Archive for the Aspergers Category

M.O.M.’s Morning Madness or How I Stay Sane~

April 24, 2013

It’s 7:30am and the kids just rode off to school on their bikes. They are dressed, fed, hair-fixed, teeth-brushed, backpacks-packed, school-ready kids. It didn’t happen without a morning filled with Mommy Madness.

I sent Max to bed last night, to get recharged and with the hope that he’d wake up and have a new perspective on his homework. It’s a technique that’s worked in the past. Today it was an utter failure. We sat for nearly 2 hours and got about 7 problems done. This is not because he is incapable of the work and it’s not because he doesn’t understand the work. It’s because he simply decided he wasn’t going to do it. Once he makes that decision, all bets are off! This is the same child that, as a 1st grader, hid MONTHS worth of homework under his bed. ~Sigh~

The best tactic I’ve found to keep my sanity when dealing with difficult children, is madness, goofiness, humor. A silly song about the situation goes a long way to break tension for all involved. I can choose to scold, berate or punish or I can Do a Dance or make up a rhyme. The number of times my kids have heard ridiculous songs can’t be counted.

Once my other children saw that Max was being difficult, it was like a Difficult Free-for-All. “My shoes are too tight”. “I don’t like this food”. “I’m freezing”. “I’m sick”. Name it, I heard it. I broke into song about peanut butter bread;

A little bread
A little spread
Gives us all a very good head

Hey, I have to make the point for the importance of breakfast, somehow!

Next it was scolding shoes that were too tight;

Bad shoes!
Bad shoes!
Why must you be bad shoes?!

I’m sitting here, knowing I need to start my work day and feeling absolutely drained from the last few hours of Doing the Dance! Perhaps a song will help motivate me;

Put on your shoes
Put on your pants
Put on your makeup and get on with The Dance!

I think Paulo Coelho said it best;

Doing the Dance of the Children~

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My Shoes are FINE!

February 7, 2013

These are Max’s old shoes. He was wearing them until 3 days ago, when I got a good, solid look at the bottoms. I drug him into the store to try on new ones while he boldly and loudly protested that his shoes were FINE.

“FINE…My SHOES ARE FINE! I like them like that. It’s not even raining so it doesn’t even matter! They are comfortable. I don’t NEED new shoes!”

We picked out the 2 pair that would be possibilities for him and chose one of the pair. But the next morning, he was back on the kick that the new ones weren’t right, the old one’s were perfect and I needed to just pleaese, PLEASE, P-L-E-A-S-E let him wear the old ones. I didn’t give in. He’s successfully worn the new pair for the last 2 days. However, if you see one of my kids wearing shoes with nothing left to them, keep in mind it’s not because I’m denying them proper footwear.

Kids!

Doing the Dance of the Children~

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Max, the Mad Genius~

November 18, 2012

This morning I listened to an exchange between Gabi and Max that kept me giggling. Either Max just learned new nuances of sarcasm or he’s been faking us all out with this whole Aspergers bit.

Gabi was on the computer and Max was DYING to have his turn. Gabi was playing a “girl” game where you decorate a doll; pick out ribbons, hair, clothes, shoes, skin color, etc. Max had been watching her time and bugging her about finishing the game and giving him his turn. This is the usual banter I hear when one kid is on the computer and another wants to use it. I reminded Max that he would get his turn when her game was over.

All of a sudden, everything changed! Max leaned over Gabi’s shoulder and started saying things like, “Oh, long hair! Yes, that’s my favorite!”. Then Gabi would change the hair to short (to spite him) and he’d say, “Or short. Yes, I like short hair too”. Then came the ribbons-Max got right into it, “Pink! Yes, yes! I love pink.” And of course Gabi would change it and he’d play right along.

Gabi started yelling for me to help her. My simple response-”Just love him”. She said she didn’t know what to do with a brother that loved ribbons. I smiled even bigger. Max was brilliant!

She quickly finished her game, handed the laptop to Max and ran from the room.

Max is a mad genius! I love it!

Doing the Dance of the Children~

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No News is Good News?

