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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 23

Autism Awareness Day 23 - Weighted blankets. Weighted blankets, lap pads, and even toys can be great for children with Autism. It gives them that extra sensory input they need and can even be calming for them. The only problem is that they can also be fairly expensive.

So if you know someone with Autism and you happen to have some sewing skills I would like to share with you this tutorial I found on making weighted blankets. If you're feeling ambitious I'm sure this would make for a much appreciated gift.

Autism Awareness Day 22

Autism Awareness Day 22 - The spectrum. One thing people need to understand is that Autism or Autism Spectrum disorder is not the same for everyone. People diagnosed with Autism can be at any range of the spectrum, meaning that may fall in the range of being very close to neurotypical, or maybe they are severely autistic, or they could be any where in between. Though Autism has certain characteristics this does not mean that everyone with Autism has all of the same characteristics.

Autism is individual, and though two people on the spectrum may have some similarities they are by no means exactly alike. Both of my boys are on the spectrum and yes there are a lot of similarities but there are also a ton of differences. It's not the same for everyone and it's not something that you can see just by looking at a person. The spectrum is so varied that you may know or have met people that are on the spectrum but you wouldn't have known and they may not even know because they were never diagnosed.

So please don't assume that if you know one person with Autism you know them all. That is just not true.

Autism Awareness Day 21

Autism Awareness Day 21 - Early Intervention. One of the key signs of Autism is a lack of verbal communication. If your child is not meeting their milestones where verbal communication is concerned you should probably check in to it. If you child meets their milestones and then later suddenly stops talking then again this may be cause for alarm. Now I'm not saying this automatically means your child has Autism but I am saying that you should find out why they are not meeting their milestones.

One great place to find out more about this is through Help Me Grow. They can help you find out if you child is on track developmentally and then provide further assistance if they are not. We have been working with Help Me Grow for a little over a year now and they've been wonderful with Draiman. They came out to our home to assess his development and then from there scheduled more visits and therapy to help us work on goals with him.

They are a great resource so please check them out. For more information visit there website at

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 20

Autism Awareness Day 20 - Do not fear an Autism diagnosis. I have heard of family with children that are most likely on the spectrum but the family refuses to have their child tested. Believe me when I say that I understand it can be hard to admit that your child may not be typical but you don't have to be afraid of the diagnosis. When Gatlin was diagnosed I went through a whole range of emotions, I wasn't sure what to do. I wasn't sure how I was going to cope let alone be able to help with all of the daunting therapies that he was going to need.

It was beyond overwhelming and then at some point I just realized that it didn't have to be traumatic. Gatlin was still my child, still my baby that loved so much for who he was and the diagnosis didn't change that. He was who he was regardless of what you labeled it, he was still Gatlin. What the diagnosis did do was point us in the right direction of learning to understand him better and to get the help and support we needed. His diagnosis wasn't a tragedy, it was a way of getting us on to the path we needed to travel for better understanding, learning, and growing.

By the time we got Draiman's diagnosis it was no big deal, we understood our boys so much better now. We had been able to learn about Autism and better understand why our boys did some of the things they did. We had learned how to better communicate with them which led to less and less tantrums. We were learning new ways to teach our children things that we weren't able to before. We were also learning how to meet their sensory needs and life was just changing, but for the better.

So if you have a child that you or your family thinks may be on the spectrum then I urge you to follow through on getting them tested. I know it can be scary but it's a necessary step. The worst case scenario is that your child will in fact be diagnosed with Autism, but if you ask me that's not really a worst case scenario. I think it would be much worse to not have them tested because of your own fears and deny them and your family the opportunity to finally understand your child better. To also deny your child any helpful resources that may be available to them with a diagnosis of Autism. So please put your fears aside and do what needs to be done for your child's sake.

Autism Awareness Day 19

Autism Awareness Day 19 - Putting aside our adult agendas. Yes I'm still behind on these posts but it's important to me so I will continue on. Hopefully you all aren't sick of them and hopefully some of you are actually benefiting from my posts. So now lets get back to the topic of putting aside our adult agendas.

As an adult you have a lot of responsibilities, expectations, plans, etc but when you have a child with special needs you will find that sometimes it all goes out the window. Some days run smoothly and I get things accomplished that I had planned to but other days just don't work that way. Before the diagnosis of Autism I thought I must be some kind of awful parent who just couldn't get her children to do what they should. A parent who was incapable of getting things done that should be done. I was so frustrated, I was trying so hard to get my boys to do the things they "should" and to manage my household and my photography business the way I "should" but nothing was working right. Why were other Moms and other photographer Mom's able to get things done and I wasn't? Why was I failing so miserably??

