The Faces of the Autism Spectrum: Meet Bryce!


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Introducing Bryce!

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Our journey into the world of autism happened a little bit later than most. My name is Rebecca Everett and my husband is Mel. Our oldest son, Bryce was 9 years old and in 3rd grade when his teacher called us in for a conference to share with us that he was having some “social challenges”. Bryce wanted to make friends so badly, the other kids found him obnoxious. After the conference, for the next week or so, ‘Asperger’s Syndrome‘ was EVERYWHERE I turned! In magazine articles, on a new show called “Parenthood”, news programs…. the list went on and on. I knew in my heart that I needed to research Asperger’s for myself. As soon as I started reading, it was incredible how much of it applied to Bryce! The more I read and the more I looked back on his toddler years, the more it made sense to me; the lining up of matchbox cars, making little ‘islands’ of cars in my living room that couldn’t be touched, the literal thinking, the meltdowns, the lack of common sense! The feeling of being a bad mommy was overwhelming! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t realized this sooner. How could his teacher see this, but I couldn’t?
 
Bryce was evaluated over the next few months, and finally we had a diagnosis of Asperger’s and Anxiety Disorder. He is very high functioning, so for me to not have realized his “quirks” were anything more than just quirks was understandable. He was so neat and meticulous when he would play with his matchbox cars, that when his little brother, Aydan came along (they’re 17 months apart) and matchbox cars were flying through the house like they’re supposed to, I wondered what was wrong with Aydan! Ha!
 
After the diagnosis, I was desperate to learn more and to meet other parents that understood what we were going through. I asked our pediatrician, my primary care physician, the psychologist that diagnosed Bryce, anybody I could think of for support group information. There was nothing in our town! So, for a couple months, Bryce and I would drive an hour away to FAU CARD to attend a KIDZ CLUB – Social Skills Group and Parent Networking. It was hard to make any ‘friends’ because there were different kids each time, and I never really connected with any of the parents. Eventually the program ended because of funding cuts.
 
I decided to start my own support group! I came up with a name: Puzzled Families of Indian River and designed a logo. I contacted FAU CARD to let them know what I was doing and they sent out an email to all the Indian River County families they had in their system. That was almost 2 years ago! We meet once a month, sometimes with Guest Speakers on specific topics and sometimes it’s just a social evening to vent, share, and cry. It’s so nice to have a consistent group of parents that “get it!”
Puzzled Families of Indian River
 
Bryce is very smart and gets A’s in school. He is 12 years old now and in 6th grade. He’s very rule-oriented, so if it’s his turn to be the ‘pencil sharpener’, then nobody else is touching the sharpener that week! He enjoys reading, loves LEGOs, and plays Minecraft with his friends online. He loves Disney and all the roller coasters. We don’t participate in team sports because he is always bullied. He plays tennis and golf, both sports he can excel at his own pace. He has a great sense of humor and brings laughter to our family every day.  Every puzzle piece looks and fits different, so if someone doesn’t “look” or “act” the way autism is perceived, it doesn’t mean they don’t face their own challenges every day.
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“Messy girl, messy girl, Kylie’s a messy girl”, was the tune of the song with which her fellow preschoolers taunted Kylie.  It broke my heart when she shared this little piece of her day with me.  Apparently, Kylie is just as messy at school as she proves to be at home – so much that her classmates made up a song for her.  For weeks after that day, Kylie was overly concerned about making a mess of any sort.  She carried a napkin around with her consistently wiping away perceived “messes” on her face.  It was clear to me that her first session of school bullying broke her tiny spirit.

The taunting song eventually stopped, and Kylie’s beautiful, messy, free spirit returned full force.  The entire episode encouraged me to reflect on the labels that are given to our children – most often by US.  I remembered the numerous times that I joked about her messiness, or made silly comments about needing stock in baby wipes and napkins.  I had nicknames for her like my little “dirty bird” or the cutest little “dirtball” ever.  At the time, it never occurred to me how detrimental all of this may have been.  I meant them in the most endearing, lovable way, yet something so simple amplified by classmates truly crushed her fragile self esteem.

