Saturday, March 31, 2012

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

It's softball season once again. My oldest daughter loves to play softball and is on the high school team, and in the summer, a travel team. I love to watch her play. She really comes alive when she is out there on the field. Softball is probably the one thing that she is best at, that she is the most passionate about, and what she works the hardest for, year round. Unfortunately, softball games are very long, can be very boring if you aren't "into" it, and are always outside where you can encounter such environmental extremes from freezing to boiling hot. There is no in between. If by chance you get a beautiful day for a game, there is probaly going to be a whipping wind or a ton of mosquitoes. None of these things trouble a die hard softball mom, but all of these make it very hard on a softball sister, especially an autistic one.

I try everything to make going to the game easier on Katie. I pack a lunch or dinner. I pack extra snacks. I pack extra kool aid and juice boxes. I pack music, and magazines and coloring books. I pack sweatshirts and blankets. I pack fans and water squirt bottles. I look like a bag lady when I go to the games. I have so much stuff that my in laws bought me a big wagon to lug it all around in. You just never know what is going to come up, what problem you might encounter, or what mood Katie will be in.

Eating her lunch usually will take us through half of the first inning. Then she will want to walk around. Then she will get into the bag of things to do. If I am lucky, she will spend some time listening to music. If I am REALLY lucky, someone from the family will be there that she will want to talk to. That takes us into the 2 nd inning. During this time, I am trying to watch the game, take pictures, talk to the other parents, and keep track of what is going on. Usually that is hard to do because Katie is constantly asking for something, complaining about the weather, or fighting with her little sister.

At some point during the game, it will become too much for Katie. If I am really lucky that day, my husband will be there to help, but usually he is working. If he is there, one of us can take her home if we are close by, or take her to the car to sit. If I am by myself, I will have to miss most of the game, trying to get Katie to the car without making a total scene. She is usually crying by this point, what I call " going out in a blaze of glory". Everyone is staring, we are all embarrassed, and I will not be able to watch the rest of the game. This is the hardest part for me, because I feel like I have to choose between my children. I am used to doing this, because when you have 3 children, you inevitably have to choose from time to time. But with softball games, I always have to choose Katie in order to not create a huge scene. I regret having to miss the rest of the game, and I regret having to do it every single time. That is one of the reasons I try to do so much for my other two children. Chaperone dances and field trips, help out in their classrooms, pick them and their friends up from school or practices and being them snacks. I try to do more, because at some point I will have to leave them when they are doing their best. I will have to leave them when they are at the top of their game. Sometimes, my Adventures in Autism force me to take my ball and go home. I am not complaining. I do what I have to do in the moment that it is needed. I just wanted everyone to know why we leave in a blaze of glory.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Going to the movies

To say Katie is easily distracted would be putting it mildly. If she is interested in something, I try not to distract her in any way, because when she looses that" connection", there is just no getting it back. She isn 't into books, doesn't like to watch too much TV, and doesn't really sit still to watch a movie. I have been taking her to the movies since she was small, and my mom and my aunt like to take her and all my girls, to watch a movie at the theater and have a nice day out. As you might imagine, taking an autistic child to the movies is a challenge. I am brave ( and a little stupid), but I also don't want any of my children to miss out on anything just because Katie has autism and the challenges that come with it. So off to the movies we go.

Many, many children with autism have sensory issues. For those of you who don't know what these are, think about a time when you have had a really REALLY bad headache. Everything bothers you, right? The lights are too bright, every sound is too loud, sometimes even smells can make you crazy. Not a headache sufferer? Think about when you are overtired or even hungover. A door slamming, a kid whining, all can put your senses on edge. This is what it is like for a lot of children with autism every day, every minute of their life. I don't know how they even function, to be honest. I went to a workshop on autism that a teacher put on, and she played a recording of distracting sounds while we were trying to listen to instructions. It was unreal, and that was just a few minutes example of what these children go through.

Now picture what it must be like for these children at the movies. The sound is really loud. There are other people there talking. They smell popcorn and candy ( some of which they might not be able to have for dietary issues). It is dark. The doors are closed. They are expected to sit still for 2 hours and not fidget and not talk or dance or sing along. The general public does not take kindly to interruptions at movies. My family was actually shushed by an older couple when they were laughing at a rated G Disney movie! Sometimes when you expect a place to be safe and accepting, it is not that way at all. Do you see the difficulties that might arise in a movie theater with an autistic child? Now imagine spending a lot of money on going to the movies, and having to leave half way through because your child is freaking out, or bothering someone, or can't sit still, or the movie is too loud, or they are scared of the dark. Big disappointment.

