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Sunday, January 30, 2011

“Here Comes the Rain Again,” Last Game, First Game in Playoffs, Unicorns vs. MacArthur

“Here Comes the Rain Again,” Last Game, First Game in Playoffs, Unicorns vs. MacArthur, Unicorn Stadium, Nov. 12, 2010

“The game went alright in particular except for the rain," Colin wrote.

Yes.  The last game had the challenge of one of the first.  Rain: Colin’s nemesis.  Or at least, one of his least favorite sensory experiences.  But, unlike the second game, or even the third, where it really did rain, it did not rain at this game.  It poured. 

When we arrived, we arrived with the rest of the fans to the only place halfway safe from the rain, under the Unicorn bleachers.  And when I say halfway, I am being literal, not figurative.  The Unicorn bleachers, unlike those in some of the stadiums we’d been to, are “old school”:  with gaps through which bottles, candy, cell phones, blankets, and this night, rain, fell.  In spots, we had to use the umbrella to stop the flow, and then I had to hold the bumbershoot as high over our heads as possible so as not to blind the population of tall people (growing daily) in this town. 

We found the band coming off the stands and huddling under their far end.  Many of their instruments, as was emphasized to me later, cannot be exposed to pouring rain without suffering damage.

Our first concern was that Colin made it down without climbing over the backs of those in front of him, and that he was calm.  He was safely down, and he was also calm, nor had he hurt anyone in his rush to escape the acidic properties of H2O, and worse, its sound and feel. 

Meanwhile, the football players continued sloshing back and forth on the field.  The opposing team, MacArthur, was one we’d played before and won against.  However, they had a very good “Wide End,” Jace Amaro (now signed with Texas Tech).  Not a running back, like Malcolm Brown (now signed with UT and considered the best running back in the U.S.  Oh yes, his team beat us in _only_ the last 30 seconds), or a running back like Green (signed with Nebraska now), or a third or whole back (whose nonexistence as positions puzzles and perturbs me still).  The point: McArthur's “Wide End” caught a catch that our coach was upset by, one that probably aided our losing this game.

But back to Colin’s report:

“The rain was basically the main problem with the game.  Mrs. Pradervand (the director again) let me stand under the risers for a second, but I had to come out sooner or later to play boom, boom [one of Colin’s favorite songs, as an earlier blog states], zoot suit riot, and grandioso in the Rain!!! [I don’t think “in the Rain!!!” was part of grandioso’s title, but it does have a ring to it].

See, tarp on risers and ponchos on boosters means a rainy game
Unicorn Band going out for their last marching performance of the season. 

Halftime in game against the McArthur Brahma's.

Breaking out the umbrellas again.
 And next the hard part for me, for several reasons, the first of which has to do with the way what follows in Colin’s mini-essay reminds me of an episode from a popular network comedy show, “The Middle."  In the "troubling-to-me" episode, the mother runs out onto the field at half time when her son, a Varsity football player at last, is knocked down to see if he is okay, much to his dismay.  But I’ll let Colin say it:

“I was very embarrassed about the fact that my mother embarrassed me out in front of the band.”
Okay.  There was a reason for his being "very embarrassed" about my “mother embarrassed me out in front of the band” issue that had nothing to do with my being an overzealous mother of a varsity player.  But, it did have something to do with a booster parent who didn’t want to confront a child (albeit a 5’9” teenaged male child with a ferocious scowl) who was different and potentially, in the crowd and fluster of the night, threatening.

Once again, communication problems involving autism proved to be a sticking point.  With me and my husband working full time, we hadn’t followed up, after I talked to the director, the mom of the Colin’s section leader, some of the other booster parents, including Colin’s speech therapist, and the booster club president, to inform the booster club member working on the field with the band that night that Colin was autistic. True that the same kid had done everything directors and other boosters had told him too.  True also that we were being stormed upon and the adult who asked me to help could have been tired and handling other problems. 

So I was asked to go out and tell Colin, when he wouldn’t respond to his peers, to stick his clarinet under his shirt at the half time performance when the rain started to pour again and his instrument was, for the second time that night, in danger. And I knew he would respond to his mother exactly as any neurotypical kid would respond to his mother going out onto the football field during a performance to tell him what to do: in short, he was embarrassed and angry and, of course, wouldn’t do what I said. 

Colin, right around the "10" marker to the left looking to peers and not taking advice.

