Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

The children are sleeping.
The turkey's defrosting.
All is right in our world, the magic and excitement of Christmas morning is just one night's sleep away.
We have decided to focus on keeping Christmas as enjoyable as possible for the kids.
And yes that means we won't get to do all of the things we might like to do, or go all the places we'd like to go, but that's okay. Christmas is best enjoyed when those you hold dearest actually enjoy it.
It's okay if your holidays are quiet and low key, it's often in our quiet moments that we truly feel its magic.
Merry Christmas to you all, may the peace of the season stay with you all year long.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


The iPad.  Such a little word, such a little device.

Get it? A yellow apple?
  Well, this is definately a case of good things coming in small packages.

When all the buzz about the iPad and the wonders it does for people on the autism spectrum began,  most of what I heard and read was about the wonder of the doors it had unlocked for our non-verbal population.  Suddenly this small, portable device could replace cumbersome, expensive augmented communication devices.  Amazing.

Still, I didn't see at first how helpful it could be for my own child with Asperger's.  Then I started googling.  And reading. And watching YouTube videos of it in use.  Of course some of the best reviews I read came from other autism-moms who were blogging about the difference it was making in their homes.  I was intrigued.

My own boy has been blessed enough to have an iPad.  He's had it now for a few months.  None of my research had prepared me for the magic that has happened. 

My dream is that someday the world itself will be as accessible as the iPad.

It would be impossible for me to list, or even probably recognize all of the things the iPad has done for us, but I will attempt to give a little overview, just in case there is a reader out there somewhere who is wondering if this is something you need.  (My guess is that it is.)

Touch, swipe, pinch.  If you had a child with fine motor issues, or motor-planning issues, say goodbye to the mouse.  If you can reach it you can do it.  The playing field has been leveled, game on.  Now your child can enjoy playing games without that level of frustration standing in his way. 

The bag of tricks just shrank.  The iPad is best known for its apps.  Apps are awesome, and there are about 10 gazillion and counting designed for autism.  This tiny little device is currently housing Social Stories, visual schedules, a Time Timer, a 5 point scale, Model Me Going Places....and more.  Way, way more.  Seriously.

Educational activities.  This is a homeschool dream come true!  Sight words, ebooks, mathematical games and drills, all manners of skill builders are available.  If they are not free, they are generally pretty cheap.  Aiden enjoys almost any subject more when the iPad is involved, particularily with math.  From interactive number lines, to Google earth, there seems to be no end to the ways the iPad makes learning fun, and engaging, and almost everything becomes hands on with this thing.

Entertainment and Independance.  Imagine that your child can now take control of their leisure time!  No more asking someone else to turn on something, or set something up for them, everything is easy to do.  If you spend a lot of time in waiting rooms for a gazillion appointments, as our kids tend to do, then your wait time just got a lot easier.  Even if you go the wi fi route, many games do not need internet connection, so they are portable!

We need to get the iPad into the hands of every child on the autism spectrum, or into the hands of any child who has challenges that would benefit from it.  This is the future of accessibility, and it is affordable.

Christmas is a time when many people seek out opportunities to do good work.  Many charities benefit from the benevolance of others at this time.  I have a suggestion.  Maybe you could take up a collection at your place of work, and raise enough money to purchase an iPad or two.  Contact a local autism group in your community, a simple google search can help you here, and maybe they can pass your gift on to a deserving child. 

It's more than a simple present to be opened, it's the opening up of a child's world.

I believe the possibilities are boundless.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


``So, how’s he doing?``

I don’t know how to answer this question. This question I get asked all the time.

What part of his life are you asking about? Do you want to know if he’s healthy? Do you want to know how he’s doing with his schoolwork? Do you want to know if he’s eating well, sleeping well?

Maybe you’re interested in how he’s doing in comparison to other kids his age. Your sister’s son, or some other point of reference you have for a child his age.

Could be you want to know if he’s happy, if his life is a peaceful, joyous place.

There are so many facets to how he’s doing, and all of these could be placed affront a myriad of backdrops.

How he’s doing today might be different than how he was doing last week, or yesterday. How he’s doing right now might be different than how he was doing an hour ago, or five minutes ago.

I’m not even sure if you’re really all that interested. You could just be making small talk, or showing concern because there’d be a hole in the conversation if you didn’t. Then again, maybe you would really like to know. Perhaps if I took this opportunity to really talk, to really answer your enormous equestion in its entirety you would be the person to listen. (a big risk for me to take)

Are you really asking how he`s doing, or is this just a code to ask how I`m doing.

I fumble, perhaps look down, perhaps plaster a smile upon my face as I consider my response. A weighted silence preceeds my reply.