A few years ago my mother was looking to do a project for her Kiwanis club. The organization is based on helping children in their community, and as the president that year, she wanted to plan an activity for local autistic children. She had asked me what some ideas might be that these children might enjoy, and after a couple of suggestions, we came up with a movie day. What the club did was rent an entire movie theater, and invite all the local autistic children to come with their families for free. Then they arranged to make it more comfortable for autistic children by keeping the sound lower, leaving the lights on, and leaving the doors propped open. Since the movie was free, it eased the guilt a bit if the family had to leave early. Since all the families were familiar with autism, the children felt comfortable moving around the theater, singing or dancing if they wanted, talking and laughing. The club also made up goodie bags for all the children, and were there to greet the families and assist them in any way. This movie day was so successful that the club has made it an annual event.

If you are not familiar with a disability, sometimes you do not know the hardships that can occur because of it. A simple thing like going to the movies can seem so easy, but with autism, it can be a real nightmare. Katie has grown up a lot in the last few years, and we are more comfortable with seeing a regular movie now and then, but it is nice that the Kiwanis club makes movie going easier for those of us on our Adventures in Autism.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Inside Our World

When I started this blog before Christmas, I had no idea what I  was getting myself into.  I thought that I would just sit down and put my thoughts about Autism into words, and maybe a few people might read it, maybe a few people might enjoy learning a little more about how Autism plays itself out day to day.  After all, you can read about Autism in the paper, see it on TV, you might know someone who has it, but to actually live it is a different story.  I had no idea how many people would actually read my blog, and reach out to me and tell me what it has meant to them.  It has been a very humbling experience, to say the least.  I have had a few speed bumps along the way, of course.  Some people have thought that I was lecturing them, or calling them out on their perceived wrongdoings, but hopefully I have cleared up any misconceptions about my intentions for my writings.

I never thought that there would ever be a silver lining to this very complicated diagnosis.  I never imagined that I would gain so much, or grow so much, or learn so much from my daughter having Autism.  I never knew that blogging about my experiences would connect me to other people in such a deep way.  I have heard from old high school classmates, far away relatives, and "friends of friends" that all don't know me personally, or at least don't know me well, but still feel like they have a better understanding of our world because of the stories that I have written.  I am not a professional author or journalist by trade.  I did have a children's book on Autism published (that I have yet to break even on), but I am just a simple mom.  I write about the simple tragedies and triumphs and tribulations that Katie encounters. I am honest and I am blunt, but I am very aware of the fact that other people are reading this, so I try to censor a bit of what I say.  I try not to be bold or brass or cynical or egotistical, but sometimes when I read what I have written, I stop and question myself.  "Does that sound like I am too proud of myself, does that sound like I am whining about my lot in life?"  I hope that if you do not know me well, you do not leave my blog with those impressions, because I am my own hardest critic.

I also hope that I don't leave the impression that our lives are all doom and gloom.  We have great lives.  We have a lot of fun with our family and friends.  Katie loves school, her friends, her sports activities both with her autistic friends and her other friends.  She loves going to catechism and bible school, going on vacation and swimming in our pool.  She loves her family more than anything, especially her cousins.  As her mom, I also love my life.  I have a wonderful job, fabulously understanding friends, a supportive family, and an amazing husband.  I have 2 other beautiful daughters that keep me going crazy.  Being Katie's mom is a full time activity, but I also do many things at my kid's schools and at church.  Running my kids all over town keeps me busy and happy as well.  Finding a balance between the good and the craziness of Autism has taken awhile, but I don't want to scare off any parents who children have been newly diagnosed with Autism.  There is life after.  There is a good life after, if you want to make it that way.  You just have to find out what works for your child, what works for you, and take it day by day.

