Tag Archives: Asperger Syndrome

Little Giant, Big Brain

I have been in deep weeds this summer helping my son Nick Baker finish up a book called “Turtle.” It is Nick’s story of being made fun of by kids in his grade school. Nick was so different from the rest of children at his grade school and 25 years ago he was truly a novelty on campus. Using using a long white cane to find his way earned him the nickname “Turtle”.  This is an illustrated book. Nick is both blind and on the Autism spectrum. He truly needed my eyes and editorial skills to help complete his book.

cover with text

Great news! The book is finished and is selling well. We have it uploaded to Amazon for sale as both print book and Kindle EBook. Local press has been kind to Nick. A recent feature on My Edmonds News TV garnered the attention of the local NBC affiliate, KING 5. They sent a reported and cameraman out and did an in-depth interview. The show was to air the next day.

 

My son set his alarm for 5:00 am, the stated beginning time for the King5 morning news broadcast. He promised to keep the volume low, knowing that Mom and Dad’ alarm would remain at the usual 7:00 am rising time.

 

True to his word, we didn’t hear a peep. By 7:00 am our bedroom TV set tuned into the King 5 morning show. Excitedly watching for the next part of the segment that featured Nick, I shouted; “He’s on now!” My husband was in the shower. Steam blew out from the bathroom as he leaped out, towel in hand, to get a look at our family celebrity.

We have ultra sensitive smoke detectors in our home. The weirdest things will get them going… like steam from a hot shower. Yes, they all went off. The units must all belong to the same “union”, when one goes off, they all follow suit and start emitting obnoxious beeps!

Instead of seeing my son on TV, we were running around swinging doors, turning on fans; doing whatever we perceived would make the noise cease and desist. Nick raced up the stairs to see what was happening. He started shouting “I’m going to call 9-1-1”…which of course was not the best idea. Our two dogs were affected by this shrill noise too.  They barked in tandem with Nick. Their voices added to the pleas for the pandemonium to cease.

 

I stopped dead in my tracks.  As calmly as possible given the uproar in our home, I reviewed with Nick the circumstances under which it was permissible to call 9-1-1. He agreed that he did not smell smoke, or feel any heat from a possible fire. Most importantly there were two other adults were present who had the skills to detect a possible fire or other emergency.  He did relent and hand over the phone. I was truly grateful that he doesn’t have a personal cell phone, or the next sound I’d likely hear would be our doorbell, rung by a local police officer.

A side note here… our name is probably on the “list” of 9-1-1 prank callers. We have had this happen more than once. On the off chance that Nick might still waiver, I took the upstairs base phone off the hook.

The fans and doors seem to increase the smoke detectors activity. Each time things calmed down and we’d breathe a sigh of relief…shrill squawks would again fill the air. Eventually the air cleared of the stimulus and silence prevailed. But wait, now a different beep was heard, the low battery signals. This extra activity had depleted the 9 volt back up battery in two of the units.

This was an easy fix. The ladder and some fresh batteries were all I needed. The situation seemed well in hand as my husband dashed out of the door and backed the car out of our garage.  I waved and silently prayed that he was able to catch the last bus downtown.

The ladder is called Little Giant, but a Big Brain is required to set it up. If that brain belongs to engineering major who’s of a brawny build, so much the better! I wrestled the Little Giant® MegaLite™ Aluminum Ladder out of its storage spot and into the house. “Lite” in the name surely doesn’t mean the physical weight of the ladder.

The brochure (which was nowhere to be found at that moment) says how versatile and easy it is to use. One can configure it to just about any position, like reaching the Smoke Detector mounted on an 18 foot high ceiling in my dining room.  I set up the ladder in the usual A-frame position. I use this ladder about twice a year, so the mechanism to change positions is a little dicey.  I simply could not get it into position to reach that unit located on the 18 foot ceiling.

All the while the random beeps from the low battery continue to drive us crazy. I’d yet to have a cup of coffee, the dogs had not been fed and the show’s last segment is now over. My son, who also hasn’t breakfasted either, heads upstairs. He announces, in case my ears were no longer working, that the smoke detector needs a new battery.

This was the exact moment I’d opened the drawer where our batteries are kept. A crunching sound from a crinkled, empty package, which once held 9 volt Duracell batteries, greeted my ears.

I was on the internet in a flash, Googling: “Handy Man” in Edmonds, WA.  Twenty five minutes later my knight in shining armor, actually clad in jeans and a sweatshirt, arrived to silence the squawks for good.  In no time he had properly aligned the settings and mounted the Little Giant ladder, now stretched to its full height. The joy of not hearing the beeps was short-lived.

