Archive for September, 2010

The great movie debate

September 27, 2010

Some days in the life of a parent are tougher than others.

That’s true for everyone that has the monumental task of raising a child, and it’s no less true for parents for children with Autism.

Thus begins the story of the great movie incident, starring “the boy” Ethan Capps.

It’s September, and third grade – most of which is being spent in a “normal” class room – is going pretty well.

We’re having a hiccup here and there, like the day the boy decided to tell a classmate that “I’m a serial killer,” because the other child had the nerve to stand behind Sarah in line.

Not exactly what you want out of your eight year old, but we wrote it off as an isolated incident.

Perhaps we should have seen the writing on the wall.

You see, the boy loves movies.

The serial killer phrase was lifted from the Sherlock Holmes movie, a flick that’s probably above his maturity level. I let him “borrow” my copy, mainly because I am a huge fan of the consulting detective, and have been since childhood.

We removed the offending movie from his continuously expanding collection, and moved on.

Move ahead a couple of weeks, and the game was truly afoot.

It’s a Monday night after another good day, and the bride and I were watching TV in the living room while the boy did likewise in our bedroom, home of the DVR.

All of a sudden, we hear a shout from the bedroom.

“This was the worst Monday ever!”

The wife goes to investigate, and in the interest of shortening a story that’s already running too long, let’s just say that he accused a little boy at school of bullying him.

I was a little suspicious, considering that the AWFUL MOVIE I caught him watching seem to be depicting a bullying scene, but he sounded convincing enough.

It was a bad feeling. I remember what it’s like to be in school. Bullying, no matter how diligent teachers and administrators may be, happens. It happens to kids that are different. It will, I’m sure, eventually happen to Ethan.

I just wasn’t expecting it in third grade.

So, we fire off e-mails to teachers and raise the general alarm.

Shanna and I mope around the house that night, and all the next day, powerless to protect our little angel from the mean kids at his school.

Yeah, about that.

Turns out we had been scammed.

His teachers, wonderful folks, by the way, report that, if anything, Ethan is picking on his computer partner – not the other way around as described.

A closer review of that movie he was watching, Fred: The Movie, reveals a scene almost exactly like the one Ethan acted out for us.

In addition, he took a scene from Agent Cody Banks and acted it out on the playground. He told a teacher he had “slapped somebody,” only to have evidence reveal that he made that up as well.

Then, it hit us. Ethan’s obsession with movies had finally reached the point where he was having trouble separating the fiction from fact.

So, at a loss for what to do, we took a bag and filled it with any movie in his room that was event remotely objectionable.

There were dozens of them.

That’s been about a week, and he’s still not real happy with us.

It’s tough, because I’m forced to admit that without movies and TV, he may not be talking at all.

I’m convinced that Steve from Blue’s Clues and The Wiggles taught him to speak, which might explain his occasional lapses into an Australian accent.

Finding a balance within the medium that both accelerates and stunts his development is challenging. But it’s one that we can handle.

Shanna and I are lucky. We have a good support system in place at school, an amazing doctor (can’t wait for Thursday’s advice) and a toolbox full of tricks that we’ve picked up while keeping the effects of Autism at arm’s length.

This didn’t happen automagically, as Biz Markie might say. It happened slowly, and with plenty of help from organizations like the Autism Society of North Carolina.

The 2010 Triangle Run/Walk for Autism is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 9, in Raleigh.

Please consider making a donation to Ethan’s Angels, the group Shanna, Ethan and I – along with friends and family – in which we’ll be walking.

That way, you can make sure the script for kids like Ethan has a happy ending!

Happy birthday to me

September 13, 2010

No, it isn’t my birthday.

That’s in May, and lord knows they come around fast enough with me moving the date around.

But this is a story about one of the best birthday presents I ever received.

In my quest to raise money for Ethan’s Angels and the annual Triangle Run/Walk for Autism, here’s an Ethan story:

It was May 2006, and we were still living in Shelby.

I don’t recall if it was exactly on my birthday, or if my inflexible job schedule meant we were celebrating it on some other evening.

What I do remember is coming home for dinner in the early evening, and then a little later, getting ready to head back to work.

To set the stage, Ethan was four years old. It was about two years after we had been told – near another one of my birthdays – that our son was likely mentally retarded, may never talk and basically never have anything even remotely resembling a “normal life.”

In those two years, we went through speech therapy, occupational therapy and a battery of other tests, programs and rituals. Things were progressing very much as we were told they would.

He wasn’t talking much. He would utter the stray word here and there, but mainly he was using a little tube with velcro pictures to tell us he was hungry, thirsty or anything like that.

It wasn’t great, but it was the new normal.

But, anyway, back to that night in 2006.

I was going back to the paper. I kissed my wife goodbye, and told her, “I love you.”

Then, I walked over to Ethan, who was standing in front of the TV.

“Bye, buddy. I love you,” I said.

“I love you,” came a reply.

A specialist would say that it was echolalia – or he was simply repeating what he had heard me say.

That may have been true.

Not that I cared the slightest bit.

I snatched him up and hugged him, just barely beating Shanna to him. We all laughed and danced around the living room.

It remains one of the happiest moments of my life.

It was the first of what have been many victories for Ethan, who’s now a vibrant eight year old.

And if you know Ethan, speaking is a non-issue for him now.

Part of the help we got for Ethan – and the support for me and Shanna – came from the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Making a donation to Ethan’s Angels – the team we have participating in this year’s Triangle Run/Walk for Autism – helps support the ASNC.

Help us make more success stories, like Ethan’s, for children dealing with Autism.

Donate today!

The art of procrastination perfected

September 7, 2010

The 2010 Triangle Run/Walk for Autism is set for Oct. 9 in downtown Raleigh, and like I’ve done the past few years, I’m hitting up my friends for donations.

And, as is also my custom, I’ve decided to wait until the last month to do so.

I’ve set a ridiculously high fund raising goal that I doubt I can reach in 32 days, but I plan on annoying the general public in an effort to try.

Most of you know that the handsome young man pictured above is my son, Ethan.

He’s eight years old, and he was diagnosed with autism a little more than five years ago.

Autism is a developmental brain disorder that affects the way the mind processes information. It affects about one in every 90 children, making it more common than “childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined,” according to the folks at autismspeaks.com.

We’re not sure what causes it. Some say it’s vaccines. Some think it’s genetic. I’ll leave that to the scientists to decide.

I’m interested in confining it to the history books.

One step at a time.

So, anyway, we’re walking in the one-miler this year – since the boy always gets tired around then.

And I’m asking for your support.

Come walk with us, or make a donation.

To get you in the spirit, here’s a look at what is easily the best thing I’ve ever written.