When I was younger, if I had painted a picture of what my life would become, it would look nothing like what it has turned out to be.  The characters would be the same, but the lifestyle would be totally different.  I would have had totally different friends, probably a different work schedule, and a completely different outlook on life.  I know that I wouldn't have appreciated the little things in life that way I do now.  I wouldn't know the depth of compassion and generosity that others have shown me.  It is devastating to image that other picture, so I try not to think about it too much.  How can I dwell on that picture, without eliminating all that is wonderful about my life right now?  If you have a child that is close to you, that is affected by Autism, I hope that you can find in my writings something that helps you in your everyday adventures.  I hope that you can see a little bit of your life, and know that you are not alone out there.  That you can find some "normal" in the things that happen to your child, because our normal is a little different from everyone else's.  If you don't know Autism personally, I hope that you read to learn more, to understand more.  When you see Katie and me stumbling along, living our Adventures in Autism, I hope that you can stop and smile, and know that we will be just fine.  Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gift Cards

Today is my husband's birthday. Like most men, he is extremely difficult to shop for. What he needs, he buys when he needs it. What he wants, he buys when he wants it. That doesn't leave us much to choose from when we want to celebrate him and shower him with presents. I have spent 22 years trying to figure out what to give to him, failing miserably. There was one bad Christmas that I bought him a black IOU sweater. Two problems with that; he hates black and he hates sweaters. I think the only success I have had was the Michigan leather jacket and .....I think that is it. Lately I have resorted to buying him a bag full of snacks. (The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, right?)

For his birthday, my husband received many cards in the mail, all of which contained gift cards to various restaurants. Not one of the gift cards were the same. These people have learned to do it the right way. Don't know what to buy him? Get him a gift card! He loves to eat, right? You don't just want to send him money, right? You want him to know that you are thinking about him and celebrate his birthday, right? Gift card!

So what does any of this have to do with my Adventures in Autism? When you have a child with a disability, the last thing you think about doing is going out and treating yourself. If you have had a hard parenting day, all you want to do is collapse on the coach and watch TV once they are in bed. You certainly hate to dump your difficult child on someone else to deal with so you can go out and enjoy yourself, especially when they are little and you can barely control them yourself. Babysitters ( i.e. Grandparents) are used for work purposes and emergency purposes only, maybe an occasional wedding.  Other family members have offered, but there is only so much you really want to dump on them.

This is where gift cards come in to play. If you give my husband a gift card, you are sending a number of different messages. One, you think enough of him to give him a present. Two, you think that he not only deserves a present, but a night out on the town with his lovely wife. Three, you are giving him permission to relax, if even for a few hours, and enjoy himself and enjoy a good meal ( and enjoy the company of the aforementioned wife). This is just the excuse we are looking for. We feel obligated to use the gift card, we don't want them to go to waste, and we know that the giver really wants us to take advantage of the opportunity as well. It is like a " get out of jail free" card. You don't have to use it right away, you can save it for when you need it most. You can make plans to go out, but also know that if the plans fall through, the gift card is still there, reminding you that your night out is all gift wrapped and ready to go. Because believe me, plans fall through. People get sick, Autism rears it's ugly head, kids fight, work intervenes, family calls. But that gift card sits there, saying, " Hey, I am here waiting for you. I am a few hours of deep breaths and silly stories and making plans and reconnecting with the love of your life."

Autism is hard. Being a parent is hard. Parents put their children first, always. Autism makes itself first, always. And if you think about it, most people have their children grow up, become more responsible, become babysitters themselves. They have a 12 year window or so that they need to get babysitters for their children, that they need to have someone else step in if they "step out". With Autism it is different. For most of us who have Autistic children, we might never leave them alone. They might live with us forever, and might need constant supervision forever. There are other people that will help at times, but we are talking about a lifetime of needing a sitter. A lifetime of asking for favors from others, just so we can get a night out together. So keep sending the gift cards, because that is your way of saying, " We love you, we love Katie, and we know how much you need a night out". It also shows how much you support us as we take these Adventures in Autism as a family.

**** Side note:  After reading this blog, my husband asked if I was "pulling a Katie", meaning asking people to feel sorry for us and send gift cards.  I am NOT doing that, so please don't actually send us gift cards.  It was just a point that I was making.  Please don't take me literally, or my husband will not let me blog anymore.  (I am also kidding about that, he couldn't stop me if he tried!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Show Pony

I have developed quite a network of friends in the world of Autism, from teachers to paraprofessionals, mothers of Autistic children to doctors and other family members.  Since every issue related to Autism can vary from child to child, I am often interested by situations that other children are going through.  As I have said before, we can relate to each other and understand quite a bit of the circumstances, even if we are not personally dealing with it at the time.