My knight on the shining ladder determined that the unit doesn’t just need a battery, it needs to new, as in be replaced with a new unit. The expiration date on this particular one is 2011…oops!

I mentally schedule a stop at the local Home Depot into my rounds for the day. My list included 9 volt batteries.

Much later, I sat down to write this post. I marveled at how our happy high; seeing Nick as the star of the segment on TV this morning, crashed into the reality of daily living on the spectrum.

Just when I thought it was safe to get back in the water…

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For the Greater Good

“In Service to Others” was the featured article in the Seattle Times Pacific Northwest’s Sunday Magazine on December 15th.  I often read inspiring articles to my son, who is blind.  He doesn’t subscribe to a service for news in a version he could “read” with his finger tips. He wouldn’t be able to grasp the full impact of the article in Braille anyway, as the pictures add a dimension he’d miss without my verbal description.

The article profiles many Seattle area residents and details their countless hours of service to their communities. Here is one statistic that stood out. The national average for volunteerism is at 27 percent – about 83 million people helped their neighbors, churches, schools and charities in 2011 according to survey by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

In Washington state the figure was higher:  Nearly 35 percent of residents spent an average of 40 hours a year in voluntary pursuits, according to the survey!  I could see the wheels turning in Nick’s mind. We stopped and calculated his hours for the last year. He averages 2-3 hours every Friday at our local Senior Center playing the grand piano in the dining room during the lunch hour. In addition this year he has added the first Monday of each month to his hours at this site.  By our calculations he logs about 192 hours a year doing his volunteer work at this one location alone.  He added some volunteer sets at a few local area assisted living homes over the years too. He is beloved by all the folks who hear his voice and piano tunes. I often attend and let him know how wonderful I feel when I see the smiling faces that are a result of his sharing of his talent!

My son, Nicholas Baker, has been blind from birth. In his early twenties he received an  additional diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, a high functioning  form of autism. Nick is an amazing young man. From birth, he has had a wonderful ear for music.  He was reaching for the piano keys as an infant and playing full keyboard songs as soon as his small hands could form the chords.

Nick is an accomplished performer and composer. He wrote songs for, performed and recorded his first CD, “Think Positive”, while attending the Washington State School for the Blind in 2002. He has always enjoyed singing and playing piano for others. He was involved in music programs all through his school years and college.

His volunteerism began one summer when his Grandmother came to visit our family. She is a very social lady and quickly discovered the senior center located close enough for her to walk down there for the daily lunch. It was her way of entertaining herself and getting out having lunch with friends her own age. She lamented about that “lovely grand piano… just sitting there in the dining room!” Not one to see things go to waste, she inquired of the staff as to whether they’d appreciate her grandson coming and playing for whomever was eating lunch of an afternoon. The staff was delighted, but stated they had no money in their budget to pay for entertainment on a weekly basis. Nick was so happy to have a regular audience he stated that he didn’t want to be paid, just was happy to be there playing for everyone!

The center director was overwhelmed! She offered Nick a free lunch and said he could bring his CD to sell and even put out a tip jar, if he wanted. A bargain was struck and Nick became a regular feature on Fridays.  They even occasionally hire Nick for special events when funds are allocated for entertainment!

Nick rides the DART bus every week back and forth to the center. This allows him to be independent to do his volunteer work and usually collects a few dollars in tips so his fare is funded both ways. The driver and passengers are often treated to Nick’s impromptu concerts as they drive along to their destinations. Nick has been riding DART Para-transit buses now for many years to visit friends and travel to some of his work sites, instead of relying on Mom to be his chauffeur.

Nick’s work as a volunteer entertainer eventually led to paying performances. He is now gainfully employed by many of the Assisted Living facilities in our area to provide music and song for the resident’s monthly celebrations of birthdays, special holidays and even the afternoon “happy hour” music.

Since the release of his first CD, he has added several more and most recently released one called “This One’s For You”. It is dedicated to me, his mom! He was playing at a facility one afternoon when I was serving in the driver mode. He knows I love his arrangement of Misty. Before he began to play he leaned over the piano and said in a stage whisper “Hey Mom, This one’s for you!” I was inspired to suggest that this become the title for his latest CD.  “This One’s For You” is  a collection of his jazz arrangements of my era’s popular songs like “Misty”.

If ever anyone asks “do you get tired of driving Nick to his gigs or helping him with his growing music and entertainment business?”  I just laugh! Where else could I get a job that required me to sit back, relax and listen to my son’s beautiful piano playing and singing for an hour or two? It is definitely one of the perks of having this amazing person in my family!

Just sign me “Nick’s Mom and Number One Fan.”

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