Tag Archive | family members

Josiah’s Story about the 4th of July & Val’s Arbutus Beach & Cottage Reminiscences

Source: Josiah’s Story about the 4th of July

Hey, my son Josiah shared some of his insights about the 4th of July & celebrating near our family’s Cottage in Gaylord, Michigan.  There are some lively discussions going on in the Comments Section of his original post, so I wanted to link that post here on my page to find it more easily going forward.

There are some beautiful descriptions of Michigan there from people who have visited over the years!  It’s so great to find even visitors to Michigan have been blessed here!

All of what you see below got generated by looking for appropriate images…which led to reminiscing about life & times Up North…Whew, that was fun but also unexpected!

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This is a picture of Otsego Lake, Gaylord, MI at sunset & that is the very dock used by the street where The Cottage is located & this dock is lovingly maintained by a kind year-round neighbor–image found via a Bing.com image search for “Otsego Lake, Michigan”!

 

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Map of Otsego Lake, Michigan from a Bing.com image search

For the 4th of July, Gaylord usually conducts their Fireworks Show from the Otsego County Park shooting the fireworks off over the Lake.  We get a front row seat to this majestic & patriotic display from “our” beach.  Usually the lake fills with boats so that people watch the show from all angles and situations.  After the County show oftentimes there are many neighbors up & down the beach that put on pretty impressive personal displays, even before such elaborate explosives were available in-state.  Some of the regular out of state visitors also packed quite a bang-up version of personal 4th displays!

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This is similar to our fireworks view, from a Bing.com image search for “Gaylord Michigan fireworks”

From this map of Otsego Lake, you can see that the Lake is roughly 5 miles long and about 1 mile wide at its widest, and many generations of the extended family have taken pride in swimming across the lake–including me!  The Cottage is located along the Northern most side of “The Pointe” that is prominent just North of Otsego Lake State Park.  If you would bisect that Pointe the Northern half would constitute Arbutus Beach, originally set up as a Public Beach (so the Lakefront property owners don’t technically own the Beach between their property & the water).  The Southern half of that Pointe, all the way to Old 27 Highway would be Pine Beach, where Uncle Hugh, Aunt Bernice, & their kids Tom & Karen had cottages.  Pine Beach was set up as Private Beach property so that the lake-front people own the Beach down to the water.  The other owners in Pine Beach only have water access at a couple of access points, somewhat like at the end of the roads.  We actually “slept under the stars” on our cousins’ beach a few times, but that was a more regular occurrence during my Dad’s & Aunt Pat’s Endless Summers of Fun!

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This view is looking South, with The Pointe protruding into the water…from earlier times, like my Dad’s childhood; from a Bing.com image search for “otsego lake, gaylord michigan “

Now Arbutus Beach, because of various lawsuits & disputes has become “The Arbutus Beach Association”.  This makes the Beach rather “semi-private”, whereby in order for people from outside the Association to technically have access to the beach, they need to be guests of Association Members.  We lived at The Cottage during the time the whole lawsuit thing was just getting underway.  In fact, I was operating as an Avon Lady, with a territory that encompassed the entire Arbutus & Pine Beach area.  The Lawsuit was a frequent topic of conversation as I made may way through my Avon Territory and I heard many sad stories from residents.  In some cases friends who had known/interfaced with each other for generations were no longer speaking because they were on opposite sides of the (pointless) disputes.  To my knowledge, some of those historically congenial relationships were permanently destroyed through this lawsuit & subsequent legal maneuvering & fallout.  The only “winners” in all of that were the lawyers…

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This is the sign as you enter Arbutus Beach off Old 27, from a Bing.com image search for “Arbutus Beach, Michigan”

Since my Dad & Aunt Pat, and their cousins Tom & Karen, spent their Summers at Otsego Lake, we get plenty of historical insights & nostalgia about the way things used to be up there.  They traveled around with a bunch of similarly aged kids some of whom lived Up North year round and some of whom, like all of them, were Summer Refugees from Detroit, including a gang of kids at the next most northern train stop, WaWaSoo.  They speak fondly of the days when there were fewer docks & boats on the lake, like two pictures above.  There also were many community events that happened around the lake, at least in the Summer time.  There are many ads in the Gaylord Herald Times Newspapers from like a hundred years ago that show the vibrant community life that seemed to revolve around Otsego Lake back in the day (see some links at the very end of this posting)…The below picture is an historical one of the Resort where historically many community events were held, I believe.  This is now a private residence with a huge dwelling erected on the former community-centric site.

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from a Bing.com image search for “Arbutus Beach, Michigan”

 

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My Great Grandparents’ Cottage & one of their rental cottages in the foreground; from a Bing.com image search for “Arbutus Beach, Michigan”

The above picture shows cottages that are on the street set back from the lake and near the top of the hill.  You can just see the lake in the distance in the middle left of this photo, beyond the car.  This appears to be one of the cottages my great grandparents Rowland Edward & Florabelle Mansell Thompson used to rent to others.  The white cottage in the center of the picture was the cottage my great grandparents moved to Arbutus Beach and was apparently the first cottage there.  The story goes that they bought the lumber company’s manager’s cottage/office? from the South West side of Otsego Lake.  It was pulled by horses over rolling logs across the frozen Lake one winter.

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from a Bing.com image search for “horses pull house across frozen lake”

Though I couldn’t find a picture showing horses pulling a house across a frozen lake, the size of the logs in the above picture and to some degree the time frame may be representative of the process of moving my Great-Grandparents’ First Arbutus Beach Cottage across Otsego Lake.  Also, my Dad’s namesake & grandfather, William Ellsworth Stoddard, found his calling working in lumber, first in Northern Michigan and later managing his boss’ lumber yard in Detroit…WES also had a Gaylord cottage as did several of his children, my Grandpa Elzine Munger Stoddard’s siblings.

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from a Bing.com image search for “horses pull building”

I guess if you add the above two pictures together, divide by two, and pull the building over ice it Might Approximate what allegedly happened with my Great-Grandparents’ First Cottage!  At some time I hope to peruse the historical newspapers from that location & era to see if there might be some mention of this momentous event.  It sounds like the kind of local color piece that would have been so interesting to read from that time period.  Alternatively I may try to see if the Gaylord/Otsego County Historical Society has some record of this event–and hopefully pictures to go with the account!  There’s another couple approximations of that event below…though my great-grandparents’ cottage was bigger (or did it only become bigger later???)…However this was accomplished, it was likely a pretty big deal and involved quite a few people & animals…I would have loved to have heard the tale from my Great Grand Father, as he was a notorious Tall Tale Teller!

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from a Bing.com image search for “horses move building”

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from a Bing.com image search for “horses move building winter”

 

After my Great-Grandparents, Rowland & Florabelle Thompson, died one of their Grandsons, Kenny Moore, who lived in Traverse City, owned their original cottage for many years.  He sold it to his mother’s brother, Thurman Thompson, who lived in California and would occasionally return to Michigan to visit his sisters Vivian Beatrice Thompson Stoddard (my grandmother) & Bernice Genevieve Thompson (Tom & Karen’s mother–she married Hugh Orr Thompson so basically retained her maiden name as a married woman).  After Uncle Thurman died one of his daughters, Mary Louise, inherited the cottage & she eventually moved to Michigan to live there year round.