Colin, slightly to the left of the 10 and looking to another peer whose advice he doesn't want to hear.
And I didn’t have time to respond to another booster parent as we stood in the rain at that moment and tell him that my son would listen to ANY other adult better than he would to his mother, just like ANY other neurotypical kid would have done. 

So there I was, pleading, embarrassed myself and getting a severely ugly look and a “NO” shake of the head from my son when I was asked to do what I shouldn’t have been asked to do.  

Colin thinking bad thoughts about his mom (who chased him onto the field).
Suffice it to say I’m staying far from the band at each performance now, unless of course, what has happened happens again, and Colin really does need me.  Damn.  You have a special needs teen and try to figure it out.

The good news:  Kids recover from "embarrassing" parents, as the picture below hopefully attests.

Colin, smiling again.  He's not saluting by the way.  That's the arm of a ROTC guy behind him!

Back to Colin:

“I discussed a few of my problems to Katy Underwood such as standing under the risers a few seconds.  Nothing else in particular happened except for the rain.”

Nothing else in particular happened but that I did talk to Mr. Eckert, one of the assistant band directors, and got permission to take Colin out early, when the rain did not end.  So, after going back to the school building and searching and running about the band rooms as I (nor any other adult) was not supposed to do, I found Colin somewhere.  Then Roger and I took Colin home, and Roger went back to watch the game in the rain. 

Again, we're not through with this band thing, any more than Colin is or needs to be, but obviously, we need to work on communication with others on many levels, for ourselves and especially for Colin. In fact, having read and helped untangle the confusing jumble of an explanation of my behavior as a overzealous mom that night, Roger just said, "I thought everyone knew [that Colin had autism]"!

And we need a clarinet teacher now to get us ready for next year.  This because, Super or not, Colin won't be happy as a Shadow forever, a fact I take now as a sign of progress.  He's embarrassed like any kid when his peers leave him behind.  And, one more time, when his mother chases him onto the field in front of the whole band.     

Unicorn Band UIL Contest for Region, San Antonio, Heroes Stadium, Oct. 23, 2010

Unicorns in UIL Contest for Region (I Believe), in San Antonio, Heroes Stadium, Oct. 23, 2010

Again, I’m going to use those much venerated “bullets” here.  But, as a preface, let me say it was a long event, and one which Colin did well in standing in his Super Shadow Mode on the sidelines.  It was also a long afternoon, followed by a long night that his parents got him out of. 

Though Colin is a "Super Shadow," he’s also a "High Functioning Autistic Super Shadow," and so after his morning of sitting and waiting for a contest in which he participated by standing in full costume on the sidelines, asking him to wait an afternoon and an evening for the results seemed too much, both to his parents and his band director. 

And here are the bullets, and a bit of dialogue from Colin, followed by a fabulous Colin drawing and a couple of uninspired, coffee deprived photographer’s photos:

  • 24 other bands at UIL at Heroes Stadium in San Antonio: 10 made the cut, and only 5 went to state.

  • Morning for me:  tripping in my vintage “roach stomper” cowboy boots on an exposed root in the yard, spilling my coffee, stopping at Starbucks and getting espresso, having to drink it all at once at the gate because you could not bring outside drinks in.  I must have looked appalled when informed of this, as the ladies working the gate looked worried at my unconscious reaction (of “appallment”), which I tried to make up for by being extra gracious and polite.

  • After the UIL competition on Oct. 23rd, Colin told his section leader Amanda, “That was great.  You were awesome”

Amanda:  “Really?  That’s good.”

  • What was more, when I went to pick him up at the break, he wanted to eat lunch with the band and went over and _sat with his band friends in a circle_.  Amazing.  This from a kid who, last meal I remembered with the band during Unfair day, was roaming the hall restlessly between lines of kids leaning against the wall eating.
Not our band, but an example, by no means the most elaborate of the pagentry involved in these competitions.  What is more puzzling is how my coffee deprived brain did NOT take photos of the crazy props some of the bands use (blinking railroad lights and tracks, for example, that were then replaced by color guard members dressed as railroad workers slinging "mallets" (props, but still) at ties, more blinking lights and clectric guitar, etc. 
Our band ready to go on field.  Colin in line at front getting ready to go stand.
Our band, minus band member shadows, performing. 
And no, unfortunately, the Unicorns, perhaps they are a “young” band (most of the members not seniors), did not place.  
After we took Colin home early (unlike his neurotypical band members--including the other Shadows--who stayed till 9:30 p.m. when the winners were announced), I had him draw this picture—by far more exciting than the photos I did take.

