Monday, November 28, 2011

Autism and the HoliDAZE

Not quite awake- or overwhelmed?

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! I would say I hope I didn't offend anyone - but I really don't care if I did. If I said- "Hey- your mother blows goats" then yes- if you weren't offended I would be worried about you. But Merry Christmas?? That is what I celebrate- that is what I wish you and if you don't like it- I will hold some mistletoe over my ass and you can kiss it, ok?

Now- back to the intended subject of this blog- The Holidaze and Autism... two things that don't often mix well. The rushing, the loud music, the winter clothes, the crowds, new foods can all be a sensory NIGHTMARE for the child with Autism. Meltdowns are more likely to happen during this time of year- and with all of the other things going on it is VERY easy as a parent to get overwhelmed ourselves. So here are some things that we have found helps us out this crazy time of year...and being blessed with a child who has High Functioning Autism, we have it easier than some folks. But these tips can be helpful for ANY child and frazzled parent. So here goes...

1)This time of year is filled with meeting new people and the social stresses of being polite, and thanking people for gifts can put a BIG strain on a kiddo on the spectrum. Social stories are AMAZING helpers - but so is a willingness as parents to be understanding, TRY and limit interactions that involve a lot of new people and settings.  Don't do too much on any one day, if possible- limit things to one event a day. And if at all possible- try to entertain at your house- this gives your child a safe environment where expectations are  understood.

2)Schedules tend to change A LOT this time of year. And as I am sure any parent of an autistic child will tell you, schedules and predictability are VITAL in keeping the peace. . Try and keep the daily schedule as close to "normal" as possible. Institute chill out time if possible.Try and include (if and when appropriate) your kiddos in the process. Put events on a calendar just for them- then remind them as time gets closer- it helps to take the mystery out of something new- as they can get ready by watching the count down. Each morning, share that day's schedule with the kids, and only that day's schedule. Don't worry about tomorrow or next week.  Again- SOCIAL STORIES!! Can't say enough about them!

3)Sensory issues during the holidays - where to begin? New foods, new textures, new can be a veritable mine field for a autistic child.  Some things that might help are Keep clothes soft and comfortable,
( this is particularly hard for me as I am the "Let's get dressed up" mom). Serve a favorite at meals, or have them eat before. This is a cardinal rule in our house- nothing worse than a hungry kid ANY kid. Don't force hello's and goodbyes- this is a chaotic time with a lot going on- forcing the issue is NOT in anyone's best interest!  Crowded malls bring out the worst in people- imagine not having the ability to filter all of the noise, touching, lights and loud people- you would meltdown too!! try and shop without then kid - you will BOTH be better off! 

4) Make sure family and friends are well informed about your child's "quirks". What might be mistaken as obnoxious or rude behavior is more than likely just a part of your autistic child's personality. Seeing the world in black and white can be a blessing and a curse. Especially around the holidays when we might be interacting with people that we don't see often, and who may not always be on our top 10 list. Make sure guests are aware that your kid may need a break- and they are walking away without answering because they feel overwhelmed, not because they are being a brat. Or ( especially in our house) the kiddo answering a question or engaging in conversation that is COMPLETELY about dinosaurs- just smile and nod- we will take care of it when it seems to be out of control.

5)Find ways that your kid can help to make the holidays their own. Baking, decorating, setting the table, helping with Christmas cards- be as creative as you can. This is an amazing tradition builder as well as making Christmas with Autism a good time for all. 

So whether it is a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah,  Happy Kwanzaa, Blessed Yule or Merry Jar of Dirt for you- I hope some of these will help.   And please- by all means wish me a Happy/Merry/Blessed  whatever- I promise not to be offended.... just leave my mother out  of it.

Give us a kiss!

Monday, November 21, 2011


I am thankful for many things on a daily basis. I use the month of November (as do so many others) to come up with a daily "Thankful" thing. It really does make one think about all of the things we take for granted. Yes- I am grateful for all of the things I have been posting about- and writing about one each day makes me that much more appreciative. 

I do a similar thing in April with Autism Awareness Month- each day I post a fact, myth or story about Autism. I live with Autism every damn day- but during that one month I attempt to bring others into my world, and create an understanding about Autism for those who don't know. 

So- this month I have been thankful for family, friends, coffee, midol, wine....I mean it really is the little things isn't it? Here is a list of off the beaten path things I can think of to be thankful for. There is no particular order- just written as they came to mind... I would love to hear yours too...

 1)Blogging-Why? Because I'm able to process my thoughts in a different way and to hopefully help and encourage others while also receiving encouragement from everyone who reads my stuff.

