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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Oops, try again.

“What is Buddy Bear reading?” Adam points the mouse to the right answer. “A book. Buddy Bear is reading a book. Good job.” In the time it took me to fly and return home from Israel, Adam has “mastered” (sorry for the autism teaching jargon – some of this never leaves one’s repertoire after so many years of hearing it…yet another reason why semantics are so incredibly important). If Adam is learning a new concept in the Buddy Bear programs like “categories,” and clicks the mouse in trial and error to find the right answer, the child-narrator says “Oops, try again.” He does, he gets it. Even if rotely, Adam is building his own bridges to understanding the meaning of language. It is up to us, and his environment to put together the rest.

Adam figured out a mouse program that I couldn’t. He learned in a week to pick the “different” icons in order to move forward in the game, how to maneuver the mouse, how to exit the program. Various instructors have had a hard time in some instances getting Adam to pick “the one that’s different” in an “array” of whatever. An instructor will sit with Adam and say the words “pick different,” “find the one that’ different.” Adam may or may not respond. Maybe it depends upon his mood. Sometimes he’s just not understanding what the expectation is if it’s a new task. I mean, I am over exaggerating a little – he’s great at matching, but it seems more so if there are NO SPOKEN WORDS.

It has been a hard time since I got back from Israel. We arrived early in the morning the day before yesterday. Adam heard us come in and sat at the top of the gated staircase and smiled when he saw me. For the rest of the day, he clung like it was life or death – a natural response since his mommy was away for nine days. Perhaps it was a mistake to take him to school and drop him off there. He was miserable because mommy came back and then was gone again. For me, it’s a push to keep life as regular as possible. I am very happy that he is responding in this way. All I am is a little jet-lagged.

We go to shabbos dinner at my mother-in-law’s yesterday and Adam doesn’t want to stay very long. They’re home is tall and a little cavernous – typical of newly built homes. The floors are hard marble and reflect sound all over the house from top to bottom. For Adam, when he’s not in the mood for crowds, it’s a dose of misery – the children’s voices pinging all over the house making it difficult to hear oneself think. Adam flicks his hands, he cries, he’s heading out the door without me. He is very stressed out and when he is, I know the rest of the family is thinking THIS IS AUTISM. Adam’s lack of words, his anxiety and it becomes difficult for others to see what lives and breathes within him. He goes up to the computer and he flies. My little four year old is becoming a whiz – packing in loads of information I can hardly imagine and I keep having to find new computer programs now. (If any of you have any suggestions, send them my way).

A friend and fellow mother at school arrives with dewy eyes to pick up her son yesterday. We lean against the hallway wall, and she confides in me.

“You know what it’s like, Estée. I’m having one of those weeks when I’m realizing what acceptance means. I mean, our lives have changed forever. Is this how we have to live the rest of it? What if [our son] can’t work? Who will take care of him? I just read that only seven percent of autistic people get jobs.” Her eyes begin to well some more.

“I don’t listen to those statistics anymore.” I say strongly, trying to inspire hope, partly frustrated by them. “I’ve heard them all too. I’ve been frightened by them. That’s why we as parents have to keep advocating for school supports, for our children. You don’t expect a person who has difficulty walking up stairs do so without a banister, do you? Why do we expect that of our children? If Adam doesn’t get to university until a little later, who cares? Whose timeline are we on anyway?”

Adam begins to tantrum. He wants to get out of my in-laws house. The noise level rising, he managed to still get through dinner and a little swim. He is right at the door and I decide that I’ve made him wait long enough. I haven’t had much time to say hello to anyone, talk about my recent trip to Israel, and I am tired and can’t win this “battle.” I drive home, really frustrated, and like many other times, wanting also to cry. I open the door and Adam begins to grin from ear to ear. This is what he wanted. He just wanted to be home. It may or may not be his autism. It may or may not have been the noise level. It may have just been a need to have mommy all to himself in our quiet place – a bath, a snuggle and time to ourselves.

Like good ‘ol Buddy Bear, life is full of trial and error. Last night was just a little “Oops, try again.” And we do – we try and try again and somehow we just figure it out.


Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Charlie has a hard time with most software programs---I think they have too much going on. He has been struggling to learn how to use the mouse and the best thing seems to be a touch screen---I think you have a link already for the Laureate Learning programs? I also saw one called Teach Town at

I've rarely spent a night away from Charlie but his reaction to my absence---and his telling me about how he felt---usually unfolds slowly.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...

Yes, I had Adam use Laureate products when he was two. I used a touch screen at that time.

Teach Town is also interesting.

I'm always looking for new stuff I can buy, however, rather than linking online. I have yet to look at the reading and writing programs, but members of my team have recommended them.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Camille said...

Welcome Back Estee.

I think I'd be with Adam standing by the door saying, "I gotta get out of this place and go home. Now would be good."

I can't take most restaurants the way they build them now with beautiful concrete and metal and glass surfaces all over the place and an open view to the kitchen. And espresso machines are horrible, as are the blenders that make those fruit-ice things. Home is quiet.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Phil Schwarz said...

You're greeted with "bruchah ha-ba'ah" when you arrive in Israel... well, bruchah ha-shuvah, eh :-). Welcome back home, and to the blogosphere.

Re-entry is something like returning to daily life after Autreat. Just a different ingathering from a different diaspora.

-- Phil, who lives in the intersection of two diasporas, an ethnic-religious one and a neurological one

1:41 AM  
Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...

And thank God for Autreat! For Israel! For Tolerance and Acceptance!

7:02 AM  
Blogger SquareGirl said...

Welcome home Estee!

The way I see some of my students pick up on technology and different programs astounds me sometimes! It seems that it's is because it is so intuitive rather than all about words. I can't help but marvel at (and always keep in mind when teaching) my student's intuitive abilities.

1:37 PM  

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