Then I finally started realizing that Gatlin just wasn't a typical child, then came his diagnosis and soon after the realization that Draiman wasn't a typical child either. My boys have Autism, therefore they have special needs which means that the things that work for other parents don't always work for us. I finally started to see that things were just going to be different for us and that different is ok. It's perfectly ok that my children haven't met their milestones in the same timeline as someone else's child. It's perfectly ok that our household, our lives, are not the same as some other families. It is perfectly ok that I that I focus more on what my children need and less on what I thought I "should" be doing.

One of my favorite movies that we've watched dealing with Autism is called The Horse Boy. There were so many ways in which I could relate to this family, so many things they learned that we also learned along the way. The journey was crazy and amazing at the same time. My favorite parts of the movie are when Rowan's Dad talks about needing to put our adult agendas aside and do what's best for our children and when he says his prayer for his son and everyone affected by Autism. It was a powerful movie and he makes some powerful points. Sometimes we really do need to put our adult agendas aside, and I believe this goes for special needs parents as well as typical parents.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 18

Autism Awareness Day 18 - Have you heard of AMA? For this post I want to talk about a great place called Awakening Minds Arts & Athletics. Now I must start off by saying that I've only been there once and we haven't taken any classes there yet but we hope to at some point. What I do know is that they offer some great classes for special needs and several of the parents in the Autism group I'm in love it there. I also know that they sell some sensory toys, weighted lap pads, and pressure vests which is great for any family with a child that has Autism. Some time in the near future they will also be selling some of my hand made soaps too.

The great thing about AMA is that it provides a place for children to be creative do some sensory play. Art is a great thing for all children and I'm happy to know that there is a place that helps children with special needs to find the artist within. I also really love that they sell some of the sensory toys which are something you don't find in just any store. I bought two of the chewy necklaces for my boys and they have been great to have around.

So if you haven't check them out yet then head on over to their page. Your child or a child you know may benefit from their services. For more information please contact them directly as I'm only telling you the very little that I know. I just hope to spread the word about them.

And on a side note if any of you would like to sponsor some art classes there for Gatty then please feel free to do so. LOL

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 17

Autism Awareness Day 17 - Teaching your child and/or providing therapy at home need not be drilling, boring, or uninspired. Today I taught Gatlin how to create art on ceramic tiles with alcohol inks. This was fun for both him and I, but it also counts towards speech therapy and occupational therapy as well as just learning colors. The occupational therapy comes into play when he was helping me unscrew the caps from the inks, touching the inks and blending solution with his hands (sensory), holding the small ink bottles to place the drops and/or draw lines with them, and also when he put the caps back on. Through out all of this he was using his hands and working on fine motor skills. 

Speech therapy was really occurring throughout the entire process as I talked to him about what we were doing and he responded when he could. He was listening to me, following directions or simple commands, and responding appropriately. He named the colors as we used them which helped further teach him about colors and he told me when he was done with each color and when he was done with the entire piece itself. So you see it was a fun experience for both of us but were still working on the skills he needs. Keep it simple, keep it fun, engage your child in their interests and they will learn. Best of all it will be a bonding experience as well.
And here they are ..... Gatlin originals .... the first of many more to come. :) Please note that even though I assisted him these are very much his works of art. I did very little to contribute to these masterpieces.

Autism Awareness Day 16

Autism Awareness Day 16 - Love your child for who they are, Autism and all. I had planned to write something different today but then I came across this shared post from Rebecca's page. What Marcus says here really speaks to me so I feel it needs to be shared yet again.
As a child I was diagnosed as having attachment disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, depression, multiple personality disorder, and many other wonderful diagnosis; almost to many to count. The short version? I am autistic. I didn't get the love I deserved, that every single child deserves. I didn't get to keep my family, not a single family that adopted me was able to keep me. I had no stability and I was miserable a lot. That is why I try so hard to help others on the spectrum. I don't want anyone to ever have the life I had as a child.

I don't work essentially for free, and remain on disability because I love free money. I don't give away everything I create, and ask nothing for myself because I am against making a profit. I do it because to me, the biggest profit and reward will be knowing that I have done my part to make sure that no one else has the life I had. I fight because I am scared that if I don't I am consigning some other innocent to the life I was trapped in.