Colin Jones.  His caption says the rest.

Colin's 9th Game, Unicorns vs. Seguin Matadors, Oct. 29, 2010

Unicorns vs. Seguin Matadors, Oct. 29, 2010

As I was looking at Colin's Marching Band Year blog, attempting to finish it now that it’s February 2011 and one project is out of the way as well as the fall semester, I realized I’d written about the game after this, but not this game.

So this post will be as short as I can bear it, and utilize what we--us “old folk/a.k.a. ‘spry’ folk”--are learning is the preferred manner of presenting written information "nowadays," using the hallowed bullets.

·         The game was at the Unicorn Stadium in New Braunfels (and we went here first, instead of to another city looking for the game, as we have two other times—but that’s buried in the other blog entries)
·         It was Seniors’ night for New Braunfels.  All Unicorn alumni who’d achieved community awards (or any awards—some for simple longevity, it seemed) were recognized on the field first (a.k.a, oldest local football team member, old this, that and the other)
·         Mrs. Renkin, Colin’s elementary school resource teacher who’d been fantastically devoted to him, got one of two awards for NBISD teacher of the year.  Yey, Norma!  She was always super fond of him, which in turn, caused him to dislike her quite a bit at the time because along with her fondness came the belief (in Norma) that he could do well academically—and a corresponding belief that he should work hard that Colin, strangely, felt was not pleasant.
·         PS: When the NBSID school board tried to cut positions, including Mrs. Renkin's, at the elementary level, I’d prepared and read aloud a speech supporting her, which I almost finished before getting cut off for exceeding my allotted time.  Did my impassioned, curtailed speech do anything?  Who knows.  But Norma kept her job and even got promoted.
·         Lots of other kids got awards.  When Colin gets to their age, I expect to feel bitter about that, too.  As in, this autism thing isn’t fair.  But those worries and their corresponding lack of grace involve projecting into the future.  Next slide please.  I mean, next PowerPoint, please.
·         Did we win or lose the Seguin game?  I think we won.
·         Colin’s writing about the game, unlike my memories, is accurately recorded here:

[The] only thing I didn’t like was the fact that when I was being nice to only 1 girl named [C.], she was rude to me.  [L]isten to the quotes:

Colin:  hey just in case you might know, you’re cheering for another football team.

C.: (in a rude tone) I KNOW!!!

That really p[scratched out by Colin] ticked me off and made me think that she was a brat!!!

One of the other things I liked [interesting illogical transition, writes Mom, intrusive, non-omniscient narrator] was the fact that some of my friends were very talkative.  Also dancing was very fun as well until the end of the game which was when I got tired.  rather than that my day was regular.

We resolved the next problem in Colin's band life, the question about whether he should go to the USSBA contest in the Woodlands in Houston the weekend of this game, was resolved by emails to band leaders after Roger and I did a bit of psychological math:  High Functioning Autistic kid on bus for 6 hours to practice in Houston all day + one parent doggedly following in car + HFA kid in Houston High School stadium all day to stand on sidelines during performance again + HFA kid on bus back for 6 hour trip to New Braunfels (followed by dogged and wiped out parent) = awful experience for HFA kid and everyone nearby him and a long recovery time he didn’t need to expend the energy on. 

So, on to the next game, which strangely, I already did write about.  And a few more pictures from this one, soon to come, here. 

Blue Unicorn Man. Senior's night affects some seniors more than others . . . and there wasn't even a full moon.  I don't think.

Yes, the photo is too dark. But there, second from the right is Norma Renkin, Colin's longtime teacher and advocate. _And_ his current English teacher, Mrs. Zilliman, bless her soul, is seond from left. I couldn't NOT show them, even in this nauseating half light.

In another strange, football-related tradition, the dance team officers' dads, called this night the "Manoceras" in honor of the dance team's name, the Monoceros, must not only dance on field with their daughters, but also form a kickline at the end of the game with their daughters kick once for each score the Unicorns made in the game.  It was a high number this year.  I predicted injury for those dads starting the morning after this game, if not before.  That one on the left, in particular, is a bit too ambitious with his high kicks.  Ouch.

