Video

Awakening

Before I share the events of March 9, 2010, I think I should tell about a couple of other events that had happened.

In the midst of this, I felt myself so lost and confused that I often fantasized about not breathing anymore. I stopped feeling much of anything and packed up my jewelry. It was if my body could do nothing else and wanted to escape at all cost. I was so depleted and progress was so slow. I felt that there was no way I could do this any longer. At the darkest moment,  I had another experience.

There was another profound dream like message I got. There are not many words I can find to really describe this but I felt in my bones a message that said, “ Fantasy will bridge that gap to spirituality.” I was inside a brain that was not my own and I sensed it was a brain that was different or what we call autistic. The dendrites of the brain were lit up on the left side but there was no connection to the right or in the middle. As the voice came through , I could see lightening bolts as the synapses were connecting and webbing together to make this union. Suddenly I understood how to create a circuit but there had to be some activation first.

This was not like a silly little dream. It was a command. I felt my core filling with this message and I had no choice but to give myself over to this thought that was much more powerful than my entire existence.

I took Ridge to the bus stop and rushed into the local book store. I was almost in a daze as I felt something was moving me. I walked along the aisles and a book display jumped out at me. It was called “Fablehaven” by Brandon Mull. The cover was a scary looking witch with bright colors. I knew Ridge would not be interested because he couldn’t read at that level and the topic would be “stupid” to him. He liked books on science and factual information only. It didn’t matter though. I grabbed it and a few others and bought them.

I showed him the book after school and he reacted as I had feared. He was not only disinterested but became aggressive when I tried to read it to him. I didn’t give up and made a contract with him to just listen to the first chapter for a reward the next night.

Finally he agreed and as I read the story, I knew I had been divinely led to this particular book. The characters were a young boy and his older sister just like Ridge and Maddie. They were going to stay at there grandparent’s home and were not happy about the trip. Instantly, Ridge ripped the page and threw the book across the room! He said it was so unfair to force the children to do this and I learned that Ridge DID have empathy. He actually had too much and was overly sensitive! I also learned that he had no coping skills to problem solve. He had no faith that a problem could be solved. Now I understood why the book was so important. I described math problems and patterns in science that he understood and I told him that there was a pattern here too. If he could just accept the parts that felt uncomfortable long enough, he could see how the story would change and solutions would come. This story represented our lives! He had been choosing to avoid life by staying with what he was comfortable with. His fear and over sensitivities had sent him over the edge so many times that he was terrified of anything he could not predict. It was still all about fear and his behaviors kept him in a cycle that would not allow growth.

I knew that we had to get through that book. I prayed and asked God to help me say the right things. After the first chapter, Ridge started to interact with the story. He was seeing the little boy as himself.  He suddenly got excited one day after I read part of the story that explained how a character was feeling and thinking. Most books that Ridge could read (1st grade level) did not go into such details and relied on pictures for meaning. Ridge had never understood the pictures or the facial expressions most of us understand!

 No wonder why he had hated stories! With the structure of language that described the character’s internal thoughts and feelings, he was able to understand. He was so happy and so was I! We completed that novel and then it was like he was starving for knowledge. He would beg for me to read to him before school, after school until he fell asleep and literally ALL weekends.

I was so hoarse but I knew this was something he needed and the stories were totally addictive. Thank goodness we had a Kindle because we got snowed in for a few weeks and all we did was read- we would go through series after series and my brain was getting fried. He remembered it all and I could not keep up. ( The next year he had over 500 AR points from remembering these books and taking tests on them.)

I was also doing repeated readings with him at home to strengthen his own reading ability. He was truly dyslexic and could guess words by context but sounding out was impossible for him. However, the repetition of reading the same paragraph over and over seemed to be helping his brain see patterns that no instruction ever could. It was also a good way for me to practice using a celeration chart and he could see his time and fluency improvements.

I started reading A Course In Miracles again on March 9, 2010. The first lesson is “Nothing I see in this room means anything.” I called my friend and we discussed how the course teaches that what we see is only what we have been taught to see and how spirit sees Truth. It retrains you to move out of projections and into accepting the Holy Spirit to lead you to a greater reality. It is about changing our perceptions. Maybe this was the pre-show to sort of prepare me for the afternoon. I had no idea what was coming.

