Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas is Coming to Town

The magical Christmas is now less than two weeks away.  Along with the hustle and bustle of trying to finish up shopping and decorating, many autism families are also trying to cope with the stress Christmas brings to our special little ones, and trying to plan the holidays accordingly.

Many people are surprised to realize that Christmas is anything but a time of pure joy for children.  But trust me, it can be a difficult time for many families.

Sure our kids are excited about Santa's pending trip down the chimney, but they are also big fans of consistancy, and Christmas is a time when everything changes, from daily schedules, to the invasion of Christmas decorations, drastically altering their physical environment.

Here are some of my tips for surviving Christmas, and enjoying it along the way.
  1. Plan ahead.  Do your best to plan your Christmas visits, so that you can let your child know in advance where they are going, and for how long.  If you are going from place to place, create a little list for your child to follow, and perhaps keep in their pocket.   
  2. Pack heavily.  This is the time to test the capacity of your purse.  Fill your purse with everything you need, or might need, or just might be nice to help your child enjoy themselves, whereever you are going.  Favourite snacks, chewey tubes, portable DVD player with favoured videos, portable gaming system, books, iPod fully loaded...and whatever else you can think of.  Sound excessive?  I personally believe there is no such thing as being overly prepared.
  3. Social Stories.  Make use of Carol Gray's brilliant idea by writing Social Stories which may cover any novel situation you may be in.  Perhaps one illustrating proper use of another child's new Christmas toy, how to politely decline offered foods, what to do when you want to go home, but you can't just anme the issue, and you can write the story. 
  4. Maintain normalcy as much as possible.  Admist all of the hustle and bustle, try to find some things that can stay the same.  Your little one may cling to these small strands of normal, and they just might get them through all the rest.  For example, last year we homeschooled through the holidays, missing just Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  Even if he doesn't love school work, it is a big part of his schedule.  Also, you might do your best to maintain the regular bedtime routine.  Small pockets of normal in a sea of change. 
  5. Keep your home sacred ground.  Allow your house to always be a safe place, his or her place of retreat.  Perhaps you shouldn't host the big holiday parties, or large family dinners, unless this is something your child enjoys. 
  6. If it's just too much, don't do it.  Learn to say no.  Not all invitations are best accepted.  Show gratitude for being included, but if you think an event would just be too much, you are most likely right.  Your stress will become your child's stress.  Do what you can, try your best, and try your best to recognize that keeping your child's best interest in mind is bound to dissapoint others at times.  That's just part of the deal.
  7. Keep your holiday priorities straight, happy, joyful time together as a family. 
I love Christmas, and fully intend on enjoying it the best that I can....even if it kills me!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Exceptional Family

I'm very excited to announce that My Yellow Apple has been featured in the current issue of Exceptional Family magazine!  There is a feature article on  moms who blog, and I am so happy that Aiden and I are a part of it.

Exceptional Family is a wonderful Canadian magazine for families of people with disabilities.  Every issue I find tons of useful information in this mag, and would highly reccomend it to other families.

I'd like to send a special welcome to any new readers who have found their way here from the magazine article.  I hope you like what you see and come back often!

What a wonderful early Christmas present for me and my we'll treasure for years to come.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Help Me to Remember

In these hard days, help me to remember that it's been hard before.  I need to remember that hard times come, and hard times go.  Help me to remember how far we have come already, and that things can look up.  Because sometimes, usually not for long, I can forget.  And that scares me.

Help me to remember that all the choices we have made have been made with pure hearts, always with best hopes for other, not for self.  When you have to make such big decisions all the time, it can be easy to question yourself, and sometimes that makes me upset.

When things are rough, I need to remember all of my blessings.  I don't always want to be focused on my worries, there are many in this world who would see my worries as trivial in light of their own, and they are right.  It's all the things I take for granted that are my blessings, how lucky I am to take so many things for granted.  Remembering my blessings can make me feel grateful, and loved.

Help me to remember, when I'm having a hard time, that it's okay if I don't always know what to do.  It's okay if I try a zillion things, some of which I thought were great ideas, and they don't seem to work.  It is my effort and dedication that matter, and lots of times these don't fail me.  When I can't figure out the answer, and I feel like I am walking in circles I can feel frustrated, and dissapointed in myself. 

Help me to remember that when I don't know what else to do, it's always a good idea to love a little harder.  It may not fix everything, but sometimes it's all I have to offer.  And a little extra love never hurts.   

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is there anybody out there?

I read a lot.  I take great comfort in recognizing my family's story in other people's stories.  Perhaps it is human nature to know that we are not alone.  When you face the challenges of parenting a child with autism, circumventing and obeying the host of "rules" your child lays out for you, it is hard not to feel like it is impossible that anyone else could possibly understand your life.  And how you live it.

And no offense, but I honestly do not think one can truly "get this" unless they are living it.  It is just too much, too all-encompassing to understand unless you are in it up to your armpits. 

At this particular moment in time, I am feeling very isolated.  We are going through a cycle of extreme sensory issues, and thankfully I am now experienced enough to know that these issues will cycle out again, but for now, they are very, very real.  And very, very limiting. 

As one example, right now we are going through an extreme aversion to food smells.  Extreme.  It is very hard to find things to cook that will not make him feel as if his body is under attack.  Try going to the grocery store with a child who can lose all sense of decorum at the slightest whiff of banana. 

At times like this, my world gets very small.  There are few places I can go, few things I can do.  Honestly, it is a pretty lonesome scene. 

I know that there are other moms out there who honestly understand the bizarre dilemnas I find myself faced with.  Moms worldwide ask each other for advice on tips for facing parenting challenges, how you get your kids to bed on time, ways to sneak more vegetables into their kids, stuff like that.  But I'm looking for help solving slightly less common problems, How do I get my boy to keep the sleeves of his winter coat rolled down ?  How do you get your child to tell you if they've hurt themselves?  How do you explain to people what your child needs without coming off all "preachy"?

You are out there, right?  Other moms do have these kinds of questions...right?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What a Wonderful Kind of Day!

It's great when you don't have to reinvent the wheel.  Which is exactly what us parents of children with Asperger's Syndrome do, all the time.  Every time our child meets new people.  Everytime we bring our child to a new environment.  We have to find a succint, accurate description of our child's differences, and still try to find a way to put some focus on the good, before losing the audience's attention.  We need to quickly plead them to look beyond what can appear as indifference on our child's part, or quirky behaviours, and take the time to see the multitude of gifts our child has to offer.

You know what?  From now on, I'll be sharing this link.  Because it is a great, child friendly description of Asperger's, and how children with differences still have a lot to offer in friendships.  And how it is worth making some accomdations to have a great friend.

Arthur, the beloved PBS character has featured an episode on Asperger's Syndrome.  The episode is titled "When Carl met George". George is a great artist, a train specialist, startled by noises, and easily upset.  Sound familiar anyone?  The episode even addresses special interests, without an insulting slant that our kids are "obsessed" with something.  Following the cartoon, the "and now a word from us kids" section featured some real children who have Asperger's and autism. 

It was well done, and definately worth sharing.

A world where t.v. shows take the time to appeal to all of its viewers, and fosters understanding amongst children to appreciate differences....what a wonderful kind of day! 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Okay, so I've already dedicated two posts to the amazing Minister Kevin O'Brien, but I just have to share this!  (see You've Got Mail, and Front Page News!)

This man's thoughtfulness and kind heartedness merits just one more post.  He actually made arrangements,came to our house, and knocked on the door, with a transport truck!  Aiden was taken for a nice long ride, blew the horn, used the CB radio, the whole deal.

