Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bedroom Cleaning.... Lunatic Style

This comes from a reader question (LOVE THAT!) How do you get your child to clean his room?

Here is my take on kids' room cleaning... If he doesn't do it then I have to therefore every frustrating baby step I take in the direction towards his independence is one more step towards one less thing I have to do.

With that goal in mind, here are some steps which **may** help get your ASD kid(s) cleaning their room! I'm hoping and wishing right along there with you!!!! You will have to repeat steps again and again, I've taken literally months almost years doing the same step over and over. My fall down is consistency and regularity, maybe you'll be better with that and have results faster!

1. Clean his room with him in there. Don't expect any help but talk about his toys and favorite clothes as you pick them up. If he helped in any way... Big praise! "Thanks SO much for helping me! You made this job so much easier!!!"

2. After that try parallel cleaning, do it together! Pick up a shirt and ask him to pick up a shirt then put them away (or in the hamper) at the same time. Keep talking, "Where do you think this goes?" "Is this clean or dirty?" "Where do we keep the cars again? I forget". Maybe even make a game of it, "I've found a red shirt! Can you find a red shirt?" "I've found Thomas the Tank Engine, can you find Percy?" Be careful here, this could set up an anxiety situation if they can't find what you are suggesting. Maybe only suggest things you can see for yourself. 

3. After that hand over hand, ask him to pick up his things, hand stuff to him if you have to, continue to talk your way though where it goes.

4. Sit on the floor and talk him through doing it himself. At this point, you've already got the dialog, there isn't going to be any new words or requests thrown his way. Nothing unexpected unless you are willing to help, he may find comfort in the routine at this point. It took a while to get through this one for us, we were doing an in-between steps for a while.

5. At last! Just keep him company while he picks it up and helps if he asks. It seems to my boys that one of the main reasons why they don't clean their room (or play by themselves in the basement) is because they don't want to be alone. It isn't that they can't or won't do the task they just don't want to do it alone. 

6. I think the final goal will be for him to clean it himself with a spot check at the end.

All that said, we are near the end of the process with my 9 year old (and it's taken 7 years to get this far) and we are somewhere in the middle for my 7 year old who is more stubborn.

As always, any suggestions you have I can absolutely add! Leave a comment and let me know what works for you! Everything on this page is working documents and I would love to share your ideas!


Friday, September 2, 2011

HELP! I think my son has Autism, where do I start?

Its sad to say that is a common email or call that I get and always I am happy to help. I would like to take this blog post and turn it into a little mini resource guide for all my friends and friends of friends who have contacted me recently. I fear I have not been able to dedicate as much time as I would like to every response and with these links, I should at least be able to catch up on giving these friends some of the info I have promised. 

First of all, relax, take a deep breath. The common thread I get in email is a sense of panic, very understandable panic. It was in panic 8 years ago that I found myself carting Cameron to preschool 5 days a week, speech 3 days a week, occupational therapy 2 days a week, visiting with the developmental pediatrician once a month (an hour away), making plans to contact a list of neurologists and specialists and buried beneath a stack of Autism books 20 high on my nightstand (and in the bathroom, in my car, my purse, my staircase, my ottoman and oddly enough once in my freezer). Every single person who has contacted me is a very dedicated, level headed and intelligent Mom and I know they will do what is needed eventually, but (please hear this) you don't have to do it ALL RIGHT NOW. 

PRE-DIAGNOSIS- You are worried that something *may* be wrong. Okay, don't fight your mommy gut but also don't jump to "worse case scenario" (Autism). There are many reasons why a child may act they way he/she does and if you are worried please see below:

Talk to you pediatrician. This is the doctor who has the most time with your child, he/she has been watching them grown from infancy to now so they are always a good first contact. The word of your Ped is not the final answer though, I will caution you in that. I was worried about Cameron at his 1 year visit and was completely blown off by our pediatrician. I found a new one and don't regret that decision one second. The ped cannot give you a full diagnosis but they can point you in the right direction for your local area. They've seen this before and will have a host of referrals for you. This may sound like a step you can skip but I think it is an important one because of the referrals, keeping everyone on the same page, having him prepared for any blood work you might have to request and you probably already have an appointment set up anyway since this is the doctor your child sees the most often. Specialists can take 6-8 months to schedule, you can usually see your primary doctor within a month. Use the resource.

Check out the signs of Autism. DO NOT GOOGLE 'AUTISM'!!! I cannot stress this enough, Google will give you some truly horrible sites, please wait to overwhelm yourself with that later on when you can more easily filter out the fact from the crap. Answering no to all of these does not mean your child doesn't have Autism, if you are still concerned contact someone to do an evaluation. Answering yes to all of these also does not mean your child has Autism. It means your child has some symptoms of Autism, a formal evaluation is necessary to determine actual diagnosis. The test most commonly used is the ADOS and is a play based test for very young children and is more visual and question based as the child gets older.
These are the signs of Autism:

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter

  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter

  • No babbling by 12 months

  • No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months

  • No words by 16 months

  • No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months

  • Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age

  • Contact a State Agency. I think every state has an early intervention resource, in Maryland it is called Infants and Toddlers. ANYONE can contact them for an evaluation, for any concern. Initially I called them for a speech concern and then we went forward with the Autism Evaluation once it became apparent that the speech delay had a cause. Once your child is school age, schools have resources to do evaluations as well. In Maryland it is called Child Find. I, personally, don't put 100% faith in the evaluations done by state agencies but it is a good step in the right direction. As before, you will get able to get in to see them within a short time frame (I think they have to contact you and meet with you within a month-- I will verify that though), a specialist will take far longer. Go ahead an contact both at the same time if you wish.

    Consult a specialist for diagnosis/treatment. Typically you start with a Developmental Pediatrician who can give a full evaluation. Additionally you might be able to contact a Neuropsychologist (with a diagnosis, you'll probably meet one anyway). A Speech Language Pathologist might be able to do an evaluation depending on the scope of their education. A Pediatric Psychologist might also be able to do an eval as well. 

    I will tell you that our trip on the Autism Highway looks like this:
    1. Pediatrician (blown off, waited 6 months)
    2. Infants & Todders (Speech Eval)
    3. New Pediatrician (who wanted to know why we hadn't already called I&T, we already had)
    4. Diagnosis by Psychologist at I&T (given state funded Speech, OT and Classroom instruction)
    5. Additional Speech Therapy (private)
    6. Second opinion by Developmental Pediatrician (private)
    7. Additional OT (private)
    8. Third opinion by Developmental Pediatrician (private- highly regarded doctor at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Kreiger who was an ass but gave us good information). 
    9. Child Find (the school had to accept his diagnosis)
    10. Special Education PreSchool
    11. Behavioral Psychologist (private)
    12. Special Program with Inclusive opportunities on grade level class room.  
    13. Psychiatrist (medication trials)
    So far so good... I'm sure I am leaving something out though. I want to follow this up very very shortly with another blog post, "Great, now we have a diagnosis, NOW what do I do?" In the interim... here are some links for Pre-Diagnosis AND Post-Diagnosis that may be helpful. 