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from a Bing.com image search for “Fairview Cemetery, Gaylord, Michigan”

By the way  all the names mentioned in the above paragraph, excepting Kenny & Mary, are buried in Fairview Cemetery in Gaylord.  My parents recently bought lots in the vicinity of where my Dad’s first cousin Tom was so lately laid to rest.  Though I hope that it is still many, many years before we need to put that land to use, it is a comfort to know that Mom & Dad will be buried so near so many of the relations on my Dad’s side and so close to our beloved Cottage.  We visited Tom’s grave over Memorial Day and it was a beautiful weather day, though of course bitter sweet in our loss…It was also remarkable the high volume of Military Service represented in that Cemetery, for it appeared that close to half of those graves, going back at least to the Civil War, carried American Flags to honor their Service!

 

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from a Bing.com image search for “Arbutus Beach, Michigan”

This above picture is the cottage that lies between our family Cottage and Otsego Lake–you can see the white “sleeping porch” of Our Cottage behind their side entrance roofing.  When I was a child I used to play with the kids who visited there.  When Michael & I lived at The Cottage in ’93 & ’94 our Pastor’s wife’s sister & brother-in-law lived there with their family.  Later it was bought by a Gaylord native who worked & lived downstate.  It recently changed hands and is now a rental cottage for the new owners.

The swing & platform in the above photo was erected by our neighbors across the street to accommodate the matriarch of that clan when she comes to visit from Florida.  When I was a kid my Grandma & I would sit on the immense log that marked the line between grass & beach to watch sunsets & chat, under where the swing & platform now reside.  Virtually every evening my Dad will sit on that swing, with his sister if she’s Up North, or my Mom, myself, or any of the many grand-kids who might be about to see if there will be yet another spectacular sunset display (& I’ve seen many people up & down Arbutus Beach do this too).

The white cottage on the left is owned by a lovely lady who also spent her growing up Summers at The Lake, like my Dad & Aunt did.  She comes up from Ohio and spends a lot of time Up North throughout the year in her retirement.  To the right of the swing (not in the picture) is a small brown cottage that was owned for many years, possibly generations, by one of the families who generated that dreaded & divisive lawsuit.  They were from California and the man’s brother also had a place further North within the Arbutus Beach community.  The little lake-front gem recently changed hands & is now owned by a couple who live further up the street year round, & maintain that dock in the very top photo above.  They turned that little cozy cottage into a rental place & my parents actually rented it one Summer when so many of our clan were Up North for the 4th for extra sleeping & hangout space–it was quite lovely!

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from a Bing.com image search for “Arbutus Beach, Michigan”

It’s possible that the above picture is from the “Arbutus Beach Highlands”, a small residential community just East of Old 27, across from the Arbutus Beach & Pine Beach neighborhoods & entrance.  Several years ago, Josiah & I along with Brandon & Clarissa spent about 3 weeks at the Cottage in Gaylord.  We walked along the wooded trails of the Highlands, to pick some wild blackberries.  During one of our excursions we ran across some Elk foot/hoof prints.  We would regularly also see Deer prints, but not the animals. Another time, August 2013 to be specific, as Josiah was recuperating following his Liver Transplant in July, he & I had an extended Cottage visit.  On that trip I actually saw a small Red Fox along the Train Tracks where you turn into Arbutus Beach–the only time ever in 50+ years of personal excursions there!  There is so much Natural Beauty abounding in the area.  Sometimes it reminds me of my Grandma, who died in the 1970s, to see the various plants & animals, as we used to walk to the Pointe & some of the wooded pathways together & just talk….She used to be a Teacher, loved kids, and shared her love of God’s world directly with me!!!  These are such treasured memories…

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from a Bing.com image search for “Gaylord, Michigan”

Above is an historical image of the Call of the Wild Museum.  This is a dated though fun family outing place, especially on bad weather days.  My husband often takes our kids there to buy yet another cool knife from their well stocked Gift Shop.  There are many trophy animals on display there including quite a few specimens taken by the legendary hunter, Fred Bear.  He was a dear friend & mentor to hunter, rocker, conservative commentator, and “Motor City Mad Man” Ted Nugent.  I believe Ted has connections to Northern Michigan, but I think more so to the Grayling area, about 1/2 hour South of Gaylord, where he obtained a lot of Fred Bear’s property following Fred’s passing.  I also believe that Fred Bear was a very gifted Archer and even has a particular bow named after him.  In our family my husband brought the Bow Hunting tradition to Michigan when we moved Up North as Newly-Weds.  He used to get various bow-hunting magazines then & I believe Michigan had more bow hunters than any other state!

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from a Bing.com image search for “Gaylord, Michigan”

Gaylord is practically perfectly situated for Four Seasons Living, equidistant between the Equator & the North Pole.  It is known to have the highest snowfall in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  The last Winter we lived there, 1996-1997,  I believe it had roughly 220 inches of snow!  Even so, they did a great job of maintaining the road conditions so driving wasn’t too hazardous, relatively–except, of course, during white outs!  There is some picture in the family vault showing The Cottage with snow up to the eaves of the roof, similar to the image below!

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from a Bing.com image search for “Gaylord, Michigan winter”

 

Well I’ll leave this meandering trip down Memory Lane with another stunning Otsego Lake Sunset!  In case you can’t tell, I Love The Cottage, Arbutus Beach, and Gaylord, Michigan & am so thankful that my husband Michael & I began our family there!!!  In fact we may have the only Gaylord born relation within the extended clan, in our firstborn, Nathaniel, who was born in Gaylord, and marked on The Wall at just one day old. We gifted him the nickname of Jackpine Savage because of that Northern Michigan birth!  The Wall would be the Door Jambs at The Cottage between the Dining Room & Living Room.  The Inner-Facing Jamb on the Lake side has my Dad’s Generation & spouses.  The Inner-Facing Jamb on the Garage side has My Generation & spouses.  The Dining Room Facing Jamb on the Lake side has My Kid’s Generation.  Finally, the Dining Room Facing Jamb on the Garage side has my first cousin’s grand-kids–as in my generation’s grand-kids & my dad’s great grand-kids, whenever our side adds to that generation.  No one has been marked on that wall immediately after birth except for Nathaniel…& speaking of marking, the Fourth of July is the traditional time to check everyone’s height (including against existing & ancestral markings)…& this year we get to add in our latest family member, Nathaniel’s New Bride, Tara!

All our years are written with love in the very fibers of The Cottage!

