Life With A Side Of Autism


Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Fine Line Of Raising A Fierce Daughter

From the moment my daughter was born – even before, really – I wanted her to be fierce.
I wanted her to live fiercely and love fiercely and go after her dreams with purpose and drive and determination. I still want all of that for her.

I've raised her to be outspoken about what she wants. To voice her opinions. To believe that she matters and her voice counts.

I've raised her to expect to be respected for herself, for her views, for what she brings to the table, and to not tolerate anyone's lack of respect for any of that.

And it has worked, so far.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Night Tide

"Take a picture, Mom!" he said, and I did. 
Of course, it was dark, and hazy, and a phone picture
doesn't do justice to the crash of the waves,
the seagulls in the background bobbing on the surface, 
the smell of the sea
or the sand in my toes
So I hold this mental picture
Of him and me and his sister 
Frozen in time, looking out at the waves
Drinking it in
Just being

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

5 Smells That Take Me Right Back To My Childhood - What Are Yours?

A coworker brought me tomatoes and green beans from his garden yesterday. I opened up the bag, and suddenly, my childhood rushed out at me, wrapping me in a big fuzzy blanket of memory. It's amazing how a smell can take you back.

That got me thinking about all the other smells I associate with childhood - and here they are in no particular order:

1. Tomatoes

My grandma had a garden where she grew tomatoes and green beans. We used to play among the taller plants, and always helped her pick tomatoes and snap green beans (and the green beans always got cooked in a big pot with a bunch of bacon). The smell of tomatoes on the vine makes me four years old again, and I love it.

2. Rain on Sagebrush

I spent the majority of my childhood years in New Mexico, and that smell is unlike anything you'll smell anywhere else. It's clean and fresh and wonderful.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Atypical On Netflix: My Review

So I finally got to sit down and watch the opening episode of ATypical on Netflix - a series I was very much looking forward to as it features a character on the autism spectrum, and the family that lives with autism every day.

Overall, I think this was a solid effort. They really do make an effort to show us the story from Sam's point of view, letting us see what he's fixating on, hearing a word loop over and over in his head, his discussion of sensory issues and how that can be a difficult thing to navigate in daily life -  but it wasn't quite as terrific as I think it could have been.

Friday, August 11, 2017

It's Friday - Time For Another Edition Of "Today In The News!"

It's a big news day here in Fridayville, so let's grab the paper, or click on the website, and see what's new and unusual in the media today.

Here's a headline you won't see every day:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Horror Of Horrors - I Forgot My Phone!

I realized it when I got too far from home to reasonably turn back, and fretted over it all the way to work. What if I break down? Will anyone even stop? Why would they - they'll all assume I have a phone.

What if my kids need to call me? What if one of them falls down the stairs or trips into the stove (even though I know they'll both sleep to noon like they have all summer long)? What if my boss (who has texted or called me on my cell exactly four times in the six years since they hired him) changes his mind about emailing, Skyping, or calling my desk phone?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Managing Your Child's Meltdowns – Five Tips To Get You Through And Back To Control

As the mother of a child with autism, I can tell you with no false modesty that I have mad meltdown skills. My son was three at his diagnosis, and at that time his vocabulary consisted of a handful of words – and they weren't always used contextually. He tantrumed dozens of times a day, and often for no cause that I could define or for the most innocuous reasons: his shirtsleeve got wet when he washed his hands, the smell of the cleaner they just used on the counter at the drugstore set him off, or I gave him his sippy cup with the wrong color lid.

Once he started tantruming, it would often move into full-on meltdown, and a lot of the things I did with his sister when she misbehaved were ineffective. A time-out didn't work because he threw himself from the chair. He self-harmed, which was another issue entirely. It was frustrating for both of us, but eventually, I learned how to read him, and I learned how to manage him – and me, in the process. 

Here are a few of the things that I learned in managing serious meltdowns:

Monday, August 7, 2017

I Am SO Jazzed To See Netflix's New Show, ATYPICAL!!

I've often lamented the portrayal of autism in movies and TV - they tend to focus heavily on people who are Aspberger's sort of autism, meaning they're very, very verbally acute and almost always in these portrayals they are hyper-smart and overly rude and sometimes even given superhuman autism powers. Ugh.

