Love works every. time.

alex and me

Wanna know the power you have in the universe?

Wondering if a village can move a mountain?

Unsure about whether every prayer and intention is truly heard and answered?

Read on and wonder no more:
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ALEX IS STAYING AT HIS CURRENT RESIDENTIAL PLACEMENT!!
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We did it! 
All the love and support, prayers and good vibes you all have poured into the world over the last few months have worked.
Mountains have moved, obstacles have vanished. 
The decision-makers and clincians involved have been inspired to find better, more creative solutions than moving Alex, because keeping him near his family is simply the right thing to do.
I am so grateful to you and to everyone at Alex’s placement.  
Thank you, thank you, thank you for believing in my boy and giving him the chance to create his success story in the environment that can make it happen!
WOOHOO!
God is GOOD!!!

 

Why I Love Being an Openly Gay Autism Parent

When I was asked to contribute a piece to Lesbian Family on what it’s like to parent a child on the autism spectrum as an out lesbian, I was so honored I actually giggled.  To be able to be in a place in my life where I can be open and out and tell the truth about my family, and to share all that with such a supportive community…. well, that just makes me wanna sing!

… Which I won’t do here, but if you were standing in my kitchen, you’d get an earful of show tunes from the woman my future sister-in-law calls “the happiest gay person ever!” …

four of us 2

For me, parenting a child on the autism spectrum feels not so different from my coming out experiences.  The lessons I learned on each side seemed to be all about truth-telling and living life authentically.  The more aware I became as an autism parent, the more I began to live in that space of being ready for anything, open to life, comfortable in my own skin.  Not because I initially wanted to learn about myself or change necessarily, but because I had to.  My son challenged me to connect with him exactly where he was and use whatever resources I had to stay in the moment and accept whatever came next.  It was the only way to parent him.  I had to tap into my intuition and my heart, and throw away all the “what to expect when you’re parenting” books.

The more time I spent living in that open space, the more I wanted all the parts of myself to align, for everything to feel right in every aspect of my life.  I had to find my own “truth” and go from there.

Coming out as a lesbian later-in-life was so easy because I’d already had my preconceived notions about the way my life “should” or “would” be shattered during the early years of being a special needs parent.  I no longer needed to try to create an image of love based on what society-at-large had to say about it, I could recognize love where it existed naturally.  I didn’t need to do anything– relationships, work, parenting, art– the way anyone else thought it should be done.  Nothing anyone else touted was necessarily “truth” for me and once again I had to find my own and live as honestly as I could.

autism home rescue 1121201201

My son, like many kids on the spectrum, cannot really lie.  And now thanks in large part to him, neither can I.  So in the spirit of celebrating our truth and our families and our relationships, I present to you the…

TOP TEN REASONS I LOVE BEING AN OPENLY GAY AUTISM PARENT

10.  Acceptance where it counts, baby!  I didn’t have to come out to my autistic son.  He understands what it means to love someone exactly as they are.

9.  Hearing my 7 year old daughter tell everyone at our polling place:

“I’m voting for Obama because my brother who has autism watches Elmo.  And also because I want my Mom to be able to marry the woman she loves!”

8.  RAINBOWS— one of nature’s greatest light displays!  Eternally captivating, shiny and colorful.  An awesome sensory experience.  And they always seem to come *after* the much-too-loud thunder-booms.

7.  I can relate to all the coolest autism professionals.  Of course I’m not saying all the cool therapists and teachers and autism staff are gay, but you gotta admit that in order to be effective in working with kids on the autism spectrum, you have to have a pretty open heart, a flexible mind and an awesome, inclusive, curious attitude.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Which brings me to the next reason….

6. An ever-expanding network of creative connections!  The bigger the village, the stronger the community, the more sanity for autism parents, the brighter the future for our kids.  And once again I’m back to big beautiful gay rainbows all around!

(… here come the show tunes dancing through my head in a huge street-scene coordinated dance number …)

5.  Plenty of practice forging my own path.  How did I come to be marrying the woman of my dreams?  The same way I came to accept myself as the parent of my utterly unique children– through a lot of hard work.  Even though it didn’t feel comfortable at first, everything in my life was by my choice.  It was tough to be at the beginning, and the journey is constant, but I love, love, love the place I’ve come to now.

4.  Twice the MOM love!  Last year my son officially changed my name from “Mom” to “Mom-Aubrey.”  That said it all.  Plus, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.  We’re expanding the family unit.  Not just Mom, not just Dad.  “Lesbian Dad” and “Second Mom” and “Mama Cat” too.  Kids need more, not less– more love, more hugs, more positive experiences.  So do autism parents.  (Refer to the village comment in reason #6.)