``Good, he’s doing good.``

Thanks for asking.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Unwrap Slowly

The other day Aiden hauled out his baby scrapbook, and of course, once it's in sight, I had to go through it.
It's funny the tug of loss I feel when looking at pictures of my children as babies.  Because it doesn't feel that long ago, but when I poke through those pages I'm forced to acknowledge the passing of the years.  There's no denying it.
I'm often entranced by Aiden's baby pics.  Searching for clues, staring at his face.  I'm mostly brought back to that time, when I believed I'd already met my little boy.  I guess when he was so young I thought i knew him, that all my ideas of who he would be were real, not just my imaginings.
I thought I'd already opened the gift that was my boy.  I thought that when he was born that the wrapping paper had already been torn off fully.
I was so wrong.  In reality I've been tearing away at the gift wrap bit by bit, piece by piece.  Every now and again I think I know what's inside, tease myself with hints, predictions.  Kind of like when you're fondling a gift before Christmas, certain you've figured out what's hiding beneath, only to be thrown off by the feel of something you can't quite explain.  I was sure this was a blanket, so what's that hard lump I'm feeling?  Back to step one in the guessing game.
I've always thought that a glimpse of the future would help quell all of my fears.  But maybe children aren't meant to expose themselves all at once.  Maybe none of them do.  Perhaps we let our own ideas of who they are interfere with who they were going to be.  We kind of set their course for them, almost accidentally.
So I guess I'll keep on tearing slowly, peaking inside, guessing and dreaming.
Because the gift of my boy is meant to be savoured.  No rush, I'll unwrap slowly.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why Awareness Matters (a lot)

October is autism awareness month in Canada, and every year I change my facebook profile pic to something autism related, and write countless meaningful status updates.  I do this for the same reason I write this blog, because awareness matters.

I know that many people know what autism is.  I also know that many people understand that it is skyrocketing.  But what I really want is to help in creating a community of compassion for those affected by autism, and their families.

11 year olf Mitchell Wilson recently took his own life because of a violent attack from another young boy, himself just 12.  I, like many am disguisted by the incident.  Baffled at how another child could behave this way.  But I think we are kidding ourselves if we believe that this 12 year old was anything but a product of society.  Our society.  We have to ask ourselves how we failed Mitchell, and how we failed the other boy as well.

Holding the 12 year old responsible for his actions is one thing, but not taking pause to question why it happened, and how we all hold some responsibility would be negligent.  Because there will be other Mitchells.  There already are.

Somehow, in the busy days of ferrying our sons and daughters from soccer and hockey and back again, we have forgotten to teach our own children.  Schools may teach your children to read and write, and how to add and subtract, but it is not their job to dispense morals. 

Parents, talk to your children.  Start young.  Help them to become good, solid people.  Kindness comes naturally to children, foster it, encourage it, praise it.  Young children ae accepting, we learn to fear that which is different.  Don't let them learn this fear from you.  Racism, sexism, homophobia are not  natural to the garden of a child's mind, they are dangerous seeds that get planted.  Once they take root, they can be difficult to get rid of.  Protect it dearly.

Don't stop at teaching your child to say please and thank you. Surface manners aren't enough. Teach them compassion, selflessness, and respect.  Teach them that different is not less . (That's Temple's mama talking) Make sure that they know that how they act matters.  Teach them that you are holding them to a high standard.  Act as an example for your children.

There may not be any ribbons, trophies, or first places for having a strong character, but it matters more than anything else.  Than everything else, put together.

This October, talk to your children about what autism is.  Most likely they have a child with autism in their classroom.  But don't stop at giving them a definition. 

And my family will be grateful to you.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pop Culture's Embrace

You know your syndrome is popular when it pops up on t.v.  Currently we have two shows that arefeaturing Asperger's, albeit in completely different ways.

On NBC's Parenthood, we meet young Max Braverman.   The focus here is on Max's parents, and mostly how they deal with tough choices they have to make concerning him. We watched as they struggled with getting Max diagnosed, planned a dreaded birthday party, dealt with the grandfather not-really-getting-it, cringed at Max's candor.  When Max's dad lost it with a rude man at the supermarket, we equally cheered him on and felt his pain.  Now that Max has been placed back in public school, we're all holding our breath.

Parenthood puts Asperger's in a family context.  Sometimes when I'm watching I can laugh at the little things or fret right along with the parents.  We see how Max benefits from a loving support system.  We also see the eye-rolling of his classmates.  Sometimes it is a joy to watch, sometimes it is downright sobering.
And then, the polar opposite is The Big Bang Theory.  We have non-diagnosed Dr. Sheldon Cooper, complete with his rigidity, his literalness, his brilliance.  He is Aspergers to the power of a billion.  Asperger's on bust.  And I love it.

Sure, I like the show for all the same reasons as everyone else.  It's hilarious, the characters are as endearing as they are obnoxious.

But I also like it because it is to me, an Asperger's success story.   In no way, shape or form does Sheldon blend in, his autism is a fireworks display.  It's why we love him.   Sheldon is a success because he turned his areas of interest into a noteworthy career.  He is a fully independant adult (ok, with the exception of his driver's license....) and above all else, he has an active social group.