    The Signs of Autism- Autism Speaks

    Developmental Milestone by Age- Autism Speaks

    Aspergers- Autism Speaks

    An AWESOME downloadable 100 day kit, what to do once you have a diagnosis- Autism Speaks

    Aspergers Kit downloadable- Autism Speaks

    What is the ADOS- Wikipedia

    Maryland Infants and Toddlers Program- Maryland Department of Education

    Maryland Infants and Toddlers Contact list by county- Autism Connect MD

    Maryland Child Find Contact List-Maryland Dept of Ed.

    C.A.R.D (Center for Autism and Related Disorders)- Kennedy Krieger Institute

    I will put a resource list on the Rantings Facebook page and will add to it periodically. In the interim, keep sending me your questions... I'll either answer them personally or I'll put them in a blog post. A LOT of people have the same questions and I am happy to answer them all. Hang in there, we're all in this together!

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Individualized Education Plan: Lunatic Autism Mom

    Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
    Name: Maggie (aka: Lunatic Autism Mom)
    Agency: House on the hill, the one with the weeds in the flower beds.
    IEP Team Meeting Date: 08/29/11

    Participants: Maggie (mom); Rob (hubbie); Cam (ASD kid #1); Adam (ASD kid #2)

    Eligibility: C-Section 2001 & 2004; ASD Diagnosis 2004 & 2007

    Primary Disability: Autism Induced Lunacy (AIL)

    Supplementary Aids, Services, Supports: Medication as prescribed, Weekly Sanity Checks with a professional, Spousal Support, YMCA, Husband's Salary.


    Goal #1
    The Lunatic Autism Mom will keep everything in the calendar most at her disposal (phone) and will synch it to the household electronic calendar at least weekly.
    by: 9/1/11
    Resources to help meet this goal: This will be coordinated through the support of helpful hubby in ensuring that the technology "talks" to one another and by keeping the phone at hand at all times.
    **This goal is 99% completed**

    Goal #2 
    The Lunatic Autism Mom will stay home one full day per week with the exception of driving the kids to and from school, no exceptions will be made for any reason.
    by: 10/1/11
    Resources to help meet this goal: Lunatic Autism Mom will chose one day per week, prior to that week, and will schedule that as her HOME day. She will not brush her hair, will wear sweats or pjs to school drop off and will, in general, be too embarassed at her attire and appearance to step foot out of her car. This day can be spent accomplishing long over-due tasks (painting), catching up on housework (laundry) or allowing herself to be sick when the fever is over 99.9 degrees (sleep).
    **Week 1 HOME day is currently scheduled!**

    Goal #3
    The Lunatic Autism Mom needs more energy and needs to get in shape.
    by: 9/1/11
    Resources to help meet this goal: Lunatic Autism Mom has hired a trainer to literally kick her ass into shape. She will meet with said trainer 2 times per week for a minimum of 10 sessions with the option to increase her sessions to 20. She will not stress over the cost of this trainer and will not cry at the assessment appointment since"you have to start somewhere".
    **Assessment this Thursday, please pray for me.**

    Goal #4
    The Lunatic Autism Mom will schedule fun and relaxing things during school hours at a minimum of one per week.
    by: 9/1/11
    Resources to help meet this goal: The primary resource will be wonderfully supportive and caring hubby's paycheck. Occasional weeks might allow for a 1 hour relaxation massage and other weeks might allow for a guilt free hour of silence at the local library. In between, the Lunatic Autism Mom will try not to skip hair cuts and will not allow her gray roots to grow to obviousness (as they are now). The Lunatic Autism Mom will "put her money where her mouth is" and take care of everyone in her family including herself.
    **Seriously, I am 35 and have a full head of gray hair. I've been dying it since I was 16, bad genes I guess. How does one acquire that casual, classic, youthful, silver gray bob that looks so good on the models in JJill and Lands End Catalog? I would totally consider letting it go if I knew I could look like that in the end!**

    Goal #5 (the final goal)
    The Lunatic Autism Mom would like to learn something new this year. Something new could be kayaking, a foreign language, standing board paddling, snowboarding/skiing or visiting local museums for general knowledge.
    by: the end of the school year
    Resources to help meet this goal: the entire Smithsonian, various lakes and the Chesapeake Bay, the local library, Liberty Mountain and the kindness and support of handsome hubby to chillax with the boys during the hours that learning this new skill cannot be accomplished during school hours.
    ** Yeah like I need another hobby, I'm a big time crafter but I want to learn something not crafty, more active and something that I could eventually share with my boys once I understand the mechanics myself. **

    Assessment report due: 01/01/12

    In the immortal words of a person who never existed (and didn't fully understand correct grammar):


    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Long time... no post... Lets talk cars!

    Today I am running errands with my two boys and they HATE running errands with a hot a burning passion. I notice my TPMS light has come on again (tire pressure monitoring system) and this leads me to a very lengthy and quite topsy turvy all together curvy thought process about vehicles and why we drive what we do.

    I have a minivan, I know shocked right? Mother of two Autistic boys and I drive a minivan. Do I like my van? Yes. Do I like driving my van? Heck no! It's a van! Quite arguably the most convenient yet boring vehicle on the planet!  But here's the thing, it's a Honda Odyssey and if you have to drive a minivan this is totally the way to go! It's a great van, very roomy, very convenient and the perfect accompaniment to the insane life of an Autism Mom. For example the TPMS light, it is telling me that my tire is low on air. Thank you TMPS light, I never ever think to check the air pressure and usually rely on my oil change place to do it for me. Speaking of which, there's a light for that too! Right now that light is telling me that it's almost time for an oil change which I am totally going to put off until school starts back up again. I absolutely cannot forget about the Variable Engine, I drive ridiculous mileage (122,215 miles to date) and when I am driving on the highway the engine will cut back to 3 cylinders to save on gas. This is a much needed and very appreciated feature.

    I file all of this under the heading, "will save your sanity" but as I bought this van in 2008 it is still lacking in more sanity saving features, the first being bluetooth. I've had to add a Jabbra bluetooth speaker to the van to compensate. The month AFTER my van was built, they added bluetooth. Drat! The next model year they added power jacks to the second row of seats... I would KILL for power jacks to fuel the boys DS systems! Lastly, I hear rumors that some radios actually act like MP3 players. My friend, Andrew just bought a total bachelor car that does this and I WANT!!!! Not that the 6-CD changer isn't great and all but to only have to deal with the CD once and then never again? Heaven.

