Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Winning the Battle Without a Fight. For Now.

I walked into the office just before 9 a.m. A classroom of first graders was huddled with the principal, helping to say the Pledge of Allegiance over the loudspeaker for morning announcements. They did their thing and headed out with a minimal amount of giggling and a pretty huge measure of self-control.

Then I was ushered back into the principal's office for The Meeting.

Yeah, this was the meeting we'd been wondering about and waiting for. The one to plan next year. The one where we wondered: would the fight to keep Ethan in special ed. be lost? Dan was going to come as well but we figured Chloe would be a distraction in that cramped little room. So there I sat, feeling woefully unprepared.

Here's the thing about these IEP meetings, or as we call them around these parts, the PPT (Planning and Placement Team meeting). Apparently in a perfect world, I would show up at the meeting and nothing would be finalized yet. The meeting would actually be to decide Ethan's course of action of next year. We as parents would be given ample time to speak, upfront, before things really got rolling. We'd collaborate on a plan and in a few days I'd receive his brand spanking new IEP reflecting our mutual decisions.

Instead, I've learned these 3-plus years, we walk into the room and the principal immediately commandeers the meeting. She says a polite hello to the parents but unless we were to interrupt gives us no outlet to speak, jumping quickly to each "professional" in the room to ask for feedback. Very quickly it becomes obvious that everyone in the room already has pretty much decided what Ethan should be doing/which services he should be receiving, and it's usually apparent that lots of discussion has been going on behind the scenes well before we sit down at the table.

This is why I was especially nervous about the meeting, at least up until a few weeks ago. The theme at our last one, when we decided to do several evaluations on Ethan to paint an accurate picture of where he's at right now, was that we needed to start justifying why Ethan was in special ed. There was a polite demand from the principal to prove if Ethan needed specialized support, and the sense I got from his teachers is that well, maybe he didn't.

I spent an hour on the phone with someone from the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center last month talking about this. I was tired of hearing from all directions: the school saying he was fine and should go on a 504 plan; other special needs parents telling me not to dare give up an IEP; even my mom cautioning me that Ethan not take services away from other kids who may truly need them. Do this...no, do that...I felt stuck in the middle of a tug-of-war.

Talking with this wonderful parent advocate at CPAC, I got some clarity. I wanted to know, after describing Ethan's skills, where we stood. What kind of case did we have? She pretty much spelled out for me that we may very well have difficulty justifying Ethan's need for special ed., and that the best route would probably not be to argue that he needs to stay in the special ed. system because of what he may need in the future, but to try to find weak spots right now that could be measurable -- such as lags in abstract/critical thinking pertaining to reading comprehension, for example.

I was all ready to try to build a case and even emailed Ethan's teacher about this, but to be honest, life got in the way. I'll be blunt: I'm not Super Special Needs Mom. When it comes to these types of things, I'm perhaps not as assertive as I should be, and...I have a three-month-old, a business to help with, freelance writing projects, a 9-year-old who wants to be 20...sometimes I just don't have the energy for a fight.

Which is why I was so amazed that I didn't need to, this time.

I should have had an inkling when the speech therapist saw me after school for a moment last week. She'd heard about my email to Ethan's teacher; about my concerns. "You don't need to worry about the meeting," she said to me pointedly. "We've got it covered."

I walked into the room and waited for the principal to start in with her spiel about Ethan not really needing services. Instead she let the speech therapist speak first. I then sat there trying not to smile as his therapist played all sorts of subtle games to paint Ethan in a "needier" light. She downplayed how he did on his evaluations (most of which seemed to be in the "average" range), emphasizing some articulation issues (Seriously? We've never talked articulation. Not once). With one test she appeared to try to be hiding the score...the principal insisted on seeing a result and she kept talking about how with that test they usually just pull out certain elements rather than looking at the total. Anyone with any sense would be able to tell this was a snow job.

The fun continued throughout the meeting. Honestly, if I hadn't been aware of what they were doing it would have been hard to listen to them try to make Ethan look bad. The one thing we all agreed on was that it'd be okay for Ethan to be dismissed from OT. So in that area, they let the occupational therapist gush on Ethan's improvement over the past few years.

Other than that, the speech therapist and special ed. teacher continued with a steady stream of references to Ethan's difficulties that I knew were part of their valiant fight to try to illuminate the issues kids on the spectrum have for a principal who still doesn't always get it.