He was over the moon!  He now has an amazing memory to last him a lifetime.

And to think, all of this because a little boy wrote a letter!

We need more Kevins!!!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

No Sacrifice at All

I learned a lovely little life lesson the other night.  I learned it where I learn so many little subtle nudges of wisdom, from a good book.  I was reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.   I wasn't reading it for insight, just enjoying it as the quick, simple read that it is.  But when I came upon page 93, my eyes began to well up, and my heart did too, with a refreshing new perspective.

In the story, a man who has recently dies meets five people from his life who teach him lessons and give him a broader view of the life he just led.  One of these lessons is about sacrifice. 

" Sacrifice is a part of life.  It's suppossed to be.  It's not something to regret. It's something to aspire to....Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you're not really losing it. You're just passing it on to someone else."

Wow.  I know that my husband and I definately made the right decision in homeschooling.  Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for its many, many merits.  I so appreciate this time being home with my children.  But it wasn't made without sacrifice.  I had a career, hey, I even had an income!  There is always that slight hint of panic hanging around the edges of the euphoria of homeschooling, that I gave up something too big.  Something that I might not be able to get back.

I realize now that I haven't really given up anything.  I'm just giving something different to someone I really love, and someone who really needs it.  Yes, I offered up a career for a while, but I have recieved so much in return.  My husband goes to work without having to worry about how our little guy is surviving a school day.  He has gained peace of mind.  I can start each day knowing that I am available to my children, to help them learn, to help them socialize, to help them be together as a family.  In the big picture, we have lost nothing.  But we have gained a lot.

For other families who are considering homeschooling, but may be daunted by all that has to be sacrificed to make it happen, I think we offer up an example.  Homeschool families are like all others, like any other family that makes the financial decision to keep a parent in the home.  Decide what is most important to you, make that your goal, and make your decisions and sacrifices accordingly.  Without regrets.  Aspire to reach your true goals, and be grateful.

Above all else, we have gained a happy, secure, comfortable enviornment for our boy to live and learn in.

And that's no sacrifice at all.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Giving Thanks

In a few short hours I will gratefully be digging in to a lovely turkey dinner.  So I thought I should take a few minutes to reflect on what I am thankful for (apart from the aforementioned delicious dinner!).
I am thankful for having a husband that I adore, and a little boy and girl who make the whole world shiny and new, amazingly at the same time that they keep my house disorganized and messy.  A warm house, lots to eat, living close to most of my family, discovering homeschooling, trampolines, long distance phone calls to my sister who lives away, living in a free country, CBC Radio, Diet Pepsi, my local library and of course a hot pot of coffee on the mornings when I really need it. 
And I am thankful to all of you who take the time to read my musings, thanks for coming along for the ride.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's all in the Wording...

For me, wording is everything.  I have a background in anthropology, and truly believe that the words we choose cannot be seperated from our viewpoints, understandings, and perspectives.  It's kind of like how the Inuit have like a gazillion words for snow, because snow plays such a large role in their lives.  Their language reflects that.

It's why I so hate the word "autistic".  I don't just use person first terminology because it is politically correct, I use it so that my language reflects my thoughts, that a person comes before their label. 

The latest word that is beginning to fall harshly on my ears is one that you might not expect.  It's one I didn't always mind, but really irks me now.  Inclusion.  It's not the practise that bothers me, but the word itself.  (although I do have my own view points of full inclusion, which is a different issue altogether.)

What does it mean to be included?  In my mind it would involve accomodations being made so that all people could be participants.  By its very nature, we have to assume that the enviornment or activity is, under normal circumstances in some way non-accessible to those being included. 

When I was a little girl, my older sisters were often reminded to 'include' me in their games. 

Call me a word snob if you like, but I don't want my boy to be just included.  I want him to belong.  It feels like if you have to be included, it sends the message that you are being pulled in from outside the group.  Outsiders being allowed in.  I don't like that word.  I don't know a better one yet, I'm still thinking about it....  I do not see people with exceptionalities as being outsiders, I see them as full bodied, equally important human beings.  Like my favourite line from the HBO Temple Grandin movie..."Different, not less."

Again, it's not that I am in disagreement with the practise of inclusion itself, I see the world as being for all, and the more we can make all places for all, the better.  It's just the word. 

And the wording is everything.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Front Page News!

We've had a pretty exciting couple of days here!  Earlier this week I received a message to contact a reporter from our provincial newspaper, The Telegram.  To say the least this caught me off guard, but they had gotten wind of Aiden receiving his handwritten letter from Minister Kevin O'Brien. (You've Got Mail)  I agreed to the interview, but was floored when our story was printed on the front page of the paper today! Even his sweet little pictured appeared for all to see.

While I'm not a big fan of attention, we really felt the need to agree to the story so that Minister O'Brien would get the public attention his good deeds deserved.  I only hope that The Telegram's readers enjoyed their little bit of good news this morning.  There are good people out there... and little boys still dream big.
Click to view full size and read

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Grade One...Here we Come!

There's no denying that the sweet days of summer have come to an end.  If you don't believe, just peak out the window.. 

We officially start Grade One tomorrow, although himself doesn't really know that I actually started it at the end of June...just didn't call it by name.  We did homeschool throughout the summer, just a lighter version of it, enough to keep the routine in place and to avoid the loss of skills.

It's amazing to me the difference that a year can make, and I don't just mean Aiden.  I feel a lot more relaxed going into homeschooling this year, and I know what the difference is.  It's no longer unknown territory for me.  I know that it is great, and I know that it works.  I also know a gazillion other people who are doing it, so I don't feel like quite the renegade that I did last year.

I have some goals for myself this year...  Firstly, to relax, enjoy the beautiful experience of home education, because even though it is a lot of work, it is truly worth it.  I know we will achieve all the outcomes, and I know there will be good days and bad days, I plan on enjoying and celebrating the good days, and taking the bad days with a grain of salt.  And moving on.

Secondly, I am working hard on always letting himself know what to expect, and what is coming next.  I have found that this has helped enormously with behaviour.  It's the classic use of visuals, schedules, checklists, etc.  Helping him avoid  "not knowing" and having to worry about new events and activities.  It really does take a load off.

Thirdly, I am going to let go of a lot of uneeded stress I put on myself.  If an upcoming event seems like it will be too difficult to manage, I am giving myself permission to avoid it.  Socially, we're doing great.  Why sabotage that?  I will keep pushing for social experiences, but I will find the ones that are good for us. With no apologies.

Grade we come!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

You've Got Mail

A letter came in the mail yesterday addressed to our little man.  And this letter has already made our lives exponentially easier.  Perhaps a little background information is in order...

At the beginning of this summer, Aiden somehow got it in his head that he wanted to drive a transport truck.  And he wasn't talking about it in that cute, "when I grow up..." kind of way. He meant now. Those of you familiar with autism know that once our kids get something in their head, it tends to stay there.  So, for weeks we were inindated with the same question, "When I'm five can I drive a transport truck?"  We'd try to shrug off our "no" answer to lighten the blow, but his insistence grew.  And his dissapointment did too.  We were being badgered, and there was no end in sight to this badgering.

So, I had an idea.  Aiden and I wrote a letter to Hon. Kevin O'Brien, the Newfoundland Minister of Governemtn Services.  That's right, I wanted Aiden to get the news straight from the horses mouth so that he could accept the "no" more easily.  Also, I thought it would buy us a load of time, so whenever he would ask his question, we would say, "You'll have to get your letter back and see what the Minister says."

Ha Ha.  I fully assumed that I would wait a reasonable amount of time and send him a reply myself, gently letting him down.  But to my great shock, yesterday's post contained a letter addressed to him in a provincial government envelope.  Could it be?  Unbelievably, he had gotten a reply.