Yes, his friends find his ways downright painful at times, but overall, they accept him for who he is, they order from the right restaurants on the right nights, they play the games allocated to each weekday.  Sure, they make fun of him right to his face, but all good friends do.

I think it's fair to say that this much air time means we've made it.  Our particular disability has managed to capture the attention and imagination of the world. It's nice to see something of our lives reflected back to us, in ways that can tug at our heartstrings, or grab us right by the funny bone.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The First Day of School

With a quick view of my facebook homepage these last few days, I've been noticing quite a split. 

Many, many people are excitedly posting status updates concerning which grade their children are starting, and many are sharing that their little ones are stepping onto that great yellow bus for their first time ever this morning.

These updates are so lighthearted, joyful, a mixture of pride, and wonderment at the quickly passing years.

And then there are the updates from people I know through the autism community.  All about the preperation they are doing with their children, and their schools, praying for a smooth transition from summer into school, from one grade to another, from old teacher to new.  Many links are being shared to informative articles about how best to work with your school, any and all tips that could possibly make this easier.

These updates are painful.  Their writers are scared, stressed, it's palpable.

When I read these updates, I feel guilty.  I have personally been counting down to the start of school.  For me, that means that our parks and playgrounds can be reclaimed.  Local attractions will return to the lazy pace of the school year. Our city becomes quiet, calm, in a word: accessible.

If I didn't comment on your status update, I'm doing it now.

To all of you who are experiencing the joy, and excitement of your babies moving on up through the grades, and starting the season of their life when they enter school, congratulations!  They are indeed growing up fast, and it is amazing to watch how in such little time, my kids and yours can grow and learn so much.  It warms my heart to see the pride you feel, witnessing the joy of parenthood can do that.  Your children are blessed to be so loved.

For those of you who are facing today with a strong dose of courage, and a belly full of fear, I am astounded at your courage, and stand in awe of you.  I have no doubt your stress translates to dilligence, and my hope for you is that your school and teacher see your concerns and fear as the face of the love you have for your child.  Good luck to you today, and indeed all year long.  May you be blessed with one of the many caring teachers out there who embrace the role of teaching, and see all students success as both their responsibility and joy.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Um....Not Quite.

Mariokart's Coconut Mall
Whoever invented YouTube is a genius.  Aiden has quite the pile of "Favorites" built up for himself.  Whatever his latest interest is, he is able to satisfy his need through the seemless endless topics available for his viewing pleasure.

One thing he loves to watch is videos of people playing Mariokart.  I think he'd rather watch people play the game on YouTube than play it himself!  But, through the power of YouTube, he has discovered videos of people who have hacked the games, who have found ways to explore parts of the race tracks that we aren't meant to access.  For Aiden, this is inexplicably exciting.

Now, not to make a generalization, but I've heard other parents say the same things about their children on the autism spectrum... like my boy, they prefer to explore the worlds of video games than to play them in their intended ways.  Aiden could care less about winning first place in a race on Mariokart, he just enjoys looking around, seeing where he can get, that kind of stuff.  He draws countless pictures of the worlds depicted there, with stunning detail, because that's how he enjoys the game.

So, he is quite interested in how these online hackers are able to get all of those cool places.  Neither hubby nor I could ever be confused for computer game enthusiasts, and certainly not experts.  We are both able to use techology in general to meet our needs, but the inner workings of it remain  both mysterious and magical.  You can imagine the dissapointment our lack of knowledge brings to our six year old.  He wants us to find a "computering person" to help him with his quest. 

Upon harrassment to help him explore the off-track locations in places like Toad's Factory and Coconut Mall, we patiently explained to him that you need to be able "to write code" to hack these games.

He went off on his own for a while... then returned proudly holding up a sheet of paper. 
"Mommy, Daddy, I wrote code! "

So you did baby, so you did.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What You Might Not Know

I'd be lying if I said I've got it easy.
When even a simple trip to Walmart takes planning, and a dose of courage.

I'd be lying if I said that although homeschooling is the best possible choice for us, that it's easy.
It is a ton of work, a ton of planning, a rather mighty big project overall, home educating your child.

I'd be lying if I said that it doesn't smart to have three university degrees,  and no career.
When you spot me at the grocery store in sweat pants, possibly pulling my child away from the grimy cleaning cart, "highly educated" probably isn't the adjective that jumps into your head.

But, you might not know that although parenting a child with special needs was never planned, it is an unimaginable priveledge.  A daily reminder of keeping perspective, appreciating your gifts and loving to the hilt.  You might be surprised to know that even though my child may require a lot of extra work, that it is worth it. I would'nt trade one day with him for anything.

You might be surprised to know that I do not wish him any other way.  That the sight of your typical child stirs up no jealousy in me.  Of course I do not wish him challenges or a life filled with obstacles, but he is who he is, and I am wouldn't trade him for the world.  That I'm not looking for miracle cures, just support and acceptance.

