Tag Archives: teenagers

Exempt!

Junior year has been one of conquests and challenges. Lan conquered the trials of marching band. He not only survived but thrives in the experience.

Yet, challenges loom as well. Lan is in harder classes this year. Thankfully, his teachers wants him to succeed as much as we do.

The most daunting challenge was getting Lan’s class schedule “fixed.”  

Last year, I proactively met with Lan’s counselor to ensure that his classes were appropriate. The counselor suggested anatomy instead of chemistry. Lan has already taken the mandatory sciences required to graduate. We thought it was a great plan.

Well, about three weeks ago we learned Lan was in the “wrong” anatomy class!

When he came home saying he needed scrubs for lab, I knew something was not right. Apparently someone enrolled him into the class for kids pursuing a degree in healthcare.

Panicked, we contacted the school and they changed his class. I figured we would muddle through catching up on the five weeks he missed.

I was not looking forward to it.

Another week later my husband meets with the “new” anatomy teacher. We learn his class is identical to the one Lan just left! The new teacher changed the scope of his class to mirror the other class.

Out of the furnace into the fire.

Eventually, we get Landon placed in an Environmental Science class. I ask him about his teacher. The only answer I get is “She’s cool.”

Visions of late nights, unending homework and struggling to catch up haunt me. I ask if his teacher gave him any work to start on so we can catch up.

He looks at me with a pained face and utters, “She exempted me.”

I nearly shout for joy.

He is responsible for learning the material but she isn’t going to make him to complete past assignments.

Webster’s defines exempt as “being free or released from some liability or requirement.”

Grace and mercy came to mind.

Grace kept me sane as we went back and forth with the school.

Grace kept Lan’s biggest advocate at the school long enough to get this rectified. She informed us yesterday she’s leaving for a promotion.

Grace is what the ES teacher gave my child when others couldn’t be bothered.

Exempt God autism and me 9-2015Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 NKJV

I admit that there have been times I didn’t go boldly to the throne.

I may have been drug there.

Hopefully, I’m wiser now.

I never doubted God would resolve our “dilemma,” I just wasn’t expecting a painless resolution.

Merciful.

Our scheduling fiasco was a timely lesson not to anticipate the worst, but to instead acknowledge and receive God’s grace in all situations.

I must also remember to give grace as eagerly as I receive it.

Schools in!

May the Lord make me eager to learn.

Advertisements

Empty Nest!?

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to visit a college campus with my oldest son who is a rising senior. Lan, who will be a junior when school resumes in August also tagged along. To my surprise he didn’t get bored, asked pertinent questions and even dared to answer a few.

Lan is finally doing well enough with his classes that the idea of college is increasingly a part of his conversations as well.  Would I have imagined this even just a few years ago?

Not hardly.

However these past few years have taught me anything is indeed possible.

It was just two years ago, I practically swore Lan would never go away to summer camp. I didn’t trust him not to get distracted and wander someplace he shouldn’t. I also didn’t trust anyone else to keep tabs on him the way I would. We were dropping his brother off at a college campus and Lan asked when was he going to go away for a week.

“Not going to happen,” was the only response that popped to my mind though I was wise enough to keep that to myself.

Fast forward one year later and I was happily driving Landon to Clemson University for a week of summer camp.

Lesson learned. Never say never.

As I’m searching out options from my oldest child, my youngest is quite vocal about his own college plans. Lan is increasingly asking me and the hubby what he needs to do to prove he is mature enough for college. Thus far, he is doing a great job making his case.

My husband and I have always ironed Lan’s clothes for him, initially out of fear he would burn himself or ruin a fair number of the graphic tee shirts he loves. Only recently did I realize we’ve been doing it out of habit.

Lan finally asked when he would be allowed to do that for himself.

Shortly thereafter, Lan also asked me why he needs supervision using our gas stove. In truth, he is probably the only person in the house who has not left it on!  Another point for him.

Lan can manage the grill on the deck better than I can.

He hasn’t lost the cell phone he received for his birthday as we once feared he would years ago. In fact, he has used it responsively and appropriately. It certainly took him little time to begin texting us a grocery list of things to bring home from the store!

I’m realizing more and more my six foot tall “baby” isn’t so interested in being my “baby” but in trying to find his way in the world.