The Seguin Matador Band.

Perhaps this is perverse.  I'm showing the New Braunfels "Best Seniors" (academically or otherwise awardically) to prepare myself for my son not being one of them.  Colin probably won't be out there for a Normal Kid Award, and I don't remember awards being given to Un-Normal Kids.  This is life, Rene',  Deal with it.  Or maybe, just, get over it.  Or not.  How about an award for most "addled" parents?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Colin’s 8th Game: Wagner vs. New Braunfels, Oct. 21 (day before BIG UIL contest)

Another game in San Antonio, but this time, unlike a couple of others I can think of, we had no trouble showing up at the right stadium in the right city on the right day.  And we got there early enough to sit close to the Monoceras, the Unicorn Dance team that always sits next to and hence between us and any parents and the band.  However, we were able to align ourselves fairly easily with the woodwinds.  This meant that, occasionally, we were able to glimpse Colin’s curly head, and to see that yes, sometimes he was dancing with the rest of the band. 
            I’d never known that the band kids amuse themselves, and are encouraged to do so, in a large part, by dancing to whatever the percussion section or whichever section(s) that is/are playing until the that very first game, back in September at Canyon Stadium.  Seeing that Colin participates in the group dancing has been encouraging and is still downright unbelievable.  The kid who hates confined spaces with other people--my kid--gets up there and dances on one small strip of aluminum with a bunch of other kids.  Who would have thought this would be one of life’s blessings?  But, it is. 
            At Wagner, a fairly new school judging from the smallness of its crowd, cheerleading squad, and other groups, we easily outnumbered the parental opposition in the home stands. 

Sparce parental opposition at Wagner (in yonder stands)
           Their football team, however, proved to be a fairly even rival with ours.  We only beat them by one point (us 28, them 27), and that was because they went for a two point “conversion” instead of a one point “point after touchdown” (or “PAP”).  PAP?  Really?  You can tell that those who invented footballese, which to me qualifies as a true second language, never went for their yearly gynecological exam.  In this house, that someone would be not only Colin, but also my husband Roger, who played the game—something I’ve never done, and part of my football resentment problem—but that’s a completely other story.
      The Wagnerites must have expected the competition to be tight, as they'd selected us for their homecoming game opposition, something Roger tells me is a sign that the other school thinks you'll lose.

Wagner Homecoming Court:  See ballgowns on sideline.
            In the meantime, owing to the awkward schedule of the USSBA competition the next day in the same stadium, I went to the front to look for the phone numbers of chaperones the director had told me to get for the next day.  Colin’s sister had a performance with her dance studio then at a Spurs game.  Chloe’s studio would be leaving New Braunfels for the San Antonio Spurs’ ATT Center at the same time as the contest Colin was in would be finishing up at this stadium, also in San Antonio.
            The band’s director, Mrs. Pradervand, had agreed to let Roger pull Colin from the contest right after the bands’ performance (normally, the bands stay to watch the other bands) so that Roger could go take Colin home to New Braunfels, then drive back to San Antonio to see Chloe and her group to perform.  But, again, we needed the numbers of the people who would help us connect with him after the performance.
            The good thing is that, while at the front getting the phone numbers, I talked to Colin’s section leader’s mom, a nurse at a local elementary school, about how Colin was doing in band. She had finally solved the problem of getting Colin to talk to her by realizing that his speech therapist came to her school and consulting her.  The key to getting Colin to talk, my new booster friend Mrs. Dietert found, was telling him she knew the speech therapist, Mrs. Gonzales, and that Mrs. Gonzales was her friend. 
            Somehow, knowing that Mrs. Gonzales was a friend and that therefore, Mrs. Dietert was okay, provided a necessary key to open the Colin door and get him to communicate.  In fact, after he’d figured out that she was safe for him to communicate with, Colin had become, for Colin, ebullient, or at the least, talkative, sitting with Mrs. Dietert in the front of the bus, where he especially liked to sit. 
Once more, part of that the mindset so many autistic kids have is that they must be first.  Years earlier, on a trip to Disney world, we’d even had to get a doctor’s note stating his disability and needs so that we could take him to the front of a line if it became necessary to avoid a Colin detonation. 
            Thankfully, that letter had not proved necessary.  Roger and I had decided ahead of time to try to make Colin wait like every other kid did there and he’d taken it remarkably well.  Now, if we’d had a sign to hang around his neck on the flight home saying, “I’m autistic.  Be gentle with me—and especially my parents” we might have used that, as upon arriving at Hobby airport on the flight home, he was literally rolling around the boarding area as we waited for the connecting flight. 
            Now, Mrs. Dietert said, he’d share with her concerns about sitting down before she did on the bus but also about issues in the band, even seeking her out for some questions. 
            The bad thing about all of this parental networking was that, during my efforts to get to know Mrs. Dietert and other the folks who worked with Colin, I missed a crucial announcement at half time.  He’d been recognized as band student of the week.
            At least his father had caught the news.  “He looked left and right,” Roger said of Colin, “as if he were looking for another Colin Jones.”  Me, engrossed in the moment, had not seen this.  Roger, the attentive parent, had at least been able to yell Colin’s name and cheer him on.  After all, in a group of over a hundred kids, not every one will make student of the week, and certainly precious few during football season. 