And not just any reply, he recieved a three page hand written letter, sighed "Kevin". And let me tell you, it was a beautiful letter, much better than the fake reply I had been planning.  The Minister talked about his own brother wanting to drive a truck, and how he had grown up to make a career of being a trucker.  He went on to say that he had to be 19 to get his license, but that time goes very quickly when you are young.  So eleoquently he encouraged him to keep his career goals open, and that perhaps he might rather start a trucking business instead, and own an entire fleet of trucks, calling this "Something to dream for."  Finally, he invited Aiden to write to him again anytime he wanted, or even to get us to bring him to his office so that they could meet each other.

I've got to tell you something.  This response has touched us greatly.  I think of all the letters I have written to provincial governemtn ministers, and no responses ever come my way.  But I think of this man, who opened a letter from a little boy and took the time not just to brush it off, but to handwrite a meaningful response.

Thank you Minister O'Brien. 

He didn't know that Aiden had autism. He just answered an innocent little boy's letter, and showed great respect for a little boy's dreams.  He let him down gently.

"Mom, when I'm 19 can I drive a transport truck?"

Let's cross that bridge when we come to it.....

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Good Fight

Sometimes I just get tired of feeling angry.  I've learned to live with side long glaances, I don't even care if people look at me sometimes like I'm a bad parent if himself decides to lose it in public.  In truth, public meltdowns happen with much less frequency than in the past, and my skin has thickened cosiderably within the last few years.    

The way I look at it, I have the responsibility, as a parent of a child with a disability that affects key social skills, to help him gain those skills.  And I can't do that if we never leave the house, so look out community, here we come.   I also think I'm pretty reasonable, I try lots of different places, lots of different things.  Some activities/places work, some don't, but we still try.  If they're not working, I don't allow him to act up and ruin it for anybody else, because that would be unfair. 

So, earlier this week when I headed out with my two little ones, and things started to not go so well, I decided we had to leave.  Of course, once he realized that I was in the process of leaving, my little man got quite upset.  But that was okay, because he could scream for a minute while the lady manning the check out desk helped me.  There was no line up, I knew we could be out in a matter of minutes.  BUT....

But, said lady thought that rather than assisting me in my efforts to procure a speedy exit, her skills would be best used to attempt to intervene.  Bad idea.  She began telling him how to act, and when she got nowhere with him, she turned her attentions to me.  Offering unsolicited, unwelcome, parenting advice.  Well, gee, thanks.  Now, my already upset boy has added to his frustrations the fact that some strange lady is telling him what's what, and his safe person in times of crisis (me!) is currently embroiled in an impassioned one on one with this lovely gem of a woman.   GRRRRRRR....Mama Bear's claws couldn't help coming out just a little...

So, long after we could have been gone, I'm still there... and boy is now in full meltdown mode.  Thanks for all your help.  At this point, the lady is irate and beyond rude, and I am livid.  I left the place in tears.  I go lots of places where I've had to leave, but it has been a long time since I have left in tears.  This woman found just a few minutes of my daily life so utterly unbearable...and had no trouble sharing that with me. This interchange left me rattled for days.  Being angry takes a lot of energy, and I know that even if I have the right to be angry, it doesn't mean I have to let that emotion ruin my day.  But I just couldn't let this go.

I reported the incident to the director of the place (a place that is funded by tax payer dollars, by the way.)  At first, she spoke in defense of her employee, but after a lengthy conversation she changed her tune.  The more I spoke to her about the incident, and how it made me feel, I honestly think she was ashamed that it had occured. 

Hubby wasn't content to leave it at that, he had seen how upset I was by the incident, and he thought it warranted a little follow up.  He learned that the employee would be reprimanded, and would be required to undergo sensitivity training.  Victory.

I am proud.  I can look at my boy and know that I stood up for him, when he is too young to stand up for himself.  It's the job of all parents, add a sprinkle of special needs, and it becomes your primary role.  To make the community accessible, aware, and sensitive. 

I didn't just take this on for my boy though.  I can honestly say that I will never bring him through those walls again.  I  much prefer places that are welcoming and warm.  And I've found that there are lots of them.  However, I did it knowing that somewhere in this town, is another mom who wakes up in the morning, and finds her daily dose of courage to take her child with special needs out into the world.  And that she too does it knowing it won't be easy.  And if, perchance, her child decides it's more than they can handle, maybe somebody will be helpful to her.  We fight the good fight not just for ourselves, but for all members of our special needs community.

The whole thing, although resolved, still makes me sad.  I was just a frazzled mom trying to leave.  A little help was all I wanted.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Beyond the Big Picture

Last week I had a great opportunity to attend a training session put off by the Geneva Centre for Autism.  The topic was Structured Teaching and I learned a lot of practical, truly useful information.

The presenter had all of us roll up our little Power Point handouts, and look through them like a telescope.  The exercise was intended to illustrate what it is like for individuals with autism, as they tend to see the world in fragmented pieces, rahter than the proverbial 'big picture'.

This really got me thinking.  While obviously an inability to see the big picture, all the parts as a whole, would present many, many challenges to a person...I can't help but see a hidden gift here.  I don't know about you, but sometimes the big picture is a little daunting, and I wish I could focus in on the tasks at hand sometimes, without always looking too far ahead.

Imagine being able to concentrate all of your energies on doing one task well, or learning about one area of interest inside out and upside down, before tiring of it and moving on. Focus.  To the umpteeth degree.

I'm a big picture person.  I get caught up in all that lies ahead of me.  I plan myself crazy at times.  This comes in handy when you have to manage life for a sensory-stressed child, but it can get pretty exhausting too.

Sometimes I'd like to see beyond the 'big picture', I'd like to truly take each day as it comes, get lost in the joys and miracles at hand.  Worry about the rest later.  Get through what I've got to get through without seeing all that lies ahead.

Maybe we could all benefit from a small dose of tunnel vision.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Amazing Contest!

I just have to let you all know about an amazing contest, by Soft Clothing...they are awarding a Back to School package of sensory friendly clothing, etc.  If you have a child with sensory issues, I strongly suggest you give this contest a go! You never know....
Follow this link:

Good luck!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dinosaurs Are Boring

Dinosaurs are boring.  There.  I said it.  And for that matter, so is anything to do with Outer Space.  And you know what else?  I hated the movie Titanic.

It's okay if we don't all like the same things, keep the same interests, wear the same clothes, watch the same t.v. shows.  How boring the world would be if everyone thought the same thoughts, wished the same wishes, had the same favourites, dreamed the same dreams.

I remember when A. was first diagnosed, how I held it as a real goal to expand his areas of interest.  I was so concerned that my little boy, freshly turned 3, was only really interested in trucks.  Looking back, it would have been a good thing if someone had taken me aside and told me to smarten up.  But, I was confused, overwhelmed, and perhaps overly concerned.  Unfortunately, the early intervention team did nothing to console me, they actually thought this was a legitimate goal.  "Dinosaurs" became one of his "programs" and time was actually scheduled each day for him to play dinosaurs.  Off I trotted to the store and bought every variety of toy dinosaur there was.  Of course, once Aiden learned all of their names, he quickly lost interest.

Two years later, and two years wiser, I can clearly see what a pathetic goal this was.  I have, instead, watched as he naturally developed new interests, simply by being exposed to different subjects, and the world in general. 

And now, I wonder, so what if he never had developed new interests?  What would have been so catastrophic about a little boy loving trucks more than any other toy in the world?  Nothing.  Not a thing.

