My Haunted House

I hear footsteps, crashes, doors opening and closing, voices, and strange noises on a regular basis. I am often jolted from my sleep in a panic. I am unable to locate objects or find that they have been moved. I often find things inexplicably broken.

Yes, my house is haunted – It has been for years.

In the movies, we often find ourselves wondering why the families do not move out of their haunted houses. Why do they subject themselves to the stress and anxiety of living with ghosts? Who would want to live in fear, waiting for the next haunting to occur, always on edge and unable to fully relax in their own homes? Why do they stay?

For me, the answer is simple. Moving would be pointless, there is no eluding the ghosts. They haunt me wherever I am. Even in solitude, there is no reprieve, for I know the phone can ring at any moment. A single call can rip me from a seemly normal routine and turn my day upside down.

Several years ago, I used that analogy to describe to a friend what it is like living with autism. I have never been able to come up with a more accurate description of my home life. I live with a heightened sense of awareness, constantly monitoring my environment for unexplained or unwanted noises and even silence. For I know from experience that any of those things could mean disaster. The unexpected is expected – it is only a matter of time.

Among other thing, over the years, those unexpected sounds have included broken lamps, a TV being pulled off of the stand, leather furniture being punctured with a candlestick, broken glass on a fireplace, the pool cleaning brush breaking out the screens of the pool enclosure, a stuffed animal being sucked into the pool pump system, and a $12,000 flood.

If you are the parent of a child with autism, you know exactly what I am writing about. Being jolted from our ‘normal lives’ is our normal life. We are constantly on edge and alert. Even sleep, when we get it, brings little relief. Being jolted in the middle of the night is a common occurrence.

It is not surprising to learn that many parents suffer from depression, anxiety attacks, and even posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We never fully ‘turn off’ from our commitment and responsibilities. We are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and it never ends.

While I am ‘haunted’ ‘less frequently now that Mike is older, I am no longer ‘living with the ghosts.’ Simply put, we cohabitate. I am unaffected and unfazed by situations that would cause most people to run for the door. For me, accepting cohabitation was the only way I could gain control and achieve happiness. It was a choice to let go of being irritated by the accommodations one must make to live in a haunted house. By making that choice, I have been able to find my happiness within his happiness, even when it inconveniences and/or annoys me.

I have accepted that my house will always be haunted. I have been able to exercise the most annoying ghosts and even enjoy some of them. Thankfully, for now, the ghosts have not been as startling but who knows what tomorrow might bring? See that is the thing about living in a haunted house – you never know what will jump out to get you next.



My Favorite Ghostbuster


I am actually forcing myself to write this blog posting because of the emotion it is going to stir in me. I doubt I will get through it without tears. Now, before you stop reading, I should tell you that they are tears of happiness.

A couple of days ago, Mike started Special Olympics bowling. I am fortunate that Mike attends an amazing school with teachers that are beyond dedicated. In short, they are not just teachers – they are family. While none of them have disabled children of their own, they go beyond the scope of the classroom. They volunteer to coach their student’s Special Olympics teams. Their dedication ensures that the students can participate. They provide an added layer of comfort for their students and parents. We do not have to worry about a ‘learning curve’ with a new coach.

As most of you know, Mike ate chicken nuggets for the first time in 14 years at this bowling practice. While I am shocked and thrilled at this progress, it was not the highlight of the day for me. That came from watching my son and quietly acknowledging the progress he has made.

As I sat back and observed him, I reflected on the years of pain I had while watching Mike participate in activities. He required constant prompting and always seeming disconnected from the group. Since he would wander away and his behavior was unpredictable, I always had to hover over him. It was work and, to be honest, not much fun for me. For the love of my son, I pressed on – and on this day, I reaped the benefits of my hard work.

