A Cut Above the Rest

Today I paid $20 for a $10 haircut… and couldn’t be happier.

I took Bianca to get her haircut today, and as soon as we walked into the place, she started to melt down. I sat her in my lap to try and keep her calm but she wanted none of it. She was flailing about, grinding her teeth, trying to head-butt me and kicking all over… and the stylist had yet to even touch her.

As Bianca weeps uncontrollably I wonder why I even bothered giving our name ahead of time and killing time at Target. The whole reason I didn’t stick around was because I didn’t want Bianca to get agitated while waiting. I was trying to be Superdad and was out with my three kids and adult male cousin who is great with our kids, but certainly not used to Bianca blowing a gasket in a public place. My bride was attending the graduation of a family friend and I wanted to surprise her with a new summer “do” for Binks.

A very meek and demure looking lady looked at me as two of my kids were chasing after one another like maniacs and Bianca was in hysterics and hesitantly asks who I was with. “Bianca” I reply while giving a head gesture towards the kid who is now on the floor with tears streaming down her face and snot bubbles coming out of her nose.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

“I am… not so sure about her though.” I replied with a shrug and that state of calm that we autism parents can go to as the world around us is in a complete state of disarray.

I sat in the chair and plopped Bianca in my lap. This was a piece of cake when she was 4, but is really much more of a chore now that she is 8 and weighs 52 pounds.  Bianca is one smart cookie though, and as we all know forgets nothing. She knows that she has gotten her hair cut at this place before and is now in complete panic mode. Nothing is working; not my phone or scripting her favorite shows, not deep pressure hugs or singing our favorite songs. Yet while all of this is going on, the very slight and quiet lady starts to brush Bianca’s hair gently working the brush through knots and tangles.

Any time she would get some hair detangled and brushed out, Bianca would fling her head to make her hair shift or just grab her hair and mess it up. The lady would back off, wait, smile and start all over again. She must have done this a hundred times. She finally got to a point where she could start to spray Bianca’s hair down but as she did Bianca was still losing it. Now she was saying, “Rain, rain go away”, “Water”, “Agua”, “Hair” and going limp so that I could not hold her. Still, the beautician was patient and took advantage of opportunities as she got them.

As all Hell is breaking loose in my chair, an older gentleman gets seated right next to us. There were 6 other chairs that were empty in the place, it just so happened to be this guy’s luck that the two people working had their stations right next to one another. Do you know that this guy got his entire haircut done while Bianca was in the throes of despair and I did not get ONE look… not one stare? And I was waiting for it. I had the apology and explanation ready to go. It was like we weren’t even there and believe me there was no way to miss the side show that was this.

The stylist tried to put Bianca’s hair in clips so that she could do a proper job, but she quickly realized that it wasn’t going to work. She looked at me with a smile and quietly said, “I am sorry, but I am afraid that I will not be able to cut her hair. I am really afraid that I could cut her, myself or that her hair would not be even and I would hate to give her a bad cut. Maybe we try another day?”

I told her that I understood and asked her if I could have a few minutes with Bianca to see if I couldn’t calm her down.  I let her stand in front of me and got her interested in watching YouTube videos on my phone and as Bianca stood there watching Dora on my phone, the lady started delicately brushing Bianca’s hair. She then showed Bianca the brush they use to powder people with and she loved the soft feel of the brush on her face. She watched her video and played with the brush and then Bianca began to settle down, smile and started doing her happy scripting. As she did, slowly and delicately the stylist began to snip away at her hair.

Every once in a while Bianca would put her hands up or flip her hair around and the beautician would step back, smile and then resume.

All in all, it took a little over an hour for Bianca to get her haircut. In that hour I never saw Phyllis express one ounce of frustration. She never had a snarky comment or tone. I never felt judged as being a bad parent or for having an out of control kid. All she did was to give Bianca a cute haircut with kindness and patience. So thank you Phyllis at the Supercuts in Merrillville, Indiana. Your demeanor helped to put this dad at ease.

And that is how I came to pay $20 for a $10 haircut. Wish I could have paid more.

If you have not already, please take time to watch my videos, “Fixing” Autism and Autism Awareness with Nichole337 and share them with your friends.

