During a Recent Get Together

During a recent get-together, a very dear friend made a comment, which taken at face value appeared blatantly callous-to say the least. He said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Everybody deals with a wayward child at some point in their life, and you can find plenty of scripture stories to help with that, but there are no scripture stories about having a special needs child like you have!" Really? Thanks Captain Obvious! ;)

It's a matter of fact, there aren't any scripture stories that I know of that instruct us on raising special needs children-If you know of one please let me in on it; I'm stumped for any that cover such a thing, unless you consider the stories involving Laman and Lemuel-two people to whom I think you could properly apply the R word.

Well, back to my friend's statement. First, let me assure everybody that my friend was being anything but callous. He was actually making a poignant observation, and followed it up with a compliment. From the comment however, we proceeded to discuss the principle of personal revelation. God speaks to us in three distinct ways, sometimes those distinct ways are simultaneous, nevertheless they are distinct. God speaks to us through the written word (scriptures), the spoken word from inspired leaders (prophets and apostles), and personal individual revelation.

We both agreed, the most sacred way that God does speak to us is through personal revelation. It is specifically for you, individually, and addresses your living breathing concerns, not your neighbors, or some impersonal family's from 1000 b.c.

Well, like I've said before, I only blog when I feel it. And let me tell you on Saturday afternoon I felt it!!! Let me give you a glimpse into what happened.


Clear enough for you?

Oh yeah, it was a full-blown-nuclear-meltdown on steroids! It lasted about 30 minutes, and when we were done, we both had to change our sweaty shirts!

Here is a run down of the events as we can identify them:

1) Ethan woke up happy.
2) Ethan watched a movie on the computer.
3) Emma watched a movie on the computer.
4) Emma got mad that Ethan was watching her movie on the computer from the other room while he was sitting on the bed playing with dinosaurs.
5) Frustration and banter exchanged between the two. Each pleading their case of victimization about the computer and wanting to watch a movie.
6) Dad announced that it was time to turn off the computer for a while.
7) All hell broke loose!

Sorry, if that seems a little vague, let me be a little bit more specific-ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE!!!!

Evie and I are still not sure what happened, all we know is that it was clear as we tried to direct Ethan's attention away from the computer to other activities that we were getting no where. And it was just as quickly apparent that his anxiety, frustration and emotions were on a collision course for a meltdown.

If we can catch it in time, deep pressure hugs can help stem off the build up of the excess emotional energy. Some times however, just like a nuclear meltdown, the only thing you can do is hang on for the ride; which is exactly what I did, for about 30 minutes.

Picture this: a 42 year-old-man on the ground trying out his best MMA (mixed martial arts) ground fighting bear-hug to grapple a 14-year-old young man in the fetal position, to apply some deep pressure hugs. It's like trying to give a bobcat a bath!
Once I can get him in a position where I can control him (see picture to right), I ask for a hug: "Hey, can I have a hug?" Occasionally that request is met with a hug. If the hug is not deep, long, or lasting enough, I call him on it and ask for another one: "Is that all you've got? I need a big hug!"

When things are working properly-meaning the planets are aligned, and the stars are in order-a few of these exchanges and the energy level starts to subside and the meltdown disappears.

When it's not working properly it turns out like it did on Saturday, which went something like this:

Dad - Can I have a hug?
Ethan - Shut up!

Dad - Hey, I need a hug.
Ethan - I'm going to kick you in the ?&#!$
Dad - (reposition myself to avoid getting struck in the groin)

Dad - I need a hug?
Ethan - You s - - t!

Dad - Okay, here's a hug. Now can I have a hug?
Ethan - OMG!!

(If you were hoping, like Evie always hopes, that the operative word in OMG was gosh, yeah, think again!)

Dad - Hey, I really need a hug. Can I have a hug? Is that all you've got? I need a real hug.
Ethan - Son of a *!~(#

Next we moved from saying ugly words, as we call them, to screaming in my ear. Luckily there was background noise, because I am practically deaf when there's background noise. Though having his mouth right by my right ear didn't help matters, I'm not that deaf when there's background noise.

Screaming lasted for a about five minutes. After screaming we moved to feigning illness and injury such as 1) I can't breath, 2) your killing me, 3) I'm bleeding, 4) I gotta spit, 5) I gotta pee, 6) recycle any of the prior medical traumas just in case we change our minds.

While all this is going on I am thinking to myself, "Man, sure glad this wasn't in the middle of Wal-mart, this would look awkward!" Talk about Capt. Obvious?

Ethan again declared, "I want to kill you!" This time my response was more pleading then anything; "Do you know what I want? I want your brain to be out of prison..."

Well, to make a long story short not any longer, the meltdown ended, everybody was happy, relaxed, exhausted and friends again! Later that night Ethan announced as apologetically and as loudly as he could, "Dad, sorry I tried to grab your ?&#!$!" If only we had we not been standing in the middle of crowded produce section at Fry's!!

So, back to my original point. Such instances, though few and occasionally far between, always cause me serious reflection. This morning while on the way to work I received an "interruption of thought," otherwise know as personal revelation-a heaven sent answer to a concern specifically for me!

I carpool to work and so if I'm not driving I spend the commute catching up on Facebook status updates, emails, the weather and the news. This morning however, and I can't tell you how I got there, I ended up reading an excerpt from Temple Grandin's book "Thinking in Pictures." Dr. Temple Grandin holds a PHD in Animal Studies, and a Bachelors degree in Psychology. Oh yeah, she is Autistic! Here is what Heaven had her say to me this morning...
Being autistic, I don't naturally assimilate information that most people take for granted. Instead, I store information in my head as if it were on a CD-ROM disc. When I recall something I have learned, I replay the video in my imagination. The videos in my memory are always specific . . . each case is also part of my visual memory. I can run these images over and over. . . Unlike those of most people, my thoughts move from video like, specific images to generalization and concepts.

