Allison, autism, faith, family, Love, Morgan, Uncategorized

The Student is The Best Teacher

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born of one’s youth.” Psalm 127: 3, 4

As I write this, my older daughter, Allison, is preparing to teach her first college course in behavior.  She’s had years under her belt as a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), and countless observation hours as a sibling.  I have no doubt she will have valuable lessons to share with her students.  I’m grateful for passionate teachers, and I’m especially proud of this one.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When it comes to Allison’s sister, Morgan, I wonder who’s teaching who.  I am forever learning.  I’m learning not to compare her to anyone else, because it’s a precious waste of time and mental energy.  I’m learning not to limit her to what I know she can do now.  I’m looking at the rest as “things she can’t do yet”.  Together, we are working on our personal bests.  As I continue to challenge her, I’m learning she is very skilled at challenging me. 😉

There is a line I struggle to define all the time;  What behaviors are due to her disability, and what behaviors are within her ability to correct.  And That Line is Drawn in Shifting Sands, because Every New Person, Place, or Thing can change the equation.

Lines get blurred and meltdowns happen.  When Morgan is coming back down from a meltdown, she will often say “I was just trying to fix it”.  😦 Me too, Morgan. Me too.  When I see her stressing and I don’t see the reason, I’ve learned to ask, “What are you trying to fix?”.  Using her language helps her find her words.

For Morgan’s sake, for her independence and quality of life, we have to keep pushing that line.  We have to continue to do the hard things until they become the no big deal things.  When we come to an impasse, I remind her (and myself) to take a deep breath.  I remind her that I love her, and we can always try again.  Each time we succeed, it’s worth all the lessons we’ve both learned.

Back to Allison.  It was clear from the beginning that she was going to keep me on my toes.  I can still see her at four years old, with her hands on her hips, explaining her point of view.  We definitely bumped heads and hearts along the way.  Despite my first time parent blunders, she’s become a pretty amazing young woman.

And all this time I thought I was their teacher.  Turns out, they are mine.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

 

 

 

 

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autism, family, holidays, joy, leap of faith, Love, Morgan, risks and rewards, Uncategorized

Family Gatherings

“I am brave. I am bruised.  I am who I’m meant to be.  This is me.” – Lettie Lutz in The Greatest Showman

Reconnecting with family can be very joyful; going over old memories, catching up on hugs, sharing what’s new,…  but for Morgan, it can also bring a lot of anxiety.  A couple of the hallmarks of autism are the difficulties with social interaction and communication.  This is partly due to the inability to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings.

Not saying family is scary, but whenever any large group of relatives come together, there are numerous opportunities for things to go awry for the best of us.  For Morgan, “too many friends” for “too long”, with no understanding of when the shindig is going to wrap up,  can make her “all done” much earlier than the rest of us.  For this reason, in the early years, I became more and more weary of family gatherings.  Little by little, I backed off, encouraging everyone else to carry on without Morgan and Mom.

Now Morgan is 25.  Her cousins are grown and married, with kids of their own.  We’ve missed a lot of years.  Since her dad and his sisters all have summer birthdays, we decided to gather to celebrate.  This time, to relieve my anxiety, we called ahead with a game plan.  We had the conversation with family, letting them know that Morgan may have to come for a short time, and then take a break.  And It wouldn’t be because anyone did anything wrong.  It would just be the best way for everyone to have a good time.

   Peggy Jackie and Rudy.JPG Rudy and his sisters

Morgan meeting her new cousin, who lives in Canada now

We booked a hotel nearby, where Morgan and I could retreat when needed.  We really enjoyed seeing family again.  When she was “all done”, we left dad to relax and continue catching up with everyone.  We went for a swim, took walks, rides, and naps, and came back ready to visit some more.  She told me twice that weekend, “I doing a good job.  I’m trying to be brave.” 🙂 She did do well.  I’m thankful for how far she’s come.  I’m thankful for learning to drop the veil, and be brave enough to have the conversation, so we can just be ourselves.  It turned out to be a very enjoyable visit.

 

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy Vice and Family

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autism, Morgan, risks and rewards, Uncategorized

Life Is a Stage

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” –  Marianne Williamson

Recently, Morgan had the opportunity to perform at Nashville Children’s Theatre.  The evening was a series of one act plays and monologues, entitled “Conversations Over Tea”, put on by Borderless Arts Tennessee and Nashville Children’s Theatre actors.  It included friends with and without disabilities.  There were some excellent performances, and we were excited for her to be a part of it.

