundreds of half-hidden, brightly-colored ovals.

I fear this will be a losing battle.

Sure enough, on the count of “three” over a hundred special needs kids, their siblings, and my son make a break for their treasure, skirting every copse of trees in this sparsely- populated wooded area that is hosting the event. We’ve been asked to limit our take to twenty, and as me and my sister-in-law trail behind Zach I ask him to count his pile, which he dutifully does. When we reach the magic number I gently remind him we’re done, and for once there are no “but Mom!” protests. We head back toward our point of origin, a parcel of land now hosting the Easter Bunny, which of course makes me eager for a photo opportunity. I ask Zach if he’ll pose with him, and he smiles shyly and says “yes”, for which my scrapbook is eternally grateful.

I have my priorities.

I treat Easter as I do my birthday, which means it is a holiday meriting multiple celebrations. Next weekend there will be two more such excursions, one taking place in my own backyard, and one in my mother’s (they are guaranteed a good crop at either venue). If we’re feeling brave Jeff and I will attempt to take the boys on the Easter train at Allaire State Park, an activity which will require patience on Justin’s part, so we’ll play it by ear. Of course the grand denouement will involve elaborate Easter baskets which I love to create, particularly given the fact I’m not sure how much longer Zach will think this is cool.

Given his newfound burst of maturity, our days with this activity might be limited.

Zach bounds back over to me after I’ve clicked a half-dozen shots just in case, and asks if he can play on the equipment. I nod yes after checking my watch, then call after him to remind my son not to bowl over several toddlers standing between him and a soggy slide a few hundred yards away. We have a little bit of time left before we return home and relieve Justin’s home therapist from her duties, and I smile, because this outing, unlike last year, has been a resounding success.

A little over a year ago Jeff and I split up with the boys on a frigid Saturday, my husband taking Zach to an Elks Easter party, and me escorting Justin to this very spot. He had seemed excited when I lead him to the car with basket in tow, making his energetic “eee” sounds all the way to the park. I’ve learned how to time things so he’s there neither too early nor too late, and last year we made it with five minutes to spare. After freeing him from the car I grabbed his hand and inserted a pastel-colored handle into it, and we made our way over to the starting point.

I had enough time to greet the SEPTA Executive Board before Justin was off like a shot toward the water, pumping arms and legs steadily to reach the pier, often a coveted destination. I remember my friends calls to him were echoing mine, even as I knew it was a losing battle. Once Justin makes up his mind that something else is more rewarding for him, there’s no reversing that decision.

Can’t imagine from where he acquired that amount of stubbornness.

I recall feeling a fleeting stab of disappointment as I trailed after him, felt sad he wouldn’t be participating in such a lovely and meticulously planned event, sorry for me that I would neither get to witness it nor record it for posterity. Then, with our feet sunk in sand as we trudged our way toward brackish water, it hit me. He’s almost eight years old. Even if he didn’t have autism, he might not want to score pastel-colored cylinders. He’s perfectly thrilled to do his usual routine here.

Nobody’s sad but me.

I felt a weight lift off of me then, a void where guilt sometimes resides when I don’t attempt certain activities with him, even though I know in my mother’s soul that just because Justin “should” like them doesn’t mean he will. We continued our trajectory out onto the dock, my eldest running back and forth, entranced with the ripple of waves on river. He was perfectly content with our adapted activity.

As my youngest son is before me, right now.

I snap back into the moment, as I’m trying to do more often, and know that both boys are safe. Both of my sons are happy. Both children are living in their respective moments, one at home with his therapist, one outside and immersed in play. The two of them are exactly where they’re supposed to be.

And for once, so am I.

November 16, 2011

Brick SEPTA Goes Green

Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:10 am by autismmommytherapist

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a proud member of the Brick SEPTA (Special Education PTA), an organization that under Mary Tara Wurmser’s leadership has shown tremendous growth over the past few years. The SEPTA board, including Nicole Barresi, Janet Bixenman, Dina Crepaldi, Vinnie Muti and Sherry Doyle, have worked tirelessly to provide fun events for children with special needs. They have frequently invited expert speakers to come enlighten us on topics ranging from transition planning to understanding Down’s Syndrome, and have also recently added recycling to their list of projects, an effort which remains near and dear to my heart.

Heck, they had me at the chocolate donuts.

The board and members of SEPTA have been making a concerted effort to “go green” by using social media to convey their news, but have recently decided to take things a step further. They are also attempting to raise funds and earn assistive technology (i.e. iPads), with the express hope of donating several to our local EEC (Educational Enrichment Center), the building which houses our town’s pre-school autism programs. I’ve seen firsthand how this technology has opened up worlds for Justin, who didn’t have the opportunity to employ such an elaborate communicative device until he was seven. I can only imagine how access to iPads might enhance the education of a three-year-old.

And knowing the Brick SEPTA board, I’m certain the EEC will soon find out.

The vehicle through which such donations can be made is called the “Funding Factory”, and is an ongoing free fundraiser and recycling/Go Green program. SEPTA can accept ink cartridges, laser cartridges, cell phones, electronics, and laptops, then send them to the Funding Factory. Drop-off is simple- individuals can leave their items in a drop box at the EEC, or if the item is too large for such a container, a pick-up can easily be arranged.

Other organizations can also come on board and raise funds for their own projects by listing SEPTA as the referrer (Group ID # 275622). Companies can sponsor SEPTA as well by donating their cash or points from the program directly to SEPTA. There are no shipping costs, as Funding Factory takes financial responsibility for that issue, and they make sending in the materials very simple. For more information, please see:

http://www.bricksepta.org/pdfs/FundingFactoryparent_letter.pdf

Finally, there is one last option for helping out SEPTA this season. The Funding Factory is partners with Maxback, a website which individuals can use to get cash-back for unwanted smartphones, tablets, ipods, and video games. Maxback pays senders directly through Paypal, check, or Amazon gift certificates, but the bonus is, they will match each contribution with a 10% donation to SEPTA. You’ll need to establish a free account on Maxback and designate SEPTA as the recipient (Mary Tara assures me even I could figure out how to do it, it’s that simple). For more information, please check out this link:

http://www.maxback.com/Home.aspx?school=275622

Given how much we’re all watching our wallets stay closed these days, these are some easy ways to contribute without emptying a bank account. Thanks in advance for your participation, and hope to see you at our next SEPTA meeting on January 9th!

September 20, 2011

Gratitude Attitude

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:17 am by autismmommytherapist

Today’s Gratitude Attitude is dedicated to my local SEPTA (Special Education PTA). I’ve been attending for years, and have never witnessed such a large crowd as at last night’s meeting. Our first get-together not only included parents, but also teachers, administrators, aides, and principals as well. It truly requires an entire continent to raise our kids, and I’d just like to say how appreciative I am that so many different factions were in the house last night. I’d also like to extend my gratitude for all the hard work the SEPTA board does for our families. Thank you for your time and contributions!