Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Problem Children

Ami at I.Am.Mental writes about the children under her care and one that is a large challenge.

She hasn’t given up on him and he is improving.

Our first born is autistic. He was a challenge, to put it mildly. Now 47, he lives independently in Seattle and is a professional dishwasher. On the side he sells newspapers on a corner in the Wallingford neighborhood. Recently, he lost his job of eight years to the wonderful victory of Social Justice Warriors in raising the minimum wage in Seattle. He now works in a restaurant outside the Seattle city limits.

One thing was clear to me during the many conferences we attended at schools. The ‘professionals’ didn’t like him, not at all. The more they pushed behavior modification, the more he pushed back.

Then he got a teacher, Mark Hammond by name. Mark talked to us and said he thought our son could learn and wanted to drop the behavior modification model and try teaching basic academics. We told him to go for it.

This required a high level of trust between teacher and parents. Mark would literally sit on our son, hold his head in his hands to force eye contact, and say,

“Sean, A,B,C, etc.”

It worked. He started learning, and the behaviors diminished. The more he was treated as a regular kid, the more he acted like a regular kid. One teacher, who didn’t give up, saved a kid from life in an institution. That was during the time “deinstutional” was gathering steam so he probably would be homeless or dead.

This shouldn’t be taken as rant against behavior modification techniques. Rather, it is a rant against adults who don’t see children as unique human beings.

Having handicapped children can crush you or temper you. My ex and I, already activists, became involved in many endeavors. The draft legislation for the Washington Education For All Act was written on our dining room table and she lobbied for two years to get it passed. I worked my ass off so she could. We were the first officers of the Seattle Chapter of a national organization focused on autism.  I became involved in local politics and was a precinct committeeman for years, first as a Republican and then as a Democrat.

Forced out our comfort zone, we became acquainted with people we would never have otherwise known. Professionally, it helped me.

Our marriage failed after twenty two years. I don’t blame the stresses of our children’s problems alone but recognize it as a factor. There were health issues, financial issues, and personality conflicts. She has a Mensa IQ and the common sense of a dead roach. My nickname, “The Tank”, speaks to my problem solving approach. Subtle and patient are words seldom mention by people describing me.


Problem. Job site is shut down because bears are helping themselves to the worker’s lunches.

Solution. Fire up a chain saw and charge the bears. It worked.

We did the counseling thing, etc., but finally she bailed leaving me to raise the two younger children, one with a touch of Asperger’s Syndrome.   They turned out to be responsible adults but  with some big bumps along the way.

So, a big shout out to Ami and all the people like her that work with children.

To paraphrase an old saying, they may not change the world, but they can change one child’s world.


Momma Fargo said...

Bless your heart. I am super thrilled about your son's success. And Ami deserves a shout out indeed. Don't beat yourself up about the past. If we all did that, I would be bludgeoned to death as you know. Lots of love and blessings for the new year!

Old NFO said...

Success, by any measure IS a success. Thankfully it worked for y'all!

Coffeypot said...

And a big shout out to you and your commitment to your boys. Not all parents are that commuted, even if the have "normal" kids.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Thank you.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Sometimes it doesn't feel like success.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Never have understood that mentality.

LL said...

Well done, Dad.

Being a parent is NEVER easy. Being a parent of a child with substantial needs is incrementally more difficult. But you endured because you were a good parent and are now a role model (and tank).

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Thank you. Just to be clear, I don't write this type of blog to "toot my own horn". Rather, it is to share some insights that others may find useful.

Ami said...

::blushing madly::

I am not a saint. But I *love* children. I want every child in my care to feel special, to know they're liked (and I even like the tough ones) and to have a good time while we are together.

I appreciate the people like you who are willing to stand up and advocate for their kids, it helps so many people.

drjim said...

And thank you for those insights. My son has some "troubles", and seeing as my ex, his Mom, was a Special Education teacher, we both scratch our heads at "where we (might have) went wrong".

It's a tough row to hoe, and I applaud you!

LL said...

This sort of thing is always useful.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Please, take a bow.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Reminds me of a MD/PhD we knew in SLC who was frustrated. All his knowledge and he was in the same place as us with his child.