Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Asperger Syndrome Suicide

You wake on a typical weekend morning. Your children are sleeping as you prepare breakfast. At 8:30am you head upstairs to check in on your 14 year old son. A child with a huge heart and beautiful smile, your heart breaks for him often. He has Asperger Syndrome and struggles with the feelings that come from not being accepted by your peers. He is very intelligent, which only seems to fuel the problem. Even adults look at him, and due to his intelligence, expect more from him then he is capable of. How do you explain to a child that only things logically, that the reason people shun him, or get frustrated with him, is simply because he is different? There is no logic in that, yet it is the simple truth, unfair that it may be.

These thoughts bombard you as you slowly walk up the stairs, wondering what today might be and how you will be able to help your son. You open the door as you call softly to him to wake up. With a start you realize that he isn't in bed. You step back into the hallway, figuring he was in the bathroom, or maybe downstairs somewhere. You call for him several times, with no answer.

You aren't really worried. It's not uncommon for your son to get up and go walking. It helps to soothe him, comfort him. You hope he grabbed something for breakfast before he left. He's struggled so much lately, he doesn't understand why people treat him the way they do. He doesn't understand why the world is so different then what he can understand or relate to. As you head back into the kitchen, you pray again the prayer you've said so many times, “Please God, help me find a way to help my son”.

Your laptop is sitting on the table. You slide it over to you and post a quick comment on Facebook, asking anyone that may know where your son is to get in touch with you as soon as possible.

The hours tick away and you still haven't heard anything. Your son doesn't typically stay gone for this long, and you are starting to worry. You've had this nagging feeling that something isn't quite right ever since you discovered that he wasn't in bed this morning. You've been shoving it aside, but now your starting to wonder if you should pay more attention to it.

An associate from work calls you. It's doubtful she's heard that you posted on Facebook asking for info on your son's whereabouts, and you don't really want to get into it on the phone with her. You answer the phone, and in a style true to her, she starts babbling about traffic being backed up on the interstate. She is talking over excitedly and very fast. To fast for your ever growing stressed emotions to keep up with. You vaguely hear her tell you how traffic was stopped because of a body found on the side of the road, and how it'd been there for hours before anyone bothered to call 911. You finally tell her that it's been a very bad morning for you, and that you have to get off the phone.

No sooner have you hung up your phone then panic seizes you. Didn't your friend from work just say that the body found had red hair? Surely she'd have said it was a teenager or a child if it was your son. But, she said it had been there for hours....hours! Oh no, she also said it was near where you live! That can't be your son. Oh please Dear God, don't let that be your son.

You quickly snatch the phone back up and call the local police department. You explain that your son, your son that has red hair, is missing. Your transferred to an officer, who asks you a ton of questions and then quietly tells you that two officers are already in route to your home to get a statement.

There is a knock at the door. You didn't hear the car pull up over the phone conversation. You quickly run to the door and yank it open. As your mind registers that it is two police officers, you stand on your tip toes to look over their shoulder, praying that your son is standing behind them.

The tallest of the two officers look at you with pity and an emotion that can only be sadness as he asks you to step inside and find a seat. This can't be happening! Something is wrong! Where is your son? That body on the side of the interstate can not be your son!

You listen to the officers' words, as if you are detached and standing a few feet away from yourself. It seems that your son is the “body” that your friend told you about. The police haven't pieced it all together yet, but it appears that your son jumped from the bridge that goes across the interstate at around 3:30am. He was hit by a tractor trailer. Through the next several hours, until sometime in the afternoon, traffic went on as usual. People noticed what appeared to be a “large animal in a pile of clothes” but didn't have time to report it. Others thought it was a body, but again were to busy to pick up their cell phones and call 911, much less turn around to check. It wasn't until afternoon that someone stopped and called 911 to let them know that a body was on the side of the interstate, where it had lain since 3:30am.....alone and hit by several vehicles. The clothing matches up to your son's clothing. There isn't any reason to do an identification, the police will use medical means to finalize that it really is your son. The police are certain it is suicide.

The next day, our best friend stops by to let you know that the story was in the newspaper again. This time the article states that the body that held up traffic for hours was a 14 year old that committed suicide. At the very bottom of the article, almost as an afterthought, it reads, “the teen was taking regular medication for Asperger's Syndrome and autism”. You look at her incredulously. Your son committed suicide due to the challenges, and lack of treatment, he faced having Asperger Syndrome, and it was only mentioned at the very bottom of the article as an afterthought? A Sargent said that your son was taking medication for Asperger Syndrome when there are no medications available to treat it, as if it's something that requires a magic cure? Why wasn't it mentioned that your son being treated like an outcast and different, not just from his peers but from adults, impacted him daily? Why didn't the article talk about how tons of parents around the country are finding themselves without the resources or tools necessary to help their children? Why didn't the article list the few available resources for this area? Why didn't it reach out to other families going through something similar, other families that every day fear their teen with Asperger Syndrome might also commit suicide?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I wish I could say that I just made up this story. However, I am saddened beyond words to say that I didn't. This happened here over the last few days. As a mother frantically searched for her beloved 14 year old son, motorist to busy to call 911 were driving by his battered and tattered body.

