This week, we had a few friends over to play. I am so thankful that we have found a couple of families who I feel comfortable around. They don't express surprise at my kids' behaviors and don't offer parenting advice! It's so refreshing.

So anyway, the first playdate was with a boy, A, who is in the grade level between Herbie and Owl, so that works out nicely. He is by all appearances a typical kid, and very accepting of others. He doesn't seem to worry much about the different ways that my kids play or Herbie's outbursts and meltdowns. His mom is great to talk to and we have a lot of fun. The whole playdate, though, takes a lot of energy in terms of helping the kids play together and take turns, explaining to Herbie that he doesn't get to make all the rules, that some of the rules he makes are just not going to work, etc. Herbie never talks directly to A, but will convey his thoughts to me or to A's mom.  Basically a lot of intervention is needed, but we make it through the playdate and the kids are so happy their friend came over.

The second playdate was with twin boys who are in kindergarten, one is on the spectrum and the other is not. This playdate was night and day from the first. The boys arrive and rush into the house, yelling to Herbie and Owl that they want to play in the basement. Owl is way too slow to keep up with them as they run from the basement to the main level to the upstairs bedroom, repeat, repeat, repeat. They gather the toys and accessories they want to use for some made-up game, they laugh as they agree on the rules, and look at each other and talk about the progress of the game! The game involves lots of throwing plastic balls and other somewhat soft items at each other while they jump off of the cabinets in the basement. (Yes, I let them jump off of the shelf on top of the built-in's too hard to stop them and they need their exercise, right?) Their mom smiles and is not bothered by my lack of rules (or if she is, she does a great job hiding it from me).

Somehow with these twin boys, Herbie is totally at ease and willing to allow others to make up rules for games. I have never seen him like this with any other child. The closest we've come is with A, where he will painfully agree to modify his rules because he does truly want to play with his friend. Most other kids aren't worth the effort in his opinion. So I'm wondering how it is that Herbie is SO at ease with the twins. It's fun to watch them laughing hysterically and not needing much help at all, just some reminders not to throw the blocks or legos. How can I help him to generalize this skill to other children? For now, I'm savoring the memory of him laughing and engaging in actual conversation with other children. This week is going well!
Welcome to this journal, an attempt to organize my thoughts about a family navigating life with allergies, autism, and sensory issues. Perhaps it will help me think about these things more clearly, and perhaps it will encourage someone else as other blogs have encouraged me. So without further ado, let me introduce the cast.
My husband, Rocky (not his real name), and I have two sons. Herbie (also not his real name) is in kindergarten, and at the moment loves VW bugs, tornado sirens, music, and any activity that allows him to run around and make noise. Our second son, The Wise Old Owl (I think maybe I'll shorten that to Owl, of course you've figured out that is also not his real name), is in preschool. He loves to sit and learn. He also loves to cook. Every day we concoct new foods free of allergens, and he is a master at measuring and mixing (well, he spills a few things and I'm never sure if we get the right amounts in there but it usually turns out OK). He defies the conventional wisdom that if you involve a child in food preparation that he will be more likely to eat.
Herbie is on the spectrum, officially diagnosed when he was in preschool. We have our suspicions about the Owl, he gets plenty of therapy without any diagnosis, but at some point we would like to get more answers if such a thing is really possible.
When my kids were babies, I had no idea that they were not developing like their peers. I was thankful every day for my healthy, "normal" children. When Herbie was an active toddler and Owl was just a newborn, I remember reading an essay written by a mother whose son has autism. It was a beautiful article about how she loved her child and had come to terms with his differences. I saved it for some reason. I thought to myself how lucky I was to not have to deal with the things that the author described. I kept the article with the idea that if a friend of mine ever had a special-needs baby, I would have something helpful to pass along. Because surely I would have no idea what she was really going through. I knew that I could never do it and I never wanted to. Yet here I sit some years later with not one but two special-needs children. And I needed to re-read that article for myself. I now know that the author was right. It is hard to comprehend being a parent for a child with special needs. But she points out that when a child becomes my child, suddenly it is possible. Before I knew of any diagnoses, I just loved my children for who there were. Nothing changed from that regard when I found out they needed extra help. I still look at them and see my sweet, awesome kids. I will do whatever it takes to help them thrive.