Later, as usual, I asked Colin to write down what he’d thought about the game:

Colin:  “I talked mainly to a friend of mine named Christian about various stuff such as how our concert is going to be.  Also I asked a couple of times to go to the restroom.  Mainly I talked to her [Christian] about dancing.  Today I talked to her when I was eating about the bus we were taking to Houston [for the USSBA contest in the Woodlands].”

When asked what he talked to Christian about some more, Colin said, “I kind of talked to her about the moves I made.”

Mom:  “What did you say or ask?”

Colin:  “I kind of forgot.”

Just as his mom forgot to get a photo of him as band student of the week.  But I got more at other games and contests--to follow shortly . . . or slowly.  But, to follow . . .

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Colin's 7th Game, Unicorns vs. Steele

Oct. 15, I believe, a Friday as usual

Next Game after Homecoming, Steele vs. New Braunfels at the Unicorn Stadium, Oct 15, 2010

Roger and I had arrived late and so ended up sitting far above where we usually sit—next to the drill team and within eye-range of the woodwind section of the band.  This time we were far above that, perhaps four rows from the top, and seated amongst football people as I’ve come to think of them, that is, folks who were there mainly for the football (and some for their kids in football), which I am still, stubbornly managing to not understand.
            It was supposed to be a cold night, glowing, full-ish moon, and dressing for it was part of what ran us late.  Having been warned by a band parent friend about the horrors of sitting in the cold at football games (butt chilling bleachers, arctic winds), I’d gotten myself into a turtleneck, long johns, and cowboy boots. 
            Most of the other folks there were in their shorts and shirts sleeves.  I’m always the freezing one wherever I go, so I’m used to it.  However, I did learn some things about football and about our team in particular, mainly by using that social tactic I’d advised Colin to employ:  Listen to those around you and when you have a comment or question chime in and see the result.  In this case, I was lucky, as the person I queried was friendly and interested in answering my questions about which football player was which number, why was the game going the way it was, which kids her daughter knew and how, and so on.

Blurry but you get the idea.  No monoceras nearby, band down from us, some folks in jackets.

Okay. Uni up close.  Couldn't resist. 
            Ever since our social “fumble” at the last USSBA Contest, I’d had Colin asking questions and commenting on his band teammates’ responses, with the result that, by the time this game came and nearly a week had gone by, he was feeling better about band, happier about it and his band “friends.” 
            To prepare him for the “conversations” I’d asked he have that week (oh yeah, I still owe him dollar per interaction—he hasn’t remembered.  Unlike his sister the Border Collie, he’ll let “minor” things like money get by him. 
He’d worked on what was essential and old format we used to use with ABA drills.  He’d memorize a three part sequence (sequence being one of his biggest deficits as a child with Autism—a very common problem on the spectrum). and we’d rehearse it the night before class and before he went in and tried it on his bandmates the kids at school.  I specified “talking” to two of his bandmates at first, then upped the number to three.

Here’s the drill:
1.      Ask the other student: “How was your day.” (part 1)
                  Listen (part 1b)
2.      “Ask that student a more open-ended question:  ‘So what happened?’” [Part two, which would work with either a positive, negative, or neutral
3.      Answer from the bandmate being questioned in part 1)
                  Listen (part 2b)
      Comment (part 3—and he had to listen—again part 2b—for this to work) in a way that related to what the bandmate had said:  Example to negative answer, “Oh yeah.  I’ve had that happen to me/Oh. That sounds bad/terrible” or, example of answer to positive response, “Oh yeah.  I have had that happen. / Oh.  Sounds good.”

