Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hard Lessons

Autism is a learning disability.  The implications should be fairly obvious.  We expect school to be a challenge.  The term invokes images of kids struggling to keep up and having difficulty in school.  In truth the actual impact is far more pervasive.  As is common, I have a Nathan story.  This particular incident should strike a nice balance between intense, informative, entertaining, and humorous that isn't possible with many of my blog entries.

Someone stole Nathan's iPhone.  I say someone.  We know who did it.  The names have been changed to protect the guilty.  Amends have been made, and compensation paid.  We are pleased with the outcome both from his family and from the school. 

For me, it started with Amanda's first words to me, after bringing Nathan home from his football manager's responsibilities.  "I need to tell you something.  Try not to freak out."  Apparently I've been freaking out over some stuff lately, and she felt that was necessary.  I was prepping veggies for the night's meal and put down my chef's knife.  I'm thinking that's a good place to start the "try not to freak out" effort.  "Nathan lost his iPhone."  I didn't freak.  In fact, I responded "Oh well.  I hope he understands that we don't have the money to replace it immediately."  I then asked Nathan about how it happened.  In truth, he had not lost his phone.  It had been stolen from his backpack.  Loss is one thing.  Theft is another.  Uber Dad to the rescue!

I immediately called AT&T and had their iPhone locator service activated.  Minutes later I loaded their website, and there it was.  The phone was dutifully reporting it's location at a large, lakefront house at the end of a long, private drive.  Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office was very prompt in sending a deputy, who looked at the website, took a few details, and visited the house.  No kids, no phone, just "old folks".  At this point I figured we were done.  Nathan was going to learn a painful lesson about humanity.

Obviously, there's more.  It would hardly be worth the entry were there not.  I received a call from an assistant principal at Nathan's school.  We have "time in" with this gentleman, both with Nathan and his older brother, Connor.  Nathan had marched into the office and informed them that his phone had been stolen.  The culprit had been caught, interrogated, and suspended.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that he'd thrown the iPhone into the lake.  Rewinding to the day before, this means that the phone was sitting at the bottom of "Eagle Lake" and dutifully reporting its location.  The house shown on the locater was the closest piece of land the software could identify.  I'm now REALLY impressed with OtterBox cases. 

The boy's family compensated us for the phone.  Nathan even got upgraded to the iPhone 4 in the process. 

You may now be asking, "so where's this hard lesson you promised".  The day after the theft, I picked Nathan up from football.  He met me with an unusual intensity on his face and announced "I know who stole my iPhone dad!  My friends told me.  Matthew Pipes stole my phone.  You know what else he did?!?!  He deleted all my downloads and threw it in the lake.  Why would he do that dad?  Matthew is my friend.  He's nice to me dad.  He talks to me.  Why did he delete my downloads and throw my iPhone in the lake?"  There's your hard lesson.  Here's the real issue.  In the black and white world of Autistic thought, there's no place for nice people who steal.  Friendly people don't throw our iPhones in the lake. 

As much as I'd like to, I can't figure any way to teach him some of these things "proactively".  The learning disability extends well beyond the classroom.  I'm beginning to believe that the scholastic setting is actually the easy part.  It's all this "life stuff" that is going to be the most grueling for us all.  Again, my insufficiency to raise this child stares me in the face.  Being a "special person", I had to learn the same lessons, in much the same way.  My thinking isn't so distant from his.  The liberating truth here is that if I'm not sufficient to this task, none of us are.  We can release ourselves from the need to be. 

I was, however, successful in convincing Nathan that the school's handling and the family's restitution had eliminated the need for him to "put fists on him".  I take my victories where I can get them. 


  1. You're not alone in recognizing your insufficiencies as a parent. Parenting is hard aside from the challenges that come with a special child. Nathan, obviously, was given to the perfect family--for it was you all who were meant to love him and value him and you do so for who he is. One of our most important roles as parents, if not the most important, is ensuring that our children know they are loved. In that, you and Amanda have "passed with flying colors". You guys have done a great job with him and I'm impressed.

  2. "Put fists on him" lol ... yup... that's your victory here. What DOES make people do cruel and mean things like that? Useless. Anyway, I'm as baffled as anyone ...it's just hurtful. What a strange story for anyone to try to digest. Yay for the new phone, and boo for the cruelty of kids (humans) to one another. Love ya.