autism, communication, faith, Health, Love, Morgan

What Did You Say?

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Robert McCloskey

Have you ever watched a video of a crying baby receiving a hearing aid? When they hear their mother’s voice for the first time, their crying stops. Their eyes open wide. They become calm at first, then smile or even squeal with delight? Then, of course, the mother begins to cry. It’s that moment of mutual connection that those of us who hear often take for granted.

If you have ever seen one of our home videos on YouTube or Facebook Live, you will see All Things Autism. What you may not recognize is that Morgan has a hearing, or rather a listening, impairment. Even though her physical hearing is intact, her ability to process and interpret sound is interrupted by something called CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder). My unscientific explanation is that there is a glitch in her central auditory nervous system wiring. This is a separate diagnosis from her autism. For signs and symptoms of CAPD, visit asha.org . American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

It is hard for Morgan to separate and make sense of sounds, especially speech. There is actually a slight delay in what she hears. When we are at home, in a one on one, quiet environment, it’s much easier for her to navigate. We’ve learned to slow down and give her time to respond. You will see she is very talkative and engaged. She is Very Able to express herself in our home environment.

Morgan and Papaw showing off an April window painting they did together.

When Morgan is in a group setting, there are lots of competing sounds and distractions. Large gatherings can be confusing and stressful. This usually stops her from initiating engagement. When she is overwhelmed, her reaction is to grunt and vocalize her displeasure, in order to get away. Or she will completely shut down, squinting her eyes, bending over and putting her head in her hands. Unfortunately for her, this makes others see her as Less Able than she actually is. When we are able to know what to expect, and provide Morgan with a schedule ahead of time, this takes down the stress and helps her be more successful.

As things speed back up again, we find ourselves stumbling a little more, trying to regain our footing in this world. I guess that’s life, with or without disabilities. I still believe the joy of a meaningful life ride is worth the learning bumps we experience along the way.

There is a giant chasm between hearing and listening. This year of slowing down has really opened my eyes and my heart to the difference. Many of us have forgotten how to listen. It takes time to really get to know anyone. It takes time, patience, and a sincere caring effort to get those moments of mutual connection, where we can all truly communicate.

We openly share our family’s journey with autism in the hope of creating understanding and acceptance for all individuals with disabilities.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope,

Tammy

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faith, family, friends, Love, Uncategorized

Worth Helping, Hanging, and Hoping

“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:29-31‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

It was one of those mornings. We really needed to get out the door on time. The list of things to do was long and time was short. As we fixed our breakfast and Morgan’s lunch, I was running down that list in my head. I was hoping we’d get out the door with everything we needed the first time. There was a text with a task to handle, an unexpected knock on the door. “Hello Mamaw. What are you doing here?” Come on in and join our morning circus. A quick hello, and I continued my dance to keep things on track.

As we were about to get in the car, we heard a loud scratching and rustling sound coming from the down spout of the gutter. A bird had slipped down the hole. Bless his heart. He chose a really inconvenient time to get himself in that situation. We tapped on the spout for a few seconds, shook the bottom, hoping we could get his attention to turn around and see a better way out. We reasoned surely he’d eventually get tired and fall to the bottom, seeing the light there and be able to make it out on his own. I did say a little prayer for him as I cranked up the car and drove away. After all, we had a busy day ahead us.

Sometimes we assume there’s an easy way out for others, when there’s not.

That’s how I am sometimes. I mean well, but I’m just so busy. When I got back home, all was quiet and I assumed he made it out. I went about my day and didn’t give it another thought.

“and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.”
‭‭James‬ ‭2:16-17‬ ‭

Later that evening, I was telling Rudy all about our busy day. Then, as an afterthought, I told him about the little bird. He said, “I thought I heard something out there as I was coming in the door.“ This was 9:30 in the evening. I said, “You’re kidding. Surely he’s not still in there.” He WAS still in there, struggling. I held a flashlight while Rudy unscrewed the extension. It turned out, the drain was stopped up with leaves and mulch. Once that was removed, the little guy wasted no time getting out of there. He was a blur in the dark.