A newspaper quoted Sgt. G.A. Barger of the North Carolina State Patrol as stating that the child was taking medication for his “Asperger Syndrome and Autism”. To date, there are no medications available to treat Asperger Syndrome. There is no cure for Autism, and many parents advocate that a cure isn't needed, merely the perception of “typical” people to change.

People have already started to judge. A mother states that she has a child with Asperger's and she doesn't understand why the article mentions it at all as her son is “bright and a joy to be around”. She wonders what Asperger Syndrome has to do with his suicide, or any other news article that has mentioned it recently. Another mentions medications and how they only “make things worse”. Another poster states that anyone with Asperger Syndrome wouldn't want that for the rest of their lives. Yet another newspaper article states that the child “suffered with Asperger Syndrome”.

There are so many things I want to say. I want to scream that children with Asperger Syndrome wouldn't suffer if it weren't for the judgements, criticizing, and mistreatment from “typical” people. I want to scream that there is not a medication for Asperger Syndrome. I want to scream that Dan Akroyd, Bill Gates, Daryl Hannah, Satoshi Tajiri, James Durbin, Paula Hamilton, Peter Howson, Clay Marzo, Les Murray and others all have Asperger Syndrome. There are so many more, Al Gore, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Robin Williams, Andy Kaufman, Hans Asperger, isaac Asimove and more. Do they seem to “suffer”, need “medication”, or need a cure? I want to scream that popular belief feel that Abraham Lincoln, Bobby Fischer, Benjamin Franklin, Marilyn Monroe, Henry Ford, Isaac Newton, Jane Austen, Vincent Van Gogh, and Virginia Woolf all had Asperger Syndrome. How can all these people be broken and need a “cure”? How can all these people not want to live simply because of their diagnosis?

I want to scream at the world that I am the mother of the sweetest, kindest, most caring teenage son. I want to scream how his intelligence level is through the roof, but how he lacks an understanding of social concepts. I want to scream out how he tries to engage his peers in conversation, but the “typical” teens shun him simply because he is different and different isn't “cool”. I want to scream at the world that different is not bad or wrong.

Yet, instead I will stand here and speak for the family that is to grief stricken to speak for themselves. I will stand and say that my son has Asperger Syndrome and that his life has been difficult. I will stand and speak out and let others know that my son's life, and the life of other teens with Asperger Syndrome, is difficult because others refuse to accept different as being acceptable. I will stand and tell others that you can not say you are scared of someone with Asperger Syndrome because of what one child with Asperger Syndrome did months ago, but instead you should stand up and help find a way for these children to have available the resources they need to help them succeed.

I am the mother of a child with Asperger Syndrome.

I am proud to be the mother of a child with Asperger Syndrome.

I support ALL parents of children with special needs.

I won't ever quit speaking up for my children's needs.

Always remember, if you've met one child with Autism, then you've met ONE child with Autism. No two children on the Autistic spectrum are alike, no two children with Asperger Syndrome are alike. One thing they all share though, resources are not available to help them reach their full potential. Nor do they experience the acceptance in society that they should.

Please, don't be one of the passive people that sit by and judge and criticize. Stand up today and speak out.

For resources regarding Autism Spectrum Disorder, you can follow the links below:

Autism Speaks Resource Library which has many books, websites, blogs and videos for families to use.

Autism Speaks Social Network for on-line chats with other parents in similar situations. Some use it to pose a specific question and get feedback, while others utilize it as a support group.
Autism Speaks Tool Kits http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits
Autism Speaks Family Services web link - http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services

Other Resources:

http://www.aspires-relationships.com/. It seems to have a wide variety of resources that may be helpful.
There is an excellent online support group called GRASP – The Global & Regional Asperger’s Syndrome Partnership. http://grasp.org/page/grasp-support-groups.

You can contact me at any time for questions, support, or information at pathsfrommysoul@gmail.com

Monday, March 5, 2012

Light it up Blue for Autism

"In celebration of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, Autism Speaks will again seek to turn the world blue. Our third annual Light It Up Blue initiative is fully underway with over 350 buildings already committed to turning blue.
Among the landmarks that will be turning blue on April 2, 2012 are Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock Observation Deck and Madison Square Garden in New York City, Hôtel de Ville in Paris, France, the famous Tokyo Tower in Japan and Canada’s CN Tower, the Sydney Opera House in Australia and Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge.
Visit our website to learn how to participate and check back in early March to LightItUpBlue.org to register your events and see a full list of participating buildings.
Last year we had over 2000 buildings and landmarks turn blue. With your help, in 2012 we will more than double that number!!"  (taken from http://blog.autismspeaks.org/2012/02/22/liub-2012-kickoff/)

Lowes has blue bulbs available. Please stop by to get your blue bulbs and light up your own home to raise awareness for Autism. Thank you. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

15 Years Later

It's odd the things you remember in life.

