For anyone who buys gifts for a person with autism or a disability, here is a fun twist on the classic poem which shares some of the reasons it is so difficult to find the perfect gift.
Cindy Waeltermann, is the founder of AutismLink and gives us permission to reprint her poem on behalf of her two children who are adults with autism.
Autism Night Before Christmas
by Cindy Waeltermann
Twas the Night Before Christmas
And all through the house
The creatures were stirring
Yes, even the mouse
We tried melatonin
And gave a hot bath
But the holiday jitters
They always distract
The children were finally
All nestled in bed
When nightmares of terror
Ran through my OWN head
Did I get the right gift
The right color
Would there be a tantrum
Or even, maybe, a smile?
Our relatives come
But they don’t understand
The pleasure he gets
Just from flapping his hands.
“He needs discipline,” they say
“Just a well-needed smack,
You must learn to parent…”
And on goes the attack
We smile and nod
Because we know deep inside
The argument is moot
Let them all take a side
We know what it’s like
To live with the spectrum
The struggles and triumphs
But what they don’t know
And what they don’t see
Is the joy that we feel
He said “hello”
He ate something green!
He told his first lie!
He did not cause a scene!
He peed on the potty
Who cares if he’s ten,
He stopped saying the same thing
Again and again!
Others don’t realize
Just how we can cope
How we bravely hang on
At the end of our rope
But what they don’t see
Is the joy we can’t hide
When our children with autism
Make the tiniest stride
We may look at others
Without the problems we face
With jealousy, hatred
Or even distaste,
But what they don’t know
Nor sometimes do we
Is that children with autism
We don’t get excited
Over expensive things
We jump for joy
With the progress work brings
Children with autism
Try hard every day
That they make us proud
More than words can say.
They work even harder
Than you or I
To achieve something small
To reach a star in the sky
So to those who don’t get it
Or can’t get a clue
Take a walk in my shoes
And I’ll assure you
That even 10 minutes
Into the walk
You’ll look at me
With respect, even shock.
You will realize
What it is I go through
And the next time you judge
I can assure you
That you won’t say a thing
You’ll be quiet and learn,
Like the years that I did
When the tables were turned…….
Thanks to Trish Doerrler, a parent of a child with autism, for sharing this poem on her blog In so many words.
Hope you all have a fantastic Holiday, with lots of precious moments.
Aaron’s Favorite Gifts
This year we are getting Aaron a tape/CD player because Aaron thinks listening to music is an active sport. He loves putting the tapes (yes, tapes) in and out. We can find tapes in used book stores. They are usually pretty cheap, but that is great because then when they only last a couple days, they can be replaced. The hardest part will be to get the staff to understand the batteries are rechargable and should not be thrown out.
Aaron also likes to lick and flip baseball cards. He especially likes the ones with cheerleaders:)
I wish we had a longer list. He really isn’t impressed with new shirts and underwear.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward.
All my best,
Which gifts work for your child? especially adults with autism or other disabilities? Are the gifts age-appropriate?
Balancing my life vs. my child’s: Until my dying breath…
This is going to be a tough post. I might chicken out and not even publish it. I don’t want it to be a pity party: “You parents go through so much. You are Saints.” God Forbid!
See Aaron playing the key?
I am hoping this message will give other families a chance to take a breath and allow themselves a little slack. For those of you who are professionals, I hope it gives some insight into the choices families make–usually at a cost.
Families make hard choices all the time
All parents of young children, and adults who are caring for their elderly parents experience these same dilemmas. The sandwich generation is a well known problem in our culture and effects most families.
What is different for parents whose children are adults with disabilities? This intense care is usually not discussed or understood. It is not a time-limited situation where your child grows up or your parent dies.
Aaron is 39 years old and as I get older this is a growing issue. We are talking about–well, until my dying breath.
First Sign of Growing Old
I’ve been having lumbar back pain and had to begin a series of injections and other stuff. This is the first major medical issue I’ve ever had, so I have no right to complain. Plus my philosophy is that anytime a Doctor can actually “fix” a situation, I consider it a temporary problem and a medical victory.
BUT the bottom line was that for the first time ever I had to cancel Aaron’s doctor appointment.
I consciously chose my needs over my child’s.
I’ve had pain before, sure. But that has never stopped me, so why was this time different?
What was I thinking?
