Archive for April, 2007

The Last Day

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

My church is finished. Today we read the will. We had decided to merge with a church that was strong and could help us. Today we held the last worship service. The plan is to remodel the building while it is closed. In August, there will be a contingent who will come to the old building and start over from scratch as a plant church.

I did say we read the will. For those of you who are not familiar with Restoration Movement Churches (Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ and some others) and their history, let me give you a little background. An important document in the movement’s history is The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery. One of our members used that document as a basis for the Last Will and Testament of Pitman Creek Church of Christ. We read it and said Amen. It is done.

Now I am a member of the oldest church in Dallas, the Highland Oaks Church of Christ. I have attended there a few times. They have a special ministry for special needs children which provides care for Tiger. I hope to move into this ministry as soon as we are all wired in.

I’m getting acquainted with the man that has grown that ministry from nothing into what it is today. I like and admire him. He is more experienced than me and I hope that he will use that experience to mentor me. He has worked with Special Olympics for years and I can’t let that experience go untapped. I’m very serious about helping autistic people and their families. I think that this may be the perfect place to do it.

I don’t know if I will be part of the group that comes back to Plano or not. I guess I’ll figure that one out when I have to. Whatever happens will happen and I will be a part of it.

When I was a boy, I used to climb up the windmill. My grandfather would put down his hoe and walk over. He would reach up with those big hands and gently call for me to jump. I always did. He always caught me.

Leaps of faith are not so difficult for me. Especially when I see those hands reaching out and that familiar voice calling me. God keeps catching me. I’m going to keep on jumping.

Autism, Hope and some Tough Love

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Since I decided to post a little about autism, some things have happened. I have joined the autism hub and that is a wonderful thing. I now have some new friends and they are fantastic. I also picked up some other readers that don’t like me or my attitude very much.

These folks seem to think that they are entitled to argue with me in my comment threads. They get a little hot under the collar when I won’t publish their comments. I am getting a quite familiar with their despair. Their comments are full of desperation.

At first I wanted to rip into these folks. But, I can sense that they are hurt. I have already felt a lot of what is eating them. Their troubles are real and ugly. So I asked God about how to handle this. Long ago I decided to adopt a passage of scripture as my own personal mission statement. In this passage is the phrase, “Comfort oh comfort my people.” I consider preparing a way for the Lord into people’s hearts to be my God given purpose. God typically tells me what to do before I ask. I just have to go look and see what He already told me.

I want to encourage those who have misplaced or misused their courage. I have learned though that people are not encouraged by empty platitudes. Good reasoning is the stuff of hope. Anything else is just pretending.

To the folks who are hurting because of things their children do, let me offer you some of that stuff of hope. Let us reason together.

You may face some difficult times right now. Those difficulties are overwhelming. The big trouble is: you don’t have time to be overwhelmed. You have already come to the right conclusion: life is hard and it is not fair. There is however a way to claim your hope.

When the Israelites faced the dangers of Canaan’s land, they were instructed to remember the Red Sea. Courage is found in recognizing one’s past victories. This courage is the fuel for the challenges at hand. This means we have to consider the progress we have made and the struggles we have survived to face the challenges of today.

If I ask God, “How can you love me and still let me suffer?” I have to remember that He delivered me from suffering before. I have to remember all the ways that He blesses me right now. Then and only then can I look at things from the perspective of the delivered and not the perspective of the victim.

I can not remember a time in my life that I did not know one particular hymn. That hymn contains these lyrics:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed

When you are discouraged thinking all is lost

Count your many blessings name them one by one

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done

Sure, my son Tiger has troubles. I pray unceasingly for him to speak. I pray unceasingly for him to stop hurting himself and others. Then, I thank God Almighty for the fact that he has come so far. This boy can dress himself. This boy can relieve himself without assistance. This boy can bathe himself. This boy can use his PECS book to tell me things. All of these things are mile stones to me. They may sound small but to me each of these things deserves a parade trough the Arch. These things are the stuff of hope.