On March 9, 2010 Ridge was reborn. He went to school as usual but when I picked him up there had been a miracle. He was not only chatting away in the car but he was making eye contact and when we picked up his older sister, he asked her how her day was. She looked at me as if it was a joke. Not knowing how to respond she sort of half heartedly complied and so Ridge started asking more questions.

“If you could be a super hero, what special powers would you have?”  “What is it like to be in middle school?”

He listened to her answers and asked for clarification. He was tuned in and we all had no idea what to do because this was not the same Ridge we known for 10 years!!!

I was trying to sort out what was happening. He had had a seizure several months before and I was wondering if this was a prelude to another one.

I called my sister and without prepping her and I asked her to speak to Ridge on the phone. She laughed because she expected his usual growl and refusal to speak. Instead he said, “Hi, Aunt Marsha! How are you? What do you do all day now that you are retired? What is your favorite hobby?…” This went on for about 20 minutes and he very politely said, “Well, I guess you may want to talk to mom. It was nice speaking with you today.”

I got back on the phone and my sister said, “Oh my God! What has happened? Get a video camera and record this! Is he on a new drug? “

I assured her that nothing had changed and this was how he got off the bus. Unbelievable is an understatement. He told me that he was thinking about his arm and that it automatically moves but he can think about moving it and control it so maybe he could do the same with other thoughts. He decided to stop his negative thoughts and it worked. He said that he could control it and that he noticed other people were not aggravated at his growling.

I grabbed the camera and treaded lightly because he had been in this nonstop chatter mode for several hours. I asked him to share what happened at school and he willingly complied.

Here is part of the transcript of one of the videos:

Ridge says:

“I have discovered that all you really have to do is don’t focus on what you don’t want to do. And by complaining you are focusing on it. If I am complaining and focusing on what I don’t want so I am not really doing anything. So when I am not focusing on what I don’t want and I am just doing it, it goes so fast.

Today I tried it and I wasn’t complaining and I wasn’t aggravating anybody.

I have a theory that you can do anything if you want to.

A few weeks ago I discovered it but I never really fully embraced it. So, I embraced it today and it worked out great. I wasn’t complaining about anything and I focused on the good things and I really didn’t focus on the bad things  so I couldn’t find anything that was bad today.

Just do it! “ 

Me- Today you have had such nice manners, helped Maddie fold clothes, bought her gum, asked our opinions, what has changed?

I was focusing on the good things in life.”

Me-Did you like talking to us?

“Yes!

Me- What were you saying about books?

“The best one- is it tells what everybody thinks about. Like if you were a stinkbug or something it would tell what the stinkbug was thinking about.

Let’s focus on what I have learned. That mainly, if you want to do it, you can do it.”

Me-What would you say to someone that is struggling with this?

Have  you , you probably focused on the negative. Just don’t even think about it.”

Mom-Do you have to retrain your brain?

Yes.Train it to not think about the negatives. Never!”

Go to :

I called my teacher and mentor Alan Cohen and shared the story because I could hardly believe it was true. He asked me to join him on a spiritual group telephone call  to share this experience with others. When I tucked Ridge into bed, I went to my computer and cried into my keyboard. I was not sure if he would still be like this in the morning or if he would be the other Ridge again. It was so hard to believe. I thought of that movie, Lorenzo’s Oil and wracked my brain to try to figure out what was the new variable. Nothing came to mind.

This started a new era in all of our lives. He still had a few moments of “negativity” and melt downs but this discovery of his brought a new level of self control.

Suddenly, his reading ability jumped from barely a 1st grade level to a 3rd grade level. Then it got better. He even started reading the higher level books.

One of my professors (Andrew Houvouras)shared some research with me on Video Self Monitoring and this became my favorite technique.He encouraged me to challenge Ridge and to set higher goals. My mom wanted me to take her to Hawaii but I didn’t want to go without my family and assumed that it would be impossible. He said, “Why not?” So, I changed my mind on my expectations.

