*Encouragement is the best medicine to give someone. If I were to pick any gift to have in helping others, that would be the one*

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Guest Post By Kathleen Deyer Bolduc

Author of:
Autism & Alleluias
Kathleen Deyer Bolduc


Why am I continually broadsided by the wideness of God’s grace? You’d think that I’d be used to it by now.

But no. God’s grace bowls me over, again and again. A perfect strike, it hits me in the solar plexus and down I go, unable to get up until my jellified legs allow me to walk normally again.

It happened yesterday, in the middle of Joel’s transition meeting. Our son Joel, age 25, who has autism and a moderate intellectual disability, is moving in May from our house to Safe Haven Farms, a “community of choice for adults with autism” (www.safehavenfarms.org ). Ten of us sat around a table in the newly renovated farm house, which serves as office space. My husband Wally, son Joel, and I were joined by Ashley, the farm’s director; Andrea, Joel’s current service facilitator; Jennifer, his new service facilitator (this move involves a change of counties, which involves, as you can imagine, a ton of paperwork); Abbey, the farm’s director of day services; Susan, home manager; Lisa, Joel’s case worker from his current job placement; and Rhonda, the job coach Joel has been with for the past three years.

Rhonda was the person at that table who, besides Wally and I, knows Joel best. Instrumental in Joel’s successful transition (four years ago) from school to work, she is funny, firm, unflappable, creative, energetic, and extremely capable. Of all the professionals that have worked with Joel over the years, Rhonda is one of the shining stars. Joel’s school/work transition started out as a complete disaster, with the initial agency we had chosen to go with turning out to be incapable of handling Joel’s behaviors—behaviors that were exacerbated by his anxiety over the transition. You’d think an agency who deals with autism would know that transition is difficult, and that you have to be creative in smoothing out the rough places. For six weeks we received daily phone calls about hairpulling, wandering, cussing, and a myriad of other complaints. They were not open to our suggestions. We pulled Joel out of the program.

Enter Beckman Adult Center , a workshop run by our county board of developmental disabilities. It was our “last choice” among several options, mainly because the client/staff ratio was not high enough. At that time, Joel required 1:1 support. Joel was assigned to Rhonda and Julius, a dynamic duo. After reading Joel’s files and meeting with us, it was quickly determined that Joel needed a slow and easy transition. An hour the first day, two hours the next, half days for a couple of weeks, etc. He was also allowed to begin his work in a room with only one other client. Rhonda set the room up with a treadmill for times of anxiety, a computer for break times, huge maps on the wall to provide conversation, photo albums for Joel to peruse during breaks. But Rhonda’s greatest offering was her upbeat attitude, her intuitive grasp of what Joel needed to succeed, her openness to Joel’s gifts, and her unstoppable optimism and energy. Within weeks Joel was working, independently at times. Within months several other clients moved into his room, changing the client/staff ratio from 1:1 to 4:1. Joel handled the changes magnificently.

As we sat around the table at Safe Haven Farms yesterday, Joel sat a little apart in a lazy-boy rocker, where he could be a part of what was going on without being overwhelmed by nine warm bodies, several of them strangers to him. We listened to Rhonda’s input as to what it would take to make this a successful transition for Joel. “Expect to walk a lot,” she said. “Keep him busy. He’s a busy guy. He needs to move. Talk to him. He has a lot to offer to a conversation. He’s interesting! He loves to sing and dance. He loves J.T. (James Taylor). Just make sure he has his JT.”
I looked over at Joel, who was uncharacteristically kicked back and relaxed, his Cincinnati Red’s cap pulled down over his brow, his face wreathed in smiles. This was his good friend, Rhonda, talking about him. Telling everyone what a great guy he was. They’ve been through it all together—good days, bad days. Days with lots of work, days with no work. Days that they walked until their feet hurt. Days that he was to work semi-independently.
That’s when it happened. A geyser of joy, totally unexpected, shot up from the center of my chest, nearly knocking me out of my chair.
How wide is God’s mercy! How grace-filled my life. How blessed Joel’s life.

Yes, this transition is going to be difficult. All transitions are tricky when you’re dealing with autism. But just as God gifted us with Rhonda, God will bring another person alongside Joel. Someone to discover his gifts and pull them out. Someone smart enough to listen to and learn from those who know Joel well, and intuitive enough to “know” what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to anxiety and the behaviors that accompany it.

Rhonda, I want more than anything to take you with us to Safe Haven Farms! To steal you away from the city and plant you in the middle of that beautiful farm land. I know you’re needed where you are, though, and cloning is still the stuff of science fiction. But I do know this, and I hope you know it as well:

You are the personification of God’s grace in our lives.

We will never forget you.

Chaz's First Basketball Game!

Last Saturday, Chaz and I got up at 6:50am to play in his very first basketball game.  His team won 28-14.  Totally creamed the other team.  I coached it!  I had so much fun.  I was a little nervous about coaching because, although I played for a few years in school growing up, it has been quite awhile.  Not only that but I can't yell that loud so when I would have to call out to a kid, my voice wasn't loud enough.  All in all I had fun with each and every kid.  They were all beginners so I had to help them with all the aspects of basketball. Thankfully the ref had compassion and didn't call them on everything since there is just so much to learn.

