Don't Cry

Small town, rural living has its draw backs. The nearest pediatric dentist is 36 miles away. OT, PT, Speech, or any therapy outside of the school setting for that matter is that same 40 minute trek. The nearest LabCorp takes us 4 to 4 ½ hours in good weather, on a good day. The nearest movie theatre is 24 miles.

It has its perks, too. When we refer to travel, miles and minutes are typically interchangeable. Driving 24 miles will take us 25 minutes. An industrial sized combine or a tractor pulling wagons is more like to delay traffic, than actual traffic. You know your neighbors and your neighbors know you. This, though, can be either a plus or minus, as you can imagine.

I am both cursed and blessed to work in the public school where our nine year old son attends a mainstream 4th grade class with a full-time aide. We are very fortunate with his placement. It works. His teachers, the aides, the staff, his classmates, all know us. We’ve made it a priority to educate them about autism, about our son, about Sam and his differences. I’ve been told by parents on the outside looking in how fortunate the parents of students with autism to follow will be having our tracks laid out before theirs. Autism was relatively unheard of before Sam entered our school. As you can well imagine, that is no longer the case, sad to say.

Although his classmates readily accept Sam, friendships still come hard. Aside from another boy with autism from another rural school, I can count on one hand the number of birthday parties my son has been invited to attend. Four, he has been invited to four “typical” children’s birthday parties. When he does make a friend, the relationship is invariably very one sided and short lived. We work very hard at nurturing the friendship, keeping it alive. We invite the child over and welcome him every opportunity available to us. We have the best birthday parties and outings. We go all out! Sam, on the other hand, has never spent a day or even an afternoon at a friend’s home, nor has he had a day out with another child. He has never been invited to. Fortunately for him, Sam does not take notice. His mother and father on the other hand, very much do. Our hearts ache to find that one true friendship for our son. Even just one….

There is a child in Sam’s class who has been especially kind to him, giving him his used Pokémon cards and books, something Sam cherishes. We asked him on an outing in attempt to thank him. This past Friday, he came home with us from school. The boys played Wii. I love the Wii. It has been the universal language of making friends in nearly all of Sam’s play dates. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing and hearing them play together. They had light saber wars and boss battles. Nothing was forced. It was so nearly “normal”. I was overjoyed for my son.

We went out for pizza and a movie. We saw “Puss in Boots”. The excursion was not without incident. Sam stimmed, paced and self-talked as we waited for our popcorn and beverages. Sam and I had to make a mad dash out of the movie about halfway through to use the bathroom. He still experiences toileting challenges. He also occasionally laughed or talked a little too loudly. During a sad portion of the movie, I could hear my son quietly telling himself, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.” It is a coping mechanism he has taught himself as he has difficulty with self regulation. I was so proud of him. He managed to not cry.

His new friend, Colby, took it all in stride. I would imagine most, if not all, of what he saw Sam do is not uncommon to him, having had Sam in his same class in previous years. He never batted so much as an eyelash.

As I drove in the darkness towards home, Colby and Sam talked. They had actual conversations. Sam shared with his friend rather than just perseverating about his own special interests and topics. The evening was very near perfection and then it happened. In absolute sincerity I heard Colby say to Sam, “I had A LOT of fun today.” To which Sam replied, “Yeah, I should have you over more often.” I turned up the music in the front of the car and told myself, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry………”

Sam Wessels is nine years old. He fights very hard to over come autism and regain that which it has taken from him. He lives in rural NW Iowa with his mom, Lin, and his dad, Mark. Together, they work very hard at changing the world for the better for Sam and all of those like him.

Autism/rural Nevada

We have a son who is 8 yrs old and he was diagnosed as autistic but we have ben unable to get the school help with changing his IEP to autism from Health Impaired even though our son was under autism originally at LCSD. We have went to NevadaPep who sent us to NDALC and then the NDALC has not got enough funds to help. He is currently missing 1/2 day of school because of his over stimulation by being mainstreamed. We have not agreed or signed an iep in a year. The school meets with out us, we have even gone to the governor but nothing seems to work. Mean while our son misses school/education because the school will not modify his IEP even though we paid for 3 outside evals that were done and all independently concluded our son was autistic and changes needed to be made. If any one has any ideas please let me know through blog or our private email