You might not know that being responsible for our boy makes me feel special too. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

In Your Own Backyard

The dog days of summer are here.  On the beautiful days we rise with nothing before us but promise of what the day might bring.  On the rainy days we ponder how to while away our time.

Summer holds a unique challenge for us.  The city is alive with school children, no longer are they tucked away by day within the confines of the school walls.  They are out, they are free, and they are everywhere.

Favoured playgrounds now house summer day camps.  The play equipment is lost beneath swarms of climbing, jumping, playing children.  The shops, the local attractions, all of the places to go are filled.

Everywhere is crowded.  Everywhere is full. 

If you parent a child who does not thrive in crowds, you will understand the problem.  We are left feeling that there is nowhere to go.  Our backyard becomes our sanctuary, the platform for all of our outdoor fun. 

Finding places to go, and things to join is a continuting challenge.  One I expect will only become more difficult over time.  Small group activiites are hard to come by.  Specialized programs are not always what you would hope they would be.

So we will wait out the crowds of the summer.  When the kids go back to school, we can once again reclaim the plagrounds.  I will continue my search for the right place for us.

I so often wish that the discussions about inclusion were extended beyond money-saving gestures of jamming all our kids into the one classroom.  Instead we could work as a community to find places for all kids to play and to thrive.  No more waiting on the side lines.  No more waiting out the crowds.

Until then I will  just be thankful for our backyard.  And my children who play so joyfully there.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Two Years of My Yellow Apple

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of My Yellow Apple.

Funny how so much can change in two years, and how much can stay the same.

This little blog has been a wonderful place for me to come to vent, reflect and feel like I am reaching out.  Being heard.
Thank you to all of you who take the time to  listen.  Thanks for dropping by, and thanks for coming back.

Your encouragement and kind words over the last two years have been a gift.

Welcome to year three of My Yellow Apple.

Monday, July 18, 2011

One of the Reasons

Out in the backyard this morning, my two sweeties were swinging on the swings and running in the grass.  Revelling in the glory of a beautiful sun- filled morning.

I sit on the patio, enjoying my first precious cup of coffee, silently planning the day before me, and listening in on their back and forth conversation.

And I hear my little boy gently offering his sister a freshly picked dandelion, as bright and yellow as the sun.  She couldn't be happier had he given her a new pony.  She graciously accepts, thanking him 100 times over.

A small offering from a boy to his sister.  A huge gift to the listening-in mommy.

And that`s just one of the reasons I love him.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Recipe for Success

Boiled Raisin Cake
 I have always enjoyed baking, and now that I have two little ones, I find it to be an excellent rainy day activity. Yes, there are times they ask to bake, and I am just not in the mood, or have just finished cleaning the kitchen…but once we get going, I’m always glad I said yes. Why? Not only because the children really enjoy baking, but also because this time together offers me a wealth of opportunity to work on key academic, sensory and social skills.

It is often the goal of us homeschooling moms, and us autism moms to use every experience to our advantage, to merge play into learning so that our little ones find it hard to tell one from the other. And what better way to do this, than while whipping up something sweet? With baking, there is always a reward at the end.

How can you make baking work for your little ones? Here are a few tips:

Academic Skills in Baking

• Following a recipe is great practice in following directions.

• Depending on the age, or reading skills of your child, reprint your recipe with key words, so that your child can feel like they are reading alone. Or, use clip art, or your own fancy art work to make the recipe visual.

• Measurement skills: baking is a great way to learn about fractions. Use the standard measuring cups to learn basic fractions, or double or triple recipes to work on other fraction skills. Be creative, if a recipe calls for ½ a cup of sugar, ask your child how they could get this amount without using the ½ cup.

• Estimation: children can estimate how many cookies the recipe will yield, record their guesses, and count to check at the end.

• Skip counting: if you are making a larger batch, have children count the number of cookies by making groups of 5 or 10.

• Division: create story problems while baking. For example, you have 5 kids coming to a party, and 24 cookies. How many will each child get? How many will be left over.

• Patterning: for roll out cookies, use different cookie stampers to create patterns on the baking sheet.

Social Skills in Baking:

• Turn taking: children can take turns reading from the recipe. adding ingredients, using the mixer, fetching needed ingredients or tools, etc.

• Settling disputes: Do your kids fight over who gets to crack the eggs, or lick the spoon? Before you get into the action, have children agree upon who gets to do what. Try to let them sort this through on their own, and once the baking begins, they can work on sticking to their bargain.

• Being helpful: children love to feel helpful, not only are they helping to bake, but they can help to clean up, put away ingredients, even sweeping the floor!

• Conversation: talk about what you’re doing, ask lots of questions, reflect upon the activity, what was your favourite part?

• Paying compliments: have children compliment each other on their hard work. Maybe take turns saying what everybody did best!

Sensory Opportunities in Baking:

• Hard work of stirring stiff dough

• Rolling out dough using roller, or their bare hands.