* There was the 50 mile round-trip drive to Aaron’s Doctor, the only one I trust who takes a medical card…
* Aaron goes every three months and didn’t have any major issues…
* We bring Aaron home with us every Saturday night. Whenever we take Aaron to the Doctor, we keep him both Saturday and Sunday nights and try to schedule on Monday morning…
* Monday mornings are the busiest day for the Doctor so there is always a long wait in a room full of sick people… Aaron is not a good “waiter”…
* I feel bad about the last minute cancellation to Aaron’s doctor, we try to be respectful of his time. If we have to pay the $30. charge, so be it.
* I always bring flowers to the receptionist in the Doctor’s office. She takes a special interest in Aaron and always gives him hugs and makes him smile. (I know, I know, amazing that I would spend energy on flowers for the receptionist–but she is one of the few people who get excited to see Aaron so that makes me happy too)…
* Going to the doctor takes a full morning…
* After the doctor visit we take Aaron out to lunch and then drop him off at his day program….
* Monday is the “community outing” day at the day program–so when they actually do what they say they are going to do (we won’t go there)…that means the group may or may not be in the building when we want to drop Aaron off…
* If the day program group is not there then we have to leave Aaron with the director who just puts Aaron with a book in a separate room and ignores him, a safety worry…
* The day program has Aaron’s noon medication, so the good thing is he will get his noon meds on time…
* The bad thing is I will have to be face-to-face with the director, who is a good person just has no resources. This means I will ask, “How is Aaron doing?” and the director will tell me they strongly think Aaron should be in diapers and have his meds increased… which will lead to… (let’s just say) be stressful for both of us and reinforce my reputation as “EVIL Parent and Day Program Public Enemy Number 1″….
I wrote this all out in stream of consciousness because this site is about climbing every mountain and mountains always have streams– did you like that analogy? 🙂 But, like most people, I think our conscious run streams of pros and cons with every decision we make.
Second and Third Thoughts:
I accept it, but I am not proud I made the decision to think of myself first. When we took Aaron back to his house on Sunday night and I was hardly able to walk on Monday morning I knew I did the right thing. There is no way I would have been physically able to give Aaron his bath, breakfast, and go through all the steps outlined above.
So Aaron will live, I’ll get better. But how soon will it be that either myself or my husband will have some serious condition where we require medical care and can’t take care of Aaron?
I look at Aaron’s housemate’s parents. They are in their 90s. They have done an admirable job, but age has now made them just as vulnerable as their son. Soon it will be my turn.
Damn! Why is this so hard? Why do I feel Aaron’s quality of life is ONLY in the hands of his family?
We are fortunate to have some good professional people in Aaron’s life. But why do the thousands of dollars being given to the agencies–who are supposed to be providing Aaron care–don’t care?
There is a huge difference between providing “care” and “caring”.
Okay, getting old is tough for everyone, share what you are thinking. Do you think it is more intense for a family with a child with a disability? Is it harder as the child grows into an adult?
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
https://climbingeverymountain.com/inclusion-for-moms-sisters-of-the-heart/ BTW: Lori Foster 2013 register now.
Grandma gets a Thong
Helen Otten, my mom, died April 3 at the age of almost 93. I’m posting this in her memory. I’m also reminded of the importance of family.
The twelfth day of Christmas is Jan. 6th–Little Christmas, The Feast of the Magi.
Actually, it’s all the Magi’s fault. They are the ones credited with giving the first gifts.
Based on the number of people in line at the return desks last week, I’d say many people had problems with their gifts. (Actually I could see Mary and Joseph thinking the gold was useful, they could buy a wagon or better donkey, but what were they supposed to do with Frankincense and Myrrh. Myrrh–really????)
I know it is supposed to be the “thought that counts,” but it really is much more. Gifts are a whole cultural phenomenon.
My mother is 89.
Recently she’s had hip replacement surgery and has trouble shopping for herself.
Two months before Christmas she told me she wanted slippers. Slippers it is. I don’t have to guess her gift. And this is great…EXCEPT
Every day for the next month she would call me on the phone (usually at 6 AM because that is when she wakes up and is thinking about slippers) and define what kind of slippers. They had to have rubber soles so she could wear them outside if she wanted. And this is great…EXCEPT
She couldn’t tell me her size. It seems some Large slippers are size 8-9, some Larges are size 9-10. And the manufacture, design, model, production all make a difference.
I went to three different stores and brought her “Pair number one” on Thanksgiving. She didn’t even try them on. Which actually made it easier to exchange them, which is great…EXCEPT
She really wanted black. But none of the stores made black slippers. So, I picked out some navy size 8’s and 9’s and 10’s, and some pink (everything she owns is pink) in a size 8-9, and 9-10. And I figured I’d give her a choice. Which was great…EXCEPT
She decided she wanted slippers that weren’t slip-ons. “Only the devil would make slippers with open backs” and she has had slippers that covered her whole foot, well–her whole life. And, she thinks she has ugly toes, so–none of those slippers with toe cut-outs. So, I boxed up and returned the slippers. And it was great…EXCEPT
The next three stores didn’t have black or whole foot slippers. But they did have navy.