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from a Bing.com image search for “Arbutus Beach, Michigan”

PS If you’d like to see a Newspaper article from back when Michael & I and the Boys lived in Gaylord check it out here, on pages 1, 4, & 5:

http://207.74.70.101:8080/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-6631/1996-11-07%20Thu%20Building%20Familes.pdf

Page 2 of the below newspaper tells of some of the history of Arbutus Beach and speaks so highly of Otsego Lake as a natural beauty filled resort vacation destination–in 1923!

http://207.74.70.101:8080/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-8848/1923-07-26%20Thu.pdf

The below link goes to the searchable Newspaper Archive for the Otsego County Library!

http://207.74.70.101:8080/docushare/dsweb/HomePage

 

 

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A Pleasant Peninsula–Lovely Tribute to Michigan

Source: A Pleasant Peninsula

The author of this piece drew my attention to it after seeing I’d posted her colleague’s tribute to Tennessee previously.  After checking out both of those moving tributes to beloved home states there is now another goal to add to the many endeavors I hope to pursue…to write some of my own thoughts, feelings, insights, & history about Michigan…and eventually some of the other states that represent the historical homes of my ancestors…

Well, I was hoping to grab a couple of quick goodies to give a hint of flavor that might come as I meander Michigan in my mind…but it’s going to take more work & time than I’m going to dedicate right now.  I’d wanted to include a link from CyndisList.com (a wonderful genealogy site!) to an item I read many years ago either a letter or a journal describing some early conditions in Detroit.  This may have been surrounding the 300th Anniversary of Detroit and involved more than one item.  Well, it’s going to take more digging so will have to wait for now, there was a description of plague conditions in Detroit, Native characters, and a letter describing Detroit as “the Paris of America”!…

J. J. Hagerman from bing.com image search

James John (J. J) Hagerman was one of my husband’s ancestors and his family moved to Michigan from Canada in his childhood.  He attended the University of Michigan and worked in mining in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  He had wide ranging interests  and developed business ventures and residences in a number of states.  Here is a link to a Wikipedia page about him, not that I endorse Wikipedia as a source, but it’s a convenient jumping off point.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._J._Hagerman

I’ve wondered if “Hagerman Lake” in Michigan’s UP is connected to J. J.  Hagerman and this seems to prove that point.

It turns out that Hagerman Lake is named after J. J. Hagerman,
a very colorful miner and industrialist from the 1800’s. This is confirmed
by Jack Hill on page 39 of his history of Iron County, in which he says that
“on the earliest maps Hagerman Lake bears the name of Lac Brule. The origin
of the name Hagerman is of more recent date and in all probability came from
J. J. Hagerman, a mineral and timber investor who secured large land holdings
surrounding the lake during the early development of the County.”

from http://hagermanlake.org/?p=history

“First Ice on Hagerman- Photo by Pete W.” from the HagermanLake.org site

Well that is just a tiny tidbit about Michigan, glancing at the state from an historical perspective and my husband’s familial connections to my home state.  Of course our family was extremely excited that my husband has Maize & Blue blood too!

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from a Google.com image search for “maize & blue”

Celebrating the Life of The Legal Genealogist’s Nephew Tim

from the posting below “That’s Tim there in this family photo from a reunion in 2002. The one on the left, in the wheelchair.”

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/2017/06/24/saying-goodbye-2/

I was just moved to tears by this family’s loss and the beautiful tribute this Aunt wrote about her nephew Tim.  She shared some of the things that made Tim unique & special…and none of them was about Special Needs!  May we all be remembered thusly by those we eventually leave behind, clinging to treasured memories & love…

Please lift up this family in prayer as they lay Tim to rest…may they all find comfort.

Blessings,

Valerie

Please visit the original post above to read about Tim as his Aunt has shared some of his legacy with us all…“We saw the shining spirit that was Tim.”

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from a bing.com image search for “sorrow not as those who have no hope”

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from a bing.com image search for “sorrow not as those who have no hope”

I shared this with The Legal Genealogist:

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Thank you so much for sharing this tribute to your nephew. So sorry for your loss, but what a beautiful way to honor who he was. I have a special needs son who sometimes is only seen as Autistic…but, as you’ve so lovingly shown about Tim, is so much more than a label…or a chair.

May the Lord bless you and your extended family as you celebrate Tim’s life, mourn his loss, and share his legacy.

Blessings, Valerie Curren

PS I shared your post with my readers here:
https://specialconnections.wordpress.com/2017/06/25/celebrating-the-life-of-the-legal-genealogists-nephew-tim/

Commenting on “Autism it’s Different in Girls” (& so is ADHD)

looking for images with this post…here’s a great Pinterest site

I recently read an intriguing blog post by someone who has autism but chooses to remain Anonymous…hopefully there will be many other nuggets to mine in her blog as well as the interesting comments sections filled with feedback & unique perspectives.

I had wanted (in my comments below) to go into the girls aspect of Autism and mention how there may be a continuum between Autism and ADHD…I’d read a book a few years back that laid out a good scientific case for this insight.  Later, while doing massive amounts of research for Josiah’s special education needs/case I read a number of things that talked about ADHD and how it presents in females…and in particular how there are some mothers of kids with ADHD (and/or autism?) who were never diagnosed themselves but see so many of their “issues” reflected in their kids struggle…apparently to the point that this is a “thing” that gets some degree of recognition in certain circles.

(ironically, while looking for images found these “circles” supporting my views!)

Autism: Different, Not Less:

(from the above Pinterest board…and almost every item ascribed to my son)

Just a few of the many disorders associated with ADHD. Many have similar symptoms and impairments. Getting the correct diagnosis is further confused by the high morbidity rates associated with ADHD. (View only)                                                                                                                                                      More:

the image above is from this pinterest page

I’ve meant to look back on this topic for my own “edification” but have been mightily depleted by the Special Ed case and fallout that it just hasn’t happened yet.  In our family of 6, 4 have officially been diagnosed with ADHD, & the two that haven’t (myself and Brandon, Josiah’s twin brother) exhibit quite a few of the ADHD traits (but perhaps not enough to rise to the clinical level of diagnosis…but then again who’s actually asking to be “officially” labeled)…so we think we probably both have some part of ADHD, at a minimum.  So if the continuum theory holds water, could it be that people that have ADHD are on the (potentially) mild end of the Autism Spectrum?

It’s so hard to really say and it may in large part depend on who you ask and what their personal practice emphasis (if you only have a hammer then everything looks like a nail and all!) might be…It is supported in research, I believe, that many times the parents of kids on the Spectrum have many of those traits themselves.  Certainly when “we” were growing up awareness of Autism “Spectrum” issues was nowhere near the level it is at now.  Also, if it is shown that there is any level of a genetic component to Autism and/or ADHD it would stand to reason that these things would run in families to some degree.

In my own family, from a retrospective perspective there could be arguments made that both my parents have possessed some traits of ADHD, especially when younger.  At least one of my brothers had many such traits when young and his son was also officially diagnosed with ADHD.  My other brother has a couple of kids that seem to have a lot of such traits too.  My husband wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood, but it surely negatively impacted his academic trajectory when younger, even though he has learned to “compensate” for the ADHD issues as an adult, as have most of our kids.

Most everyone in my present family has some degree of sensory issue and we all possess varying degrees of emotional vulnerability, but thankfully this trait is at least somewhat intermittent in most of us!  Could these also be evidence of the “Spectrum” Continuum?

