Reason One Hundred Thirty-Four Why I Admire My Wife

Let me go ahead and say it now.

My wife really stinks at “surprises.”

Whatever surprise she has planned, she always ends up blowing it – almost 98.8% of the time! (Sorry babe, but you know its true)

She may be bad at surprises, but she never stops impressing me with the things she does!

Last week she blew the surprise she had been wanting SO BADLY TO TELL ME ABOUT (read: “Want to guess what it is? Me: “No.” “Oh…now do you want to guess?” Me: “Nope.” “Ok…how about now…”) You get the idea.

Anyway we did that for about a week and she couldn’t help herself. Now, I can’t go blowing the surprise now that I am a privy to her grand project (and she needed my expertise to help finish it), but all I can say is that there are going to be some very impressed people later in the year.

Hmmm…those 3.7 readers that irregularly visit this blog are probably trying to figure out that little clue I just dropped. “What are the things Mike is good that she needed him to do?” Cooking? That can’t be, he’s 6000 miles away. Massage? Nope. See previous. Sleeping? Make Hot Wings? Give up?

Good, I am not going to tell you anyway. But, in the months ahead it will be revealed to the world and shared alike!

Thanks for impressing me yet again sweetheart. Your passion, creativity and heart have no ending. Keep doing what you are doing for out family and to make a difference in the world! I love you!

In Awareness,

Mike

The Growing Need For Cohesive Effort in Awareness & Advocacy For Military Families Living With Autism

Sorry I have been off the grid for a while! Deployment in the final days of the War in Iraq have been keeping me increasingly busy and unable to attend to my duties for all of you!

I have to tell you that is always a great feeling when you make a new connection with someone who shares a similar life situation as yours. These people understand wholly what your life is like as they are walking in similar shoes. It is even better when that someone is in the military, has a kid with autism, has led for years in the promotion of awareness and advocacy for military dependents living with autism and is also on a mission to make a difference in the lives of these same families. I have had the good fortune of connecting with others along the way, but I am grateful for the lengthy conversation I had just yesterday with this kindred spirit.

One of the many topics of our conversation together was a discussion about the military families who go above and beyond to do whatever it truly takes to provide their autistic child(ren) with the best possible chance of improvement and development. We also discussed the wide variety of views relating to the military autistic support community in such areas as treatment, diet, immunizations, behavior therapy, Tricare, ECHO, legislative efforts and most importantly the need for a concentrated effort of awareness, support, encouragement and advocacy.

Through much of the conversation I just listened to my new friend and had many of my own viewpoints validated by someone I would certainly consider an expert in the awareness and support community for families living with autism. There is so much value from listening, truly listening, and learning from those who have forged the pathways in autism before you. There is so much value in learning from someone who has made it through, and continues to forge ahead, through the minefield of autism support success and still has all their appendages in place! Many of the things he had to share resonated in me and also got me thinking about the state of the military autism support community in general. Statistics vary on how many dependents are affected with autism in the military, but simple math based on the most prevalent ratios that exist today easily put the number over 20,000 military dependents with autism. That means that there are a lot of parents who need some sort of education, support or encouragement if your family is anything like mine. Raising autistic children is extremely difficult, in general. Raising one (or more) while a parent is serving actively in the armed forces raises the support need dramatically – especially in the current operational tempo that exists with the frequency of deployment and taking one parent out of the support for 6 month, a year or more at a time.

The time has long since passed for a united, concerted effort to offer unbiased, righteous-hearted information and supports for the military autism community. Unfortunately, after spending a great deal of time researching and reading other blogs, websites and autism support organizations I have been seeing that there is much division (in the general autism community – not just military) and flat out dogmatic contention that disorganizes the effort in general. This was confirmed in my conversation yesterday. Unfortunately, it even effects us in the military.

This goes out to my military friends who are deeply loving and caring for an autistic child:

We have so much more to be united, than to be divided when it comes to working together in commonality to get the best service and support for our kids. There are few organizations in the world that understand what the true meaning of the word “teamwork” stands for.

In the months and years ahead it is my prayer that the military autism community unites more in a team-oriented fashion to support, inform and encourage one another with open hearts and open minds despite a family’s particular view on divisive issues like one treatment vs. another, immunizations, effectiveness (or lack thereof) of Tricare/ECHO/DEMO/Respite/EFMP. I know my new friend is doing just that and he certainly gained an ally yesterday to help facilitate that end.

In Advocacy,

Mike

Going From I “Have To” to I “Get To”

I can personally attest that in a household with autistic kids that there is at all times a fair amount of stress. Not only is life in general difficult with all the challenges we humans face in life, but when you add a large dose of autism into the mix it takes great patience, love and intestinal fortitude to not give up. Fortunately, my wife and I make a good team that strives to learn and get better at parenting and at supporting each other through the challenges. Also, we are firm believers that everything in life is designed with a purpose in mind. It is no accident that your children are autistic. They were given to you in that unique and special way for a purpose. What that purpose is for you, I don’t know. My belief system leads me to believe that a loving and perfect God created all of us for His good will and pleasure and for a specific purpose in mind – for all of us. Regardless of your own beliefs in the area of faith, one can still work to develop a mindset of living a purpose-filled life – Even through the challenges that your autistic kids present to you on a daily basis. Believe me you – it ain’t easy! Parenting or being a spouse without purpose leads one to develop the “I have to” mindset. Meaning that everything you do in life is drudgery, or negative or that you are controlled. The task is your master and causes bitterness and resentment. That kind of existence can only lead to increase marital discord and poor parenting as the view you have on life and all its “problems” will eat you alive. We have found it much easier to believe with all our heart that our kids were given to us for purpose. Part of that purpose is how we will develop through the “challenges” (problems have negative connotation, challenges lead to positive opportunities – reframe the event) our kids present to us. Part of that is how we will strive to constantly better ourselves as parents, as spouses to each other and how we reframe all of our thoughts about life into opportunities for personal growth and development. For example, as many parents will at some time experience, is the comments, stares or rude feedback we will get as we are out and about with our autties in society from the “normal” people of the world. The experience of a complete stranger telling you how you could or should be better disciplining your “problem” child while you stand in the grocery store check out line with your son who is having quite an outburst on not having the correct flavor of Skittles. Or perhaps the looks you get from the family in the booth across the room at Applebee’s who just doesn’t understand why your child is flailing her arms and squealing in stimming behavior. The victim mindset would allow your thoughts to say something like, “Why can’t we just have a normal child so when we go out in public we don’t suffer this kind of freakshow experience for the world to see. Every time we go out we “HAVE TO” deal with this kind of crap.” I would prefer to look at the event more proactively, positive and purpose-filled with a thought pattern that is more like this: “Here is yet another opportunity where I “GET TO” exercise my purpose of advocating for all autistic people everywhere by cooly, calmly and positively engaging the couple or the stranger in the store about the effects of autism and try to gain an ally in better public awareness.” Does my mind work like that all the time? Nope. And neither will yours. There are no “Professor Positives” who are endlessly happy 24/7 – that just isn’t the human experience. But, I can tell you that if you make that leap from having to, to getting to, will make a large difference in how you respond to and act through challenges with your kids. Purpose-filled thinking is much more appealing than the drudgery of having to.