Tag Archives: autism

Autism, I Am Aware


April is/was (depending on when this finally goes live) Autism Awareness Month.  meandbearSince I’m the parent of a child who has autism, I felt compelled to write a blog about Autism Awareness.  I feel a great responsibility when I write about autism, because we all have our own story.  I speak for myself and for my family, but not the autism community as a whole.  As with anything, there’s good and bad with autism and most people who know me will tell you that I don’t like talking about the bad – I choose to focus on the good.  Believe me, this has been an evolution on our journey.  For the sake of authenticity, I have to address the bad, but I’m not going to dwell on it.  And honestly, the good is so much more fun to share.

I’m aware that autism, as with most permanent medical conditions, is life changing.  So far, hearing the words “your son has autism,” is the single worst moment of my life (and there have been some bad ones).  Back when we received our diagnosis, I didn’t know where to turn, what to do or what to think.  My only reference point was Rainman.   It was a very hopeless time in my life – one I really don’t like to revisit, lucky for you!   Continue reading Autism, I Am Aware

It’s the Little Things


Dental Drama

 Autism presents all kinds of challenges.  Let me tell you, there are exploding landmines everywhere and just going to the dentist can often produce an explosion.  The twice-a-year appointments on the calendar are dreaded events,  which take lots of planning and fortitude.

Finding a dentist is no easy task.  It takes a special professional willing to take on the challenge, and believe me, they are hard to find.   A simple trip to the dentist can make anybody nervous, even those who don’t have major sensory deficits.   I remember the first time I had a cavity filled.  The huge needle full of Novocaine terrified me and the sound of the drill gave me nightmares for weeks.  Gives me chills just writing about it.  I was never going to go through that again – and I never did.  Fear is a great motivator.  Brush your teeth kiddos. Continue reading It’s the Little Things

IEP Anxiety


Anxiety is defined as:  “Distress or uneasiness of mind caused by the fear of danger or misfortune.”  Sounds about right, although a bit technical.  For me, anxiety is a rapid increase in my heartbeat, as if I’ve had a lot of espresso.  It’s a jittery, panicky feeling, which makes any type of focus impossible.  I tend to obsess over what I’m anxious about, to the point of paranoia.  Seriously.  One thing that triggers my anxiety level is when I hear, “Allie, we need to schedule an IEP meeting.”

An IEP is an Individual Education Plan for students receiving special education services.  It sounds rather innocuous, but it comes with all kinds of emotional baggage for the parents.  On its best day, it’s kind of like a State of the Union address.  The school tells you all that they’ve accomplished for your child, with goals met and mastered and a plan is drafted to raise the bar.  At its worst, momma storms out of the meeting, slamming a heavy, industrial-sized door, which reverberates so loudly, I will still hear it in my subconscious, a year later.  (It was not my finest hour.)  Continue reading IEP Anxiety

How the Latch Key Mom Came to Be

I’m the Latch Key Mom, or at least that’s what I’m now calling myself, because I had to come up with a cool name for my blog. Okay – maybe it’s not exactly cool, but it does describe me and my mommyhood. I’m fortunate to be the mother of four wonderful children. One of my babes has autism and he likes to explore. I’m the warden of my own personal Cuckoo’s Nest, so I wear my house key on a lanyard around my neck, to lock in all our craziness. And believe me, it can get crazy.

A few years ago, we lived in a typical subdivision, on a cul-de-sac, with lots of neighbors close by. As my son with autism (Bear – short for Barrett) got older, he discovered that our backyard fence was easy to scale; that our door locks were easy to manipulate; and that there was a great big world out there, which we’d sheltered him from. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have some very kind and patient neighbors. On both sides of our house, we had empty-nesters, which in addition to always having an eye on everything, also seemed to find amusement in our little explorer. Before I even knew he was gone, my phone would ring with a call announcing, “Barrett’s outside!”

Once upon a time, Bear walked right past an adult (who will remain nameless, but it wasn’t me), on our back porch, while in his pajamas, as it was past bedtime. The adult was actually on an emergency business call, and honestly never saw Bear walk past. It was getting dark and Bear walked down the back steps, scaled the fence, went up the hill and entered the house of some neighbors with whom we were still only acquaintances. Yes, he just opened the door and walked in, like Goldilocks! He looked around – and I’m speculating here, because there’s no proof to this portion of the story – probably investigated the pantry, used the facilities and looked for a computer. Not satisfied with what he found, he ventured upstairs. At this point, I do have eyewitnesses, so I’m revealing the facts. He entered the family’s master bedroom, where mom, dad and three children, dressed in their jammies, were gathered on the bed for story time! My Bear got so excited; he jumped on the bed to join them.

Back at the ranch, the adult on duty got a call…talk about mortifying! I swear to God, my husband called a real-estate agent, because a sign was most certainly going up in the yard the next morning. Those neighbors were so understanding and lucky for us (and Bear, who made many more uninvited entrances into their home), they became close family friends. Who knows? That may not have happened, if not for Bear’s breaking and entering.

He’s been caught with his hand in neighbor’s cookie jars, literally. He’s hidden out in a neighbor’s basement, to play with their dogs. He’s streaked in the cul-de-sac…more than once. He’s tip-toed in the tulips. I’m telling you, I could go on and on (and on).

Now this may make us sound a bit incompetent, but we do have four children and it’s often hard to keep a beat on all of them, all of the time. And honestly, Bear has some serious stealth. It doesn’t just happen….he plans it. That being said, we did make attempts to secure the premises – I swear. Bear couldn’t be in the backyard alone and his siblings were instructed to keep an eye on him. We also made both the front and back doors keyed locks, so the kids would have to ask us to open the door for them. The garage, still presented a problem, since the interior door did not have a key lock. We had a second refrigerator out there and shelves for pantry over-flow, so we didn’t want to put a key lock on the door for convenience sake. But we put a lock box on the buttons that opened the exterior garage doors. Well, accidents still sometimes happened. There were times when we’d forget to close the outside doors, or they were open because the other kids were playing out front, so there was still opportunity. Then we put a code lock on the interior garage door. See? We really did try.

Not all neighbors understood. One couple wasn’t very happy that Bear seemed to LOVE their backyard garden. And we did have to call 911, more than once, when he went missing, so we kind of developed a reputation. Eventually, this factored into our decision to move (not exclusively, but we did relish the chance of a fresh start for Bear).

There was a short period of transition, when we rented and were quite frankly very vulnerable on the Bear security front. There was a horrible incident when he went missing for quite a while – I lost years off my life, believe me. I still can’t really talk about. It was awful.

Then we found our dream house. We are so lucky. Lots of land and a big house, with lots of doors…uh-oh. Yeah, big problem. I won’t bore you with all the different security scenarios we came up with, but we settled on keyed locks for all the doors. Doors are locked at all times – and yes, I do occasionally have nightmares about the dangers of that. It ain’t easy.

So how’d the key end up on my neck? Well, in the beginning, I flippin’ lost my keys all the time and it sucked when someone was at the front door and I couldn’t answer it. It would be so embarrassing when a delivery man or a neighbor would ring the doorbell and I could see them and they could see me, but I couldn’t find my key to open the door. Then they would watch me panic, running around like a chicken without its head, looking for a key, all the while pleading with them to “hold on.” Or, I’d be in hurry to go somewhere and couldn’t kind the key. Then there was the time a friend dropped me off and left, and I didn’t have my key. Blah,blah,blah. So now I wear the key around my neck all the time. It’s convenient and so unfashionable!

People always ask me why I have a key around my neck – so there you have it. If someone has a short answer I can give, for the next time I’m asked, I’d love to hear it. Snarky or cute will work!