Life on the Spectrum: 7/12/18

So, Joey has been attending a little dinosaur camp this week through the park district. They’ve been doing little dinosaur/fossil crafts and stuff all week and he’s loved it. When picking him up, I heard another boy say “there’s an annoying boy named Joey” when his mom was asking him and his brother how the class went. His brother saw me and told his brother to hush and I just swooped up Joey and got out of there without responding because I didn’t want to confuse Joe.

It was like a physical slap in the face. A punch in the gut. I felt myself start to physically deflate and the tears welling up as we walked out to the car. (After Joey stopped to look at the world map mural and checking that Madagascar was represented, as one does.)

I immediately started hating myself that I didn’t say anything. But what does one say? To be honest, Joey can be annoying. He’s loud, asks a million questions, can be messy, strong-willed, and sometimes needs additional assistance or instruction. He is oblivious to personal space, will interrupt people, and sometimes sings or recites dialog to himself from TV shows/movies. But he is also enthusiastic, friendly, outgoing, and carefree. He loves to learn, explore, and discover. He shares with others and is always willing to help.

All this week, I’ve wanted to say something to this mother and her boys. I’ve thought of a million different scenarios, ranging from a calm, rational explanation of ASD to a raging mama bear attack that would point out all the faults of her parenting and how troll-like her children are. (They were not troll-like . . . maybe a little ogreish.)

So today was the last day of the class. I was walking in to get Joey and I passed the trio walking down the hallway to leave and again I heard the little boy say something about “that annoying kid” to his mom. They were actually past me and almost around the corner, very easy for me to let it go again. Instead, I turned around an said,”Excuse me, I’m sorry but I want you to know that Joey is on the Autism spectrum and that might be why he was doing some things that could be considered annoying.” They stopped and turned around. The mom and older boy eyes opened wide and looked a little stunned while the younger on looked bashful and was hiding behind his mom. ” And I’d really appreciate it if you could talk to your sons about being a little more accepting and understanding about those that might act differently from what they expect.” I was barely able to get the words out at the end without letting out a sob. The mom paused and asked if she could hug me and I let her. Why, I don’t know. I then just looked at her as asked her to speak to her kids again and turned around and walked the rest of the way to the classroom and got Joey. He was so excited and proud to show me his glue covered dinosaur model that he didn’t notice the tears in my eyes.

So, I gathered up the rest of his craft projects, checked the map mural (Madagascar was still there.) and came home.

Parenting a child with special needs is hard. It can be isolating, lonely, and oftentimes filled with guilt.  It’s painful to hear others say things about your child for any parent, but it’s even more hurtful when you know that some of those unflattering comments are based on his ASD. I am fully aware that I will not be able to shield Joey from this happening throughout his life. I know that kids, and adults, will look at his behaviors and judge him as “weird, annoying, a little off, etc.” I just hope that more will get to know him for who he is personally before they make their conclusions.

I hope that by sharing this story, others will think about how they teach their children about being different and will maybe dig a little deeper when they say that some “annoying” kid was in their class.

Shakerag 2.0

A pattern so nice, I knit it twice! I was so happy with how my first one turned out, I decided to knit a second version of the Shakerag Top ,but this time I wanted to make a few modifications:

I decided to marl  the stripes this time around,  using Ariel by Luna Grey Fiber Arts in the Mishigami color way that I received from Wool & Honey’s Sleeping Bear Yarn Club and some white fingering weight yarn from deep stash. Possible Kroy Sock but have no idea since the label is long gone. This makes it a little bit heavier weight than my first, but it still has a nice drape and fit.  (The photo above was pre-blocking, so it looks a little wonky, but once it was blocked and dried, it smoothed right out.)

I also went with Breton influenced striping and ended stripe sequence halfway up armhole, I then continued with Ariel held singly for the remainder of the yoke. I also did not add a split hem this time, just followed original pattern instructions, however I did add a few inches in length. Here’s a detail shot:

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I was originally considering adding 3/4 length sleeves, but once I tried it on I decided to leave it as is. However, I’m now considering a third version in a solid and adding those sleeves. We’ll see.

Full details on Ravelry.

