Growing Up Special

Thoughts, ramblings, and encouragement from a special need sibling to the world

Bad day? No excuse June 22, 2011

As Alyssa shops, she also greets all the people she knows. One individual we met while shopping was Mrs. Memmalink, the school counselor. She told us her favorite “Alyssa story.”

One morning, Alyssa came into school and you could tell from the moment she walked in the door that she was having a bad morning. She stomped in, glaring at everyone she passed.

As she walked by, Mrs. Memmalink said “Good morning, Alyssa!”

Alyssa turned and glared at her. Before stomping off, however, she said in a tone of disgust, “You look very LOVELY today.”

Mrs. Memmalink says it was the best reminder she’s had that no matter how bad a day we may be having, we can always take time to say something nice to others. 🙂


96 Cents June 17, 2011

Another Alyssa story… a follow-up from last Saturday’s post on the dark after morning.

We were at the grocery store one Friday and Alyssa honed in on the movies. If you know Alyssa, you know she LOVES movies. If you don’t know Alyssa… well, it’s time you learned that she LOVES movies. 🙂 She’s addicted. She will carry around old VHS tapes, even though we have no way to play them, just because she loves them so much.

Well, she found a Beethoven DVD on sale and she was DETERMINED that she was going to get that video. However, we had to tell her no.

Alyssa does not take well to the answer ‘no’ when it comes to movies. So we started talking. I talked to her, then Momma talked to her, then I talked to her some more. Nothing was going to convince her to leave that movie. She started getting grumpy. Then she started getting mad. Then she started pushing and pulling and pinching. All in all, it was very quickly deteriorating into a full-blown, all-out tantrum in the grocery store.

(Random sidenote: if this had been the ‘regular’ grocery store in Granby, I wouldn’t have worried so much. Most people know Alyssa and they are understanding and probably won’t call the police or security or think we’re horrible people. Isn’t it awesome to have a place like that? Anyway… this happened to be an unfamiliar grocery store in Denver. As a result, I was kind of hoping we could get out without a tantrum).

Well, we were all buying candy bars and I had asked Alyssa several times if she wanted one. She always said no, she was getting a movie. But in a last ditch effort to avoid that tantrum, I told her all about how wonderful and yummy those candy bars were. I told her how awesome it would be if she could eat one. After a few minutes, she reluctantly laid down the movie and picked up a candy bar.

By the time we paid for it, she was beaming! She bounced outside and shouted “Mommy! Look what I got!!!”

My mom made a comment about me ‘giving in’ or ‘bribing.’ She was probably right. But when I saw how happy and cheerful everyone was and contrasted that with the alternative of a several hour kicking, screaming, all-out tantrum… I decided I was okay with that.

I also think that was the best spent 96 cents EVER.


Dark after morning… June 11, 2011

After the morning, comes the night.

Wait, that’s not how it goes? Oh well, it’s how life works sometimes.

After all the parties, celebrations, amazing time with family, and the crowning accomplishment of Alyssa’s life… there had to be some repercussions. 🙂 And there have been. It hasn’t been absolutely horrible and it’s pretty understandable. Alyssa was completely worn out from all the visitors and parties. (As you’ll see when I finally post some pictures, she looked pretty shell-shocked with all the busy-ness).

So on Tuesday morning (the day after all the company left and life finally got back to normal), Alyssa woke up on the wrong side of bed. We had to go to Denver for Alyssa’s doctor appointment that day. Problem: Alyssa refused to go. She was fine when we got in the car to head down to Denver. But once we got there, she wouldn’t budge any farther than a few feet from the car. The tantrum continued for several hours before she got over it.

On Wednesday, she was just generally cranky. The last couple of days have been better, with just a periodic meltdown.

Well, all that to say… you never know what the day will bring when you have a special needs person in your life! 🙂


Ten Things, Part 2 April 10, 2011

  This series of posts on “Ten Things” is based on the article “Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew.”

I’ve dealt with enough public tantrums in my life to know that a trip to the grocery store with Alyssa almost always resulted in a tantrum.  But from my perspective, I just saw a meltdown because she couldn’t get her way.  I knew she didn’t process things the way the rest of us do, but still thought her response was primarily due to self-centeredness.

That is why this next point totally changed the way I interacted with Alyssa in public places:


My sensory perceptions are disordered

The article explains why a “simple” trip to the grocery store may be hell for me… dozens of people are talking at once… cash registers beep and cough, a coffee grinder is chugging. The meat cutter screeches, babies wail, carts creak, the fluorescent lighting hums… the fish at the meat counter isn’t quite fresh, the guy standing next to us hasn’t showered today, the deli is handing out sausage samples… they’re mopping up pickles on aisle 3 with ammonia… the fluorescent light is too bright; it makes the room pulsate and hurts my eyes…there’s glare from windows, too many items for me to be able to focus, so many bodies in constant motion… now I can’t even tell where my body is in space.”

Just reading about it is overwhelming!  I can’t imagine trying to process all that when your body and mind are just unable to handle it.   And to top it off, Alyssa could never say “I’m feeling overwhelmed with all the external stimulation.  Can we find a less noisy, busy place?”  (Or anything remotely similar).

I remember a trip to the store shortly after reading this article.  I was much more aware of Alyssa’s response.  When we first entered the store, she was much quieter than usual, probably trying to process all the unfamiliar sights, sounds, and people, and had some ‘tunnel vision,’ not looking around, just focusing on one thing.  After several minutes in the produce section, she started to become frustrated with something.  For the first time ever, I realized she was probably on sensory overload and expressing it the only way she knew how.

Once I realized all that she must experience on a supposedly ‘simple’ grocery run, I was better able to help her by finding times when she was in the right mood to go to the store, interact calmly with her if she started to get frustrated, help her find a quieter aisle, etc.

It didn’t always work, but even when it didn’t, I can tell you that my perspective helped me.  It was so much easier to deal with her calmly if I understood what was probably happening in her mind.  It just made sense.

Knowledge is power.  And in this case, knowing a little bit of what autistic people experience on a regular basis can help us do what we can to make their world less scary and overwhelming and hopefully more enjoyable for all involved.