Thursday, December 31, 2009


Do you remember the stage in your childhood in which all you wanted to do was make forts with blankets? I have distinct memories of using all our dining room chairs and finding every blanket in the house to make forts that stretched across our entire living room.

Martin is in the midst of an obsession with blankets. He continues to sleep in a laundry basket, covered by at least four blankets. In the mornings, he brings piles of blankets into my room, spreading them across the bed to make a nest or a car, an airplane or bed. I'm hoping to work on our first fort this afternoon.

A warm blanket fort on a snowy day will be the calm before the storm. Tonight we venture out to a new year's party that tends to be a really fun time, but an absolute madhouse. The hosts have an awesome old house. Children run around like maniacs. Food spills off the tables. The adults keep calm with refills of wine. It's not for the fainthearted. But it's such a merry time, that I can't stay away.

I don't have a story of Martin having a terrible time last year. In fact, he had a really good time. He ran around all night, finding toys to play with and joining in the hollering. I did notice, though, that he struggled to interact with the other kids. Not that he didn't want to, but that he just didn't know how. So if a child suggested to him a way they could play together, Martin would say something completely ridiculous back. This didn't bother kids, but it did befuddle them. I'm curious to see how Martin experiences the party tonight. If it's a tough time, we'll leave early and find comfort in our blanket fort.

May we all find comfort in the new year. Happy wishes to all!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

back to life

We arrived home this evening after a Christmas visit to my parents' home in Indiana. Martin had a good time. He opened Christmas presents. He read his new children's dictionary. He decorated cookies. He ate only applesauce and jelly bread for Christmas dinner. And he was nothing but sweet to my brother's new girlfriend. An all-around good visit. But even those must come to an end.

Because Martin's little sister is not inclined to road trips, we're always devising ways to break up car rides. Today we tried a stop at the Toledo Zoo. We knew all the possible ways such a detour could go wrong. We could drive into Toledo at the moment Sasha was drifting off for an afternoon nap. Martin could expect "his zoo" (aka the Akron Zoo) and go completely nuts when he realized things were different. Or the below-freezing temperatures could leave us all miserable and grasping for reassurance that we're not complete idiots for taking our kids out in this weather.

None of these things occurred. In fact, it was a wonderful visit. There were approximately 15 other patrons at the zoo. There were plenty of indoor exhibits, including a swimming hippo and some gibbons wrestling over celery. The sun was out and the wind was calm so we never felt too cold.

It took Martin a good 10 minutes to get on board with our plan to simply stroll from building to building. But once he was with us, he had a wonderful time. He stared at fish with neon markings. He watched the white lions. He tried on animal costumes in the science center. He even pushed his sister in a wagon. By the end of the visit, he was exhausted. His head tipped over in sleep a few minutes after we drove away.

We took Martin to the Pittsburgh Zoo in August 2008. He didn't have a very good time. And he couldn't tell us why. Today was not perfectly smooth, but Martin could tell us what he wanted. He enjoyed trying a few new things. Now we're home and back to real life and hoping that his new thing next week - school - can go just as well.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

merry christmas

This could be called Martin's first Christmas. Yes, he slobbered on some packages when he was 6 months old. He was excited to find an orange in his stocking last year. But this year, he gets it. And that is a big deal for me because we're Christians and we actually take this holiday seriously.

All month, we've been lighting advent candles at suppertime. Every morning, Martin removes a little cloth covering up another picture on the advent calendar. He's identified Mary and Joseph and their donkey, wise men, shepherds, and a few doves (although he keeps calling them pidgeons). He learns carols during Sunday school. The other day, he asked me who we should go see in Bethlehem. "I don't know," I said, "Who?" "Zechariah," Martin answered. This surprised me. Zechariah (not the Hebrew prophet) does feature in the Christmas story. He's John the Baptists's father and he has a lovely speech near the time of John's birth. I have no idea how Martin knows about Zechariah. But he does.

Tonight at church, Martin returned people's "hellos" and "how are yous" with his own "Merry Christmases." It's such a surprise to me. And also such a gift.

Peace and love and joy to all of you who follow our story. You are also a gift.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

my true love

We have a mountain of paperwork to fill out. Signing up a kid for public school, especially if they qualify for special services, requires submitting an entire dead tree's worth of paperwork. Martin's educational transition also qualifies him for some new therapy. Getting the therapist up to speed requires even more paperwork. And we've also found out that Martin might qualify for a program through the local board that serves people with mental and developmental disabilities. To find out if he qualifies requires even more paperwork.