    I traveled to the beach this weekend with the family, I drove and changed CDs, I drove and plugged and unplugged power cables, I drove and watched the TPMS light come on, I drove and I drove and I am starting to think that the type of car you have isn't as important as what features it offers. I think there may come a day where the final straw to push me right into insanity might just fall within the doors and wheels of my vehicle. I'm guessing I will be attempting to change a CD, plug in a power cable and my phone is going to ring at the same time as I am running late for an appointment with a specialist in Baltimore. It's just a guess but I think it's a pretty sure bet.

    Just in case you are wondering... yes, I have a Minivan Step-Down Plan. After two Honda Odyssey vans I feel I have put in my mini-van driving time but to go to a car (even a big one) would be a shock to the system. In between there should be something van-like but not actually a van... in my dreams I see this:

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Thoughts on a Summer Vacation... so far.

    Distant are the memories of lazy summer days of my youth where I spent every waking second in the sun making a mess and creating havoc. Now the lazy days of summer don't exist for I am the Lunatic Autism Mom and the schedule is full and the to-do list is growing. BUT! Within the chaos we strive to find fun... even if it has to be scheduled in between everything else and written down (in ink) so that it is not forgotten.

    We are now on week two of summer vacation, we've had some pretty good successes and some pretty awesome fights and meltdowns. Truly truly inspired meltdowns, seriously. But to focus on the bad while the sun is shining so bright and the house is (at this exact moment in time) quiet would be a waste. I shall save those for the lonely, rainy, altogether cruddy evenings.

    This summer has brought about something rare and precious... FREE TIME! Of course it is squeezed in between some really really not free time but it has been nice to be able to do some of the things we WANT to do instead of all the things we HAVE to do. The house is trashed but at this point, who cares! Memories are being made! I'll worry about the house tomorrow.

    Probably the newest and most significant thing we've done this year is camp. Not just any camp but a morning day camp with typical peers! This was spawned by my obsessive desire to provide socialization to the boys outside of a specialized program. It seems as though we have taken Special Needs Social Skills and used it as a means to learn new and bad behaviors, as well as share our own bad behaviors with other socially susceptible peers. I'm starting to think that this may be the biggest weakness with Social Skills classes as a whole, they do teach socialization but they do so within a very specific group which is not at all representative of the world at large. Alas, that is a rant for another day.

    Cameron (my 9 year old) chose Kids take over the Kitchen at our local Kids on Campus program at the Community College. It was a WONDERFUL experience. He had some difficulties but I was able to send an aide with him from our Maryland Autism Waiver provider. He had a great week and is already asking to take more camp classes-- YAY! Lucky for me they are offered all the time and not just in the summer.

    Adam (my 5 year old) chose two Lego Class sessions in the same program. He does not have an aide and does not have the waiver so I was really really stressed about sending him to the camp. The staff has been AMAZING with him, keeping an extra eye on him to make sure he doesn't wander and they keep the door closed so he doesn't pull off an escape. Also, it's freaking LEGOS! The kid is in heaven.

    I scheduled these camps on opposite weeks so that I could have one week with just Adam all to myself and then the next week with just Cameron all to myself. We made plans for the week and have enjoyed going out for breakfast, running some errands and going to the library. I hope I will be able to schedule it this way every year, I have loved spending the one on one time with the boys!

    A special Thank You is required for Mythbusters this summer. It is thanks to their recent episode, Running on Water, that I am able to give you this clip of my boys at the community pool trying themselves to "run on water". I give them full points for trying....

    A rainy day and an extreme desire to do something crafty has altered my hallway! This is a picture of the newest addition to the house... a hopscotch board. This hallway is Cameron's pacing hall and it is often that we see him getting stuck in a loop in this hall. It is my hope that this old school game will slow Cameron down, break his loop or at the very least help with those important gross motor skills.

    Coming up we've got another week of Lego Camp for Adam, Extended School Year for Cameron, a trip to the beach (thanks to Daddy's work travel, we're doing a tagalong), and a Tonsillectomy for Adam to round out the summer. Lots going on... never a dull moment.

    So like those long, hot summers of past, the pool is still cool, the sun is still bright, the days feel endless and the possibilities unbounded. Don't forget the SPF and have an awesome summer!

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Craft Alert! Make 10

    Imagine my shock this year when I attended my youngest son's Annual IEP only to find that he is barely on grade level for math! WHAT???? This was the first I was hearing of it and I was more than a little bit pissed. So.... what does this mean for a Lunatic Autism Mom? It means a working summer for Adam (and for mommy). The first concept he is having difficulties with is Making 10. I've been doing it for so long and it's so second nature to me that I didn't really know how to go about practicing Making 10 this summer. I wanted something more fun than flash cards (although I am not opposed) and I wanted to limit screen time with Math iPad Apps (although I am not opposed) and here is what I came up with for my Lego loving boy:

    LEGO MAKE 10
    and here is how you make it:

    Start with extra  Legos (I decided to use Duplo because we don't play with them anymore) & a label maker.

    Print out all the numbers you need to make 10 and a bunch of '+' symbols. Don't forget to make a label for your goal (Equation Goal: Make 10)

    Put them on the blocks (trim if necessary).

    Stack 'em up to make sure you haven't forgotten any.

    And you are ready to go! Don't forget storage! 

    I think I will do this again and again to get some good practice in for those more difficult math concepts. I am also trying to figure out if I can use different size Legos to represent fractions. 

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Are we ready for summer?

    Anyone else feeling the stress that comes with the end of the school year? Are you out already? 

    We are officially on one week count down in my house. The boys are excited and I am stressed! We started off this week with a book fair at school complete with carnival. One boy was quite pissed that we could not attend, one boy was quite pleased that he didn't have to go. I dislike the 50/50 split immensely. We will cap off the week with the end of year award ceremony! All the kids get an award so arrive when your class is scheduled, pick a comfortable seat, and get ready for a long and hot afternoon. 

    End of year brings end of year teacher gifts! I love love love to give our teachers gifts. My boys are not easy students and our teachers this year were exceptional. When I added up everyone who helps the boys through-out the day (every day), I came up with **15** teachers and **5** assistants/specials teacher! YIKES!!!!  I guess I better get busy on those personalized clip boards. Don't worry, I promise to post pictures. 

    End of year also bring IEPs! For Adam we have had two so far, his annual in which we requested "additional adult support" and a second IEP to evaluate the data to determine if he qualified for "additional adult support". I am a firm believer in data and it showed that Adam needed redirection more than 320 times in 9 days (that may look like a typo, but it isn't) which makes me wonder how he made it through this year at all and why this problem hasn't been noticed sooner. I have ALWAYS said that it is my higher functioning ASD child who is going to slip through the cracks, this is evidence and I will need to be more vigilant from now on. We will have another meeting this summer after they have evaluated staffing which sounds like they are putting me off and I think they totally are. Those meetings were exhausting so I don't mind taking a few weeks to regroup before we go back to the table. 