In the end, we walked out of there with just what I hoped for. For now, he still has an IEP. Next year he'll be done with OT, get a half-hour of speech and attend a social skills group two days a week. Anything else, we'll play by ear.

Obviously, it'd be nice to talk to Ethan's teachers. I need to know: what made them change their minds? Did they realize we were rushing things? Was there indeed something about his testing results that made them think, hmmm, even though he's scoring at age level mostly, this really isn't the best idea?

I have no illusions. Things will not always be this easy. I'm not quite sure what happened this time, and maybe I'll never get to the bottom of the story. But for right now, we'll take it. Life has been swirling by these past few months. Sometimes it's felt hard to come up for air. But at the PPT, we got a breather, just when we needed it. For that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, April 25, 2014

God in Unlikely Places

I don't know why it is. I don't know why sometimes it is hard to find God in the places you think He'd be.

I've been thinking lately, as I've witnessed a situation with people close to my heart. It's not something I can really write about here, but I'll say there has been lots to ponder...as it relates to unspeakable pain; forgiveness; belief; and love.

I've been thinking about what it means to be a Christian. I've been thinking about fishes on cars, church services and Sunday school lessons and communion juice in little cups.

I've been thinking about that verse in the Bible that talks about people in the last days "having a form of godliness but denying its power" and James asking "What good is your faith?" and wondering, am I one of those people?

I've been wondering how in the world to love God and holiness without being a legalist, a Pharisee. I've been wondering how to be in the world but not of it.

People like to ask "Where is God?" when bad things happen. And people like to joke, on bumper stickers and the like, "God, save me from your followers." There are times I can't blame them. And there are times my heart wants to break because sometimes Christians are just people trying too hard; and that's when so many things can go awry.

I read an article recently in Charisma magazine about atheists and what drove them to believe as they do. Most, sadly, had once been Christians. And those atheists who ended up turning to Christianity? Every one of them had had an experience; an encounter; something that had happened that left them transformed and unable to deny the reality of God.

That's what I want. Not to play church. Not routine and regulation. Reality.

I started thinking about where I've seen God; known God; felt God; heard God.

I've seen Him in the perfect fingers of my newborn; shooting stars over Flying Pond in Maine; the intricate, delicate endless petals of spring flowers -- sure signs that this world cannot be here by chance, without the touch of a Creator.

I've heard Him (or I should say, He heard me) that day in the car, tears streaming down my face, after another incident with my brother gone terribly awry, where I begged with every ounce of my being that if God was listening, that He would do something in that very moment to show we weren't so alone. That next second my mom pulled over and stopped the car. She turned to me with renewed strength and said that we couldn't give up.

I've seen Him in the note from a friend when Ethan was first born, where she shared Isaiah 43 (Do not fear, for I have redeemed you...when you pass through the waters, they will not sweep over you, when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned): a verse she'd had no way of knowing I'd read again and again and again after Ethan was diagnosed.

I've known Him when hands were laid on my head by a complete stranger who prayed things about me no one could have possibly known.

I've seen and heard Him on signs in front of churches and in songs on the radio, those sweet, simple messages right when I needed them.

I've felt Him in all kinds of places...that night at my friend's house when we sat outside staring at the sky and talking about the end of the world...the day after 9/11, working at the hospital, when hundreds of people, even sick patients, lined the halls wanting to donate blood...in the sound of my grandmother's voice, singing "Jesus Loves Me" and "Jesus Loves the Little Children" as she tucked us into bed at night.

I see Him when I see people who have been horribly wronged let go of all bitterness and hatred and do the impossible -- forgive and love the person who committed the evil with a love that cannot be their own.

That, I want. I want a faith that does the impossible. A faith that spurs me to be less of me and more of Him. I want to live with an unoffended heart. I want God to dwell in the most unlikely of places: in me, the doubter, simultaneously full of pride and self-distain, fear and faith, trust and despair.

I don't want to have all the answers. I want to point people solidly away from me and to the answer, all the while still struggling to believe, then struggling to believe God can use the ones who waver.

This is my hope. This is my prayer.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Age Question

If you get around Ethan these days and he hasn't seen you for a while, be prepared: you're going to have to tell him how old you are.