I was in the passenger seat of an old, green Ford pickup truck. We were in the drive-thru at Burger King and I was insisting there was no way that I could eat anything, not even a bite. Yet, it was argued that I was pregnant and I needed to keep my strength and my sugar up. A song came on the radio and as I listened to the lyrics I began to cry. Tonight, writing this, I remember what food I was given at Burger King. It was a bacon, egg, and cheese croissant. I remember what I was wearing....a black shirt with a gray striped dress over it. Yet, I can't remember that song.

We went to meet our group of friends before heading to the funeral home. I knew I wanted that song to be played at the funeral. Pam agreed, and it was played. Yet now, almost 15 years later, the name of the song won't come to mind.

Exactly 15 years ago today, a beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed, six year old boy was murdered. Six years old....the same age my son will turn in three weeks. My son, who has blonde hair and blue eyes. My son who climbs, jumps, flips, and does stunts proudly and with no fear.....just like Jordy did 15 years ago. My son who asked today if he could watch Power Rangers on Netflix. Power Rangers....a show he's never seen, but that was Jordan's favorite.

Jordan's picture sits on the cabinet in my dining room. The picture frame has a motherly angel down the side of it. An angel.......the first time I saw Jordan the sun was shining on his blond curls, and I thought to myself that he looked like an angel. Those words would come back to me when I heard of his death.

I should've known. There aren't many things that can make multiple grown men cry. Yet, all they told us was to go to the pay phone and call Dan. So, we did. I remember thinking it was someone in their family.....their aged father perhaps. But I remember when I heard the person beside me say, “No, it can't be. Are you sure?” Then they looked at me, and suddenly I knew....it wasn't his family member. This was someone I loved. Yet, when he said the name in that horrible sentence, I didn't want to believe. Yet, somehow I felt it......inside.....where the core of all you are exists.

I was sitting in the passenger seat of a car, a small gray Honda. I doubled over in physical pain. I felt it.....the pain....it was driving through me. I raised my head and looked out the windshield. It was dark out, late. Most people were sleeping. Yet, I noticed lights coming on. Inside lights, then porch lights. I looked around for the source of what was waking everyone. I could hear it.....it was this primal scream that sent chills down my spine. It scared me. Even after I was taken back to the house and calmed down, I still didn't realize the screams I heard were my own. That would come to me later.

Each year, right after my birthday, I start to think about Jordan. I think of him often through the year, but towards the end of November I remember. Jordan's birthday is towards the end of November. The holidays. I think of him all through Christmas. He used to lie on the living room floor with me to watch the patterns the lights made on the ceiling. Then, into January....this month. Today.....15 years.

The news reporters all called it, “the worst case of child abuse in North Carolina history”. None of us would argue that point. We saw, we knew, we had tried to save him.

She is behind bars. Two consecutive life sentences and up for parole 25 years after her conviction date. She still claims to be not guilty. Facing the feelings I felt towards her was almost the end of me. God showed me that hating someone, seeking revenge.....that only destroys the hater and not the hated. I almost lost myself learning that lesson.

There are lots of lessons to be learned. There are some lessons that should never have to be learned. Jordan's death taught us all lots of lessons that we didn't need to know. It taught us a level of grief that to date has yet to exist anywhere else in my life. I'm sure those that love Jordy would agree.

I know that no matter how I write the words that come next, that they won't be able to convey the emotion behind my pleas. I know that words can't show you the tears that I shed as I type this. I know that words can't make you feel that pain that is still there.....in the core of my very being. I know that words won't allow you to hear the longing in my voice when I beg you to please do this one thing for me....for Jordan.

If you suspect child abuse, please please please seek assistance. Do not just pick up the phone, call your local Child Protective Service office, make a report, hang up and walk away. FOLLOW UP!! Call back, make sure it was investigated, make sure that the workers know you aren't going to forget. Let your presence be made known. Is the child in school? Report it also to the school. Is the child in daycare? Report it there. Do you happen to know who the child's pediatrician is? Report it there. Is the child school age but not in school? Report it to the truancy officer. Call the police. Call and report it to everyone you can. Each person you report it to will have to document the report and possibly investigate the allegations themselves. By reporting it to multiple people, you just gave that child that many protectors! Keep a ledger documenting what you saw....dates, times, who was with the child, what the abuse/injury was and never let that original out of your site. Include the dates, times and names of the people you reported the abuse to. Make copies to give to those who need it, but hold on to that original so that you hold those dates and times. So that if something else happens to that child, there are people that can be called who are able to move quickly to help the child. So that if the child is not protected by those in charge of protecting children, then there is a record of who to hold accountable.