I reinforced Ridge’s new awareness with all I could and started to challenge him to do more things like go out to eat in a restaurant or to go on short day trips. I would video him and edit out any parts of noncompliance and he would watch himself having a good time. I started planning and preparing him for a family adventure to fly to Hawaii, stay in various hotels, take a cruise and fly back. This took a lot of prepping but he proved to be the most happy person on the trip!

It was magical and everyone was happy.

I believe that my “dream” had come true. The fantasy stories had lit up an area of his brain that had not been so active before. Once he was able to connect the feelings and thoughts of the characters by the explicit descriptions used in the text, to his own thoughts and feelings he mastered empathy. The “mind blindness” could now see as his brain was rewiring itself. I still was unsure of the spirituality part as Ridge could never handle being in any churches or listen to any of my spiritual books. However, there was a sweetness that he started to share with people. He always loved and protected babies and dogs but he was starting to extend kindness like never before. I accepted that as the most authentic form of spirituality that there is -love.

I wrote a book to chronicle what had happened because I could hardly believe it. Ridge even helped me to make a video about it.

Go to:

We moved back to Florida and I signed Ridge up for football because this was a “normal” peer activity, he could get some exercise and I hoped the social structure of a team would help him to connect.I had worked with a lady that sponsored the cheerleaders and her husband was a coach so this made me feel safer. (Thank you, Tristan and Danielle Curry.)It was a series of melt downs due to extreme anxiety and daily resistance at home. I used video self modeling to film hours of practice and then I would edit out only the happy spots to “prove” to him that he had had been successful-to replace his “catastrophising” . It was also very important to show him his progress as he learned about his own learning curve. Football was the biggest challenge and the biggest reward. Ridge found the instructions and positive reinforcement helpful as he learned the skills and felt part of the team. ( I have several videos on You Tube because at the time I wanted to share them with Tim since he stayed in Virginia and then moved to Alabama without us) 

He made a friend!!! The coaches encouraged him and he started respond to the positive reinforcement. The video doesn’t show the refusals to get out of the car, the chewed up mouthpieces or any melt downs.He would get dressed around noon for the 4 pm practice and just rock back and forth. It was so hard to push him but I knew that the outcome was worth the pain. The videos proved his progress and need to stick with it to me probably more than to him. It was a path of trials but he was a hero now and he could do it.

I went to every practice and sat there the entire time because he needed the assurance that I was there. There were a few parking lot fits and a couple of close calls when he told me to “sign him out” but he managed well for the most part. By the end of the season he even said it was great.

Patrice Hay sat out on that field with me many times. Thank God for her support. I felt alone but angels appeared and pulled us along.

Go to:

 

Going back to the school that had treated him so poorly was not easy. He was bullied by a boy that said he remembered what Ridge had done and that his dad said if he came near him , that they would get an attorney and sue us. Lovely…

The price of being a social outcast is very high. The challenge to overcome it was daunting even for a 4th grader. K-1 was total frustration and anger.  2nd grade had been all about his anger and rage that was only reinforced by constant triggers and lack of any positive reinforcement for wanted behaviors. 3rd grade was a blessing to start anew and have time to recover and “awaken” to his ability to control his thoughts. 4th grade was a blend of facing the past with a new system. Thank God for the highly skilled and caring teacher that provided the structure and kindness needed to make this work. His awakened self was in charge.

The principal did not even recognize Ridge. He told me that he had never seen anything like it. Ridge’s reading had improved but his writing was still a challenge. We asked for a text to print software and it was not as easy as it sounded but we made it work.

By this time, Ridge really hated having a behavior analyst around. He had learned with me the jargon and ways of ABA and he was self managing most of the time. It is always a good thing to see a person taking off the training wheels and I moved into a more supportive role providing structure and reinforcement in a less intense level.

5th grade was a breeze and Ridge was winning awards for science and behavior! He was now known as a leader and one of the best behaved kids in school. His “graduation” from elementary school was a hard battle won.

Then we moved to Texas.

Help Came

Intro to ABA

After we hired our behavior analyst, things changed.  Patrice Hay observed Ridge at home and interviewed us about his history. By this time, Ridge was showing aggressive and violent behaviors at home , had stopped talking and spent a lot of time hiding under the cabinets and banging his head on the floor. He growled and attacked. It was a terrible thing to see.

