Summer of the game show

One thing we learn about kids on the spectrum is that they tend to think about things in a very black/white manner. What they see in front of them is what is; if it’s not there, then they don’t imagine it.

For years, Little Miss was this way, and it was a constant point of “push” on my part. Why did someone act in a certain way? What would happen if…? That intuition part was just absent. I always got an irritated “I don’t know,” or more often, just ignored.

But this year, that door has cracked open, slowly at first, and then the possibilities have expanded–thanks to American game shows.

I have mostly considered game shows kind of a waste of time. After all, I wasn’t winning anything. Other than bragging rights to answering Jeopardy questions faster than the contestants (not necessarily a grand feat safe on one’s couch), there wasn’t much point.

wheelBut then we discovered Wheel of Fortune. it was on one night and I noticed Little Miss picking out patterns. She could identify “the” from one letter. Or other combinations. So we started purposefully watching until she could use her intuition to guess the letters. Eureka! Something beyond black and white!

Simultaneously, her ability to explain other things not seen fleshed out as well. Why did that man on the commercial ask people to behave a certain way? What does that girl feel, just by reading her face? Continued progress.

So while other parents, I’m sure, are chasing their kids outside, I’m setting up game shows. We watch The Price is Right, to guesstimate LMADthe prices and how much things might be worth. We watch Let’s Make a Deal to learn how to make decisions about things that can’t be seen. Should you trade a small box for a large box? Is bigger always better? Is money in the hand better than something you can’t see? She nearly always chooses the sure thing. Can’t argue with that.

This month, she’s kept her tablet handy, and every time there’s a trip to somewhere, she looks up where it is, identifies the flag and the location, and shares some facts with me about the country or city. If it’s a place she’s been, it brings recall of fun trips together. Otherwise, it’s a painless geography lesson.

asseenOf course, she’s still focused on having all the “As Seen on TV” gadgets, or anything that’s marked “New”. We’re working on that. But watching how she’s developed this summer, thanks to these entertaining lessons, I think we’ll get there.

Now I just have to get her a passport so she can go to these islands in the Caribbean. She’s insistent….

 

What makes a marriage?

A friend of mine recently decided in order to preserve her marriage, she needed to leave the marital home. She and her husband now live in two homes in the same city, while they work through counselors to cure the issues that separated them. So they see each other a couple times a week and share joint activities with their children.

Sounds like dating to me.

I know other families where one of the spouses works 60 or more hours a week to keep the bills paid, sometimes in town, sometimes out on the road, leaving the other to stay home and handle the domestic situation all alone.

Sounds like single parenthood to me.

There are even a few families I know in the “Leave it to Beaver” mode, where mom and dad cooperate to work and raise the family together.

Sounds like a pipe dream to most people–I know.

I didn’t grow up in a family like that, at least for not more than a year or two at a time. When my parents were still together, for a few years anyway, and then with my one step-mother for about another 18 months, there were two parents, each contributing and caring for the children. It wasn’t always 50-50 for each category, but it was cooperative.

My office files are filled with the broken dreams of those who hoped to achieve that goal, but found their relationships wanting. Many tried to work and compromise to produce a successful marriage, but because of some outside influence–alcohol, drugs, a paramour– they couldn’t keep it up. Some found that after years went by, that early shine on their mate that they’d found attractive had worn thin, like the veneer on a well-used coffee table. Others realized too late that they’d married for the wrong reasons and could never make it work.

So what does it take?

I’m probably no expert (though I’ve taken the plunge three times). There are some common themes: mutual respect, tolerance and a commitment to endure. The first shows you have the ability to trust the other person with the joint aspects of your life, including the children, the finances and your own insecurities. The second demonstrates the willingness to accept that neither of you are perfect–will never be–but that you can still accept your partner as they are, even when they don’t come up to “Prince Charming” standards. The third embodies the words of the wedding vows, keeping in mind that a marriage is not about that first fire of passion, but the glow of the embers that keep you warm for years to come, through wealth and poverty, health and illness, and all the events that the two of you face together.

Along with a generous slice of sense of humor and an occasional garnish of joy, this is what gets me through. That, and the fact that my husband is destined for sainthood. 🙂

How about you?

A sad epidemic

A disturbing trend seems to have surfaced in recent months: solving your family troubles by murder.

I know some are following the Karen McCarron trial, where an Illinois doctor admitted killing her daughter to end her family’s pain caused by living with a child with autism. But this is by no means the only one, and certainly not in the last week.  Yesterday on CNN.com, I saw stories where a father threw his four children off a bridge with the intent to kill them; another father was charged with burning his wife and children in a house fire; the body of a female Marine and her unborn child was unearthed in another Marine’s backyard; two beautiful teenaged girls murdered in an “honor killing” in Texas.

What is wrong with people?!

We all have frustrations day to day just because life is hard, and certainly in families of children with special needs there are ample frustrations to make parents seek help and answers. When could murder ever be the right answer? I can’t even imagine.

There is a system, flawed as it may be, to handle broken families. Family courts can place children in foster care while parents get help, if necessary–not the best possible option, but much better than self-help, if these parents are any example. Divorce court or access to protective orders can separate parties in potentially dangerous situations. Psychological help is available–free if you can’t afford it–to aid families in crisis. Is it really easier to pick up a gun than a phone?

I’m fortunate that I haven’t lost a client or a client’s family member to a vindictive spouse. Colleagues of mine in town have, and I feel for them. Family members and friends of the murder victims may wonder, “Isn’t there something we could have done?”

 All we can ever do is provide someone in crisis with alternatives, options and support. This applies whether the person is mentally ill, alcoholic, or a victim of abuse.  Help that is imposed on a person from outside doesn’t change the person. Only when that person takes charge of his or her own destiny, realizes he or she can cope with the situation facing them, and takes positive steps to improve their life will there be real progress, success and safety for family members.

Let’s all make a pledge to be open to those who are so troubled they are prepared for drastic action. If they need someone to listen, let’s listen. If they need us to make a phone call, let’s do it. Let’s save the children, while we still can.