Shakerag Top

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Here’s my latest entry for #operationsweaterchest the Shakerag Top by Amy Christoffers for Mason Dixon Knitting’s Field Guide No. 6: Transparency.  You guys, I cannot tell you how much I love this top!

The pattern was so simple and quick to knit. I cast on as part of MDK’s May Knitalong: #shakeragtop that celebrated their release of the latest installment to their Field Guide pattern series.  I finished in less than a month, while still working other projects! It’s hard to tell from the photos, but there is a subtle striping from holding the yarn single and then double. This gave me a bit of interest to and otherwise mindless knit. I love the simple neckband and how the shoulder shaping created a slight drop sleeve.  It’s comfortable, while still flattering and would look good on a wide range of figures. I did modify mine a bit by giving it a split hem, some additional length, and some slight shaping at the waist. (Full details on the mods on Ravelry)

The yarn is Sylph from Jade Sapphire, a light fingering weight yarn that is 58% Cashmere goat and 42% linen/flax. This is some magical yarn. While knitting, it feels a bit stiff and was harder to work with, making my hands ache a bit if I knit too long. However, it quickly softens up when worked and once wet blocked it was so soft and had the most amazing drape. Absolutely dreamy. I chose the Extinction color way, a deep midnight blue with subtle touches of aquamarine and amethyst. The flax/linen is natural so it has a marled effect. It’s so hard to capture the color in a photo, but here you can see a bit of the variation.

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This top will be on repeat all summer. In fact, I immediately cast on a second version once this was finished. It just needs some blocking and the ends weaved in, so I’ll be sharing that one shortly.

SIDE NOTE:  I haven’t found many fellow knitters in to connect with in the real world, so it’s great to be able to “find my tribe”online through Ravelry and other knitting-centric sites. MDK is one of those that has been an inspiration to me and I have found it’s community to be so welcoming and full of encouragement. So, I was beyond thrilled to have my project shared on MDK’s website and Instagram! It definitely gave me a bit of a boost in confidence that my knitting continues to improve. You can see the post where I’m briefly mentioned here a you can see their Instagram here.

Easel Sweater

I fell in love with this sweater pattern the first time I came across it on Mason Dixon Knitting.  It looked so comfy, like your favorite sweatshirt, and how the colorful sleeves contrasted with the basic stockinette body.  I knew that I would wear it all the time.

The yarn is Mohonk by Jill Draper Makes Stuff. This squishable yarn is made from 100% NYS unregistered Cormo wool. Spun up into a 2 ply sportweight and retaining a little of its natural lanolin it is a perfect sweater yarn. It is spongy-soft and does have a little chaff (hay) in it, since the mill doesn’t use a harsh chemical wash to dissolve it. This washed out when blocking, turning into a soft, light squishy fabric that feels great against bare skin. Not itchy in the least. I used the Vintage Denim color way for the body and Frida for the forearms.

Although I made a few modifications to the pattern, as written it was very easy to follow. This was the first time I have attempted set in sleeves, which I was pretty nervous about. This is when you attach the sleeves by sewing them to the body of the sweater instead of linking while knitting. I was worried that it would be lumpy or “homemade” looking, but I’m pretty happy with the results. It fits perfectly!

Modifications I made to the pattern:

  • I decided to knit in the round instead of flat, so I wouldn’t have to do a lot of seaming.
  • I moved the decrease round further up the body to under the bust line to give it a little more shaping.
  • Added some and additional length to the sleeves since I hate when the wrists pull up and feel short.
  • I sized down on the neckband, since it was a little too loose/sloppy looking.

I absolutely love the variegated colors in the sleeves. You can also see the texture of the yarn here. So squishy!

Locks of Love 2018

Thursday I cut off ten inches of hair to donate to Locks of Love. The last time I donated was over six years ago, two days before I went to the hospital to have Joe. I’m so glad to cut off all that hair!

It’s a . . . sweater!

I’ve knitted many, many things. Countless socks, mittens, hats, scarves, wraps, blankets, even a set of golf club covers. I’ve knitted a score of baby and children’s sweaters, mostly as gifts or commissions for others to give. Yet, I’ve never completed an adult-size sweater that was functional or wearable. I gave up on it for a long time until I decided that 2018 would be the year that I would get over my sweater anxiety and launched #operationsweaterchest. My goal for the year would be to make five adult sweaters for myself and one for Joe. (I’m adding a stretch goal of one for Shawn, if I can find a pattern he likes and I’m confident enough that I can meet his exacting sartorial standards.)

