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Sixteen, School and a Silver Lining

Chuck and charlie 16Note: From time time we get a post written from the heart by a parent. Chuck Hancock has written for us in the past - he's a single Dad who takes great care of his son, who is turning 16.  When he writes about Charlie, he has a lovely sign off - "I am the luckiest." And we are lucky to hear from him on this, his son's 16th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Charlie! Kim

By Chuck Hancock

Seems like it has been more than three years since I submitted a contribution to Age of Autism. Last time was 2018. Before then 2016 and 2011. I read such profound and insightful submissions here, and not for a second do I think what I submit is even, remotely, in the same worldly realm (been watching a lot of Marvel movies recently) of interest and thoughtfulness of the pieces I read. I write mostly about "Dad Stuff."

Charlie, my son, is an autism spectrum kid. My only child. Being on this journey with him for all these years has, to the surprise of no one reading this, been filled with awesome highs and crazy lows. That said, I cannot for a second imagine living without him.

Charlie is 16 today. I think back to the day I turned sixteen and can vividly remember how things were. I had friends, drove a car, went to parties, played sports and had interests in girls. Charlie shares none of these things with me. He wants nothing more than to have friends. He struggles so socially. Breaks my heart. It is easy for me to be mad and angry about this. I battle this frequently. But then I breath, and pray (though likely not enough), and just try to get back to that place. That place we all are. That place where we Chuck and spider charliewould do ANYTHING for our children.

Navigating the education system over many years has been a challenge. Whatever "education" is these days. IEPs, occasional bullying, and just trying to find an environment for Charlie which he enjoys. Unlike many parent friends of mine with typical kids, his Mom and I are not perpetually fretting over his future. Colleges, careers, etc. A small blessing maybe.

Charlie, his Mom, and I all moved from Maryland to Florida last fall. Saw the writing on the proverbial wall. Big step. Divorced, we try our best to co-parent. Which included choosing a school. We picked a school here for Charlie to go to 9th grade. A very small, private school. Billing itself as one for children with "learning differences." Disaster. While he attended in person, not a good fit. While report cards showed A's and B's, I knew Charlie was not really benefiting from being in this school. Even there, sadly, there were some episodes of bullying. New kid at the school, etc. Just so hard to find a good fit when it comes to schools.

So for this year we found a new "mainstream" Christian-based school. With the exception of last year, Charlie has always been in a mainstream school. Each student has a student mentor. Very cool. Also private, and not quite as small, Charlie seems to be doing better. Having Charlie in a regular public high school, with two thousand plus students, would be too overwhelming for him. So now, third school in three years. Tough for any child. Albeit A's and B's in 9th grade, admission testing for the new school showed what we believed to be the case; Charlie really did not learn or retain too much knowledge in Algebra I. Not much better in reading. So, discussing this with the school and with Charlie, his Mom and I decided to repeat 9th grade. Charlie was ok with it. New school, to him, none of the other students would know he was a 16 year old 9th grader. As this is not a public school, we fortunately had the opportunity to do this. I am hopeful the extra year will help. If for no other reason than to provide Charlie one more year of maturation.

This past year or two has, of course, been amazingly challenging for all of us. Virtual schooling for most, together with the lockdowns, closures, and the myriad of other crazy mind boggling "rules." I feel so awful for the kids at the majority of schools. Plus, the stress on familities. I fear all students, especially those with special needs, have essentially lost a year. The masking rules particularly trouble me. With communication being estimated to be between, depending what study you read, between 75 and 85 percent non-verbal, these children, particularly the little ones, are, I am afraid, really suffering. It breaks my heart.

I suppose one silver lining to this year-long 24/7 incessant vaccination talk is that, unlike many reading this, millions of people are being exposed to information about vaccine safety for the first time. Information they heretofore never spent a minute, or few anyway, thinking about. I sincerely hope that this increased knowledge and exposure will act to save millions of children from future vaccine injury. That would be an amazing thing.

I am guilty of being a total "overposter" on Facebook. For years and years, when posting things about Charlie, I would often add "I am the luckiest." While certainly true, I found myself during this past year, one, not posting nearly as much about Charlie, and two, when I did, not mentioning "the luckiest" part. This past year has been tough for Charlie and me. I get it, he has spent the last few years sailing through that wonderful time, also known as puberty. And, I remember, he is 16. We simply do not do as many things together as we did when he was younger. I get it. I was 16 once. But still, I miss our times together.