• Kneading dough

• Get their fingers dirty! Baking has oodles of opportunities to get your child’s hands into something soft and icky.

• Lots of smelling! Experiment with calming scents (almond extract, apple, banana, butter, cinnamon, vanilla extract) or arousing scents (chocolate, coffee, lemon, orange, mint)

• Tasting

And if all this doesn’t give you enough incentive to whip out your apron and preheat the oven….perhaps the thoughts of some delicious baked goods will do the trick

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Setting the Bar

One thing I'm never quite sure of, still haven't figured out, is where to set the bar.  I can recognize when it's held too low.  I can even sometimes recognize when it is held too high, but I'm not always sure of when it is just right. This is part of having a child with a spectrum disorder, and invisible challenges. Their struggles may not be as obvious, so their needed supports and understanding can be just as elusive. 

One thing some of us moms complain about, is that once we share our child's diagnosis with others, due to lack of understanding (and awareness!) some people automatically drop the bar, lower it to ridiculously low standards.  This can be really frustrating when you are paying for your kid to be in lessons, and the instructors see them as a write-off the second you open your mouth.  Suddenly your intention that your child just be better understood is somehow translated into, "he doesn't really count so go on about your business with the others."  Or at least that's how it feels when they recieve zero attention.

The really tricky part may be that the bar constantly needs to be adjusted.  In some areas of their lives, they will, like other children, rise to the expectations.  High expectations, where appropriate translate to knowing that someone deems you capable.  Expecting good work, or good behaviour from someone can equate to believing in someone. 

Counter to that, recognizing that our children struggle in some areas requires us to set the bar at the right level in that area.  Where they can experience success, where they do not have to feel as though doing their best is not good enough.

I find this really, really hard.  I worry that if we are having a hard day, and I lower expectations for behaviour, or for school work, that somehow I am setting a new, lower standard for Aiden, and for myself.  I wory about not working hard enough, or not working him hard enough.  Or I can worry about pushing him too hard on days when he is already feeling overloaded.

In my heart, I feel that whenever someone is doing the best that they can with the tools and skills that they have, there lives integrity.  Whenever somebody is able to do as much for themselves as they can, there lives indepependence.  Integrity and independence are what I strive for....those are the 'roots and wings' for me.

So daily living becomes a series of decision making in terms of expectations.  Each day and each area can demand a different standard.  So, as parents we are the coach, standing on the sidelines, encouraging and sometimes downright coaxing. And somtimes, once in a while, just letting it go.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Now I Love Rubbermaid Too

If this logo is on it, buy it.
 If you've ever found yourself disgruntled with the world around you, feeling that we live in a man -eat- man kind of a place, I`ve got a story for you. it`s a good story, filled with human goodness.  You might even say it`s a beautiful story.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that it couldn`t hurt to send Rubbermaid a letter, telling them about Aiden`s complete admiration for their cleaning carts.  And their yellow buckets on wheels, and so on. Along with the letter, I enclosed a copy of some of Aiden`s Rubbermaid themed art work, and a link to this blog.

Well, today, as the kids and I were making crafts at the kitchen island, the phone rang.  I almost didn`t pick up because I didn`t recognize the area code, and have been getting a lot of telemarketing phone calls lately.  Why I picked up I dont know, but I am so glad I did.  Ìs this Natalie...`` a voice questioned from the line  ``Yes``, I replied, wondering how these people got my name, when the voice introduced himself.  He was a Mr. Tim Spence, calling not from some I`ll -just- take- 45- minutes- of- your- time operation, but from RUBBERMAID!!!!!!!  Yip, it`s true.  I still cannot believe it, but it is true.

He said that  they had recieved my letter, and that it had really touched their hearts.  They are arranging for a local distributor to provide my little janitorial-loving boy with a cleaning cart!!!!  I stood holding the phone in disbelief.  I simply could not believe that I had heard him correctly.  I would love to now state that I handled this phone call with great poise, and responded with some sort of appreciative communication.  However, the truth is that I broke down crying.  I was struck.  Not only by the overwhelming sensation that my baby`s dreams were going to come true, but also by the level of humanity and unbridled generosity being afforded Aiden by a complete stranger.

I can tell you this, from the couple of minutes I spent on the phone with Mr. Spence, I knew that I was speaking to someone with a kind, generous heart.  I honestly felt that making this phone call, and granting Aiden his heart`s desire was bringing him great joy, the man embodied a true giving spirit.

My son has been doubly blessed.  Not only will he recieve his cart, but the biggest gift is the lesson that the world is a good place, filled with good people.  That he has recieved great kindness from a complete stranger is what I hope he carries with him throughout his life.  Long after Rubbermaid products lose their glow.  My hope is that some day he will be the sort of person who gives to others, asking for nothing in return. 

So, the next time you are out shopping, and you`re trying to decide which product to buy, if Rubbermaid is a choice, let it be your pick!