This show seems to get it. And while my son is not nearly as verbally fluid as the boy in this show, as the mother of a now teenage son with autism, this show is going to tackle what it's like to have a kid who wants - and deserves - to be like other kids, even though he's not in many very important ways. It's about the family that supports him and it's about his own struggles to fit in even when he's capable of realizing that fitting in can be ridiculous. It's about helping hands and letting go.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Pull Up A Chair And I'll Slice You Off A Big Serving Of NOPE

Good ole Nopey the Pooh, my favorite cuddle companion. *shudder*

That is seriously wrong. Just wrong. But it's Friday and we're all looking for a diversion, so here's a whole bunch of NOPE to carry you into your weekend.

Let's start with this moving blob of NOPE, found in the Brazilian rainforest:

If that doesn't give you a case of the heebie-jeebies, how about this?

(Those are New Zealand Weta Bugs, by the way)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I Need To Find A Cat Whisperer

Guys, this is Annabelle. She's a sweetheart. She's adorable. And I don't know what to do with her.

Here's the sitch: You may recall that we adopted Annabelle a few months back. She's the sister of my other cat, Niko (from the same litter) and her previous owner had to rehome her after they got a couple of big, loud dogs that scared the bejeezus out of Annabelle. She spent most of her time hiding in their daughter's room, and crying when no one was in there with her, so they felt that rehoming her was the best thing to do, since the cat could not adjust to the dogs (we're talking a couple of years, here, that they tried).

So we took her in, and the first week or so was rocky. We kept her in a room away from the other two cats, and she hissed and tried to claw anyone who came within a couple of feet. Gradually, that gave way to letting us pet her for a second or two, and then letting us pet her every time we entered the room.

We let the cats into the room one at a time, supervised, to see how she'd interact, and that went badly. She hissed and growled the second she saw them. We did this daily for weeks, hoping to desensitize her, even let her out of the room to walk in their space while they were locked away, but all she wanted to do was hide under the bed in the next bedroom over. Finally, after a month we opened the doors and just kept an eye on the situation. GoGo ignored her. Niko kept coming in to try to play, he'd get down low and subservient, tilting his head playfully, and she'd try to take that head clean off his shoulders. This has been going on for months.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: People Watching

We take a seat at a table on the upper level
Resting our tired legs as we walk the mall
He peers down, watching
And he asks
"Mom, do you think they like Mulan?"
"Do you think they eat cheeseburgers?"
"Does she have a cat? Is is a girl cat?"
"Are they best friends?"
"Is that his favorite shirt?"
He wants to know everything about them
These people passing by
He wants to know their stories
Because the world is full of stories
And they make the world more interesting
I wish everyone was as curious
About the stories of others

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

5 Great Websites For Insomniacs

Ah, insomnia - a very good friend of mine. I don't think I've slept an entire night through without the aid of NyQuil in my entire life, so I'm pretty much used to it. Even with waking a time or two every night, there are still some nights when a brief wake-up lingers into irritating hours spent wondering how I'm going to function at work tomorrow.

If you have those nights, here's a list of a few websites I've found particularly helpful for passing the grueling overnight hours:

1. A Soft Murmur -  Terrific site for ambient noise like rain and crickets.

2. Primitive Technology - There's something incredibly peaceful about this chill guy in the forest building his own habitat, weaving his own baskets and making his own sandals - all without a word or a modern tool in sight.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Watch A Great Short Film And Vote For Some Awesome Kids On The Spectrum!

A friend was kind enough to pass along this article from the Hills Shire Times about a wonderful group of kids at the Woodbury Autism Education and Research school. They're hoping to win a $10,000 sports package for the school by entering a short film contest sponsored by Focus On Ability.

“The Magic Cupboard" is modern fairy tale where three boys on the autism spectrum find a magical portal to lands where their challenges become strengths. Speaking as a woman who wrote a book about portals to other realities (a book that features a prominent character on the spectrum), this movie has win written all over it!

Watch the movie, then vote here. Voting ends August 7th, so do it today and let's get those kids the sports equipment they need!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Sign Me Up For Fun On A Friday!

The heat wave finally broke here with a vengeance (and several metric buttloads of rain), but we're going to have a fun Friday anyway. Here's the latest collection of signage for your viewing pleasure:

Speaking of heat . . .

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I Miss Dancing In The Rain

It's a gloomy, dreary, soon-to-be rainy day here in Pennsylvania, and I'm not terribly happy about that. I got comped a free night at a hotel near work for attending an event, and today was the big day. This place has the most amazing outdoor pool. We've been looking forward to it all week.

