autism, caregivers, communication, faith, family, friends, Morgan, Uncategorized

I Call It Momtism

“If I find myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

While shopping in the grocery store, I saw a very familiar face. I could not recall their name or the place where I knew them from, knowing I should know, I ducked down an isle, hoping it would come back to me. It didn’t. The following week, I was at the bank, and Boom! There she was behind the counter, right where she belonged, and everything clicked again. I laughed at myself, then I recalled how seeing someone “out of place” can often rattle Morgan.

I am socially awkward at best sometimes, not great at small talk. There is usually a lot going on in my head, and not everything needs to be shared out loud. 😂 I have to remember, what’s normal in our world, as a parent and a young adult on the autism spectrum, can be miles away from what others consider normal. To say the least, my sense of humor can be a bit skewed. I’ve learned to face the fact that Morgan and I are never going to smoothly or discreetly blend in with the crowd. And that’s ok.

Morgan & Mom Back Porch Pickin’ for Hendersonville Tennessee’s
Front Porch Fest 2020

We are all unique, all fearfully and wonderfully made. We each have our own little quirks and traits that make us us. Genetics, environment, and experience all play their part in how we perceive and navigate things. The more I try to help Morgan understand this world, the more I realize what little sense it makes to me. But I still remain hopeful and thankful. I know it won’t always be this way.

Whenever I have those glitches, those awkward Momtism moments, when I’m totally out of sync with the world around me, I feel a synchronicity with Morgan. I get a better understanding of what it’s like to feel a little lost. Of course it’s brief and I have the tools to compensate, but it serves me a needed dose of empathy for what my girl and others on the autism spectrum go through every single day.

But one day, One. Day. We will no longer feel we are so out of the loop. We will finally be able to communicate and understand each other, and Everyone and Everything, more clearly. “…Now we know in part, but then we will know fully, as we are fully known.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Morgan & Mom

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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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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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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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Uncategorized

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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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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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, faith, family, self esteem, Uncategorized

When Cinderella’s Slipper Doesn’t Fit

“You cannot put the same shoe on every foot.” – Publilius Syrus

I am a serious “Lefty”.  You wouldn’t think that little difference would affect my learning experience. But years ago, it did. I remember early on being made to feel that it was odd, and a bit of a nuisance.  As an adult, I know that’s silly.  But children only know how you make them feel.  I remember sitting in right handed desks at school, with my elbow awkwardly hanging off, as I wrote.  The teacher noted my work was “correct, but messy” most of the time.  There was just no way to write from left to right without smearing the lead across the page.  But I loved to write, so the side of my hand stayed silver gray, with creases from the spiral of the notebook.

Learning to play left handed sports back then was more challenging for me.  When playing baseball, I remember the coach telling me, “Just watch everyone else and do the opposite”.  That advice was about as helpful as it sounds. 😉

Below; Morgan and her “Lefty” swing.  Photo by Dad

IMG_4209

Those memories from my elementary years, as insignificant as they may seem, still whispered “You don’t fit”.  As a teenager, I decided on my own not to tell my guitar teacher I was left handed.  I learned to play right handed, because I didn’t want to be “a problem”.  The lack of understanding on everyone’s part back then, gave me some first hand experience in the importance of accommodating learning differences.  It’s also given me a tender spot for anyone who feels a little out of step with the crowd.

My daughters, Allison and Morgan, also happen to be “Lefties”.  As their mom, I’ve tried to help them realize early on what a waste of energy it is to chase everyone else’s normal.  Instead, I hope they are each able to find what best fits them personally, in learning and in life, so they can be their personal best.

Cinderella’s slipper was perfect for Cinderella.  Find the life-shoe that’s just right, and Left, for you. 😉

Above; Allison creating a little left handed masterpiece, and Morgan showing off her “comfy tennis slipper shoes”.

Until Next Time, Know The Hope!

Tammy

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autism, Morgan, Uncategorized

Respect – A Measure of Maturity

“Abuse happens when any human sees another as less.” – Mom

“With God, one man is NOT different from another.” Romans 2:11

How we choose to treat others is a good measure of our own maturity.  Disrespect is no small thing.  Whether in word or deed, it can be harmful.  Recently, in the news, we’ve seen what can happen when one person thinks less of another.  We’ve heard about women who have been harassed or assaulted, many times by those in authority in the workplace.  #MeToo  It doesn’t just happen to women.  It happens to men.  It happens to children.  It happens to the elderly.  As an individual with disabilities, We know Morgan is particularly vulnerable.  For this reason, we surround her with love and respect.  We give her responsibilities, choices, and consequences.  We let her know her value in God’s eyes, and ours.  We point out disrespect whenever we see it, because we want Morgan to recognize the difference between mature and immature behavior.

IMG_0861 IMG_0865

Morgan’s autism has no filter, so when she wants something a little too badly, her voice tone can get harsh.  When we return that same tone back to her, she is quick to tell us, “You hurt her feelings.”  Exactly. 😉 We are helping her to recognize it’s not just what we say, but HOW we say it.  She easily picks up on tones when someone is angry.  She’ll say, “Uh, Oh!”  She has also become more aware of someone being sarcastic and condescending.  We hope this will help her avoid “the bullies”.  We want her to understand the importance of respecting others, and being respected.  We know it will take a measure of maturity, and some growing pains, but we’re on our way.  😉

Maturity knows how to take care of itself, AND value others.  It can be confident without being a bully.  It can disagree without being degrading.  Maturity is teachable.  It can admit when its wrong.  It genuinely celebrates the success of others, and mourns their loss.  It simply treats others the way it wishes to be treated.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

 

 

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