This week we have the pleasure of showcasing Jeff Stimpson-author, blogger and dad to 13 year old Alex. I hope that you all take the time to read his wonderful post-and go visit him on his blog.
JeffsLife (jeffslife.tripod.com/alextheboy) continues the story I began in my books Alex: The Fathering of a Preemie and Alex the Boy: Episodes From a Family's Life With Autism (both available on Amazon).
I post more or less weekly about life with my 13-year-old son Alex (PDD-NOS and solidly on the spectrum), the stories being personal about our life with Alex. Topics range from school and activities to eating, sleep, public behavior (see "tantrums") and other topics. I started these essays in 1998, when my son was born almost three months premature and he began what would turn out to be a whole first year spent in the hospital. As a journalist, I soon realized that what I was going through back then was at least as interesting as much of the stuff I had written about, so JeffsLife was born.
The current site's layout is plain (see "ugly," according to my wife Jill) with few links to autism news or other stuff. I've meant to improve this, but I do think it highlights the writing -- what I've learned the hard way is my best, if not only, talent.
JeffsLife is also Tweeted on Twitter and via LinkedIn (I welcome followers and connections, if you're on those sites).
The following is an example of what you'll find on JeffsLife. I hope you can drop by (you might want to turn on your popup blocker), and thanks. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“You’ll have fun, Alex. Listen to the staff there.”
I’m taking Alex to overnight respite. The program, operated by the agency that provides many of Alex’s services, is mostly for adults: Some live for days in an apartment across town, with buses picking them up for school or their day programs right at the door and dropping them back off at the apartment at day’s end. Overnight guests also go bowling or to parks, go to movies or to other New York attractions. Their parents stay home and sleep.
(I have two questions: 1) Can Alex’s dad stay in this program instead? and 2) How long before some politico decides that funding for Overnight Respite simply isn’t important enough for people like my son?)
We hope that when this program is humming in our lives, it’ll help get Alex out of the house, which he wants to do (a 13-year-old who wants to get away from his parents now and then: somebody call “60 Minutes”), and it will help us recharge from the drain that is living with Alex as he gets older and bigger. It’s potentially a dynamite program. Alex almost screwed himself out of it late last winter.
He ran from the apartment and explored the building. He refused to listen to the staff. He hogged the TV. The staff’s response was to let him get his feet wet by the half- and then full-day stays, instead of overnight; they helped arrange for a 1:1 para, too. “If you took me to a strange place where I didn’t know anybody I wouldn’t know what to do, either,” the program director told me. “Tell him he’s going to have fun.
“We’ll work with you to get him respite ready. Tell him beforehand that he’s going to go and he’s going to have fun, and that he has to listen to the staff…”
“You’ve going to have fun, Alex, and you have to listen to the staff,” I say as we head in on the first morning. There is indeed a lady to para-shadow him on this first half-day. They want to know where to take him. I recommend the Mac Store and the FAO Schwartz. “Here’s his transit card,” I say, and I prepared this note for you to refer to…” Alex likes going into Laundromats and looking at the machines. He also likes grocery stores and helping pick out and bag the produce. He will pick items off the shelf if you tell him what kind and point to them and tell him how many…
“We’re all set,” they say. “You can take off. Say bye to daddy, Alex.”
I spend the morning buying wine, sitting on benches, picking up paperwork from Alex’s pediatrician. My dogs are howling when I swing back by around 1 o’clock.
“How’d he do?” Last time I asked this in this place – how many weeks ago? who can recall when you’re parenting autism? – I got wags of the heads and promises to work to get him respite ready.
“Excellent!” they say. No running away? No bolting? No.
By week’s end, Alex is doing full days. That Friday afternoon, I’m on a bench nearby when he gets off the city bus with his para. For an instant I see a woman and a tall boy, almost a man, before I recognize his lope. He looks like a guy headed into something new.