With Arms Wide Open, by Creed. That's Noah's song. It's the song I used to listen to over and over while I was pregnant with him. What a perfect song to welcome a child into this world. "Welcome to this place, I'll show you everything, with arms wide open."
He came into this world bubbling over with joy and curiosity. Quiet and thoughtful sometimes giving his solemn expression the look of a wise man. He was every mother's dream; happy, bubbly, fun, cute, quiet and crying was a 20 second event, if that long.
He grew into a toddler and was up and running. The kid was tough as nails. Unlike most kids, he'd fall and scrape his knee, get right back up without acknowledging the scrape, save for a miniscule glance, and he'd be off and running again. He always seemed so certain in his direction, as if he had somewhere specific to go and was determined to reach that destination with an air of right now to it.
At around 16 months old something happened. Something changed. One night, the 15th night after his MMR vaccination, I put "little Opie Taylor" to bed and Jack Torrance woke up in his place.
Noah was angry, aggressive, willful, and mean. What was worse was that he was strong as Hercules. It was beyond "unusually" strong. It was beyond incredible. It was scary. It is a scary thing when you have an out of control toddler who can kick your ass if he took a notion to. I took a supreme, daily ass kicking from him for the next 3 years. I have the scars, knots and fractured skull to prove it.
The words he had learned disappeared, never to be heard again until he was nearing 4 years old. I didn't waste a moment in denial. My perfect child had seemingly disappeared and I was going to find him........... or die trying.
We went through a series of circus performances before we ever got any real answers. It took 1.5 years, I am just making a long story short so I can get to the good stuff.
At 2.5 years old we took Noah to a behavioral therapist who was really a shrink. This particular shrink (not making any shrink blanket statements, here, and I use the word shrink b/c it's lighthearted and because it's easier to type that psychologist/psychiatrist) had what he thought was the answer and I guess I could have predicted what he was going to say from the waiting room, which was ADHD. He prescribed Adderall. Let me just interject something, here. SavageHusband and I were those parents who were hell bent against medicating - we were the Tom Cruise of parenthood. Until that moment. We had reached a point where we were worn out, at the end of our ropes, had taken one too many ass-kickings and were ready to deal.
We had gone there in hopes of getting a scenario enacting/learning "class," if you will, in the form of therapy. My oldest son was hoping for a padded whack stick so we could all beat the hell outta each other and get rid of some pent up anxieties, that are known as (by us, anyway) the shock waves of Autism. Autism is the BOOM, and the shock waves that extend out from the boom cripples or defeats some bystanders and annihilates others. But what we found was a menu of drugs to choose from. Disappointed but also defeated, we were willing to give it a try.
The adderall made Noah violent and dangerous. We phoned the shrink who must have heard one too many exaggerated parental stories and told us to persevere; it would even out in a few days. We took Noah over to visit the shrink for an up close and personal view.
Noah commenced to have the worst tantrum I have ever seen. He was throwing shoes (hard), books, magazines, toys... other patients were ducking for cover behind over turned coffee tables and under chairs - all this he managed to do while being held tightly by ex-USMC, strong as an OX savagehusband!!!! and me trying to get in the way of flying objects so they wouldn't hit anyone else and my oldest son, getting kicked in the head repeatedly while trying to prevent Noah from getting his hands on any more ammo while my youngest daughter cowered in a corner.
The receptionist called the Shrink out of his appointment, she must have debriefed him judging by the way he was running. His facial expression, when he saw the chaos in the waiting room, told me he had never seen a reaction such as this.
After another round of wrong diagnoses we looked elsewhere for help and ended up at The Emory Autism Center. They diagnosed Noah with A-typical Autism/PDD-NOS. Atypical because he was not the typical Autistic child. He did not have all of the symptoms, and thank God, no retardation. PDD means Pervasive Development Disorder and NOS means Not Otherwise Specified (I can't believe this was medically worthy of it's own acronym).