    Cameron's IEP is next week. This entire year we've been doing the medication trials and now its time to re-evaluate how the year has gone as a whole instead of weekly and monthly snapshots. I was surprised to see just how much Cameron is expressing an interest in being included in the "typical" classroom when in the past he has preferred the extra attention by the teacher and didn't really give a fig about the other kids. I think he is starting to notice girls *sigh*. Not a lot of special needs girls given that ASD is taking over the program and the incidence rate of boys with ASD far outnumbers the girls. I am hoping that we can find some new inclusion opportunities going in to next year at this IEP meeting. He currently is only included in Math (his strongest subject) and some Specials classes. 

    Awards Ceremonies.... IEPs..... end of year chaos... Are we ready for summer??

    There are big pros and cons to the summer months. How awesome it is to be able to stay in jammies until mid-morning (or later) because you have no place to be? That, for me, is the best part of summer, we can relax that morning schedule for a bit. We've got some inclusive camps coming up, Extended School Year will fill up half the day Mon-Thurs in July, we're going ahead with RDI and we'll be keeping up with all our specialist appointments PLUS Adam has to have his tonsils and adenoids out and we are hoping to take a family vacation. How it is again that I thought summer was ever relaxing? On the bright side, I should be home more so I can blog more! If you have any ideas and requests please let me know! I've got partially completed posts on the topics of IEPs (survival of the fittest or the loudest?) and Autism Crafts (a sub-genre of itself in my home!).  See you at the pool! Don't forget the SPF 1,000!

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Lets all bounce!

    Its been a while since I've posted and people have sent me some fabulous blog ideas which are currently in the works.  By "in the works" I mean, I've been thinking about them A LOT but not much else and here is why.... I'm too busy BOUNCING!

    Sounds fun, right? Enh... not so much.  You know when you have a particularly stressful meeting and you leave completely drained, mentally, emotionally and physically? Of course you do! Then you look at the clock and realize thats its only 10:30am and you still have the whole day to be productive, accomplish goals, cross off the to-dos and don't forget to pick up the kids from school! It is then that I require a BOUNCE! Bouncing is when I finish a draining task and have to get myself back on track and here is how to do it:

    1. Let yourself go. Go ahead and fall all the way down. You're exhausted? Take a quick nap. You're stressed? Take a deep breath (or 10). You're angry? Turn up the radio as loud as you want sing out loud, scream or yell (please no babies in the car). You need to talk, rant, be heard? Call your "person" (i.e Husband, friend, Mommy, Daddy). You're sad or that point past sad where you are mad that you are sad? Go ahead an have a big cry, don't worry no one is watching. 

    2. Stay down for a bit, get it all out. Stay down as long as you need to (or lets be honest, as long as you can). 

    3. Then BOUNCE! Sit up. Stand up. Stretch out. Deep breath. Look around. Find your list. Get back on track. Put the stressful event behind you for now and feel free to re-visit it later when you have more time and mental capacity (I prefer the hours after the kids go to bed). 

    Now I don't know if this is the most psychologically appropriate way to come back from a stressful event but it does help me get stuff done when really all I want to do is crawl back in bed and forget that the morning ever happened. Last week truly tested my BOUNCE theory, seriously I thought I would need to find a more supportive bra I was bouncing so much!

    Monday: IEP (just under 3 hours long!) BOUNCE, Cameron's in home therapy after school.

    Tuesday: Allergy Shot with 30 minute wait (which I am convinced is more stressful for me than my son!) BOUNCE

    Wednesday: Chiropractor (for me!), Meeting with new RDI consultant BOUNCE, Sanity Check BOUNCE, Specialist Appointment in Baltimore at Kennedy Kreiger BOUNCE, my baby boy's 7th birthday!!!! (I needed all those bounces to be fully present for his special day)

    Thursday: Both boys go to the dentist! BOUNCE BOUNCE (no cavities!), another Specialist Appointment in Baltimore at Kennedy Kreiger BOUNCE.

    Friday: Baby boy's annual check up BOUNCE, Mommy's med check (I'm on track!), Chaperone the 3rd grade field trip to the Earth Space Science Lab which would have been great except that MY 3rd grader wanted to learn all about space (one of his passions) and not about fossils and the water table. oops! BOUNCE. Cameron's in home therapy after school.

    I have NO IDEA what my Lunatic Autism Mommy brain was thinking when I scheduled last week. I will say though that 2 of those appointments were last minute additions and, in my defense, out of my control. The good news is that with all my BOUNCING, I got to skip my Jillian Michael's 30 day Shred video work outs. The bad news is that she is back this week and just waiting on me to get back on track. I think I'll chose the gym instead.... maybe they have a trampoline!  :)

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Happy Mother's Day

    I hope everyone has had a wonderful Mother's Day! At the end of my day I want to give you all a gift of a list of things I hope for each and every one of you.

    • Respect- I hope that you are given the respect you deserve from the school, the therapists that work with your child, your friends and family and the community in which you live. Yours is not an easy job and it can be made only easier by being given the respect you deserve for your knowledge, your gut instincts and your commitment.
    • Honor- I hope that you will honor yourself, your body and your needs. Know when you need a break, a hug or a snuggle and allow those around you to help you.
    • Support- Support of friends, family and community. I hope that you will value this as a gift and make use of it when you need.
    • Endurance- I hope that when endurance is needed, it is found. Be it on a long wakeful night or on a month long fight, I know you all have it in you.
    • Strength- Strength to ignore the stares of the people who don't understand and will never fully comprehend, strength to stand up for your child when they can't stand up for themselves, strength to fight the fight every single day, day after day and never give up.
    • Power- Power to use your voice and the ability to alter the volume to meet your need. To remain calm with your child when all you want to do is scream, to be firm at an IEP when all you want to do is crumble. 
    • Tears- I hope that you value the tears you shed as a way to release the stress of the every day and to never hold back the emotions that make you human. Tears do not make you weak and they are not a waste of time.
    • Faith- Faith in yourself, faith in your child, faith in your partner, faith in your God. Wherever you put your faith, allow it to be strong and unwavering.
    • Passion- Passion for life and love. If you are going to feel it, you may as well be passionate about it. 
    • Knowledge- Use your brain, feed it facts, trust your knowledge and share it with others.
    • Words- be it sign, PECS, approximation, spoken or felt, keep the words close to your heart. Never give up on hearing Mom and Love. They will come and they are precious.
    • Hugs & Kisses- Each and every hug is unique and special. Each kiss is love given and received.
    • Time- Not just time on a watch but time to hold dear what is fleeting. It passes so quickly and yet some days not quickly enough. Time is a constant that can bring your day back on track, it is also a precious count down from 10-0 that can bring yourself back on track as well.
    • Breath- don't forget to breathe, this is the one thing that you can do for yourself that costs no money and can be done in a little bit of time. 
    • LOVE- I wish for you love, to be given freely and received gratefully. It is not found in grand gestures but in quiet moments and precious connections. 
    My most treasured Mother's Day gift today came from each of my boys at two very different times.  First thing this morning, I'm looking haggard and worn and Adam leads me to the couch to sit down. He takes my hand and says, "Happy Mother's Day Mom" and then places a kiss on my palm. He closes my fingers over it and says, "Keep that one for later." Putting Cameron into bed, he usually says, "Love You Mom" and turns on his side. Tonight he said, "I need a hug, will you sit by me?" Precious moments, lasting memories, love personified. Happy Mother's Day everyone.

