41 Years Old & Kinda Awesome

Howdy All! I’m Q’s Plus One. With a guest post of sorts to end Autism Awareness Month. This one is about me. It’s about 8 weeks that changed everything…and nothing.

Begin Flashback Sequence

I got good grades until 5th grade, after that it was a struggle. If I was into the subject, I could not get enough. Photography and yearbook were what made me actually enter the building in high school. After three years of procrastination I earned my Eagle Scout in the BSA. Thank the Lord they gave you a 90-day grace period after your 18th birthday or I wouldn’t have earned it. In those three years that I procrastinated, I earned Brotherhood through Order of The Arrow, became a patrol leader, and took trips to canoe base and Philmont.

College? If I didn’t have Q in my life I would never have gotten my degree, I needed some gentle insistence to motivate me. At the time though, it was a win/lose for her since it drove her nuts that I had to have the TV on to be able to study. It was especially true since she was often trying to study at the same time. It’s even worse if she has to proofread something handwritten. I shoulda been a doctor.

The Most Interesting Man in the World

My boss calls me “The Most Interesting Man in the World” due to my pre-marriage penchant for changing careers and hobbies like toilet paper. Many of those jobs aren’t your usual ones, at least eight of the jobs featured on the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs are something I have done. I think Mike Rowe, the host of the show, may be the only guy that can top it.

I was a volunteer firefighter for almost 10 years, and was even the Fire Marshall for a couple years. That eventually turned into becoming a 911 dispatcher for the local police and fire departments. I even earned a chiefs commendation for my work. I was a dispatch trainer and a critical incident dispatcher for the county emergency management team. Remember the Hayman fire? Yeah, I worked that.

My other jobs include construction, wrangler, truck driver, Manny, street maintenance, EMT, farrier, sewer maintenance technician (which is as glamorous as it sounds), retail, food service/bartender, systems admin, and now SEO.  No, Q doesn’t understand what I do now, either.  Don’t worry.

In all of that I somehow managed to meet the love of my life and the person who makes me better in every way. I’m not sure what she was taking, but she agreed to become my wife. We have three kids and a nice house on a couple acres. I even manage to make enough at work to allow her to be a stay at home mom.

Why the Resume?

Well I’m getting to it. If you are getting bored grab a cuppa Tea – Earl Grey – hot, take a walk, and come back. I’ll wait…


…that’s enough. We don’t have all day.

OH…look a bunny.

(Q’s note – he does this in real life.  It isn’t just a saying.  He’s been interrupted by a bunny, hopped around, and then asked what he was talking about more than once.  Its reasons like those that I married him.)

Sometime around 2012 I was diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive). That was fun. I got to try out many of the drugs that are used to treat it. Man did I try a lot. I hate most of the stimulants, they make me feel jittery, while still standing still. The non-stimulants make me moody or make me want to vomit. It’s an on-going process.  We will figure the meds out at some point.

The Square Pegs in the Round Holes

Growing up I was always the weird kid. In any group I stood out as being a little different. I never had a ton of close friends, those who I can call on if the excrement hits the rotating ventilator blades. The ones I do/did have I would walk through fire to help.

I have a “Pogo Stick” of thought according to my friends and Q. I will be listening to a conversation but be thinking about something else. That pogo stick often has me saying things that were odd and out of place, sometimes even doing something that was unexpected.

I also seem to drone on and on, often ignoring when someone wants to move on…and I interrupt people when they are talking. I even have a slight stutter, so it takes me a minute to get a thought out and I change subjects like Cher changes outfits. Boy do I like to talk about me, but I swear I want to know about you (see what I mean about topics?). The only thing I like to talk about more is the random facts that I have memorized, which led my friends to start calling me Cliff Claven.

Of course, that weirdness causes many to avoid me or exclude me. I can’t count the number of times that I have seen people prevent me from joining their group. It’s often. The number of times that I know about people deliberately excluding me from something would astound you. It’s kind of routine for me, dang near daily. Never really told anyone about it.  Until recently I thought it was something everyone experienced just as often as I do.

Why Are We Yelling…or Whispering
I didn’t really want to spend time with many people anyway. Big crowds and loud parties were just uncomfortable for me. Going to a party at someone’s house felt like being in the world’s largest interview while thousands of spiders crawl on you. I usually followed one person all over the party, which frequently ended with them avoiding me. My other option was to find a corner to stand in, preferably one where I could have a wall on at least three sides. If the corner was somewhere very quiet and had a dog nearby I was good, venturing out only for sustenance and bodily functions.

The Social Butterfly?

I avoid social functions at work. I wear ear buds anytime I go to a store without kids, sometimes with nothing playing in them. My coworkers are nice enough (mostly), but they often look at me like I have two heads when I say things. They know I am good at my job, but I’m that quiet guy who doesn’t talk much except about my family, Star Wars, comic books, video games, or anything Disney.