3.  The chance to SHOW my children– especially my autistic son who is a visual-experiential learner– that true love comes to those who believe in love and follow their hearts.  The chance to be a living example for them of what partnership, respect, acceptance and cooperation really are.

2.  Inner Peace!  You’ve heard the expression “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” at special needs conferences and IEP meetings, right?  Well honey, let me tell you– this Mama is happy.  In every way.  In ways I couldn’t even have imagined ten years ago.  And much to my surprise, the happiness just keeps on expanding to everyone in the family.  Can you say “trickle down effect?”

And the number one reason I love being an openly gay autism parent…

1.  Because I’m convinced I was put on this earth to do something.  Many days I’m still confused about how exactly to do whatever it is I’m supposed to do…

But when I look at the back of my car with the “Coexist” sticker, the Autism ribbon, the Rainbow peace sign and the Human Rights Campaign logo, I have to smile and breathe a little easier because it all just goes together and somehow I know I must be on the right track.

Guest posting on being an openly gay autism mom….

To celebrate my birthday today, I’m guest posting at Lesbian Family

So please hop on over there to read the …

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being an Openly Gay Autism Parent.” 

I’m so proud of this piece and completely honored to be able to openly share my life with you, my wonderful community of readers!  My family is blessed beyond belief because we have a worldwide village of relatives, friends, helpers, teachers, angels, encouragers and problem-solvers.  We are all very grateful for that.

So what are you waiting for?  Go read my post— go now!

xoxo

Cathy K.

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When I was asked to contribute a piece on what it’s like to parent a child on the autism spectrum as an out lesbian, I was so honored I actually giggled.  To be able to be in a place in my life where I can be open and out and tell the truth about my family, and to share all that with such a supportive community…. well, that just makes me wanna sing!

… Which I won’t do here, but if you were standing in my kitchen, you’d get an earful of show tunes from the woman my future sister-in-law calls “the happiest gay person ever!” …

For me, parenting a child on the autism spectrum feels not so different from my coming out experiences.  The lessons I learned on each side seemed to be all about truth-telling and living life authentically. …

Read more of this post

I Want Underwater Horseback Riding Lessons– NOT!

autism home rescue 10091202When did advocacy in special education become such a battle?  Where exactly did we lose the forest for the trees and start fighting each other over what all of our children (whether they are “special” or “typical”) really need?  Today I read a beautiful comment by a friend and special needs advocate in response to an article in Philadelphia Magazine titled:  “Where All the Children Are Above Average.”  The article, which touched on special education challenges many families and school districts face, totally missed the mark when it came to accurately portraying special needs parents.  And my friend Rachel told them so.

Usually I stay away from hot topics– as you, my faithful tribe of readers, well know.  I avoid them because I’m not about dissecting the points of view or fighting the political battles.  Sure, I have my opinions.  I argue with the skill of a seasoned attorney when the situation calls for it.  And I’ve been known to hire seasoned attorneys to do the arguing for me when the battle becomes too emotional or energy-draining for me to handle on my own.  But the Philly Mag article invoked a different feeling for me. Although I’m not always particularly happy with the current state of our own family’s special needs battles, today I’m not drained, I’m not angry.  I don’t feel entitled to any more than anyone else may be– and indeed I never have felt that way.  Today I’m simply curious.

How exactly did we get to the point where some parent advocates get private horseback riding lessons for their autistic children, while other parents get lost in the system and get nothing?  And more importantly, what can be done to bridge the gaps and bring us forward (not back) to a win-win-win solution so that all kids get what’s fair and appropriate to give them a good shot at a healthy, happy life as contributing members of a peaceful society working toward common goals for the good of everyone?

(Please note:  Not knocking equine therapy here, I think it’s a great tool and helpful for many kids– just trying to illustrate how far apart two families with supposedly equal access to resources can sometimes end up.)

Seriously, people.  It’s not about my motherly wish to give my precious child everything up-to-the-moon and back.  I don’t want the latest and greatest “cure” for autism.  I don’t want whatever is next in line touted as the new “miracle” therapy (underwater horseback riding?  seahorse therapy? … there’s a thought…)  What I do want is a chance for both of my children to get the basics and what’s fair and appropriate under the current systems we have.  And I want to keep dialoguing and opening up communication between parents and experts and teachers and society-at-large in the hopes that new ideas will spark and we will all become a bit more solution-focused and creative for the sake of our children who will shape the future.

autism home rescue 10091203I advocate because I did not make my children who they are.  They were given to me.  The universe blessed me with two amazing individual people who will grow up to have completely different lives, choices, opportunities and experiences.  Alex (with autism) will have obstacles that Hannah (who is typical) will not have.  And vice versa.  As another of my inspiring mom friends said once:

“The real challenge is to raise the children we’ve been given.  Not the kids we expected to have.  Not the kids we wanted.  Not the kids we were, or our parents were, or society expects them to be.  But the actual children who are here.”