This is his new thing. It amazes me the way, no matter where on the autism spectrum you reside, every person seems to have these...compulsions. Some would call them obsessions. Most of the time I've observed (not just with Ethan but others as well) they involve finding a bit of information about everyone they know that they can categorize and tabulate in their mind. My sister-in-law's brother, for example, (who I'd say is more profoundly affected by his autism) had a thing for the longest time where he needed to ask everyone what kind of car they drove. Then it was people's homes: every time he saw you, he wanted to know how many rooms in the house; how many bedrooms, how many baths.

So we have Ethan and people's ages. This actually is his first social obsession, meaning he's moved from identifying all of the bells on churches or No Outlet signs to wanting information about people -- and being bold enough to straight out ask them.

It started with family; relatives. No big deal. Then he moved on to school. He started memorizing everyone's birthday and wanted me to write his classmates' birthdays in on the calendar. Since they're all turning six, though, that got boring, because of course Ethan wants to know who is oldest (it gives him great pleasure that he's the oldest in his class, let me tell you). For awhile he was of course tabulating by months who was older than who (whom?) in his class, but then he wanted to move on to years.

First he told me the classroom paraprofessional was 53 (or was it 54?). And the speech therapist is 57. He kept telling me he wanted to "know who the oldest person in the school is."

Then he apparently asked his teacher. "I'm sorry," he sadly informed me the next day, "but Mrs. Butterick is two years older than you."

Secretly, I was pleased at this news. I tried to explain that the older you get, in most cases the less happy you are about being old, but that went completely over his head. I'm not surprised. I'm still trying to convince Anna of this, the girl who has been telling everyone she's 10 months in advance of her birthday because she so desperately wants to get to double-digits.

Then he moved on to the neighbors. Ethan came in the other day, excited after getting to play catch with the boys next door and their dad. Well, turns out he was excited about playing catch -- but also that he went mining for more nuggets of information.

"Alec's dad is 55!" Really? I thought before stopping myself.

"Ethan, you know it's not really good manners to just ask people as soon as you see them how old they are." Again, he ignored me. I'm sure to him this makes no sense. Every six-year-old he knows is perfectly happy to share their age.

The worst incident so far was after school, when he was supposed to be playing on the playground with his friend. Ethan ran down the hill to the baseball field below, where I saw him sit for at least 15 minutes, cross-legged on the grass, and watch a man hit long fly balls to a teenager.

"Wow, they were really good," I commented when he came back up the hill.

"Yeah," Ethan answered. "And the man is 53. The boy is 13."

"Oh Ethe." This was not good. He'd never seen these people before. "You didn't know those people. They were strangers."

"Yeah, but you could see where I was." He had a point there. Still, I thought of all of the conversations we'd had about not talking to people he didn't know. And asking them their age, to boot. It was as if everything we'd ever discussed about stranger danger had been tossed into the trash. His obsession trumps all.

"Ethan, from now on we can only ask people in our family how old they are, okay?" I felt kind of bad doing this. I wondered where the line was between letting him be an innocent kid and teaching him skills he'll need for later on. I thought about Dr. Milanese and her comment that some of the things Ethan does would be cute if a four-year-old did them. At six, they are started to border on being awkward. But just starting. He's still so young.

"Okay," he replied, but I'm not banking on it. This age obsession's going to be around for awhile. Right now, he needs to know. He needs to place people in categories and secure his world, a world where Mrs. Butterick is older than mom but younger than Mrs. Daves and the neighbor's dad is younger than his grandparents but older than his parents.

And another thing: maybe he's onto something, the way he marvels, the older a person turns out to be. Maybe we all should be doing that instead of wishing we were 20 again. Enough of the jokes about turning 40 and nervous laughter and mumbling if someone asks my age. What's there to be ashamed of? If Ethan ever meets a 100-year-old, he'll be in awe. As we all should be.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Grace for the Goody Two Shoes

For those who don't follow the Christian faith: I'm going to the Bible today. I've found over time this blog has morphed from autism observations to my own personal and spiritual musings. Thanks for bearing with me...or for moving along, whichever you end up doing.

I was reading the story of the rich young man. If you know the Bible, you've heard it. He's the guy who goes to Jesus and asks Him what he needs to do to get into the kingdom of heaven. He gives a run-down of all of the things he faithfully does (i.e. follows the commandments). Then Jesus gets him right where it hurts and tells him there's that one last thing he needs to do -- sell everything he has and give it to the poor.