October 9, 2012

Max is now in 4th grade and for the last 3 years, I’ve grown accustomed to having regular contact with his teachers. There was lots of communication about how he was doing in class and on the playground, as well as working out strategies to help him become a more successful student. Don’t get me wrong-Max is a strong student. He just doesn’t like to do anything that he deems “extra” and he’s not so much a fan of homework. Because he is easily distracted AND because he becomes hyper focused on things, it’s a regular part of Life With Max, to constantly remind and redirect. However, it’s been VERY quiet this year. No emails letting me know of the challenges of hyper focused pencil sharpening, no notes home about how Max was in his neighbor’s space. No phone calls to discuss how to help him WANT to complete his homework.

I started to worry! I wondered what in the world could be going on in that classroom that he is so invisible. So I walked him to class the other morning to check in and make sure the teacher has my email and to talk about what must, surely, be happening that is driving her and other students mad. What did she have to say? Almost nothing. Ummm…I’m not used to this. Nothing?! There is NOTHING we need to discuss? You’re not going crazy over redirecting and giving him things to focus on so that he doesn’t overstep boundaries with the other students? Nothing? Nope! She calmly told me that she has 3 students who are fairly the same and that she comes up with ideas to keep them out of each other’s hair and that Max is a strong student and that she sees Max for who he is and that everyone is doing just fine. Well what in the world am I supposed to do with that?! Max is fine? The teacher has it covered? He’s making friends, getting A’s and B’s and everything is rolling along. I’m afraid to get used to this.

After I talked to the teacher I talked to Max. He confirmed that all is fine and said that his teacher really likes him.

Is this M.O.M. really supposed to let my guard down and let it go? No frantic checking in? No scheduling meetings with psychologists and school staff to discuss the best strategies? I’m cautiously moving forward into a realm of joy! Could it be that Max is getting older and learning some of the social skills that he was lacking? Or could it be that this teacher (who is also a mom) is super skilled at redirecting and focusing on her students’ strengths? Whatever the combination is, I’m grateful for a little break in all the head work of Max’s schooling.

I could get used to this!

Doing the Dance of the Children~

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First Day of School Jitters

August 21, 2012

It’s nearly noon and the house is quiet. I’ve been working for the last 3 hours and haven’t been interrupted once. Yep, school is back in session!

Last night we had a decent little case of kiddo meltdowns over the thought of the first-day-back-to-school. Gabi was upset about her clothing selection and was sure that school would be WAY TOO hard. Max got stubborn about starting a new school and Tristan began fixating on the fact that all of his classrooms were divisible by the #3. Lex was the only one who didn’t seem to worry about school starting. I love that kid’s attitude!

We made it through the night and I woke a little before my alarm, anxious to get everything done in time for getting out the door with ease. But then it happened…I got the First Day of School Jitters! All of a sudden, I started thinking about Max and I realized I hadn’t contacted his teacher in any manner. I realized that my genius, aspergers boy was going to a new school, with a new teacher and a whole classroom-heck, a whole SCHOOL-of new people who weren’t AT ALL aware of his particular challenges and individual gifts. How did I drop the ball on that one?! To my credit, I didn’t allow my anxiety to spill over into the morning routine or onto the children. But I am still VERY nervous about how this day is going for Max.

Though…Max is a super bright young man and he isn’t shy about sharing his identification on the Autism Spectrum, with others. I’m hopeful that if anything comes up today that he will boldly state that he has some special requirements. It’s not like the school doesn’t have all of his documentation!

I will email his teacher and set up a sit-down with her and Max’s teacher from last year contacted me to let me know that she’s happy to talk to his new teacher.

(First Day of School Smiles)

It’s all going to be fine. IT IS!

This M.O.M. is going to take a few more big breaths, grab a big glass of ice water and compose a fantabulous email to the teacher.

Here’s to Back-To-School and the hopes for a great year for all my kiddos!

Doing the Dance of the Children~

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Hey Buddy, Let’s Go Have Sushi

August 11, 2012

School’s around the corner and until this morning I wasn’t sure exactly where Max would be going. He’s been placed on a wait list for the only school in the area that has GATE classes and the school that he was in last year, isn’t his “home” school and would require a request for an inter-district transfer. His “home” school was full for his grade last year. All of this left me wondering what was going to become of Max for 4th grade. A phone call to the district office let me know that I wouldn’t really know until today, when the school offices reopened. So, first thing, I headed over there and got the word that he’s been assigned to his “home” school. This means that he’ll be on the same campus as Gabi and Lex, which is a good thing, but it also means that he’s starting another new school and I have to restart all the processes to get a 504 plan in place for him. Another year of explaining all things Max to a new teacher. I’m already tired and frustrated, just thinking about it. Not to mention how hard it is for him to have things change.

