Reaching New Heights

One incredible change that occurred in my son Moose during the past year is his ability to sit through an entire movie. At the movie theatre. Without special accommodations in lighting and volume.  In his seat, the entire time without tantrums or sensory overload.  Moose sits entranced, soaking in what is a rite of passage of childhood: matinees with our family. Whenever school break hits, Moose asks for “movies”. Later this summer, the movie Planes hits theatres.  We saw the trailer for Planes a few months back.  Whenever there’s an underdog in the lead, I’m moved to tears. Moose, like the main character, Dusty, has his odds stacked against him.  Without the ability to really communicate with those around him, Moose can seem less capable than other kids.  Sure, Moose is making requests, but he still isn’t conversational.

People often assume Moose doesn’t understand those around him because he is quiet and withdrawn. Dusty, a single-propeller plane among the big shots, is underestimated as well. It’s really hard sometimes, when those “big shots” pass us on the street: those neurotypical five year old boys who zip along on their bikes pretending to be superheroes. I watch those big shots’ parents oblivious to the ease at which their sons can talk and ride a bike. I realize how different our parenting styles are. Autism doesn’t leave a lot of room for maybes and gray areas.  Consistency and routine are something I’m complemented on often by Moose’s therapy team.  My kids have a ton of love, but also a great deal of expectation and structure.

If Moose’s story tells us anything, it’s not to underestimate the underdog.  That hard work truly pays off.

revised autism bucket list momnivore's dilemma for moose 2012-003 If a year can bring so much checked off our bucket list, by this time next year, I’m going to dream big for him.  But, just as Dusty in Planes has a village of experts preparing him for the big race, we here on Team Moose are preparing Moose for life.  It’s a village indeed between all his teachers, therapists, and ABA team, the amount of people caring for Moose’s progress is grand.

As his mother, I’m the mastermind behind every decision.  School. Therapy. Diet. Doctors.  The stress of being in charge of something so complicated is staggering at times.  My husband is supportive, but given my background in education, he trusts my judgment the most. Before I had kids, I taught for seven years in Chicago.  A few years I taught in a very tough gang-ridden neighborhood.  I thought I had it rough then, it was a training ground for what was to come as a special needs parent.  Just like the character Skipper in Planes, I considered myself an ace in my field.  I understood children on a different level than most first-time parents, given the wide range of grade levels I taught and the fact I had my masters in elementary education by age 24.  Plus, I spent a few years teaching junior high, so if anything; the teenage years don’t scare me now. Moose’s case of autism threw everything I knew into question.

All of the teaching methodologies I learned do not work with him.  For years, we had to use a picture card system to communicate.  I had to rethink everything I was taught and follow Moose’s lead.

In fact, he has been my best teacher yet, at a mere 5 years old. Like the character Skipper who left his dream career due to issues in combat, I had to leave teaching for health reasons just before I had Moose.  Facing those personal hardships early on, before I had children, really prepared me for the challenges of special needs parenting.   Leaving a career that I adored still bothers me, but without regaining my health and especially without all the lessons I’ve learned from being an autism mom, I would not be thriving as I am today.

Now armed with good health and a boatload of knowledge, I’m confident that this little underdog of mine will reach new heights.


How do you encourage your children to try new things and follow their dreams?

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  1. Raising 3 girls, I am trying to make sure they are surrounded by positive role models! More doc mcstuffins and less princesses! I want them to be surrounded by independent, empowering women to look up to! And we encourage them to follow their dreams…like playing basketball on the boys team because they don’t offer it for girls yet!!!!!

  2. Raising a 4 month plus old boy I try and expose him to as many new things as possible without ever pressuring him to do anything. I believe everyone will know once they find it what they are intersted and what they want to go after no matter how old they are. That is the only way that we discover who we are and go after our dreams!

  3. Moose is anything but an underdog…he’s got a bulldog for a mother! Moose is the inspiration that so very much is possible. We all don’t have villages to support us, but we have loved ones that have so much hope, inspiration, and dreams for us that we believe we have an entire village behind us. Go Team Moose!

  4. Loved this story. Any Dusty, Little Engine that Could, Tortoise and the Hare, Joey, ect stories are always inspiring! I have faith he will come out of the race on top!

  5. My husband and I made the decision to pull our daughter from public school this year because it wasn’t a right fit for her. It held her back from learning the way she needed to learn. We do our best to keep from boring routine and try to go everywhere and see everything we can. Whenever we see an interest sparked in something, we roll with it until she moves on to something else.

  6. I expose my two children to as many new adventures as possible, nature, games, places, museums, people. The more excited I am about what we are doing the more they eat it up!

  7. great story….can not wait to see the new Disney movie planes…..never underestimate the underdog they usually are the ones who make it to the top

  8. Yay for Mooseksteer!!! So exciting to see how far he’s come! I try to get the bites to be extremely appreciative of everyone’s differences. I want them to know that differences make the world interesting…. Better 🙂

  9. I have a 7 year old little girl with Autism- we try our hardest to build her self esteem as high as possible so she has no fears of falling or being embarrassed or not making it- to get to her dreams. Its so hard with kids being as mean as they can be but we do our best. BE YOU and LOVE YOU and don’t worry about what others think- we have a motto “Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter”.

  10. The word “can’t” is not allowed in our house. It may be hard work but they CAN do anything they set their mind to!

  11. That bucket list is awesome and the fact the Moose has pushed through all those goals shows what a strong little man he is . You have done an absolutely amazing job fighting and advocating for your son. He sees how strong mommy is and pushes just as hard has she does and he prevails! The fact that the movie has an “under dog” who comes out on top is a great message. I will have to watch it with my boys. Mine have many sensory issues so I can somewhat relate to you and your blogs at times. There are hard times but if you if keep positive and strive for a better outcome anything is “possible.” Thanks for sharing.

  12. i think the key is to have them try many things, whether it’s in the arts, sports, or intellectual pursuits, and see what they spark to or are good at–even if it’s not necessarily what you desire. it’s best that they find something that they’re passionate about, not what they feel pushed into doing!

    kolpin4680 at gmail dot com

  13. I encourage my kids by always reminding them that they CAN so anything their heart desires. We don’t know what the world can’t means in our home. 🙂

  14. I challenge my children to follow their dreams by giving positive reinforcement, motivating them often, and enrolling them in classes or teams that help make those dreams become more a reality. Thanks.

  15. I have two nieces and I don’t try to encourage them the way a parent would. However, I do try to inspire them and open them up to new interests by taking them on day trips to local museums, concerts, and storytelling events at the library. We participate in arts and crafts classes once a month and bake together. I spend every Saturday morning and afternoon with them while my brother and his wife work so we try to make it a fun experience and I always applaud their efforts! Hopefully they feel comfortable enough to get excited over trying new things at other times! 🙂

  16. My son has ADHD and I encourage him to cultivate his guitar hobby. It has really helped to calm him down and give him something to focus on.

  17. I just try to encourage them to do things and stretch their boundaries. I tell them if they want something bad eough, they have to work for it.
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

  18. My children are adults now but I always tried to find ways to let them achieve small steps on the way to a big goal.

  19. I always tell them to believe in themselves and that you wont know if you like something or not unless you try it!

  20. We encourage our boys to try whatever they think they would like to do. Sometimes they realize it’s not for them. As in the case with karate. But sometimes it’s something that becomes a passion, like baseball. As long as they find something they really care about it and give it their all, we are happy.

  21. I encourage him to try new things by exposing him to many new things – granted he’s only 8 months, but new book, new toys, new textures, rain on his skin, puddles after the warm summer storms, sandy beaches etc

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