The author of the Autism in Girls post speculates on how important it is to find out what is going on with you and to get that diagnostic label (paraphrasing without re-reading her actual words…so I could already be distorting inadvertently her view) and therefore enable some degree of an “Autistic Identity”.  This apparently resonates with a lot of her readers, at least those who have posted comments.  It’s possible that she  draws in these more “anonymously autistic” people by the very nature of the type of blog she writes, as in people who are on the Spectrum, but can “fake it” sufficiently for the outside world to not know they are autistic…

It’s hard for me to relate to the “need” to find an identity, like in Autism.  And frankly I really do not “get” that aspect of our current culture that seems to think one has to discover a “role model” to emulate in order to aspire to things that no one “like me” has ever done before.  This will likely be controversial, and even offensive to some (sorry)–but Obama being “President” of the US should not really make it any more of less easy for any other “black” person to be the President…if the job was about the merits of the individual aspiring to the position (and who could argue that this election year!) and not about someone’s “identity”…and if he had actually obtained such a job based on his own merits (which he manifestly did Not do based on his abysmally thin resume)–no “white” man with his background, (lack of) accomplishments, known dangerous associates, and incredibly thin skin would have ever gotten near to the place of getting his finger on “the button”…but I digress…

Anyway, I don’t fully get why so many people feel the need to find such a label and thereby get some type of identity by identifying with a group.  Obviously, for anyone who knows me very well, I have spent much of my life in isolation, going against the flow, and refusing to join into whatever “group” (like Groucho Marx I wouldn’t be a member of any group that would have me!)…so the herd mentality is far from appealing to me personally.

I do, however, take a measure of identity from my personal faith…as in I’ve considered myself a strong Christian for the bulk of my life and that remains my primary identity…but I am much more likely to think of myself as a person (even as an intellect) than as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee, neighbor, parishioner, or any other ready label, per se…

I will acknowledge, however, when it come to my son with special needs, Josiah, when he was first given the PDD-NOS (atypical autism) label it lead to huge sighs of relief for myself and my husband.  That was because we were dealing with so many issues back then that Autism at least made a degree of sense and it was able to take a number of his significant behavioral anomalies under its umbrella.  It is also true now that Josiah appears to think of himself as “autistic” and he uses that label, perhaps as a shorthand code, as a blanket explanation for various aspects of his quirkiness, at least that’s how it appears to me (I am in no way pretending to speak For him)…

I have spent so much of my life seemingly on the outside of whatever the group thinks it is or what it does that it’s actually harder for me to acquiesce to the “herd mentality”, even in a church setting where people are looking to foster “unity”.  This may be a holdover of the “rugged individualism” of the traditional American ideal that I do internalize to some degree, my own individual personality & intellectual makeup that always goes into suspect analysis mode whenever everyone around me jumps on some bandwagon (or follows some pied piper toward yet another cliff), or even can be an outgrowth of having lived virtually my entire life “counter culture” (especially now that Constitutionally Conservative Christian is virtually a pariah position in this formerly free land of ours).  Perhaps being an “outsider” is enough of an identity that it’s not necessary for me personally to seek other labeling for myself.

As far as role models go, though, as a Christian the Only real role model would be Jesus Christ…and that represents a role that none of us could ever live up to!

Philippians 3:14King James Version (KJV)

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

King James Version (KJV)Public Domain

above scripture from BibleGateway.com

(image from searching Google images for the scripture…may have been a youtube screen grab..but here is the link for the image…well it wouldn’t paste the link just another image)

So, thanks for listening in…and check out the original post below that my comment following pertains to…and let’s support those amongst us who are learning to speak up and speak out and encourage them to share their hearts with all who might choose to listen and care and handle our human frailties with tenderness and truth…

Blessings,

Valerie

Autism—It’s Different in Girls

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

My perspective on this is a bit different in that I am a Parent of someone on the Spectrum who was diagnosed as “PDD-NOS” (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, aka “atypical autism”) and we got such a “label” for our son when he was still a preschooler. He also had many other issues that were primarily medical in nature and during key points of his life these medical needs really took preeminence (2 open heart surgeries, brain tumor, liver transplant, etc).

Our seemingly biggest challenge overall was in getting the educational system to even pretend to address his Actual Needs. We had years of frustration where they absolutely refused to acknowledge his autism diagnosis (in fact they never officially Did recognize that he was on the Spectrum, though his last Special Ed Case Manager did admit the obviousness of his Autism in private conversations with me). The school system was extremely derelict in its legally mandated duties to my son and we dealt with significant frustrations in this arena for the duration of his public schooling, K-12 (ironically special ed preschool did a Great Job with him, so our frustration was mightily increased by the torments that followed).

One extremely important aspect of special education law (in the US) involves Transition Planning & Services that are required to begin no later than the year the student is to turn 16. These services are to be tailored to the individual needs of the student and should be designed to facilitate their Transition from public school to Independent Living, Post-Secondary Education, and Employment. The ideals of this approach are laid out in detail in US law (IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act & its later “improvement”), but our experience, and likely that of many others, reveals how far short of the legal mandates/standard things are…let alone compared to what should be “ideal” (as in identifying and addressing All areas of known or suspected disability, regardless of diagnostic “labeling”)…My son was “graduated” from high school not even possessing 3rd grade math skills and his now denied Michigan’s through age 26 special education because he “graduated”. I have a cousin with two autistic sons in Arkansas and her older son also “graduated” but struggled so significantly in college that she got him tested and discovered that his reading was only at grade school level even though he had a “diploma”. I don’t know how much she fought for him educationally but I know to what incredible lengths I went to over the years all to virtually no avail…

My son’s Primary Care Doctor, who has a practice devoted to complex special needs kids & families, including a significant cohort on the Autism Spectrum shared a chilling perspective. She said that the “high-functioning” autistic kids, like my son is now (he’s been significantly lower functioning when younger) are not coming close to having their needs met here in Michigan. If they are high enough functioning to be included in regular academic settings then often their “independent living” or functional “life skills” needs often go unaddressed. Once they get out of high school they discover that “the adult services industry” is woefully inadequately prepared to address so many of their needs. Also, because the many systems are so poorly managed and financially irresponsible and/or overburdened many times kids with significant needs do not come close to getting their needs met at any point…

Given that the “higher functioning” autistic kids are probably the ones most likely to be able to “handle it” to some degree in the regular/normal/neuro-typical world it would certainly seem in society’s best interest to help give them the tools and support necessary to foster their highest level of independence while young and thereby ensure a likely increasing percentage of such kids will grow into (nearly) independent adults. This would mean the possibility of significant resource allocation during the earlier years developmentally but should hopefully result in many more of these kids not needing nearly so much public support as they likely would otherwise had such intervention not have been provided. The arguments for early and intensive intervention for Autistic Spectrum kids have surely now made that perspective widely accepted and hopefully there has been sufficient time for data gathering to bolster this view “scientifically”.