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    Autism Books: Not Even Wrong by Paul Collins

    This blog entry is the first of many solely dedicated to books on Autism that I have on my "highly recommended, all time favorite Autism books" list. I wanted to do one big blog about them but I am never going to have the time to do it all at once, this way is easier and I can add new books as I complete them! Please share your recommendations too. Enjoy!

    You can buy it here on

    I read this book years ago, it was the first Autism book that I read that was NOT solely dedicated to "fixing" the problem. Paul Collins is a historian and writer and that is the focus of this book-- the History of Autism from the perspective of an Autism Dad.  I originally bought the book for Rob for Father's Day and thought I would just read the first chapter to see if it was any good. Five hours later I read the last page with eyes burning from fatigue.  Rob had long since come in from work and I looked up and showed him the cover and said, "Happy Father's Day, now be quiet, I'm reading". I found the stories and the history inthralling.  Of course Rob is not a reader, and in the end I actually read the book to him on a long car drive to visit my parents. (FYI- now if there is an Autism book I want him to read, I just pray that the library is going to get the audio version in because I do not want to read aloud an entire book again). I went on to read another book by Paul Collins as well called Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn't Change the World it isn't about Autism but it is a fantastic book just the same. If you are someone who likes obscure history (like me) check out his books.

    Here's the description from Amazon:
    In Not Even Wrong, Paul Collins melds a memoir of his son's autism with a journey into this realm of permanent outsiders. Examining forgotten geniuses and obscure medical archives, and beginning to see why he himself has spent a lifetime researching talented eccentrics, Collins shows how these stories are relevant and even necessary to shed light on autism.

    Here's my review that I posted right after I read it for the first time (on Amazon as well):

    5.0 out of 5 stars "It's not a tragedy, it's not a sad story, it's not the movie of the week. It's my family." too.June 8, 2006
    M. Harris (Frederick, MD United States)
    (REAL NAME)   
    This review is from: Not Even Wrong: A Father's Journey into the Lost History of Autism (Paperback)

    My son has ASD and I've got all the books they tell you to buy to find out more about Autism-- this one should be added to the list! Initially I bought this book as a gift for my husband for Father's Day, I read the first page and was hooked. When he saw what I was reading I said, Happy Father's Day and went back to the page. Not Even Wrong has securely found itself added to my list of all time favorite books. Thank you, Mr Collins, for such a great book that everyone should read and all ASD families will treasure. 

    Stay tuned for more Autism books! 

    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    Yes. My Kids are Amazing, and They Surf Too!!!!

    Tomorrow is May 1 and my calendar reads: SIGN UP FOR SURF CAMP 12:01AM!!!

    I just checked the website and that has now been moved to May 15 but this is still a great time for me to tell you about an amazing organization and an amazing opportunity for families dealing with Autism.


    Seriously, go to this website and learn all about this organization. Last year was our first day camp and it was probably one of the top 5 experiences in my life. We got there an hour before our surf time, set up on the beach with chairs and cameras. We looked out into the Atlantic just in time to see a line of 5 Autistic kids up on surf boards with professional surfers holding them up and they were headed to shore! Everyone was clapping and cheering as they came in and each and every child was smiling. When it was our turn the volunteers and surfers just scooped up the boys, put life jackets on them and put took them out. Adam loved laying on the board and bobbing up and down with the swells. Cameron loved getting up on the board and coming to shore. It was such an amazing thing to witness, I was overwhelmed, I was speechless, I cried.

    We'll be registering again this year and I will be hoping that we get a spot in this years camp in either Virginia Beach Aug 20 or Ocean City Aug 18. Maybe we'll see you there!

    Here are some details and then I'll give you some pics!

    • The camp is FREE.
    • Your surfer will get a tee shirt and goody bag.
    • There is drinks and food all day long.
    • The area is sectioned off from the rest of the beach.
    • Everyone is so friendly and completely understood that I was super freaked!
    • They "get it", they know that the kids can be worried, they don't mind taking a screaming or crying kid out on the board so they can experience it. Every single one (without exception) comes back smiling and clapping.
    • You will get a surf time but you can hang out all day long if you want. We didn't last year but we absolutely will this year. I don't want to miss a second of all that positive energy and fun.
    • The professional surfers are all professionals, from what I understand pretty well known too! I don't know much about surfing but I was impressed by their credentials. They bring in surfers from all the big professional surfing areas and they travel from camp to camp. Your kid will not be going out into the ocean with some intermediate teenager.
    • You will meet the most incredible kids and the most wonderful parents who know exactly what it is like to have kids with ASD. 
    • I almost forgot the part that made this Mom SMILE, they also contract professional photographers with super long range sport camera lenses. The pictures they take are just breathtaking and a couple of months after camp you will receive a CD or file upload of your kids' surfing pictures! Next year I'm not even going to bother bringing my camera, the pictures I took are no where near as good as the ones I received from Surfers Healing.
    • Sign up for most of the East Coast camps starts May 15, keep checking the website for any changes!

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    New hope? RDI: The first of my research.

    If it's not new hope then it is certainly something new to research for the Lunatic Autism Mom! This week I interviewed a new provider for Cameron for the Maryland Autism Waiver. I liked what she had to say, I liked her philosophy and I liked her energy. I'm pretty confident in my decision to chose her to take over our waiver services. Additionally she can use some of the waiver funds to provide Relationship Development Intervention (RDI). This is something I have heard in passing for years but I never slowed down long enough to do the research on it. Honestly, it sounded like something that was potentially out of our reach both budget wise and time wise. But with cost help and using time we've already allocated to therapy, it certainly is worth another look! For me, another look means research, research, research. 

    The first thing I did was go to and I ordered the book: The RDI Book: Forging New Pathways for Autism, Aspergers and PDD with the Relationship Development Intervention Program. I probably won't receive it for a week or so why not check my own library for any mention of this intervention in my current reading list? 