Mr. Spence, and Rubbermaid, I do not know how to properly express my gratitude to you, for what you are giving my boy, and for the beautiful example you have set for him as well.  My true wish is that your kindness is repaid to you one hundred fold.

As for me, I have nothing else to wish for.

Monday, May 30, 2011

School Schmool

Was shopping with Aiden today, saw this bear and cracked up!
I started this blog, initially, partly as a way to keep record of the one year I planned on homeschooling.  I have come to learn that many people enter homeschooling as some sort of temporary arrangement, but quickly fall into its charm and many merits.  I no longer preface my homeschooling choice with a disclaimer of its intended duration.  I no longer feel the need to seperate myself from whom I had imagined most homeschooling moms to be. (Sorry ladies....) 

I am more comfortable in our choice, mainly because I have been blessed enough to have access to a local support group, filled with lovely women, and their beautiful children.  Finding others who share your normal makes all the difference.  A few months ago, I started arranging monthly meetings for those of us within the group who are homeschooling children with special needs.  This has been a great source of encouragement and support to me, like I have learned so often since Aiden's diagnosis, none of us are alone in our challenges.  For some reason, that is one lesson I keep on learning.

Knowing that this is the right educational choice for us doesn't mean it's an easy one.  There have been days that have been just plain tortorous.  Seriously, painful.  But there have also been many, many days that have been highly successful.  Sometimes I look through all of the work we have accomplished, and I can't help but feel proud.  Today Aiden started work on a "Cleaning up on Grade One" booklet I made him, with relish he dipped into his janitorial themed math problems.  Where else could he recieve such individualized, motivational materials?  He carefully drew and recorded the changes in his caterpillars, anxiously awaiting the formation of a chrysalis... engaged, excited learning.  In a regular classroom, he would be too distracted and distressed to benefit from such a science project.

I've had a paradigm shift with my attitude towards homeschooling.  Initially it was begun out of necessity, and our sheer terror of facing the public school system.  Now, I see its discovery as yet one more gift discovered by our family since we started calling Aiden's autism by name.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

And now they want to bake cookies...

Ever have one of those days you thought would never end?  When bedtime seems like a far distant shore?  I had one of those days today.  In fact I'm still having it.  Go. Go. Go. 

-Could you get me a....
-I wanna...
-Mommy he's....
-Mommy she's...

One and a half hours .until bed.
Nothing but cleaning the kitchen, bath and bed standing between me and five minutes peace.

And now they want to bake cookies.

Friday, May 6, 2011


Our little artist participated in our second annual homeschool Creativity Fair last night.   We sorted through the reams of paper containing his artwork, and chose some of his favourites for his display board.

I just love this event. Because our children are homeschooled, they don't always get opportunities to share their school work, their big projects, unit studies or artistic endeavors with a large group.  And let's be honest, many kids are exhibitionists at heart.  Another component of this even is a contest for an art project and creative writing.  Last year Aiden won in his age category for his drawing of a track crane, and this year he won first prize for his drawing of "Daddy's Guitars" and also an honourable mention for his poem, "Ducks."

I cannot express in words (although admittedly I am trying) how beyond proud we are of him. This is truly his opportunity to let his little light shine.  So often his abilities can go unseen in the blur or his energy and perpetual motion, but his art stands still for all to see.

Sure his display depicted many things not typically drawn by six year olds, but who needs typical..give me his drawings of bathroom carts, buckets on wheels, stand up dustpans, and chairs any day!

So allow me this.  My pride.  And probably way more pictures than necessary.

Aiden and Margaret

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

This World is Small

Back in March, in the post You Can't Make This Up,  I let you all in on Aiden's desire to own his very own Rubbermaid cleaning cart.  Well, we managed to convince him that that was indeed too big for the Easter Bunny's basket.  His hopes are now firmly in the hands of dear old Santa Claus.  As I suspected, this new area of interest has not wavered in the least.

In the meantime, Aiden often watches videos about Rubbermaid commercial products on YouTube. (Yes, these exist.)   His favourite so far is one that he calls "the Next Generation of Cleaning Carts"  They also have videos that show how the carts are assembled, how different features work, etc.  The other day he was watching these videos with his daddy, when they came across a video called William gets a Cleaning Cart.  They didn't make this up either

As impossible as it is to believe, there is in fact another little boy out there in this world who also asked for a cleaning cart for Chrismas.  The world is indeed a small, small place.  To watch the boy marvelling over the vinyl replacement bag, and front and back casters, well, it could be my boy!    This video has been watched many, many times now at our house.  I think Aiden is delighted to see that Santa can, in fact bring such an item to a child.  but he has also become seriously concerned because this boyo's cart was not equipped with all of the accessories, such as spray cleaners, mop, broom, and more specically, his came without the bucket on wheels and ringer attachment.  Aiden is quite adament that he wants a cart that is already, and I quote, "Rigged Up!"