Thankfully I have Q. She is my rock, my world, and my best friend. Without her, I wouldn’t have the friends I do or the amazing family I love. I do a lot to annoy her too, though. I can tune her, and everyone, out by simply playing Angry Birds on my phone or sewing a patch on a scout shirt. When she asks me to do something, there is a good chance I will forget. The only thing I never forget is our kids.

God help us if our routine must change, I get rushed, or we have an argument. I turn into a flustered goob. Not kidding actually. I turn into a cartoon character whose body goes one way and head the other. God help us if we are under a deadline too. Brain falls on the floor and I kick it every time I try to pick it up.

Seriously What’s the Deal with All the Background?
Okay. Now I am getting to the reason for all of this.

Our middle child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder a few months ago. We were shocked at first, it was surreal. Then I do what I always do when something like this happens. I researched and became engrossed in what is ASD. I learned the symptoms, particularly those associated with Asperger’s, now known as high functioning autism. Some (not all) of those symptoms are:

  • Disliking changes in routine
  • Having a heightened sensitivity to sensations
  • Poor handwriting
  • Being preoccupied with a narrow range of subjects (that can change over time)
  • One sided conversation where internal thoughts are verbalized
  • Long winded conversations
  • Inability to pick up on social queues
  • Diagnosed with ADHD
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Problems socializing with peers
  • Stuttering

Sound like someone you have met recently?

Eight weeks ago, I found out I am a genius in non-verbal problem solving and almost a genius in verbal communication and working memory.

Eight weeks ago, I found out I am a member of a group that likely includes Einstein, Newton, Tesla, Mozart, Darwin, Jefferson, Michelangelo, Warholl, Dickinson, Disney, Gates & Jobs.

Eight weeks ago I learned something that explained everything.

Eight weeks ago, nothing changed.

Eight weeks ago, I was diagnosed as a high functioning autistic (Asperger’s).

I’m 41.

Autism isn’t bad.  Autism doesn’t mean failure.  Autism doesn’t mean lack of success.  Autism doesn’t mean a sheltered life with no hope.  I had no interventions, no therapies, no help. My father worked with special needs kids and didn’t see anything, probably because I covered with my other strengths and he worked with much more severely impaired kids. I have no doubt he would have gotten me help if the spectrum was as well understood then as it is now.  I had a mother who ignored anything wrong, unless it would benefit her in some way.

I’ve done a lot more than many people.  My wife still loves me for me, and admits she would still say yes (I really need to find out what she is on).  The label didn’t change who I am.  It just explained some of who I am and why.  I’ve bonded with my middle son in a way no one else in our family can.  I have an awesome family. I have a great job. I am leading an amazingly full life.

Kind of AUsome, isn’t it?

Well I’m Aware Of Autism…Now What? – AAM Day 29

Well, I learned some stuff.  Now what?

Teach others.  Time, patience, awareness, and acceptance.  Spread what you’ve learned to replace the misconceptions.

Teach your kids.  Teach them how to identify bullying of all kids.  Teach them how to stand up for what’s right, not what’s popular.

If you feel inclined, research and donate to autistic non-profit organizations that can help.

Be there for your friends who are raising special needs kids.  They don’t need it fixed, they just want an ear and support.  They don’t want judgment.  They just want you.

Embrace some of the slogans and quotes that are easy to remember:

Different, not less.

Until all the pieces fit.

Why fit in when you were born to stand out?


If you’re inviting a child to a birthday party that you know has autism, reach out to the parents.  Find out what can help that child come to the party and be included.  This could be as easy as “Can he come 15 minutes before the start time so the party comes to him instead of vice-versa?”.  It could be you setting up a sensory friendly room where he can adjust.  This doesn’t need to be major, either.  Just a room that’s separate with dimmed lights might be sufficient.  Just don’t exclude the child because it might be harder for him to come.

Put yourselves in their shoes.  What would YOU want if this was your child?  Can you do that for them?

Isn’t Autism Just Another Word For Retarded? – AAM Day 28th

I’ve been around a kid with autism.  They seem to be retarded.  They ignored me completely.

One, DON’T use that word to describe ANYONE.  It’s old, antiquated, and outdated.  This goes for autism, down syndrome, brain injuries, etc.

Two, they aren’t ignoring you.  Individuals with autism can seem to live in their own world.  It’s safe there.  All in or all out, remember?  To make progress, you need to enter their world instead of expecting someone to come into your world.  I can hear some of you now – but they will need to survive in the real world!  Stop holding special snowflakes hands!  Think about wheelchair ramps.  Does it really take away from you to have ramps so that all individuals have access to businesses?  No, right?  So, why is it different to assist someone with autism in becoming comfortable so that they CAN be in “your world”? Time, patience, awareness, and acceptance.

How Many People With Autism Are Non-Verbal – AAM Day 27

How many people are considered to be non-verbal with autism?

About one-third are non-verbal or minimally-verbal.  Many of those, however, learn to communicate in other ways.  Visual supports like pictures, sign language, typing, pointing on a computer are all ways they communicate.  Like I’ve said, they are not dumb or stupid.  They are aware of what you are saying to and about them.  Choose your words carefully.