~sigh~

From a mom perspective, it’s great because I don’t have to juggle 2 elementary school schedules, but the pluses and the minuses are kind of canceling each other out.

All of this brings me to my title. Ask any of my kids how they feel when I tell them I’m taking them to sushi and you’ll hear the same thing, “what did I do?”. Somehow, sushi has become the key player in breaking bad news to my kids. Don’t get me wrong, they ALL enjoy sushi, but it’s become a symbol of trouble. And yet, if I tried to break news over any other menu, it just wouldn’t fit. I think I’ll wait a couple more days and then invite Max to the inevitable lunch. He’s not going to be happy about the change, but maybe, just maybe bad news is more palatable when your filling up on unagi…maybe?

Doing the Dance of the Children Chopsticks at the Ready~

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Proudly Watching Max GO!

January 24, 2012

Max is smart! Max is determined! Max is incredibly stubborn!

At 9 years old, Max has spent the last 4 years or so letting me know that he “doesn’t ride bikes”. Instead he would scooter like a champ, or he would run. He liked the control of the scooter and that he could easily put his foot to the ground for stability. The thing is, he had great balance and was somewhat of a daredevil. Because of this, I knew, KNEW he could ride a bike. But he was having NONE of it. I do believe he’s owned no less than 4 bikes in these last years, but they all just sat, unridden.

Then something amazing happened. Lex learned to ride a bike. Lex is 5 and came to me a few months ago and announced that it was the day he would learn to ride his bike and asked me to pump up the tires, take off the training wheels and watch him go. So I did…and he did. Max stood on the sidewalk and watched and cheered him on. Lex has been perfecting his riding skills ever since and Max has continued to watch.

That is, until 2 weeks ago when Max came to me with a handwritten note (because I was on the phone) that said, “MOM! I just rode Gabi’s bike with NO help!” That was it! Max had simply made the decision that he DOES ride bikes, got onto his sister’s bike and off he rode. Done! He now has a bike of his own and has had NO trouble riding.

I understand that he just needed to make the decision and be ready and that his fears kept him from trying. I understand that he’s going to have these sorts of markers all along his life and I understand that the very best thing I can do for him is to continue to present him with opportunities to try new things but not push him too hard. There’s a delicate balance in play here. He is completely capable of doing EVERYTHING. Yes, his fine motor skills and his gross motor skills are challenged by his being identified with Aspergers. But even beyond that, it’s his super-brilliant, stubbornness that we’re really going to have to overcome.

I’m so proud of him for this new accomplishment and SO happy to see him SO happy! Now…let’s tackle shoe-tying. Perhaps if he sees Lex do it first~

Doing the Dance of the Children~

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SST meeting for Max-Good Stuff!

November 10, 2011

A little later today I’ll sit down with several people from Max’s school for an SST meeting to get a 504 plan in place for him. This is such Good Stuff! This means that there will be an actual set of tools in place that move from year to year with him so that each teacher isn’t trying to develop their own system each year. It will help take the guess work out of what works well for him and will help him feel more confident when he has challenging situations in the classroom.

Because Max isn’t academically challenged, he doesn’t qualify for an IEP, so it can be quite challenging to know what makes for a successful Max day in the classroom. I’m excited for moving forward!

Stay posted for more info!

Doing the Dance of the Children~

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Moving Forward for Max

October 19, 2011

I thought it would be good to give an update on what’s happening for Max. After writing my last post about him, I received several messages about how to get a 504 plan in place. I didn’t know what this was or how to get it, but the pieces started to fall together and his teacher and I are working together to make sure we keep moving forward on this path. This will help Max and each of his future teachers. Without it, each teacher will have to “figure out” what works and doesn’t work for him. Why put everyone through the frustration when we can take what’s been discovered over the last couple of years and pass it on. Plus, Max needs everyone on board so that every transition to a new grade is smooth.