Between 2006-2010, the average child mortality rate due to homicide was 52. That's 52 children dying each year as a result of child abuse. Homicide. Murder.

You can make a difference. You can save a life. You can do it for any reason you want, or you can do it for Jordan. It doesn't matter to me at all what your reason is, just please.....if you suspect child abuse, do something about it.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I apologize for being so slack and not keeping this blog updated more. We went through a spell where Keeg, Pook's older brother was battling his health condition again that kept me busy. Then we had a family crisis and after that, I ended up in the hospital for a week and am only just getting back to my self!

We've had quite a few things happen in the last several months. First, I'll start with the chiropractor visit. We discovered that the top vertebrea in Pook's neck is slanted at a sharp degree upwards. This could, in fact, be blocking signals from flowing from his brain to the rest of his body like they should! This is big news for us.

You see, Pook's head has always been super super sensitive to touch/pain. However, from the neck down, he feels no pain at all. He's cracked his elbow when ice skating, and never once said it hurt! He sliced through the tendon in his pinkie finger, and never complained of pain! His neurologist has long said that he felt there was something blocking the signals that are supposed to flow freely between his body and brain.

So, can chiropractic help? We're hopeful that it can. So far, we have noticed changes in Pook, but have no way of knowing what is due to chiropractic and what isn't!

Now, let's talk about phonics. Pook still doesn't comprehend that each letter makes a distinct sound, or that putting those sounds together forms words. However, he is recognizing sight words on his own. He knows and can spell many words now, some of which are off, on, out, and exit. He picks the words on his own and once he says he knows it, he's retaining the information!! As you may recall, Pook typically gains new information but then looses it. Hopefully that's not going to happen anymore!

Also, Pook's memory has always been above and beyond, but now he can articulate the things he remembers even better. He has told us about events that happened when he was as young as 6 months old! He remembers details so vividly that there is no mistake that these are his memories and not something he just overheard. It's pretty spectacular (isn't God amazing!).

Pook also is starting to understand different emotions and the part they play in his actions. This is a huge leap for him and it's making things so much easier! He's started to express guilt when he does something wrong, and genuinely feels remorse for his actions that hurt others. There is still a significant delay in the amount of time between the actual action and his emotions catching up to it, but we're getting there and that is a start.

At this moment, it really seems that his Auditory Processing Delay is causing most of his frustrations. He acts on impulse, and then will cry for long periods of time upset about his action. He tells me, "I not want to do that, my body made me" or say that his "brain made me". My heart breaks for him when this happens. He's starting to realize that his actions have a bearing on others, and to feel that he can't control these actions is very upsetting to him.

He's only just now started addressing the issues he has resulting from the recent division in our family. He doesn't speak about his emotions, except to say that he misses Daddy. The rest of the emotions he discusses he puts on the other person. For example, if he was mad at me, he'd say "Mommy has a mad face". It can get confusing at times, but we're figuring it out!

Overall, Pook is making progress each and every day and I am thrilled! He's come a long way. One of his medial specialist told me recently that he'd have never come this far if I hadn't started his therapies so young. I encourage each parent to challenge any specialist or insurance company that wants you to wait until your child is older for therapy. Early intervention makes such a big difference. Fight for your child, cause at the end of the day, you're the only one that will.