    Dr. Sears gives us 2 paragraphs in The Autism Book where he directs us to and explains the goal of RDI as, "to correct the core social deficits of Autism. It teaches children to understand the job and value of personal relationships." Dr. Sears goes on to say that this intervention can help moderately affected children and it is ideal for high functioning children, especially those with Asperger's. (pages 151-152)

    I am sad to report that a book I recently purchased (It's So Much Work to Be Your Friend: Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success by Richard Lavoiedid not mention RDI at all. I think this book will be very helpful for addressing specific socialization issues that may arise after we've started the intervention. I haven't had a chance to really read this book although I think it is going to be a great reference.   

    The last book I pulled from my shelf is Adolescents on the Spectrum: A Parent's Guide to the Cognitive, Social, Physical, and Transition Needs of Teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Chantal Sicile-Kira (page 229). It tells us that RDI is, 
    "a parent-based clinical treatment that begins at each child's level and teaches skills to the next level. Dr. Gutstein has identified six different abilities that are essential for success in dynamic systems: Emotional Referencing, Social Coordination, Declarative Language, Flexible Thinking, Relational Information Processing and Foresight and Hindsight."

    Of course no research session is complete without a Google search, Google loves Autism Speaks and pointed me to this great quick reference page with a link to for more information. 
    (Thanks again Autism Speaks!) 

    This week I met with Cindy Lenzy, MS at Connect & Learn here in Frederick, MD. I was fascinated by the science of this intervention. The basic idea as I understood it is that Dr. Gutstein observed that the neural connections within the brain of an Autistic patient are somewhat thin and scattered compared to a "typical" brain where the connection from the Frontal Cortex to the other parts of the brain are thick and direct. 

    I likened this to the mathematical idea of distance, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you travel that line again and again you will carve a grove within the earth and will be able to re-trace your path again and again even without directions. 

    The other thing about this intervention that stuck with me is that is it parent-based and requires a promise from both parents to attend the meetings, do the homework and to watch the webinars. You are effectively putting everyone "on the same page". Rob is an engineer, I am a mom, our methods are not the same but with this intervention consistency is not just a great idea, it is absolutely necessary.  

    Obviously, I am just learning about this therapy, as I learn more, I will share more. If we start the program I will probably chart our progress here. But to get down to the nitty gritty, how much are we talking here? How much time? How much money? 

    The estimates I have gathered so far show that the intervention runs between $5,000-6,000 per year with an additional $50/month for access to an online site which provides information and webinars as well as a direct connection with your RDI consultant. This cost is offset by the Maryland Autism Waiver which provides 40 hours per year for "Family Training" of which RDI is considered (but I am unsure if you are able to use ALL 40 hours specifically for RDI, I think it is limited). It is possible that IF you had the Autism Waiver and IF you followed treatment without any breaks for the entire year you could reduce the annual cost down to $1,000-2,000. It is possible to reduce this cost further with normal breaks for vacations and holidays and possibly implement at $0 cost to the family (aside from the web fee which is not covered). 

    And I was JUST trying to figure out if the Maryland Autism Waiver was worth all the headaches and problems I've been having this year. I guess it is! Its been a while since I've read about a therapy that I was really excited about. This one looks very goal orientated, family involved and quantifiable; right now that gives me hope that we can help Cameron navigate life with less anxiety, better communication and more happiness. 

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    A good day.

    When you have a good day its worth an entire post!

    We started the day with Tornado Warnings but the boys got dressed and even though they were agitated by the change in routine, they both waited (relatively) patiently until it was safe to drive. All reports from school were positive and we slipped into an appointment free afternoon of playing on the computer and listening to Pandora radio with the full understanding that homework would happen after dinner. They took turns, played nicely and turned off the computer when it was time. They helped me chose dinner and then ate without fighting and used all their utensils appropriately.

    Post dinner, homework was completed with minimal fuss and two smarty pants boys wow'd us with their superior knowledge of their multiplication tables and the number line (by 1s and 5s) respectively. This earned the all important Wheel of Fortune/Jeopardy combo. And there we have a GOOD DAY! Autism WIN! Now I must evaluate.....

    Possible causes for a superior day:

    • Cameron's new medication. We recently started a low dose of Respidral (which is still scary to me). Its still to early to tell if this is the "one" but I'm seeing positive responses so far!
    • Mommy's in a wacky mood. I got to spend a wonderful lunch and quick shopping trip with a good friend and traded emails though out the day to catch up with an old friend. I gave myself a pass at lawn work since I'm SURE the lawn was waaaayyyy too wet from all the rain this morning ;)
    • Daddy is in a good mood and is not traveling for business this week. He was even able to chaperone Cameron's field trip yesterday! 
    • Renewed hope with the possibility of using the Maryland Autism Waiver to partially fund RDI Therapy. This will require further research and a possible blog post!
    • It stopped raining, the skies are blue and the clouds, fluffy. But the rain really cut the pollen count.
    • Its Thursday and tomorrow is Friday which is just awesome!

    Anyway to add that up, thats just a darn good day! Wishing you a happy Friday with no tornados, low pollen count, blue skies and fluffy clouds. 

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Yesterday I Met A Hero

    Last night I went to Ivymount School in Rockville, MD to hear John Elder Robison speak. His new book Be Different was recently released, 4 years ago he released Look Me In The Eye. Both books rank highly on my favorite books of all time list (and I haven't even finished Be Different yet!) and I cannot tell you how excited I was to meet John and hear him speak.

    First I hope that you noticed that I said in the title 'yesterday I met A hero' not, 'yesterday I met MY hero'. I learned quickly in his books and in his speaking that I am not the target audience of John Robison. It is my sons who will benefit the most by John sharing his stories. My benefit comes in the form of hope, hearing about his triumphs, his obstacles and his perseverance is like being handed a crystal ball that shows not just one future prediction but an entire film stip of possibilities. What I want to share with you are the things John spoke about that really stood out to me, I also want to highly recommend his books. His writing is fun, informative, interesting and really made me understand Autism more and thus, understand my children more.

    The first thing he said that struck me was that he felt he did us all a great disservice in his first book. Now, I LOVED his first book, so... what the heck? He talks in his first book about when he found electronics he found a sort of launching pad. He spends about 2 pages talking about getting an electronics kit, studying it and then he took off to start doing amps and guitars for famous bands like Kiss. That is where he said he did us a disservice. In actuality it took more than two pages to learn everything he needed about electronics.  He mentioned that it was because he was a "failure" at school and had no friends he had nothing else to do but tinker with what interested him. So thats what he did. As he put it, "if you spend 3,000 to 4,000 hours working on something you're going to get good at it. If you spend 3,000 to 4,000 hours working on something and you don't get good at it, THEN something is wrong with you."