Why Do Autistic Kids Avoid College? – AAM Day 26

So, a lot of kids with autism don’t go forward with post-secondary education.  Other than the deficits with autism, is there a reason why?

Simply put, lack of scholarships and support at the post-secondary level.  Many scholarships for people with disabilities are for people with physical disabilities.  There are programs that are starting to gain momentum in getting scholarships available for those without physical disabilities.  Also, colleges are starting to have mentor-type programs to help with the transition for kids who go away to college.

Why Should You Care About Autism? – AAM Day 25

I only have neurotypical children.  Why should I care about autism?

Because they will come in contact with an autistic child.  I can guarantee that.  More than half of all children with autism are bullied in their lives.  They are also bullied at a rate of twice as often as their neurotypical peers.  But, more than half of the bullying the does occur is stopped when a peer does intervene to show autism awareness and autism acceptance.  Remember the statistic about suicidal thoughts?  Think about that in terms of bullying and it becomes quite scary.

Teach your children about autism so that they understand and accept it.  Together, everyone can lessen the bullying that does occur.  Together, everyone can help bring awareness and acceptance.

(Plus One Note – Your kids will grow up, and they will work with autistic adults. Teach them young.)

Non ASD Kids May Worry About Favoritism – AAM Day 24

How do you answer the questions about favoritism between non-autistic kids and autistic kids?

Bubba feels jealous sometimes of Smash-N-Break.  For example, since our local school district cannot see the difference between a hat and an asshole, they currently have their heads shoved up an asshole and are preventing Smash-N-Break from access to a free and appropriate public education.  So, until such a time as we can help him, I will homeschool him when he isn’t in ABA therapy.  Bubba sees that I will have two days a week of Smash-N-Break and Mommy time.

I’ve been honest.  Bubba likes school.  School gives him opportunities that Smash-N-Break won’t have.  Field trips with friends, music programs in front of the parents, book fairs, holiday shops – all of that Smash-N-Break won’t have access to.  Team sports?  Smash-N-Break doesn’t have the same access.  Between therapy schedules and the fact that he will be homeschooled, it’s physically impossible for us.  The homeschool teams are all older and an hour drive away.  Plus, whereas Bubba gets Mom, Smash-N-Break will have Mom, Teacher Mom, Therapy Mom, and Who-Knows-What-Else Mom.  He won’t be home playing.  He will be working.  We will have two days a week to fit in what Bubba did in five.  I’ve told Bubba he isn’t wrong to feel that way, but that I don’t favor Smash-N-Break.  Right now, Smash-N-Break has needed more of me than Bubba.  That will change as everyone grows up.  Fair doesn’t mean equal.  Open and honest communication is needed.

You Have An ASD Diagnosis..Now What? – AAM Day 23

We have a diagnosis.  Now what?

Feel your feelings.  Grieve the loss of the neurotypical child you had thought you had.  It’s normal.  Find support groups.  Build a team that will communicate.  Be the best advocate for your child.  Be ready to fight for every inch of support he is supposed to have (like an IEP).  Start researching.  Be supportive.  Be understanding.  Realize you probably know someone going through the same thing, even if you don’t think you do.

There is no right or wrong way to start the process of getting services.  Sometimes, going through your school district is best.  Sometimes, doing it privately while you fight for what your child needs is necessary.  The first thing is to call your insurance and see what is covered, what isn’t covered, costs, co-pays, deductibles.  Talk to your pediatrician and the people who diagnosed as to what they recommend.  Start researching options.  Look into grants if funds are an issue.  Look into programs that could help.  Look into products that may help (like we did with the AngelSense).

See if you can find a convention or group to start to learn who the different providers are in your area.  Schedule appointments to meet and see if you think they’ll be a good fit.  Build a support network.  This doesn’t need to be major.  Our families are 1,000 miles away.  So, we make friends.  We have monthly get-togethers with neighbors to play games.  We have a babysitter or two for the occasional times we can leave the kids.

Who To Call For An ASD Evaluation – AAM Day 22

Who do I call for an evaluation?

Start with your pediatrician.  Some will refer you to the Children’s Hospital in your area.  Some will refer you to a developmental pediatrician.  Some will refer you to a psychiatrist or neuropsychologist.  Some will say to just go to your school district.  I will say this – an educational assessment indicating autism will not be enough to cover your child medically.  Once they age out of services that the school system can and will provide, you will still need a medical diagnosis to get therapies.  I will also say that we are currently struggling with our school district.  They are claiming that he has a medical diagnosis, but it isn’t sufficient for an educational diagnosis.  I don’t understand this, because his issues don’t disappear just because he is at school.  Liken it to a broken leg – you don’t have a broken leg just at home, but school magically makes it better.

For us, Smash-N-Break went through the ADOS-II testing, among other things.  The ADOS is the standard used for diagnostic purposes [https://research.agre.org/program/aboutados.cfm].  There is no blood test or medical test currently to diagnose.  There is research in this area that is promising, but it isn’t finished or formalized yet.  He had a full and complete psychological evaluation, that included an intelligence portion.