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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

Mental Alchemy

Alchemy-a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.

Ridge loves melting metals. He has successfully cast objects made of aluminum, copper, and brass. The metals require differing amounts of heat. He has learned how to do this from YouTube videos. He likes to skim off the impurities that rise to the top as the metals become fluid. He uses great care in handling the hot objects and has learned patience as time is an important factor. Once the metals are liquid like, he pours them into molds and allows them to solidify again.

I see this same process in his own “seemingly magical process of transformation.”

Six years ago, I picked him up from his bus stop on March 9. He told me that he had an “awakening” at school. He described how he was thinking about his thoughts and behavior and suddenly it dawned on him that he could control his growling and anger. There had been no diet changes or medication and I was struggling to find what had stimulated what seemed to be a sudden neurological change. It may have been a combination of factors-being in a new school, reducing demands and heavy doses of ABA seemed the perfect combination for him to start anew. From that point on, he made rapid changes in his behaviors as well as jumping three grade levels of reading in one month.

Maybe the “heat” was the stress of extreme meltdowns and failure that brought out many “impurities”. The combination of consistent reinforcement and practice helped to him to become a more socially acceptable and functional person. Time and persistence has continually shaped his behaviors and thinking.

It is a constant process of refining and transforming as he exceeds expectations and recalculates to other goals. The amazing thing is that he is self managing more and more. He knows this process. He still likes having help but I can see that my job is more of a cheerleader than a coach. Yay!

Happy Awakening and Re-birth Day , Ridge.

 

 

Step Four-Gifts

Spiritual help is always present. But for me , it was hard to always see and feel. I know that there are reasons beyond what we can understand of why autism is increasing on our planet. I don’t believe it is a curse. It is actually a great gift.

What a challenging thought! I have seen melt downs that make horror movies pale in comparison. I have met families in such deep states of fear and grief that there seems no recovery possible. I have lived through extreme anxiety and depression. I wonder if my stress and worry lead me to cancer. But , yes, I still believe that autism is a blessing.

Here is what Spirit tells me:

You have all the power of the “multi-verse”within. The trick is that your focus will determine your experience. You must become aware of your thoughts. This awakening changes everything because you are then able to choose your path of experience.Your heart will guide you to the reality of Truth. Fear only limits your perception and it is attractive to the ego. Spirit is Love in everything. This does not mean that you should avoid anything, but move forward knowing that Truth will always win. Your role in the dramas of life is to realize your power to choose your reality.

Autism forces you to change. It forces you to question the “what is” and opens thoughts of “what if”. This is a gift given to those on the edge of transformation. Take the hero’s journey and add to the collective good for all.