What normally sticks in most people's minds when hearing the story is the way the man walks away sadly, and Jesus comments about how hard it is for a rich man to get into heaven. We tell this story to illustrate the way God knows our heart and motivations. Money isn't inherently evil, but wealth can easily serve as a crutch, as a sort of false security that eliminates our need to fully trust and give our lives over to God.

These things are all true, but the other day when reading one line jumped out at me. Here is the beginning of the story, from the NIV version in Mark 10:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good -- except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do no commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Jesus looked at him and loved him.


Somehow, I'd always seemed to jump over that part and gone straight to the shame. It's so easy to read this and shake your head. Poor, misguided man. Tsk, tsk. Except -- I've never really felt that way about the guy. Instead, in some ways I've felt almost as if we're kindred spirits.

In the Bible, there are lots of examples of people with obvious big flaws who make big mistakes; those with good hearts who go wrong with their choices and their behavior. And then there are fewer stories about people who do all the right things outwardly but struggle with issues in their hearts. They are usually not portrayed positively (the older brother in the prodigal son parable, and all of the Pharisees, immediately come to mind).

This scares me, because I have to admit I fit squarely into that latter category. I am the good girl who (almost) always did the right thing. I kept my parents happy. I didn't rock the boat. I got good grades. I didn't party. I went to college, got a job, got married, had kids, blah, blah, blah.

Some people think Christians are all about doing everything right, that "being religious" means being inoffensive, sanitized, boring, or cold. And some Christians do pride themselves in doing the "right" things, the way the Pharisees did about following the law.

But if you dig into the Bible you see there is immeasurable grace available for a multitude of sins and sinners, and the real problems are with those who have issues with their hearts. When he acknowledges his wrong, there's more grace for David the adulterer than for the so-called "good" people in Jesus' time who clung stubbornly to unbelief.

Or that's how it's seemed, when I read. And I've wondered: what about the people like me, who have never smoked a cigarette but can cling to unforgiveness and resentment for years? What about people like me, who have always attended church but to this day struggle with doubt and unbelief? What about those of us who never got into any kind of real trouble but secretly boiled with envy or judged mercilessly? Who served God outwardly but clung to their own private idols, their own gods (like food or money or approval from others) to fulfill their deepest needs?

Then I read this story. And I see that Jesus didn't shame this man. Yes, He tells the others it's extremely difficult for a man depending on riches to get into the kingdom of heaven, but he doesn't wag a finger at him. He just tells him what to do. Give it all up.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. He looked at him and saw everything that no one else could see. And He still loved him. He loved his earnestness at wanting to do the right thing even as this man was not completely giving over his heart, was misrepresenting what was going on inside him. Even when he hadn't acknowledged, yeah God, I'm holding back from you a little bit.

I'm no theologian. I have no idea if there's any true merit to these insights. But they meant something to me. And maybe they will strike a chord with someone else.

The rich young man brings me hope. There is grace for the goody two shoes. And it's there before I know I need it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Re-Entry Problems

We pulled into our driveway after a three-day visit to Maine, and Ethan's tears started. He didn't want to budge from the car.

"I...I miss my grandparents!!" he wailed.

For the first time in eight months, we'd headed up to Maine for a few days to visit with relatives. The kids love to stay at Dan's great-grandparents' house and have been doing so since, well, practically birth. I'd never seen this reaction before, though.

Inside the house, Ethan flung himself on the couch as I attempted to heave all of our bags in from the car. He continued to sob. "I don't know how to cheer up," he said, rubbing his eyes. "They are so miss-able." I handed him a picture of the great-grandparents that I had in a frame, but that only made things worse. "You know," he said wiping his eyes and his nose on his hands, "I don't only like this state. I like Maine, too."

I sat there and watched and thought of Sunday afternoons in Maine when I was a kid; the last day of vacation up at our camp not too far, actually, from where the great-grandparents' lived, although I of course didn't know them then. After we packed up the car and began driving down the winding dirt road and toward home, my tears would start. I felt overwhelmed by that very real sense of vacation is over...summer is ending...back to real life.

Some days back when I was pretty small, the melancholy feeling grew even worse as we drove down Interstate 95 in southern Maine. On summer Sundays when we'd drive home along with thousands upon thousands of other tourists, people would sometimes be standing on some of the highway overpasses, waving goodbye to all of the cars headed south. And my tears would start again.

