Monday, December 19, 2016

A Steady Gig

Liam singing with P.A.N.D.A.  He's on the far right, singing on the song he wrote.
Like many parents of kids on the spectrum, we wonder what Liam might do for work, or if he will be able to hold down something resembling a job, or contract work. He has crazy skills, but planning and executing a project, especially one that someone else initiated, is still out of reach for him.  Lately though, he's been taking small steps out into the world and sharing his talents.

I began to receive email notifications, asking me to take the final step to upload my video to YouTube.  Since I haven't created YouTube content in ages, I realized Liam had figured out how to upload his Adobe After Effects projects, using different effects on his favorite television bumpers.  So far, he's uploaded over 70 videos. He even has some subscribers (who aren't spammers).

The most collaborative thing he's been doing, is playing in the band that formed over the summer (see the post entitled "Tribes."  They all worked hard and ended up sounding good enough to be asked to join their teacher on actual gigs around town.  So far, P.A.N.D.A. has three covers and five original tunes and Liam wrote one of them. They're planning a recording session in January, to lay down all of their originals and will be playing a show on New Year's Eve. Not bad for a band ranging in age from ten to thirteen years old. 

He's continuing to grow his talents as an artist, beyond his favorite digital mediums. Right now, he's working in acrylics and loves using the paint itself to create texture.  He just went to a birthday party at an art space that teaches graffiti art and stop motion animation.  When we left the party, he said, "I really like that place." After I finish this post, I'll be signing him up for the winter session. Some day, one of these things may turn into a steady gig for him.  For now, I'm happy to encourage the exploration.

With schools all over the country dropping art programs for lack of funding, I love that Liam's passions turn the traditional model on its head.  What happens when your academics serve your art? And can your art, in turn, power your future?  We're going to find out.
Liam giving himself a stencil tattoo at Art Rebel in Sherman Oaks
Liam's latest acrylic painting from Pastimes for a Lifetime in Van Nuys

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


"Ponat!  That's Liamese for pine cone!"
Liam was swinging on our neighbor's swing and referring to a large pine cone in their yard.
"Eesh ta Ponat.  That is a pine cone,"  he continued.

What had started as an inside joke for words Liam made up, had suddenly gelled into a fully-conceived language.  He began to recite the Liamese alphabet, as he swung back and forth.  It sounded like a synthesis of all of the languages he had listened to over the years, French, Russian, Cherokee, Spanish, Polish - all of the sounds combined into "Liamese."

I started pointing to other things around us.  Gesturing to a chair on the porch I said, "what's Liamese for "chair?"

"GHRES,"  he said, without hesitation.  The first sound was throaty as in Hebrew.  We had fun naming things.  This morning, while petting the cat, I said, "Jake likes to have his pets - how would you say, "I like pets" in Liamese?"

"Ee loo paas."  Verbs.  Cool.  In a million years, I couldn't have predicted that Liam would take his interest in other languages and invent his own.

It makes me wish I could watch his brain forming all of the new pathways that come with adolescence.  Lately, there have been many more "a-ha" moments.

One that felt like the sky breaking open, was Liam agreeing to use the Roto Clipper I'd bought from a TV ad, to trim his nails.  Nail trimming has been a problem since he was old enough to pull his hands out of mine.  For a wee while, I could sneak in a trim while he was napping, but soon, he learned to curl his hands into fists while asleep.  Therapists tried.  I tried.  Eventually, I let him bite his nails.  He is even flexible enough to be able to bite his toenails (gross, but impressive).  He would agree to use a nail file on the rougher edges, but it wasn't pretty.   

Yesterday, he was changing clothes and when he pulled off his socks, I could see a few nails that were getting too long.  "Time to file," I said.  I went into the bathroom and reached into the drawer where we keep the files and saw the Roto Clipper. We'd tried it once before and only succeeded in munching a small hole in a shirt (yes, it will eat fabric).  I almost left it in the drawer, but decided on one more try.

I came in, trimming one of my own nails.  "You should really try this.  It's so easy- and better than the other file."  I'm not sure what prompted him to take it from me.  He first held it up to a fingernail and pushed the nail into the little slod.  "It doesn't tickle."

"Nope. Try one of your toenails - the big one.  Then I'll leave you alone."  I guess the prospect of Mom getting out of his face was enough for him to try anything.  He started to work on his nail and he kept at it until it was a reasonable length and smooth.  I suggested he look at the next nail.  In no time, he'd done one, whole foot.

"I did it!"  He said, more as a cue for me to leave than in triumph.  I knew it was risky to push it, but I had to try.

"Yes - you did a perfect job, but you have two feet!  You need to make them both look good."  I guess that made sense enough to go ahead and tackle the other foot.  My husband's face appeared in the doorway for a moment.  I smiled and shooed him away - afraid to break the spell.

When Liam finished the last toe, I told him what an excellent job he'd done and told him he'd earned a treat.  Liam chose Gummy Tummies.  I gave him the treat and his wish - I left him alone.  Then I did a happy dance!

Last week, in World Literature at Urban Homeschoolers, the kids were using staffs they'd made to drum out the alliteration in a Viking play (have I mentioned how freaking cool this teacher is?).  Unfortunately the wooden dowels were not so smooth and Liam was the second kid to get a splinter.  It obviously bothered him, but he didn't cry or scream.  He tried to work it out, and when it was clear that the splinter would be the all-consuming focus, I took him to the office to beg a pair of tweezers.  I offered to take it out, but he refused and carefully, deftly took it out himself.

I had long suspected that things which were frightening for him would become easier when he developed the dexterity to deal with them himself.  This is the year that dexterity has met desire and created confidence.

Patience is hard, for all of us, but it has been the key to his growth.  In his own time, in his own way, he's developing skills in language, communication and self-care.

Excuse me, I think I feel a happy dance coming on again.