Author Archives: goofe71

Knock, Knock, Who’s There?…

Finding places where Griffin can learn and grow has always been a challenge. Social groups for those with special needs have been a wonderful place for him to learn. But he also needs to be in situations that aren’t a controlled environment. Griffin isn’t just a person with special needs, he’s also a typical teenager. He needs a safe place where he can learn, where people understand his uniqueness. This is not an easy task.

I’ve been working on this piece for a while now. I’ve experienced so many emotions and I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t be coming from a place of anger when I shared.

So here goes:

This past summer Griffin attended a teen camp at our local “Y”. We were so excited and hopeful. The camp would be focusing on teaching the campers skills to help them become a camp counselor.

Things were going really well until Griffin came home and started sharing some interactions he was having with some of the other campers.

The incidences involved Griffin being called “creepy” for staring and for complimenting a girl’s swimsuit. He made the comment because he actually liked her suit and remembered her from last years summer camp. He was also told “I can’t wait for you to go to jail” by a fellow camper.

I mentioned all of this to the camp director and to the youth director. I even told them that these things might have happened due to something Griffin said or did that the other campers might not have understood. I was told that the campers shouldn’t have said those things to Griffin and that they would take care of it. I was really hoping that this would not only be a learning opportunity for Griffin to understand others but for others to have a chance to understand Griffin.

Each day we would check in with Griffin. I stayed in contact with the camp but soon realized the quality we had come to expect was not happening.

The kids were allowed to have and use their cellphones and gaming devices despite there being a rule that these items were not allowed to be used during the camp hours.

Because of the things some of the kids were saying, Griffin became worried that someone was going to film him and then put it on YouTube. This fear was based on things he had seen on television. (I can’t imagine being a kid in this day and age).

Even though there were some challenges socially, Griffin would talk about having friends. He began talking about a girl (we’ll call her Maya), and how they both loved classical music.

But his inability to “read” people made him vulnerable. When Griffin is feeling strong emotions he often has a hard time expressing himself. He has difficulty with figurative and literal concepts which can lead to misunderstandings. An example of this might be him saying he wants to die. He doesn’t really want to die but his emotions are so strong that someone that doesn’t know him and his special needs might become very concerned. Once you talk it through with him, he’ll say “Oh, no I don’t want to die, I just feel stupid.” Even though Griffin can communicate in a traditional way, communicating his emotions is still a real challenge for him.

In an attempt to connect with Maya he shared that he sometimes feels really sad and doesn’t like himself. And that he wishes he was never born. He also shared that he doesn’t always get along with his parents. He didn’t understand that saying these type of things to someone, especially another kid, might make them worried.

Before I go any further I want to let everyone reading this know that Griffin has an amazing team of professionals that are helping him work through moments that are related to Aspergers and those related to being a typical teenager.

In this moment of sharing with his new friend, Griffin was just having a typical teenager conversation. The kind where you share with a friend your feelings, knowing you have a safe space to do so. These are moments we all have had as teenagers and moments we continue to have as adults.

Maya, out of concern, decided to share with her parents what Griffin had told her.

That evening I received a call from the now former Youth Director of the “Y.” She told me how a fellow camper’s parents had called to let her know about the conversation between their daughter and Griffin. Somehow they thought Griffin might hurt himself and it was also reported that based on the conversation Griffin might be in an abusive relationship with a parent.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I reminded that director of Griffin’s special needs and that he had a team of experts working with him, that this was all a misunderstanding. That Griffin doesn’t always understand. I mentioned again the other incidences that had taken place since camp had started and that one of Griffin’s challenges was social interactions. She said she understood and made it sound like she just had to let me know and not to worry.

I immediately reached out to his team. They all said not to worry and that they would do whatever was needed to help. I was told that it was probably going to have to be reported to DCYS, the department of child and youth services.

Tom and I were shaken, some of our worst fears were happening. The fear of something Griffin said being misunderstood. The fear of our parenting being questioned and having to be investigated. We live in a world we’re were always questioning if we’re doing enough for Griffin. If he’s getting everything he needs to thrive. The simplest thing, like signing up for a class, requires a lot of preparation and trust.

