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Posts Tagged ‘special needs awareness’

Another Day, Another Milestone

So I have fallen behind on my posts this week. It’s week 2,374 in MK time (Multiple Kid time) that my husband is working late every night and things have been especially busy with the end of the school year approaching. You know how sometimes when there is just so much to get done and so little time to do it in you just don’t do anything at all? It’s like the deer-in-headlights indecision – “What the hell do I do now? Right, just stand here staring at the headlights blankly!” That’s kind of where I’ve been the last couple of days. That, and making dinners for James’s teachers, baking bread and pastries for the rest of the school staff, and traipsing all over Coney Island with my dad and three kids.

I don’t even have my packing list done for our vacation next week – now you can appreciate just how serious the situation is. But, I did want to take a moment to tell you about my trip to Coney Island because something amazing happened there that deserves recognition. I’ve been too wrapped up in the “now” to reflect on an “achievement of the decade” that James made yesterday.

We arrived at the Brooklyn Cyclones stadium to sing the national anthem with DMF after coming down early to visit the Coney Island boardwalk. “James went on the Wonder Wheel,” I said excitedly to the first DMF member I ran into. “It’s the first time he has ever stepped foot on a ferris wheel, and not for lack of trying.” “That’s great!” said the woman with a friendly smile. I repeated this announcement to no less than five people that evening, and everyone professed congratulations with the same polite enthusiasm. Nobody gasped in shock or exclaimed “that’s amazing!” or even gave James a huge high five.

It was an amazing milestone, achieved after 10 years of begging, bribing, cajoling, explaining, pleading, threatening and even tricking James did not work to get him in line for the ferris wheel. We couldn’t even buy tickets without him totally freaking out in a loud and public way, which drew stares and halted our passage to what I considered the epitome of a family ride. Last year I offered him any Wii game in the entire store if he would stand in line with me for the ferris wheel in the Times Square Toys R Us. He flat out refused. I upped it to any toy in the entire store. Still nothing.

So yesterday my dad bought tickets to the Wonder Wheel. I almost stopped him because I hated to think he was wasting the money. We all walked over to the enormous wheel (my 2 yr old practically floated over) and James said, “Can I play some arcade games after this?” Though I had an anxious pit in my stomach, I forced myself to be casual. “Yeah, I guess this ride is worth 2 arcade games, but only 2 because it is so slow.”

We stepped into a stationary car (versus the swinging option they have on the Wonder Wheel), my dad and James in the front and me and the babies in the back. We stepped into the car! Hooray! James asked, “Is the car going to drop? Is the ride going to go fast? Will the ride be slow? It’s just slow? Is it over? Can I play 2 games after this? Can we be done yet? Are we done after this time around?” and other such variations on a theme. It didn’t matter. He was riding the freaking ferris wheel. Amazing.

Let me clarify – I’m not being critical that nobody else, including James, was as excited as I was about this amazing, huge, terrific success. Seriously. How could anyone possibly feel what I was feeling as I experienced something for the first time that most families completely take for granted? The ferris wheel is not a big deal by any standard. In fact, some people (including my husband) don’t relish handing over $30 to send their family into rotation two puny times. But I do feel that 10 years of effort, tears, frustration, anxiety and full-blown hysteria coming to an end is at least worth a post.

I told James that since he “learned how to ride the ferris wheel” he’d be able to go on it again when we went to the beach and boardwalk for vacation next week. No big deal, right?

A Voice For Neli

**Some of the articles (especially the first link) referred to in this post contain expletives and racial slurs, particularly the N word. Though I am uncomfortable with the language, I feel the issue is important and the articles are necessary to explore the entire story.**

I was working on another post this evening when I stumbled across an article about Reginald Latson, the autistic teen who was arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer. After that it was increasingly hard for me to concentrate on my light-hearted banter while this story gnawed away at me. So now I am off on one of my many tangents, but without the usual witty comments and jokes.

The articles I have been reading send a little thrill of horror through me. I want to stop reading them but, not unlike a car accident, I am sitting here gawking at the wreckage. There are thousands of links if you google ‘Reginald Latson’ or ‘Neli Latson,’ each one more disturbing than the last.

James is rarely, if ever, out of our sight with the exception of school, and even there he has a 1:1 para to help him throughout the day. But I think there will come a day when he is old enough to be out on his own, and it is my worst nightmare for something like this to happen to him.

Obviously I don’t know all of the facts nor do I know Neli Latson, but I do have an especially educated imagination in this case. I can imagine any police officer approaching James without realizing he is disabled. I can also envision a police officer giving James an order or speaking sternly to him and James getting really worked up over it – if they frisked him for a gun he would be terrified. God forbid if they ever, ever tried to put him in cuffs or put him in a police car. I have tried to restrain James in recent months over things like laying still for the dentist, getting blood drawn and having his blood pressure taken, the key word being tried. It is a simple fact that the older and bigger he gets the harder it is getting. James might be weaker than a typical 10 year old on an average day, but he is still big and can be surprisingly strong when he is in a panic.

Below are the links to several other articles I read, including Lisa’s website and petition for her son.

Here is the original article, which is a completely different story than the link above.

This is one of the less colorful post-sentencing articles I read through, though I encourage you to google a few more – the language and tone in each article can be astoundingly different. It looks as though he was kept in isolation for 8 months of the last year awaiting trial, and was sentenced to 10 1/2 years for assaulting a police officer. The sentence was recently reduced to 2 years, which is part of the reason it is back in the headlines.

Click here to go to the petition site that his mother, Lisa Alexander, has created in the hopes of breaking the story to national media. She also created a website with more information, avoiceforneli.com

My heart goes out to Neli’s mother, Lisa Alexander, and her family. I’m trying to empathize with her situation without thinking too deeply about James, because it is just too gut-wrenching of a subject for me to make personal. Do your own reading and come to your own conclusions. I’m not here to act like I know what happened, but I’ll probably be up tonight thinking about it.