I was back then, as Ethan was in front of me on the couch, having what my mom used to call "re-entry problems." Apparently it was something her dad used to say, when everyone got grouchy at the end of vacation. I'd compare it to that feeling on Sunday evenings, the time studies have found to be "the most depressing time of the week." You know that let-down feeling as you remember responsibilities and the work week ahead, and maybe about things you'd avoided thinking about to have fun over the weekend? Yeah, that.

Re-entry problems. Really, it's just another term for dealing with your emotions; for coping skills; for adjusting to a "shift in gears." Over the years I continue to realize how much of our living life well depends on not our smarts or talents but how we manage in situations when our emotions are tested.

I gave Ethan hugs. We said a prayer. I talked about ways he could distract himself and how he might feel better. While I hated to see him so miserable, it warmed my heart to see the love he holds for his great-grandparents.

He took their picture up to bed with him. The tears dried. Maine would be there waiting for him. That's what he will learn. Our days are filled with vacations and fun visits and amusement parks and beaches and the drudgery of chores and homework and winter and rainy days. And saying goodbye. Just like all of us, Ethan's got to learn, in his way, how to do life.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Another Day of Being All-Too Human

It's alright, it's alright
Sometimes that's all it takes
We're only human
We're supposed to make mistakes
-Billy Joel, "You're Only Human"

Tuesday afternoon. I'd been raking out in the sun; cleaned up the kitchen; put Chloe down for a nap and was feeling so relaxed and on top of the world I thought maybe, just maybe I'd settle down and take a little nap myself.

The phone rang.

"Hi, Deb? This is Karen at Ellsworth. I have Ethan here in the office. Did you forget that it's early release today?"


Ethan's school has this annoying habit of having endless early release days for parent-teacher conferences. There's usually three in one week, and then for some unfathomable reason they throw in another one the following Tuesday. I'd never forgotten an early release day. I'd never forgotten to pick up my child at school.

Well, there's always a first for everything.

I threw the baby in the car (well, not literally) and started racing toward the school. All of this was awakening a memory. Sixth grade at Springfield Christian School. November 12, 1985. Yeah, I can't forget the date because not only am I rather autistic-like about dates, but also, that day horrifically two police officers were shot and killed right next door to my school. That sleety afternoon, a car slid and slammed into our school bus. Aside from the fear as we all pressed our faces against the windows and watched the paramedics whisk away a woman from the car, I remember thinking that it was getting later and later. My mom would be wondering where we were. This was of course before the days of cell phones or text message alerts. I imagined my mom glancing at the clock, watching the minutes tick by and wondering. I felt almost panicked. We have to tell her we're okay, I kept thinking over and over.

Since then I not only don't like it when other people are really late with no explanation, but I hate to keep people waiting and wondering. Especially my husband or kids.

On the highway I wondered if Ethan was traumatized. I wondered if he'd obsess from now on about whether or not I'd pick him up or go into a panic if I was a few minutes late. I tried not to think of him there waiting with the classroom paraprofessional outside, looking for any sign of me or my car, but that made me want to cry, so I stopped.

I have to make it up to him, I suddenly found myself thinking, pulling into the parking lot. Maybe I could get him something at Target after school to take his mind off things. What could I get him? I considered the whiffle ball and bat he'd been eyeing, or some kind of snack.

Thirty seconds into that, I wondered what in the world I was doing. Was I trying to buy my son's peace of mind? Worse than that, was I trying to earn something to make up for feeling like a crummy mom? Ethan might need my comfort, but this wasn't the way.

In the office, I breathed in grace. Ethan was not alone but was with four other little boys whose parents had also forgotten them, and one was his close friend. The school secretary, who happens to be Anna's three-year-old preschool teacher (completely different school -- how cool is that?) gave me a warm but tired smile. The tired part had everything to do with the five boys, who were, shall we say, a tad rambunctious.

"Why are you so late?" Ethan demanded.

"Because I'm human, Ethan," I answered matter-of-factly, knowing all too well he probably didn't quite get what this meant. "But I'm so sorry," I added, giving him a monster hug.

In the car I still had to shake the guilt a bit, when Ethan told about waiting for me and that he "missed me." I reassured him that someone would always be there to get him, even if we were late, and that he didn't have to be afraid. We talked more about the fact that sometimes even grown-ups make mistakes. We drove by the way to Target and kept going. No goodies, just conversation.