Early intervention is Key! Noah started school at the age of 3. I also enrolled him in outside speech therapy classes for kids with special needs - specifically autism spectrum disorders, where he would lay face down on the floor and refuse to participate. The "therapist" would then try to pick him up and promptly get kicked - then stare at me as if I was the worst mother in the world for not punishing him for it. I would then remind her as I did in every visit, "he has Autism, he doesn't like to be touched by strangers." Finally one day she flat admitted she could not help him. This ought to be criminal. She had only one method of teaching/reaching a child and it wasn't Autistically friendly so it was adios amigo!
One of Noah's early teachers reminded me of "The Miracle Worker" (Helen Keller's teacher). Noah advanced by leaps and bounds in her class and in every area! She was an amazing teacher with no end to her patience and no end to resourcefulness.
I think it is noteworthy to mention that Noah had a strange affection for "boobies." The bigger the better. You see he always had an extreme affection for all things soft. In the early years it was hair snuggling, cat squeezing which made the cat avoid him, and even butt cuddling which was, well, embarrassing when in public.
But as he got older he began to verbalize more and more and began telling women and girls, "I yike boobies."
Noah's Miracle Worker teacher just might have been able to shame Dolly Parton, and I knew what was coming the moment I first saw her.
I finally pulled her aside to hopefully explain this affection before he announced it to her. She smiled before I even finished and said, "Yes, he already told me."
Once Noah and I were at an antique mall. There was a booth that had caught my interest and was located right next to the open show room full of bronze statues; most of them mermaids. I knew it would be of great interest to Noah and I watched him out of the corner of my eye. There was one mermaid who was on her bent "knees" making her just the right height to meet Noah at eye level with her bare breasts.
He went over to her. He had a huge euphoric smile on his face. He looked at me to see if I was watching him and feeling satisfied that I wasn't, positioned his expectant, cupped hands directly over the mermaid's "boobies," hovered there for a moment, in sweet anticipation, he could almost hear a chior singing Halleluja.... then he squeezed them. The smile dropped off his face as these were not soft at all! He knocked on the the cold, rock hard breasts with his little knuckles. That is when I heard the snickers of several people who had quietly gathered 'round to watch this humorous scene unfolding. Noah looked around, turned 3 shades of red, hung his head and moseyed on back over to me.
That school year, Noah's speech improved, he was reading almost on grade level, he had read all of his sight words and was integrating into regular classes. At the end of the year, The Miracle Worker recommended he be placed in a regular classroom setting with OT (occupational Therapy), Speech and language therapy, and adaptive PE.
He would also be changing to the school in our new district.
On the last day of school that year, The Miracle Worker came to my car window after kissing Noah good-bye for the last time, and shoved a black book into my hands. Biting back tears she said, "Just go," then quickly turned and walked away.
When I got home I opened the book. It was a scrap book she had put together of her time with Noah, with a sweet note telling him she would always love him.
Then there was baseball. My oldest son played baseball and we are all big Atlanta Braves fans. Once we went to a particularly exciting game, the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron's baseball hall of fame home-run (I was there the night Hank hit that home-run as well, something I will never forget.)
Well it looked like the braves were losing towards the end of the 7th inning and a whole load of people got up and left so we all got up and snagged some great front row seats right behind home plate. There was a dude at the end of our row, who'd had one too many 'cold beers.' Every now and again he'd shout to the team something so slurred no one could make out what he was saying.
This got Noah's attention. He watched closely each time the man would shout. He noted the man would shake his fist while shouting. Noah figured this was customary behavior for the live viewing of baseball games and held his fist in the air, curbing his eyes toward the man to make sure he was following along properly, and shouted some incoherent gibberish. This was so funny I did not do anything to stop him. It was the highlight of the evening even though the Braves made a miraculous come back and stomped the Diamond Backs!