I once thought there was no way this kid could manage without me even though I prayed for just the opposite.

God has been faithful in so many things. I never doubted God was able. In watching and waiting for God to make Lan “ready” I’m beginning to realize the only person needing to get “ready” was me!  empty nest God autism and me devotional

I’ve got to move out of “protect” mode and into “prepare” mode.

Protecting Lan is something we have always done because we had to. It is an engrained habit. Some changes I couldn’t see because I was not looking for them. Every now and again it’s good to reexamine and reevaluate where our loved ones are and where they need us to be.

I need to mentally progress as Lan has, shifting from “once was” to the “here and now.” The final eye opener was when our oldest son recently chimed in and said “Mom, he’ll be just fine. Just let him be.”

“Let him be.”

Only time will tell the path Lan eventually takes. He is quite insistent in pursuing a career in graphic design. Lan may or may not follow a traditional path or leave for a distant college. Yet, I have faith that whatever the future holds, it will be the best possible path for him.

I’m not preparing for only one child to leave the nest, but possibly two.

How ‘bout that?

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 NKJV

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27 NKJV

 

Looking in From the Outside…

When Lan was younger, I often worried about him. Not merely about his development, but also his loneliness.

He and his brother shared common friends in elementary school. But as their friends grew older, their interests drifted toward those things middle school kids do. However, Lan’s interests remained with Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers or whatever he deemed cool at the time.

Lan’s longtime friends looked out for him in school for sure, but they didn’t “hang” with him.  Very few called to ask if he could come over or go places with them. This became more apparent as his older brother accepted invitations from kids while Lan remained at home.

I think we can all relate to being an “outsider.”

Maybe you’ve been the new guy on the job or moved cross country without knowing a soul. There may be times you don’t get the joke. Yet, most of us can eventually move from the outside in.

Being an outsider can hurt. It often lasts longer than expected. When Lan was first diagnosed with that vague “pervasive developmental disorder” I certainly felt alone.

Who could understand my wants and fears while watching other kids move along carefree?

God understood.

His child was viewed as an “outsider.” Jesus didn’t talk like everyone else. He saw things differently. He broke the rules. Even as part of a larger plan, I can’t believe any parent is “okay” watching their child suffer or hurt.

Not even God.

I don’t doubt God was with us even when it didn’t feel like it. I’ve learned feelings can be deceptive. I don’t allow them to smother my faith!

Yes, Lan and I were a bit melancholy that first year of high school. I was standing in faith that God would bless him with one “good friend” his freshman year. Despite my prayers, that didn’t happen.

I now realize that first year “alone” was a blessing in disguise. Or, more accurately, a lesson in disguise.

I initially feared Lan would be taken advantage of in high school. I didn’t want him blindly following others just to be included. Instead, that first year taught Lan he could live on the “outside” and still be okay.

I also learned that lesson.

My normal doesn’t have to mirror everyone else. We can deal with autism. Our lives may be a bit different from the “norm” but then again what is normal?

God was with us.

We were never really alone. We didn’t break under the pain. Crack?

Maybe.

However, we are still in one piece and Lan is lonely no more!

Lan spent yesterday at an arcade with his best friend. They met this school year in a visual arts class. They both have their quirks. They “get” each other. They have a shared love for “Hero Up!” and its superheroes. There is no need to “conform” when they are together.  DSC_2934 (3)

God is good like that. His timing is perfect.

So whatever you are going through, remember you don’t have to go it alone. God is the Father we can run to! Better yet, God carries us until we find the strength to walk again.

It is often the loneliest times that make us stronger.

And should you see someone peering in toward you, show a little love! Act on that urge to take the new guy out to lunch. Stop and say hello to the new neighbor. You don’t have to move out of your comfort zone.

Sometimes, all God really wants is for us to let someone into ours.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” Proverbs 18:24 NKJV

 

Growth Spurt!

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I had to pull the boy hiding behind me into the grocery store. Lan would hide behind my legs and didn’t dare look forward or at the people inside.

Yet, Friday night at the last home game of the season, this same boy now tall and lanky talked with the other teenagers, danced on the side lines and mingled quite energetically with the marching band.

My baby boy isn’t quite so little any more.