I've also been watching the weather all week and it was supposed to be overcast today, but not rain until tomorrow. One look at the sky and a follow up with the updated forecast shows thunderstorms off and on all day. There goes our pool time. The kids aren't going to be happy, and I'm definitely not happy.

So I was looking out the window, staring woefully at the gray sky, and suddenly a thread of a song ran through my head, and I'm singing,

"Now overcast days never turned me on . . . but something 'bout the clouds and her mixed . . ."

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: I Look Over

I look over and there they are
Both of them asleep beside me
Made their way into my bed
One late at night
The other in the wee hours
They're teenagers now
So it doesn't happen often
We don't fit so good anymore
On a queen sized bed
But it's all good
Three little birds
Not worrying about a thing
'Cause everything's gonna be all right

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

5 Things I Still Have In Common With My Childhood Self

 Reddit recently had a thread posing the question, "What do you still have in common with your 10 year-old self?" I think that's a great topic, so here's my list:

1. I love to write.

Except for the times when I hate to write because I am sure that I'm so bad at it.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Free Webinar On Safety Skills For Children With Autism

I just want to give a shout out to the folks at Spark For Autism - This Thursday from 12- 1 pm EDT, they'll be hosting a free webinar discussing safety skills for children on the spectrum, featuring Bridget Taylor, Psy.D, cofounder and executive director of Alpine Learning Group, a school for students with autism.

Find out more info and sign up for the webinar here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Happy Friday! Time To Play "What Did I Just Watch!"

Oh, the strange and wonderful things you find on the internet. I've got stuff in my archive that'll keep you up at night and traumatize your children. Stuff that makes you wonder what people were thinking - or smoking. Here's a tame collection of some of my favorite oddities.

We'll start with this ad:

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Small Town Teens, Abstinence And Birth Control - It's Not As Easy As You Think

I was mostly raised in a small town, out in the middle of bible belt, and spent my teen years in a high school where I knew everybody, and their family knew my family, and our families went to the same or rival Southern Baptist Churches - most of us, anyway.

I wasn't sexually active in high school at all - I lost my virginity five weeks into my freshman year of college, but that's not because I lost Jesus or turned my back on Christianity or decided to experiment now that I was away from my parent's protective watch.

The truth is, I had never planned to keep my virginity until marriage, even though I was a very devout christian girl. I went to church 5-6 times a week, sang in the choir, and was a teacher's aide during Vacation Bible School. I knew that God told us to wait until we were married.

But I also knew that people in the bible married in their pre-teens to early teens. And to someone chosen by their father. Or to the man who raped them, to save her family's honor. No one back then was allowed to feel passion, to learn their bodies or anyone else's before they were cemented in for life. No one was free to discover what they liked before they were told to submit to someone else's more important desires.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My 10 Favorite TV Couples - Who Are Yours?

I don't get to watch as much TV as I used to because . . .kids, but I have caught some here and there across the years and I've developed a good list of favorite couples along the way. Some of my omissions may surprise you. No Ross and Rachel? Nope. She's too high maintenance and wishy-washy and he has no spine. They were just as bad for each other as they were good. No Carrie and Mr. Big, either. He cheated on his wife. She enabled. Not a good basis for a lasting relationship, as far as I'm concerned.

No Sun and Jin? Nope, they decided to die together and leave their kid without parents. Selfish idiots. No Homer and Marge? I love that they love each other no matter what, but Marge is a serious doormat in that relationship, always cleaning up after this self-centered buffoon that I can't find that healthy. Quirky is good. Destructive or one-sided . . . not so much.

So here's my list of my favorite TV couples, beginning with:

10. Meredith and Derek, Grey's Anatomy

Let's not mention how it all ends, shall we?

9. April and Andy, Parks and Recreation

C'mon - they were going to name their kid Burt Snakehole Ludgate Karate Dracula Macklin Demon Jack o' Lantern - or 'Jack' for short.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Experience Life Through Carly's Eyes At Carly's Cafe

I've blogged about Carly Fleischmann before, and I find her to be a thoughtful, strong, often hilarious and wonderful young woman who also happens to have autism. Though mostly non-verbal, Carly has found her own unique voice and shares her thoughts and insights about being a person on the spectrum in the hopes of spreading understanding and aiding in accommodation.

Today, I'd like to share this brief glimpse into Carly's world.

Friday, July 14, 2017

It's Friday - Time For Some Funny News!