That is why I can put optimism and autism into the same sentence. Many have accused me of not knowing what real trouble is. They say that ignorance is why I can say what I do. That is absurd. I know real trouble. I live with more of it than I will ever share. I face it down and overcome it every day.

And if you naysayers have the spine to try, I will go out of my way to help you do the same thing! So quit assuming you know me! Get over that jaundiced belly of yours, cowboy up and start facing down your troubles! And for crying out loud, get started so I can lean on you sometime when I need a hand!

First Vinyl

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

You may remember a meme I started a while back called Bad Vinyl. In that meme I asked folks to reveal their most embarrassing music on vinyl purchase. Well I’m at it again. This is what we do when we have nothing.

This time the meme is called First Vinyl.

Just post the album cover and a description of the first time you spent money on a good old fashioned Record.

You can tell us how old you were if you want to. Just make it worth reading. And give me a link or a trackback.

As you can see, mine was Tom Petty Hard Promises. I heard a song on the way to work that reminded me. I was 11 years old and I bought it at a record store in a mall that no longer exists. My mother picked me up after the movie I was there to see and was quite surprised to see that I had made a purchase and that it was not from the sale bin. I was always cheap, even as child.

Sad Truth

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

A few of you have asked me what I think about Alec Baldwin’s tirade voicemail.  My reaction might surprise you.

First let me say, he blew it and showed himself to be the unstable jerk that we really new he was.  But I can also empathize, sort of.

Unless you have been a non custodial parent you can’t understand the weirdness of the relationship.  It is an unnatural state of affairs.  Divorce shouldn’t happen so when it does it aint pretty.

I have been ignored by my daughter.  It aint fun.  I can’t even count how many dry run drives across Texas I have made trying to see my daughter.  It is infuriating.  Parental alienation syndrome is real.  Some parents really do brainwash their children into hating their estranged parent.

That all being said I can move on to my true reaction.  I don’t think there are any good guys in this conflict.  The child is the victim.  Everybody else is an antagonist.  Alec Baldwin snapped.  I’ll bet he snaps allot.   Basinger never should have hung this laundry out.  This should have stayed private.  I’ll bet she went public because nothing else seemed to make sense.

Bottom line: nobody wins, especially Ireland Baldwin.

Bluebonnet Time

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Yes it is bluebonnet time in Texas. My friend sent me these pictures of our state flower to help tell you about it. For a few short weeks these beauties grace many of our Texas Highways.

I have often heard that picking bluebonnets from the Texas Highways was against the law. But I can’t find that law.

If you want to take a few bluebonnets home, that is fine. But please leave plenty for the rest of us to enjoy.

Update: check this out.

Defining Autism for a Friend

Monday, April 16th, 2007

So you want to know what autism is and how you should deal with it? Friend, it all comes down to understanding.

The dictionary will define autism as a developmental disorder that is neurological in nature. It is diagnosed using specific criteria for impairments to social interaction, communication, interests, imagination and activities.

The Autism Spectrum of Disorders is fairly large. It includes Asperger’s Syndrome, Kanner’s Syndrome and Prodigious Savant condition among others.

I figure, if that is the answer you wanted, you would have looked it up already. You asked me because you want something a little more personal. So let me tell you a bit about autism from my perspective.

Autistic children can act in some peculiar ways. They may make inappropriate noises or do inappropriate things in public. It is not unusual to find an autistic child laying out in the middle of the floor with the parent trying desperately to get them to get up and move. In instances like that, the children and the parents require your patience, not your pity and not your advice. If the situation looks extreme and you wish to help, ask the parent how you can help. These things are all part of teaching these children how to behave in social situations. Neurotypical children innately know about social things that autistic children have to be taught. So understand that some embarrassing and difficult public situations are just part of growing up for these kids.

If you see someone rocking back and forth or shaking their hands or head spasmodically, this does not necessarily mean that person is having a fit or that they need help. Many autistics do things like this to deal with sensory overload. Many do things like this because they like the way it feels. Again understanding is what these people need.