I thought about my labels I grew up with too.  Labels don’t have to be negative traits to have a negative effect.  I was always the “smart” one in my family.  I was enrolled in a gifted program throughout elementary and middle school.  I was continually applauded on my academics by family members and even my extended family.  What could possibly be wrong with labeling your child as the “smart” one?  Well, while the smart kid was in gifted programs with only a handful of classmates, my sisters were “normal” and modeling and winning homecoming pageants.  This is all from the eyes of a child of course, but my immature perspective of the above meant that I was not pretty.  I spent most of my highschool and college years rebelling against the label of “smart” in any way I could, so that maybe I would be “pretty” instead.  Sadly, this smart kid never even finished college.  Do you see the effects of labeling now?

Whether we think our children are beauty pageant material, little Einsteins, or holy terrors, we have to pay attention to the words we speak over them.  Their immature understanding twists even the best of intentions and they allow our words {and the words of others} to define them.  I wish I would have been told that I was pretty as often as I was complimented on my I.Q.  I’m sure the same can be said for my sisters – they probably wish they were told how smart they were as often as their looks stole the show.  I think our parents had the best intentions, focusing on our strongest traits and lifting us up with praise and compliments.  I’m just not convinced that anyone realizes the long term effects that coincide with labeling.  I eventually survived my {perceived} “ugly” adolescence just fine though.  I know that I am beautiful AND smart {and I now know my parents thought the same all along}.

I hope that I am able to convey to Kylie how wonderful she is in so many ways.  I want her to feel valued for all that she has to offer instead of perceiving that her strongest trait is her ONLY trait.  I want her to know that she is the most amazing little girl in my eyes, who occasionally makes a  beautiful mess.

Riding the baby train, or not.


This is our first family picture – little Kylie was only 10 days old.  Kyle and I have been discussing the possibility of attempting to expand our family in the near future.  Some days we can see ourselves with a new baby, starting over again and other days we can’t possibly imagine it.  I assume the latter is mostly due to crazy Kylie days {or the stress we see on the faces of other new parents}.  Although it has been nearly four years, I remember those days all to well.  It seems like just yesterday that I was overwhelmed with the cluelessness that accompanies motherhood, the sleeplessness, and the never-ending worry that I wasn’t doing enough {or doing it right}.  I stumbled across a few entertaining blog entries with these thoughts in mind and wanted to share them with all of you:   The Top 10 Most Ridiculous Baby Products Ever, 10 Most Ridiculous Mom Products, and  Top 10 Worst Kids Gifts Ever.   I had a good laugh over these and I hope you do too.  Regardless of our decision to revisit parenthood of a new baby or not, I love that we are able to look back and laugh at ourselves now!

Daddy-Daughter Time


I love being married to a man that is whole heartedly invested in his daughter.  He thoroughly enjoys their time with one another – from making lumpy pancakes together to playing rodeo and letting her ride the “horsie” all around the house.  I watch in admiration as he laughs with her throughout bath time, patiently allowing her to explore her inner artist and cover his head and face with bath paints.  If I had to choose what could possibly be Kylie’s favorite Daddy & Daughter time, my guess would be story time.  Kylie has always been a bit of a bookworm – she can easily get lost in a pile of good reads from her mini library.  Each night before bedtime, she is allowed to pick out three of her favorites for one of us to read to her.  This night she picked  Put It On the List, My Daddy and Me, and Disney Princess Collection (Disney Storybook Collections), some of her most popular choices.  Since Kyle has returned home to us, Kylie wants nothing to do with me during this special time {and I’m not complaining}.   I couldn’t resist capturing them in the recliner together in the midst of their precious Daddy & Daughter time.  I hope that she will always realize how blessed she is to have a father as wonderful as Kyle.

 

 

 

Day 229 – A Picture A Day While My Soldier’s Away


I found this picture in an old wallet of mine, and decided to scan it for my picture of the day.  I’m sorry that it’s a little banged up, but that’s what happens when you carry something around for that long.  This picture was taken in 2002 – shortly before your first deployment to the middle east, and a few months before our wedding.  I often wonder to myself that had I known the road our marriage was about to take, would I still have gone along for the ride?   At the moment this picture was taken, I couldn’t fathom spending over 4 of the next 8 years apart from each other.  I had no idea that you would be on your 3rd deployment right now.  The thought of you having a nearly 4 year old daughter, whom you have only spent 18 months with would have crushed my soul.  We’re here though, and that’s the road we’ve taken.   As I anticipate your homecoming and our reunion, I have to admit that I’m nervous.  We’ve both grown in different ways {and I’ve shrunk!}.  We have to invest in each other all over again – learn to live together and get acquainted with each other’s new habits.  We have to figure out how to parent together again, and get Kylie accustomed to having her Daddy around.  Anyone that’s ever made it through a deployment knows EXACTLY what I’m talking about.   Do I think it will be a failure?  Absolutely not.  I know it will take some time though, and with patience and persistence we will make it just fine.  Although we’ve changed completely since this picture was taken, we’re a lot like it – banged up a little.  That’s what happens when you carry something, like WAR, for as long as we have.