It isn’t just his size I’m referring to as he teeters just a bit shy of six feet tall.  His confidence has grown immensely. He’s looking for people he knows in any crowd so he can wave or speak to them. He mingles enthusiastically at the football game not at all deterred by the people. Instead of hiding behind me he is more likely walking away as quickly as possible to keep me from cramping his style.

The small trembling kid once so easily startled, shy and afraid stands tall, asks questions and wants to have is voice heard.

Lan seeks the independence his brother enjoys and is finding a confidence all his own.

He challenged one of his classmates in band and is now third chair with his eye on the second. The young boy who once hated school now actually cares about his grades and takes pride in doing well.

I’m not quite sure what happened and when but my baby boy has grown.  DSC_6826 (3)

And he’s not the only one.

I’ve grown more trusting in God’s ability to handle whatever hiccups come our way. I’ve grown more confident in Lan’s abilities as he takes it upon himself to initiate more of his school work without prompting from me or my husband.

I’ve grown out of the need to have my hand on everything. I can trust others to get the job done and if it isn’t the way I would have done it that’s fine too.

I’ve become less anxious as I’ve seen that the worst case scenario rarely happens.

I’ve grown more thankful as God continues to answer prayers for good breaks, good friends and faithfully provides opportunities I could never have come up with on my own.

Sometimes the most growth occurs when it appears that nothing is happening at all.

A lot of times we pray for things and think that nothing is changing. Everything looks the same. We wait for the answers we have hoped and prayed for to manifest. Sometimes we wait so long it feels like God has forgotten us.

But God is faithful.

I have found the answers I’ve sought in unexpected people, places and things. God has allowed me to grow in my expectations of Him. I can now recognize the unconventional ways in which God has answered some of my prayers.

Lan has grown taller, stronger and more confident. I like to think something has “clicked” as he tackles more challenges with determination instead of fear.

I’ve grown mentally tougher and spiritually stronger as our walk along the spectrum has forced us to enlarge our vision and look for what “can be” instead of settling for “what is.”

We’ve still got a ways to grow both him and me, but thankfully, we are never alone in our journey.

God’s got us.

And for that, I am very, very grateful.

“But grow in grace, and [in] the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him [be] glory both now and for ever. Amen” 2 Peter 3:18 KJV

Good Breaks!

While most of the nation has barely been in school a month, my kids are on their “fall break.” They have nine days of mostly school free time. Families that haven’t headed down south to Florida or up to the mountains are accommodating kids who just want to “hang out.”

This was easier years ago when my kids were much younger. Both boys had the same crew of friends and things were far less complicated.

But as they grew older the boys paths and friends diverged. Cam’s friends were kind enough to tolerate his little brother but for the most part Lan’s interests no longer coincide with theirs. His childhood friends are now interested in those things average teenagers do…Facebook, texting, socializing with other teens.

A while ago, I can’t even remember when, I prayed that Lan would find a friend who actually “got him.” His brother has a tight posse of boys he talks to and hangs with. A circle of friends he can relax with and just be himself.

Lan hasn’t had that for years. Until now.

A couple of months ago a kid from Lan’s graphic arts class walked into the grocery store as we walked out. This kid just came up to Lan and they just start talking very enthusiastically. They went back and forth very engaged in their conversation.

I’m thinking to myself “who is this!?”

His mom seemed as surprised as I was. Apparently, the young man mentioned Lan to his mom before and she suggested they get together some time.

Well today was the day.

This young man came over and the two of them scarfed down pizza, chips and soda. They played video games for hours. With each other.

Just like “regular” kids.

But this time Lan was free to just be himself.

There was no pressure to conform. He wasn’t self-conscious about saying the wrong thing or what someone else would think. He just chilled out with a friend who accepts him as he is.

Lan’s friend has a few “quirks” of his own. In fact, they share some of the same “quirks.” They had a blast!

There have been years of school breaks that have come and gone without Lan having a friend exclusively his own. His brother would go off to hang out with his BFFs and Lan no longer complained to tag along.

But I always knew Lan longed for a friend of his own. Someone who didn’t tolerate him but could celebrate him!

Sometimes I pray to God for so many things I forget the prayer until the answer is staring me in the face. Literally.

And boy did God deliver!