It's okay if dinosaurs are boring.  It's okay if your child, on or off the spectrum doesn't like the newest craze, or the topic that is deemed "typical" for their age group and gender.  Who cares?!  Be wary of goals that are set by others as important for your child...  Let's lose the goal of having our kids blend in.  Instead, let's focus on developing our whole child, and appreciating their areas of interests...letting them be windows into engaging play, meaningful conversation, and use their interests to help them develop and learn other things.

And while I'm fessing up...I might as well admit to this too.  I don't watch any of the medical drama series on t.v.  Not the one.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Year of My Yellow Apple

Today maks the first anniversary of my sitting down to the computer and, with great trepidation, starting this blog.  I felt in so many ways like a person talking to herself in public...certain that nobody would be listening, but still feeling the compunction to express myself.

Writing this has taken a lot of nerve for me, I feel like I am wearing my heart on my sleeve.  But I am glad I took the risk.  I have made some great connections with other "autism parents", and I do, very much feel less alone in our daily struggles, and celebrations.  I don't talk about all of our issues, but when I do share, I always feel like the listening ear is a kind one.

A lot has changed in a year.  In my original post, my fear over begininning homeschooling  almost had a pulse of its own.  Now, I see us as a homeschooling family, very much connected in a homeschooling community.  It still terrifies me, but it is doable, and we are doing it.  And yes, I am very, very proud to be doing  what is best for our child, even though it means a lot (like, a lot) of hard work, and many sacrifices.

I still feel like this blog is new, lots on it could be better.  I see all the fancy banners my fellow bloggers have, and I have no idea how they created them.  My little yellow apple pic is still slighty off centre, but I've decided that there is symbolism in that, so it's okay.  I have recieved some blog awards from fellow bloggers, but I have no idea how to "pick up" my award, so I haven't.  Sorry.  I'm not technologically gifted, so this is where my blog may fall a little short.  Oops.

But mostly, it's been a year fillled with great feedback from a lot of people.  So, to all of you who have taken the time to send me a note, either here on this blog, or through facebook, I offer you a heartfelt thanks.  All of your kind words have been a huge help to me in getting the courage to write these posts.  To other autism parents who have taken the time to tell me that they could relate through their own feelings and experiences, you have made me feel less alone.  And, to anyone who has told me that they look at kids' behaviours a little differently now if they see a child act up in public, a gigantic thank you to you, because that, is essence is the point of this blog - awareness.  Our kids aren't bad, they have struggles.  Thank you for recognizing that.

Now... here begins year 2 of My Yellow Apple.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Boy's Eye View

It all started as a simple Kindergarten social studies outcome.  We had to examine landmarks in our community.  Well, our community being St. John's, I knew there'd be no lack of wonderful architecture.  What I didn't know was that Aiden would absolutely fall in love with the buildings...and subsequently many other world landmarks.

A common family activity for us now is to hop in the van, and drive around town, stopping at all of himself's favourite spots.  A number one favourite is the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, quickly followed by The Kirk, the Colonial Building, Government House and the Rooms.  It's actually a lovely way to spend an evening, all of us together, stopping by Tim Horton's on the way for some coffee, and going for a little drive around.

 The Basilica

The Kirk

Colonial Building

I can't help but think how cute it would be if he could give guided tours of the city, he knows EVERYWHERE by name...if it weren't for those pesky child labour laws. We've exhausted the local library's books on St. John's, and we're now moving on to Big Ben, Eifel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge....the list goes on and on.  I didn't realize that I would learn so much during homeschool!

It's so nice to see a new interest develop, and amazing to watch the amount of information that a bright little mind can suck up.  It's also been fun to watch the many drawings of these buildings that he's been pumping out, with an amazing eye for detail.  Not to mention the many renderings in Lego and wooden blocks.  Future artist? Future architect?  Future engineer?  Who knows.......the options are as limitless as this city is beautiful.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Chicken and the Egg

School is officially out for summer now, and there are lots of parents out there welcoming the break from packing morning lunches and doing homework.  But I'm willing to bet there's also quite a large group of people who will be spending their summer with their stomachs in a great big knot, because their little ones will be walking through those big heavy doors in September...and that's not very far away anymore.  And they're terrified about how it's all going to work out.  I know, because that great big knot used to be in my stomach.

It really makes me wonder sometimes about the very nature and practise of schools, as they are.  I know that many, many people will disagree with some of my ideas here...but, they are my ideas, so feel free to disagree.  It's just that sometimes I feel like the whole school set up is a disaster waiting to happen for a growing number of kids.  It is designed for the child who can sit quietly, attend easily, follow directions, take part in large groups, handle the many transitions and routines of a school day, not to mention the noises/sounds of a school environment.  Let's face it, this set up is perfect for the majority of kids....but for kids with differences, it is just a disaster waiting to happen.

So, what do we do?  Well, let's take a quick look at what we're doing.  We're educating teachers about exceptionalities, and they are working really, really hard.  We're having alternate learning environments, and filling the school with "accomodations".  But, aren't we having to accomodate an awful lot?  Doesn't that indicate that the "typical" classroom setting, mode of teaching is perhaps not enough?  How many accomodations and exceptions do you have to make before you realize that perhaps the prototype just isn't working.

Imagine if you were selling cars.  For one driver, you had to shift the position of the steering wheel and the pedals.  For another the seats were too far back.  For another, the windshield needed a different tint.  For another you had to change the way the cylinders fired in the engine.  For your next customer, the radio was all wrong.  The next customer simply couldn't function with the interior carpeting....  How long would you go on selling cars before you came to realize that you just needed to shift models altogether????  Can it possibly be that all those drivers are the ones with the problems???  Just a thought.

This isn't an attack on teachers, special educators, administrators or student assistants.  I think that people want to do the best that they can.  But let's face it, it's hard to make every child successful in an environment that just is tooooooo much, plain and simple.  That doesn't mean we don't try...but it may be time to make a paradigm shift.  Instead of trying to make all these kids function in about making schools function for kids????  Smaller class sizes, less sensory-overload, etc, etc.  The answers I do not know.  But I do feel that the kinds of mass instruction and cooperation just isn't possible for everyone. 

And what about our use of early intervention?  How much of it is spent preparing kids to survive a classroom and school, instead of working on key skills.  How much of all our work with children with special needs is spent trying to find ways to make them fit into unnatural situations.  I'm not saying they shouldn't be's just that maybe it's not always the kids who need the fixing.  I truly believe that all kids should get from school what THEY need most, and that all kids deserve an education that works for them.  Not what's easiest to accomodate and to afford.

It's a classic chicken and egg...what came first: the behaivours needed for school success, or the school set up?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You don't know me but...

Today started out like many others, I had an early appointment for my son, just a regular check-in with our child development pediatrician.  Aiden was okay with this, as he had been assured that it was just a "talking appointment", and knew that nothing "would get done" to him.  Oh my.

We were waiting in the hospital waiting room, which, rather inconviently houses a large, run around play area, just right for getting your small child all wound up prior to their appointment.  Aiden was playing, and there was another young boy there, I woudn't guess that he was yet 3.  The little boy was very sweet and adorable, and obviously adored by his mom who followed him dotingly around the cursed play area.  Their closeness was so apparant, and really heartwarming.  It was, in a word, nice.