Day 222 – A Picture A Day While My Soldier’s Away


 

I have had a bit of an issue with sweet Pixie the Piranha.  She likes to chew on everything, but her favorite thing to gnaw on is Kylie!  A friend of mine suggested an Army wife dog trainer that comes to your house {hooah!}  What more could I ask for?  I am still in awe of Candice the trainer – she had Pixie doing things I didn’t think were possible!  I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe we would have a recovering chew-a-holic on our hands soon.

Candice suggested that Pixie was possibly a Texas Blue Lacy dog.  I had never heard of the breed so I googled it after she left and was pretty impressed with the resemblance.  What do you think of these images?

Throughout the training, most of the learning was done by me.  I never realized how much of puppy training is actually people training.  Reward positive behavior – often.  Give plenty of attention.  Make them work for what they want, don’t just give it to them.  Don’t yell.  Be patient & persistent – stand your ground always!  Follow through.  Don’t set your expectations too high, you’ll just set them up for failure & frustration for both of you.  Sounds just like parenting, huh?  I know, I know…  sometimes it’s the simple things that stump me the most.

Day 187 – A Picture A Day While My Soldier’s Away


For such a beautiful little girl, she sure has had an ugly attitude lately. She’s sassy and mean – I seriously feel like I have a teenager in the house some days. I’m not sure what brought this on, but I’m praying that it’s just a phase. I can’t wait for you to come home and start some toddler bootcamp in this house lol. After a day full of attitude, I felt as if I were reaching my limit. I was tucking her into bed, anxious to finally have some peace and quiet. She said to me, “Mommy will you be my friend?”. “Yes” I said, kissing her goodnight. “Can I be pretty like you tomorrow?”… and just like that she stole my heart again.

Day 60 – A Picture A Day While My Soldier’s Away


I took Kylie to the “National Night Out” on post tonight. It was intended to focus on crime awareness in a fun way and getting to know your neighborhood. Kylie was fingerprinted, we played a few games, and she loved the bounce house. As soon as the D.A.R.E. lion came around, nothing else mattered. She ran up to him, high-fived him, hugged him, and then proceeded to follow him through the park. As cute as it all sounds, she was oblivious to the amount of people around her and to my whereabouts whatsoever. She has never feared people. She will talk to anyone, and if asked would probably leave with anyone. Most of the time, I love her innocence and belief that all people are good. Considering the nature of the event though, I realized that it was time to harp on the “stranger danger” talks with her. I pray that we as parents are able to help her find that perfect middle ground – cautious & aware, yet… believing

Day 34 – A Picture A Day While My Soldier’s Away


Kylie got a haircut today! She was so excited, she kept saying “I’m a princess!” You would think this was her first haircut, but it wasn’t. I took her to my stylist, and she made Kylie feel so special. She asked what she wanted done to her hair today, to which Kylie squealed “I WANT IT PINK!!!”. I couldn’t stop laughing. All I could picture was the look on your face if our daughter came home with pink hair. I’m still laughing over that actually. You can be deployed three times, carry a weapon, fight in a war, and stand strong every day for us… but let your daughter come home with pink hair and I’m sure you’d faint! Hopefully we won’t have to find that out anytime soon 🙂

Day 27 – A Picture A Day While My Soldier’s Away


Right before we had Kylie, we had a whole room full of baby gadgets to put together. It sounds so sweet – new parents to be assembling gifts of love for their bundle of joy. Things aren’t always as they should be though. I remember only getting halfway through the construction of the baby swing before we were at each other’s throats. I wanted to read the instructions and go step by step, you wanted to just wing it. By the end of the day we had conquered the crib, bassinet, stroller, pack & play… to name a few. We had also established that when trying to tackle a project that required assembly, we were better off working solo. It was a healthy realization – one we can still laugh about. This picture was the start of Kylie’s new bunk beds. The project felt bigger than life, and for once I wish you were with me to take on this one… even if that meant you’d fight with me the whole time and tell me I’m doing it wrong 🙂