When he did talk, he spoke in curse words with anger and hate.

His melt downs were terrifying because he seem possessed in a rage state that he had no control of that left nothing but destruction in his path.

I knew that if we did not get some answers soon, he would have to go to a residential home. He stabbed our furniture with knifes, cut the curtains with scissors and would find ways to destroy things no matter what.

The expelling from school was hard because I got no sympathy as a teacher to stay home with him. I was torn between my work responsibilities and taking care of Ridge. No one wanted to sub for my class and I felt I was failing all the way around.

One of my worst behaved students asked to speak with me after class. He had heard of why I was absent and he wanted me to know that he too had learning difficulties but his mother refused to allow him to be tested many years before. He had terrible grades and said that he went to a gang to find the support he never got at home. He cried and told me that he wished I had been his mother and that I should do everything I could to help Ridge now before it was too late.

All those little problems that we see in elementary school just get bigger and bigger and by the time a child is in high school, the problems and the workload have each grown into a deep crevasse that few can cross. I was horrified when my students would drop out and no one cared. I was told by an administrator to let them go because they were just trouble.

I had already decided to quit as we were moving to Virginia anyway but finishing those last few weeks was very difficult.

Ridge went back to the school where he was suddenly a monster and was treated differently by his teacher as well as the students. He was shunned and shamed. Finally , they were ready to accept his testing results as well as do their own. Their three years of RTI showed no progress and after countless meetings we finally got an IEP in the summer after the school year.

The meetings were hostile and they tried to bully me. Patrice Hay went with me and asked important questions. We challenged stupidity and they did not like it. I recorded them and they got really paranoid. I was getting ready for due process. No matter what, it was a terrible time. I was rejected and scorned and my son was now seen as a threat.

By the summer, we finalized the IEP and I saw several ugly reports in his file. They spent a lot of time back tracking to paint him out as a dangerous person. I guess they were afraid and wanted to project on him and cover up their oversights.

Patrice started fresh by pairing herself with positive reinforcement and we began setting a goal to reduce cursing. Compliance to do almost anything was very low.

We could find no reinforcers that he wanted besides his dog. So, she became his reason to do anything.

That poor dog was the best therapy dog on earth. She rescued him after many melt downs and was always willing to be held by the angry energy until it released into sobs. Occasionally she would hide in her kennel and I knew she had to take a break.

School was out and we spent the summer balancing activities with free time. Patrice was an expert at meeting Ridge where he was and yet gently coaxing him out of his shut down into a little movement forward. I had some trouble at first with the reinforcement for every little thing. It seemed ridiculous to reward him so often because he was still difficult to deal with.

Patrice had a very positive attitude and she became my beacon of hope. Therapy is never just for the child but for the entire family. At this point I realized that my husband actually shared many of the same characteristics of Aspergers that Ridge had. She had many years of experience and she also had a spiritual presence that lifted all of us. She helped me to see how the school situation had been reinforcing his noncompliance and triggering his melt downs. 

At one point he was so angry with me that he started to punch me in the face. I remember just giving up and staring into his cold eyes of hate and I what I saw changed me. It was fear. He was like an irate crazy wounded animal that had no choice when cornered but to fight. I felt so overwhelmed and offered nothing but compassion even if I was about to be attacked. Amazingly, he put his fist down and ran away . Something deep and primal connected and I knew that I was going to have to crawl into that scary dark world with him to ever lead him back out. I really didn’t want to but I knew I had to. Without Patrice’s assurance and calling on the side of sanity, I am not sure if I could have done any of this.

He was taking several medications since his diagnosis. After school was out he said, “Mom, you know this is poison. But I will take it if you want me to.” I couldn’t any more. I threw them all away. He got better within a couple of weeks and most of his ticks (Scratching inside his ears and nose) were gone! So much for that crap as well!

I decided to take the college courses needed to become a behavior analyst myself. The terminology threw me into brain exhaustion but I learned things that every teacher should have been taught .

Just the concept of reinforcement was a new paradigm. As teachers, we are taught that praise, tokens, parties, etc are positive reinforcement. This may or may not be true.