Morgan’s autism and anxiety can make her want to avoid “too many friends” and new situations.  It can often steal her joy, making it a struggle for her to hang for group activities, where she’s not sure what “the script” is.  I’ve heard “practice makes progress” so we are always seeking new challenges, and saying yes to new things, to help her stretch her ability to cope.  In order to help her be successful this time, we took an early trip to NCT to give her a preview of what was in store.

While I always hope Morgan will be able to give her best onstage performance, I’m much more invested in her performance off stage, Because That’s Where Life Happens.

The night of the performance, she was able to wait, listen to others, and clap for them.  She sat for over an hour before it was her turn.  I know it was hard.  I even heard her say to herself a couple of times, “I can do it.  I can do it.”,  meaning she could hang in there. And she did!  So proud of my girl. 🙂

Here’s a link to her performance at NCT – Brown Truck

Here’s a link to another performance at the Bluebird Cafe’, an autism awareness event she’s been a part of for several years – Circus Song and Brown Truck

You can see the difference in her level of ease, when she’s in a familiar setting.  I’ve seen her light up when she lets go of the anxiety, and enjoys the moment.  That’s what we’re aiming for.  On and off stage, we want Joy to be center stage.

Until Next time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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autism, caregivers, Morgan, Uncategorized

Social Graces and Hidden Disabilities

“Parents don’t make mistakes because they don’t care, but because they care so deeply.” – Berry Brazelton

As a parent of a young woman on the autism spectrum, I’m realizing there’s a fine line between accommodating and crippling Morgan. I am forever tripping over that line. The Judgers only trip me more. The Getters keep me trying.

You see, there are two Morgans.  The one I see at home is confident and assured, able to express her wants and needs most of the time, able to create, and even crack a dry joke.

Then there is the Morgan out in public.  The one that tears at my heart, because she’s so anxious about “Too Many Friends”, uncomfortable places, not enough schedule, too much schedule,… She has two reactions to the stress of public gatherings.  One is to loudly announce her discontent to everyone, and the other is to completely shut down.

A while back, Morgan participated in an exhibition basketball game.  Things were just a little noisy and chaotic.  She squeezed her eyes shut, and lowered her head to disappear.  I watched from a distance as peers passed her by, moving on to others who met them with smiles.  Morgan’s self isolation continues to cost her so many opportunities.  Whenever this happens, everything in me wants to jump in and rescue her (and I have on several occasions), but I realize there’s going to be a time when I’m no longer able to be that link of understanding between her and the world.  In order to make it out there, she will have to somehow find it within herself to reach back to those who reach out to her.  Daily prayers go up for her social graces, and others’ understanding.

Thankfully, we had a successful event recently, which gave me a little renewed hope.  Morgan was asked to pass out programs for a community gathering with Borderless Arts Tennessee.  She was given an active roll, and rose to the occasion.  She also sat along side friends to do a little creative activity.  Later, when she announced she was “Tired and All Done”, friends gave a knowing smile.  Morgan was asked to help present a couple of awards, and continued to hang with a little encouragement.  She even managed a smile for the camera, in the middle of her protests. 😉

I. Just. LOVE. the Getters, those who truly understand, and I’m most thankful for the Knowers, like Dr. Temple Grandin, Emelyne Bingham, and other amazing women on the spectrum for reminding me to continue to challenge Morgan.

In my parenting experience, I’ve had many proud moments, and some very humbling ones. When our children are flying high, we can be tempted to pat ourselves on the back, thinking we’ve got it all together.  In those times of pride, shame on me if I’m ever a Judger of another parent, who’s loving their child the best way they know how.  “But for the grace…”

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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autism, caregivers, faith, family, Morgan, Uncategorized

Pinning Down the Practice of Living Unrehearsed

“Hope for the best.  Expect the worst.  Life is a play.  We’re unrehearsed.” – Mel Brooks

While looking through old jewelry to find Morgan some hat pins, I came across this.  It’s my old Girl Scouts pin.