You know where this is going, right?
Yep, I rebought her the same slippers (that she wouldn’t even try on) from the first round. She opened them on Christmas and said they were perfect.
So, it makes you wonder.
Was the gift really about slippers at all?
Grandma and the Thong
The picture above is from a previous Christmas. My sister Martha worked in a lingerie store and gave each of the girl cousins a pair of thongs. They thought they were nice. Certainly something practical they could use. EXCEPT
She also gave one to Grandma.
The gift became an urban legend in our family. It brought down the house.
Even though mom didn’t even recognize the thong as underwear—it was the shared experience with her grandkids that made it the perfect gift.
Which again makes me wonder about gifts.
Aaron’s Christmas Gift and Charity
This Christmas Aaron went to a Christmas Party sponsored by a local non-profit. These are kind folks. Many of the people with severe disabilities are the poorest people in the county and don’t even have family members who can give them gifts. So, this is not only a nice gesture, it is an opportunity for these poor souls to get a little something extra.
This year the non-profit got items donated by local businesses to give as gifts. Over 150 adults with disabilities came to the Christmas Party and Dance.
There are so few recreation opportunities, many of the people put on their best clothes and showed up early. Many more wanted to come, but there was little transportation and they depend on staff–who didn’t want to bother.
At the party, even though they arrived early, there were only chairs for 100 people. So Aaron and Jack, his roommate, had to stand and hold their coats.
Since Aaron has balance problems, and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t sit down (people were guarding their chairs) he started biting his hand and pinching others. Not good behavior at a party.
Their staff person made the sensible decision to leave (even more people were coming in the already over-crowded room). Aaron and Jack were each given a “gift bag” at the exit. Which was nice… EXCEPT
The gift bag had a pair of donated slippers. Yea! I would be laughing too, slippers… EXCEPT
The slippers were size 11.
Aaron wears a size 9.
Now, no one with balance issues is safe wearing a pair of slippers two sizes too big. And, unlike my mother, these slippers were charity—donated. So there was no gift card or receipt, most people had no dutiful daughter, family or staff who cared to make an exchange.
And, Aaron couldn’t understand why anyone would give him slippers he couldn’t use. So he just carried the slippers around the house—making me crazy that good, kind people could be so dumb. After all who is the “intellectually challenged” person here? Did they think they wouldn’t notice the slippers didn’t fit? Or all people wear size 11?
Is “Just getting something to open” the point? Even if they can’t use it?
What is Charity?
If you plan a charitable event and are giving gifts:
Don’t just arbitrarily pass out slippers, or coats, or T-shirts with misspelled words.
Don’t give radios with no batteries—because they want to use the radio that minute and staff often won’t be bothered with batteries.
Don’t give them things you couldn’t sell or are broken.
Don’t make your interaction a one-time-event.
Do have a party with chairs and refreshments for everyone.
Do get to know people as individuals
Do think about what YOU would want to get
Do think about normalization, age-appropriate entertainment and gifts.
Do think about transportation and staff and family members
Do consider that the shared experience, like Grandma getting the Thong, may be the best gift ever—no excepts.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
Okay, best/worst gift stories? Am I just being an ungrateful jerk? What is the role of charity? Is it appropriate to give broken, torn things to Goodwill/charity? Only 258 shopping days until Christmas????
Here is one of our most popular posts. Relax and make an individualized ENJOYMENT program for your best holiday ever.
Easy as I.E.P.
Mom’s I.E.P. for the Holidays: Individualized Enjoyment Program
Want to enjoy the holidays?
Easy as I.E.P.
Don’t laugh. I.E.P.’s were developed because they are good planning tools. Some people are intimidated or challenged by the I.E.P. in Special Education. One way to demystify the I.E.P. process is to use it in our everyday lives. So, stick with me for a minute while we look at how this can work in real life.
Let’s use the Individualized Education Program to create a holiday planning guide.
The first part is to create your Dream Program of what you want. Then we plug in the basic parts of the I.E.P.: Evaluation, Annual Goals, Short term objectives, Related Services, Placement, and circle back to the Evaluation for the next I.E.P. for next year.
