September 08, 2010


The Occasional Max

Wow, 10 months. One of the biggest reasons that this blog has been idle for that long is my disdain for the obligation of regularly keeping up with it. That and a little thing called Facebook, which has, despite its shortcomings and sundry aggravations, become my latest Internet obsession. I’ll spare any non-FBers (we’re pretty sure you must exist somewhere) the details of my fancy except to say that it sort of streamlines the Internet social experience and gives you a tad bit more control as to who enters your world (and speaking only for myself, I do NOT mean that in the prison sense). There is also the fact that most people actually use their real name.

So I don’t know yet if MTIH will get the full Lazarus, but what else to start with after nearly a year but a recap? Many of my regular readers (haha) Innertubes pals are familiar with at least some of this, but I need the therapy.

As best I can recall the transition from ‘09 to ‘10 was fairly uneventful, but as our son Max’s third birthday approached we decided to take steps toward determining something that we had growing suspicions about. In early February we received an initial diagnosis that he is “mildly to moderately” autistic. For months Max had displayed some classic tell-tale signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), so the news, while disappointing, was not totally unexpected.

I spoke with my sister not long after the doctor’s appointment, and later she sent an e-mail with these words which moved me to tears with their heartfelt honesty, “You are parents to a beautiful, fun, adorable little boy who brings a lot of joy to a lot of people. Max is ‘special’ not only because he has different needs but because he is an amazing little boy, and I truly believe that he will thrive and flourish, and show us all what he can do.”

Indeed, on the plus side Max has shown improvement in some of the areas we were initially concerned with. And the developmental pediatrician who diagnosed him noted some strengths that, with the relatively early intervention we’ve been provided, indicate the strong possibility that he will lead a relatively normal life.

Of course Jen and I dove right into protective/pro-active parent mode, and after some therapy assessments we determined he would do well to have weekly speech and occupational therapy sessions. It’s interesting to weigh in our minds the differences and similarities between Max and “neurotypical” kids (pardon the jargon – I’ll try to be sparse with it). For example, when he has a meltdown, is it because of the sensory overload that his autism sometimes subjects him to or is it because he’s three?

Max is a bright little boy and very sweet (except of course when he’s not). His vocabulary is solid and he often talks up a storm. The ASD is apparent in the conversations though – the vast majority of his speech is echolalia, or repeating what he has heard; he doesn’t ask questions very often and sometimes has trouble answering even direct “yes” or “no” questions (though he is gaining excellence in the art of “NO!”). He also has trouble making eye contact with whomever he is speaking to. He is not particularly socially awkward, but he is deficient in the area of respecting, much less knowing about, personal space. Sometimes it’s cute how gregarious he is, but he is big for his age (nearly 40 inches and 45 lbs.) and has been known to knock other kids over, sometimes quite forcefully. There is some consolation in that it’s from excitement and not aggression. There is also consolation in knowing that it takes extended observation or a professional eye to even notice that Max is any different from the other kids on the playground. He plays enthusiastically, climbing like a monkey or riding his balance bike (a two-wheeler without pedals and drive train – he really moves on it!). He is usually very friendly and affectionate – he likes to snuggle and be tickled and to rough house and giggle and run around the house naked.

The diagnosis has not diminished our hopes for him, it has just made us aware that we need to be especially vigilant for his sake. There are struggles with the realization that many aspects of human nature that we take for granted will be an uphill battle for him, such as humor and romance and detecting dishonesty. But his literal and logically oriented thinking may often be a plus for him.

Max continues weekly therapy and is now enrolled in preschool full time (8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then afternoon daycare until around 4:00). The initial transition from being home with momma all summer was difficult at times, but he seems to be improving weekly.

The transition for Jen and me was interesting. She got laid off from the school system she has worked in for the past 12 years, ostensibly a “reduction in force” due to funding. While that might be generally believable by way of the governor and his fellow party legislators gutting Georgia’s education system of billions of dollars over the past eight years, it was dubious in the local sense because the county Jen works for pink-slipped over 100 teachers while surrounding counties let NONE of their staff go. Insult was added to injury but then topped by opportunity when the school system then advertised hiring for positions that included Jen’s former job. Oops! To make a long story short, there was back and forth between Jen and her union lawyer and the administration, Bob’s yer uncle, Jen still has a job with no loss of tenure.

In the fear-wracked interim of looking at losing our primary income and family health insurance, I was compelled to seek full-time employment. I was fortunate to not have to look far, as my former employer was seeking a staff writer/reporter. I don’t know who was happier – me for avoiding the dreadful beating of the pavement (which might have involved my head if it had gone on as long as my last bout of unemployment) or the publisher who didn’t have to interview a dozen unqualified wannabes.

The relatively sudden acquisition of my position and resolution of Jen’s debacle presented a new challenge – finding fulltime daycare for a yet-to-be fully potty trained special needs three-year-old. Suffice it to say that the local school system (we live one county from where Jen works) came through with essentially aeronautically navigable hues, and we found a better-than-tolerable facility to watch him for a couple of hours each afternoon.

Max had nice visits this summer with family. First his Auntie Joogie (soft ‘g’) made her annual trip down south, and then, looking at the fact that my new job would not afford vacation time for a year, we decided to return the favor and took a road trip up to Chicago. Not wanting to risk the emergence of Mr. McCrabbypants, we took overnight stops each way, and a good boy named Max took it all in with exuberance.

And now, as regular occurrence is questionable, I present The Occasional Max (I Know What You’ve Done Since Last Christmas edition):

Deck it out.

We enjoyed several good snowfalls this past season.

"Nice" I'd say.

This was the bungee-tramp thing at the Swedish Festival in Geneva, IL
Max has a frequent flyer card for the one at the mall near home.

I wanna live with the cinnamon dogs...

Lots of pride (and a bit of caution) that Max has entered
the "I can do it !" stage of toddlerdom

Awesome little helper that boy is. Stylin' too.

"I can do it!" Part Two


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