Friday, November 11, 2011

RIP Dixie

RIP Dixie

I don't know where to start. I guess first I need to tell you how we met Dixie.
Our family purchased a home in a very rural area in March of this year. It's perfect....the location is all we've ever dreamed of. We live in the midst of a forest, with a lake nearby. Neighbors are practically non-existent and we never hear sounds of traffic. Our lullabies are crickets, frogs and wonderful, peaceful, calming sounds of night.
About a week after we started moving in, my friend James and I were traveling with my three children to go pack up some more belongings at our former home. As we came near a stop sign, we saw something run across the road. We weren't quite sure what it was, but thought it might be a dog. Living in a rural area means that it's not uncommon to see animals get dumped. We stopped at the stop sign, opened the driver's door, and whistled. Up came running Dixie. She was wagging her tail so much the whole back half of her was swinging from side to side. Without hesitation she climbed into the drivers door, under his legs, across the center console and stretched herself across my 3 children's laps.
I'd always told my daughter, Keara, that when we bought a home, we'd get a dog. She'd waited 11 years. When we bought our home, she told Pookie (our 5 year old son with Autism) about our deal. He had prayed each night for a week for God to give us a dog. When Dixie stretched out across his and his siblings laps, he smiled as big as he could and with wide eyed wonder told me, “Mommy! God gave me a dog!” Whose to argue with a child's faith?
A few weeks after Dixie came into our lives, it was warm enough for the children to go swimming. You know the time of year....when the air outside is warm, the sun is bringing a warmth to your skin that you longed for all winter, and though no adult would ever get into the still chilled water, the kids all think it feels great! As us adults sat on the shore with Dixie, our children frolicked and played in the lake. Our 11 year old daughter, got caught in a current. Though she could paddle and keep herself in the same spot, she couldn't get up to shore. As I was getting ready to get in to bring her to shore, Dixie jumped in the water. To our shock and surprise, Dixie swam out to Keara, placed her collar under Keara's hand, and pulled her to shore. Everyone was shocked and thrilled.
Dixie seemed to also have been trained as a therapy dog. Though we have no knowledge of her background, she always stayed beside Pookie when he was out of doors. She would run beside him on his bike, and even get in front of him if she felt he went to far. He would lie down, resting his head on her and she was content. When he would start to have a meltdown, she would come and push against him.....calming him tremendously. She was in tune with him on a level I'd never seen between child and pet.
As time progressed, so did Pookie. His neurologist wasn't surprised. He'd told me the best thing I could do for him, and his older brother that has Asperger's, was to get them a good dog. He said he'd seen children advance and make progress with a dog that otherwise wouldn't have been accomplished.
A few months after God brought us Dixie, our daughter was attacked by a much larger dog. Dixie was a cocker spaniel mix. The other dog was a German Shepard/Lab mix. Dixie, despite being a fourth of this other dogs size, defended Keara with a vengeance. I have no doubts that she saved my daughter's life. At one point, Dixie stuck her entire snout into the other dogs mouth!
Dixie became loved by all the children that came to visit. Being that I have children on the autistic spectrum and with health issues, I am often visited by other families that have children with special needs. Dixie always connected with them. She offered them a sense of security and calm in a world these children often don't understand. Somehow, Dixie made everything OK.
When my 14 year old with Aspergers, Keeg, decided to walk to my parent's house, it was almost dark. I hadn't realized he had left, but merely thought he was taking a quite time in “his spot” in the woods near our house. When my daughter and I began to look for him, it was getting close to dark. He didn't answer, he wasn't in “his spot”, and we began to worry he was lost. We walked the drive, calling for him, but to no avail. I noticed that Dixie wasn't in the house, or outside. I knew that if Dixie wasn't coming to us when we started to call her, then one of two things was happening. Either Keeg was hurt and Dixie wouldn't leave his side, or they were out of ear shot. This realization prompted me to run back to the house so I could call 911. By now it was dark, and it was cold out. Keeg was only wearing shorts and flip flops. He has health issues and is unusually weak. I was panicked. As I started to call 911, a call came through from my parent's. I heard Keeg's voice say, “Hey Mom!” He hadn't realized the gravity of what he'd done. He said that when he started to leave our property and Dixie followed, he tried to run her home, but she wouldn't leave him. He said she stayed with him the entire time. At one point he said he saw some dogs and was scared, but Dixie barked a few times and that was that. He had gotten scared on the way, and cold, but Dixie kept him centered and moving forward. He said without her, he'd have probably hid in the woods on the side of the road. But, Dixie was there with him and so he knew it would be OK.
After that incident, Dixie got it into her head that she could leave our yard and try to get to my parents where she'd walked with Keeg that night. Although she occasionally wandered to our neighbors home (often invited by the renters that stayed there), she never went the opposite direction unless leashed. Yet, for some reason she figured that if she'd gotten to go that night, she was going to continue. Finally, we quit letting her go out with the boys unless she was leashed. She spent her time in the house and at times would drive me insane. She was used to running and jumping with Pookie, and since she didn't have that outlet outside, decided to do it inside. Pook of course missed the same play, and actively participated indoors.
A week ago tomorrow, my husband was involved in a terrible accident. He suffered a skull fracture and an epidural hematoma, pooling blood and air pockets that put pressure on his brain. He was air lifted to a hospital to be seen by a neurosurgeon. We are blessed to have a large network of prayer warriors, all who spread the word quickly and got many people praying for him. He was blessed, and quite surprisingly to all, came home after only 1 night in ICU, and 1 night on a general floor. He is in pain, and has memory loss. He also doesn't remember much of what happens in a day. He has to stay supervised for the most part, as often he doesn't remember his injuries.