I was nonverbal until around age 6. I hated to be touched. I couldn't eat if anyone touched my food (which meant I was hungry a lot), and I had frequent meltdowns. It took years of the kind of help you only get on an inpatient basis, and a great deal of luck for me to become who I am today.

Please, stop posting how bad life is for your kids. The simple fact that they have someone posting anything because of them tells me that at least they still have love. Please, stop posting all the negatives associated with your child ASD symptoms. From first hand experience I can tell you how crushing it will be for them when they realize how you see them.

I have always been the smartest person in the room. It doesn't usually matter what room I am, in as that never seems to stop being the case. In school I was always the first with their hand up, because I knew the answers. I was out of my chair bouncing because the teacher didn't want to call on me over and over. My parents were given the option of special education classes or gifted classes and to this day I don't understand why they chose the special education classes.

Just because your child doesn't seem to understand you, I would not suggest making the assumption that they don't. There is every chance that your autistic child is as brilliant as I am, and just has trouble speaking up.

Your child needs you. Maybe they don't show you love the way you think they should. Maybe they can't speak and socialize like you wish they could. Maybe, they are a burden on you financially, emotionally, and mentally right now. They didn't ask to be the way they were born, any more than you asked for them to be that way.

Please, be the parents that I didn't have, at least not for very long. Please stop finding things to blame, things to champion, and demonizing what makes your child different.

Love them completely with all your heart. If you hate that they are autistic and you wish you could cure them, change them are you really loving them for who they are?

My friend John Poer posted something on an article I wrote:

"Even though I have never MET Marcus, I have known him for a very long time. He's a very good person, who, given how he was treated growing up, has no reason to BE a good person. I am amazed that he has gotten this far against the odds.

He has already helped a lot of people, and continues to try every day, to give something he never received himself.

Go Marcus."

That made me cry. I am not a good person, a loving person by accident. It was a choice that I made because I had seen enough pain and suffering. I was once told by one of the counselors at a placement called Spectrum Care Academy that as a victim of childhood abuse I was going to hurt others. Victims become abusers unless they choose to be something different. I refuse to ever become the monsters that have been in my life.

Be the example. Show your child how to love, by loving them fully and completely; autism is just a part of who they are and it can be a wonderful part. Stop feeding into the blame, the mistrust, and the hate and maybe your child can learn to love others through your example more than they ever would by treatments, therapies, and interventions.

How do I manage to be as loving, trusting, giving, and yes naïve as I am if it isn't they way I am by default? That is easy. I simply do the opposite of what I have known my entire life.

Why do I keep trying to help, to serve when almost every part of my heart and mind scream that I have done enough, hurt myself enough, sacrificed enough and no one could ask any more of me? I remind myself constantly that when it was me, when I was the child; I screamed in every way I could for someone to be who I am now for me. I remind myself that there are kids, teens, and adults out there right now that need me to be who I am, and I will be damned if I let them down.

There is only one of me though. I can only do so much. Hence my reason for writing this, my reason for existing. Please, I am begging you to learn acceptance, tolerance and love and to never give up hope.

Thank you for your time,
Marcus Shane Morris

At the time I am writing this: I have a beautiful wife, two amazing little autistic boys, my own home, and all the love I ever begged, prayed, and pleaded for. It is possible for your kids as well.

Autism Awareness Day 15

Autism Awareness Day 15 - P.L.A.Y. Project. Twice a month we have P.L.A.Y. Project home visits for both of our boys. They each have a separate appointment where we work with their therapist Heather to learn to engage them and open circles of communication through play. This has been amazing for us! In a lot of ways it's such a simple technique but something that a lot of us parents just miss out on. We have learned better ways to follow our boys lead and play with them to get them to engage with us and try to communicate with us. I highly recommend P.L.A.Y. Project for any parent of a child with Autism. Find out more by clicking on the link below.

Autism Awareness Day 14

Autism Awareness Day 14 - More than meets the eye. (Yes I'm behind again, such is life LOL) For this post I would just like you all to watch this video. I've seen it before but it was worth watching again. There is much more to the child with Autism than what most people choose to see.

This amazing girl proves autism is not what most doctors think!
She will amaze you WOW....must share this!!!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 13

Autism Awareness Day 13 - Dr. Solomon's magic trick. Before Draiman was officially diagnosed with Autism he had begun hitting a lot. When I say a lot I mean it too, it was constant. He couldn't communicate verbally and he would get really frustrated so he would hit people. He would hit his brother, he would hit us, he would hit anyone that he became frustrated with or didn't want to listen to. It was becoming a big problem and we were having one heck of a time to get him to stop.

Then the day we took him to Dr. Solomon for diagnosis we learned an awesome trick. Dr. Solomon told us that the very next time he hit us we needed to take hold of his hands and not let go. He said that we should look Draiman in the face and tell him that we understood his frustration but that he was not allowed to hit. We needed to explain to him in simple terms that it was not ok to hit and that he must find another way to express his anger. Dr. Solomon said to hold his hands still the entire time we said that and then to look away from him and count to 30 while still holding his hands still. He said that once we were done counting to 30 we should look him in the face again and tell him that we loved him but that it was not ok to hit. Then after that we could let go of his hands. Dr. Solomon explained that the 30 plus seconds of holding his hands would be like torture or severe punishment so he would not want to suffer those consequences again and that we needed to also acknowledge his frustration even if we weren't sure he understood it. Then of course it was important for him to know that we loved him too.

Well that same night when we got home Draiman was angry and hit me. I did exactly what Dr. Solomon said to do. Draiman struggled fiercely and you could tell he hated it. He did not like having his hands held still like that for anything. I wasn't sure how well it was going to work but would you believe that was the end of hitting. It took one time and he pretty much completely stopped hitting. Now he will now again hit his brother when they get to fighting but it's rare and nothing like what it was before that day.

Autism Awareness Day 12

Autism Awareness Day 12 - Social skills or lack there of. A lot of children with Autism lack social skills. They do not easily pick up on social cues and they are not good at interpreting emotions and facial expressions. Both Gatlin and Draiman tended to ignore people around them in the past and still even now at times. So we try hard to work on getting them to say "Hi" and Bye" or other things like that.

At school when I pick Gatlin up I tell him to say "bye" and "see you later" to his teachers. I also say it to him when I leave or prompt him to say it when someone leaves our home. He's getting really good at saying the words but he doesn't always know to say them on his own without being prompted. Well yesterday we went to Best Buy and as we started to leave the store after checking out Gatlin suddenly yelled "Bye, see you!" It was the cutest thing and I was so proud of him for using his words and using them appropriately. We had not prompted him to say anything at that moment. He just amazes me every day.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 10 & 11

Autism Awareness Days 10 & 11 - Rest for the weary. I wanted to post something new each day this month but alas I have started to fall behind. The truth of the matter is that I am a very busy person and lately I'm feeling exhausted.

Life for the Autism Mom or Dad can be very busy, hectic, challenging, overwhelming, stressful, fulfilling, wonderful, joyous, and so on and so on. Life for any parent can be crazy and sometimes we just need to recognize they we may be pushing ourselves too hard. In order for us to be our best for our children we also need to rest and take care of ourselves.

So don't forget to schedule some extra rest when you need it. It's important to recharge your own batteries. So important that I honestly feel that it can be subject for two days instead of just one. (Seriously I'm not cheating here! ) And on that note I really need to put myself to bed. My babies will be up early and they deserve a well rested Mommy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 9

Autism Awareness Day 9 - Sleep, sleep, please go to sleep. I was going to post something last night but I was too tired to mess with it so I tried to get some extra sleep. I'm tired a lot to be honest and a lot of it has to do with my boys and their sleep issues. A lot of children with Autism tend to have sleep issues. For our family it's anything from difficulty falling asleep, restlessness, leg cramps, trouble staying asleep, to waking up several times a night. Now add in the fact that I have two boys that have those same troubles and you'll soon understand why I'm tired a lot.

Both Gatlin and Draiman have issues falling asleep easily on their own. This is one reason it is important to have a consistent bed time routine to help cue their bodies into sleep time. We do give our boys melatonin, though I hope to stop using it. That helps Gatty a lot which is good so that he can sleep for school the next day but Draiman fights it like crazy so at times it's almost pointless giving it to him. Then once we get them to sleep it's a matter of keeping them asleep. They both can tend to wake up several times a night. Poor Gatlin at times wakes up with severe leg cramps which then makes it difficult to calm him down and get him back to sleep. Other times my boys will wake up at around 3 am ready to go like it's time to wake up for the day.