I recorded some of Colin’s attempts to follow the prompts/drill above that week:

Colin:  “Hi Katy.  How’s your day?”
Katy:  I had a test for every class period.
Colin:  “that’s terrible.”  [well, at least he knew to say how most of us would feel in such a situation!]

Colin:  “Hi Katy.”
Katy:  “Hi.”
Colin: How was your day.
Katy:  It was alright
Katy:  Hey I like your shirt. 
Colin:  “You know about Marvel?” [Colin is a huge Marvel Comics fan]                
Katy:  I’m totally into that

Wow.  A conversation that went to this level.  This is almost un precedented for Colin (and later we found that Lauren likes Marvel too.  Double Wow.  Now if only we could figure out how to connect with these kids in other ways.  Think think think. 

The result of his efforts at conversation were particularly good.  From Oct. 17 Sunday, about the preceding week:

Mom:  “How was band this week?”
Colin: “Band has been alright for me this week.  Nothing in particular happened.  Talking to  people has helped this week.  It makes me feel more or less shy.  Because of that I am (sort of) in the mood of talking with people.”

And finally, I ventured to the front to take a shot, where for a while I hid behind a stadium assistant who had had kids himself in the band.  When I expressed my reluctance to take photos and my fears of blocking others’ views, this fellow had a wise piece of advice:

“It is easier to get permission than to be forgiven.”  Bearing this in my, I ended up with these great shots!  Finally, my son, fairly happy, in uniform!

Yey Colin. He's happy here!  Take my word.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Homecoming, Mum and Ribbons, and “The Management of Grief”

At last, Homecoming happened.  Participants seemed happy, and most important, I got to see the hallowed MUMS and RIBBONS.  The Unicorns won their Homecoming game, the homecoming king was not only a football player but also a tuba player, the stands were packed, and all was right, or at least status quo, with the high school world (at least for those involved). 

And I got some decent, though not necessarily good, photographs.  Oh yes, and Tanya, thank you Tanya, took the first below of my daughter (Colin's evil sister), there from her middle school dance team to be a guest of the high school dance team:

Chloe to left, Old Mum to right.

Might Unicorn Band, preceded by its trio of Drum Majors (Colin among multiudes behind).

Clarinets with mums, including, somewhere, Colin minus mum.

Mum madness (the parasites of Homecoming night, mums migrate to anything or anyone nearby)

Nice ROTC Guy with real, live Sword (sans mum).  Chloe would have died were she nearby when I took this.  Even Colin might have noticed his crazy old Mum.

Homecoming court standing in front of the Unicorn Band.

Cheerleaders plus miniature guests plus mummed megaphones. 

However, of course, however, at some point not long after the sun went down, I thought Colin looked upset.  The stands were packed and the dance team had left for some reason so my view of Colin, usually gotten through the rows of dancing girls, was unimpeded.  In any case, Colin did not seem happy.  He was fidgety, frowning slightly, not smiling when he had to stand with the rest of the clarinets because the director called on them to participate more.  After a time, he worked his way to the end of the row, asked a chaperone something (presumably to go down to the bottom of the stands) where talked with another chaperone, and then left off the stands to the side (the band is always at the end of the stands). 

            Remembering an incident involving Colin during his eighth grade year, I sent Roger to check him out as discretely as possible.  The eight grade event had occurred at a pep rally when the noise had gotten to him.  He’d thrown down his backpack and accused the kids standing next to him of being mean to him for being loud, though by other accounts, they’d been yelling because it was, after all, a pep rally and were confused but not put out by his accusations:  again, their knowing him was his salvation.  Indeed, to this point, kids’ understanding that he has autism has seemed a good thing. And for the most part, I think it still is.
Roger returned after having found Colin waiting with some other band members to go the bathroom.  When I asked if Colin were okay, Rog said he’d asked and gotten a nod and a pleased enough expression from Colin.  So I thought for a while that things were all right.  But at some point further, I noticed that he was talking more and more to himself than to others.  And he was talking animatedly enough, turning his head from side to side but not making eye contact, that I was sure he was audible, though he seemed to be looking at the field too and at others a little.  But, the kids next to him weren’t listening, or they weren’t paying attention to him.  They were in fact no doubt paying even less mind to him than usual if only because of the homecoming celebration and the MUMS and RIBBONS and the celebration that infused their already energetic bodies and minds even further. 

