Those strips about Ben, part 2

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It’s been 6 months since my last post about the ongoing “Ben” series. Thought I’d share a little update.

After waiting many months, Ben has finally had his autism evaluation, and Nanci and her husband are waiting for the results. One thing I’ve learned through research: it can take a painfully long time to get diagnosed, and the wait can be agony for the family. 

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Meanwhile, there is some comic relief. Kids on the spectrum have a myriad of challenging traits, but also some funny ones. Gettin’ nekked is one I can applaud. Sometimes kids with sensory issues just don’t want their clothes touching them. I understand this to the extent of practically ripping off my bra as soon as I step in the doorway (okay fine, IF I’m wearing a bra). Obviously, it runs a little deeper here.

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There are other challenges as well. Families can have a tough time. Marriages can suffer, especially if parents aren’t on the same page. Nanci and David can attest:

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Not having kids who are on the spectrum, this is clearly uncharted territory for me. But I still think autism is a good topic for the strip and can be addressed with both humor and heart.

So I’ll continue taking on this self-imposed challenge. Stay tuned.

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13 thoughts on “Those strips about Ben, part 2

  1. It is not just in the US that the evaluation takes ages. Here in the UK, we have the local GP, then referral to a specialist, then referral for assessment then delays, cancellations, staff changes, government cuts, bad computer systems losing appointments etc. The resulting strain on marriages becomes insurmountable for many people and has led to untold suffering. the fact that you are raising awareness is wonderful.

  2. As someone with Aspergers, and the very Fortunate child of two Spectacular parents, I can only tell you what it was like growing up – not driving the car.

    There was nothing but therapy and help for me growing up, went to day treatment school from age five until I was about 14. Before that there had been a battery of various types of therapists, specialist working with me in throughout the schools I went to.

    You want to talk about tests and waiting? I lost count, so many different people pride, poked and prodded that after awhile, it became a blurr. Heck, I dragged the whole family into it because we had years of “Family Therapy”, which meant my brother got sucked in to something he wanted (understandably) no part of.

    That’s where my parents came in; they were so loving, and were Inhumanly patient with my oddities and my tantrums. Yes, they fought, but it was very, very rare and they all ways made up; they’re still madly in Love with each other and still married.

    I owe just about everything I am and the Blessed life I have to my family, and my parents.

  3. As a retired speech pathologist I can tell you that your strips about Ben ring very true. We are making progress all the time towards quicker and more accurate diagnoses, but for those in need it must seem very slow. Decades ago this neurological disorder wasn’t even diagnosed at all.
    And very good call mentioning couples therapy. Children always put stress on a marriage, but special needs children sometimes dissolve the glue.

  4. I want to tell you how much I love the Ben storyline. I am mom to a 24 year old son with autism and lower intelligence. We have been on the road you describe, psychologists, Ot, PT, speech, special ed, change schools, intensive therapies. Your strip brings back lots of memories. ( especially naked stories. 😂) I have a super husband and we make a great team, along with younger 2 brothers. Keep up the great writing. Plus I love all the other female quirks.

  5. Yes. Please keep posting Ben.

    I said, on your first strip, Ben is Autistic. You said, “We’ll see.”

    When our William was three, and not talking at all, my office mate and I were discussing our grandkids. Kay said to me, “Do you think he is autistic?” My idea of autistic was a child who rolled on the ground in fits. At that time, that was the only autistic child I had ever met. But I researched Autism. By the time the psychologist and school social worker came to my daughter’s house to evaluate William, I was pretty sure. Wendy was devastated. Also, Wendy was very, very upset that I had not warned her. How do you tell your child that her child is defective. Now I know an autistic child is not defective.

    William is now 11. Thanks to a lot of therapy & intervention when he was very young, William is has been talking since he was six. He is very bright, happy, social. But still very quirky.

    Some of the issues we had to fix: William became incredibly hysterical when we tried to take him into a public bathroom. For the first year of school when he was three, the teachers let him use the private teacher bathroom. Running. Holly cow! That tiny kid had the speed and agility and strength of an athletic 18-year-old. We gave up watching him climb to the top of my cherry tree. Clothes: for a couple of years he took a bath wearing underwear. Pain: We don’t know if he doesn’t feel pain or just doesn’t react like a typical person. I have seen William topple down cement steps, fall backward in a high toddler chair, get stung by a wasp, run head-on into another running child at play time. It was very obvious that poor little girl was hurt. William caught his breath and continued on to.