Though I'm an historian that likes shuffling through other people's old paperwork, I don't like going through my own. I've been making photocopies of Martin's first neurological report, his first speech evaluation, his first Individual Education Plan, and his recent (and horrifying) I.Q. test. It brings back memories of all the little doctor's exam rooms, waiting rooms, crammed school hallways, and the blood tests. (Yes, many doctors ask for chromosome testing with kids that present as autistic. Sometimes, the kids have a genetic disorder that insurance companies will cover, unlike straight-on, just-in-your-brain autism.) I remember asking Martin to say hello to the neurologist. He wouldn't. I remember wondering if he'd ever make it through the I.Q. testing with the educational psychologist who seemed, at least to me, to need a psychologist of her own. And I remember my husband and I and another nurse holding Martin down so another nurse could draw his blood. That was one of my 10 worst days ever.

The reports stand in stark contrast to the kid I've been hanging out with all day. I'm off work for the moment and the kids have been home all day. We went to the library. We had two friends over to play. We had popcorn and hot chocolate. Martin sang the 12 Days of Christmas to me at least 12 times. He mentioned that he'd like to get his uncle a clock for Christmas. He built a "dinosaur car." He ate green beans at dinner. And tonight, I tucked him into his laundry basket for another night's sleep. It was a good day. Not like anything in the reports.

Doing all this paperwork means that there are agencies and institutions out there that can help us. And for that, I'm very thankful. But I'm even more thankful that Martin wants to get me a partridge in a pear tree.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Martin has gone to sleep in a laundry basket the last two nights. After long days of running around and getting dog tired by 7pm, he tells us he will go to sleep in the basket. I've been convinced that this will last all of 10 minutes. But he stays there the whole night, curled up like a hibernating squirrel in an oak tree.

Martin's new teacher, Ms. F, asked us if Martin likes to be in enclosed spaces, if he likes to cuddle up inside blankets and small corners. I hadn't thought about it before. I just figured that was a normal behavior and to some extent it is. Autistics, however, can experience an especially acute need to surround themselves in comfort. Since they struggle with the world's sensory overload, they seek out comforting spaces more often.

Ms. F's question was just one way she showed how perceptive she is about kids like Martin. Although she often said that she didn't know him yet, her questions and comments revealed that she knows what to look for and knows how to interpret his behaviors. I'm excited to send Martin off to spend part of his day with someone who has a real interest and capacity to understand him.

And it might be the case that I appreciate Ms. F's capacity because I have been so lacking lately. Although I've been working hard to get Martin in a class and so happy that it happened, I've actually really struggled in some of my interactions with him lately. We've both been a little cooped up, in the house most of the day now that the weather is cold. Maybe we're both a little stir-crazy and in need of some release. Whatever it is, we've been getting on each other's nerves. I've been cringing every time he gets really loud, attacks his sister, or insists on his 5th bowl of Raisin Bran. I'm sure he's annoyed that I'm glued to a computer, trying to get an article finished before my sabbatical ends. Whatever it is, we both need a little more space and I need a little more patience. Maybe our parallel departures to school in January will give us what we need.

Or maybe we both need to sleep in laundry baskets more often, finding the spaces that make us happy and comfortable. For Martin, that literally is the laundry basket. For me, it's more like a quiet office and a latte.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Today was a big day. My husband and I met with the school district and enrolled Martin in our city's first autism classroom. The details look pretty good. A teacher who seems great so far. Two full-time aids in the classroom. Seven kids total, some who stay in the room all day and others who are mainstreamed for part of their days. The kids eat lunch together and have time for academic activities. They go out into the community once a week. They do yoga every afternoon. We are thrilled.

A few months after Martin's diagnosis, we realized that he needed intensive one-on-one therapy. At that time, such services were not available in our district. We took the Autism Scholarship and used the funds to purchase the one-on-one work that Martin needed. It's how he learned to talk. It was so important to have it at that time.

I think we've stuck with the idea that lots of tutoring was vital because of the impact it had on Martin. We had a great tutor for the better part of a year. Her work brought Martin into the world of language. When she left in August, we figured that what we needed was a new tutor. When things weren't going well at school, we wondered if we had the wrong tutor. We never really asked ourselves if Martin needed something other than a tutor. When things at school finally fell apart, we figured it was because we hadn't gotten the tutor part wrong during his school day, not that he might have been at the wrong school.