While we were in the hospital, Dixie was left alone. Although she was fed, watered, and taken out.....she had not been alone since God brought her to us. I remember my horror when we got home from the hospital. There was not a square inch of floor uncovered. Toys from the kids rooms were scattered throughout the house, mixed with the garbage that had sat in the can unattended during our hospital stay. I couldn't believe one stressed out dog could have created such destruction.
I felt bad for having left her cooped up and unattended. I let her out and stayed with her to make sure she didn't run off. She stayed right around the house. Apparently her extended stay inside, only being taken out long enough to use the bathroom and only seeing someone for 10 minutes a day had fixed her issue of running off. She stayed close to the house, only venturing to the end of our personal driveway, then coming back. She was so happy to see us.
The next day, I had to run into town to grab some groceries. I couldn't find anyone to stay with my husband, but had to get him something to eat. I timed my trip so that he'd be sleeping and rushed to get things done. I came back in aprx 30 minutes. As I rushed to come in and check on him, Dixie jumped from the van. I checked on my husband, and went out. Dixie stood at the end of our personal driveway barking. I knew she was barking at the trespassing hunters. I'd seen their truck on my way in. Despite continually asking hunters to leave our property and the property adjoining ours, and explaining that we have to children with Autism, they still continue to return. Dixie stood at the end of the drive barking as I carried in groceries. Suddenly, she quit barking and started wagging her tail. She got excited and her whole back end started to move back and forth. I couldn't help but smile. Dixie would get so excited when she was going to get affection that she'd shake her back end so much she could barely run. She took off down the drive. I assumed that someone we knew was coming down the drive.
I was wrong. When I got the last of the groceries in, I went to get Dixie in. No one had come up the drive and I couldn't figure out what she had taken off the drive so happy about. She wouldn't answer my call, and I didn't see nor hear any sign of her.
I found her later. It was dark and I was driving out the drive. I just happened to get a glimpse of her green collar as I drove by. My heart sank. I backed up and cut on my high beams. There was Dixie, laying on the side of the drive in the grass. My heart sank as I realized she wasn't moving. “She's been hit by a car” I thought. Then I thought, “She's just hurt. The vet can save her!” I jumped out and ran towards her.....and then I saw it. An arrow.....extending out of her. She was dead. My husband said he was so scared and worried for me. He said it was as if I crumpled, but was still standing on my feet. He said he'd never heard anyone scream like that. My heart was shattering....all I could see was our beloved pet, our family, lying there with that arrow protruding.
I drove back home and called my best friend. Halfway up the drive I stopped as my sobs and screams were wracking me so much that I couldn't drive. I made it home and called my best friend who advised me to report it to the police. I called 911 and was told a deputy was coming out. I drove down to sit beside Dixie, worried that the coyotes or other animals would disturb her. My husband insisted on coming with me, telling me he could never rest knowing I was sitting there alone. I finally convinced him to go home and lie down. I drove down the drive to turn around. There were headlights coming towards me, but as soon as I spotted theirs, they must've seen me. They turned around rapid fast and took off down the drive. Instinct made me go after them and I was shocked to see a small pickup truck, very similar to the one that was there when I'd gotten home from the grocery store. I wrote down the tag number and returned to give it to 911, hoping that the deputy coming out would see them as he passed. When the officer arrived, I told him about the truck. He had passed them on the way, but had not gotten the message from dispatch. After getting all the needed information, he told me that unless they confessed, he couldn't do anything. If they confessed, the only thing he could do was give me the information so that I could go to the magistrate for “destruction of personal property”. I was dumbfounded. These hunters repeatedly trespass posted private land, lured my dog from our property and shot it, and nothing could be done. I was told that nothing could be done because their was a leash law, and my dog wasn't on a leash when he was killed. My heart sank. She'd been killed within 15 minutes of jumping from my van. I saw her run down the drive happily to greet her murderers, and never had a clue what was happening. I even remember hearing the truck drive up and leave as I was calling out to her, but never considered that any hunter would ever harm an innocent dog. Especially not hunters that had already been told that there were two children with autism living in the home. Did they have no heart?
After the officer left, I made a call to my best friend. With my husband having a brain injury, he isn't allowed to lift anything. There was no way I could bury Dixie as I'm not strong enough to dig through the hard clay rock. She couldn't be buried until the next afternoon, when a friend of mine would get off work and come do so. I had to get Dixie to the house and protected from the wild animals of night. I drove down to where Dixie lay. I could have walked there in less then 3 minutes, but it was very cold and I needed the warmth of the van. I took my camera and using the flash surveyed the area. I could see where the hunters had stood next to Dixie in the tall grass, even as she stood in the grass beside the drive that was mowed that very morning. The hunters and Dixie were on the neighboring property to ours.......property that is private and posted as no hunting allowed. Using my headlights and the flash of my camera, I walked a bit further down and saw a well worn path the hunters had been using to get from their truck to the adjoining property. I came back and took pictures of Dixie. I wanted to make sure that somehow her death would not be in vain, and maybe the photos would help that.