    Long story why, but one day I showed William my large bin of Beany Babbies. I told him he could have six. William pulled out the first one. He read the tag. It says the name and date of birth, 11/29/95. William said: Nanook, his birthday is November 29th. He is 18 years old. Without skipping a beat. He did that with everyone before he chose six.

    He is also spooky intuitive. My in-laws moved into a nursing home. Soon after, my father in law died. We were still clearing out their house. We had not told William that Brad had died. We didn’t think he would understand. I guess we thought William would just forget about them. They were not very close. We took William to their house for some reason. William looked around the living room. He said, “Are the dead people here?” Go figure. We have several funny stories about times he knew what he should not have known. Not so much now. But when William was younger.

    If you can, explore the costs of having an autistic child. I don’t know how my manicurist daughter and her mortician husband afford all that they do. William’s pediatrician codes procedures as ADD related. She says William does not have ADD. But we are not telling the insurance company that.

    Also, stress the importance of early intervention. William’s father has an identical twin brother who has a 15-year-old son who was diagnosed early with ASD. Nate’s mother didn’t want her son to be “labeled.” Today that young man is virtually catatonic. He says “Tickle me. Tickle me.” and “Want popsicle.” but not much else. Last year, as my husband was watching football on TV, Nate climbed in Dick’s lap and fell asleep. A 14-year-old.

    I love your strip. Working at home. Two very different teenage daughters. I can relate. And now Ben. Keep it up, please.

    • Pat,
      William sounds like an amazing kid. So grateful to hear your stories. Thank you for sharing them!
      I’m writing more substantial “Ben” stories now (which should show up in about 5 months), so all this information is very timely and helpful.
      Feel free to email me with more info if you’d like. And enjoy your grandson!
      -Terri

      • Terri:

        I saw a news report yesterday. Sesame Street will have a new member/puppet. Julia. She is an autistic child. Big Bird tried talking to her. Julia ignored Big Bird. Big Bird assumed Julia did not like him.

        William’s cousin, Jack, adored William when he was a baby. The boys are 22 months apart, and each an only child of my daughters. Since we all live within 4 miles of each other, we thought we could raise the boys like brothers.

        But when William was 3 and Jack 5, Jack refused to visit his cousin. Why? Jack said, “William hates me.” William adored Jack. He just could not talk to him. My girls had me explain William to Jack. Interesting conversation with a five year old.

        • Yes, I saw the news about Sesame Street. What a great idea (and what parallels). And if you don’t mind, I may use your story…I’m sure that sort of misunderstanding is pretty common in the autistic community.

          • I don’t mind at all. Frankly, we all wish we had been more prepared for a myriad of issues. This has been an interesting nine years. Especially since William’s first two were absolutely typical baby/toddler years.

  6. You might be wondering how I explained Autism to a five-year-old. Even if you’re not, I will tell you. I am bored with what I am supposed to be doing. And I think this is ingenious.

    First, let me explain that Jack & I were very close. I was his nanny for 51 weeks in between two au-pairs. It was supposed to be 2-3 weeks, but oh well. Best year of my life. Then he began pre-school and I continued to care for Jack before & after school.

    I told Jack that he understood how the brain works better than any other 5-year old I knew. He agreed. Daughter, Kate, is scientific. She educated her young son.

    I started with pointing out a sailboat painting on our wall. Papa painted that. And a saved picture of fruit Kate had drawn when she was very young. I explained that Aunt Wendy, Uncle John, and others could not do that. because their brains simply do not work that way. I asked him if he thought I have a good speaking voice. He said I do. I told Jack that both Monica and Sandra, his au pairs, spoke a language other than English like we do. And both of them said I was the easiest American person to understand because I do have a good speaking voice. Then I began to sing a Sesame Street song. Awful. I told Jack that no matter how I tried, how many lessons I could take, no one would ever want to hear me sing. Why? Because my brain will not make my voice sound notes correctly.

    Kate had emailed me a picture of Jack in a brightly colored superhero costume. I printed it in color and in grayscale. I explained that some people see in color. Some people do not. Their eyes might be absolutely perfect. But their brain does not register color.

    William’s brain just works differently than Jack’s brain. I went on from there.
    I do think Jack understood. He became more tolerant of William. They never did become the close friends we had hoped. Now especially, their 22-month difference is more like 10 years both physically and maturity-wise. But at least Jack doesn’t think William hates him.

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