In our family’s case, we spent many years and uncountable mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial capital attempting to get our local school system to DO THEIR LEGALLY MANDATED JOB…and these requests were based on data, diagnoses, and clear evidence of myriad needs (many in keeping with autism spectrum issues)…however the real bottom line was that my son got virtually Only what the school felt like offering whether it directly addressed his needs or not. And since they absolutely refused to acknowledge or address his Autism Spectrum issues (which were known as early as 2000 and had written behavioral pediatrician’s orders) he was significantly negatively impacted by not having received these necessary (and technically IDEA mandated) services.

The cost to our family (we had four kids within four years) was/is truly incalculable. I’m not “blaming” the school for all the issues, but had they done their job there are so many things that would have gone differently. For instance my son required significant therapeutic intervention, especially when he was younger, so we would take him to PT (Physical Therapy), OT (Occupational Therapy), SLT (Speech & Language Therapy), Sensory Integration Therapy, Music Therapy (which I tried for years to get the school to provide to assist in re-mediating his Severe Learning Disability in Math), Art Therapy, Psychological Therapy, Visual Therapy, etc…We spent so much of what should have been family free time shuffling him to and from these visits and when I finally stepped back from it one year due to personal overload and burnout basically watched him deteriorate before my eyes. He should have had year round intensive intervention provided by the school but they absolutely refused to analyze or address his very real needs and declines. I actually ended up dragging all my kids to random Vacation Bible Schools over a few consecutive summers just to try to give my Special Needs Son some degree of educational structure (and all the other kids really came to resent this as they got to attend these nearby VBS’s along with their brother). There were a few years when being out of school got so upsetting for my son that he lost his toileting skills…but they immediately returned when school began. This level of distress did not concern school staff at all but it caused significant suffering for my son…and the rest of us.

Well, this obviously went on Way Longer than I intended it to. I’m so glad you are putting your voice out there and speaking up on behalf of yourself and others who may not choose to speak but whose experiences and perspectives resonate with yours. My son has come such a long way from those virtually non-verbal and overwhelming sensory distress days to having discovered himself and continuing to refine his own unique voice. Although “movie quoting” and verbatim dialogue still punctuate much of his communication he can at least now speak as himself so much more freely now than ever before.

Loving someone with autism and living with someone on the Spectrum can certainly be a challenge (and I won’t minimize the major hardships of our personal journey historically &/or presently) but it also presents a tremendous amount of joy as well. Our “special” son is really the heart of our family in so many ways. He is a constant source of entertainment and his humor is so random that it continues to surprise and amaze us all, which is a huge blessing and counterpoint to the stressors. However he also represents a personal bridge between this world and the Kingdom of God (he is a very strong & outspoken Christian)…he has seen the Face of God while undergoing his Liver Transplant and (similarly to his dad) can have a nearly conversational relationship with the Lord. I really believe that his “autism” facilitates this transparency. Just as he doesn’t know how to put a “mask” on in his human relationships, he is virtually incapable of having a barrier between himself and God. Witnessing his Christian Walk is both humbling & encouraging for those who live with him. If he struggles to talk with us earthlings there is no communication barrier with his Heavenly Father…and that is a gift that no “labeling” nor lack of supports could ever diminish!

Blessings, thanks for all you shared, and thanks for letting me “wax eloquent” too here.

Best Regards, Valerie Curren

PS, I wrote more thoughts on your article at my blog here…I’d love to hear back from you on that, if you might be interested…

https://specialconnections.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/commenting-on-autism-its-different-in-girls-so-is-adhd/

this provocative image could lead us to consider these topics further…hmm; from:

http://theemergencesite.com/AutismSpectrumMenu.html

Image result for autism adhd

Anatomy of a Medicaid Physical

Today I had to take my son, Josiah, to a doctor’s appointment to have a Medicaid mandated yearly physical.  Here are some of the myriad aspects of addressing my son’s needs…

Triggering the negative memory of why this physical was originally rescheduled to accommodate the schedule of a Special Education Attorney that were needing to see about our recently filed “Due Process Hearing Request”–that “case” having now been “dismissed” in a manner as to provide no resolution of significant issues and seemingly no recourse for any type of a redress of grievances…

Looking again for paperwork associated with accessing Special Olympics and a local ARC Chapter as a way to potentially support my son’s desire for athletic participation.

Speaking with someone at the doctor’s office prior to the appointment to see if we could get the necessary forms printed off there as our printer is basically inaccessible…fortunately this was something the nurse could do once we were there.

Gathering necessary materials from several locations in case any of those particular items needed to be referred to during our visit.

Since Josiah didn’t bring something to keep him occupied during our waiting room time offering him the “Autism Speaks Family Services Transition Tool Kit” (this was a resource that I had laid aside some months back when in the immediate intensity of preparing our “Due Process Hearing Request” & it represents another load of guilt I carry for not having satisfactorily nor sufficiently made transition efforts)…as he flipped randomly through this item he became increasingly verbally and physically distressed, especially when he encountered “sexuality” in it’s pages and would only spell the word s-e-x and expressed his upsetedness that this was even a topic within the book.  I kept trying to reassure him that it was a part of life so it was reasonable to have to discuss this area at some time.

Discussing various aspects of Josiah’s recent medical needs and medications.  Since we were seeing a provider that wasn’t usually on Josiah’s case she was not personally very familiar with our unique situation.  This meant expounding on issues that are theoretically in “the past”, but still retain power to impact, distract, and detract from present tense realities.  This meant a more thorough discussion of his Brain Tumor scenario as well as touching on the Liver Transplant and part of what lead up to it…Also there was a side jaunt into the Cardiac need for “Aspirin Therapy” but that we were pending this until getting concurrence from Liver Transplant.  Having made email requests and having the Cardiologist send an in-house request for this Ok in addition to requesting the Transplant Pharmacy (from whom we receive the bulk of J’s meds delivered on a monthly basis) to use it’s medication management techniques has gotten no apparent results.  This either will await the 6 month Transplant visit in May or next month’s post bloodwork nurse’s call to see if we can get that med started to prevent blood clots in his heart–sigh…

We also briefly touched on the CPAP issue, how he has yet to get back into compliance with his sleep apnea breathing machine.  He first got out of compliance when the machine broke and after the “repair” a part went missing (not sure if at home or at the repair shop) and it was then un-usable for a period of time.  We got the replacement part donated and another newer machine but he was only beginning to reorient himself to its usage when he had the Brain Tumor removed through his nose and he wasn’t even Allowed to use the CPAP for six plus months.  Given he was then on the Transplant list and I was pretty much a basket case I surely dropped the ball in this arena (how much you have to prompt someone to do certain things when they are on the Spectrum and have gotten out of a particular functional routine)…Anyway he has since moved his bed from the platform to the floor below and disassembled his CPAP machine for a recent Sleep Doctor visit and Med Equip run (for new mask, hose, & filter supplies)…so he has not gotten back into the routine and when I remember to remind him about using CPAP it’s when he’s preparing for bed and too tired to deal with it…of course I forget to prompt about this when we’re both awake–sigh…

His most recent surgery having been the one to “correct” congenital double vision (V -pattern esotropia?) meant going into details of how that condition was discovered back when getting the Neurological Ophthalmologist’s input on the safety of surgically removing the Pituitary Tumor as it was basically pressed up against Josiah’s Optic Nerve.  Apparently that doctor diagnosed the congenital double vision back then in 2010 but since I was overwhelmed with the presence of both the Brain Tumor and the Liver Masses (and the intensity of which situation was More Life Threatening and pre-eminent) I didn’t actually “hear” that diagnosis (it’s also possible that layman’s terms weren’t used so I didn’t actually “comprehend” the significance of “V pattern esotropia” and the result was that Josiah suffered with Double Vision for an additional Five Years before surgical correction this past summer.