I can’t blame the girl for telling her parents, she was just doing what she thought was right.

I was angry and frustrated at the camp and how things had reached this point. I had worked hard to communicate with the camp things that might happen and how important it was for those working with him to have as much information about him and his needs.

The fact that a counselor was never aware of any of the things that were happening was concerning. And when they were made aware it was treated like it was no big deal.

I was also really disappointed. We had had such success with the other “Y” programs Griffin had been involved with, we really believed that would continue.

We waited to see if a case manager would show up from DCYS. We were told that if they did it would be unannounced.

I tried to get updates from the camp but was told they couldn’t say anything. I was hoping to be able to sit down with the parents and child who Griffin spoke with in hopes to help them understand Griffin but that wasn’t possible.

We were concerned that further misunderstandings would happen and at the recommendation of his team we had him skip the last two days of camp. When I told Griffin he asked “Is it because of what I said?” I was heartbroken but answered him truthfully. I let him know he didn’t do anything wrong. It was complicated and that we would work through it. He was confused and wasn’t sure why his friend thought he had a parent that was hurting him.

Exactly two weeks after the call, it happened.

Griffin was just finishing up his ABA therapy when I heard a knock at the door. I thought it was a package delivery. As his therapist, Ashley, was wrapping up, I answered the door. But it wasn’t UPS, it was a woman that at first I thought was going to try and sell me something. I was just about to say “I’m not interested” when she said “Hello, my name is Roseline. I’m from the department of child and family services.”

I froze. She had to ask if she could come in. I turned to Griffin’s therapist and asked if she could please stay. Thankfully she was able to. Ironically we had just been talking about when or if a case manager would be coming right before Roseline arrived.

Still nervous and trying to process things I led Roseline into the house. Once again she had to ask me a question, “Is it okay if I sit?” I told her of course and then more questions followed.

She was kind and realized quickly that there was no need to be concerned. Griffin was able to answer her questions. Having a member of Griffin’s team present made the process go smoothly.

I asked what the next step would be and Roseline told me that there was nothing else that would be happening because she felt Griffin was receiving everything he needed. She even complimented our parenting and the amount of support Griffin was receiving.

When Roseline left, because I was still shaken, I asked Ashley if I had acted alright. She smiled and said “You were you, Missy.” I think that was a good thing 🙂

As things settled down we tried to see the positive things that came out of all of this.

We realized that Griffin was given a learning opportunity to understand what it means to share his feelings in an appropriate manner. It also helped him and his talk therapist start working on the big emotions adolescence brings.

For Tom and I, we learned that as scary as it is, it’s important to keep providing Griffin with opportunities to interact with others.

I’m concerned that by sharing this moment I’m adding to the confusion and misunderstanding of what Aspergers means to our family. But I realize that it’s important to keep sharing because in the end I believe it will actually bring more understanding and awareness.

What Will This Day Bring……?

Here are some pictures that capture my day so far. I enjoy “Blue Apron” but I seem to end up in tears while cooking most of the meals I order, is it just me?

I think in the end, despite the burnt broccoli it ended up pretty decent. At this point pretty decent is what I’m trying to achieve if nothing else 😉

These lovelies came just in time. I’m so glamorous, don’t you think?

Some may think I accidentally closed my eyes but really I’m taking a quick cat nap. Being pretty decent is exhausting!

I’ll Never Stop Trying

As some of you may know, Griffin has been having a really hard time with people that smoke. He just couldn’t seem to understand why someone would have that habit when they knew it was harmful to their health and to other people.

We tried everything from sharing that smoking is a habit, just like his cursing. We also shared that people he knows and loves have smoked at one time and that he knows people that still do smoke.

He was able to give love and understanding to the people he knew but walking past a smoker he didn’t know was a whole other thing. He would make a gagging gesture or whisper in my ear that they were idiots.

We tried positive re-enforcement. I told him to squeeze my hand or tell me he loves me when we saw a smoker. These suggestions worked for a minute but then he was back to reacting in a negative way.