    The next thing that stuck with me was his explanation of why a young guy who loves rock and roll working in the rock and roll industry for huge bands like KISS and creating really cool stage tools like light up guitars and unique sounds would then leave his job. How about explaining why a slightly older guy who sweet talked his way into Milton Bradley right at the time when toys were becoming electronic, creating patents that allowed for interchangeable cartridge games and making $100,000 per year in the mid-80s would then leave his job to become a mechanic? I use the word mechanic in this instance very loosely, he is a mechanic but owns his own shop and specializes in extremely high end automobiles. The kind that I can't even afford to look at too long as they fly by me on I-95. He said he quit these jobs because he was a failure. He was a high school drop out who never went to college (other than to take apart their electronics), he talked his way into his jobs and then was afraid of "being found out". He said he started feeling like a failure young, like 4 or 5. He was a straight F student and was labeled a bad kid. He didn't find out until he was 40 that he has Aspergers, he looked like all the other kids but just wasn't like the other kids. He didn't have any speech delays or other symptoms for Autism and at that time no one was looking at the troubled kids and wondering if there were underlying issues.  I hate to think that he carried that "failure" label with him for so long even while he was creating ground breaking technology that changed the look of stage performances and electronic gaming.  I mean, really, I couldn't make it though one of Cam's doctor appointment waiting room sessions without his beloved Nintendo DS. It is through patents created by John but owned by Milton Bradley that is the basis for all the games we know and love today.

    Aside from his education and career, John did something else that really struck me. He got married and had a son, Cubby. You will learn in Look Me In The Eye that John will call people by names that he feels fits the person well. In this instance, he called his son (who's real name I don't recall) Cubby. There are many days when I think of my sons' conditions and I get really pissed off because I was told that they wouldn't get married and have a family. I want that as an option for them, I want them to feel that they can look for and possibly find someone special who brings them peace and contentment. Because John Robison was diagnosed so late, no one ever put that limitation on him and he not only married once but he even remarried after his divorce from Cubby's mom.  He does say that the relationship is very hard and there is a likelihood of divorce but he has maintained long and continual friendships with his ex-wives. Thats a lot more than I can say for most divorced couples I know! He is writing another book about raising Cubby (I think it is called Raising Cubby) and it is expected to be released end of next year. Cubby also has Aspergers and I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am about this next book!

    I seriously wish I had tape recorded his talk. There was so much he said that hit me between the eyes like an arrow and some things that I felt like a punch to the gut. I hung on every single syllable that he shared with us and felt the frustration, sadness and sometimes excitement in the stories. Yes, even stoic and steadfast me actually found tears in my eyes when he talked about a new treatment that allowed him to see other's emotions for the first time in his life after the age of 50. Unfortunately that treatment didn't allow for that specific breakthrough to be long term but it does add to the big pile of hope that I was amassing.

    After a very short 1.5 hours of listening to his stories and watching his beautiful pictures on slides, I took away what I felt was the 2 most important lessons:

    • Emotions. He made it very very clear that when someone tells me that my child doesn't FEEL emotions, then they are full of crap. He said he feels emotions very deeply, deep affection, deep pain, deep sorrow but it doesn't manifest itself the same way it does someone else. The emotional response is also not triggered in the same way. Perceiving and feeling emotions are not the same thing.
    • Failure. I want to quote him here but I didn't take the time to write it down word for word so this is very loosely quoted, "it is not the popular kids with lots of friends who commit suicide." He felt like a failure, he felt like an outcast, he didn't have friends, sounds like the suicide trifecta to me. With this he talked about the program at Ivymount where they have a program for high functioning kids, where they have a place for those "outside" kids to be on the inside. How different would his story be if there was a place like that for him? 
    Here's the thing, read his books. Look Me In The Eye is stories about his life with Aspergers, a life he lived not even knowing that there was a reason he was different. The stories are so fabulous that the learning is accidental. His new book Be Different (which I haven't finished yet!) is written in a different way. He used questions he was asked in his public speaking to provide a foundation. What foundation he was missing he found in the DSM manual. He explained that he took all the symptoms listed combined with personal experience to allow for a greater understanding of all the parts that make up Autism Spectrum Disorders. I, for one, can't wait to keep reading and learning. I can't wait for his next book to be published and I truly hope that he will speak again locally. 

    Now I am going to bring back out the Lunatic Autism Mom to share with you my insanity. I have truly adored John Elder Robison since he was first published. I read his brother's book first (Augusten Burrough's Running With Scissors) and then read Look Me In The Eye and together they created such an amazing snapshot of a life I cannot even begin to comprehend. I've since been a frequent reader of John's blog, I follow him on Twitter, I've friended him on Facebook and I put a "never delete" on my Tivo'd Ingenious Minds episode that features him.  I truly think he is remarkable. Totally looney right? Well it is going to get worse because I am going to email him and send him my blog in the hopes that he will someday have time to read this post and answer these questions:

    1. When you participated in the study at Harvard that helped you to understand other people's emotions better for a short time, do you feel that being able to see the end result was key to the progress you've made in that arena since? Do you think that it is possible without that insight? I ask because of the way kids are now going through treatment to try and train them to recognize emotions, will recognizing lead to understanding? If those neural connections aren't present in the onset of treatment, are the expectations of treatment too high and thus setting the kids up for yet another failure? 
    2. I have always believed, and stated here in this blog that the high functioning special needs population is the most underserved of the special needs community as exemplified in the statewide programs which have exempted ASD kids for not being "Autistic enough" or by the public school system who have extremely few options, usually inclusion or a classroom that doesn't match their academic abilities. Programs like Ivymount are rare and, even if you are close enough to enroll, prohibitively expensive outside of hiring a lawyer to fight for non-public placement. When you are a parent caught between two impossibilities, what do you do? How do we get people to see that these kids are extraordinary, their potential limitless and that what is available to them is not acceptable? 
    Dear Mr. Robison-
    Thank you so very much for coming to Ivymount to speak. What you say and write makes a difference. The stories you share give hope and understanding. I am very proud of my 2 sons with Autism and lately things have been really sucky. I really needed some hope and understanding, thank you for sharing. You signed my book To Cameron and Adam and I said thank you. Thank you doesn't even come close but I'll say it again, Thank You.
    Maggie Harris

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    The Pieces and Parts that Make up this Lunatic Autism Mom.

    In my world the sun rises and sets with my boys so it's no big shock that it occurred to me to introduce you to Cameron and Adam but not myself. Since I wanted to do a blog post today but didn't feel like doing a ton of research, today might be the best day for me to say HI! Here are the major highlights of the legos (pieces and parts) that make me, me.

    Name: Maggie: it means A Pearl. Depending on who you ask, you will get a different answer to where my name came from. On my Dad's side it appears that I am named after my Great Grandma Maggie. On my Mom's side it appears that I am named after my Great Grandparents who's last name was McGee. But if you were in the hospital on the day I was born then you would have seen Days of Our Lives on TV featuring one of my Mom's favorite characters, Maggie Horton.  I guess it's anyone's guess as to who is correct but it seems as though, even at birth, I strived to please everyone :)

    Hometown: I count Lebanon, Missouri has my hometown. I didn't move there until I was in 1st grade but we stayed until I graduated High School. We ended up moving the day after graduation so I have NO IDEA what kind of mischief all my classmates got into that summer before college.  I did hear rumors though.....