2) Autism- How weird is that? But having a child with High Functioning Autism has opened my eyes to a whole world of kids and adults with varying degrees of Autism, and other disorders that I always knew was there, but never really thought about. Now- I am trying desperately to finish my degree in Special Education so I can be a voice for those who don't have one- which is why I advocate loudly for not only my son, but for ALL children.  I have grown, and learned and become a better parent and educator because of my son's Autism. Doesn't seem weird at all,now does it?

3)My kids- this one is pretty self explanatory- my kids are my world- I love them more than I can ever say. 

He is my Cracker Jack

4)My husband- He is funny, smart, frustrating, loving and awesome. He is everything I always wanted and I am constantly wondering why the hell he sticks around with a foul mouth, loud bitch like me... he is an amazing dad and loyal friend- my complaints are truly small- and I am damned lucky to have him.

5) When the kids are fighting-  Another one that makes people raise their eyebrows and snort disbelievingly- but it's true and here is why-   When the kids are screaming at each other, I am  thankful that I have children to love and who love me, and they do get along on occasion. That my autistic son has a voice and CAN argue with his sister is also pretty damn awesome to me...

6) The comfort of being around someone who knows you well- Again- pretty self explanatory- having friends that you can talk about anything with is awesome. I am blessed to have several... 
One group of very good friends 

7) Lazy Sundays

8) Kids laughter

9) Belly laughs

10) Silly jokes

My grandma is the BEST!
11) My family- near and far...I miss my grandma so very much- and I think it is so awesome she is on Facebook so we can keep up with each other!

12) Scented Candles

13) When everyone around me is happy

14) Wine- I love wine- sweet wines are my favorite, but I love a good Chard, or a good Cab...

15) Long Weekends

16) Being ridiculously peppy and cheerful most of the time- even when I am not :) 

17) Unexpected generosity

18)  Having grown up enough to NOT say exactly what is on my mind at any given time...

19) When my 13 year old Teenzilla shows wisdom beyond her years

20) My oldest son's amazing artistic talent

My boy's art
Thanksgiving is a very special holiday and  This list is just a minuscule drop in the bucket for me.  It's not about presents, giving or receiving material things.  it is all about family, and friends, those you hold dear. So embrace those around you and your ability to give thanks to those you love.    

If you think Independence Day is America's defining holiday, think again. Thanksgiving deserves that title, hands-down.
Tony Snow

Monday, November 14, 2011

Can you PLEASE STFU about dinosaurs?? PLEASE?!?!?

Kids go on tangents...from only eating mac and cheese for months  at a time to watching Finding Nemo 500 times. A day. I get that. But until I had a child with Autism I did not realize how bad it could be .

Some children on the spectrum may be natural scholars and become extremely knowledgeable about a subject they enjoy.  Extremely knowledgeable and unfortunately- extremely annoying at times. My son for instance can rattle off names of dinosaurs, the biggest, fiercest, heaviest, fastest, longest, the  epoch they lived in, etc. etc.  This used to be a source of constant amazement to me- and still is at times, I mean it is pretty impressive when a 9 year old can rattle off names and facts  that stump me.  In fact, may stump ANYONE  who is not a Paleontologist... but it is starting to really wear on my nerves now.  And I was a dinosaur encyclopedia as a kid too! 

I think of the autistic brain like a computer-  all data is stored in easy to access folders- with autism, when these folders get full,  instead of being able to delete some unnecessary files, they spill out into other areas- this causes the obsessive behavior to come into play. This is my hastily concocted theory- I have no scientific proof to back this up- it's just based on the observations of my own kid over the last 6 years.  And his overflow is dinosaurs.  Into EVERY other aspect of his thinking....

Dinosauria is a part of just about every single conversation we have. His latest obsession, a show called Primeval, has just about sent me over the edge. I hear about the characters, the dinosaurs, the "future predators" the this, the that- ALL centered around this show.  I have gotten to the point that I tune him out and just nod and say things just to appease him. I HATE doing that. When I am so blessed with an autistic child who can and does speak, tuning him out seems like such a heinous thing to do. But I can't tell him "I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE DAMN SHOW" , he will not understand why I yelled, and then he will still go on trying to explain it to me... it's a battle I cannot win.

Temple Grandin says to embrace the obsessions- as that could be what the kid will grow up to do- and to a certain point I do agree- but 4th grade there is so much he NEEDS to be doing... so much he is supposed to be doing and this obsession is really hindering his learning process.  

I have tried using it to my advantage- books, games, everything from math to social studies lessons using dinosaurs as the subject, but not only am I running out of ideas, I am running out of patience.