And he wasn’t noticing.  At home, he often talks to himself, usually the loudest outside, when he’s enacting conversations between superheroes, wrestlers, or whatever else he’s been watching and not wanting feedback on from others.  It seems to be a sort of practice talking and part of his daily detox from life at school where he can’t be as expressive and get away with it. 

But I was noticing him at the game, and I was disturbed.  Again, echolalia sets him apart, reminds me not just that he’s different but that sometimes his difference doesn’t help—at least in the way his mother would like.  His behavior was more evidence of the separation between him and the neurotypical world and, implicitly, of the difficulties inherent in any sort of separation from the norm.  Watching him returned me to what fiction writer Bhahariti Mukertjee has called, in the title of one of her more widely anthologized short stories, “The Management of Grief”—which is, admittedly, better than unmanaged rending grief, the kind that shrinks you to a messy ball of weeping, snot, and teeth gnashing.  But it brought me back to that day I found him doing what is called in the autism world “perimeter walking”—but this time inside a perimeter of kids in the band hall only a week or two earlier, the Unfair Day before our game at Westgate.

This hadn’t been the first time I’d seen him perimeter walking.  In fact, Colin’s perimeter walking was one of the earliest “signs” we’d had of his autism, back when he was not yet even identified, or right around that time—that is, right as he turned three, and grew to four.  Perimeter walking is a behavior that involves repeatedly walking around the edges of a group without any sign of interest of going to the group and interacting.  I like to think of it as an autistic version of what doctors identify as parallel play in normal children.  Parallel play involves playing next to or in proximity with another child, often doing the same sort of thing, but again, not interacting with that child, and is a perfectly normal developmental stage—as long as it remain a stage and the child moves on to interactive play.  And stop it out there:  I know there are some of you, who, like me, at times think we’re still stuck in parallel play land.  If so, go see a doctor.  Try for a diagnosis.  They’re not as easy to get as you might think, and just because you have one doesn’t mean anything can be done about it (as I know from my experience, not Colin’s, too well!).

Perimeter walking was what Colin had been doing that day in the band hall after the Comal County fair parade (Unfair Day), when I’d brought him his garment back, or come in to find out if he needed one, and he’d held up that filmsy gauntlet bag.  The only variation was that since most of the kids were hanging out around their band lockers, he had to walk inside their perimeter.  But he was still going in circles, and his perimeter did not cross theirs.

Even then though, I’d known that the fact that he can walk inside the perimeter of kids at the band hall and be recognized and at least accepted and not “reviled” is in itself a victory.  But he’s also beginning to notice, as I wrote about in my last entry, that those around him are being noticed more, and more than that they are communicating and being communicated with.  And when he saw his bandmates giving high-fives to others at the contest the day after Homecoming, he’d felt left out.  And, what I’ve had to see the week since is that this is good. 
If he didn’t notice, or didn’t care, the kids in band would be nothing more than padding, the kind you find in those white rooms we see in movies in psychiatric wards.  And living in a padded room, comfy as it might be at first, should never be a goal.

But since then he has been working, and I have with him, on talking with his band “friends” and listening, and the great news is they respond, and he knows, thanks so some repeated drilling and practice, to respond in turn. And he has told me that this weekend, the weekend after homecoming and after another game and contest, that he’s had a better time in band, that it’s been “more enjoyable.” 

            But before I go into the how and why of that, here’s Colin’s version of homecoming, at last, for really and for true:

I like the fact that some of my friends were there such as Mallory, Rene’ and Chris.  I also liked that fact that the unicorns won which was good because we lost 3 games already.

I didn’t like that one of the other team members were down which took then ½ an hour to get the person up and into an ambulance.  I also didn’t like that when we got back to the NBHS band hall some wacky college woman came into the band hall and started to hug another friend of mine named gus who has orange hair, wears glasses and is shorter than I am.  In affect to that I flicked my bibbers at her in which she still said I was her friend which is more crazy!!!

I didn’t like her, and she even called gus Harry Potter!!!

If only from this interaction, I can see that we've got a lot more work than on reciprocity ahead of us in the social sphere.  But, again, it's late. So that will have to wait, like so many things, till tomorrow.