    Growing up: I was a geek trying really hard not to be a geek. I liked school (I really did!), I was always excited to go to class to learn something new and I was excited to go to school every day to see what was going to happen. I don't think I fit into any one group, I didn't have many close friends but I do hope I was friendly to everyone. I had no illusions of popularity but I liked to be involved in lots of things. I played tennis, wrote for the High School newspaper, sometimes did track and field (threw shot put and disc because I am incapable of running) and worked at KMart as a cashier.

    Education: Here is where it gets tricky, did you know that it is just as confusing to be equally good at different subjects as it is to be equally bad? I was an obsessive student, I had to study very very hard even in HS to get good grades and I did. In the midwest you take the ACT instead of the SAT and I got the exact same score on every section. So I took it again and got the exact same score on every section. So I took it again, same thing. I really wanted the test to show some kind of aptitude so that I could point in some direction going into college but no so off I went with absolutely no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.

    I went to college at the University of Missouri Columbia where I proceeded to major in Computer Science then Mathematics then Statistics then Language Arts. I was probably a Math major the longest and when it came time to plan my final semesters at MU I was going to end up with a Bachelors of SCIENCE (not a BA) in Language Arts because I had too many math classes. Here's the thing, I like to write but I didn't know what I was going to do with that BS in Language Arts so when I fell in love with a boy in Maryland I quit school and moved. This pretty much involved signing documents with my parents that stated that I would in fact finish school NO MATTER WHAT!

    I did finally finish. Shortly after the wedding to the boy from Maryland (a lovable, huggable geek like me) I enrolled at UMBC (which touts itself as An Honors College in Maryland) where I wrote Computer Science down as my major. It was short lived and I quit again before finishing the first semester. I guess I'm just not cut out to be a Comp Sci major! In the end I got two degrees from the University of Marland University College both a Bachelors of Science one in Business Management and one in just Business.  Whats the difference? I'll tell you, one is managing people and one is managing business. I worked in Human Resources for a Pre-IPO tech company that went belly up and got knocked up right after I got laid off. hehehehe.... I've never thought of it that way before!

    My most important job: I loved working in the tech field but NOTHING compares to being a Mom. As soon as I met Cameron, I knew he was forever going to be the direction I was looking for so long ago. Really, he should have read my resume and checked references before deciding on me but he'll learn due diligence in time.  Our first year as parents wasn't easy, it involved me deciding to be a stay at home mom, Rob's company closing its doors, job hunting, selling our first home and moving to Northern Virginia for Rob's new job.  It was all a blur and by the time the dust settled, Rob had changed jobs again and we had moved back to Maryland and we were starting to wonder if something was developmentally wrong with Cameron.

    Our Diagnosis: Cam was 2 when he started his evaluations with Infants and Toddlers. He was diagnosed with Autism at 2.5. At the time I was 5 months pregnant with Adam. In the diagnosis meeting, the doctor told me that since I was having another boy, he had a 1 in 20 chance of having some form of Autism as well.  It was a sucker punch after a hard left hook.  We walked out of that office door and into the world of Autism, never looked back and have henceforth lived by the rule, "forward motion always, no regression". Of course we have dealt with regression with both boys but as rule number one we catch it, turn it around and give it a swift kick in the right direction again.

    How I stay sane: I don't always! I have good and bad days just like everyone else, I also have I HATE AUTISM days.  Those are the worst because there just isn't any form of logic I can apply to get out of them. Autism--->is there anything I can do to fix it?--no-->am I doing as much as I humanly can?--yes-->Autism I climb out of the loop and tell myself:
    If you cannot fix it, fix your perception.
    My hobbies- Staying sane part 2:

    • BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS..... I love to read and I do it obsessively. When I was in 9th grade a teacher gave me a list of books that every college graduate should read. I did. When I was in college I read all the "great literature", I wrote papers on the sublime, the next level of consciousness in literature, the true meaning behind the seemingly simple idea of creating a feast for friends, etc. etc. Now I find peace and contentment in smut. Yep! I've put in my time toiling over thick tomes written in old english and dissecting a sentence down to it's ands/ors/buts, now I want nothing more than some well defined characters doing something relatively simple and, by golly, I want a happy ending!!!! Of course as with every Autism parent, I also read a lot of books about Autism, or books written by people with Autism, and that deserves its own blog post (to come). The library is truly one of my happy places on this Earth.
    • Crafts.... I love crafts and I love to collect crafting stuff.  I cross stitch, scrapbook, home decorate, sew, bake, crochet, etc, etc, etc. I worked in college as a pie chef and I love to bake pies, but I hate to EAT pie. Seriously, I hate it and I much prefer cake and cookies. I also have a few things I call Autism Crafts which will also get its own blog post soon. 
    • Obsess.... here's the thing about staying sane, you do it however you can. Sometimes that can be in a constructive way and sometimes not.  There are times when things are so out of control that there is a need to control something, anything and for me that usually turns into diet or cleaning. This is when I will start a diet or make a master cleaning schedule. Being obsessed with something like that creates a situation whereby if you fail the obsession, you fail yourself personally. It's taken a while to recognize that and even longer to turn it around. Believe me, I've got weight to lose and a house to clean but I'll be damned if I force myself back into a no win situation again.  
    • The computer, facebook, et al. I do most of my communicating online. I live far away from my family and my husband travels so some days I live for the connection. I look up information constantly, I read blogs, I always keep my eye open for new decorating ideas and new books by my favorite authors,  and sometimes I just look for stuff that makes me laugh. I love my computer, I love all my portable media and I love my cell phone. I am "connected" 99% of the time.  
    My beliefs: Isn't this kind of where the rubber meets the road? The fundamentals of what you believe make up who you are as a person BUT in my opinion those fundamentals do not make you a better person or a lessor person just a DIFFERENT PERSON. I respect everyone's opinion, I will never try to change someone's fundamental beliefs. I am capable of understanding even if I disagree.  So here's the hot topics: 
    • I am a Democrat and pretty liberal at that. I support gay marriage and pro-choice even if they are not choices I would make personally. 
    • I believe that faith exists outside of religion. I, in no way, believe that I am the highest power in this world but I do not believe in "one true God". I respect all religions even if I do not participate in any and fighting and wars over religion makes me sick. 
    • Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking: Never, Rarely, Never. and I am happy with that choice. 
    • Family is the most important thing in the world. 
    • Support The Troops even if you don't support the War. 
    • All children are beautiful and should be protected and cherished. 
    • I learn something new every single day.
    Today is April 1, 2011 the first day of Autism Awareness Month. There are a lot of great opportunities for education this month and I hope everyone takes advantage of it!