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No Island Here

There is an article floating about from HuffPo about things that an Autism parent will never say. (You can see it here.)  At first I didn’t really know what to make of it. I still really don’t.  In the article it talked about how stressful raising an Autistic child is and how lonely.  It said parents are peacekeepers from everyone to the family to school to complete strangers.  It claims we are isolated as parents of Autistic children.  It talks about hurtful comments.
It gives the impression that it is all inclusive, that all parents feel that way.
I don’t.
Maybe I don’t have guilt over meeting my son’s needs because I only have him.  I am able to devote my time to him without “worrying” over “unfair” treatment to siblings.  My issue with this claim is really simple: empirical research suggests otherwise.  Research shows that NT siblings are enriched by their lives with their SN sibling, not hampered by it. They are more open and understanding of those who are disabled and more likely to help their peers.  They also harbor no ill will towards their SN sibling for any reason.  Imagine that: NT siblings of SN children RECOGNIZE that they are simply different in what they need and support how things happen at home. They get it and understand it. They also often grow up to help support their siblings in their adult life, making sure they have what they need.  So, why would parents need to harbor this “guilt”?
I’m not a peacekeeper. I don’t try to make everyone happy nor do I care to. I don’t have the time or energy for that. Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s arse what some stranger in the supermarket thinks of us. It doesn’t really affect me if they are that shallow and judgey. We don’t know them. It’s a reflection of them and their character, not us or ours. Our life will go on as usual. I don’t “try not to look bothered.” I’m NOT bothered.  I also will not be a peacekeeper at school. That’s just straight up push-over nonsense.  I will not allow ANYONE to walk all over me. I will not appease them to make them happy. It’s their task to make me happy. Plain and simple. If your school isn’t making you happy, get a lawyer, learn your rights. I also don’t try to keep peace in my family or with my friends. If they can’t respect my views and how I do things, then we will spend our time with someone who accepts us as we are. We won’t be run over by anyone because they are “offended” or upset by something we do. (Thankfully this isn’t anything I really have to deal with.)
Maybe that author is isolated, but I sure as hell am not.  You see, I put effort into my relationships with family and friends to maintain them and keep their value.  Do I compromise myself in the process? No. Just read my last paragraph.  For every one person who has dropped out of our lives we have gained 10 or more who are more than happy to share our lives. My friends and family have all done what they can to learn about my son so that they can support us however they can. We have some real people of value in our lives. I have also found my way into a larger community of people who share my experiences and are also raising an Autistic child (or 2).  I have never felt isolated.  I never will. I also don’t like the author’s assumption that my son isn’t part of the social world. He has friends. He loves people. He’ll chat the ear off anyone he knows. He plays with and shares interests with his friends at school.  We are also very close. We are not “isolated” as if we are two strangers living in the same house. My son will find a way to talk to me.  Communication is not always speech. He’ll write. He’ll draw. He’ll create. He tells me everything. Sorry, no isolation or lack of social interaction here.
Do I hear stupid things in regards to my son being Autistic? Sure. But it’s a teachable moment. Education is the single most powerful tool in the world. I also hear hurtful things about me, my parenting, and even my weight (how I need to gain a few pounds, for the record I’m healthy and fit and at a perfect weight). I get assumptions all the time about how because I’m deaf I should be dumb. Have I heard, “He doesn’t lookAutistic…” You betcha. It boils down to the ignorance (meant by the true dictionary definition) of the person making the comment.  They simply do not know or understand.
Is raising an Autistic child stressful? Sure. Just look at how we are treated. Look at how anyone with a disability is treated. Time and time again, day in and day out, we are treated like we are less than human, not worthy to be alive or tended to. We cannot get the help we need, the services we deserve.  But that doesn’t mean it’s unbearable or too much to handle. I don’t think raising an Autistic is that hard, frankly. He’s just another kid. (See here.) Able and capable of doing what all other NT kids can do. We just do things differently. Our routines are different. Our needs are different. It certainly isn’t this down-in-the-pits, oh-woe-is-me, horror.
I do not worry about the future. My son will be just fine. He will live where he chooses to live, be it here or his own home, doing whatever he wants to do with his future. He is well loved by so many. Since we are not isolated in any way, socially or geographically, I have no concerns over anyone being around to lend him a hand when he needs it. This holds true whether or not I am here or not. I know he will be ok. I have confidence and faith in him and our circle. After all, we started the foundation to his own self-determination long ago. The seeds of self-advocacy and independence are well planted. What do I need to worry about?
We don’t “suffer” anything. We enjoy life. We are whole, complete, even content. Is it really that hard to believe?
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