Monthly Archives: July 2011

Nigel + Executive Function = Happening

“I just called to remind you about the medication, because it’ll be out in five days.”

That was Nigel calling me, not the other way around. It was not I reminding him about his meds, but him reminding me. And not waiting until they were completely gone, either. Looking ahead, noticing that he’d be out in a few days, and doing something about it. Planning. Yes, really. I was so pleasantly surprised, so stunned, that there was a definite delay in my response as I took in the magnitude of what he had just done. He noticed, he thought ahead, he called me.

Those of you (probably most of you) who had read my previous blog posts (here’s one) about my son’s lack of executive function know how much this area of his development has plagued me. Not having executive function impairs his organizational skills (not only his notebook and living space, but also his thoughts and ideas), his ability to plan out assignments, projects, packing (for a trip), and chores (such room cleaning), his ability to self-regulate (including behavior and emotions), and various other areas. Executive function is a big indicator of whether our kids will have the ability to be semi-independent as adults. Last year, during his first year of high school, I got so worried about making sure that his executive function would develop that I planned to move out of state so he could attend a special school for students with autism. I figured that if it hadn’t started yet, it wouldn’t happen on its own, even with all of my untrained, inadequate attempts. But I wasn’t able to sell my house, so we didn’t move. And he’s comfortable at his current school, so I’m not going to uproot him, even if I could sell my house. In fact, he’s really happy at his school. And after all we’ve been through, that’s worth everything. But Nigel has only two years left of high school, so it’s crucial for his executive function to start happening.

And it is. That one phone call from him has opened a ton of doors, mostly because it reminded me of his potential. Years ago, before he started talking, Nigel somehow taught himself to read at the age of three and a half. We figured, with all the books we’d read to him, that he’d studied his wooden letter blocks enough to recognize the letters from the words in his books. So he started spelling with his blocks to communicate. I remember the first time I realized this. I had walked into the living room and saw him sitting in front of four blocks, as if waiting. When I looked closely at them, lined up in front of him, my spine tingled. He had spelled “WOLF.” I asked him if he wanted to watch Peter and the Wolf, one of his Disney videos. He didn’t answer, because he could not, but he immediately got up and sat on the couch, expectantly looking at the TV. And I thought, My son is a genius. He can’t talk, but he figured out a way to communicate. And he didn’t start talking for another two years. Expressive verbal communication was very difficult for Nigel to develop, but, over time and with a lot of therapy, he did. Likewise, executive function has been very difficult for Nigel to develop. But he is. All of my untrained, inadequate attempts while homeschooling him. All of the repetitive trials by his special education teachers. His own maturation. It’s all been accumulating, all gradually coming together. I see it happening, like little words spelled out with wooden blocks, and my head is swimming with possibilities.

I praised him for remembering to call, for thinking ahead. I didn’t go overboard, because you can’t make a big deal out of these things in front of him, you know; you have to act like he’s been doing this all along. I assured him that I had picked up the refills for his two medications and that first thing in the morning I would be FedExing them to him at his dad’s house, 700 miles away. We’d done this in previous summers during his visits there. I had remembered and everything was ready to go.

But this year, I wasn’t the only one who remembered. My teenage son is developing executive function. And maybe I’m biased, but I still think he’s a genius.

The Ebooks Are Here!

I’m thrilled to announce that my novel, Slip, is now available in the following ebook formats, priced at 2.99! Click the name of each format to be taken to the page for it:




Slip is also available in regular print/paperback. Click here for more information. You can also click here and scroll down for a sneak peak at my next book that I’m currently working on, scheduled to be published next year!

Thanks for reading!

Not What He Called For

It was a heavy phone day. Not all of my work days are, but there are enough of them to make me fantasize about the day when my book sales reach a point where I can quit the account-managing job to just be a writer. It will happen. But for now, my day job consists of fielding a lot of phone calls for my clients, covering everything from order status to product questions to catalog requests.

And so when the phone rang and a young man came on the line saying, “I’d like to get one of your catalogs,” I thought nothing of it. Those are usually the easiest calls, so I said sure and asked for his name and address.

And that’s when I knew that this would be no ordinary catalog request.

He verbally stumbled several times just giving me his name, and midway through his address the poor guy halted, apologizing, berating himself (“I should know my own address; I should know my own address”). I assured him it was okay, to take his time, because I knew. I got that tingling at the back of my neck; I knew that I was speaking with a young man who had special needs of some sort, perhaps autism, perhaps not. And he was requesting a catalog of self-help CDs.

He finished giving me his address, and I thanked him, telling him when he should receive his catalog, expecting him to hang up then. But he didn’t. He said something that made my heart ache.

“Are you hiring any male phone operators?”

Then, in the seconds that I mentally formulated a response, I heard his mother in the background, gently correcting him. “Patrick, that’s not what you called for.”

My tears came then, because in that instant I realized that she was me and I was her. How many times have I stood by the phone, coaching Nigel through calls in the exact same way? Teaching him phone etiquette? How many times? Will I be in her shoes ten years from now, with my adult son doing his damnedest to try to be independent, trying to get a job – any job – any way he can? I wanted to reach through the phone, to hug her, to tell her I know. To tell her I’m there with her.

I took in a quick, empathic breath and told Patrick that I’m sure he would be a wonderful phone operator, but he was in Texas and we were in Oregon. He said, with sincerity and grace, “That’s okay. But I’m really glad that you have a job. Because it’s hard to find jobs these days, so I’m happy for you that you have one.”

I about lost it at that point – his candor, his gentleness, was overwhelming. I thanked him and wished him the best on his job hunt. I hung up the phone and sat there at my desk, at my job that I fantasize about leaving, and thought about all the Patricks who are just trying to get any job, who with the help of their loving mothers are requesting self-help catalogs, who for all the world wish they could be in my shoes, have a job they can be proud of, and who are genuinely happy for those that do. I was deeply moved, and profoundly appreciative.

It may not have been what he called for, but I’m so glad he did.

Guestposting & Book Giveaway

I’m honored to be guestposting at Confessions of an Asperger’s Mom today! Karen asked me if I could share some tips for parents as their ASD kids enter the teen years, and I was happy to oblige. Here’s the link to read the post:

P.S. In the post I mentioned that I would be giving away a copy of Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide for Helping Children with Executive Functioning. Leave a comment here if you’re interested, and on July 15, I will draw a name and email the winner for their address. Cheers!