This also meant discussing the extent of the “correction” which our two post-op visits had indicated was 100% successful but a recent OT eval for “Vision Therapy” seemed to indicate that double vision persisted, at least at longer distances…and also that Josiah apparently has 20/40 &20/50 vision in his eyes.  [I’m guessing this means we should be looking into some type of correction but who/where I don’t know.]

This also meant discussing “Vision Therapy” and how the only reason I even got a referral from the Neurological Ophthalmologist for a therapy he considers “controversial” is because I asked if we could at least see if it could be effective for Josiah in particular.  The University-based OT we were referred to does Not do such therapy, but did some type of evaluation to see if Josiah might be a candidate…it appears that he might be.  Today’s doctor said that Josiah’s Primary Care Physician there “is a great believer in Vision Therapy” but apparently most insurances don’t cover it and it can cost upwards of $3,000, which would basically mean no access to this, unfortunately.  She said one clinic family had managed to get Medicaid to cover this treatment and she would look into what they did and pass the info along.  I speculated that due to the surgical “correction” of his congenital (birth defect) double vision perhaps coding for visual therapy could be used for another diagnosis apart from Autism so that he could receive this seemingly important and necessary intervention…we’ll see…

When she asked about how things were currently going this lead to an intense and convoluted and rather disjointed retelling of some aspects of our recent special education battles.  Josiah & I both shared multiple perspectives and just discussing this situation at any length (as well as not discussing it and keeping it bottled up) is incredibly exhausting.

Apparently the way this, and other topics, were addressed led this doctor to conclude “I had no idea you were this alone” and she kept trying to reassure me when I expressed a number of arenas of self-criticism for not doing a better job in seeing Josiah’s needs met; particularly those issues related to Transition and Special Education.  She was quite empathetic regarding the magnitude of the issues we have faced and sought to reassure me that being only one person meant that I could only do so much.  Speaking obliquely of my responsibilities to the other four family members reminded me of how short I have fallen as a wife and mother over so many years when I’ve placed such emphasis on attempting to address Josiah’s needs.  Certain conversations at home later helped to increase this load in part and alleviate it in part, especially when the emphasis was on trusting the Lord to be the one to carry and  be responsible for addressing Josiah’s needs…

Observing the physical examination lead to overhearing the aside diagnosis of “mild scoliosis”, something I’d never heard before in relation to Josiah.  The Doctor indicated a stiffness in his shoulders and a tilting and I mentioned his history of Torticolis and wondered if what she was observing was related to that.

Josiah blurted out his frustrations, on my behalf, about historical verbiage by a Michigan Protection and Advocacy “advocate” who had “helped” us about a decade ago when we had also filed our only other “due process hearing request” against our local public school (the only significant gain from which was a Para Pro provided roughly SEVEN YEARS after the doctor–legally mandated IEP Team Member–had recommended, in writing, that such a one on one support be provided to Josiah so he could remain in general ed; I obviously have No Unresolved Issues here!)…anyway this led to me quoting the above “advocate” in her phone response to my then attempt to lay out the magnitude of the issues we faced getting our son’s needs met via the school.  “I think you are a delusional mother who refuses to accept that you have a mentally retarded child!”  Josiah is still angry about this and the Doctor was seemingly shocked that we received such treatment from an organization who exists to protect and defend the rights of the disabled…whatever (they didn’t really help us this “case” round either, but that’s another story)…

The doctor mentioned another family facing similar challenges where the father has become a tireless advocate on his son’s behalf.  She said “he’s like you only times a thousand”.  He has been aggressively advocating on his son’s behalf, even to the point of picketing in front of schools in an attempt to get needs met.  She may put us in touch with each other since our sons are similar ages and facing similar Transition needs.

She mentioned that this father “only” dealt with Autism with his son, not the complex health related Scenarios we face with Josiah.  This led to me expounding on how Autism has really become for our family the overarching issue impacting us daily in relation to Josiah.  Apart from times of extreme medical stress, like waiting for a transplant, or the ubiquitous pain, frustration, anger, and disappointment of dealing with Special Education and Not getting his legitimate needs met the Autism side of life was our main “stressor” and should not, in my opinion, be spoken of in any minimizing way…

In a side highlight, we briefly touched on the issues of vaccines based on questions on the Special Olympics form.  Josiah is currently out of compliance with some vaccines and this was in part due to Liver Transplant recommendations.  We had Josiah receive All the vaccines recommended by the LT Nurse prior to Transplant (and his siblings get the ones LT recommended they receive to put their brother at less risk post-Transplant).  This was after years of me declining most/all vaccines for all our kids because of Josiah’s Autism (and in part because of a book that speculated that ADHD and Autism were in fact on a continuum)…anyway I ended up expounding on the frustrations of being pressured by the other kids’ doctors to vaccinate them even when I referenced a study I’d heard of (but not read) that purported to show the difference in autism between Amish and general populations.  This doctor said that she and J’s PCP are strong believers in an association with Autism and Vaccines.  I said I didn’t think that vaccines Caused Austism, per se, but more that people that are prone toward Autism are perhaps more neurologically fragile and that giving so many toxins so young and so soon to children likely increased their likelihood of neurological disorders like Autism.  The doctor didn’t dispute this layperson analysis, but went on to add that she thought overuse of antibiotics may also be a contributing factor…hmm…

As an aside, I mentioned that Josiah had NEVER Received ANY of the intensive Early Childhood Autism interventions.  This I believe was in part due to the magnitude of the medical issues being addressed then but in greater part due to the Special Education system NOT addressing his needs.  I believe I may have also mentioned my exploration of the topic of “disability discrimination” that I believe has directly plagued us in our local school district since at least 2001…but I may be mixing that us with a later discussion at home.  I told the doctor that I had recently downloaded a scientifically based research analysis study that purports to assess a number of autism approaches and their effectiveness with teens and young adults.  As this study is nearly 200 pages long I have not yet reviewed it.  Here is another arena where I would greatly appreciate the input from the Primary Care Doctor, and she sounded like she’d run some of these issues by her.  It would be great to get some real-world insight on this topic from one of only 3 Michigan clinics authorized to do the Autism Waiver work mandated under certain insurances now.  Hopefully this conversation will Actually take place and the results get back to me…

This was also mentioned in that since it appears that our “legal case” is stalled out and little, if any, help will be coming (at least not any time soon)…it now is becoming that much more imperative for me to find some way to cobble together Real and Meaningful Transition Services and Supports to Finally Attempt to meet my son’s myriad needs.  Since “special education” is seemingly out of the picture at least this process need Not be limited by what is mandated/allowed by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  I’m trying to look at that “freedom” as a degree of blessing even as I “officially” take over the role of Josiah’s “Transition Coordinator” (which I’ve basically been attempting to do anyways), a role legally mandated of special ed but NEVER Done!