There’s more than a couple of lessons in this for me. With all my wisdom and reasoning, I’m not able to fully see another person’s situation. God is. He works best through me when I slow down and allow life’s interruptions. Whenever I get stuck in a situation, I feel like there’s no way out and no one sees me, God does. No matter how others view us, how they may overlook us, we are all valuable to God. We need to keep Helping others, Hanging in there and making a little Hopeful Noise. God is always working on our circumstances in ways we cannot see.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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autism, faith, friends, risks and rewards, self esteem, Uncategorized

Moving Molehills

“Disability ministry is not complete until individuals with disabilities are ministering back.” – Jim Pearson (No Disabled Souls)

I recently posted this apology on Facebook to our friends, because Morgan has such a hard time breaking her stride to say an unplanned hello. It went like this:

“When we see each other at Walmart and are trying to say hello, if Morgan doesn’t acknowledge you, it’s because you’re not on her schedule. She currently doesn’t take walk-ins.
As a long term member of her staff, I am advocating for policy changes. You’re important to us and we appreciate your patience. Please hold.”

Due to her version of autism, Morgan is prone to self isolate. This year of added isolation has definitely backed us up a few steps. Morgan is very comfortable when she’s “busy relaxing” at home. The longer we’re here, the less she wants to go out. Although we need things to get back to “normal”, I admit, I’ll have to muster up my “want to” to dust off my cheerleading pompoms again.

Morgan is 27 now. Her whole life, we’ve been “working on” something. It started with speech and occupational therapy. Then it was social and emotional skills, educational and vocational skills, life skills, and as strange as it sounds, we even have to work on Joy. Don’t get me wrong. She enjoys putting seasonal events on her calendar, painting the windows, and collecting things that are the colors of the month. But it seems to me, she only tolerates people sometimes, because we can be so unpredictable. I’ve told her that friends can be messy and loud, but they are SO WORTH IT. My constant prayer is for her to just be able to relax with people and enjoy being engaged with others, without the anxiety. It breaks my heart for her that she sees every encounter as a task. We keep pushing forward, because every little successful interaction matters.

Mamaw and Morgan’s February Window Painting

One thing I’ve been thankful to be reminded of again, during this time, is Morgan’s satisfaction when she’s accomplishing something “All Myself”. Thursday is our clean up day. As she helps change the bed sheets, wash the cloths and vacuum, I see her calm delight in doing something that she knows matters. I saw the same thing when she worked at the little sandwich shop before it shut down during the pandemic. We’ve been trying to get that feeling back again. I do believe in all of us there is a need to be needed, a need to know that who we are, what we have to offer, is valued.

Because of Morgan’s social anxiety, it’s hard to get people to understand she is very capable of doing a good job. We’ve had to beg for her to be given any opportunity. I wish I could say that’s unusual, but for many young adults with disabilities, real employment opportunities are rare. Just having that hour at the sandwich shop, a couple of times a week, was very meaningful for both of us. That hour may seem so small to some people, but seeing her feel good about her “Busy Long Day” made it worth all the mountains we had to move to get there.

The sandwich shop never opened back up. But recently, we were able to get back to Meals on Wheels. Morgan helped Papaw in the past, and now she has been given her own route. ❤️ One morning a week, I drive and Morgan “trick or treats” folks with a warm meal. As she puts on her mask, and gets out of the car, I hear her say “I can do it. It’s Izzy.” When she comes back, there’s a high five and fist bump. “I did it!” 🙂

Meals on Wheels – “Trick or Treat”

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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Simple Truths

“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

Our friends at Autism Tennessee asked parents how we are explaining all of the chaos in the news to our children. I told them I break it down as simply as I can for our daughter’s developmental level.

Morgan has a lot of anxiety, so I always try to present things in a positive solution mode. We approach everything from a faith perspective, because it is the center of our peace. With Covid, she knows we are waiting for friends to get well so we can get together again. We pray for them. We wear our masks because we care about our friends. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39

As for the unspeakable events that unfolded on January 6th, I prayed to God to give me the appropriate words to say before I spoke to Morgan about it, because it left me feeling incredibly sad and empty.

The Bible tells us to love our neighbor, even if we don’t agree with them. Doing things out of anger and fear doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s not ok to harm others. If we really trust that God is in charge, then as far as possible, we need to try and get along with everyone. God will separate the good guys from the bad ones.

Morgan’s Messy Flag Painting (c) 2019

When Morgan created this piece of art above. I remember talking her through it. She’s always worried about making a mess, getting her fingers sticky, when she’s painting. I told her sometimes we have to make a mess to create something beautiful.