So it's back to research mode- something I am very good at. Trying to find ways to make his obsession work FOR him, as well as ways to broaden his horizons. Believe me, kids just look at him like he is from another planet when he starts going off on a dinosaur tangent... and that is NOT good for his social life.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Give it up for.....Turkey Carols!

I hate how Christmas begins in October. I hate going into a store and hearing Christmas carols BEFORE Thanksgiving. I know I am not alone.  As much as I love the holiday season- I really, really hate that it starts so damn early.

So in the spirit of Turkey Day- here are some Thanksgiving Carols...I am sure you can figure out the tunes on your own. Enjoy!  (p.s. I didn't make these up- well- I changed a few words here and there- but the creative license goes to another)


Tur-KEY roasting on an open fire,
Gravy cooking on the stove.
Thanksgiving carols being sung by a fire,
Our eyes as big as Oreos.
Everybody knows some turkey and some cranberries
Help to make the season bright.
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight.
They know Thanks-GIHHHHVVV-ing’s on its way,
And that means lots of white and dark meat on a tray.
And every mother’s child is gonna try
To see if they can eat everything on the table and not die.
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
For kids from 1 to 92.
Although it’s been said, many times, many ways,
Merry Turkeyday


I’m dreaming of a Thanks-giving
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the turkeys glisten
And children listen
To hear someone at the do’.
I’m dreaming of a Thanks-giving
With every mouthful that I bite.
May your days be merry and bright.
And may all your Thanksgivings-es be all right.

Here's hoping that you will be singing these LOUDLY the next time you are in a store that insists on Christmas carols too damn early.  Who knows, maybe it will catch on! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bittersweet Endings

Bruiser and The Goob
Football and cheer have come to an end. In more ways than one. Teenzilla is all done cheering for the Rec. League, and hopefully The Boy will want to play again next year. Teenzilla tried out and made her school competitive cheer team, but alas- she does not love the sport as much as I want her to, so she quit the team.

This first week after the season ends is always the hardest for me. Practice every night and games every Saturday is a grueling schedule, but it has been such a huge part of my life for the last 4 years that it is hard to come to grips that it is all over- done coaching, done cheering- and next year if The Boy plays, I will get to be just a regular mom, cheering on the kids from the stands. I am already considering how to get the coveted title of "Team Mom", which would mean I would still be in all the action, but there is a whole year, and a lot of mom's that I am sure will be eyeing the position..

Words cannot describe what an amazing season it was. Getting an autistic kid to play pretty much any sport is  a feat, getting mine to play football is a small miracle. He went to practice every day without complaint, never missed a game ( even though he stood on the sidelines for most of them!) got a few seconds of glory and had the opportunity to be coached by a staff of amazing guys who taught him so much.  He earned the Ironman Award- an award given to the hearty few who do make every game and practice, and that to me is more important than how many plays he got per game. He was there- learning to be part of a team, making friends and learning how to play full contact football.  He gave himself the nickname "Bruiser", another minor miracle, as he has always insisted on using his name, NEVER a nickname.  I am so very, very proud of his accomplishments, and hope that he means it when he says "I can't wait to play next year".

Now it's time to take a break before moving on to something else.  There is a program we are looking at for him called Mad Skillz, a program designed to improve on understanding, knowledge and skills of the game. He said he was interested- we shall see. I really do hope he wants to do it- and I really hope he plays again next year.
So nervous
Holding my breath

The cheerleading thing is what I am mourning.  I didn't realize just how vicariously I was living through my daughter until now. I wanted her to love the sport as much as I did, or at the very least like it enough to do one year of competitive cheering for her school. Not meant to be. She was upset that she even made the team  in the first place, and then, as we ended our youth league season, there was no break and competitive started immediately. Having taken a VERY heartbreaking loss at her final competition I truly thought she would want to keep going.  The schedule was just as busy, 2 hour practices including gymnastics 5 days a week, Saturday practices and competitions twice a week. Getting her to practice was going to be rather difficult, between my work schedule and The Boy's schedule there was going to be a lot of shuffling and running around. So for that, I am grateful I guess. But my dreams of watching her compete at different schools, learning different skills and being that crazy cheer mom in the stands are not to be. Coming to the realization that this was more for me than for her was a very harsh wake up. As much as she hates it- she always gave 100%, and was a GREAT cheerleader. Now it's time for her to be just as great at something else.

Teenzilla is an amazing kid- she is smart, talented and will excel at anything she does. She loves the arts. Music, theater- they are her passion. Now I will follow her lead- look for activities that she truly enjoys- and I will be a crazy theater mom, or whatever.  Her being happy and having fun will be my goals, and I will support her 100%.

So as I fold up all the football and cheer gear, the uniforms, the poms, the med kit and our trophy from last year, I am a little weepy. Silly I know, but once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader.