Tag Archives: autism parenting

Leaf Piles and Imposter Syndrome

A few months ago, Radcliffe came to me with tears in his eyes.

Me: What’s wrong?

Radcliffe: I don’t want to tell you. I need you to take me to the doctor because something’s wrong with me.

After some coaxing, he said this:

Radcliffe: I hear voices and I know it’s weird and I’m embarrassed and people are going to judge me.

I internally start to panic, but I remained calm.

Me:  Are the voices telling you to do things?

Radcliffe: (looking at me quizzically) What? No! These people live in my mind like a movie and they have adventures and fight bad people. But they keep having adventures, even when I try to ignore it.

He inherited my brain, I realized. I hugged him and told him I needed to show him something. I brought him into my office and pointed to a piece of white butcher paper taped to the wall with black sharpie notes written on it.

Me: These are the people that live in my brain that I can’t turn off. This is the book I’ve been working on.

I could see the lightbulb go off and a wave of relief wash over him. This child, who with Asperger’s sees the world in black and white but is the most creative child, does not understand his own creativity. It must be so confusing, to be nine years old and not understand that this is how a creative mind works when you generally see things in stark contrast.

We’ve talked a lot since then about stories, how they’re made, keeping a notebook of thoughts, storyboards, and how to turn thoughts into a story. Since then, he’s come up with two comprehensive storylines that, dare I say, exceeds anything I could ever imagine.

Last year, he won first place in the region for poetry and placed second in the state. This year, we received another invitation to an award ceremony, telling us that he had won first place in poetry for the region and the state winners would be announced that night.

Tuesday night, he seemed nervous. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me he was nervous he wouldn’t place in state like he did last year.

Jesus. He has imposter syndrome already and he’s only nine.

After lots of hugs and encouragement, we went to the ceremony where they announced he also placed first in the state for poetry. The look on his face when they announced it brought tears to my eyes.

He sat down and said, ‘Wow, this is really exciting.’

It really is. It really, really is. It seemed fitting that this happened the beginning of Autism Awareness Month. We all worry about our children, and autism mothers worry about their children finding a place in this world. While I will always have this worry, I love seeing our children find a spot where they feel good about themselves and seeing them light up when they are in that place. Every day is Autism Day in our house, not just the month of April. But these days? I’ll take every single one of them.

His poem:

Leaf Piles
Leaves falling like rain in a pile.
There are so many they make me smile.
A wind will make my pile gone in awhile.
But that’s okay, it’s just my style.

Polite At All Costs


Southern women are taught to be polite at all costs. Southern mommas are expected to raise polite offspring.

One blistering day, I was driving with my two and a half year old son in the backseat, and I was feeling quite smug that I was going to be early for an appointment. So smug that I thought to myself, ‘You know, I have just enough time to run into the dollar store and pick up a few items.’

I pulled into the concrete strip mall and hustled my son into the store. I was still on schedule, until I got into the checkout line.

I waited. And then waited some more. And even though I was wearing a dress like a good Southern girl does, the sweat from the muggy day started to cause my thighs to stick together. My mostly silent child up until this point started to whimper.

I tried to ignore the noises. I tried to ignore my sticky thighs and the impatient sighs from the patrons behind me.

The line would not move. My smugness turned into panic as I realized that I not only might no longer be early, nor on time, but late.

As it finally became my turn to put my items onto the belt, my son started to cross his legs and cry.

‘Ma’am, can we use your bathroom? We’re potty training and he doesn’t have on a diaper.’

Disdainfully, she looked at me. ‘No. All of outside is a bathroom for boys.’

I stood there, both dumbfounded and livid, as I slowly reached up and clutched my pearls. I felt my fingernails cutting into the palm of my hand as my fingers wrapped around my necklace.

‘Of course. You’re right.’

Crimson shame spread across my cheeks as the long line behind us began to whisper.

I shuffled my son out of the store and looked around frantically. There was nowhere for him to go to the bathroom. I directed him to the nearest corner.