This can be a crazy cycle for me. I tend to stay up for a while after the boys go to sleep so that I can work on things I need to get done. Then when I'm ready to finally go to sleep about half the time Draiman has already woken up or will soon. Sometimes I spend my night back and forth dealing with one child only to get him to sleep and have the other one wake up on me. Or there are those nights that one wakes up and is so loud that they wake the other one up and no one will go back to sleep for hours at least. A lot of times I wake up with a child or two sleeping with me. Just this week I woke up with both of them laying across me.

The sleeplessness can be frustrating but it's just the way it is. Some days are good and they both will sleep through the night but unfortunately that doesn't tend to happen as often. So we just do the best we can each night and hope for the best. If a night is particularly rough then there will more than likely be naps later. Although naps for Gatty can sometimes cause more bed time issues. But like I said we do the best we can, but you'll have to forgive me if I'm not the most sympathetic to others who complain about newborns not sleeping. Most newborns will eventually learn to sleep through the night just fine. We on the other hand have been wishing for uninterrupted sleep for over 4 years now and I don't see it getting better right away. It's ok though because I love my boys regardless of any sleep I lose.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 8

Autism Awareness Day 8 - Sensory Seekers. My boys are what some refer to as sensory seekers. What that means is that they crave sensory input or stimulation. They need activities like jumping, bouncing, and rough and tumble play. Ever since my boys were very small they would always try to lift things that seemed way too heavy for them. That's because their muscles needed that input. This is why Draiman loves to jump pretty much all the time and why he also enjoys walking on his tip toes. Gatlin also loves to bounce, jump, and run around a lot.

Without these kinds of activities it is very hard for my boys to settle down and focus. They need these activities on a regular basis and when they don't get enough of it then you see them get crazy hyper or overly agitated. Not to mention that they are nearly impossible to get to go to sleep if they haven't used up enough energy.

This is why in our home we have a fairly large preschool trampoline, an exercise ball for bouncing, a crash pad for jumping and wrestling, weighted balls for playing with, and several other balls as well. We spend quite a bit of time rough housing through out the day too. My boys love to be slammed down on the crash pad or smashed against the back of the couch. We have to watch out for Draiman too because he enjoys head butting, what hurts us feels good to him. Though he has gotten much better about that.

Now it may sound odd but these things are actually good for them. They need this kind of sensory input and like I said it does help them focus better. It also provides a good way for us to engage them, to actually pay attention to us rather than just being in their own world. Through P.L.A.Y project therapy we use the rough and tumble play to get the boys to communicate with us too. Draiman rarely says anything but if I'm smashing him in the chair behind me and then stop and say "Ready, Set ..." you better believe he will yell "GO" just so I'll continue to smash him some more.

Its kind of funny how their needs sort of force us to play with them but the truth is I really enjoy playing with them. We could all stand to play with our kids more. Find those games that your child enjoys and make them a fun, learning, bonding experience.

Autism Awareness Day 7

Autism Awareness Day 7 (sorry it's late) - Talk to your children, even if they don't answer you. One thing I have always done is talk to my children. I've done it since they were babies and I will always do it. Obviously when they were babies I knew they couldn't answer me but then later of course I found out that it would still be difficult for them.

Even though they can't always answer me I feel it is important that I talk to them and try to carry on a conversation so to speak. I know they hear me, sometimes I can tell they are listening though with Autism they don't always make direct eye contact or show signs of paying attention. Either way I know it's good for them and this is how they are going to learn to converse with others. Now that Gatlin talks more he will talk to me, though sometimes he just repeats what I say to him. Like I said though it's still important to talk to him so that he will learn from me.

One thing I've noticed is that when I go to the store with my boys, even when they were babies I always felt like people stared at me because I was talking to them. I always talk to them about whatever and now with Gatty I tell him what we are buying and try to get him to name some of the items. I know that this will help him learn new words and to identify different items. The thing is, I don't really see many other parents talking to their kids. It seems like a lot of them are just in a zone trying to get their groceries or whatever. Now maybe they don't want to look like a fool talking to a child who can't or doesn't answer but I'm not concerned about what others think when they are looking at us. My concern is teaching my children things throughout everyday life.