So, I work hard to shake it off, and try to stay focused. On whatever I can do to make things better for Charlie. Some things fail, some succeed. And, try, at the same time, as some as suggested, to do things that will make things better for me. As noted, Charlie craves having friends. To be in more social environments. It is just so hard for him. I just pray I can help him be in a position to meet a few kids he can hang out with, do things with.

I am in such awe and admiration of all parents of ASD children. As well as with all other-type disabilities and disorders. While not given a choice, we are all together in this journey. For life. While it can be so heartbreaking at times, luckily there are times of sheer joy. Today, Charlie being 16 is indeed a joyful occasion. Each passing year is accompanied by heightened emotions. One year closer for me not being here; one year closer for Charlie being here without me.

Still the luckiest,

Chuck Hancock

Comments

Emmaphiladelphia

Happy 16 Charlie!
Thank you Chuck for sharing a "slice of life" update. Bless you for being willing to find a more free environment in which to raise your son. Three of ours started out at a small Christian school which they benefitted from. As their needs changed, we switched to home school, and one was able to graduate from a STEM charter public high school. The social issue is ever present. Even though you are not home schooling, you might try contacting nearby home school groups (there are many in Florida) and have your son attend some of their outings/socials or sports teams. Many home schoolers also have kids on the spectrum. You may have a more intimate welcoming group that Charlie could plug into. Our church had a large number of home schoolers, so that was helpful as well. Always look up!

Angus Files

Enjoy your day Charlie! well done Chuck hope you both have a great day.

Pharma For Prison

MMR RIP

Bob Moffit

"I suppose one silver lining to this year-long 24/7 incessant vaccination talk is that, unlike many reading this, millions of people are being exposed to information about vaccine safety for the first time. Information they heretofore never spent a minute, or few anyway, thinking about. I sincerely hope that this increased knowledge and exposure will act to save millions of children from future vaccine injury. That would be an amazing thing."

Chuck maybe onto the ONE thing positive in our "year long2/7 incessant vaccination talk" .. that being bringing AWARENESS to VACCINE INJURIES by experiencing increased hospitalization of people who have suffered VACCINE INJURIES THAT REQUIRE THEY BE REPORTED TO VAERS.

Yesterday .. Del Bigtree had a fascinating interview with a hospital "leader" who .. after 17 years in her profession … and upon witnessing an increase in patients reporting vaccine injuries … learned that VAERS REQUIRES physicians to report a number of injuries following vaccination .. she was NEVER told about VAERS … and was stunned to learn she has an OBLIGATION TO HER PATIENTS TO REPORT VACCINE INJURIES. Unfortunately this courageous woman was terminated because she took it upon herself to report injuries that she knew treating physicians weren't reporting.

This was a stunning interview and I highly recommend all try and see it on ICAN site.

I did not know doctors are OBLIGATED TO REPORT A NUMBER OF VACCINE INJURIES .. I always thought it was voluntary … but .. fulfilling the required paper work to file a report to VAERS is extremely time consuming .. so intricate the info required a physician alone can fulfill it.

SOMETHING MUST BE DONE TO IMPROVE VAERS .. IT IS OUR ONLY HOPE OF EVER SLOWING DOWN THE VACCINE INDUSTRY FROM CONTINUING TO CAUSE SO MUCH HARM .. COVID VACCINE MAY FINALLY BE STRAW THAT BROKE INDUSTRY'S BACK.

Cat Jameson

Happy birthday, Charlie! I hope you have the best day. And Chuck, thank you for being so honsest and so compassionate. We are the luckiest to get to a glimpse of your life with Charlie. xo, Cat

TOB

Thank you for this thoughtful post on parenting in the world of ASD (and now whatever we want to call the current situation). I am so impressed that you and Charlie's mom coordinated such a big relocation, despite everything that must have been logistically and emotionally challenging about it. You were both doing what was best for your son, and I am honestly choked up when I think about the amount of setting aside of personal issues that must have involved.

I hope this new school works out for Charlie. I don't know if he's into sports, but cross-country is a great sport in the sense of attracting the kindest, most decent kids and also instilling fundamentals of fitness that can have lifelong benefits. It's also very manageable from a cost perspective.

And I don't know where in Florida you moved to, but if you're in the central part of the state, maybe we can meet up! We moved here several months ago, and I'm sure you and I share many real estate nightmare stories. (Kim, if Chuck asks for my email, please feel free to give it to him.)

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