He’s settling into his new school nicely. He’s got the routine down (doesn’t mean he always follows it), he’s remembering classmates names and is feeling more comfortable interacting with everyone. He’s not always successful in his interactions, but he’s happy to keep trying. Because he has an amazing ability to remember detail, he’s starting to think of certain people and what they may like and he often puts in requests to bring things from home that he thinks people would like. Yesterday he brought an extra snack to school to share with a classmate that he thought would really like that particular thing. I don’t know how it went, but I like that he’s individualizing his classmates.

We had company a couple days ago and there were 2 boys about his age. It went great! They all jumped into “regular” boy play. There was plenty of wapping each other with balloons and horseplay. It was great to see him have a positive experience with new friends, from the beginning!

His school held a cookie dough fundraiser and he got it into his head that he was going to earn a certain prize-A limo ride to a local yogurt shop. This was his singular focus. Sure enough, he approached EVERYONE about buying cookie dough and was a rock-solid salesman until he reached his goal! In a couple of weeks Max will get to take a limo from school and go get yogurt. Whoo Hoo!

One day at a time. One challenge at a time into a successful future!

Doing the Dance of the Children~

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Struggling with Finding Solutions for My Kiddo with Aspergers

September 15, 2011

Every time I’ve sat down to write about a zillion different topics, my mind wanders to the same one-Max. Max, my brilliant, stubborn, imaginative, frustrating, lil guy who’s locked in a complicated web of ideas, thoughts, outbursts, social struggles, compassion and Aspergers. When he puts his mind to something, amazing things happen and when he’s got his mind locked against something, NOTHING happens. He does best when he’s busy and his mind is working hard on solving problems. But you have to be very careful of how things are presented to him. If he gets an inkling that you’re asking anything extra of him, he will completely shut down and this boy is STUBBORN! But, if something extra is presented as a competition, he’s on it! Oh the games!

I’m frustrated right now because his outbursts are interrupting classroom time, but this is a tough thing to define. There’s no IEP for Max’s “disorder”. He went through the GATE testing, but no GATE classes are available to him.

Just a mommy’s rantings over the frustration of wanting your child to have the best schooling experience possible-one that fits what they need, where they make friends and participate appropriately and are guided where needed and challenged accordingly.

~sigh~

Now that I’m mostly settled in the new house and I know what to expect of my routine, it’s time to seek out what’s going to benefit Max socially and educationally. Sometimes parenting hurts my head.

Doing the Dance of the Children and Looking for the Right Music~

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An Excellent Idea For ALL Kids

August 25, 2011

I LOVE this!!!!

Max came home on the 1st day of school and told me about this system in his classroom. His teacher also explained it to me and let me know that Max was already using the “Compliment Card” and the “Breaking News!” forms. In the last couple of days Max has received Compliment Cards from classmates. He’s LOVING this! Even better are the Breaking News! forms, because it enables a kiddo like Max, who has a really tough time NOT speaking his mind the very moment an idea or story pops into his head, to jot down what he has to say and to feel confident that when the teacher or parent who gets the form, has time, they will give it proper attention.

Max’s teacher let me know that he promptly grabbed a stack of each form, to be ready for when he would need them. Today he brought some home so I could utilize this great system at home.

The third form is “Tattling Turtle” and is to be used when a child feels upset about something or is having a problem with someone or something. GREAT! Now, if I can make a zillion copies, wallpaper the walls of my home in them, hand each kiddo a pencil and listen to their closed mouths and scribbling pencils! If only~

Seriously, I love the idea of this program for all kids, not just my super verbal, “I’ve got an idea”, Asperger’s kiddo. I hope he uses the forms at school AND at home and I’m open to my other kiddos using them too!

Here’s to great ideas that bring the hope of a little peace in the home and classroom!

Doing the Dance of the Children and Always Searching for a Better Way~

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This Week Held A Lot-School/Travel/Court/Camping and More

August 21, 2011

What a week! Everyday of this life as M.O.M. keeps me Doing the Dance of the Children, but with the start of school, this week held extra Dancing. The first day of school went as smoothly as we could expect when living in an area for only a week and juggling 2 elementary schools that are on the same bell schedule. I got Tristan, Gabi and Lex to their school and Max and I waited outside the classroom with Lex until the teacher came out. All the other parents were full of a mix of emotions. You could see the pride, excitement and that twinge of sadness as their lil ones headed to the line for their first day of being a “big” kindergartener. Me? Well I was anxious for her to hurry up and open the dang door already so I could get Max over to his school on HIS 1st day and not have him be late. Yes, I took pictures, hugged my lil guy and told him what a great time he was going to have, but I was toe-tapping for the moment I could dash out of there. Sure enough, I got Max to his school and everyone was already seated at their desks. ~Sigh~ His teacher knows that I’m single-parenting and juggling 2 elementary schools, so she’s forgiving. Thank goodness!