As I watched him, I realized that he has changed. He is not disconnected or isolated anymore – he fits in with his peer group. To be honest, he is actually quite popular. His friends get him and play along. They laugh when he is goofy – they script with him – and they tell him to “SHUT UP” when he is annoying. It is all so very normal – and yet so very magical. (Here come my tears)

When Mike and I arrived at the bowling alley, he bolted through the door and headed straight to his FRIENDS. We have never been to this bowling alley, so I quickly followed him, in case he decided to disrupt other bowlers. My anxiety subsided as I saw him approach his friends. He smiled when he saw them. He greeted them by name. When a classmate avoided his greeting, he bent down to her eyelevel and forced a “hello Mike” from her.

He took off his shoes, put on socks and bowling shoes, only needing my assistance to tie the laces. He grabbed a few balls and placed them in the rack. He waited his turn and watched his teacher enter his name on the scoreboard. He moved around the group of approximately 20 kids and interacted with them. When the bowling started, he followed the game and knew what to do. He cheered and high-fived his friends when they bowled a strike. He looked for praise from others when he bowled a spare. At one point, he ordered food from the snack bar – calling me over to pay, of course.

Directly behind where the kids were bowling, was a sport’s bar area. I sat in there with Mike while he ate and remained there for the bulk of the practice. I was able to watch him, in case he needed me. I was able to sit, relax, and enjoy my son’s bowling practice.

The wonderful part – he did not need me!








1. “Do you seriously want me to bury you in paperwork?” -AH

2. In response to an Assistant Superintendent asking, if I felt intimidated by the 30 people the district brought to Mike’s IEP meeting to intimidate me.

“Not at all, I’m only intimidated when I’m impressed!” -AH

3 “Our tax dollars hard at work.” -AH

4. “You’ve never met my son, how do you know that he would benefit from group speech?” -AH

5. “You’ve convinced me! He cannot hold a crayon but I think he will love participating in your violin class. I look forward to the public performance.” -AH

6. “I’m sorry, but violin class is part of his IEP, which is a legal document. If you would like to change your recommendation, you need to call for another IEP meeting. Until then, since you are legally obligated, I expect you to implement the IEP.” -AH

7. “You’re a government employee. I’m a taxpayer – you work for ME.” -AH

8. “According to YOUR website – that’s the law.”-AH

9. “Before we proceed, I’m going to need that in writing.” -AH

10. “According to your data sheets, among other things, Mike knew the phonetic sound to the letter M on November 3rd. Is that correct?” –AH

“Yes” – The Districts CBA – the man has a PHD

“Your name is on the data sheets. Are you the person who worked with him?” -AH

“Yes.” – CBA, PHD

“Before you falsify legal documents to present at an IEP meeting, you really should check the attendance records. November 3rd is Mike’s birthday – he was not at school. I guess we all agree upon the Independent Assessments at District expense now!” – AH

11. “… and you’re a Certified Behavior Analyst?” -AH

12. “How do you become the Superintendent of the 10th largest school district with a degree in agriculture?” -AH

13. “You do realize that the kitchen is in the classroom for a reason. Under the Freedom of Information Law, I would like a copy of the school budget for the Culinary Program and the ESE life skills cooking program. Something tells me that the typical students are cooking with actual food.” -AH

14. “I’ll be here EVERY day!” -AH

15. “I’ll be here until you do your job.” -AH

16. “How do you know he can walk up and down stairs alternating feet?” – AH

“I watched him entering the building.” – OT

“He arrived in a stroller – I guess we all agree upon the independent assessments at district expense now.”-AH

17. “As a professional, I bet you’re embarrassed by your recommendations.” -AH

18. At the end of an IEP meeting: “I’d like to call another IEP meeting.” -AH

19. “Do you mind moving, I’d prefer to sit at the head of the table so I can see everyone’s happy faces.” -AH

20. “Before we get started, I’m going to pass around a piece of paper. Please provide me your name, title, supervisor’s name, phone number, email address, and the number of times you have observed and/or interacted with my son.” -AH

21. “This is a Title 1 school, you’re receiving additional funding to lower your class sizes. If your Kindergarten class is going to have close to 30 students in it, someone is misappropriating funds.” – AH (Later found out she was my new neighbor.)


BONUS: Ten years after leaving the public school system, the Director

of Special Education whom I dealt with retired.

I sent her a retirement card…