I am as encouraged and enthusiastic when Hannah’s teacher says:

“She is struggling with xyz subject right now.”

as I am when her teacher says:

“Hannah excels at this-or-that.”

because through that feedback I learn another characteristic of the ever-growing entity with limitless potential that is my daughter.  Whether or not Hannah has mastered a particular skill or is behind or ahead of her peers academically doesn’t matter to me as much as making sure she knows I believe in her, she has all she needs inside her, and no matter what challenges she may face in her life, there will be some way she will get through them.

Should I care if Hannah gets into the best college one day, or goes on to become a successful fill-in-the-blank– entrepreneur? doctor? teacher? advocate?  Probably.  But I don’t.  It’s just not as important as making sure she believes in herself and keeps trying.  I advocate for her in school because I want her to have the same opportunities her peers have to learn and grow.  With each chance Hannah has to learn a skill, with each discovery her teachers (and her parents) make about her inner workings, how she learns and what motivates her, she moves one step further towards making the world a better place because she will be able to combine her faith, her passion and her persistence to contribute something positive.

I advocate for Alex in the same way.  Just because he communicates differently from his sister does not make him less intelligent or less able.  With each experience he has, with each piece of his puzzle I learn, he too moves forward to fulfilling his ultimate potential in the world.  (Please see the movie “Wretches & Jabberers” okay?)

autism home rescue 10091201I remember a day long ago when I “woke up” to the fact that the world will view my two children– who have the same biology, the same environment and the same family structure– very differently.  All of us were at the playground.  Alex was silently going through a “circuit” he had created, a ritual way of playing which involved climbing up one slide, going down another, running to the steps, across the bridge and down again.  He was absorbed in his repetitive cycle and happily moving through it.

Hannah was tiny and unusually verbose, chattering away using words far beyond typical two-year old capacity, talking to another child near the climbing wall.  The other child’s mother approached me and smiled at their interactions.  Then she said:

“Oh my gosh, your daughter is so intelligent.  Listen to her talk!  You must be so proud.”

I actually didn’t respond at first.  I felt a bit confused by her comment, then curious and defensive as her compliment sunk in.  She didn’t know either of my kids.  But her assumptions were based on what she could see and hear– my daughter’s ability to express herself with spoken words.  The realization struck me profoundly that in order to help both of my children live healthy balanced lives, I was going to have to advocate for each of them in different ways.

Because it wasn’t about teaching the rest of the world that Alex can understand and think the words, or that Hannah had the ability to create complex patterns and remember them as her brother could.  It was about making sure their inside potential didn’t get lost or run over or negated before they were big enough and brave enough and well-equipped enough to shout it to the world themselves.

Alex close upParent advocates are generally not selfish or entitled or asking for or expecting too much.  They don’t talk about their kids or make requests or push for resources because they are anxious or greedy.  They simply are doing their best to raise the kids who were given to them.

That’s important to all of us.  Because doing our best in good faith allows us to build better communities together.  As my advocate friend Rachel wrote in her letter to the editor of Philadelphia Magazine:

“Usually what is good for the individual child is also good for the group.”

Parents of children with special needs advocate because we have no other choice.  These are the tasks we’ve been given, the children with whose care we are entrusted.  None of the parents I know would change their children, but all would remove the obstacles their children face in order to give them the opportunity for a healthy, productive life.

Aren’t health, productivity and contentment key ingredients for a functional, peaceful society?  When will the day come when we don’t have to fight against each other or the institutions, but we can all work together to create the win-win-win for all of our children?

I will speak up for my children until they are big enough and brave enough and well-equipped enough to advocate for their own opportunities in the world.  Because one puzzle piece at a time, one chance at a time… one kid at a time who creates a new way to help, who finds a solution yet undiscovered, who inspires a positive change…  that is the only way the world is going to get better for everyone.

bigger, better, even more wonderful!

abundance of purple flowers

I am bursting with gratitude today and I have some exciting news to share!  Autism Home Rescue is expanding and we’ve connected with some awesomely inspiring writers who’ll be sharing their thoughts and insights right here on this very page.  Pretty nifty, eh?

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Stay tuned for our first-ever guest post on Tuesday 

by Caroline McGraw from A Wish Come Clear

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One of the greatest joys I’ve experienced since beginning this blog is the opportunity to connect and dialogue with other parents, professionals, caregivers and new friends.  This online community has not only given me hope when I’ve most needed it, but your stories, insights, support, humor and encouragement have sent good karma ripples out into the world and have helped countless other families like mine.  And as always, I am oh-so-grateful to you!