Ethan didn't need a prize. He needs to learn, ever so gently and slowly, how to adjust that concrete mind and understand that sometimes parents, sometimes people, don't do exactly what they're supposed to. And it's frustrating. But in those moments, he can learn to work through it. He can learn not only how to receive grace, but how to extend it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Big Little Sports Fan

"Ethan, which do you like better, sports or computers?" I asked him the other day.

"Sports," he answered, after a moment's contemplation. Which floored me. In many ways, he is his father's son, but this is not one of them. Instead, I'd call him his uncle's nephew: my brother Nate is a huge sports fan and spent much of his childhood playing or watching them.

Sports in childhood to me was my dad, beer in hand, watching the Celtics or Bruins on Channel 38 in the winter or the Red Sox in the summer. It was the Patriots on Sunday and tossing around a football with my uncles on holidys. Sports meant trips to the Little League fields to watch Nate play (and one not-so-successful attempt at softball for me). It was flips on my bed pretending to be Mary Lou Retton and listening to Joe Castiglione call Sox games on the radio during summer evenings.

I think of all that, and know sports can be a good thing for Ethan, too.

Sports broaden Ethan's interests; they expand his world. Particularly since he's interested in not just one but almost any sport, they give him a plethora of new topics to learn about. They also provide another interest he can share with typical peers; a conversation starter for a boy who has trouble with conversation. He may not be able to share his love of power lines with classmates, but maybe they can find some common ground with UConn basketball.

Temple Grandin talks about finding things that interest children with autism and expanding on their interests. She mentions that as parents we should look for what motivates our kids, what they're passionate about, and start thinking creatively about how to harness some of that interest and even direct it towards a career later on.

Not that I'm attempting to plot out my six-year-old's future job right now. But it can't help to keep our eyes open for signs, for ideas with potential.

Of course like anything sports has its pitfalls. Ethan's taking a basketball class right now, and t-ball starts up in the spring, but right now most of what he's learning about sports is on TV. Yea. More screen time. I'm not going to trouble myself too much about that one. If the developmental pediatrician can concede he may need more screen time than the average kid, and for him often it's helpful rather than harmful, I'm not going to stress too much. Especially if we can keep him learning and talking while he's watching.

There are areas of rigid thinking that need to be ironed out, like Ethan just not getting it when a team with a better record than another loses to the weaker team. Or while he's playing a sport, taking the time to learn the concepts he's not as thrilled about, like different types of passes in basketball rather than just shooting baskets.

Then there's coping with losing. Yeah, this one we're going to be working on for awhile.

Ethan can't stand losing. He also hates it when the team he's rooting for loses. Lately his reaction has been over-the-top. We had a full, knock-down, drag out tantrum on the playground the other day because his friend apparently had one more point than him in their version of a basketball game. He literally collapsed on the ground and told me we couldn't leave until I told him he had won. There was screaming and tears, as the entire after-school program of kids who'd come outside to play looked on. In issues like this, I can't and won't relent. Right now it stinks, but this little voice in my head tells me if we let him win or fudge things to help him feel better, it's going to end up being even more disastrous for him later on, as far as coping goes.

When watching, as soon as the team he's rooting for falls behind, the tears start. The game could be an hour from completion. The team may only be a few points behind. No matter. He's traumatized. Sobs rack his body and echo throughout the house. This is not fun for him or for any of us. If he can't deal with this now, I can see this being a real problem at school or in public in a few years (I hate when the Red Sox lose as much as anyone, but I don't think other fans would take to it well if he's sitting there screaming at his first game to Fenway Park if they fall behind).

On a side note, anyone who says people on the spectrum are emotionless or don't really care about things should watch him during one of these meltdowns. As I've said before, the issue is often the opposite...people with autism actually care too much.

So sports trumps computers. I'm good with that, even if it does mean I'll be dragged in to watching basketball (eh) or even (sigh) hockey. And maybe someday (who knows??) Ethan will find himself in a little back room somewhere, crunching numbers, collecting stats. Maybe it's silly, but I could see him as the guy feeding numbers to Joe Castiglione up in that radio booth. Need to know the last time a team scored more than 10 runs in an inning? The percentage of times Big Papi gets on base after making an out? Which team has the best record for day games during April? From the way he already loves to spout facts, I can tell you: Ethan's your man.