Next I saw the mom called over, and my heart sank when I saw which doctor had beckoned her.  It was the pediatrician who runs the autism screenings.  Accompanying her was an SLP, I know to be on the autism team.  Suddenly, my eyes were stinging.  I saw them smiling together, and talking quietly, and watched as they led the boy and his mother around the corner to a room I knew all too well.  The room where they run their observations. A room my husband and I had walked into ourselves, hand in hand with our own adorable little boy, who'd just turned 3.
I was caught off guard by my was as if I had afforded this mom a sympathy I have never extended to myself.  When I was coming out of our appointment, she was leaving at the same time.  I felt such a kinship to this woman, with whom I'd only exchanged a few words...but I felt like I knew her.  Perhaps knew better than her what she might by facing.  I wanted so badly to go to her and comfort her..let her know that it would be okay, her boy would still be her boy.

But, sadly, I also felt a kind of pity  for her.  I felt like consoling her for all the things she was going to have to face.  For how overwhelming it all is in the beginning, and how really, its challenges never fade, they just have a way of jumping around, creating new hurdles, new obstacles... I wanted to tell her that people are going to be mean, that's she's going to have to get to know her stuff, because lots of decisions will have to be made...  she's going to have to grow a thick skin, thick enough for them both.

I wanted to help her freeze time, before they called her back and gave them her judgement.  "He does fall on the autism spectrum."  Once spoken...takes only a few seconds...but changes everything.
I wanted to say, You don't know me, but I know you.  You don't know me, but I'm your sister.  You don't know me, but we're part of the same club, you and I.  Welcome to our sub-culture.  Welcome to being an autism mom...  Hold on tight.

Of course, I never said any of these things, just gave my little boy's warm hand a bit of a tighter squeeze as we walked on past.  I didn't even make eye contact.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

To the Movie Theatre....And Beyond!

Well, well, what do you know?  It would apear that the long awaited Toy Story 3 is due to hit theatres mid-month...after years of waiting.  Our little man is a big fan of movies 1 and 2, so, naturally he is excited to see the sequel.  Allow me to clarify, he's excited to see with when it comes out on DVD and can be watched from the comfort of our own couch, in our own living room.  The theatre....not so much.

Gentle readers, you may recall my last attempt at taking himself to a movie Up! In Smoke .  It didn't go so great.  But it has been almost a year since that not-so-successful movie outing, and if Toy Story 3 can't help us get beyond this block, nothing will. 

So, the nature of the debate around these parts is, whether to try to, not force, but push him into going.  One side of the argument being, if he doesn't want to go, big deal, don't go.  The other school of thought being, going to a movie together is a nice activity, something we can all do together, something you can do with friends.  It's perhaps a place worthy of getting comfortable with.  What to do...what to do....

Here's what I'm thinking....wait until the movie has been out about a week, so the theatres aren't packed anymore.  Perhaps I'll aim for a weekday morning, and fit this in someday before school let's out for summer, and the city is once again brimming with school aged children all week long.  Just like before, I'll pack enough sweets to get us through....and hope for the best.  Maybe we'll read through "Curious George goes to the Movies" and "If you take a Mouse to the Movies" a few times, to put some excitement into going to the cinemas....and hope for the best.

And if all else fails, you get a full refund if you leave within 20 minutes of the feature presetation.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's the Little Things....

It's the little things that always get you...that always turn out to mean the most, to be loved the most, and even hurt the most.  Life's subtleties.  Kind of like when you perfectly plan Christmas, and it ends up being a last minute stocking stuffer that steals the show. 
Well, this week my absolute favourite coffee mug turned up handle-less.  In short: I Was Crushed.  Let me give some wasn't just any old mug, it was my CBC Radio St. John's Morning Show mug...much loved, much treasured, and very, very, very hard to get.  It took me about 5 years to get my hands on that little beauty, I had admired one years ago, being a big CBC Radio fan (more on that later), and have been promised by no less than 3 people that they could easily get me one.  'No trouble', I was told. 'I know so-and-so all to pieces over there, I'll ask for one next time I see so-and-so.'  Fast forward, didn't ever pan out.  One day, after my pining for a mug, hubby told me I'd have to suck it up and do call-ins for contests like everyone else, and earn one.   He was right, once I got the idea of being given one out of my system, it only took me about 2 months to win one, granted I had to go on air and answer a question, but I did it.  Caller on line 1, that was me.
Every morning, without fail, I get up, put on a pot of coffee, flick the radio on to Jeff, Cecil and Nancy and sip from my precious mug, smug all the while.  It's like I was in on something, part of their routine, or rather, I guess they are a part of mine.  So, in the face of my broken mug, I persevered....and kept drinking from it anyway, sure it was hot to the hand, but I would overcome.
What does any of this have to do with parenting Asperger's Syndrome?  Actually, quite a lot.  When I am home now, full time, CBC Radio offers me the adult conversation I crave, it's one little part of myself I've managed to secure.  From the Morning Show, to Radio Noon, Vinyl Cafe, or my oh-so-treasured Q...I don't get to hear them all the time, but I do get to hear them a lot.  They make me feel involved and in touch with the world outside of my house.
And more importantly, parenting autism has taught me first and foremost, that if you want something, you have to ask for it.  Whether that be wait-listed services, or reasonable accomodations.  So in keeping with this theory, I sent along an email to the good folks at CBC Radio...and guess what? 
There's a new mug waiting for me at the front desk. 
Sure, I know it's just a mug, and if I hadn't have gotten a new one, I surely would have survived.  But like I said, it's the little things....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Notes from Home

I've got to say, I love being home with the kids.  Even on the days I think I'm going to collapse...especially the days I think I'm going to collapse.  That doesn't mean that it's easy, in fact, I found that working part time in the past gave me a break, a change of scenery, a distraction, and something else to focus on from time to time.  But I just know that this is where my true work lies for now, and even trying to pretend that I could step away from here, and focus on something else is just an impossibility for the time being.

It's just too hard to go to work, when you are already holding down a full time, tonnes of overtime, highly demanding position.

But it is, really, really hard.  On really heavy "sensory seeking" days, I am full out all the time.  Even easy days are demanding, filled with the endless tasks of fetching juice, serving meals, wiping spills, making beds, and let's not forget the enormous task of homeschooling.  However, recognizing the enormity of the work load is not the same as resenting it.  And needing 15 minutes to yourself to prevent from overloading isn't he same as being ready to throw in the towel.  This is by far, the most difficult, and the most rewarding experience of my life.

When I flip through Aiden's kindergarten work, and I see how much he has learned, and how many skills he has developed, I'm not just proud of him, but of me too.  We have both worked really, really hard... and I think it's fair to say that we've both seen great results.  To know that I'm putting my skills and my strengths to work for my own boy is deeply gratifying.  It is worth the days where it's a battle to get him to focus, and it is worth the days when he just can't sit still, to see the net result of all the days he did manage, and all the work he has done.

He hasn't succeeded only because he has leanrned to fit the mold of schooling...although there has been a lot of that.  He's succeeding because schooling is also learning to wrap itself around him, and his own individualized needs and learning style. 

On the hard days, and there are hard days, I am glad to know it is me who is dealing with him.  And not just dealing with him, but helping him.  My patience is born from love, and my discipline always has his best interest at heart.  When he hasn't slept well, and that's pretty often, or if he is going through a real serious period of anxiety, I know that he has the support and love he needs with him, and together we can face the world.

I found it hard at first to feel the pull and desire of staying at home...the feminist in me was confused by the tug of my heartstrings.  But my particular strand of feminist thought believes in women having choices, and having the ability to choose what works best for them and their families.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hooray for Creativity!

Let me just begin with an apology...if you are a Facebook friend of mine..I'm sure you already know that Aiden just participated in a Creativity Fair with our homeschool association...and you probably also know that his picture won for the Kindergarten / Grade One age level!!  And if you didn't already know this, you do now! His winning entry is to the's a track crane for those of you who aren't as well versed in heavy equipment as I am.

