HAVE AN IMPROMPTU DANCE PARTY IN THE KITCHEN WHILE DOING THE DISHES!!!
Well, this is what I tried to do when I realized that no one else was home. Kanye came on loudly and I was lip-syncing and white girl dancing so hard when I saw something out of the corner of my eye.
I looked out the window and saw the battle-worn face of Liam coming home from sledding and playing in the snow. I only had a quick 3-4 seconds before I could turn the speakers down so that he would not have a conniption fit at the volume in which "Touch the Sky" was blaring. I had a tough choice to make- continue my kitchen concert and risk his rage, or turn it down and pretend like I had been heating up his hot chocolate the whole time.
I decided to take a risk-I mean, hey! This is my house, dadgummit (who's mom from Bama used that word when she was mad?!) I pay the bills and feed everyone (most of the time), so I can have the volume any way I want it!!!!
|This is what I looked like in my kitchen!|
When he came in, he predictably rounded the corner with disapproving eyes and shook his head. Like he was the parent and he found me underage drinking in my closet.
"MOM, ...WHY? WHY, MOM??!!
Funtime over. Somehow my 'running man' with a huge grin on my face did not get the smirk I was looking for. I slowly went back to the speakers and turned them down, and eventually off.
I never know which mood I will get back. Sometimes I will get the playful side and get a few more fun moments out of it, but most of the time, this is the reality. Hard to know what's autism and what's teen annoyance.
So, I decided to take this rare day of "nothingness" and get into my creativity of writing. I'm always glad when I do, but it seems so hard to start. Story of my life.
I got some inspiration to write after a friend sent me a touching story about a man named Donald Grey Triplett. Donald was the first person ever to receive an autism diagnosis. The story details are unique and yet the same as those of us grappling with those first few years of autism. His parents did not know what was wrong with their child. After a doctor said there was nothing he could do, they made the difficult choice to institutionalize Donald because that was what you did in that day. Anyone that was seen as out of the ordinary wasted away in a sterile mental hospital. The doctor even told them to move on and forget about Donald- that somehow that was the best thing for him and his parents.
|Donald Triplett-wasn't he precious?|
But, the parents never forgot about Donald. They decided that they would not allow him to grow up as a patient, but a person with a story. A story that mattered. Their perseverance and hard work made him the man that he is today. He is remarkably still alive at 82 years old! He plays golf and lives independently in the house he grew up in.
But the most incredible part of the story is how his small-town community rallied around him and accepted him. In the town of Forest, Mississippi, in the 1940's and 50's, when difference and diversity was not something embraced or encouraged, this community decided to make him one of their own. They welcomed him in their schools, their restaurants, and businesses. He even made some of the girls swoon!!
Which brought me back to my own situation and how I have chosen to make Liam a part of his greater community. This past year we learned that Liam was not doing so great in school. The IEP that he had was not really working any more and we, wait, what am I saying, I had to make the difficult decision to place Liam on a special needs track. This track would knock him out of the traditional path that most students take. There is even a school close to our home that serves children with his diagnosis, and I have had many people ask me why I have chosen to keep him in the public system here.
And my decision is simple. It comes down to community. The way the kids rally around him at school events and the way his church youth group members high five him when he walks in the door is worth it. My prayer is that he will continue to have community even when it is not in the bubble of school. This will be the real test. Will people accept him the way he is? Will he be given opportunities to do meaningful work? Will an employer see the gifts he has to offer the world and take a chance on him?
These are answers I simply do not have. But, the tide is turning and more and more people are realizing the importance of including those with special needs in the work force.
And just when I was finishing this post, another sweet friend sent me a link to a young man hired by Starbucks as a barista. He has autism and a movement disorder, so the Starbucks employees have dubbed him the "dancing barista". They have taken something that most would maybe see as a disability and reframed it as something with positivity and light.
See his awesome video here.
I don't know you Donald and Sam, but I am grateful for you. Keep paving the way!
And, to the people in the world who go the extra mile for those with disabilities, you are the angels we need.