The reason why I held off till now to have Chaz play was because I was unsure how he'd do in a team.  I've had him in groups before where he just wasn't mature enough to handle being around kids his age.  In the past, he had some rage issues but he's really gotten a handle on it.  It's not nearly as often anymore.  I was seriously worried, not kidding, that he might take the ball and throw it at someone in anger or do something else.  I finally decided to step out and see if he could handle it this year.  I'm telling you, he knew NOTHING about basketball and Chaz took his first game like a natural. He's only been to one practice (pic below).  Chaz scored for the team, even stole the ball a few times.  He ran in the right direction.  LOL.  You know how it is with little kids, sometimes they take the ball the wrong waydown the court. 

Chaz was so pumped up about his first game.  He JUST learned the game right then and there.  I'm telling you, he didn't even learn the game in his first and only practice.  I'm impressed how quickly he picked up on it. I was yelling and cheering along with coaching!  I was just so happy to see Chaz on a team with other kids and working with them so well. 


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Autism & Alleluias by Kathleen Deyer Bolduc

I had an opportunity to read this book, Autism and Alleluias by Kathleen Deyer Bolduc, and I loved every minute of reading it. 

Bolduc does not beat around the bush but gets you right into the story.  This is one of my favorite parts and this is how she starts her book.

From "For Me!" from Autism & Alleluias:
During the boring parts of the service (any part without music is boring as far as Joel is concerned), he twists and turns in the pew, stares at the people behind us, waves at the pastor, swings his feet, claps his hands or stomps his feet (he usually saves these last two for times of silent prayer), and at least once during every service says in a loud voice, "I have to go to the bathroom!"  Worshipping with Joel is an interesting experience.  It's not unlike sitting on the edge of your seat during an action movie, when you're not quite sure what's going to happen next- you only know something is going to happen.

There are so many more stories in this book like this that gave me a chuckle.  I laughed when she laughed.  I cried when she cried.  I rejoiced in their victories!

Something that surprised me about this book was how I was able to have some breif glimpses of life through Joels eyes.  Things I never would of thought of or even taken the time to consider. 

She points out in her book:
What role does faith play in helping familes cope with the challenges of autism?  In this series of slice-of-life vignettes, God's grace glimmers through as Joes, an intellectually challenged young adult with autism, teaches those who love him that life requires:

*Childlike faith
*openness to all of God's gifts.

Read her blog HERE!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jenny McCarthy's Journey

After reading a comment by someone in my group in facebook, Asperger Moms, I realized that this would be a good book to post on here.  It is one of the most emotional books I've ever read.

Imagine a mom who's son was born having all the functions of a normal child.  Then, after 18mths, the child totally regress.  Stops talking.  Stops doing all the normal things he did before.  What would cause a regression like this? 

Jenny is able, through much hard work and study, find what helped bring her son back out of his "autistic" shell.  If you get this book, you won't be able to put it down. 

She says in her book that she does NOT claim to have a cure. That it only helped her son and he will always be Autistic. I think the critics just were trying to hit her really hard and pinned that on her. She makes sure when you read her book that there is no known cure for Autism.

Finding a Safe Hobby For Chaz

Marvel Hero Clix Game - Booster 8pkWe have been looking for a hobby for Chaz.  Something he would really be into that has nothing to do with video games.  Well, my husband plays a sort of "board game" with his friends once a week.  It's called Hero Clix.  You collect these little guys (I'm telling this in a girlie sort of view) and they each have points.  You use a map on the table and place your guys.  It's basically like the Marvel Comic characters.  It's really fun. 

One day my husband was out buying some new ones (seriously cheap for just one or two) and my sons asked if they could use their chore money to buy a couple of them for themselves.  We said, "sure!"  Chaz loves, loves sitting down and playing with his brother or even just by himself.   He's so much more motivated to do his chores now knowing that he's earning money for more of these guys. 

I love hobbies but the only one my son was into was video games, and as you can see by previous posts. it has a bad effect on him.  Getting into a hobby like this helps him to have something to look forward to, occupy, learn, and socialize with his brother or friends that also love to play.  I'm excited about this one.  Well, so is Chaz!

Friday, April 2, 2010

No, We Can't Keep The Bird

A bird flew in our house and Chaz was so excited!  He said, "Mom!  Dad!  A bird flew in our house.  We loved watching the bird fly around and around the living room.  So pretty! 

Chaz was upset because we opened the front door and let the bird go.  I tried to explain to Chaz that the bird is used to freedom and it wouldn't be nice to keep him. 

Chaz has always loved animals so much.  He has such a gentleness about him when he is around them.  The doctor said it is good for Chaz to have animals.  Being an animal lover, I agree.  :)  We have a great dane and chickens. 
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