In the field of ABA, reinforcement is something that you add or take away that strengthens or increases the behavior you want. The definition is based on the consequential effects of behavioral change. So, if you give someone praise and they increase that behavior it is positive reinforcement. If you give praise and there is no difference in the behavior then it is not positive reinforcement. Positive means something is added. Negative means something is taken away. This is mathematical not ethical. If you tell students that if they pass their practice test that they get to opt out of their final and they do, this is negative reinforcement.

So many teachers set up their behavior plans however they want and if the student doesn’t follow along, it is the child’s fault and they go to their planned punishments. That too is something I never felt right about in education.

I remember various examples of teachers writing referrals, sending their kids to the office or other rooms for time out, and endless benching at recess. The same kids would be there time and time again. The true definition of punishment is that it is something added or taken away that decreases the behavior. So, these punishments were never punishment! Obviously, many of our techniques were not working but as teachers we blamed the child rather than ourselves when the plan didn’t work.

As a behavior analyst, it is your job to find the reinforcers that the client will work for. This can be anything but it changes often too. There is no one size fits all. Punishment can be used but it harder to implement and rarely shows as much success. These concepts alone take some time to adjust to.

I had to change everything about the way we were interacting with Ridge. Patrice helped me to see this other way and to take data on where we were. I continued with my ABA classes and by the time summer was over, Ridge had started talking again and melt downs were less frequent. He had heard Dr. Jose Martinez Diaz (My ABA instructor at FIT) so often that he could write his own functional analysis plans. I had no idea at the time that his learning these ideas along with me would eventually help him to self manage his behavior.

We moved to Virginia armed with the protection of an IEP and my learning as much as I could about ABA. Unfortunately, I could not find another therapist like Patrice there. So I was the only Patrice…weird.

As soon as we drove up to see the new elementary school, Ridge urinated in his pants. It was PTSD. I felt so sad that he had been so mistreated and hurt for years. I had to help him no matter what. I could never afford to trust the system. I had to put all my efforts into being his therapist and mother.

The next year was a time of rebuilding for Ridge. His 3rd grade teachers were kind but he was very much afraid and anxious. He had stopped most of his aggressive acts and was accepted by the new students. I went to the school to have lunch with his class one day and a little girl with ribbons and bows was sort of in charge at the table. I was very careful not to say too much that might embarrass Ridge but at one point she noticed us and said, “Is this YOUR son? Do you know that he GROWLS?” I said, “Really? That is great. He hasn’t bitten you yet has he?” She looked aghast and gave me a disapproving “hmph.” I was at a new low of being judged unworthy by a third grader.

His speech teacher (that I never met) was a godsend. She worked with him in small groups and taught conversation skills. Ridge would come home and tell me about what he learned.

I had never really understood that Ridge didn’t know how. It became my new understanding that everything had to be explicitly taught to Ridge about social rules. He had no empathy not because of being a monster but because he didn’t see or understand other’s points of view. Some experts call this mind blindness.

This could be taught however and I had a big assignment ahead of me. John Elder Robison’s book Look Me In the Eye was helpful to understand why these skills were so greatly needed.

I read lots and lots of books and talked to many specialists in many treatments. ABA combined with CBA (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)seemed to be my best bet.Relationship Development Intervention sounded good but was too expensive for us.

Homework was a daily battle for 2-3 hours. I took data and eventually it shifted to a 1-2 hour block. A few months later, it was nonexistence of any fighting and was completed within 10 minutes. The same behavior plan was in place. The difference was that he chose to accept it.

I would listen to my ABA professors online and Ridge learned the concepts along with me. He was more of a behavior analyst than me! He wanted to start taking a counter to school to take data on his teacher of how many times she would say “be quiet” and get no response. I told him that it would be a great thing to study but that she would not like to be evaluated by him. Instead we took data on our dogs and trained them to do tricks. I would chart my data, created token systems and even used celerations charts like crazy!

I was on task with him when he was home from school and the rest of the day I spent watching ABA videos and homework. I was becoming more and more depressed as well. My life seemed to have no meaning except for charts and data and continued focus on saving Ridge.

My oldest son had started college at the University of Florida and stayed in Florida when we had moved. Maddie was at the middle school and our community was not friendly. I had no outside contacts and lost my personal identity completely.