It was hard to figure this out even after we brought Martin home. When the new tutor wasn't showing real promise, we assumed once again that it was totally a tutor issue. But I think we're beginning to see that even with the best tutor, Martin would get bored after awhile. He's not interested in one-on-one work for hours on end. He wants to be with people. He wants to play more of a role in determining the course of his day.

I think that it took finding a viable classroom environment for us to see that school has more to offer Martin than endless tutoring. At least for right now. Things were very different a year ago. And they might be different a year from now. But on January 4, I get to walk Martin to school, just a few blocks past where his sister goes to the babysitter. I'll send him inside with his backpack, lunch, and yoga mat. And I'll hope for the best.

I know this decision won't make life perfect. And there are some losses. I've enjoyed eating lunch with Martin and seeing him throughout the day over the last two months. But I'm thrilled that there's a place in the system for him. And I'm glad to be relieved of at least some responsibility. So, here's to new things in the new year. Can I take champagne to elementary school?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

rare form

Martin had an interesting day in the language department. Let me give you a few examples:

1) When I helped him change into his pajamas tonight, he referred to his bottom as "the tropical zone."

2) Earlier this evening, he told me he was tired. I asked him if he felt this way because he swam hard at the pool. "No," he said. "I swam softly at the pool."

3) Martin's skin gets very dry in winter. I have to put lotion on him every morning before he gets dressed. He hates the process. He wriggles and yelps. I tell him - every morning - that he needs lotion because his skin is so dry. "No," he cries. "My skin is wet."

The latter two examples make a little sense. Martin has learned certain pairs of opposites: hard and soft, dry and wet. I'm using those words in ways that don't fit how he understands them. The first example is harder to explain. My husband thinks that Martin has extrapolated his understanding of the tropical zone from a video called "Weather for Children." In it, a narrator explains that there is a tropical zone around the equator, at the earth's middle or center. I guess Martin applied this phrase to the middle or center of his own body, his butt. Or that's the best we can make sense of it.

Martin's language use can be awfully funny. For instance, he likes to refer to all sorts of pairings as Mr. and Mrs. When we sat down at a restaurant this evening, he picked up Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper. It's so darn cute. But it's also a little sad. Sad because there is so much he still doesn't understand about the world. And sad because there is still so much we don't understand about him.

My great hopes for him include a life in which he has the energy and freedom to make all the funny connections his brain comes up with. That's where art comes from. And humor and scientific breakthroughs (Malcolm Gladwell notwithstanding). But I also hope that Martin has a life full of people who understand him, people he can trust to love him and do their best to get what's going on inside him.

For all the language goofiness today, Martin also displayed some real social skills. He offered several "pleases" and "thank yous" to the pizza waitress. When asked if he wanted a gummy bear, he politely answered that he'd rather have a gummy worm. I'm just glad the waitress didn't ask him about his tropical zone.

Monday, December 14, 2009


There are days when your kids holler through most of dinner. And there are days when you get poop on your sleeve. And there are days when you're sure your kid exchanged his soul with some sort of cartoon devil character. And then there are days when all three of those things happen within about 90 minutes.

Of course, every parent goes through trials of patience. I'm sure more than half the stuff Martin pulled this evening had to do with being five as opposed to anything else. But even if his autism doesn't prompt bad behavior, it certainly makes dealing with it more difficult. He is still learning what consequences are. Sometimes, he gets it right. When he takes his full plate out to the kitchen, we hear him say, "If you do not eat your dinner, then you get no snack later." He's right about that.

But at other moments, crucial disciplinary moments when he has - perhaps - just hit someone in the eye, he doesn't seem to get it. Tonight, he hit my eye while horsing around. When I said "ouch" and grabbed at my face, Martin simply laughed. When my husband gave him a timeout for his insensitivity, Martin seemed both annoyed and oblivious to the reason he was punished, despite my husband's clear and brief explanation. Other times, Martin simply mixes the consequences up. Frustrated about something, he might say, "If you kick the door, then I get chocolate ice cream." I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.

I can put up with ruined dinners. If I couldn't, I'd have gone to the funny farm about two years ago. And I can deal with poop on my sleeve. I have quite the streamlined laundry station in my basement. And I can handle mischief. But I struggle in a situation where our efforts at discipline fail again and again. And the failure comes not from lack of consistency (although no parents have perfect records) or real effort to guide our child's behavior. But there are just so many moments where Martin has no idea that his actions or words hurt others. He seems completely surprised that at dinnertime - like hundreds of previous dinnertimes - he must wait to eat until we pray and he can't blow out the candles until the meal is over.