She also planned to have one of their Social Workers, I’m not sure which one, look into further Transition Resources for us.  They are also to send us material regarding current offerings for Adaptive Sports.  I tried to get a business card and email address for this particular social worker upon checkout but was unsuccessful here…

I mentioned how the complexity of Josiah’s needs over the years has made it very difficult where to focus my efforts.  Her colleague, Josiah’s Primary Care Physician, has been an invaluable resource whose advice I make a consistent effort to put into practice.  With her “umbrella style” care in Josiah’s case (she gets virtually all specialty reports and processes and discusses them with us periodically) and her more “Big Picture” perspective, as opposed to my more “lost in the minutae” (no fake!) approach, can really assist in gaining a measure of clarity in numerous areas.  I so value how much this particular medical clinic has come close to providing a degree of “medical home” style service to us over the years!

Josiah also stated that I verbally took out my anger about the “case” on one of my older son’s friends.  This meant clarifying that I was speaking passionately answering questions he had asked.  As an aside, that young man is in college and is likely to pursue a Law Degree and eventually inherit his mother’s Law Practice.  He had taken a copy of our 12-4-15 “Due Process Hearing Request” copied and read it (and provided constructive feedback) and given copies to his attorney mother and one of his professors who teaches pre-law classes and is also an attorney.  We had given him permission to spread this info around thusly in hopes that some help would Eventually be forthcoming…

Josiah got pretty revved up expounding on our plans to write some letters to various people that we hope may have an impact on the special education situation and disability discrimination.  He and I are both planning to write to our local Michigan State Representative.  Josiah was in a class with this man’s son a number of years in elementary school and has learned to communicate with him even though he cannot speak–he has Fragile X Syndrome.  Both J and the son “graduated” this past Spring, though I believe that the son didn’t get a “diploma”, but likely a “Certificate of Completion”.  Writing to this man could be a crap-shoot, at least from my perspective.  Josiah is apparently much further along than his own son (who likely continues to receive some type of special education supports and hopefully some degree of transition services).  He may perceive our efforts to finally secure meaningful, appropriate, and legally compliant long-overdue education services in a negative manner given what he’s experienced with his son.  However, he could end up being a tireless advocate and a voice to represent Exactly What We Need because he, to at least some degree, has learned that hard fought language I also reluctantly but necessarily have been forced to speak.  Other people I am contemplating writing are the Secretary of Education, federal and state; the Governor; the local School Board; our County Level Educational Authority; certain disability organizations; and whomever else a letter writing Advocate in our State (whom I hope to consult/collaborate with) may suggest…

I completely forgot to ask her what she saw in his ears since he’s had a history of persistent fluid buildup and Otitis Media…also didn’t ask if the eardrum was retracted on either ear.  He has had a problem with negative pressure in one/both ears since no longer having Myringotomy Tubes surgically implanted and this can mean in the long run Permanent Hearing Loss as persistent negative pressure can lead to his inner ear bones rubbing together and wearing out to some degree.  This issue may be a lingering effect of his presumed Eustachian Tube Dysfunction…

Me being without many supports to process/discuss so much of what’s gone on, or is currently going on with Josiah, led to me recounting briefly how finding a support group has been difficult.  I used to “lurk” in “Moms Online” and read, in particular, various forums focused on their kid’s diagnostic categories.  I told this doctor that I’d go to various message boards like “Congenital Heart Defects”, “ADHD”, “Autism”, “Urogenital Defects”, “Prematurity”, etc and that I don’t think I ever found another poster dealing with even three of the things that were heavily impacting us at that time…it’s so hard to find Anyone who knows this language in which I’ve been unwillingly forced to become so fluent (medical-major & minor; behavioral; therapeutic; “educational”; legal; interpersonal; advocacy; psychosocial; complex family dynamics & diagnoses, etc.)…this can make addressing the magnitude of issues and factors associated with the care of a complex child so much more daunting and isolating….

Filling out the family portion of the Special Olympics physical form requires a brief jaunt down painful memory lane (though not quite as brutal as a pre-operative questionnaire; it’s difficult to have to give significant details on virtually every body/mind system).  For the “Major Surgeries” I was able to pull from his 17 surgeries “2 Open Heart, Brain Tumor, Liver Transplant, Eye, and Ears, etc.”  (Oops I forgot to list hernia repairs, 3 stages of urogenital repair, & tonsillectomy, but afterall do I even know what constitutes “major surgery” anymore?)

The Doctor asked about our Respite Care services and the hours we were supposed to receive.  This lead to discussing how he’s has Community Living Services listed in his Community Mental Health case for years but is not getting them fully.  We’ve asked for another staff person in addition to the young man who works with Josiah on both Respite and CLS.  This lead to discussing how “Supports Coordination” via CMH has broken down at key points, like when we were trying to establish “Power of Attorney” or how Josiah has now been without needed PT, OT, and Speech Therapy for a year.  The Doctor mentioned their in-house social worker who handles “transition issues” and I said how I’d used her recommendations with CMH in that they can verify with our primary insurance whether they will or will not cover the above therapies…if not then they can immediately begin billing Medicaid…this has been going on for about 6 months with me reminding CMH staff verbally and in writing…so far to no avail…

Answering “Please indicate intellectual disability, diagnosis if known (condition or cause)” meant discussing more of the nitty gritty of what exactly Josiah’s challenges may be in this arena.  I’ve been told that his “developmental disability” diagnosis is “PDD-NOS” or “Atypical Autism” and wondered if this would apply.  She said they were referring to “cognitive or intellectual impairments” and Josiah didn’t have one (though his paperwork has said otherwise, depending on the source)…we are really dealing with various aspects of “neurological impairments” and so it’s unclear, at times, how to “classify” Josiah’s complexity in this domain.  The “answer” I wrote said “PDD-NOS, Learning Disability in Math, “mild cognitive impairment””, the last quoting some other documents.