I sat with Dixie until my friend could arrive. As we lifted Dixie to place her on a piece of wood, I almost choked. When we lifted her up, we could see the other end of the arrow. We could see the angle, and how far the arrow protruded from her. Although I had never doubted that it was intentional, due to her having been shot beside our drive, it had never occurred to me exactly how cold hearted these hunters had been. They had stood directly over her when they shot her. They shot her through the heart and the evidence of this was pooling around her. Dixie would have been looking up at them with her adoring eyes, tail wagging so much that her behind swung from side to side. How could they have looked at that adoring face and brutally murdered her that way?
We laid her Dixie in the van and brought her home for the last time. My husband had been building a storage building next to our home. We put her in there and wedged a large piece of wood over the door. I laid awake for hours in bed that night. I just kept seeing those so called hunters standing over her, with her excited to be getting attention, and the arrow piercing her. Although I was glad it had been a shot straight through her heart, my own heart felt just as pierced. I cried throughout the night, muffling my sobs so as not to disturb my husband who was still in immense pain from his injuries.
I woke the next morning going over the needed chores to be done. Then the image of her laying beside our drive pierced through my mind. I got up quietly, pulled on my shoes and sweatshirt, and headed out with my camera. I walked this time. Though still cold, I needed that extra minute to prepare myself. I had noticed the night before that the end of the arrow with the quills had been broken off. I had remembered hearing in the past that hunters mark that end of their arrow with their initials or an identifying mark. They do this so that they know who made “the kill”. I searched the area where I'd found Dixie and as I walked back towards where their truck was parked, I found the broken piece of the arrow that had the quills. Dixie's blood was still on it. I found two pieces, laying next to each other. Yet, the very end, beyond the quills, was missing. The part where the initials would have been.
I then thought back to their returning that night. I figured it had to be the same truck, despite it having been dark and my vision being limited. Why else would they have turned around so rapidly and taken off like a race car driver down a curvy gravel road when they saw me? I wondered for a moment why, as I'd done the night before. I felt that they must've been coming back to take Dixie's body. I still haven't thought of any other reason they would have had to return.
I came back home and headed straight to the shower. I thought back over the last week. Finding out my eldest son has to have a lung biopsy done, my husband's accident and injuries, and now Dixie. I felt.....fragile. My husband woke as I came through our bedroom. I got into the shower and as the water poured over me, I lost it. The tears wouldn't stop and I was grieving for so many things. I was grieving for Dixie's life. I was grieving having to explain it all to my children. I was grieving for their heartache. I was grieving for all the children that loved Dixie and would have to be told. At some point, though I didn't notice, my husband opened the shower door, turned off the water, wrapped me in a towel and held me. I was thinking of all the ways I might have saved her. If I hadn't taken her with me, if she'd been on a leash in the van before I opened the door, if I hadn't carried in groceries first, if I'd gotten someone else to dog sit while I was caring for my husband. I must've spoke these out loud because I remember my husband telling me over and over again that it wasn't my fault.
That afternoon, my two best best friends came over to help me bury Dixie. James had been there the first time we saw Dixie, and now he was helping lay her to rest. It was a very emotional time for us and anyone watching the three of us would have surely wondered as to our sanity. It took a long time to shovel through the clay rock. When it came time to get Dixie ready and to lower her, my dear friends sent me on an errand so that I wouldn't have to see. By the time I got back, the grave was already half way filled in.
Yesterday evening my children came home. Due to their father's injuries, they had not come home yet. I spent the evening consoling Pookie. After he fell asleep, exhausted from his cries, our older two children came to me. They cried for hours before falling into restless sleep.
Dixie was a blessing to our family. I will never be able to understand how anyone could take the life of an innocent. I've never been able to understand how someone could get so angry at another that they would intentionally hurt their children. Maybe these so called hunters thought that by killing my children's therapy dog, that I would leave them alone and let them hunt here. Maybe they figured I'd settle for keeping my kids inside at all times for fear of them hunting next to my home. I guess I'll never know what they were thinking. Part of me hopes that they will always see her beautiful eyes and her wagging tail begging for love as they took her life. Yet, what I really want is for pets and children to be forever safe from these people. I want to make sure that somehow, these people are never allowed near my home again. I want to know that my children can jump on their trampoline, ride their bikes, and check the mailbox without being worried that they'll be mistaken for game. My children always wear hunter orange vest when venturing into the forest, even the forest on our own property. Should they have to wear it just to jump on the trampoline or to check their own mailbox?
I pray that somehow, some way, our home is restored to the dream home that we envisioned it to be. I pray that the children with special needs, and even those without, can come here again and not worry about whether or not they may be within feet of a hunters bow or gun. I pray that once again this home and these woods can become that which God intended it to be......... paradise.

