Teenagers with autism need life skills and job training. Life Skills & Life Lessons: Autism Dad 3 is a personal memoir told with humor and grace that looks at the unique challenges facing special-needs children transitioning into young adulthood. This collection of essays not only details a father’s take on raising a special-needs child, but tells the story of a family shaped by the everyday challenges and rewards of raising a child with autism.
* What Causes Autism And Can It Be Prevented?
* Teething Pain Is Only The Beginning
* Autism And The Art Of Toilet Seats
* Help Wanted: Employers With Open Hearts And Minds
* Celebrity Autism Insults Real People Struggling With ASD
* Precocious Pre-Teen And Racy TV Ads Yield Parental Torment
Autism Dad 3: Life Skills and Life Lessons ISBN-13: 978-1983499593 ISBN-10: 1983499595 $10.99 print/$3.99 digital
My son’s name is Rocco, but Conan the Destroyer would be more apt. The boy has an appetite for destruction, and he’s always hungry.
Rocco’s autism is a factor in his destructive behavior. He often uses items in inappropriate ways, like raiding my wallet and using the credit cards in an origami display (the plastic card in the cable box folds nicely, too!) or making a concoction of cinnamon and onion powder over the toaster (which makes for funky waffles.) Autism accounts for some of these behaviors, but I think even if Rocco were a typical kid he’d have a destructive streak. He likes to see how things are put together…and how they come apart.
Electronics are a Rocco favorite. He toasted a not-so-Toughbook and destroyed several iPods. Wireless phones are a constant terror target. I knew trouble was brewing the afternoon I called my wife’s phone and Rocco answered. He was laughing wildly and I heard water running in the background.
“Buddy?” I said. “Hey, Roc! Give Mommy the phone.”
He laughed and hung up. I called back but got no answer. I sent a text.
‘Roc’s got your phone. Not a toy!’
No reply…until I got home that night.
“Bad news,” my wife said, shortly after I walked through the front door. “Want it now?”
I didn’t, but my six-year-old daughter spilled the beans anyway.
“Rocco took Mommy’s phone in the shower,” she said. “Now it doesn’t work.”
This was bad news. Mom’s phone was a re-activated older model, because her new phone broke under “unknown circumstances.” The old flip phone had a cracked front screen, surrounded by mysterious teeth marks, but otherwise worked fine.
Soggy, No Service
Now the phone was a soggy mess, the tiny space behind the screen filled with water, a lifeless aquarium.
“Did you put it in rice?” I asked. This wasn’t our first wireless phone to take a swim. We’d rescued submersed phones before by tossing them in a bag of rice, which absorbs the moisture.
“We don’t have any rice.”
What now? A hair dryer? That would be loud, tedious work. I am a self-proclaimed “Daddy Who Fixes Things,” and I try hard to live up to the title. But this was a tough fix.
“Maybe we could put it in the oven, bake it at, say, 100 degrees?” I suggested.
It was worth a try. We removed the battery and baked the phone for a few hours. We tried the phone later and the screen powered up, misted with internal condensation. The buttons still weren’t working, so we turned off the oven and left the phone in there overnight.
My wife tried it the next morning. The phone powered up and she ran through the menus, gave it a test run.
“Wow. Everything works,” she smiled. “You’re my hero.”
I felt like one, too. It’s not every man who can resurrect a drowned cell phone from a watery grave. Only a Daddy Who Fixes Things.
“There’s a new text message,” my wife said, clicking it open. “Yes, Rocco’s got my phone…no, it’s not a toy…”
Originally published in Wayne TODAY Newspapers, September 2010.
Tracy Morgan is a professional comedian. He’s one of the stars of NBC’s “30 Rock,” and did eight seasons on Saturday Night Live. He says funny things, and, like any professional comic, sometimes he offends people with his humor.
But did Tracy Morgan go too far last month when he targeted homosexuals during his act at a comedy club in Nashville?
I don’t know, because I haven’t seen or heard Tracy Morgan’s act, nor have I read a transcript.
And neither have you.
No recording of Morgan’s act exists. The outrage over his act is based on one gay blogger, Kevin Rogers, who wrote about Morgan’s act on his Facebook page, and the story spread from there. Since Morgan issued a quick apology, you assume he’s guilty as charged.
“Say you’re really, really, really sorry!”
But Morgan’s apology wasn’t good enough. His fellow co-stars, Tina Fey and Chris Rock tossed him under the homophobic bus, and now Tracy Morgan has become a poster boy for homosexual tolerance. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has taken Tracy Morgan hostage, and now he’s on an “apology tour,” meeting with leaders of the gay/lesbian/transgendered community for more public mea culpas and photo ops.
[Speaking of which, is it off limits to poke fun at the transgendered community, too? Better outlaw all those classic comedy clips of men in drag, everyone from Milton Berle to Benny Hill to Eddie Murphy.]
The trouble here is one of sincerity. Tracy Morgan doesn’t sound sincerely sorry. I’m sure Tracy Morgan doesn’t actually endorse violence against homosexuals, and he’s sorry for implying so. But I think his bigger concern is losing his “30 Rock” paycheck. He’s a comedian telling jokes on a comedy club stage…he shouldn’t have to worry about offending anyone.
I question the sincerity of GLAAD, too. I don’t know how much the leaders of the organization are genuinely upset by Morgan’s comments (which, again, were actually heard by very few people) and how much GLAAD chose to seize this opportunity as a “teaching moment,” making Morgan an ersatz spokesman for homosexual tolerance and understanding. It’s a noble cause, but I’m not sure making Tracy Morgan walk the plank over a dumb joke is the right way to promote it.
Comedy 101 — Somebody’s Gonna Get Hurt
The first rule of comedy — of life, really — is keep your sense of humor, and don’t take yourself too seriously. If you’re going to laugh at others, you’d better learn to laugh at yourself first. All jokes are funny, until they hit close to home. If gay humor doesn’t offend you, surely another joke will: ethnic humor, jokes about the elderly, or maybe a gag about a “dumb blonde”.
As the father of an autistic son, I no longer find humor in goofing on developmentally disabled individuals (“Timmy!”). I cringe every time I hear someone describe a frustrating or ridiculous situation as “retarded.” (Probably the same way a homosexual feels when they hear something wimpy or ineffectual described as “gay.”) If the person you’re joking with doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand your humor, then you’re not being funny. You’re being cruel.
And, as a guy who has struggled with “weight issues” since childhood, enough already with the fat jokes! We’re not all lazy slobs! Some of us are well-groomed and hard workers! Look at Governor Chris Christie! We’re big boned! We have slow metabolisms!
Ah, it’s a losing battle, and maybe that’s for the best in the long run. Comedy demands basic building blocks, seeds sown early in life, and when I see my kids enjoying the rotund hero of Kung Fu Panda or dumb-but-lovable Patrick on Spongebob Squarepants, I accept that jokes about the obese and the addle-brained will survive another generation.