Proud is not the word.  It's not just that he won a prize, he didn't even know he was entered into a contest, and is a little too young to be competitive, and that is just fine with me.  It's that he had a chance to shine, he participated in something that was truly up his alley, and hubby and I got to see and hear people praise his little efforts.  It felt good! 

We're always so proud of his creativity, and have worked hard to let him know he has a talent, and to encourage him to work on his drawings.  And winning wasn't important, but participating in an event that highlighted his own particilar strength was good for him.  And us too.

And now I promise to stop bragging about it....however please note that this promise expires in about 5 seconds.

His display board

Recieving his Award

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Remember Me?

Remember me?  I like good music, Canadian literature, scrapbooking, folklore, old graveyards, sitcoms that came on after 10 p.m., going out for coffee, shopping without a direct purpose (and not just at Walmart or the grocery store), chatting on the phone.....
This is a partial list of things I used to enjoy, ways I used to define myself.  And they're all mostly past memories.  I know being a mom means becomming selfless, but sometimes I can't help but wonder if I'll ever have time or opportunities to indulge my old interests again.
And now is the part where I make sure to qualify that none of those things hold a candle to being "Mommy" to my sweet little ones...but still...there's a twinge...a small hint of the me that used to be.
I see a lot of people who appear to do a better balancing act between Mom and Person than I do.  They can still maintain social lives, make time for themselves....all in all, they are still themselves.  I am sure that their  approach to parenting is much healthier than mine!  But then again, parenting a child with special needs makes balance an awful lot harder to achieve.
I know there's lots of merit to the "Be sure to make time for yourself" way of thinking...but usually when I hear that, it just sounds like one more thing to worry about.  Let's face it, when you have a child who often doesn't sleep, and an active toddler to boot,  you're just plain wiped out.  So time for myself involves getting to run to Walmart ALONE on a Saturday while hubby is home, catching a t.v. show while folding clothes, or, thankfully, yes thankfully, reading a book while the kids are eating their breakfast, or playing around me!
I'm sure all moms feel this way from time to time...just a little lost in the shuffle.  And these just may be the busy, hectic days of having small children that I'll pine for in years to come.... because I'm sure I'll never be as loved, adored or needed as I am right now.  My babies are young enough to view me with stars in their a few short years, no doubt, I'll be more gatekeeper, rule maker, fun-spoiler....
And I'll be asking them to remember me just as I am now....

Friday, April 2, 2010

World Autism Awareness Day

This is a day to celebrate differences, celebrate our courage in facing obstacles, and to celebrate each other.
To anyone and everyone who refrains from passing judgement, who teaches their children the beautiful value of acceptance, who see the world in a myriad of colours, and like it that way, thank you.
To all the teachers who truly love children, who work hard to make schools user-friendly, respectful environments, thank you.
To extended families and friends who are loving and welcoming, who give warnings before turning on their vacuum cleaners, who don't get insulted if we can't make it, but continue to invite, or keep a stock of straws in their cupboards, thank you.
To all the siblings who become little ambassadors, who learn to speak up from an early age, to protect, to defend,who learn tht life isn't always fair, and have to sacrifice more than they should, and who often grow up to be the world's most caring, loving individuals, thank you.
And to all the moms and dads who speak for their children, who work to improve or extend services, who make places for their children in this world, who get up and go each day, even on the hard ones, you work not just for your children, but for mine too.  So, thank you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

No One Else Loses Sleep

I've come to realize that no one else loses sleep about my boy.  When my husband and I leave a doctor's office, or hang up a phone, us, and our life, gets placed in a folder, on a desk, or tucked away in a filing cabinet. 
Access to services have long wait lists, and even when you finally get to the front of a line, times between appointments and follow up appointments can be long, lonely stretches of road.  By the time you get back in an office, you have to reintroduce your professional to the child you now have...older, changed...different. 
I've spent the last couple of days on the phone.  I've been trying to get my follow ups in order...thinking that it just cannot be right for so much time to go by.  For us to be left dealing with issues, that surely somebody must know how to help us with.    As women, it often goes against our nature to be persistant, to speak out, to just try and have somebody to hear us.  Somebody to help us help our children
So, finally today, I'm feeling mildly successful.  I have 2 appointments coming small feat.  In a system that is so backlogged, it's so important to make your presence known.
My boy isn't a client to me, he's not just one of the "ASD" kids I service...he's not a subcategory of patient.  He's one of two.  How could my sun and moon ever fall through the cracks?  It would be impossible for me to forget that this chunk of my heart needed I have to serve as the reminder.  Because little boys don't make phone calls, and it's very easy to get lost in a jammed up, overworked system.
So sleep well Governemtn of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Pull your blankies up tight to your chins and slumber on... But just be warned, when you arise in the morning, autism parents are going to be expecting you to work for us.  Autism parents spend many sleepless nights, tossing and turning....vowing that something must get done, to rectify a pathetic, sparse, non-functional level of service.  And in a province with the highest rates of diagnosis...our voices may just ring loud enough to get heard.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Both Sides Now...

Welll, to say I've had an eye opener would be an understatement.  Little Miss Margaret turned the big 2 last month, and I realized that the sweet little girly needed something of her own.  So for the past couple of weeks I've taken her to a gymnastics class.  And she loves it.  Now, I'm not new to gymnastics.  t just happens to be himself's absolute favourite activity, on the planet.  He loves it, he doesn't do it, but he adores it nonethless.  Prior to now, my experience has been registering Aiden in gymnastics, paying the fees, and then watching him play with those great big stuffed blocks while the other kids followed instructions and honed new skills.  Now, that's not to say he didn't hone new skills, he'd go home and perform all of the new tricks, just not there.  He was too busy.  Blocks you see.  Towns to build, harbours to construct, etc.
Taking little Miss was a completely different experience.  When she wanted to jump on the big trampoline I felt a familiar have to sit and wait and take turns on that thing.  Always was a issue for me in the past...but guess what.  No issues.  She sat and waited for her turn.
When other kids took toys she was playing with (they're all quite young) she just moved on, or waited for it to be returned.
And at the end, when they took out the parachute, I really had to fight a familiar urge to leave just a few minutes early.  Just avoid the whole thing.  But, nope, you guessed it.  No issues.  She took a piece of parachute in her hand, and shook it when told to do so.  "Make little waves." Yup.  'Make big waves!".  Sure thing.  'Okay boys and girls, everybody sit in the middle of the parachute, and we'll give you a ride!".  Oh no...flashbacks imagery of himself rolling onto others, getting overly excited flicked like a slideshow in my mind....but, she hopped in, sat with the other kids, and simply enjoyed the ride. Phewwwww.
So, now I know how it feels.  To go places, relax, and enjoy.  To realize that activities can actually be the fun they were intended to be.  To be one of those parents who can just go and do things.
Except it's a bit of a farce.  Let's face it, I had to pretend I was taking her to a doctor's appointment, so he wouldn't be heartbroken to know that gymnastics exists without him.  And, I'm the whole time comparing their behaviours.  And, I'm looking at it all now, and thinking back to when he was  two, and undiagnosed, and how overwhelming it must have been for him..I took him from playgroup to playdate, to activities, with nary a thought of how stressful it was for him.  And here's Margaret, joyfully joining in, oblivious to how easy she has it.
But at least I get a chance to sit and enjoy.  Watch her playing so well, having so much fun.  Parenting this typical child is in many ways daunting to me, sound  strange? Just think about it,  I'll have to step back from her, she won't need me to hover, to protect, to intervene.  I'll get to sit in parent waiting areas, drop off and pick up, pack lunches and kiss goodbye.  All unfamiliar territory to me.
Being her Mom is going to be different....but you know me, I embrace differences.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Answer will Always be Yes

"Mommy, do I have beautiful eyes?"
"Yes, you have beautiful eyes."
"Mommy, do I have beautiful eyes?"
"Yes, you have beautiful eyes.  The answer will always be yes.  You will always have beautiful eyes."