Dreaming of YOUR perfect holiday
Everyone’s perfect holiday looks different: Grandma’s turkey feast, or make that a roast goose, or Uncle Bob’s ham and sweet potatoes, or a vegetarian, or Kosher, or vegan, or gluten-free …
Everyone has different expectations, traditions, time and money constraints. So forget the Women’s magazines, forget what your Mother-in-law wants, forget what happens on the Food Channel and Martha Stewart show.
We don’t care about “Everybody.”
The beauty of the I.E.P. is it is individualized. It is for You. Not your mother, your children, your boss…YOU! This is YOUR moment, your freedom, just YOU–what do you want?
Action Step 1: Visualize a Dream Holiday
Take a deep breath and picture a smiling yourself surrounded by your favorite people, doing what you really want to do. Ahhhhh.
Are you skiing down a mountain? Are you sitting by the fireplace listening to Bing Crosby? or Lady Antebellum?…
What would make this a joyous holiday for you–with just the right balance of work and relaxation?
What were the strengths and weaknesses of previous holidays?
Do you want to start any new “You” traditions, new family traditions?
Define your dream program (see related post)
Feel empowered to do it YOUR WAY. This is your holiday gift to yourself. You deserve it!
Don’t you feel better already? This holiday is going to be the best.
1. Take a sheet of paper and fold it into four squares: Wants, Needs, Likes, and Dislikes.
2. Fill in the boxes based on YOUR Individualized choices.
If you are feeling pressure because others are trying to get you to do something you don’t want to do, be polite but tell them to make their own IEP. 🙂 Empower yourself! I know this is hard for me and most Moms.
3. Circle your five top priorities and they will become your goals.
For example: Want live tree. Need family to be together for dinner. Loved shopping with Aunt Ruth. Hated the last minute rush….
One Priority goal: Need family to be together for dinner.
Making a decision is the first step. What do YOU want? What would bring YOU joy?
Since there is no standardized tool to measure the
holidays–no HFA (Holiday Fun Assessment) or HQ (Happiness Quotient)–we will create an informal evaluation tool based on ecological assessments.
LONG TERM GOAL I: To have a traditional, homemade turkey dinner with family members on Christmas Day.
Do we want to raise the turkey and grow the corn for the stuffing? Serve the strawberry preserves from your summer garden? Do we want to skip the preparation and order in? Or go out to eat? So many choices?
If we decide to keep this as one of our goals, then we must break down our long-term goal into measurable, observable steps.
Mom decides she wants to cook the Christmas dinner and eat at home.
SHORT TERM OBJECTIVES:
“Short-term objectives are merely small steps that enable us to get from where we are now to where we want to be by a certain date.”
A. Mom will finalize the menu by December 10.
B. Mom will make the list and complete the shopping by December 15.
C. Mom will prepare the dinner by December 25.
Each of these short-term objectives can be “task analyzed” and broken down into smaller parts.
We know these are important steps to reaching our goal so they must be completed with 100% accuracy. (75% completion of the meal may leave some family members hungry.)
LONG TERM GOAL II: To have the gifts wrapped and under the tree by December 24.
SHORT TERM OBJECTIVES:
A. Mom will purchase all supplies by December 10.
B. Mom will supervise the gift-wrapping by December 15.
Task Analysis example:
Mom will supervise:
1. Billy will cut the paper.
2. Dad will wrap and tape the gifts.
3. Susie will add the bow.
4. Tommy will place the presents under the tree.
Notice in the Task Analysis, family members with different skill levels can all partially participate.
—“Developmental, corrective, and other supportive services to enable you to reach your goals.”
To achieve Goal IC –“Mom will prepare the food by December 25”—Mom will need the following supportive services:
Consultant: Grandma has the expertise to bake and bring perfect pumpkin pies.
Consultant: Aunt Jane will come early to help in the kitchen.
Community Resource: We will purchase the local bakery’s famous dinner rolls.
Now that we have written our IEP we must determine the least restrictive environment for accomplishing our goals.
We could cook and wrap the presents at Aunt Sara’s and bring
everything home, but to meet Mom’s goals on this particular IEP, her own home is the least restrictive environment.
Remember any IEP can be revised or modified at any time. For instance, if Paula Deen wants to invite my family for a holiday dinner, I would change these goals in one butterfat minute.
I hope using the I.E.P. process not only makes it easier to understand but hope it can be a tool for you to have a magical holiday season.
Well, what do you think?
1. Do you better understand the IEP process?
2. Would this process be useful for everyone?
3. Does anyone raise turkeys?
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
Other posts you might enjoy:
Celebrating St. Nick and two special sons.
Balancing My child’s needs and my needs