While Aiden doesn' t seem to mind that his friends are not interested in janitorial supplies, I cannot even begin to imagine how much fun he would have with this little boy who is. 

Keep on cleaning boys!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Help Me To Remember This Too

Last fall I wrote a post, Help Me To Remember.  I wrote it during a very, very difficult and trying period.  Upon rereading this post I am immediately taken back to the stress of that time, although it was just short months ago, it feels like an eternity ago  We were having a rough go, we had just moved house, which was humongously stressful to our little man.

But now, some months later, we are, in a word, settled.  We are floating on the tranquil ocean of routine.  We great each day knowing what to expect, what`s to come.  Home is a peaceful, enjoyable place to be.

Our boy surrounds himself with his art.  He skips in and out from the backyard, freshly revealed since the winter snow.  He loses himself in his interests,  his little sister is quickly growing into a cherished playmate, he has discovered the computer... and even more amazingly, the cat has decided that he loves him back!   

Our boy is joyful. Our boy is joy. So often these days his sweet little face beams, his whole body jolts with excitement.  We look at him and just know we are doing right.    His differences feel more like a source of joy and pride than a source of stress.

And I need to remember this too.  This feeling that all is right with the world.  This feeling of truly enjoying our days.  Help me to remember each sweet day, each broad smile, every day that things just feel good.  Because these are the days that will carry us through the harder times.  These days are the ultimate goal for us...a happy boy and the unmistakeable feeling that we are serving him well. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Going Up

If I had to use an analogy for parenting a child with autism, I'd compare it to a creaky staircase.

Chances are, if you've got a creaky staircase, along with the creaks, your staircase has some beautiful features, intricate woodwork, tonnes of short, it's well worth a few squeaky treads.

Over time, with a little practice you learn to sidestep some of the louder squeaks in your travels, with experience, this doesn't even seem like work, you catch yourseld deftly dancing upwards, a little to the left or a little to the right with hardly a thought.  There's even been a few times you found yourself stumbling, but luckily you have that lovely railing to lend you support.

You even decide that a lot of repairs aren't all that necessary.  There's something rather fetching about some of these little creaks and groans, they've grown on you, it's become impossible to seperate them from the beauty of that stiarcase.  You no longer want to.  They are your stairs after all.

You probably have friends who bought houses about the same time as you.  Some of these homes have sleek modern staircases.  Upon visiting them you often marvel at their efficiency, and how easily you can make your way up and down.  But you can't help but feel that they're missing something, perhaps a little too mainstream for your taste.

The great thing about your staircase is that its charm has become as much a part of your travels as the journey itself.  A journey that always gets you where you need to go, even with a few obstacles along the way, a journey that has somehow taught you how to dance... and a journey that is always going up.

Monday, April 4, 2011


On Saturday, my little family released colourful baloons.

That night, we let a blue light shine over our door.

I posted relevant links of facebook, and changed my profile pic to the World Autism Awareness Day symbol.

But none of these actions helped to stop a small 3 year old boy in Quebec, with autism, from wandering off.  Or help people know how to find a child who cannot cry for help.

The ground search has just been called off for sweet little Adam.

And my heart screams.... for another little boy lost

Despite the passage of time, let's all continue a vigil of hope, and pray for the miracle of his safety.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

World Autism Awareness Day 2011

Today marks World Autism Awareness Day.  Last year I marked the day with thanks,  today I will mark the day with a wishlist....

It's my wish that a day will come that the effect autism has on families is recognized by those who are in positions to adopt policies for change.

That someday when a child decides to throw a meltdown in public, that others will be more compassionate, maybe even helpful.

That families feel that they have valid options for intervention.

That waitlists for vital services dissapear.

That autism families will stop becomming the target of a huge marketing machine.

That the telltale signs of autism will be known by all...

That when a new family gets a diagnosis, the fear is less and the hope is more.

Thick skins for all.


That people will notice our blue lightbulbs, colorful balloons and puzzle piece ribbons today, and take time to ask what they mean.

And lastly an abundance of blessings, love, support and tolerance for my little boy, and all the other children on the autism spectrum.  That you all continue to shine, and amaze us with your beautiful, unique way in this world.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

You Can't Make This Up

It's all Toy Story 3, all the time at our house these days.  Santa was kind enough to brng Aiden the DVD, but even more treasured is the Toy Story 3 game for his DSi.  Now that's a hit.  What's interesting is how he plays the game.  While he does play through the game in the intended way from time to time, what he really loves is exploring the minor details of Andy's house.... and recreating them in ours.

Need an example?  In Andy's kitchen, if you prowl around you'll see three pots in soak in the sink.  So, of course, I often find three pots covered in suds in my sink too.  The Woody character jumps on lever door handles to open doors in the game.  We don't have those kinds of door handles at our house, so Aiden has been kind enough to cut some out and tape them to our boring, standard issue door knobs.  In the garage at Andy's house some tools are hanging on a peg board.  We now have the exact same arrangement on hubby's peg board.  Are you starting to get the picture?