The first sweater I made is the Carbeth from the wonderful designer, Kate Davies. This pattern has quite a following and was so fun to knit. It was very easy to follow the pattern and make adjustments on fit, even as a beginner. There were several helpful notes from other knitters on Ravelry that also helped a great deal. And such a fast knit, I finished it in three weeks! Thats usually how long it takes me to knit a pair of socks!

I used The Plucky Knitter Pluck Bulky in Wintery Mix. A super soft and squishy 100% merino yarn that gives this sweater such great texture and it is so warm!  The colorway is a light gray that has subtle variations ranging from cream to cement. I love it.

Some modifications that I made were using a provisional cast on for the body and sleeves so I could tailor the length to fit exactly to my measurements. You can see all my notes here. I absolutely adore this pattern and one of my projects will be to make the cardigan version to wear next fall/winter.

2018: Our life on the Spectrum

April is Autism Awareness Month. I wanted provide a small glimpse into our life and how it is affected by Joseph being diagnosed to bring awareness and understanding. You can read more about our journey here.

This has been an amazing year of growth for Joey. He is currently enrolled in a general education Kindergarten class and seems to be thriving there. He loves everything about school and takes great pride that he is “almost a first grader”. Joe receives speech and occupational therapy at school, in addition to private music therapy/lessons, and has some additional assistance from the resource room aide, his beloved Mrs. G, in his main classroom.

His teacher, Mrs. L, is wonderfully patient, yet firm enough to handle Joey’s considerable charm. She understands that his ASD gives him some extra challenges, but doesn’t allow that as an excuse or crutch. He is his champion when working with the rest of the staff to help them understand how his ASD “works” and does everything she can to make sure he is getting every opportunity. (I have volunteered in the classroom and have seen this for all her students. She is a true gem and I’m so thankful for her.)

Mrs. G is Joey’s cheerleader and possibly his biggest fan. Their relationship is so sweet and loving, I know that she would do anything for him.  It helps me knowing that he has someone there to give him that sense of security and comfort.

I have to say that the entire staff, have been nothing but warm, positive, and supportive to Joey. I love walking him into the school and seeing him say hello to the librarian, telling his gym teacher he’ll see him on Tuesday, or giving the principal a fist bump. His classmates have been amazing as well. His teacher explained that Joey has ASD and sometimes does things differently and they all take it in stride. After walking Joey into class after being absent for being sick, they all welcomed him back to school with hugs and smiles. It brought tears to my eyes.

This isn’t to say that we haven’t had some challenges this year. Joe’s impulsivity and stubbornness can lead to not wanting to follow directions or complying with non-prefered tasks. He also can find it difficult to follow spoken directions or adjust to things outside of his routine. However, overall, he seems to being doing quite well and continues to show improvement in these areas and I’m hopeful that, with the continued support, he’ll continue to thrive at school.

In addition to Joey’s current school situation, I wanted to share a little more about where he fits on the Spectrum. Although it is not an official diagnosis, Joe is considered High Functioning Autism (HFA).  Joey has been described as “scattered” when tested for ASD symptoms, meaning that some typical characteristics such as stimming and severe verbal limitations are not present while others, such as poor eye contact and sensory dysfunction.

Joey is bright, verbal, socially aware, and can show affection. He has age-appropriate academic skills. At first glance, most people do not realize that he has ASD. This creates a set of challenges that can be different than those who place elsewhere on the spectrum.  By being “high functioning” Joey is asked to navigate a world in a neurotypical way even though he has these extra set of challenges. This can lead to unobtainable expectations at school, judgmental attitudes in public, and sometimes even misunderstanding with family members. I highly recommend reading this article to understand why HFA is so challenging and that no matter where someone falls on the spectrum, “it is important to remember that autism is autism.”

April is Autism Awareness month. Please consider participating in some way. Perhaps by supporting a cause,  joining a walk,  donating supplies to your local school’s Special Education department.