A friend of mine told me about a problem that she has encountered.  Her child is attending a mainstream school, and is enrolled in an autistic program that integrates her into the regular classroom for a few hours each day.  She has found great success there, and has made many friends not only in the classroon, but also in the extracirrucular programs that she is fortunate to be involved in.  She has a circle of friends that have welcomed her into their fold, and are very protective of her.  When she was insulted by a classmate, they were very offended, and decided that they were going to create a forum for public awareness about disablities. 

I am not going to get into the specifics, but my friend's daughter was suddendly thrust into the spotlight.  She is very outgoing and wants to participate in so many activities, so they wanted to demonstrate how "cool" and "friendly" autistic people can be.  She became sort of the "poster child" for her school.  Now, if you do not personally have a child with disabilities, you might not understand the problems that might arise from this situation.  What is wrong with making your child the "face" of the disability?  Wouldn't they enjoy the positive attention that this would create?  Stop and think about it for a minute.  Picture yourself in middle school or high school.  Everyone at that age is struggling with identity issues.  Trying to figure out who they are, who they will be, what they might want to get involved with, who their friends are.  You might want some attention for being a star athelete or having the lead in the play, but I don't think you would want everyone staring at you because you are being put on display for having a disablity.  As good as their intentions might be, as much as they want to prove how cool she is, it basically comes down to that.  "Look at her, she is autistic!"  At that age, isn't everyone just trying to fit in?  Most of us are trying to fly under the radar, not draw attention to ourselves. 

As far as I know, this hasn't happened to my daughter, but I know there have been plenty of times that family and friends have wanted to "show her off" to others.  They are proud of her and her accomplishments, as much as I am.  They want everyone to see how far she has come, or they want to show how friendly or outgoing she can be.  So Katie has been the "show pony" from time to time.  She has been brought out and trotted around, has done a few tricks for the crowds.  It can be a little bit weird for me when this happens, but I have come to the conclusion that no harm is done by this in a smaller setting like a family party or church picnic, that sort of thing.  I do believe that I would be just as uncomfortable as my friend is with her being brought up on stage for the whole school to look at as an inservice was being conducted.  Of course as a mother, sometimes we think we might be overreacting, but I told my friend that I felt exactly the same way she did.  That is what is so nice about having other mothers in the Autism world.  When we have problems or feel a bit queasy about something, we can bounce the problem off each other to see if we are being unreasonable, or if we are right on. It is so much nicer having confidants that understand what your Adventures in Autism are all about. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

You Think You Know Me

You may think you know me.  You may think that we have a lot in common.  Our kids go to the same school, we work together, we are related, you see me in church.  The truth is, you probably don't know me at all.  The old saying goes, "You don't really know a man until you walk a mile in his shoes."  As a mother of an Autistic child, no one ever asked to borrow my shoes.  No one ever wanted to take them for a stroll, try them on for size, wiggle their toes around a bit.  I don't mean to sound pious, or even sound "oh, woe is me".  I will be the first to admit that I don't really know you.  Even if you have an Autistic child, I don't know how your shoes feel.  Although our children may share a diagnosis, our journeys may be worlds apart.  We may have some things in common, and we may be able to lean on each other in hard times, to sympathize and empathize, that does not mean we are one and the same.

My entry into the world of autism began way before my daughter was diagnosed.  I grew up across the street from a severly Autistic girl who was about 9 years younger than me.  I used to babysit for her and her sisters.  Back then, Autism wasn't "in".  There were no celebrity moms talking about it on Oprah, no special colors or symbols to represent it.  It was basically unheard of.  For the longest time, our neighbor was said to be deaf, and fitted with hearing aids.  I don't remember exactly the journey her mother had to take for a diagnosis, but I remember a lot of rough times.  But, growing up with Autism across the street, I was familiar with the terminology.  I knew all about the "TOTE" program and "IEP's" and occupational therapy and having people stare at you in K Mart when a meltdown was happening.  I also had grown up around Down's Syndrome and epilepsy, so I knew disablities came in more than one variety, each with it's own unique set of challenges and catch words and social difficulties.  You might say I had a bit of a head start among mothers of children with disablities.  I already had been exposed to not only the daily chores and challenges, but also to the concept that life does go on after the doctor tells you those few little words.