It's a dreary, rainy Friday, but it's Friday all the same. We're going to do news today, since I got some really good news yesterday and I feel like celebrating. Let's see what fun we can have with the local news, shall we?

Ah, small town news.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dear Daughter: You're Going To Be A Terrible Mother Someday

My darling daughter:

You told me yesterday, without the slightest hesitation, that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will be an awesome mother someday.

You know this, because unlike me, you will be very well-versed on current popular music and have an Instagram following that numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

Or whatever replaces Instagram. I'm sure by the time you're grown and have children of your own, there will have been numerous social media giants taking over, rising and falling into oblivion. By then, Apple will have invented Wi-Fi shoelaces and iBras, but there will still be no real cure for cellulite.

I'm not sure that's progress, but I digress. Back to the topic of your someday motherhood. When you told me you'd be a great mother, I gave you an indulgent smile and a nod, and I went back to making dinner, but as I stood there stirring spaghetti, I realized the undeniable truth.

You are going to be a terrible mother.
I speak from experience.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

10 Things I Love About The Great British Baking Show

Everybody meet my newest Netflix obsession: The Great British Baking Show (or The Great British Bake Off, if you're in the UK). I was hooked from the first episode and have now binge-watched my way through everything Netflix has to offer. Oh, do I love this show! The food! The personalities! Here are just a few of the things that got me mad for this bit of delicious gentility:

1. The winner gets not one penny in cash. Seriously. No cash prize. Just a simple trophy shaped like a cake plate, and the personal satisfaction of being Britain's best baker. And they're all fine with that.

2. All of the twelve bakers are normal people with regular jobs. No chefs. No owners of cupcake trucks or bakeries, no restaurant workers. In fact, the shows are filmed on weekends so that they can all work their regular jobs during the week. They've had students and architects, bankers and grandmothers, all sorts of ordinary folk.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fathers Of Children With Autism: Do You Love Them Enough To Spit?

Today I'd like to give a big shoutout to Spark for Autism, also known as the Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge. Their mission is to speed up research and advance our understanding of autism to help improve lives.

One of the key research projects they're working on is a genetic study of the fathers of children on the spectrum, and if you're the father of a child with autism, they can use your help - and your spit. Watch this video for info:

Friday, July 7, 2017

Signs Point To Fun On A Friday!

It's been a short week for me, work-wise (although, with a massively bruised elbow, hairline fracture of the wrist, sprained shoulder and poison ivy, it feels a lot longer). Friday is suddenly upon us and it's time to check out some hilarious signage.

They mean it.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Music Really Is The Universal Language

We were camping last week at a really nice camping resort that's become a yearly tradition for us. On Thursday, the kids were in the pool, I was lounging in a wicker chair (with my laptop, of course) and music was being piped over the PA system - most of it bubblegum pop stuff.

All of a sudden, I heard the strains of one of my favorite songs - "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers, and I started singing along in a quiet voice. Or so I thought.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Ow

That's an elbow.
And falling off a bike is very different now than it was when I was six, apparently.

Monday, July 3, 2017

"Mom! I'm Bored!" 5 Ways To Help Your Kids Beat The Summer "Blahs"

Summer is here and that means longer days, lots of sunshine, pools and beaches and barbeques and vacations. Unfortunately, if you're a parent, it can also mean the occasional (which can feel like frequent) whine of a bored kid.

If your kids are in need of an interesting diversion, you might want to give these a try:

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Waterpark That Includes Special-Needs Kids? Meet Morgan's Inspiration Island!

Summertime means fun in the sun, splashing and laughing and sunblock galore. If you're a kid, it's a stretch of halcyon days that you cherish for a lifetime.

For some kids, though, fun in the sun is a restricted thing. Most beaches and waterparks aren't meant for wheelchairs or walkers, and these kids are often restricted to watching from a blanket nearby as their siblings and friends have a blast.

That's all changing thanks to Morgan's Inspiration Island in San Antonio, Texas!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

5 Important Things To Remember When You Talk To A Teenage Girl

I am the mother of a teenage girl. Some days, I can't say that without gritting my teeth or having my lower lip tremble, and some days, I'm crowing it from the rooftops as pride swells my chest. It's a never-ending rollercoaster ride, this puberty thing, and it can take a lot of fortitude to communicate through the storm sometimes. Here are five important things I've learned about talking to my teenage daughter:

1. Perspective is everything – and she doesn't have it yet. It's very easy to sit here with decades of life behind me, and not see every little bump in the road as an insurmountable mountain. For my daughter, it's not so easy. Some of those bumps came out of nowhere and jostled her in ways she's never experienced before. They're startling and derailing and making her re-evaluate the road she's on constantly. And that's a good thing and a growing thing, but it's also a frustrating and occasionally frightening thing – for her, anyway. She may be "all about the drama" some days, and I do my best to try to help her put all that in perspective when it arises. Getting her to see the bigger picture isn't always easy (or welcomed) but it's necessary for her to develop her own sense of balance.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Please Indulge The Writer . . .

