A Week In The Life Of A Father

If you read my Welcome page, you know that I used to do an online marketing newsletter. You also know that I have three children: a daughter and two sons. What you may not know unless you are familiar with my old marketing articles is that my older son Ian, who was born in 1995, was diagnosed with severe autism when he was two. A number of years ago I wrote an article called Guerrilla Faith that talks about Ian and what he means to me. I’ll wait while you read it.

Autism, especially in children, includes a variety of disorders, including, in Ian’s case, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and Attention Deficit nDisorder (ADD). That means that Ian can and does obsess on one thing or another but in other areas his attention span is very short, so much so that he seems hyperactive. If you like reading sciencee fiction novels and want some real insight into OCD, I highly recommend the third volume of Orson Scott Card‘s Ender series, Xenocide. In Ender”s universe there is an entire planet of people with OCD.

Very young children with severe autism. like Ian, have difficulty processing language. There have been cases of autistic children overcoming this problem when they pass through puberty. Sometimes Berard Auditory Integration Therapy will help. Unfortunately, AIT is expensive and not covered by some health care programs. We are trying to find some alternate funding for this training for Ian.

Because of the language problems, autistic children do not really go through the same socialization path that normaal children do. That means they exhibit what others would consider bizarre behavior. Autistic children walk differently. They have poor manners. But they are truly a blessing for a parent. I have learned real patience as a father of an autistic. And I have learned the true meaning of unconditional love.

Ian loves to watch movies. Several years ago we bought him a TV with both a DVD and VHS player built in. But, since Ian tends to punch the buttons on his TV too hard, the VCR no longer works. For a long time it appeared that he did not miss the VCR. It seemed he was happy with just the DVD player. Boy, we were wrong on that one!

One of the reasons we bought this house is that it sits a good hundred yards or more from the road and it is all uphill from the house to the road. Ian has not shown in any interest in climbing that hill, either up or down. He has been content to stay on the deck or near the house. But that changed last week for reason or reasons unknown to myself or his mother.

Until last week it was possible to let Ian go outside on his own, and not have to watch him like a hawk. That made it possible for me to write for an hour or two without a break. I only needed to check on him every hour or so. But last week he was outside and between two checks by me, he had wandered off. We found him at the house of our neighbor across the road. That scared us because Ian really has no comprehension of the dangers of crossing a road. Fortunately, the road is not well traveled. However, I did decide to pay closer attention to his activities.

On Tuesday morning, I got up shortly after my other two children left to catch the bus to school around 6:30 AM. My wife was working an early shift at the restaurant and was getting ready to leave. Ian was still asleep, so I got on here and starting working on my Pelagian Christology post. Shortly after his mother left, Ian got up. I wemt to check on him and found him in the dining room fully dressed except for his shoes, which he was in the process of putting on. Now, Ian has only recently learned to dress himself before going out. He used to go outside even in cold weather wearing nothing but his underpants. So I do not want to do anything to discourage this new ability he has learned. However, I did not want him wandering around alone, so I sent him to his room and went back to my bedroom to turn off my computer. I was going to go back into the kitchen and fix the two of us some breakfast. Ian was out of sight for no more than five minutes but by the time I went into his room – the first thing I did after shutting down my computer, he was gone.

The first thing I did was finish dressing and go out to the neighbor’s house looking for him. There was no onne home, the door was locked and no Ian. I checked around the back. No Ian. I then went down the hill from our house into the woods heading for the creek behind our house. Ian had been there a couple of times with his sisten and brother, so that was a definite possible location for where he might be. But I did not find him there, so I called my wife using my cell phone which I had brought with me to let her know and ask her to come home and help me look for Ian. I went home to catch my breath. Climbing that hill left me very much out of breath – the price of my smoking for so long.\

As my wife was coming up the road to the house, she saw the neighbor across the road waving her to pull into his drive. It seems that after Ian could not get in his house he wandered down the road to the next neighbor’s house.

In my conversation with the neighbor across the road on Tuesday, I learned that the reason that Ian likes his house so much is that Rod has a VCR that works and some of Ian’s favorite videotapes. After Ian had broken his VCR, we bought DVD versions of a lot of those movies. He seemed happy so we put the tape collection into storage.

It turns out that Rod has a couple of old VCRs in his garage that he no longer uses and that still work. He generously gave us one – a solid model from twenty years ago that is not as fragile as the new ones are, so it might hold up to his heavy hands. 🙂 He also gave Ian a videotape that Ian had asked him to play – Men In Black. We have the DVD but Ian prefers, it seems, the tape version. I think I know why. When his VCR was working, Ian would put in a tape and fast forward to his favorite spot and play that one part over and over. Doing that with a DVD is difficult.

We set up the VCR Tuesday evening and then drove to our storage locker and brought home Ian’s tape collection. Yesterday we went to the Wal-mart and bought some wireless door alarms which we put on all three doors. They are not so much to let me know that someone is breaking in, but rather to let me know Ian is sneaking out. The front door alarm has gone off twice now while I have been writing, even though I get up every few minutes to see what he is doing. He wants to go outside but it is rather cool and very windy – not good outside weather. We even had a tornado waring early this morning. That storm has moved out of the area, but I still want it to warm up a bit more before I will allow Ian to go outside. You see, his favorite activity, when he’s not sneaking off, is to play with the hose and get all wet. That”s fine when it’s hot but not when it’s only 46 degrees (F). Too cold for water sports! :))

Ian’s brother just got home from school, so he can take over keeping an eye on Ian. I can stop being a jack-in-the-box and finish this post. My daughter Heidi is in Jonesboro with the junior high school choir. They are at another competition. These kids are really good! She won’t be home until late this evening. Neither will my wife. It’s going to be me and the boys tonight. I love a boys’ night at home! Maybe there will be a good movie on TV later. Or we can watch a video. Either way I will definitely make some popcorn! Both of my boys love popcorn.

So, depending on my wife’s work schedule, which changes from week to week except for every Tuesday off, I will have to ignore my writing and focus on paying attention to Ian. It is very hard to do serious writing and research if you are popping up and down like a pogo stick! It may only be on th weekends when it will be possible for me to write something scholarly. I will try to respond to comments during the week, so do not hesitate to post your comments.

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