1st Day 2011-Lex Kinder, Gabi 1st, Max 3rd, Tristan 6th


Lex on his 1st day of Kinder. My lil guy’s a big boy!


Gabi on her 1st day of 1st grade. Beauty!


Lex in front of his classroom, pointing to his name

I have to add that Max is also very forgiving. I was worried when I had to tell him that he was going to be in a separate school from his siblings. But I think the key to having him be ok is giving him as much information as possible and presenting it in a positive way. His teacher seems GREAT! She called me after the 1st day to give me a rundown on how Max did and what she observed. We discussed his particular needs, strengths and challenges. She seems compassionate to his needs and determined to help him have a successful year. I couldn’t ask for more. So far, he seems happy. He has expressed that he wishes he knew more kids, but I know that will come. There have only been 3 days of school, these things take time!

The other kids seem ok too. Lex is happy with his teacher and class. He’s a really easy-going kid and he plays easily with other kids, so I don’t doubt that he’ll make friends quickly and be a happy kindergartener. Gabi says that kindergarten was harder than 1st grade. We’ll see how she feels in a few weeks, but I do know that the curriculum and expectations were more rigorous at the last school. I have mixed feeling about that. Wait, that’s not the truth. The truth is that I’m sad that I can’t give the kids the level of education they’ve become used to. But I can’t beat myself up over it. Even if we stayed in San Diego and even if I wasn’t getting divorced, that education could no longer be afforded. So I have to accept this change and trust that the kids will be ok. At this time it’s all I can do. If things change in the future, I’ll revisit the subject.

That brings me to the 2nd day of school. THAT was a juggling act! I had to leave the night of the 1st day of school so that I could be in San Diego for our settlement hearing the next day. We had come to an agreement the night before, but the trip still had to be taken because papers had to be signed and an appearance still had to be made. I chose to live in this area for many reasons. I didn’t choose this lightly. I weighed cost of living, schools and the fact that I would have a ready-made support system of friends and family in place. That support system proved itself this week! My sister came to stay with the kids overnight and then got them to school the next day. Then my friend, Jen (who has been more than any friend could be expected to be over these last 6 weeks) came to do the pick ups. Once the older girls were home from school (btw-we’ve been plugged into a carpool by a great group of ladies who have stepped up to help me have a little time to get settled. A friend from high school happens to have a high schooler at my girls’ school AND lives in my new neighborhood. She got us set up with a carpool and also walked baked goods over…YES! THAT is Good Stuff!), they took over for the evening and I flew back in late that night. Whew! Doing the Dance for sure!

While I was in San Diego I managed to see several people, get all the important paperwork done, appear in court, run errands and meet up at Costa Brava with friends before heading to the airport. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Costa Brava? No? :-) It was great to pop in for a little while, enjoy some tapas, sangria and wine and be treated to a round of creme brulee shots and my favorite dessert…I’d tell you what it is, but I have NO idea how to spell it. It’s vanilla ice cream with a burnt top, like creme brulee and it sits on a bed of sliced strawberries. YUM! That restaurant is so warm and welcoming! It always feels like a home away from home and the food is Mmmmm! So good! If you haven’t gone, you should!


Great ladies and our round of creme brulee shots


Enjoying that dessert!

I got home late, picked up the house (it’s amazing what 6 kids can do to a place when left alone for the after-school/dinner/bedtime hours) set my alarm for 4:15 and went to bed.

The kiddos were happy to wake up and find me there and ready to get the routine rolling. I made lunches, signed papers and heard all about the girls’ high school classes. Then it was off to school and time for this M.O.M. to tackle more of this house. The kids headed off for a weekend camping trip with their dad and my brother and I tried to get my head around what tasks I should complete while I have no little ones demanding my attention. But first, I went and played Bunco! I’ve been invited to join a group and was happy to get into something social. In the last 2 years, I had really pulled away from all the social activities I was used to being a part of. I’m enjoying jumping in again!