So don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with your non-verbal child. I'm sure that one day you'll realize how much they really were listening.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 6

Autism Awareness Day 6 - Therapy alone is not enough. One thing that Dr. Soloman told us when our boys were diagnosed was that we needed to record our therapy sessions. He said that we shouldn't rely on therapists, that we needed to learn how to do the therapy ourselves at home. Dr. Soloman said that we as parents were the key to helping our children meet their milestones and that a few hours a week with a therapist was never going to be enough. So we took his advise and recorded the first several sessions so that we could replay them and learn how to provide therapy at home.

At this point in time we no longer record therapy sessions but at the beginning it was very helpful. We still observe therapy sessions and partner with the boys therapists to keep up with what skills we need to work on. We've done our best to incorporate the things they do in therapy into our everyday lives. We are constantly working on skills at home but we've made it more a part of life rather than endless therapy sessions. The key to teaching our boys is through fun and play. They learn so much more when they enjoy it and I think that is really true for just about anyone.

We've taken a lot of the advice given to us from therapists and put it into play (literally play time) at home. We've also found some of our own methods that work too. I don't feel that we are the best at this but I will say that the therapists have always told us that they can tell we're working on things at home. So if you ask me that must mean we're doing something right. All I know is that our boys have come a long way since the beginning of this journey.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 5

Autism Awareness Day 5- Consistency is key. When you have a child with Autism you soon learn that being consistent and maintaining schedules can be very helpful. My thoughts on this are that if your senses can be easily overwhelmed, the world around you can seem chaotic and overstimulating, and you have difficultly clearly communicating with others then schedules and routines probably help you to feel more comfortable and secure. I think for my boys it is nice for them to know what's expected and what's coming next so they feel safe and in balance.

It is for this reason that we have a pretty set bedtime routine and schedule. We try to keep therapy appointments on the same days and times. We use the "clean up" song to signal the boys that it's time to put toys away. (songs in general are good but I'll talk about that on another post) I usually do not take my boys to the doctor if their regular doctor is not scheduled in that day. We like to keep the same therapists and the one time that we did have to switch therapists for a bit we tried to get Gatlin used to the new one before his regular one went on maternity leave. Doing these things helps to keep it familiar and comfortable for our boys. They are less likely to be overwhelmed and frustrated if we stick to the routine.

Now I'm not saying that you should never change things up because let's face it, life is full of change. What I am saying is that you should keep things on schedule when you can and when you can't it's best to talk about it, show pictures, or do whatever you can to clue a child with Autism in on what changes are to come. For example one time we missed physical therapy for the week so then when we took Gatlin in for Speech he became very agitated because it wasn't the right therapist. He was expecting to see Miss Megan and not Miss Jessica. This actually just happened with Draiman also since he's no longer in OT.

I have noticed that the more Gatlin understands what I'm telling him the easier he handles changes. On the other hand with Draiman it is just too overwhelming because he just doesn't understand what's going on. So we do our best to keep it consistent and when we can't we do our best to explain what is going on. We do incorporate change also because that's important to learn to deal with but we keep that in smaller doses since the boys have enough challenges on a daily basis any way.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 4

Autism Awareness Day 4 - You have more in common with a person who has Autism than you realize.  It seems that the initial reaction to someone with Autism is that they are different, odd, or strange but the truth is that we all have more in common than you may realize. Have you ever tried describing something to another person but you just couldn't think of the words you needed to express what you wanted to say? Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation and then suddenly used the wrong word than what you meant to use? Have you ever had difficulty pronouncing certain words? Have you ever tried to explain or show someone something and they just did not seem to understand what you were trying to tell them? Well if you've experienced any of these things than you can understand what a person with Autism deals with when they try to communicate verbally. These are the types of challenges they face regularly because communication tends to be more difficult for them.

Have you ever heard a sound that made you uncomfortable or just plain hurt your ears, maybe something like nails on chalkboard? Have you ever walked into a very loud, crowded room where there was so much noise and things going on that it just felt a bit overwhelming? Have you ever been frustrated when trying to talk on the phone while others are talking loudly around you or making noises that disrupt your concentration and make it hard for you to focus on your phone conversation? Well if you've experienced any of these than you can understand how a child with Autism feels when their senses are overloaded. For example my boys have heightened senses so these things would bother them much quicker than it would me but I can still understand what it must be like for them.

