Good Thing #1: My oldest son, Stephen, is a sophomore at Blacksburg High School. As many of you know, he’s on the autistic spectrum. He’s also intellectually disabled and has psychological/mental health concerns. Plus his ADHD makes it almost impossible for him to concentrate on anything.
My biggest, most paralyzing fear involves what will become of Stephen after he graduates high school. I worry for him. He’s not on track for an academic diploma, and he’s not (at this point anyway) mature, skilled, or focused enough to hold even the most mundane job. His career goal is to work in the kitchen of an Italian restaurant and yet, right now, he’d be a menace in any professional kitchen. Last week, in his high school culinary arts class, his ADHD was such that he couldn’t chop lettuce to the size needed for a recipe. I fear what’s going to become of him.
Yesterday though, we went to Stephen’s “Agency Day,” which the high school arranges for families of special needs kids whom they envision needing major life and career assistance after graduation. We met with representatives from about six different public and private social service organizations, and it was incredibly heartening to learn about the assistance that will be available for him. Part of the reason we moved to Blacksburg years ago is because we heard the local school district is really good for children with special needs. Listening to the presentations, I had tears in my eyes. Two years from now, after Stephen officially graduates from high school, he’ll be eligible for additional job training programs through the school district. After that, other organizations will also be able to offer him career training. The successful placement statistics for these organizations are really outstanding.
I asked how Stephen would likely fare in the real world, noting all my concerns about his intellectual disability, his ADHD, his delayed maturity. To my surprise, everyone in the room envisioned positive outcomes for him. They’ve seen children with similar (and worse) problems do well. Stephen’s got a good attitude. That’s going to help him.
Hearing all this, and for once actually envisioning realistic positive outcomes for him, was tremendously heartening. I felt as if a weight had been lifted off me. I felt as if I could breathe again. It’s good for parents to take pride in their children. Sometimes, when your child has special needs, and when your child’s medications are haywiring his ability to function in a calm, rational manner, a parent can lose sight of that child’s strengths. Stephen has many strengths. I’m so grateful for this Agency Day opportunity to be reminded of them.
Good Thing #2: Last night, just before going to sleep, I learned that I’m the recipient of Washington Square’s 2016 Fiction Award. Published out of NYU, Washington Square is one of my favorite magazines. I’ve read it on and off for years. Marie-Helene Bertino (author of the wildly delightful 2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS) selected my story (“Pacto del Olvido”) as the contest winner.
Good Thing #3: “Princeton Prison Experiment” (the story I mentioned last week) appears today in Entropy Magazine. Here's the link. Formatted like a Wikipedia entry about a prison experiment gone bad (think “Stanford Prison Experiment”). Hopefully, it's fun. Hopefully, it's thoughtful.
Good Thing #4: This Spring, one of my stories will be anthologized in THE MUSEUM OF ALL THINGS AWESOME THAT GO BOOM. The anthology’s publisher, Upper Rubber Boot Books, just launched one of the most creative websites I’ve ever seen to support the book’s launch. Check it out here!
Good Thing #5: That novel I started writing at the beginning of the month? I’m at about 15,000 words. Hard to believe, but I’m already maybe 1/5 finished!