Democracy can be messy. Praying for our country, that we learn from our mistakes. Now that we know better, we can do better. May we become America The Beautiful again, One Nation Under God, Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice For ALL.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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January Time Songwriting Fun

Morgan and I were noodling around, writing a song yesterday about some of the things she wants. Songwriting is a great tool for engaging Morgan in conversation, and having a little fun. There is a link below to let you hear the process.

January Time Song

We’ve had to get really creative while we wait to get back into our monthly routines, we’ve lost in 2020. We’ll get there, one day, one song, at a time. 🙂♥️🎼

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope,

Morgan & Mom

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autism, faith, Health, Morgan, Uncategorized

A Fresh Start

“Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:25‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

I am a big fan of do-overs when they’re needed. They allow us to fix what we can, and move forward. 2020 has been filled with cancellations, disappointments, frustrations, insane political incorrectness, and overwhelming loss. As Morgan would say, “We’re not doing that again.” Although I don’t know anyone who wants a do-over on this year, we have to admit, it has taught us some things about ourselves.

In this blog, I usually share a lot about the joy and blessings of autism. In the interest of fair reporting, I’m realizing it’s equally important to share our struggles. We are learning we can live without some things we thought we couldn’t. We’ve had some personal bests, and unfortunately some personal worsts this year. We have definitely felt our humanity.

2020 has tested us all. The disappointments just kept stacking up. Morgan had a major meltdown recently, because she was having to wait on something once again. We had to bring out a forgotten tool, one we haven’t used in quite a while, reminding me it’s one of the best tools in our behavior box.

Social Stories, written in first person, have always been helpful for Morgan. I had to remind myself, when she’s really upset, she can’t hear anything we’re saying. She needs to SEE the story. One of the things Morgan says, when she’s been upset, is “I was just trying to fix it”. After reading this, she was able to calm down and take a breath, so we could “fix it” together.

Although I wrote this for Morgan, it’s as if God was writing it to me. I’ve been exhausted from waiting on some sanity to kick in from those who are supposed to be leading us. I’ve been sad and angry over those who seem to have no concern for the vulnerable. I may not have said unkind things out loud, but I’ve certainly screamed them inside my heart. As I look up toward heaven and take a breath, I remember God is in control. I remember to be more patient and kind with myself and everyone else. I can forgive others, as He has forgiven me. I can let go of the things I can’t fix, knowing that God can. I can move forward, knowing we should know better now, knowing we should be able to do better together now. Here’s to hearts healing in 2021.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope,

Tammy Vice

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Everything I’m Not

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient in you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” Paul. II Corinthians 12:9

Recently, my daughter Allison and I attended a baby shower. It was a Harry Potter theme. I don’t know much about Harry Potter, but I was so impressed, from the food to the decorations, how they weaved everything into their theme. What a creative gift they had. ❤️ As I sat my present on the table, I realized how my simple wrapping paled in comparison to the other gifts. When I mentioned it to Allison, she giggled and agreed with me, noting these kinds of things weren’t my best skill. 😂

Here’s the thing. There’s a whole lot of things I’m not good at. I can cook enough to keep my family fed, but no one chases me down for recipe ideas. I dress appropriately for the weather, but have no idea whether or not I’m in style. I can stand on a stage, sing, and speak to countless people about subjects I’m familiar with, but making one on one small talk can be a bit uncomfortable for me. Truth – I am a little quirky and socially awkward.

Teaching a session on autism awareness for Chattanooga’s 2020 Autism Conference

I could go on and on about the things I’m not able to do well. But I know God made me like He made me for reason. I believe God equips each of us specifically for what He’s called us to. Knowing this keeps me looking up, because I want to accomplish everything He’s called me to and nothing He hasn’t. Knowing this helps me celebrate what others are able to accomplish, without feeling less. No one is meant to do everything well. We need each other. We need each other’s gifts.

I’m not saying I don’t get disappointed at times, especially when I feel like I’ve been on the shelf for quite a while or I’ve missed the mark. But I do believe in a God’s timing and His perfect love. He has delighted me on numerous occasions with the accomplishments He’s allowed me to be a part of.

I will to continue to boast about everything I’m not, because I am amazed and grateful for all our God is.