The point I'm trying to make here is that even though things are different for the person with Autism, we can all understand them at least to a certain degree. Once we start seeing the similarities in one another it is much easier to be considerate of each other because we're really not all that different after all. Finding common ground is definitely a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Autism Awareness Day 3

Autism Awareness Day 3 - Never mistake a lack of verbal communication for a lack of intelligence. Just because a person can not or has difficulty speaking does not mean they are not intelligent. In my opinion people with Autism are kind of like someone who is blind. What I mean by that is that a blind person tends to use their other senses to help them navigate since they can't rely on their vision in the same way that children with Autism find other ways to communicate their needs and wants since they can't rely on verbal communication. A blind person would tend to hear things that an average person wouldn't even notice and it seems that my children also catch on to things that would completely escape my attention.

This is why it is important to show a child with Autism the same respect as you would show anyone else. Do not talk about them in any sort of negative manner in front of them. They can hear you and even though they may not understand every word you say they do understand a lot of what goes on around them, much more than you may realize. For example one time when I was talking to John, Gatlin got very upset about something I said. It took me a bit to figure it out at first, but once I did I realized how much he really listens to what we are saying. You see I was telling John that I need to go to the store to buy something for a recipe I was making. Right after I said that Gatlin got very upset and started telling me "NO" and "ALL DONE!" Finally I figured it out, even though I wasn't talking to him or even looking at him, he had heard me say the word "buy." He was upset because he mistakenly thought I said the word "bye" and he did not want to leave the house. He did not want to go "bye bye."

Now in this example he had my meaning incorrect but the point is that he was listening and paying attention to what I was saying. This is just one example I can think of but there have been many times that he's caught on to what we were talking about. A lot of times he gets it right too, he knows exactly what's going on or about to happen. So never under estimate a person with Autism. They are just as smart as you or I, maybe even smarter from what I've seen.

Autism Awareness Day 2

Autism Awareness Day 2 - Communication can be very difficult for children with Autism. For us this lack of verbal communication was one of the things that tipped us off that our boys had Autism. At 3 yrs old when Gatlin was diagnosed he was only saying "No" very rarely and Draiman at almost 18 mos had not attempted to say anything. We had plenty of "tantrums" but no real communication, that is until we (the parents) learned one very important lesson. That lesson was that behaviors are not merely behaviors but rather a form of communication. It's easy to assume that the child with Autism is merely acting out or being a brat but that is not always the case. Now I'm not saying that they don't misbehave because let's face it, everyone does, even adults. What I am saying is that when working with a child with Autism (in my opinion even neuro-typical children) you should always make sure that their behaviors are not in actuality a form of communication.

Once I began trying to decode Gatlin and Draiman's behaviors I started seeing that my kiddos had been trying to tell me all kinds of things the whole time but I just had not been "listening." I was failing to understand their messages. When Gatlin would smack himself in the head he wasn't trying to injure himself for no reason, he was trying to tell me that his head hurt. When the boys would scream and fight me when trying to get them dressed it wasn't because they were brats, it was because I was putting scratchy jeans on them that caused them sensory issues and irritated their skin. Draiman's random crying wasn't actually so random, he had noticed that I was wearing different clothes and putting shoes on which meant his Mommy was leaving him. Gatlin's screaming and crying because I turned on the blender wasn't just him being ridiculous, it was because the noise was so loud it hurt his ears.

Suddenly I realized that they had being trying to tell me so many things but I just didn't get it. At first I felt awful, like a bad Mom. How could I have missed this? Why didn't I see it before? Later I realized that I had just as much to learn as my boys did and that it was going to be a wonderful journey together. I was finally beginning to understand them and the "tantrums" were subsiding because we were finally getting the message.

Autism Awareness Month

It's Autism Awareness Month!!!! That means that for this entire month you all will get to read my thoughts, opinions, experiences, lessons in Autism that I have gotten through my personal experiences with my super awesome boys. Some of you will agree with me and some of you won't. That's fine, I'm ok with it. So let me kick off this month by saying that I am THANKFUL for autism. What??? Yep you read that right, I am thankful for autism. It is true that autism has brought a lot of challenge into my life but it has also brought its blessings. Through autism I strongly believe that I have learned to become a better parent and a better person. It has taught me to be much more understanding and accepting of everyone around me. It has shown me that there are much more important things than keeping pace with everyone else. I've learned to enjoy the simple things and appreciate life much more. I am amazed and inspired by the way my boys see the world and how they work through their personal challenges. I accept autism as a part of them and I do not see it as a tragedy what so ever. I truly feel I was meant to be their Mom and live and love this life with autism. I feel blessed and I embrace it with all it's challenges and triumphs.