Caroline McGraw has a unique perspective on special needs and autism, and a gift for bringing the truth to light in her work.  Please stop back next week to read her very special post.

All best wishes for a peaceful weekend!

manifesting

… a fish in a tree…

 goldfish tree reflection

Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

~ Albert Einstein

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About a week ago I saw this quote for the first time.  It struck me in such a profound way that an entire expanded blog post has been wandering around in my head since then, unpacking & rearranging & dissecting & analyzing & marveling at these words.

fish_in_a_tree_by_itsmebrownmindpopper-d2ztpxtA fish.  With a tree.  Climbing, not climbing.  Pondering the situation.  Wondering maybe why the heck someone would expect it to climb?  Maybe a slightly annoyed fish waiting for someone to recognize its fins are for swimming.  Like, duh!  … Or maybe a fish not really caring about trees, just being a fish and being content.  Not caring if someone else judged its ability at all, as long as it got the water it needed to live.  You know what I mean?

Or are you staring at the computer screen with your mouth hanging open, thinking maybe I’ve completely lost my mind?  Well, that would be okay too.  It’s all good, really it is.  See, it comes right back to the beauty of that quote in the first place:

We judge because our minds are constantly trying to make sense of our world.  Einstein’s quote is perfect to me because it clearly illustrates how ridiculous and imperfect our judgements of others really are, and then gives a gentle reminder of our silliness and sends us back out into the world to look at others through a new lens.

456088-sandy_cheeks_squirrel_largeDid I think that fish could climb a tree?  Did I expect it?  Was it fair?  Or should I set up a nice little oval aquarium and invite it to show me how it can swim better than a squirrel?

Can you see it?

I smile as I write this because I can see it, and I can feel it.  And just being able to do that brings a whole universe closer to me somehow.  I believe there’s a higher power who created the world, and I believe that everyone is special and important, every living thing has its place, things happen for a reason, and that we have lessons to learn in life.  Seeing that fish, imagining that tree, makes me realize the immensity of ALL of this.  I’m only one part, and me with my own judgements and ways of seeing the world…. well, maybe I have a lot more to learn, too.

Are you with me?  So to take this quote one step further into my life…

fish-and-monkey-jarsMy son is a fish.  He can swim like nobody’s business.  He loves the trees– all the typical stuff– but he’s not good at a lot of it.  For years I thought I’d find the “cure” that would change his fins to feet, would make him be able to survive without water, so that he could live in the trees with his little sister (whom I’ve always affectionately referred to as my “monkey”) and be happy.  Then I realized the key to everything, the key to really being a good mother (in my humble opinion) was to recognize his fishy-ness, to get him what he innately needs for the way he was created to live.  So that’s what I’ve tried to do.

But about a week ago, Albert Einstein reminded me that I missed another important part:

If in my world of trees, I had missed an obvious point entirely about the abilities of my little fish and about my own judgements of others, then what else could I learn from a fish?  What else was I missing about what fish *can* do?

flying-fish

As often happens in my life, an answer to these silent questions swirling around in my curious brain came to me in a truly beautiful and touching way.  Alex’s former ABA teacher Steph (of “Tigger Takes a Swim“) emailed me out of the blue yesterday:

“I’ve been thinking about Alex a lot lately… I just started doing consulting work and I’ve been going back over my years of doing therapy [with kids] and I keep coming back to him. … I don’t think [that’s] because of what and how we taught him during his [early intervention] days, but more about what he taught us and reminded us. …

“Alex taught me that answers aren’t always in books.  He taught me that patience and love get you a lot further than sitting at a table and doing things by the rules.  He taught me that sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious and search for the deeper meaning…  And even after searching if you still can’t find something, then just act goofy and laugh because laughter makes everything okay, at least for a bit.

I owe you a much needed thank you for allowing me to be a part of his life and learn from him.  I honestly believe it has taught me to be the best I can be in my job and that when A and B don’t add up, then maybe they aren’t supposed to so just move along!  I hope beyond hope that he is doing well in his new environment and learns all he can and continues to teach and inspire those around him.” 

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It seems my beautiful boy fish is already doing much more than I had expected — he is making impressions, teaching lessons, causing people to pause & reflect & remember.  And because of him, lives of other little fish have been and will continue to be changed for the better.

Thanks, Steph, for showing me the deeper meaning of my new favorite quote.  And thanks Alex, as always, for swimming to your own beat.

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… my thousand words for today …

… because that’s what this picture is worth:

alex on playground

This is Alex looking out over his new playground, content with his current circumstances, asserting his independence, looking more confident and comfortable.  This picture is my autism inspiration piece for today.  Although Alex still asks to come home, the residential staff and teachers report he enjoys living with his new friends.  I am grateful for that.

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