Until next time,

Know the Hope! Really!! 🙂

Tammy Vice

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Joy Is A Choice

“… I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭30:19‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

The other day, I asked Morgan what she wanted for lunch. Her answer was “How about food?”. 😉 This was not sarcasm. This is her autism. Where many of us are grateful to be given choices, it causes her a great deal of anxiety. Why? The answers to some questions are infinite. I believe she’s actually afraid of giving the wrong answer. Morgan still doesn’t understand that her choice is just that, Her Choice. If I can ever get her to understand that, I believe it will free her from a lot of the anxiety choices cause her.

As I’ve worked with Morgan for several years on this life skill, I’ve come to realize just how important choices are for all of us. They give us independence and freedom. At the same time, they come with responsibility and consequences. Good ones build us up and bad ones tear us down. Hopefully, as we mature, we learn to make choices that are not only good for us, but respectful of others. When others respect us, they allow us to make choices too.

Everyone deserves the right to make choices to the extent they are able. Often times, the choices of individuals with disabilities are overlooked. Whenever we assume we know what’s best for anyone without offering them a voice, we may not realize it, but we’re being dismissive of that person. On several occasions, when I thought I knew exactly what Morgan wanted, but gave her the option, I found out I was wrong. 😉

God loves us so much that Even He Allows us to CHOOSE Him. If that decision was forced, it would mean nothing. As much as I want others to believe as I do, I have to remember that every person has the right to make their own decisions. My Individual Joy and Confidence in what I believe comes from knowing I’ve been given a choice, and I choose Him.

I will continue to offer Morgan every choice I can, working with her through the anxiety and OCD, because more than anything, I want her to find her own voice, her own joy.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy Vice

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Creating a Little Peace

‬‬”Peace is a concept of societal friendship and harmony in the absence of hostility and violence. In a social sense, peace is commonly used to mean a lack of conflict (such as war) and freedom from fear of violence between individuals or groups.”

Morgan and I looked up the word PEACE for an art project she was asked to do for Borderless Arts TN. The word she picked up on in our reading was “Friendship”.

There are so many things I want to teach Morgan, so many things I want her to understand about the world around her. At the same time, I’m thankful for her people perspective. Regardless of race, religion or politics, she refers to all people as “friends”.

Until Next Time,

Peace,

Mom & Morgan

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Mockingbird Mamas

“A good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.” – Thomas Edision

My mom has a very vivid memory from when she was five or six years old. She and a mama mockingbird had a serious misunderstanding. She saw a nest up in a tree and she felt she needed to get a closer look. She meant no harm to the baby birds, but their mama wasn’t taking any chances. That mama bird squawked and swooped down on her, showing no mercy. The next thing my mom knew, she was laying on the ground, flat on her back, with the wind knocked out of her. Lesson learned. Don’t get between a mockingbird and her babies. 😉

Mockingbird Attack floridamuseum.ufl/edu

Sometimes I can be like that Mockingbird Mama.

My daughter, Morgan, is on the autism spectrum. She doesn’t always pick up on social cues. If someone doesn’t give her an extra nudge to help her join the group, she gets left behind and left alone. She can also be a little grumpy when “too many friends” make her anxious, causing others to back away. My heart has been shredded from seeing Morgan left out on numerous occasions over the years. For that reason, it’s hard for me to leave her on her own at gatherings. And, due to all my heart scars, I can misread others’ intentions sometimes.

This was the scene. We were at a gathering with a few moms and daughters. There were two tables. Most of the girls were at a larger table. I seated Morgan with two friends at a smaller table. The moms decided to go outside to eat and visit. I turned around to see the two girls jump up to go to the big table, without a word, leaving Morgan behind. One of the girls looked back at me. I stood there for a moment, not knowing what to do, because I didn’t know if they had left Morgan without thinking, or on purpose. I took a deep breath and decided to leave her there to figure it out. I admit I said something to the moms outside, hoping someone would look in on things. It turned out, when they checked, Morgan was at the table with all the girls. I realized they were probably waiting to see if I was leaving before they asked her to join them.

As much as I want to help Morgan navigate every situation from the safety of “my nest”, I know she needs her father, her sister, her grandparents, friends and community in order to fly. I can only be her mother. Once again, I’m having to remind myself to give her and others a little more space, a lot more grace. Hugs of understanding to all the other Mockingbird Mamas out there.

As for my mom, she’s still bird watching, with a better understanding of the importance of social distancing. 😉

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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