Beautiful, blue eyes.  They sparkle, they light up, they often look pensive.  They often squint with laughter.  Beautiful, beautiful eyes.  Eyes that see the world a little differently than most.
I remember when you were first born, how those beautiful eyes locked in on mine, and then moved from me to your daddy and back again.  Right away we knew that those were beautiful, beautiful eys.
The times when I needed you to hear me, before we understood.  I worked so hard to get you to look at me with those beautiful, beautiful eyes.
And times when those eyes look scared, overly concerned...and I just want to make them shine again. 
Your eyes that scan the world, always on the lookout for unseen, but percieved dangers.  Real to you.

"Mommy, do I have beautiful eyes?"
"Yes baby.  You have beautiful eyes."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Little Shadow

Morning Routine: Step 1: Little man wakes at an ungodly hour.  Step 2:  Little man requests a glass of orange juice, any amount of trying to put this off will just result in nonstop requests and pleading... so down the steps I tawdle, see the time on the microwave in the kitchen, and try to convince myself it'll be okay, I'll manage to get some more sleep (ha!)  Step 3: he drinks the juice on our bed, the second it is finished, begins begging me to go downstairs with him.  Step 4: I go, as to let the rest of the household slumber. Step 5: He gets face and eyes into Lego or drawing, and I get the coffee on, and proceed to drink 2 straight cups.   And then, and here's the kicker:  Step 6:  Looks at me with pleading eyes and asks, "Do I don't have to go anywhere today?"  
So, this is where the trouble starts.  This is a relatively new addition to the routine, but it is a very problematic one.  If I say yes, the obvious, panic- filled follow up question is to know where we're going.  Unless the answer is gymnastics or swimming....I have a sad little man.  What can I do?  I can't just stay home all the time.  I've been working hard on always being out and about with him, and that's the way it has to be for us.  I am a big believer in being happy at home, I am a homebody myself by nature.  But, I don't believe in simply avoiding all social discomfort.  That would definately come back to bite us!
So, here I am.  He knows he has skating this afternoon, we both know he doesn't really want to go.  But he will, and on the way home he'll get a 'sprinkly donut' from Tim Horton's as a reward.  So I am now trying to think of something simple we could do before lunch..just to get out of the house that he may enjoy....but I'm drawing a blank!  A walk, or just playing outside  is out of the question due to the wet weather we've been having lately.  So, I'm going to put on my thinking cap and come up with a good idea.  Maybe we'll just run to the dollar store and get some new pads of paper...we're always running low on that.  Or maybe we'll just go for a little drive, a change of scenery.
It used to be he'd readily follow me wherever I went.  Now he's always looking for a way out.
I can get him to come along, against his wishes, but it's not the same.  He's just quiet and waiting for our outings to be over. He's not enjoying them so much anymore.
And I'm missing having a little shadow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

No. Seriously. Stop.

"Stop". "Don't".  "I said don't".  "Did you hear me?" "Are you listening to me?"
It's just been that kind of day.  Actually, that's a lie, it's been that kind of an evening.  I felt like a broken record, and as ineffective as could be.  I feel negative and that just makes me feel guilty.  Ahhhhh!!!!! 
If I'm honest with myself, and allow myself some true insight, I know that what I experienced this evening was just the result of an overly-stimulating day.  We had a visit to a friend's house today, which both kiddies thoroughly enjoyed.  There were a couple of little tiffs, but nothing earth shattering.  But it doesn't matter, because even if that went well, the whole time he was there, he probably felt socially confused and anxious.  So, it just makes sense that once he's back on the sacred soils of 'home' he's going to let it all go.  He's going to unwind...and God help the rest of us!
You see, when I take the time to put it in perspective, it makes sense.  And my patience is restored.  And I can empathize with him, like he needs me to.  But when I'm in the midst of nonstop noncompliance coupled with the energy of  a bucking bronco, it's harder  not to feel defeated. 
I can handle a lot of emotions.  I can handle feeling anxious, I can handle being scared, but I cannot handle losing hope.  Hope is what drives me, hope is what makes me keep trying.  Hope is why I take him to so many different activities, knowing it is stressful for the both of us. 
As usual, hubby came through with the sound advice I needed.  I was feeling pretty low once the kids were finally asleep in their beds...and he told me it was okay to lose hope, but to try just to lose it for one day.
He's right, as usual.  I'll be filled with hope again tomorrow, somehow it will spring up while I'm sleeping and fuel me.  Tomorrow morning I'll look into the beautiful little face that I've been trusted with, and feel instantly replenished. Just the same, I'm glad that he could acknowledge how I felt, allow me it, and somehow let me know that it too would pass....  And all in one sentence!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lovin' Lego

As a kid, I loved Lego.  As a mom, I love it even more.  It is such amazing toy, and I am blessed to have a little boy who just adores it.  Most mornings, when Aiden first comes downstairs, he heads right for his Lego bins.  And I couldn't be happier about it!
This is a toy that was designed for kids like him....creative, and "builders" by nature.  It has been so useful for him, it is a hobby that has helped him to spend quiet time with himself, he is able to sit still and work on his creations for long stretches of time.  I'm not worried about lack of activity, he can burn more calories in 5 minutes than most kids expend over hours of time, so these little islands of stillness that Lego offers are a blessing.   He can share this interest with lots of other kids, and it's a nice way for him to spend time with me and his's something we can all play with together.  (We're still working on making Margaret's input more palatable!)
Lego is calming, quiet play.  Lego can be used to work on following directions if you work on step by step plans, or it can be 'freestyle' creating.  Love it, love it, love it!  I am amazed at the different things Aiden is able to come up with.  He never fails to impress me with his attention to fine detail.  In fact, I'm just downright proud of it altogether!
It doesn't make noise, or have flashing lights, it's just good old fashion skill-building, creative, imagination-allowing fun.  Lego, you rock!   Of course, in a pinch, a pack of markers and a pad of paper are pretty good too!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Music Appreciation (?)

Yesterday was one long day.  The morning started with a concert by the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra at the local Arts and Culture Centre.  I didn't know how Aiden would like that...but in an effort to expose him to lots of different things, I thought it was worth a go.  Besides, he seems to have a soft spot for some music, typically the melancholy sort.  Also, he really likes the fancy red flip down seats at the centre.  OK, and I admit it.  I was hoping he'd  be drawn to the cello, or violin, and thus awake a yearning to learn to play such an instrument. (Fast forward, didn't happen.)
However, he did sit through the entire performance without too much hassle....certainly my contraband stash of gummie bears didn't hurt. About half an hour through, he started asking to go I whipped out a pen and some paper so he could doodle quietly for the rest of the show.  But, when the orchestra played Blue Danube, he just stopped talking, rested his head to the side, and didn't say a word.  Bingo!  The moment I'd been waiting for!  He enjoyed it, I know he did.  Yay!!!
However, on the way home, when I asked him what his favourite part had been, he said. " I liked the part where we went home." Groan....
Later in the afternoon we had a homeschooler's Valentine's Party, where he thoroughly enjoyed himself.  I was a little flustered by trying to sort through endless stacks of Valentines to stuff into boxes, but he just had fun.  Which is great.
But by last night, after all the candy from the show, and all the cookies from the party....he was "on the go", and I was wiped out! So today, I might just take it easy, I was hoping that the forecasted freezing rain might cancel this afternoon's swimming lessons...but I don't think so. Hmmm...maybe I just won't mention that it's Friday!
Because honestly, the very act of writing this post, is a celebration of sitting down.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Roots and Wings