If you are speaking with and autistic person, don’t be put off by a lack of eye contact or touch. I have had quite a few pleasant conversations with folks that could not look me in the eye and do not like to be touched. I love talking with these folks but I have to do it by their rules. I have come to an understanding that it easier for me to change my methods of communication that for them to change theirs. I have also come to an understanding that their social interaction with me requires effort on their part and that is worthy of my respect.

The most important thing for you to know about autistic people is this: The inability to speak does not equate to an inability to understand. Generally, autistics have normal to high intelligence. They also have feelings that they do not often show. Some of them are fantastic people and some of them are not.

Now there is also some stuff you should know about autism organizations and the media.

Autism is not and epidemic. It is sensationalized by the media. Organizations often manipulate statistics. The only reason for an increase in autism diagnoses is doctors diagnose better than they used to.

Many people like to put their child’s worst behavior on display for the media. This is seldom balanced out with the rest of their behavior.

There are some therapies and diets that are touted to do things that they don’t.

Finally, one has to go through some pretty serious scientific and statistical acrobatics to link autism with any form of mercury. This is just an attempt to build up grounds for a class action suit against those evil pharmaceutical companies.

My friend, I hope that was helpful. Thanks for caring enough to ask.

An Open Letter To Autistics and their Parents

Friday, April 13th, 2007

When I found out that my son, Tiger, was autistic I was horrified. My scope of autism was limited to my college psychology book and the movie Rain Man. I had some wonderful surprises ahead, but I did not know that at the time.

Time passed. I learned a little more. I still wanted to change him. Raising this boy was different and difficult. I reached out for some support. I thought I could find that support from other parents with the same situation at home. I quickly realized those people were hard to find. I went to some meetings with large organized groups but I didn’t quite fit in there. I tried out some parent’s group meetings but it just didn’t feel right. That feeling didn’t get any better.

As more time passed. My knowledge and my Tiger grew. I started to see a large difference in my son and the descriptions of the other children. Even though Tiger provided me with some parenting challenges, there was something vastly different in the way I described him and the other descriptions I was hearing. See, Tiger is autistic but there is nothing wrong with him. The children I was hearing about seemed to have something wrong with them.

On occasion, I will meet these children. I can’t figure it out. These children seem pretty spectacular to me but their parents just keep complaining. I don’t know what the problem is. But I’m assured that it is a problem. I’m also constantly assured that this problem needs to be cured. It is terribly confusing.

I’m no scientist. It isn’t my job to find a cure. I am a father. It is my job to help my son learn to survive in this big bad world. It is my job to equip my son to meet his destiny. It is my job to show my son how to live deliberately. It is my job to help him discover a sense of purpose.

My wife and I are not alone. We get email and read weblogs written by like minded people. I know they are there. But people who get busy living don’t normally devote themselves to getting noticed. We live quietly in the silent majority. But I am starting to have a little trouble remaining silent.

Autism is consistently a subject in the media lately. But it is usually couched in the context of victim hood. I am no victim. Neither is my son. My Tiger is fearfully and wonderfully made. I am blessed to have a son like him. So I think it is time to take Autism awareness out of the pity category. It is time to see autistics for the extraordinary people they are.

So please join me as I stand up and say that the world does not end with an autism diagnosis! I am ready to quit letting small groups of despair driven parents define autism for the general public.

Some of us know that life is too short to waste our time trying to blame a pharmaceutical company for our troubles. We are not backward because we will not subject our children or ourselves to the dangerous modern voodoo that is chelation therapy. We should not be looked down on because we may not believe in gluten free diets.

Let me be one of many to start saying, I have never thought of driving off a bridge with my child. Despair does not speak for me or my boy! People who admit to thinking that way in the presence of their child should not be considered a spokesperson for anybody! So, I am speaking for myself now!

It is way past time for optimism and autism to be parts of the same conversation!

Autistics are wonderful people who contribute great things to our society. I am blessed to be chosen by God Almighty to help one of these exceptional people find his way in the world. And, I am not alone.

There are many of us who have been way too quiet for way too long. The public discourse on autism is ours for the taking. Enthusiasm wins over pessimism every single time it is tried. Believe me, You Are Powerful. The world needs to hear from you.