Everything is coming along nicely. We’re settling in and I’m hoping it all starts to feel homey and “regular” soon. I’m EVER grateful to all the wonderful people who have made this transition as smooth as possible. I truly couldn’t ask for better people in my life.

So, I’ve stocked the kitchen, unpacked more boxes, hung more decor and am preparing for a load of dirty, stinky, tired kiddos to arrive at sometime tomorrow. It’ll be my job to clean them up, wash the dirty clothes and convince them to go to bed to be ready for school on Monday morning. Wish me luck!

Doing the Dance of the Children and Grateful For The Music~

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But How Do You Know-An Insightful Question

August 10, 2011

There’s been so much going on lately with our move and trying to get settled that I haven’t had much time to focus on the individuality of each of my kids. All in all they’ve done a fantastic job of rolling with it over the last 5 weeks. I was worried about how Max would deal with the uncertainty of the summer. He’s done an excellent job of asking questions and trying to accept the answers. The other day he asked a great question that gave me a little insight into his mind.

We had gone through a Starbucks drive-thru. I ordered my drink and then asked for cups of whipped cream with caramel sauce for the kids. This is something we did about once a week in San Diego, so I didn’t think much of the order. This Starbucks has clearly not been conditioned to me and the kiddos and really wasn’t sure what to do with that order. After they handed everything to me I told the kids that we wouldn’t be doing it anymore, because the barista was clearly unhappy with it. Max asked me how I knew she was unhappy, when she smiled and handed them to me. I had to realize that part of his living with Aspergers means that he doesn’t effectively read body language or social cues. That’s such a big part of society’s normal communication, that it must really be difficult to understand what people mean if you cant’ just trust their words. I explained that when people get uncomfortable or unhappy that the tone of their voice changes, even if they are still smiling and that just because someone says, “ok”, that they may still be unhappy about it. Of course, this led him to ask why they wouldn’t just say, “no”. I explained that people try to make other people happy by saying, “yes” when they don’t really mean it.

It was good to get a little insight into his confusion about people’s behavior and to better understand some of the pieces that are hard for him to process. I’m hoping that he continues to ask questions…WAIT!…It’s Max, he ALWAYS asks questions! I guess what I mean is that that I hope he continues to ask questions that help me better understand him and that get him the answers to some of the tough stuff.

Doing the Dance of the Children~

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Max’s Take on Moving

July 1, 2011

Yesterday, while we were driving away from the only house Max has ever lived in, he says to me-”Mom, moving is like picking up a handful of acorns and dropping them and watching them all scatter”.

I love the insights into Max’s way of thinking.

Scattered acorns will plant themselves where they fall and become mighty oaks!

Good Stuff~

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Living in Black and White

June 12, 2011

Max is a thinker. He’s constantly pondering everything and always coming up with the “best” way to get things done. He creates and theorizes in his head continually. There’s nothing he leaves “as is”. To his way of thinking, everything can be improved, everyone can be better and there are clear-cut ways of making this happen. He’s also a talker. So all day long I hear all these thoughts and ideas because he’s sharing them. He asks MANY MANY questions and is always very black and white with things. There’s just no middle ground in Max’s head. There’s right and wrong and nothing else. So one of yesterday’s questions was a real tough one for him to understand;

Max-”Mom, those people who throw knives at people when they’re being spun on a board, if they miss and the person dies, do they still get to go to Heaven?”.

I know this sounds like a funny question, but in Max’s mind he could not understand how someone could choose to participate in an activity where someone could be killed, if it meant it was their fault and ultimately put their soul in jeopardy.

I explained that it isn’t real, that it’s all illusion and trickery and just for show. We went round and round, him telling me that the audience is shown the knives, the front and back of the board and that it is surely real. I further explained that the fact that these performers are able to get the audience to believe it’s real means that they’re really good at what they do, but that no matter, it isn’t real and that no one dies…ever.

Explaining trickery to a kiddo with Aspergers is no easy task! There is no trickery! There is only what is and what isn’t. Try as I might, to explain it all away, I know that Max fell asleep wondering how anyone could do such a thing and risk so much for a performance.

Poor kid! I’ll keep trying to help him see that in life there is surely right and wrong, black and white, but that we often live in shades of grey.

Doing the Dance of the Children~

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