Since I got a bit of a head start, I feel like I was able to wrap my head around Autism a little faster than most.  Nothing ever prepared me completely for having an Autistic child of my own, but the whole Autism monster itself wasn't as scary as it might of been.  Most of my anxiety and fear centered around my child herself, and fears for her future and anxiety about the trials that she would have to struggle through.  I do feel that I was lucky to have prior knowledge of the condition, so all my energy could focus on her specific needs, instead of cowering in horror from a "great unknown".  Don't get me wrong, I was devastated.  I saw my neighbor struggle and cry and worry, but I knew that there was still a path ahead of me instead of just seeing a door slamming shut. 

Another advantage that I have had on this journey has been having a husband to help me along the way.  I know so many other moms that have either been single, have become single because of a diagnosis, or have had unsupportive husbands.  I am not saying I am better than them, but I do feel blessed that I have not been alone with this.  Every doctors appointment, every school meeting, every meltdown and report card and first word and smile have been shared with my husband.  He has been my daughters biggest supporter, and my biggest supporter.  After a horrifying 2 week experience with sensory integration therapy, I came home to the most beautiful bouquet of flowers, with a note that I still carry with me every day.  In it he thanked me for all that I had done, acknowledging how hard it had been, and saying how much he loved me for caring for our daughter.  He has made all the difference in the world in raising an Autistic child.  There is nothing that I cannot share with him, there is never a time that I am ashamed to cry.  I can be totally honest, and open, and have not had to worry that he is going to judge what I say. 

In some ways I think that Autism has brought us closer together, has made us better parents to our other children, and has allowed us to appreciate the little things in life.  Going out to dinner as a couple was unheard of when our kids were small.  I was afraid to leave too much of a challenge behind for a babysitter.  I only felt comfortable having the grandparents watch the girls, but didn't want to take advantage of them since they did so much babysitting while we worked.  Attending a wedding reception or recognizing our anniversary were about the only "outs" that we tried for awhile.  Eventually it got easier, and when we were finally able spend time alone, it felt like a miracle.  It took me a long time to figure out how to really relax,  but those times out were amazing.  It didn't matter if they lost our dinner order, it didn't matter if the movie theater was crowded, it didn't matter if we had to drive through a snowstorm.  We appreciated every moment of our time together.  At the lowest point of my Autistic journey, my mother told me that me and my husband needed to go on a vacation, just the 2 of us.  I didn't think I could do it.  I was so overwhelmed, so sad, so desperate, but both of our parents helped watch the girls, and we went.  That was the shot of adrenaline I needed to keep myself going.  Till this day, I feel that every vacation is a gift, even if the whole family is there.  Every plane ride is magical, every fast food restaurant is a miracle, every hotel room is the Plaza.  You will not hear me complain that the room is too small, or the dinner took too long, that the sun is too hot, or the wind too cold. 

My 3 daughters are my everything.  Katie, my daughter with Autism, is the middle daughter.  My oldest daughter has been blessed with beauty and brains, wit and charisma, and has athletic ability that makes my head spin and my heart proud.  She has used her gifts and talents to entertain the world, but has also been burdened with the responsiblity of being the older sister and mentor to her younger sister with Autism.  I told her from the start, as soon as she could understand, all about Autism and what it meant to us as a family.  It has not been easy on her.  Her sister has embarrassed her, but also loves her unconditionally.  There have been things missed out on, she has been shuffled aside, but at the end of the day I always touch base and let her know that Katie is not more important, just more vulnerable.  I do not spoil my oldest daughter, but I also do everything I can to make her life as magical as I can.  She has also developed into a confidant to me, since she can see what Autism does, she understands my range of emotions as well. 

My youngest daughter was born at the exact time Autism came into our world, so she does not know any other way.  She grew up with Katie, sometimes hitting the same milestones at the same time.  She knows Katie more as a playmate, sometimes as a rival, but always as a loving sister.  She is definately the baby of the family, and I would love to keep her that way.  She is the sweetest, most loving child, and the first thing she will do when she sees her grandpas is crawl right up on their laps.  She is aware of Autism, more so than most, but she knows it more of an excuse her sister offers up to get her way, instead of really knowing it for its lifelong limitations.  For these reasons I protect her, try to keep her innocent, and try to stretch out her innocense as long as I can.  If that means that she has a million stuffed animals and dresses and dolls, then that is how I try to keep her childhood as pure as if Autism never affected it. 