A famous Chinese proverb states, "It is the wise parent who gives his child roots and wings."  Sage advice, but a lot harder than it sounds.  Ideally, we all want to give our kids a solid foundation, great self esteem, confidence, life skills, manners, experiences and an education that enables them to become strong independant people.  People with wings.
Unfortunately, finding that balance can be hard.  Because they don't just wake up one moring and grow wings.  We have to give them little test flights along the way.  And therein lies the hard part.  Knowing how much leeway and freedom to give along the way, and trying to decide how much they can handle.
I've been trying to give himself some more freedom at gymnastics, trying to stay in the parent's waiting area, with the large windows, just a hand signal away from the coach.  But it's tough!  If he goes in by himself, he is practising independance, and interacting with another adult without my help.  But, on the other hand, he isn't participating as much in the actual gymnastics....which is more important?  I find that I'm always trying to decide what my goal is, what to prioritize.
I wonder how it might be different when Margaret is old enough to be "in stuff"....I notice how other parents can stress about having their kids enrollled in enough different activities, but they don't seem to stress about how their kids will behave or perform in all of these activities.  I guess my goals are different.  I don't actually really care if Aiden becomes a pro gymnast, skater, swimmer, soccer player, artist, etc....I just want him to have the skills that allow him to participate,and ensure that he gets to play and interact with his peers on a regular basis.
Maybe I should forget about the wings for awhile.  Perhaps I should set my sights on a parachute, or a hang glider for the time being.  Let him soar, feel the winds push him along, but less freefall.
Hmmmmm....being a wise parent is hard.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


We're now 5 months into being a homeschooling family.  Our plan was to homeschool Kindergarten, and then drop him gently into grade one next year.  But I feel as though I have unearthed this beautiful gem in homeschooling, that I knew nothing about.  Turns out I love it.  And I don't feel as though we exist in a bubble, I feel like we are a part of a vibrant, lovely community.  I though homeschooling might be isolating, but it is actually quite the contrary.
I wanted to homeschool so that Aiden could get the supports he needed.  I wanted to homeschool so that I could teach him in the way that he'd learn best.  I really feel that both of the goals are being met, and surpassed.  But now I see how homeschooling affects families.  I see families where siblings are growing up together, not seperated from each other all day long.  And how learning isn't seperate from family life, but a natural flow, teaching your own child math and language arts is as natural as teaching them to say please and thank you.  It just feels right. 
I attended an autism support group last night, and the whole meeting was everyone talking about their school concerns.  For us, sending our special needs children to school feels like throwing them out of an airplane without a parachute.  And I'm not complaining about special service teachers here...remember, apart from this year, I am one.  It's just that our kids need a lot of support, and it's not just how they learn, it's also how they cope with the obstacle course of transitions and sensory input of a school environment, I think for  a lot of us, it's their anxiety.  Autism is an anxiety disorder, and our kids are happiest when they feel secure.
They feel secure at home.  I'm not suggesting our kids never leave the house, I work really hard at good socialization, and go, go, go a lot.  But we have a home base, this is where we leave from and go back to.  this is the sacred safe place.  Is that so wrong?
Homeschooling is a valid, valuable option.  It puts the focus on families, and it allows for truly individualized teaching.  When done within a community it provides ample opportunities for socialization and friendships.  I love it.  I love doing it.  I feel so good about being able to put my own experiences and knowledge to work for my own child.  And something that I've heard several times now from parents who have switched to homeschooling, is that it takes the stress out of the children, and out of the entire family.  Because when school isn't working out well for your child, it's not working out for anyone.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

2 Years Later...

Yesterday was a special day at our marked the 2nd anniversary of Aiden's diagnosis.  We make an effort to celebrate the day, we tell Aiden that it is special, because it marks the day that we found out he had autism.  Of course, he thinks autism is the best thing in the world, because he knows it is one of the things that makes him special.

He was excited to get to pick some activities...his requests were pretty simple, he wanted to build  a model, go swimming, and go to a restuarant for supper.  Perfect, all things that were totally doable for us.  I thought for sure he would choose Swiss Chalet, his absolute favourite place to eat, (pronounced Swiss Charlet)  but he surprised us by choosing McDonald's.  It was just as well, Fridays being so busy, we would have had to go to a real restaurant at a strange hour to avoid crowds.

In some ways, it seems like so much longer ago that Aiden got diagnosed.  I cannot even imagine now, not knowing.  I felt so responsible for so much, in many ways it was a relief to realize that it wasn't all my fault, that I wasn't doing everything wrong.  We were the parents who sought a diagnosis..who had a pretty good idea going in that he would land on the spectrum, so his diagnosis didn't come as a surprise, more of a confirmation.   
I've certainly learned a lot in 2 years..attended conferences, real a gazillion books, some better than others, I've met some great families, and many beautiful children with autism.  My life has taken on a whole other focus as well, issues related to special needs are often at the forefront of my thoughts, I see the world and the community in terms of accessibility, and acceptance.  To borrow a line I read from a book..."all of my whens turned to ifs."  That just about sums it up.  I no longer look torward the future with a certainty of what it will entail..I have no idea.  Only time, accompanied with a lot of hard work will tell.

But I will tell you this..sitting down at McDonald's last night, with my wonderful little family, I almost took it for granted that we could sit peacefully and enjoy a "meal" together.  This time last year it would have been harder to manage behaviour wise...2 years ago...I just wouldn't have maybe some of that hard work is starting to pay off.

For 2 years now we have been calling autism by its name at my house.  It no longer catches on my's as much a part of my family as Aiden is.  So, we are to celebrate the anniversary of its grand entrance.  Autism, you are difficult to deal with, you make life unpredictable and scary at times, but, you are a big part of someone I love, so you are welcome here.              

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!

There's just something about a fresh start that makes you feel all good inside.  Hopeful even.  For me, it's a bit of a motivator, a chance to do some planning, and let go of some baggage.  Tabula Rosa.  A new year...a new decade even.
I'm enjoying a quiet Christmas this year (yes, STILL enjoying's not over until the 6th in my heart).  Leading up to Christmas I was feeling pretty down, it was just very stressful to try to figure out how we would survive the holidays.  The family get togethers, the crowds, the expectations...  Hubby and I came to the conclusion that we do deserve to actually enjoy the holiday, so we forewent the big family dinner, and cooked up own bird here at home, just the four of us.  I did miss being with everyone, but I didn't miss the stress of it all, and definately feel like we made the right decision.  We were relaxed and happy together...what more could I ask for?  Holidays are hard, because they're a break from the norm, the routine, the it is stressful for Aiden, which can make it stressful for us all.  So thank you to all family members who let us off the hook this year...I know we were welcome, and I appreciate that most of all.
I don't know what 2010 has in store for us.  I'm pretty sure it will include another year of homeschooling, because that is working out so well, I'm not willing to give it up.  Maybe Aiden will begin self-regulating a little better this year...maybe group lessons will go a little smoother, or maybe I'll learn to take it a little better on the chin when they don't. 
Little miss Margaret will be 2 next month, so I'm curious as to what will hapen to the family dynamic as she starts to become a more autonomous member...
So here's to 2010....please be kind to us.  We are currently operating at maximum capacity, and I hope that any surprises will be plesant ones.
And to all my readers....much happiness to you and yours, with blessings the whole year through.