One of our family mantras is “We’ll never stop trying.” Four of Griffin’s great-grandparents smoked. Even though he never met any of them I was inspired to tell him to think of smokers this way, “Griffin, what if every time you see a smoker it’s one of your great-grandparents saying “Hello” and reminding you to be kind?” Griffin loved the idea and now when we walk by a smoker he asks “Is that Grandpa Fernando? Is that Grandma Zonie? That’s Grandma Kay saying hello! Is that Papa Clem?”

It’s a wacky way to remember our grandparents but I know they’re in on it and are getting a big chuckle out of it.

We’ll Never Stop Trying and have angels helping us along the way 🙂

There’s Always Room For A New Friend In Griffin’s World

One of the first things I’m asked when I mention Griffin is homeschooled is “Aren’t you worried about his socialization?” or “How does he socialize?” I understand the questions and wanted to share an example of one of the many opportunities Griffin has had to socialize and connect with others.

This is a thank you card he made for Al, a window cleaner who works in our neighborhood. The two have talked about how they both are writers and artists. Al always speaks words of positivity and the knowing that Griffin is going to do great things in this word.

With Griffin’s permission I wanted to share the thank you card he wrote for Al. I love the positivity Griffin includes in his card for Al.

Mom, You’re The Best Mom A 14 Year Old Could Ask For

This past week Griffin was expressing to me how he feels like he doesn’t have anything just for himself in regards to technology. He doesn’t have a cell phone and his computer and video game time is very limited and monitored.

The conversation started because he wanted to keep his portable DVD player in his room. This seems innocent enough but with Griffin limits are really important.

“Mom, you know how you’ve said how you feel like you don’t have anything just for yourself? That’s how I feel when it comes to technology.”

“Griffin, I really understand what you’re talking about. Let’s figure this out together.”

“Mom, thank you for understanding and talking with me about this. You’re the best mom a 14 year old could ask for.”

“Griffin it’s because you calmly spoke to me about how you felt. You were so mature, I really appreciate that.”

This was a great moment for both of us. Griffin realized that I had heard him and that I wanted to work with him to find a solution. And I was reminded of how far he’s come and that he’s ready for more independence.

Despite that fact that he drives me crazy, Griffin is the best 14 year old this mom could ask for 🙂

Flexibility= A Teaching Moment For G and a New Ukulele For Me!

The other week we were at an appointment near our house. We rode the train there but it was such a beautiful day that I suggested we walk home. Griffin was fine with that and away we went.

As we walked we passed a music shop and Griffin asked if we could go in. I was feeling tired and sweating like a champ but I said “yes” and in we went. As we looked around I noticed a sheet that was promoting a contest to win a ukulele. All you had to do was sign your name and leave your email to enter the contest. There were no other names on it so I wasn’t sure if it was still going on but I signed my name anyway.

We left shortly after and I didn’t give winning the ukulele another thought.

The following evening I received a message that I had won the ukulele. This was just the boost I needed to get back to playing. I haven’t been playing my ukulele for awhile for many reasons, more on that to come later.

Flexibility is a challenge for Griffin. As with many moments we encounter, I took this as an opportunity to share with Griffin the importance of being flexible.

I told Griffin that if he hadn’t have been flexible with walking instead of taking the train, we wouldn’t have walked pass the music shop. If I hadn’t been flexible about going into the shop and instead just went straight home I wouldn’t have seen the contest to win a new ukulele and I wouldn’t have had the chance to win it.

A lot of change is happening for us this coming fall. I hope that not only Griffin can be flexible but that I can be as well. I hope that we can trust in the changes and in ourselves.

You Just Never Know

This morning as I was riding the bus to an appointment, I noticed a young man get on the bus. Closely behind him was a woman who appeared to be his therapist or aide.

The two of them approached me and the woman directed the young man to sit next to me. At one point he asked her what their stop was. She gave him a clue that the stop started with an “R” and then he said Roosevelt which just happened to be the stop I was also getting off at. I glanced over at her and gave her a smile.