Autistics have problems learning things that cannot be thought about in pictures. The easiest words for an autistic child to learn are nouns, because they directly relate to pictures. . . Spatial words such as "over" and "under" had no meaning for me until I had a visual image to fix them in my memory. Even now, when I hear the word "under" by itself, I automatically picture myself getting under the cafeteria tables at school during an air-raid drill, a common occurrence on the East Coast during the early fifties. The first memory that any single word triggers is almost always a childhood memory. I can remember the teacher telling us to be quiet and walking single-file into the cafeteria, where six or eight children huddled under each table. If I continue on the same train of thought, more and more associative memories of elementary school emerge. I can remember the teacher scolding me after I hit Alfred for putting dirt on my shoe. All of these memories play like videotapes in the VCR in my imagination. If I allow my mind to keep associating, it will wander a million miles away from the word "under," to submarines under the Antarctic and the Beatles song "Yellow Submarine." If I let my mind pause on the picture of the yellow submarine, I then hear the song. As I start humming the song and get to the part about people coming on board, my association switches to the gangway of a ship I saw in Australia.

I also visualize verbs. The word "jumping" triggers a memory of jumping hurdles at the mock Olympics held at my elementary school. Adverbs often trigger inappropriate images -- "quickly" reminds me of Nestle’s Quik -- unless they are paired with a verb, which modifies my visual image. For example, "he ran quickly" triggers an animated image of Dick from the first-grade reading book running fast, and "he walked slowly" slows the image down. As a child, I left out words such as "is," "the," and "it," because they had no meaning by themselves. Similarly, words like "of," and "an" made no sense.

When I read, I translate written words into color movies or I simply store a photo of the written page to be read later. When I retrieve the material, I see a photocopy of the page in my imagination. I can then read it like a Teleprompter. . . When I am unable to convert text to pictures, it is usually because the text has no concrete meaning. Some philosophy books and articles about the cattle futures market are simply incomprehensible. It is much easier for me to understand written text that describes something that can be easily translated into pictures. The following sentence from a story in the February 21, 1994, issue of Time magazine, describing the Winter Olympics figure-skating championships, is a good example: "All the elements are in place -- the spotlights, the swelling waltzes and jazz tunes, the sequined sprites taking to the air." In my imagination I see the skating rink and skaters. However, if I ponder too long on the word "elements," I will make the inappropriate association of a periodic table on the wall of my high school chemistry classroom. Pausing on the word "sprite" triggers an image of a Sprite can in my refrigerator instead of a pretty young skater. . .

I learned to convert abstract ideas into pictures as a way to understand them. I visualized concepts such as peace or honesty with symbolic images. Honesty was represented by an image of placing one's hand on the Bible in court. A news report describing a person returning a wallet with all the money in it provided a picture of honest behavior. . . When I was a teenager I was called "tape recorder" because I used scripted lines.
Here is the epiphany: Ethan was running though the stored video images of his mind. He wasn't actually mad at me, he just can't, like most people, express himself normally. Ethan was just firing off those cutting remarks, ugly words, and phrases, as he recalled them from his video vault images in an effort to allow himself to express his feelings, regardless if they are appropriate or not. He was just trying to communicate. He didn't know how to tell me how he felt, but he knew from the video collection in his mind that such phrases, and actions, are ways to express displeasure, and to let out frustration.

Ethan, I get it!

No harm no foul!

No hard feelings!

Now, if I can just figure out a way to express myself in pictures so you know what I'm thinking!

I love you first, Rainman!


  1. Boy Cousin,
    Every time I read your blog about "one of Ethan's meltdowns," I am reminded once again that Ethan has the two most perfect parents for him. I don't know if you "see" it like other people (me) do. Ethan's learning process, Evie's learning process and your learning process fit together perfectly. I'm not sure it's appropriate, but I LOL out loud (yes, I meant to put it that way) when I read your play-by-play of what will now be referred to in history and for all time as The Hug. I love you and your sweet family, yes, even Michelle. You are thought of often, and always referred to as Boy Cousin. My kids and husband know exactly who I'm talking about. Keep it up, you're doing great!
    Alyson (Girl Cousin)

  2. Love you so much. all of you. I love when you write. [especially when I certainly don't get to "talk" to you enough.]
    Thanks for posting your life events. Thanks for letting me into what a "day" can be like at the Kornegay's.

    Love you guys so much.

  3. This was an awesome post, Jeff. Awesome, because I'm glad you share these insights with us. Ed knew Temple Grandin, he used to say she would come to the Livestock show with different colored boots on. I don't think he knew her too well, but it's interesting to know what was behind the woman and know that there actually is a process of thinking... maybe different from yours and mine. I'm glad to know that the Lord knew you needed some insight and provided you with revelation to help you with the parenting of this special boy He sent you. He did find the perfect parents for Ethan!

    I love to see the man my autistic nephew has become. He was married in the temple, he is in the service, and soon to become a father. He learned how to deal with a LOT... trust me, a LOT! He is a wonderful young man, and I'm glad he was sent to our family.

    Hang in there!

  4. I laughed and I cried! Thank you for taking the time to record moments like this. I have a great deal of respect for you and Evie. I appreciate the opportunity you are providing for greater understanding of the things most of us never see.


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