When baseball season was upon us Noah wanted to sign up. I saved up the incredibly expensive dues and hid it in my secret clock compartment. My daughter wanted to play also but was deterred by the lack of other girls so she signed up for ballet.
I was a little afraid to sign Noah up for baseball out of fear of how the coaches would react and the other kids/parents as well because it was going to be difficult to teach Noah the rules of the game. This would, I thought, lose them their competitive edge. I talked it over with the man who did the signing up. He assured me no one would treat Noah any differently than all the other kids - not better and not worse.
The season always began with a big parade through town. I was afraid Noah would jump out of the trailer full of hay that his team was riding in that day. I just took my older son and dropped him off with his team. Then, feeling guilty for being over protective, I hauled butt back to the house and quickly dressed Noah in his baseball uniform. We ran out the door and made it just in time for his team to load up. I asked the coach to keep a sharp eye on my little dare devil. He promised he would.
The parade went off without a hitch. Noah was so excited to see me standing along the road waiting to snap his picture and wave to him when he passed by. My older son was busy talking to the cute girl who ended up on his team to notice me much.
It was opening day and Noah was at bat. I was floored when he hit a home run. I think I was the loudest, most excited, bat-shyte crazy mom on the field that day! It was one of those nutty T-ball home runs where the kids in the out field pick up the ball and look at it like, "What's this doing here," meanwhile Noah is running the bases backwards and the coaches from the other team are even steering him in the right direction. Finally Noah got going in the right direction and the right fielder threw the ball to the left fielder because he looked like he wanted it. Noah rounds second base and I'm screaming "GO NOAH GO!"
The left fielder picks up the ball and this kid knows what he's doing and he throws it to the third baseman but the kid has way more strength than he can control and it sails over the third baseman's head, sails over the first baseman's head and into the dugout. The shortstop and the first baseman go after it at the same time, meet up at the entrance of the dug out and try to squeeze through the door at the same time like the three stooges and end up falling down. The crowd is going WILD! Noah had reached third and stood there a moment to take it all in, then he was running for home. "GO NOAH GO!" I shouted louder than anyone. He jumped on home plate and high fived everybody in sight.
When he came into the dugout I ran to the fenced in cage and we grasped hands through the wire. I shouted "YOU SO TOTALLY ROCK, DUDE!" He was the happiest little boy in the world that day. And every day that there was baseball.
The coach told me one day, when he was fed up with temper tantrums, poting and tattling, that he wished he had a whole team of Noah's. "He's always happy, never misses a game, he's always ready, he always does the absolute best he can, he never pouts, he is a great sportsman and he is always glad to be here." He said.
Wow! That made me feel great! And my fears about the parents who are super competitive getting upset because Noah might make mistakes, didn't behave like that at all. By the end of the season, parents, aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers, whom I did not even know, were screaming just as loud as me, "GO NOAH GO!" He had his own cheerleading section of people I had not noticed or met before, that chanted NO-AH, NO-AH, NO-AH, when he was at bat. This always made the other team nervous and they would back up. Then Noah bunted, and got 3 RBI's and a home-run that game.
When the coach presented Noah with the game ball that day, late in the season, he made it very ceremonious, detailing Noah's accomplishments in that day's game and praising him for always having a winning attitude. Even the other team cheered when Coach wrote Noah's name on the ball and put it in his hands.
As much as I'd like to end this chapter on that powerful up note, I just gotta mention one more thing about that season. Noah went with me to my daughter's Ballet classes. He wanted to try. I thought the instructors would not like this because I had only paid for my daughter. But no, they thought it was a great idea and he ended up being the best dancer in the class.
Welcome to this place, I'll show you everything with arms wide open
For More Tales From My Autistic Umbrella please click the links below:
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If you are a parent and you suspect there may be a problem with your childs learning, social interatction and behavior and you don't know where to start, how to get help I have provided some links below that hopefully will help or at least point you in the right direction.
If anyone has any other links they would like to share, put them in the comments and I will add them to the links above.