This led to me having to explain to Josiah that he may be too “high functioning” to participate in Special Olympics at all.  In the event he is allowed to participate I was trying to prepare him to handle a scenario similar to one he experienced years ago where he was in a “social skills” group at CMH with “high functioning autistic young men” and he was angry and hurt that he was perceived to be like that group since he was the highest functioning one, seemingly.  He keeps hoping to have interactions with people who are “like him”, whatever that means.  If he’s in Special Olympics and more higher functioning than most then, I’m encouraging him to be a leader, friend, and helper to the others.  He will need to learn to communicate with each person, learn their names, and learn how to become part of the team, especially if many of the people have been working together for a long time.  We both took time to read and sign the appropriate paperwork…

Josiah tends to “perseverate”(get stuck or fixated–what’s wrong with that???) on certain topics, and one of late is his desire to play sports with regular guys.  This can mean re-treading ground like how he wished he’d been cleared by Liver Transplant to sustain body blows in time to have joined his high school football team.  He has been “friends” with many of the footballers but was unable to participate for medical reasons.  He also Really Wants to play basketball with guys, like his brother.  His oldest brother has been lately going once or twice a week to play B-Ball with various guys.  One location includes guys like my brother, in his mid 40s, so might be a slightly better “fit”.  I’ve been trying to convince Nathaniel to at least take Josiah once and Potentially give him some court time.  N is pretty adamant that J couldn’t handle the intensity and that he could really get hurt….Josiah is really caught in that “high functioning” place, too high functioning for easy/reasonable access to supports geared toward more severely disabled people and too low functioning to reasonably fit in with regular “able bodied” guys…

Believe it or not, this post actually started, at least in my mind, as more of a bullet pointed short-hand listing of certain (tedious and mentally/emotionally exhausting) details of just what went into having a “routine physical” with my son–accompanied by yours truly.  Obviously that “goal” has transmogrified into the monster displayed before you.  Since one of my primary reasons for starting the Special Connections blog was as an outlet to process many of the issues with which I wrestle, it appears that this posting is actually living up to that personal expectation, to some degree.  Given the level of “perfectionism” which my personality, past, and/or current life requirements demand of my existence that is a nearly impossible task!

This posting has been written over the course of several hours with numerous familial interruptions breaking my train of thought.  Since it’s now exceedingly late it looks like I’m going to post it in an “as is” status.  Hopefully you will all bear with my feet of clay as you read through the barrage of info here…if you even choose to do so.

I hope and pray that somehow our journey can be an inspiration and encouragement for you to continue to press on in arenas where you find yourself facing difficult, painful, traumatic, inevitable, hopeless, hopeful, tenacious, resilient, overwhelming, belittling, labeling, understanding, and supportive forces.  May the positive “forces” outweigh those that would seek to destroy us.  For our family the ultimate source of strength is in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is His Indwelling in each of us that provides us with the fortitude, tenacity, resiliency, and fidelity to Truth that somehow enables us to “rise and rise again”–I guess you could say that we are acting via Resurrection Power, Life from Lifelessness.  If you are encouraged or challenged by reading our words, we would love to hear from you, and to pray for your needs, if you would care to share them with us.

I’ll leave you with a listing of questions that still remain outstanding from our last visit with the Primary Care Physician from today’s clinic.  When she saw me pull out my steno notepad (“Blue Brainiology, the Jottings” a notepad I started keeping starting 11-30-09 when we had the first specialty visit following the discovery of the Brain Tumor and Liver Masses and that initial appointment included a Pediatric Neurological Oncologist, among other disciplines), one I have taken to virtually All Specialty Clinics but never her visits, with a listing of questions written out she became overwhelmed and said we’d have to discuss them over the phone.  Though she gave me her cell phone number I chose not to call her, having used up more than enough of her time during that day’s visit.  Subsequently some questions were answered by other clinic staff, nurses and/or social workers.  Below are questions that remain outstanding.  I Might include a couple questions for which I got an answer if I think that info could potentially benefit anyone who still might be reading this missive.

Thanks again for joining our journey.  God Bless–Valerie

Outstanding steno notebook questions I hope to send to the clinic staff and get addressed via email or other communication:

#12 For someone of the autistic spectrum, especially if they are “high functioning”, what is her general overall recommendation to education, medications, therapy, lifestyle, etc.  Like does she typically recommend an aide/para pro in the classroom, Least Restrictive Environment, a Center-Based program; LOVAAS or ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Therapy?  [this was to inform the development of our case request and to provide a professional frame of reference of perhaps what “should have been done” for Josiah in analyzing the “appropriateness” of his education, at least as pertained to Autism]

#13 Should the issue of adequately addressing Learning Disabilities be limited based on the child’s “perceived” intellect?  [we have had many battles with special ed over what Josiah’s “true IQ” actually is…in an earlier iteration of IDEA schools were allowed to use a “severe discrepancy” model between “IQ” and individual subtest “performance” to determine whether or not an LD was actually present.  Given a more than 30 point IQ difference between what the school psychologist found–testing J in a manner that was entirely discriminatory based on the nature, severity, and complexity of his many even then known disabling conditions–versus what the University based Neuropsychologist found, using the the higher, and I believe more accurate, IQ would have allowed most arenas to be considered LDs; using the school’s number would have at a minimum allowed the Math arena to be considered an LD, but back then they claimed “low intellect” and therefore no Learning Disabilities so no interventions]  the Math deficit is a huge factor that drove the “due process hearing request”–for if Josiah indeed has a (near) normal intellectual capacity, as early U of M (and some subsequent) testing portrayed, then giving him a “diploma” without appropriately educating him in math is a huge FAPE violation…

#14 What Transition Assessments do you think provide the most meaningful info for planning post-secondary education, training, employment, independent living,  and community participation?  [all of those arenas are Legally MANDATED to be addressed in Transition Planning and Services under IDEA and the inadequacy of even assessing, let alone addressing, these areas was a significant portion of the then in development “due process hearing request” and, at that time separately envisioned “state complaint”]

#15 Do you know of a way for Josiah to connect with kids “like him” (high functioning, Godly, transition age, multiple challenges, etc.) and would that be in person or online?

#16 What resources do you know of and could recommend for Josiah (and I) to review–books, support groups, blogs, e-magazines, etc, to assist us in our current challenges and going forward?

#17 What’s your impression of STEP and do you think it might be a good fit for Josiah?  [STEP is a local program called Services to Enhance Potential; it is apparently for lower functioning individuals and provides a form of “skills training”–we had already interfaced with MRS, Michigan Rehab Services–basically the only form of “transition” his high school offers, as in passing the buck of their IDEA mandated responsibilities to Vocational Rehabilitation; we were told by MRS that they are basically for people a couple of months away from being employable and Josiah needed significant “skill building”, also the magnitude of his disabilities meant that regardless of when we returned to MRS for services he would likely be among the population whose needs were legally mandated to be addressed, irrespective of funding issues or his place in line–I believe this provides quite strong evidence that the HS did NOT do its IDEA mandated job in relation to transition, etc]

#18 What about Higher Education?  Locally or further afield where might be a good place to plug Josiah in to help him in heading toward ministry?

#20 Could she please put us in touch with anyone who has Successfully navigated a State Complaint and/or Due Process Hearing?

By the way, at that earlier visit with Josiah’s Primary Care Physician she reviewed an earlier iteration of what ultimately became our Due Process Hearing Request and agreed that  each issue we were raising was valid and important and didn’t suggest we change anything!  That was an important encouragement to receive during a time of pretty intense stress.

So if you have read this far, please hang in there no matter what you are facing…and hopefully, prayerfully, find a way to Hang on to Jesus!  Be Blessed, Valerie