Category Archives: Margaret Stephenson

February 12 – Weaving Our Way Through Asperger’s Syndrome

by Margaret Stephenson

I try not to cry as I sit close to my son while he shivers and cries on the floor – he won’t let me hold him. In the room across the hall, my daughters continue with the archery class that he has been asked to leave. My heart hurts watching him feel so deeply about something he is incapable of at this point.

Braden wanted to try archery and I thought it would be a good way to add some balance to his computer time. Everyone is required to do an introductory class before enrolling – the coach said the class would be easy, as long as the kids can listen and focus. So, I figured, Braden is super at listening and focusing. No problem.

“Pick your bow, grab your arrows, pin up your target, put on your safety glove, find a finger grip, stand behind the blue line on two whistles, shoot your arrows on one whistle, pick up your arrows on three whistles,” says the coach. “If you cross the red line before you have heard three whistles, I will yell and pull you back by your shirt because this is a dangerous sport.”

We all listen. I watch Braden out of the corner of my eye. I see the signs. Covering his eyes with his hair, looking down, shifting around, complaining about the fit of his glove, not being able to put on his finger grip. I repeat the directions to him, slowly and calmly. He listens to me, but the coach says, “No mom – you can’t help him. He has to do it by himself. He needs to pay attention, stop being silly.”

He’s never silly, I think to myself.

“How old is he – isn’t he eight? An eight year old can do this,” the coach says.

“Watch what I’m doing and copy me,” I whisper to him. I know how much he wants this.

He says, “I can’t do it. The glove hurts. Where do I go. I don’t know what to do.”

I’m getting worried, his voice is getting higher – do I just quit now or do I let him keep trying? Will I be giving up on him if I suggest we just sit and watch the girls? I know he will freak out if I say we need to quit now. Sometimes there’s very little time between happily focused and overwhelm.

His body melts onto the archery room floor and the teacher barks that he is no longer welcome in the class.

He has Asperger’s Syndrome and I’m learning more each day about how to help him. He’s smart and capable of so many things that I’m often caught off guard by the things he has trouble with. By getting away from the computer, I was hoping for more balance in his life, but I realize we’re not out of balance because he loves to play computer games – we’re out of balance because other things are so hard for him.

Margaret is a mom to three wonderful kids in Austin, TX. They have been unschooling for six years and find it still so interesting and exciting that she has decided to to put her passion for alternative education together with her love of writing in a blog that she hopes “people will learn from and enjoy.”

November 10 – Another Morning

by Margaret Stephenson

Today I wake to a depressed mood again. Not one where I can’t function, but the walk to the kitchen to make breakfast for the family is slow and the air pushes against me. The windows are open and I glance at the deer by my porch, wondering why the dogs have decided to ignore them.

Walking past the kitchen, I’m drawn to the kids’ new guinea pigs. I sit for a few minutes watching all three of them: Wilson, Simon, and Darwin. They are so little still; only 22 days old. They’re scared of me, I think, so I grab some baby carrots and alfalfa hay to show them I’m safe.

They huddle together in a corner where they don’t think I can reach them. I talk to them quietly until Simon is brave enough to come to me for a nibble. He runs up to the guinea pig loft to eat his treats while Darwin and Wilson squeak below.

I forget about my family’s breakfast. My husband wakes up and finds me with the guinea pigs. He says, “you just love those guinea pigs!” I say, “no, I don’t really, I just like sitting here with them.” I don’t have strong feelings for the piggies, but they are cute and little and seem to be getting brave and confident. They’re interesting to watch and I forget about my mind for a while.

My head aches on one side and it has all night. I reluctantly take some Advil and sit on the couch with my computer, checking Facebook and email. I check email to make sure nothing really important needs my attention: bills, classes, a favorite friend. Nothing. Just coupons for Kohls, J.C. Penney, Old Navy. And notices for new homeschool classes and an invitation to a kids’ Shakespeare play.

So I snuggle with my Facebook friends; I am an observer. I will often commit to a “like” on cute photos; rarely I will “like” a status update. It takes a lot for me to post on Facebook, but sometimes I do. Usually after a cup of tea and an unexpected burst in mood. I wonder too much about what people will think about my statement; will they “like” it, ignore it, or wonder who I am? Will friends of friends comment on my comment? Will it be nice, will it be confrontational? Facebook takes a lot out of me.

My husband leaves for work. I hear my son’s feet as he wakes up and runs to the computer to play Minecraft before anyone can tell him not to. “Can we go to the craft store today?” asks my middle daughter. My teenager comes out of her room, showered, dark eye make-up, ready for voice lessons and her theater internship. Giggling and singing fill the house; I get to work–breakfast needs to be made.

Margaret is mother to three amazing kids who learn in the real world as they homeschool together. She loves to write about her kids, emotions, and the moments that make up her life.