We found that Maddie had a very severe scoliosis curvature and needed surgery, Ridge had a seizure at school and Tim didn’t get the promotion he expected all in one week. I truly felt that God had turned his back on me. I was trying so hard and felt totally forsaken.

I began to have dreams that I believe were divine messages of guidance. I was told that things are not as they appear and this gave me newfound hope to dig deeper. On that day, Ridge came home from school and looked and acted different. He was making eye contact with me and smiled . He said that he had had an awakening at school. He started chatting away like I had never seen before in a pleasant voice asking personal questions to Maddie and me. She wanted to know what was going on and I was terrified that a seizure was about to happen.I almost wrecked the car trying to watch him in the rear view mirror but somehow got home and to focus my complete attention to this.

More about his awakening in the next blog….IMG_0121 (2).jpg

In the Beginning…

Since birth, my son was different than my other kids. In the hospital his sensitive skin flared and burned at the touch of any material. I was sent home with a beautiful baby that within a couple of months had lesions all over his skin that no doctor could explain more than “eczema” and could not control. He nursed , we used no soaps, cleaned the air filters, gave him steroids and kept the various creams on but after 13 doctors recommendations, we took him to a children’s hospital. The pediatric dermatologists took photos of him as they had never seen such extreme eczema and treated him as a burn victim. After a week , we came home and it was back.

This was the introduction to how my life would be raising Ridge.

One night I stayed up searching on the internet and found a slide show intended for doctors. When I saw a child that had similar skin, I was shocked to read that he had died of a staph infection soon after. The training slide was to promote a drug that had been used to prevent organ rejection. This drug was being used topically with great success as an autoimmune suppressor. I went through doctors, pharmacists and finally found a trial study in another state to get the medicine. Sadly, Ridge was too young for the trial. I shamelessly used our daughter who had mild eczema to get the medicine. I did contact a very trusted pediatrician and he could see no harm in it and so out of desperation, I broke lots of rules and the medicine was successful and he had almost normal skin within two weeks. All this happened within the first year of Ridge’s entrance into this world.

Once he was stable, I wanted to get back to work. The demands of a chronically sick baby had left me exhausted and I needed the social connections and ease of a controlled environment. I got a job teaching but the difficulty of managing three children was more than I had expected. Two kids went to a day carer that added an hour of travel time before my job and they hated it. My oldest son was able to come with me as he attended the same school but I would find myself so nervous that I had to stop shaking before walking in my classroom and pretending everything was great.

As time went on I felt more and more chaos at home and more stability at work. I started to believe that I was better at being a teacher than a mother. Ridge seemed to like being alone, he didn’t laugh easily, he fussed and had tantrums and hit people. I thought his hearing may have been damaged because he didn’t talk much. The tests showed he was normal.

By the time he started kindergarten, his testing showed “at risk”in letter recognition and sounds. I had read to him since birth, worked on letters and sounds and given him as many environmentally rich experiences as possible. We talked about everything, we played at the beach, with animals, we had no TV , and yet he was not learning like the other children.

This continued and he only really wanted to go to recess. School was not fun and he met with frustration after frustration in 1st grade. The teacher could not understand how a child with such advanced language could not even write his name. I requested testing and suddenly the teacher started giving him “Fs” to cover herself I guess. I pulled him out and homeschooled for the next year.

Being a teacher with specialized training in dyslexia, I brought out the best I had -Orton Gillingham materials. I bought a program called Fast Forword that was guaranteed to improve his audio processing. I took him to a psychologist and he diagnosed Ridge as ADHD and we started medicines. The first week was amazing as he became more verbal, was able to write better and seemed more tuned in. It didn’t last however.

My husband was deployed to the middle east, my dad was dying of cancer and so I decided to homeschool my daughter too so that we could all travel to stay with my parents three days per week. My oldest son was in high school by then and had to fend for himself. After a couple of months , my dad passed away and I collapsed. I enrolled the kids in another school and things seemed to be coming together. The counselor suggested we put Ridge back in first grade since his reading level was still so low and he had a compassionate teacher that worked with him. They school had their own Fast Forword program and used it as a weekly intervention with Ridge.