Girl Scout Pin

“Always Be Prepared”.  I took that motto seriously.  To this day, I am forever over planning, over thinking, and running over everything that threatens to get in the way of my plans.  But no matter how I attempt to cover all the bases, life with autism continues to throw me curves.  As much as I’d love to see Morgan’s ducks line up my way, she has a production of her own in mind.  In God’s sovereignty and sense of humor, I believe He has enlisted Morgan’s assistance to keep me on my heels, and my knees. 😉 I am slowly beginning to realize He does His best work when I’m off balance, and unable to be “too much” help.

So how do I do this?  How do I find His balance for me, that red line, of where my responsibility ends, and trusting begins?  Life is a LIVE performance.  We don’t get an encore, so I desperately want to get it right.  As the parent of a forever child, the struggle is REAL.  My older daughter, Allison, texted me this photo yesterday of some wall art she purchased for her living room.  God’s timing, a good reminder of where to begin again.
Be Still and Know

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contrary to my nature, I am making a conscious effort to once again be still.  I will halt my mind’s endless rehearsal of all of life’s possible outcomes.   Instead, I will sit quietly, earnestly turning my focus back to The Director, on Whom my hope relies.

PS – I had to smile when I saw this other tiny treasure.  It’s a skating pin I received for winning a race at Hall’s Skating Rink, more than half a century ago.  Even then, slowing down was not my specialty.  😉 Always learning.

Skating Pin

Until Next Time,

Be Still and Know The Hope!

Tammy

 

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autism, faith, family, Morgan, Uncategorized

Magical and Practical Places

“Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

We are born into a family.  We play and learn and grow.  And as we do, so does our world, and our circle of friends.  We gather at schools and churches and ballparks and businesses.  When we become adults, we take on grownup roles.  We work, play, worship, grieve, and celebrate TOGETHER.  We are a community.

Children with intellectual and physical disabilities become adults, just like everyone else.  Once they grow up and leave school, they have the same need to continue to belong, and play active roles in communities.  Being intentional, working together, we can ALL break down the barriers that separate us.

Mary's Music

I’m so thankful we live in a community that gets it.  From employers who open their doors, hiring our young adults for their strengths, to organizations that offer special needs sports, recreation, creative arts, and adult ministries, You Get It!  We are truly blessed.  As Morgan would say, “I LOVE This Place!”

Recently our community has added a couple of places that are Extra Inviting and Super Exciting!  The first,  Mary’s Magical Place, is a park that is accessible to ALL abilities and ages.  Their mantra is “Make It Happen!” And Boy did they! 🙂

 

And PEER Place , a community based program, where our young adults can continue learning job, life, and social skills, empowering them to achieve their highest potential.  We think these places ROCK! 🙂

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

 

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autism, caregivers, faith, family, Morgan, Uncategorized

Real-ity Estate

“You are the light of the world.  A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

This June will mark two years of Morgan and mom being full time buddies.  That’s when Morgan’s schedule became our schedule.  For the most part, we’ve adapted well.  There has been lots of unexpected joy.  I never know what that girl’s going to get me into.  😉 But truthfully, I’ve had my struggles.  There was that moment of realization in this new normal, when I finally conceded, that my personal wants and needs would have to be placed on the back of life’s shelf indefinitely.  It was, and still is, quite humbling.  I remind myself often that God doesn’t waste anything, or anyone.   He can use us in whatever situation we are in, if we make ourselves available.

I’m not just Morgan’s mom.  I’m Allison’s mom.  I’m a wife, a daughter, a sister, a neighbor, a friend, a community member,…  More importantly, I’m God’s child.  I do have a little plot of influence.  I believe I am still able to do whatever He calls me to.  It’s not a lot of acreage, but it’s my little piece of the planet.  I want to stake out the property lines wisely.  I want to take the best care of what He’s deeded to me.

Rocky Rose

I have been so blessed, that frankly, when He’s done with me here, I’m more than ready to go home.  In the meantime, I’m thankful for every opportunity, every “hill”, He gives me and Morgan.  I want us to be an encouragement to others who might feel forgotten on the back of life’s shelf.  If that’s you, I want you to know God sees you there.  Every morning Morgan and I say a prayer together, to be a light that leads others to Him, and his perfect love.  Some days we shine a little brighter than others.  He’s still working on our wicks. 😉

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

PS Please check out The Identity Theft of Caregivers, a teaching moment from Peter Rosenberger.  Also visit Peter’s Radio Show, Hope For The Caregiver

 

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