Instead, he walked straight over to the window of the store, pulled his smocked shorts down, and began to urinate on the window, in full view of the register and line we just walked away from. Everyone, including the cashier, stopped in their tracks as this child made the window his personal bathroom. I just stood there and did nothing, with my own jaw hanging open in surprise.

He pulled his shorts up and started leading me to the car as if nothing happened and I followed, speechless.

I waited a year to shop there again. When I finally had the nerve to go back, there was now a posted sign: ‘Bathrooms for pregnant women and potty-training children ONLY.’

The Pendulum Swings Hard


Sometimes the pendulum swings so hard in our household, I get emotional whiplash over the course of a week.

Both of our boys are on the spectrum, but their issues are wildly different. Theodore had significantly delayed speech but Radcliffe talked early, but their IQ’s are roughly equivalent, meaning that while they couldn’t be further apart on the spectrum, they are landing in a very similar spot. What works for one won’t work for the other, yet what won’t work for the general population, will work for both of them.

It’s exhausting.

We work hard in this house to focus on the magic, on their gifts that they alone have. But we have highs and lows, just like everyone else.

Radcliffe struggled with reading comprehension and has had to have intervention in school. While driving home from tutoring last year, he choked up and said, ‘I’m just not smart like my brother.’

I pulled over and sternly told him that wasn’t true and explained how everyone has special gifts. That seemed to suffice that day, but it has always lingered in the back of my thoughts. Until then, our biggest problem with both of the boys were their social skills, and I worried about adding one more damn thing to this poor child’s plate.

Radcliffe’s magical gift is that he’s basically lunacy at work. He is creative with no confines or structure to hold him back— a dream most artists would covet.

Last week, we went to the Young Author’s award ceremony for the region. We knew he placed in the region for poetry, but they don’t tell you if you’re first, second, or third. All first place winners automatically go on to the state competition.

We made a big deal about, and told Radcliffe we would take him to dinner before for whatever kind of food he wanted. He wanted to try ribs for the first time. Um, okay?

RribsCelebrating. Theodore is smiling, which means the apocalypse is coming.

When we got to the ceremony, they announced he was first place in poetry for the second grade — which meant he went on to state. And then they announced that he placed second in the state for poetry — the only kid in the region, kindergarten through twelfth to place in poetry. I was screaming like a maniac, jumping up and down. I almost felt sorry for the other people in the audience.

That high lasted all week. We’re making progress, I thought.

Then today happened.

He got off the bus crying and by the time he walked into the house, it was a full blown meltdown. I was able to get him to calm down and I took him to tutoring. On the way home, I had promised the boys fast food for dinner tonight, and I started driving that way, the opposite way of our normal route home.

During this drive, I started a phone conversation. It was wrapping up, and I pulled into the fast food parking lot and put the car in park. I started to hear dry heaving from the back seat and sobbing in between heaves.

The phone call lasted 3 minutes from the time I parked to the time I hung up.

He was dry heaving and sobbing because I stopped the car.

I had a flashback of my daily drives home from preschool with Theodore and how he would vomit all over the backseat if I took a different way home.

And then I had a flashback of the pediatrician giving me the best advice I’ve received since being a mom:

‘Make him as uncomfortable as you can stand it. It will exhaust you, but it will push him and desensitize him. It will be harder for you than it is for you.’

My job as their mother is not to make them comfortable, but to make them uncomfortable — to stretch them to their limits, so they know their limitations are only what they themselves set. It’s working, but dear God, is it so damn hard.

I refused to move the car until he got ahold of himself, which meant we sat in that parking space for a good fifteen minutes. My stubborn streak serves me well in these situations. He finally pulled it together, but didn’t speak to me for another hour.

When he finally came around, we had a pleasant bedtime. Exhausted, I came downstairs to start my nightly chores. While cleaning up, I found an extra copy of his poem on his desk. It was the reminder that I needed that this exhaustion is so very worth it.


Happy is flying in the air on Maw-me’s tire swing.
Happy is the song I sing.
Happy is time at Laser Tag
Or watching a movie that isn’t sad.
Happy is spending time with my nice little dog, Ruby.
Happy is fun and eating yummy eggs.