By the next year, I had rebounded and decided that it was time to take on a job again. (We were having terrible financial trouble as the real estate market had tanked and we had several investments that turned into catastrophies) I got hired to teach reading at the high school to kids that needed remediation and Ridge was right across the road at the new elementary school with his sister.

No formal testing had yet been done by the school. Here was a student that the mother requested testing since kindergarten, he had terrible grades, a retention and several interventions. They call it “RTI” and it is designed to use as a structure of help before just throwing a child into “special ed”. In this case , it was used as a hurdle to keep my son from getting the services he needed. I finally found a private developmental pediatrician and her testing showed major dyslexia. She also diagnosed him with depression, anxiety and Asperger’s Syndrome. I was sickened as well as relieved with this labelling. I have never given much stock in testing and the labels we put on kids and in this case I was embarrassed that it was my child. I bought several books about Aspergers and I was shocked to see in print many of the exact characteristics of Ridge. I felt lost because I had worked with autistic children but they were nonverbal. I had never even heard of Aspergers and yet suddenly it all made sense.

At home , Ridge frequently had melt downs if I asked him to do things he didn’t want to do. We had some animals and pastures so as long as he was exploring and tearing something up outside he was ok. Taking him grocery shopping or out to eat was a battle and he would often attack his older brother. For some reason, he found an axe in the barn and chopped up his brother’s bedroom furniture. I had to watch out because he was drawn to weapons and seemed on a road of destruction. I smelled fires in our trash cans several times.

I went to the school with the testing results, eager to get the services he needed started. Speech, OT, and reading resources were at least a start. I was told that the school did not have to accept the testing and the school refused to do anything. It was war.

Ridge’s grades were plummeting with a teacher that could not have been much worse. 2nd grade should be fun but it was a nightmare for Ridge. The teacher was inconsistent. She would not get the kids ready in time to go to recess. Her english was poor. She did not have a good discipline plan in place. Ridge told me how it was and I dismissed it but then I actually saw how the teacher acted one morning of a field trip. Several boys ran around screaming in one another’s ears, there was no assignment whatsoever and the teacher sat at her desk doing something on her computer for over 45 minutes. I was livid! The field trip was a joke as she divided up kids with parents giving me Ridge and a little boy that had serious behavior problems. She gave out her telephone number and took off at Animal Kingdom. By noon, I called her and told that we had to leave so she needed to get the other student. We waited and she showed up with NO kids but her adult friend. We blew out of there and I promised Ridge I would never doubt him again.

My students at the high school were a mix of super kids to trouble like I had never known. I surmised that all the years of pushing problems through creates monsters at the end of the line. It was sad that those kids had not gotten the services they should have had and the attitude of nurturing and care was absent from the high school staff. It was a painful learning experience but one that prepared me to not accept incompetence for my son.

It all escalated one morning when Ridge’s behavior changed his world. He was at the early morning child care program at the school (run by an inexperienced lady with no structure in place at all) sitting on the cafeteria bench trading legos with his friend as he had done all year. Something happened in the deal that went bad and he had a true melt down. He attacked the friend and had him in a choke hold. The lady in charge started screaming and he kicked her and ran away. The assistant principal was just pulling into the parking lot and gave chase. He slammed Ridge to the ground and held him there. Quite a crowd gathered to view the spectacle and when released he tried to run again and was once again physically restrained and drug to the office.I was called to come get the monster that was now expelled from school and kicked out of the early morning care program. The behaviors from home had generalized to the school and suddenly they saw Ridge differently. Sadly they wanted to punish him rather than help him and I could tell that they believed I was the real issue.

I was furious! As I gathered up the prisoner and drove home, Ridge said that he wanted to kill himself and that was the only thing he could think of to do. He said that he would never have chosen to come into this world this way. He couldn’t read, he had constant allergies, and he hated everything. There was nothing left for him.

He started to chew his fingernails, his toenails and then the dog’s nails.

Luckily, I had a niece that suggested I call an ABA therapist. Applied Behavior Analysis is the scientific method of behavioral change and is the only research proven program for autistic people to make successful changes.

I was expecting more of the same ridiculousness we had experienced with his “teachers” but things  when Patrice Hay walked in the door.dirt ridge.jpg