Because I'm just going to crow a bit. The cover reveal is out for my second novel, DREAMER (which is a sequel to TRAVELER). And it's just gorgeous!

You can read all about it on my guest post at Swoon Reads, and you can even pre-order it through Amazon!

Holy cow, my second book. Still hard to believe.

Friday, June 23, 2017

It's Summer - Time To Get Your FAIL On!

Ah, summer. Full of sand and chlorine and salty, chapped body parts. So much fun, but so much that can go wrong when you mix tanning oil, frozen alcoholic drinks, and people in glorified undergarments. Let's have a look at some summer fails, shall we?

Sweetheart, you eat ice cream with your mouth.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

What Is Just Not Worth The Money To You?

That, my friends, is an expensive handbag. Like, $3500 expensive. Why?

I have friends with Coach and Louis Vuitton handbags that they shelled hundreds of dollars out for, wrapped carefully in tissue paper in sectioned areas of their closets, and all I can say is why?

A handbag is a utility. It carries your wallet, your keys, maybe a small umbrella or tissues or lipstick. If you're a mom, God only knows what it carries. But that's what it does.

If you have to go to a wedding, you get the fancy little clutch purse that goes with your dress and if you're smart you get one that will go with several dresses so you can re-use it, since weddings don't happen to your friends and family every day.

I buy my handbags at Target, or on occasion at a department store. I buy a new one when the old one breaks a strap or a zipper, or gets too worn and scuffed. And I use that purse every day, with every outfit. It's not about fashion for me. It's about utility. I cannot fathom spending more than $40 on one, either. And they wear just fine. Years. So it's not about fine workmanship, it's about status, and to me, a fancy handbag only tells me you're willing to part with your money too easy and also impressed by stuff like that.
You also won't find me shelling out money for:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Mr. Sneaky Strikes Again

His latest bit of deviltry
Involves the sneaking of a spoon from the drawer
Then pressing it to my bare back
Under my shirt
As I'm cooking dinner or putting away dishes
I shriek loudly
He laughs louder
Sometimes he even dances in his glee
And today, I found a spoon in the freezer
Oh, baby boy, baby boy
It is on
It is SO on

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

10 Movies I've Never Seen (And I Own Them!)

I don't go out much.

Okay, at all. I hardly go out at all. And I missed a lot of good movies back when the kids were younger because . . . kids. And no sitter. Then they got older but I got divorced and money for movies is very tight and is usually spent on Disney and Pixar movies when I get it. 

So a lot of great movies go by, but thank goodness for Wal-Mart and Target. I'll see a movie I'd really wanted to see in the theaters on a shelf with a price tag of less than $10 (God bless the Wal-Mart $5 DVD bin!) and I snag it, if I've got the cash.

And then it sits. See, the problem is, I'm a writer. And I need my kid-free time to write. When the kids are around, they make it hard to watch and enjoy a movie (my son sings all the time and my daughter is always playing YouTube videos while we watch). Consequently, the movies don't get watched. They gather dust. Here are ten I want to watch, but am ashamed to say I haven't, despite owning the damn DVD.

That's right. I own the whole Dark Knight Trilogy. Never watched it.

Monday, June 19, 2017

"And The Children Shall Lead" - A Beautiful Expose On What Makes Us Different

I wanted to share this with you today because I think it's just amazing. The BBC-1 show CBeebies (a children's show in the UK) put together this video full of interviews with children in pairs all asking the same question: "What makes you different?"

Their answers will humble and amaze you. It's not so much what they see, but what they don't see. Watch.

The phrase "And the children shall lead" is actually not the correct version of the origin of that quote, by the way. The quote comes from the Bible, from Isaiah 11:6, which reads:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.

Even thousands of years ago, wise men knew that the kids had it right. Differences are as superficial or as deep as you choose to make them.

A lesson we can all take to heart, courtesy of our children.