I'll take the poop on the sleeve any day over this.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

little victories

The Ohio House of Representatives has voted that insurance companies cannot decline to cover expenses related to autism and diabetes. The bill now heads to the Ohio State Senate. This is great news. If the bill passes, my insurance company and many others will begin to share the burden that the rest of us have already been shouldering, either as parents who pay out-of-pocket for therapies or as state taxpayers who provide funds for the public schools to pick up where the insurance companies have failed to provide. A big thanks to every House member who voted for this bill.

I can tell you the kind of difference this sort of coverage can make for a family. When Martin was first diagnosed, his doctor recommended two speech therapy appointments a week. We took Martin for an initial assessment and a followup appointment. I then called my HR rep at my job to make sure I understood how much of the therapy we would pay for. From reading my benefits booklet, it looked like we would pay a $500 deductible and then another $1000 in coinsurance. At that point, the insurance would kick in to cover 100% of the cost.

I explained my understanding of the policy to the HR rep, who kindly listened to me. But then she interrupted and said, "You're right about the policy for speech therapy in general. But our policy excludes autism. Your claims will be denied." Completely shocked, I asked how this could be. How could speech therapy for a stroke be covered, but not for autism? "It's considered an educational disorder, not a medical or mental disorder." And that was it. Despite paying my hefty monthly premium to cover my family, I was suddenly uncovered.

And speech therapy is really expensive. About $150 an hour. At eight sessions a month, that adds up to more than my mortgage. Some parents in this position do get second mortgages on their homes. For my husband and me, this felt like a ridiculously perilous financial decision, so we looked for other options. We tried the speech clinic operated by the college where I work. Martin was evaluated and put on a waiting list. (The clinic called back last Thursday - more than 2 years after the initial evaluation - to say that Martin was finally at the top of the list.) We then opted for a public school program that provided one speech session a week, along with a special-needs classroom experience. It was OK. It was all we had. We found out about the voucher program about 9 months later and applied right away. It was the only way to get the one-on-one therapy Martin needed without going into staggering debt.

I think about all the families like ours, but those who are even in worse shape. Maybe they've never heard of the voucher program. Maybe they don't know how to get what they need through the public system. Or maybe they're affected by the other half of the bill's content: diabetes. Maybe they can't afford insulin or decent food. Maybe they don't have supportive relationships to help them stay well. In my mind, these are all injustices that we shouldn't live with in a wealthy country. So if you live in Ohio, call your state senator. Or if you know a family with an autistic kid or a diabetic living among them, ask them if they need an advocate. Unless they live in the small number of states who have ensured their coverage, I bet they could use your voice.

Friday, December 11, 2009


My daughter is sitting on my lap reading a lift-the-flap book about Passover. She asks me to read it: "again, again." She also likes to read these little magazines called Babybug. Her favorite is about birthdays. A little boy receives a birthday card in the mail and says, "Today, I'm three." Sasha thinks it's hilarious. She walks around the house, saying "I'm three, I'm three." If you ask her how old she is, she holds up one finger and says, "Two." She seems to know that she's wrong. She gets a mischievous grin on her face.

As Sasha develops, I see Martin's development in a new light. I remember moments where something seemed odd, like when we were playing with a two-year-old who could tell us how old she was. Martin was also two and looked at us blankly when we asked him the same question. These stares continued after he turned three and we began to try diligently to teach him to say his age. He never learned until he was four, once we made a set of flashcards about saying your age. Then he got it in 5 minutes.

Martin did so many things normally that it was hard to see what was wrong. Like Sasha, he also read books and wanted us to read to him. He was also mischievous. If anything, he seemed smart and a bit quiet. He knew all his letters before he was two. He was reciting simple addition facts at three. He just talked a little funny.

Sometimes I feel like I have to parent in two different modes. A mode for Sasha in her normalcy and a mode for all of Martin's peculiarities. Sometimes I think I don't have the energy for that. But then I'll find them, sitting together, reading a book. I'll realize that they are not entirely different.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


All the children's librarians know Martin by name. This might be because they are great at their jobs and know lots of kids by name. It might also be because Martin is the only five-year-old that insists that books on the presidents include an entry on Grover Cleveland's terms as 22nd and 24th president, as opposed to many books that fail to show his separate terms. He also refuses any book printed before this year, those that came out before we got the 44th president.

Last night I took Martin to the library for another cooking class. It's a little silly since Martin won't taste anything we've made. But he'll read the recipes, measure things, make labels, and watch the other kids work. Last night, we made little mixes to put in jars and give as presents. Cornbread mix and soup mix. The trouble came not when making the gifts, but when we talked about who we might give them to.

Maybe Martin is at that self-centered stage that all kids go through. When asked whose birthday it is on Christmas, Martin says, "mine." (I like to think of this as his first bona fide heresy.) My husband had a birthday a few weeks ago. I asked Martin what present we should get for his dad and Martin said, "Pancakes," which happen to be Martin's, not his dad's, favorite food. So when I asked him who we should give our cornbread and soup gifts to, he said, "me." I tried to explain it, but Martin was no longer paying attention, lost in the Christmas lights of downtown as we made our way home.

Open-ended questions are tough for autistic kids. Usually, they need prompts, such as, "Should we give the cornbread to Pat or Harry?" When I prompted Martin, he replied that we should give the cornbread to Aimee, a woman at church who gave Martin some president dollar coins last week. Four James K. Polks and two Martin VanBurens. I think he'll give the soup to whoever gives him the dollar coins for Grover Cleveland 22 and Grover Cleveland 24.

Monday, December 7, 2009


My daughter is 19-months-old. She can say many words, but there are, of course, many more that she can't say yet. So when she wants something, it is often the case that she doesn't know the word for it. Facing the verbal void, she simply makes noise. Usually, this noise is pretty annoying.

Martin, too, struggles to tell us what he wants. Sometimes, he doesn't know the right words. Other times, he can't manage to put them all together in the right way. When he wants something and can't say it, he also simply makes noise. As with his little sister, it's pretty annoying.

I'm more than ready for people in my household to start speaking English. I might sound like an impatient jerk, but how many evenings can you eat dinner, trying to decipher if a grunt means "I'd like a 4th helping of spaghetti" or if the yelp means "Please, God, more peaches"? I'm in the midst of a five-and-a-half-year stretch where meals are more often pain than nourishment.

I know, I know. We don't face half the struggles that some families on the spectrum do. Martin has made a ton of progress. Nevertheless, I'd like to eat dinner in peace some evening. I'd love to sit, eat, and chat with my family. We're nowhere near that beatific vision. Right now, I feel like it'll never come.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

it's not easy

Here's how a person can be sad despite seeing a bunch of happy baby animals. First, take an autistic child to a live nativity program. Second, wait forever in the cookies and cocoa prelude to your tour through old Bethlehem. Third, have the first scene of the program be about old people having a baby. And finally, realize your kid has no clue at all what is going on.

Tonight was a reminder to me about Martin's continued difficulty with new things, not because he's stubborn, but because he's totally confused. The list of crazy things we subjected him to tonight goes on and on: going to church on Sunday night, taking his friend Henry to church, people dressed in bathrobes with towels on their heads, and rules about when you could go in a room and when you should leave. Basically, we tried to get him to do a new thing in a place where he has long-established and pleasurable routines. It's like your spouse looking over at you and saying, "I'm not your partner anymore, but I will repair your refrigerator or sell you insurance." Thanks, but no thanks.

Even more than Martin's troubles, I was saddened by my interactions with Martin's lovely friend, Henry. Henry did nothing but be a normal 6-year-old. He told me about his grandpa's boat, he had questions about leprosy, he commented on the absurdity of people putting big engines in small cars. He answered my question about which was his favorite part of the live nativity. He hypothesized on how the characters put together their costumes. In short, I could have a conversation with him.

When I asked Martin about his favorite part, he said something about train tracks. When Henry tried to point out some Christmas lights to him, Martin could hardly take his directions about which way to look. My kid has such a serious disability. This knowledge crashes in every once in a while, breaking apart all my efforts to make our life something like normal.

Even though it was a hard night for him, Martin seemed to enjoy at least one moment. After our tour was finished, we walked back to visit the baby animals once more. As we headed toward our car, Martin called out in a soft voice, "Good night, animals. Stay in your barn tonight. And I'll see you tomorrow."

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Martin has started paying attention to our conversations. Unlike most parents, who have to start filtering what they say much earlier, we've not needed to worry that Martin will repeat something we wish he wouldn't or that he'd overhear a more mature conversation. For years, Martin has been in the same room with us and has simply tuned out conversations about housecleaning, money, church, whatever.

Recently, we've noticed that Martin is listening and understanding. In one of our countless conversations about what we should do about Martin's schooling, Martin told my husband and I that he would like to go to "his school." We weren't talking to him or asking him what he wanted. But he heard us discussing our various options and piped in with his opinion. Sometimes, he contributes total gibberish. When we talk about going to the grocery store, he might say that's he's going to the store and he'll get a "something of the something." Part of the sentence makes sense, then things break down for him. But he doesn't want to stop talking, so he puts a little flourish on the end, hoping it makes sense.

More often now, we get more sense and less gibberish. This means that my husband and I must start using the filter that other parents have been using for years. And it means we can actually ask Martin complex questions. He clearly has an opinion about going to school.

Like other parents, I get to start discerning between sense and nonsense. It all used to be gibberish. But now it's about 50-50. So Martin has told me he wants to go to school. He also told me that he wants to turn into a rabbit.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

the fish bowl

I love Thursdays at 3 o'clock. No matter what is going on at school or homeschool, with good tutors or bad, Martin goes to see Miss Beth, his speech therapist. I like these times because I get to watch a professional in action. I get to see how someone who knows what they are doing works with Martin.

The set-up is very strange. We pass through a long corridor of exercise bikes to get to the therapy room. (The facility also does physical and occupational therapy.) I can watch the speech session through one-way glass, like I'm identifying a perp on Law and Order. I get to listen to Beth and Martin through a pair of headphones left over from the "We are the World" recording session in 1985. Despite the goofy circumstances, I learn a lot from watching the two of them work.

When Martin started with Beth just after he turned 4, he was so verbally unresponsive that she could hardly test him in order to make an official assessment. Today, he took directions from her in order to make a complex coloring project. He answered her questions about the Dick and Jane books they read together. He played a game where they took turns picking up a card with directions. Beth had to take her shoes off and then put them on. Martin's card directed him to name his favorite foods. And he did.

At the end of the session, Beth described basic objects to Martin to see if he could guess what they were. "It's a vehicle and has doors and you start it with a key," she said. "An automobile," Martin yelled. Then Beth asked Martin to do a description. You could see that he had no idea what to do and was trying to copy what Beth had just done. And it hit me again - as it hits me at least 5 times a week - that Martin learns absolutely no language naturally. Despite all his progress, he still learns language by reading it or by having people teach it to him. He simply cannot pick it up like the rest of us. I forget this all the time because there is so much he absorbs after the slightest contact. He knows the books of the Old Testament in order after just a few times trying it. He has whole books memorized about the weather. But he can't figure out how to describe a shoe, even if someone is modeling descriptions for him.

I sometimes wish that everyone could look in the little fish bowl of speech therapy. I want them to see what Martin is capable of and what it takes to get him there. I also wish I could let myself off the hook after looking in that little fish bowl. I'm an historian of the 19th century, not a speech therapist or special-ed teacher or professional tutor. It's OK that Beth is better at this work than I am, even if I'm Martin's mom.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Martin and I are creating a board game. It's called The Presidents Game. Martin typically has a hard time with games. It isn't easy for him to understand complex directions. He doesn't like to take turns. He has no concept of "winning" or "losing." So board games don't make sense to him. But we try them nevertheless because they are good for him. They challenge him to take direction and take turns. So tonight we tried to make a game that he would really like.

I found an old board game called The Six Million Dollar Man Game. It's one of Milton Bradley's worst. Players move around a board marked by spots with statements like "Use Bionic Arm" and "Avert Nuclear Submarine Disaster." So Martin cut out presidents and glued them to various spots on the board. I devised a game plan. And my husband invented and printed out presidential trivia cards to use in the game. Players will roll a die and move around the board from George Washington to Barack Obama. Throughout the game they will pick up cards and answer questions such as "Which President was in the White House when the US entered World War I?" and "Who is the only President who never married?" Players can move ahead if they answer these questions. They must move back if they can't identify the Presidential pictures. I find the board section covering the 1840s and 1850s particularly harrowing.

Martin did all of the cutting and gluing for the new game board, but when we were ready to play he decided to march around the room singing the names of all the presidents. This kind of thing happens a lot. I work on a project I'm sure he'll love and he walks away. I try not to get frustrated. I'm thrilled he did all of the cutting and pasting work. He might be willing to play the game tomorrow. But I kind of wish he would have played it tonight. Alas, I have no bionic arm I can use to enforce such wishes.