RIP Dixie, You will always remain in our hearts. We love you! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Death? .... Literally!

Death is never easy to explain to a child. However, for children with autism, it can be even more difficulty. Children with autism have a hard time understanding abstract concepts. Then, there is the fact that they take spoken words very literal. Then of course, with the processing delays that some children with autism have, it may be days, weeks or months before you find out exactly how what you said was translated to your child. I found out last night, several weeks after we had discussed death!

"I love you Brandy!"  Pook expressed to his best friends mother. She and I both melted and smiled. As she came towards him to hug him, he declared, "I'm gonna cut your head off and put you in my heart forever!"

She froze. I froze. She looked at me and asked, "What did he just say?"

"I'm gonna cut your head off and put you in my heart forever!" he said again, making sure we understood him.

Frantically, I searched through my own memories. When had we talked about dying? When had we talked about heads being cut off? When had we talked about people being in your heart forever?

Then, it hit me. I had told Pook several weeks ago during our talk about death, that when someone you love dies, they stay in your heart forever.

With Halloween around the corner, Pook has noticed the gruesome yard displays and asked questions about them. Hence, the chopping off of head conversation and how it would resort in death. (I'll stay off my soap box about gruesome Halloween displays for the moment)

So, in Pook's mind, if he wanted someone he loved to be with him forever, they had to die. Then they'd be in his heart forever.

I have no doubt that my loving sweet child had no intentions whatsoever of harming anyone. He was just trying to tell her that he loved her so much that he wanted her in his heart forever. But then, I doubt we'll be seeing that sentiment expressed in his words on any Valentine cards!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Pook was evaluated for Central Auditory Processing Disorder a few weeks ago. Today, the results of the evaluation was mailed to me.

First, let's answer the question, what is Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). Part of CAPD is Auditory Decoding Deficit. A child with this part of CAPD has difficulty analyzing the difference between speech sounds. This child will have trouble with task that require him/her to discriminate and analyze sounds. A cihld may "mis-hear" words, such as mouth for mouse.

Another part of CAPD is Auditory Integration Deficit. This means that their is poor communication between the left and right sides of the brain, and/or between various sensory centers in the brain. For example, if a child is given a pattern of series of tones (example: high-high-low), both sides of the brain must work together in order for the child to distinguish this. The right side of the brain gives the child the pattern and the melody while the left side of the brain adds the words "high" or "low". If a child can't name the pattern, but can reproduce the melody, it tells us that he or she has good melody skills, but poor communication between the two parts of the brain. We've seen this with Pookie often. He loves music and will often sing a song he has heard afterward. Although he has the melody perfect, the words never match up to what he has heard, even if he's heard it often.

Another example is a child that has difficulty using rhythm and meter cues. For example, he/she can rhyme words, but has difficulty with pauses, beats, and rhythm of a song or nursery rhyme.

So, now that we know a small bit of info about CAPD, let's see how Pookie did. Due to his age, his test were limited. He'll go back in  2 years to get more testing. In the meantime, here is what we do know.

Pook was given three test, all in a sound booth with earphones on. The first test was where two different sentences were given to him at the same time. One sentence in one ear, while a different sentence was in another ear. On this test, he showed a definate strength in one ear over the other, but scored within normal limits. Honestly, I was surprised as I figure this would be difficult for me to do!

The next test is where words are spoken at a slightly louder volume then the background babble. Pook had to tell what the word was that was spoken to him while he heard background babbling. Pook scored in the .1 percentile. Note, there is a (.) in front of that 1. So, 99.9 percent of children scored higher then him on this test.

The last test performed is where pook had to repeat sentences that had been altered by compressing the time between sounds. Again, he scored in the .1 percentile.

Pook has  difficulty understanding speech in the presence of background noise. He has auditory processing deficits in both Phonemic Decoding and Integration. He needs speech therapy that emphasizes phonemic detection, discrimination, synthesis and analysis. He will benefit from repetition, repeating but nto rephrasing verbal communication. he'll benefit from reducing auditory overload by giving him "listening" breaks (periods of time where there is no auditory stimulation and it's quiet). Pook can not be given auditory and visual directions at the same time, but will benefit from either individually. Activities that use both parts of his brain, such as chess, gymnastics or dance would be good for him. He is to be given extra time for tasks and responses and should have OT for sensory integration.

Recognizing these issues, and being given specific ways to help him should improve his (and the family's) quality of life. There is a new level of patience that I, and those who interact with him, is going to have to reach. A level of patience that I truly believe will only come through God Himself as not a day goes by that I don't feel my patience whittled away.

I must admit, the fact that his percentile scores were  .1 has been quite overwhelming. It tells me that Pook needs alot of assistance. It tells me that once again, I'll have to sink into research to find the best way to help him reach his full potential. It tells me that I must rely on others for their support and understanding.

On a different note, I can't help but wonder........ how is it, that with all these problems, he can still overhear a "bad" word, process it just fine, and then repeat it at the most inopportune moments? ;-)