This young man lives five minutes from our house. He is well-mannered. His mom and I hit it off. We are both on the same parenting page.

Sometimes we are so fixed on meeting IEP goals, surviving “common core” and juggling all the other aspects of life, it’s nice to  every once in a while catch a good break!

It wasn’t anything I orchestrated. God just delivered!

This time when Lan’s teachers ask about his Fall break, he will readily say he had a good one!

And I will too.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Matthew 7:7 NKJV

 

Who’s Your Favorite Ninja Turtle?

Many kids on the spectrum have a fascination, obsession or favorite something from time to time. I’ve seen my child gravitate to Legos, Marvel super heroes, Power Rangers and some other things I’m sure I’ve forgotten! Yet, one that has never faded is his fascination with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

I’ve probably purchased over a hundred turtles in the last ten plus years. I would have never imagined they could come in so many variations!

We have movie videos, television shows, toys, you name it. You’d think I’d be sick of them by now.

But I’m not.

These turtles were one of the very first things Lan cared to actually talk about. In those early days I was hungry and desperate for any words he would offer. If they were about green turtles, so be it!

As the years went by and Lan ventured to talk to strangers, he would ask them about their favorite turtle. I never thought he would get much of a response from most people.

I was wrong.

I’d forgotten there were now adults in their twenties and thirties who grew up with the turtles. They have recollections of going to see those first TMNT movies. A few even have their original toys stashed in an attic or basement.

From teachers and karate instructors to family and friends, people would answer Lan’s questions about their favorite turtle and then ask him about his.

And he would answer.

Energetically, with more than two-word sentences!

It’s amazing how God can take something so simple really, and do the miraculous with it. At that point I’m sure there were several people who doubted Lan would ever hold a regular conversation.

But God!

God can take what we have and in His hands, change it into something so much more. Something seemingly trivial in the grand scheme of things can become a gateway to answered prayer.

I really hadn’t given it much thought before.  Mutant ninja turtles certainly were not my intended topic for this post, but for all they’ve done to help pull my man out of his shell

I’ll be ever grateful.

We’ll check out the latest movie this weekend. And if you were wondering, Lan’s favorite ninja turtle is not Raphael. I thought since we shared a name it would be his favorite when he was younger.

But he chose Donatello. Go figure?!

Who’s your favorite turtle?

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise,” 1 Corinthians 1:27

 

Sophomore Year!

Unlike most of the country, my kids have already completed their first week of school!

Last Monday, Lan began his second year of high school. It was fortunately without incident. No wrong bus transfers, rescheduled classes, and no dread of “starting over” in strange and less than friendly surroundings.

This year Lan knows more people. His teachers are “on board” with our IEP and we are both much more comfortable, without the harried nerves surrounding last year.

His first homework assignment was a letter to his literature teacher introducing himself. The letter gave information about his interests and goals for this year. I was pleased to see that he thinks his family is “nice and protects him from mean people.”

If you ever doubt your children understand what you do for them or how you feel for their plight…don’t!

I was almost overwhelmed to see the words on the page. Detailed thoughts, expressed and understood, another “accomplishment” to be grateful for.

The paragraph about his goals was inspiring as well. Lan wants to boost his g.p.a.  which I am very glad to hear in addition to improving his trombone performance. He ultimately wants to gain the “first chair” position in his band class. Lan has embraced the idea (with a little prodding, of course) of being a “leader” as one of the few sophomores in his class.

I noticed how his goals have evolved and matured. It makes me think that mine should as well.

Sometimes we get so set in one mindset that we fail to progress and stretch our thinking. Old ideas are often just that. Old. Stale. “Stuck” in the past.

Our familiar ideas and concepts sometimes fail to hold up in the here and now we are currently immersed in.  I’ve found we can let the blessings we have prayed for go unrecognized because we are too stressed and uptight to see them. Our minds are often stalled in “then” even as God is directing us to the “when.”

I am surely guilty of this on more than one occasion. Sometimes we all get stressed to the point that we don’ remember how to relax.

Thankfully, Lan doesn’t have this problem. He is relaxing in the confidence that comes from a year of high school under his belt and he is looking forward not stuck in yesterday.

Lan is both excited and optimistic about his future. His enthusiasm reminds me that I should be as well.

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, [and] rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19 KJV