There are no two mothers of Autistic children that are exactly alike.  Although we may share in each others journeys and appreciate the obstacles others encounter, our paths are not identical.  We arrived at this destination differently, we handle our challenges differently, we have different support systems and different roadblocks along the way.  With that being said, these mothers are also the ones that know me the best.  I have lifelong friends and loving, attentive relatives that do not know me as well as these moms do.  That does not mean that others who don't know Autism intimately, that they do not love me and Katie and my whole family.  They do, they overwhelmingly love us and support us, and we appreciate every prayer and hug and listening ear and kind gesture.  I do not ever want to undermind how much my family and friends love us.  But do they know us?  Do they know me?  Do they really know me?  Since I have started this blog, I have given everyone a brief, tiny glimpse into our lives.  Hopefully it will help others understand a little bit of what we deal with, and answer some questions as to why I do the things that I do, what is behind the decisions that I make.  I will never be able to paint the whole picture, and I often wonder, on my Adventures in Autism, if anyone will ever truly know me.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


There is one major quirk about Katie that she gets from me.  She HATES confrontation.  Most people are rather uncomfortable with disputes or arguments, although I have found some people that not only seek them out, but thrive on it.  I have always handled confrontation like a 5 year old, I run the other way.  It makes me uncomfortable, it makes me squirmy, it makes my heart race and it makes me sweat.  I am almost phobic when it comes to confrontations.  I avoid them at any cost, although as a mother, especially a mother of a daughter with Autism, I do have to deal with them often.  Sometimes I just have to put on my big girl pants and face problems head on, and nothing turns me into "mama bear" faster than someone messing with my kids.  But anyone who knows me even a little thinks it is funny how I cower or run and hide when trouble is brewing.

Katie has this same phobia, but when you mix it in with Autism, and shake it up real good, you are in for a real treat.  If my husband and I are having an argument, Katie wants us to stop yelling, and asks if we are getting a divorce.  If she hears me talking loudly on the phone, she wants to know what is going on, and automatically jumps to the worst conclusions like, "someone died". She will hear just parts of conversations and piece them together to try and solve the problems in her head.  You better watch what you say around her also, because she not only hears parts of the conversation, but she repeats them to everyone enough to embarass you.  She doesn't understand sarcasm or exaggeration, so everything you say is taken literally.  She remembers all, and reminds you of all you have ever said. 

The biggest issue caused by Kaite's problem with confrontation is when her sisters are getting in trouble.  She will get right in the middle of the discussion and start yelling and crying, so much that you have to divert your attention to her to calm her down.  This has gotten a little better over the years, but it used to be so bad that we learned to take her sisters in a different room if they were getting in trouble, while diverting her attention so she didn't know what was going on.  Because once Katie starts crying and carrying on, there is no stopping her.  Her teachers at school quickly learned the same lesson, and if another child was acting up, they would take Katie for a walk in the hall until the other child was disciplined or talked to. 

I try to instill in my daughers the importance of family.  At this age, they are at the stage where they hate each other most of the time.  They are all at different phases of their lives, and at this point don't have a lot in common with each other.  When they bicker among themselves, I try to remind them that they will always be sisters, and will always be there for each other.  When Katie upsets them for some reason, I point out that they will never find another who will be more loyal and more passionate about her love for them.  Who else would stage an intervention for you when you are in trouble?  Katie. Who else still loves you even when you steal all her clothes?  Katie.  Who tries to be just like you because she thinks you are so cool?  Katie.  Who else runs interference when your parents are yelling, to divert the attention away from you?  Katie.

There are many things about Autism that are "normal" problems for all parents and children, but when those same problems occur to an Autistic child, the ramifications are so much different.  Sometimes it is for the best, sometimes for the worst.  For Katie, if she is being teased, she doesn't realize it.  That makes it a lot easier on me, because although I have to deal with the bully, I don't have to deal with a child with hurt feelings.  On the other hand, any difficult situation that arises at the same time Katie is tired or hungry, is magnified in drama by a hundred.  One of the biggest things I have learned during my Adventures in Autism, is to watch what I say, for there are always ears listening.