I immediately started tearing up. I was thinking about Griffin and the work his therapists do with him, including working on taking the bus and train. I was thinking of this boy’s parents, imagining all that we had in common. How many nights had they stayed awake wondering if their child would be independent? How many nights had they stayed awake worrying if they would be able to find amazing people to work with their son, people that would treat him with the respect and patience he deserved?

I thought about this young man, trying to navigate the world. What does the world sound and look like to him? I thought about how he was learning to ride a bus, a skill that many people often take for granted.

I thought about this therapist and the work she was doing. As they started to get off the bus she showed him how to pull the wire down to signal to the bus driver that they wanted to get off. She then showed him how to push on the doors so they would open. She was very patient with him.

As we got off the bus I wanted to say something but I was going in a different direction. If I had had the chance I would have shared some of my story with her and I would have thanked her for doing the job she was doing.

This moment reminded me that you never know what someone else is going through. You never know just how much you might have in common with them. I’m grateful to have had this reminder today.

I Wish Things Could Be Less Complicated

There are some days, like today, when it really hits me. I wish it didn’t have to be so complicated.

In an effort to better understand Griffin and his behaviors his therapist wants me to fill out this sheet every time a behavior occurs. I’m to list what happens before the behavior, the behavior, and then whatever consequence he has after the behavior. This all makes perfect sense. I’m just trying to sort through my feelings of guilt, self-doubt, and just plain exhaustion. I’m trying to embrace where we’re at in this moment.

I wouldn’t change Griffin for the world. I just wish I was better at being his mom. I wish it could be easier, even for a moment. I wish I didn’t live in fear and self-doubt. I wish I knew that it would all work out.

I Got A Call From Griffin’s Camp

I got a call from Griffin’s camp this morning. I didn’t answer because I didn’t recognize the number, so they left a message saying to call them back. I immediately panicked thinking he was hurt or that he was having a meltdown. Turns out he had just forgotten to tell me he needed money to go to the movies. I almost started crying when the counselor told me. I’ve never been happier to drop what I was doing to go and bring him the money he needed. It reminded me of this song I wrote that was inspired by the calls I would get when Griffin was in traditional school. I wanted to re-share it with all of you.

Life Imitating Art, Sort Of

The other day Griffin was watching “Full House”, one of his favorite shows. The episode was about Michele and how she started to become embarrassed when Danny would kiss her when he dropped her off at school.

I thought “Geez what is she 6 or 7?” That seemed too young to be embarrassed by your parent kissing you in public.

Fast forward to today. Tom walked with me to drop Griffin off at camp. Griffin picked up his camp shirt that every camper must wear when going on a field trip. As soon as Griffin put the shirt on I noticed a hair on him and tried to remove it. It was at the same time that we were walking over to Griffin’s group. Griffin wanted to introduce Tom to his new camp friends. We stood there for a moment but Griffin couldn’t find the two friends. Tom then motioned to me to leave.

We said our goodbyes and then on his own Griffin gave each of us a kiss and hug.

As we walked back home Tom suggested that maybe I should think about how I am with Griffin when he’s around his friends. “What do you mean?” I asked thinking it was about the kiss. “He wanted to kiss us, who cares what anyone thinks.” “No Missy, I’m not talking about that. You started fixing his hair. I know Griffin isn’t aware or even cares but we should both start thinking about things like that, how we still baby him without meaning to” Tom explained.

Even if it’s not easy to hear, I always appreciate it when Tom see’s things I might not. I immediately understood what he was saying and started obsessing over if his friends saw me doing that and if they would tease him. “No I don’t think they noticed, that’s why I signaled for you to say goodbye” Tom answered.

As Griffin gets older it definitely is becoming more of a challenge figuring out where I fit in. He’s so affectionate and isn’t easily aware of things that might potentially be embarrassing for a teenager.

As his mom, since he might not pull away when it comes to certain situations, I find myself having to, which is really difficult.

I’m going to try to be more aware of how I interact with Griffin and stop myself when I reach for his hair. I have to remind myself that independence is what it’s all about not what his hair looks like.

But the kisses, well as long as he’s the one wanting to give them and doesn’t care what others think, well those we’ll keep.