It's all in the details for Aiden.  It's what makes him such a fantastic little artist, easily mastering the art of three dimensional drawing.  It's what he enjoys, and although his preoccupation with detailed      re-creation can be frustrating at times, particularitly when your furniture is constanly being rearranged whenever you leave a room, we know that it is  exactly this focus and fine-tuned thoroughness that will lead to his success in the future.  If he is blessed enough to work or study in an area of great interest, his results will be boundless.  He'll never tire of small details, his brain is hard-wired for acting as a fine tooth comb.

But from day to day, while he is so young, his exhaustion of an interest can be challenging.  And this is the part I could never make up.  There's a scene in Toy Story 3 where Woody is in a bathroom, and a janitor enters with one of those big housekeeping carts to clean the bathroom.  Well, guess what.  Aiden's gymnastics centre has a similar cart, and his interest and enthusiasm for it now makes it difficult to keep him in the gym.  He's been talking about playing with the cart all weekend. 

But wait, it gets better.  He has realized that you can purchase these carts, and that is what he's asking the Easter Bunny to bring him for Easter.  When we explained to him that those carts were very expensive, and not really necessary for use in a home, the tears started.  And the pleading, and the repeated questioning as to the Easter Bunny's intentions.  The acquisition of a Rubbermaid Housekeeping Cart is now goal number one in his mind.  And once he gets something in his head....

The chances that he'll have forgotten about this before Easter? Pretty well slim to none.  So, what do you do?  What would you do?  I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I think we're oscillating between sending an early letter from the Easter Bunny explaining the unlikelihood of him bringing such a large gift, (he doesn't have a sleigh like Santa after all, just a small little basket) or....shelling out $300.

We'll see.  It's like I said, you can't make this up. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Open to Change

After Christmas, I felt like we had run into a wall with homeschool.  Aiden was pretty tired of it, and getting harder and harder to focus.  Over Christmas we had contintued on with schoolwork, I was weary of giving him a big break, afraid it would be too hard to reel him back in.

It has become apparant to me lately that the constant quest for keeping predictability and sructure in our house can render me the inflexible one.  I worry about doing things differently, because I am always aware that virtually everything I do is setting a new precedent.  Everything. 

So, it was by accident that I solved our little slump.  Aiden had been going through one of his many, many poor sleep periods.  Rather than skipping the work I had slotted for the day, I decided to break it up into little manageable chunks.  We did math, then I let him go play.  About an hour later I called him back for language arts and journal writing, and so the day went.  The next day, he asked me if he could do school the way he did it yesterday.  He explained that he liked doing little bits at a time. 

Wow.  The fact that he was able to tell me what worked best for him is a big skill.  So, that is how we have been preparing our school days ever since, and his focus in waaaaaaaay better. I really prefer laying out all of our work and getting it done, then closing the book on school for the day.  This new way tends to make homeschool spread across the entire day, which I find a little more stressful.  But, he does not.  And that is the main thing.

I guess we are learning together what works best for us.  It is still early days I guess, and our methods are sure to change as we go along.

And can be good.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reality T.V. - and me

I'm not saying that I'm proud of this necessarily, but there are a couple of reality tv shows that make me quite happy.  And they're not the big blockbusters like American Idol or The Biggest Loser, I've never even seen an episode of The Bachelor or The Amazing Race.  I'm more of a sucker for the big family ones, the old Jon and Kate Plus 8, and 19 Kids and Counting.

I really, really like them.  Like, a lot.  Seriously.

This drives hubby crazy, he says the last thing he wants to hear once his own kids are in bed is another family's children crying and bawling.  I can see his point...
But what really draws me to these shows is that I can relate to them.  No, I may not have a baseball team number of children, just two for me, thanks.  But, these shows tend to focus on how difficult, or at least, how different it is for these families to do regular everyday things. 

And while these families don't have the same challenges I have, it is nice to see somewhere else, a relfection of having to gear up for activities of daily living.  They have to prep to take their families out to dinner.  They have to think long and hard about going on a road trip.  That's what I relate to. 

Moreso, large families, or families with strong religious beliefs, like the Duggars, are a subculture, just as autism families are.  So I can relate to that too.

So the next time one of these shows are on, and you wonder to yourself, 'who watches this stuff?'  The answer is me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Counting Sheep and Losing Sleep

Please, please, please, please tell me that there's a sleep solution I don't know about.  If only there were some magical solution to our sleep crisis, I would jump up and down right now, even though I'm operating on just 2.5 hours sleep from last night, somehow, I would get the energy.

And yes, we know all about melatonin.    And no, it hasn't solved our problems.  Helped, yes, but solved, no.

Predictable bedtime routine?  check.  Nice calming bath prior to bed?  check.  Blanket prewarmed in the dryer before tucking in?  Hot water bottle in bed prior to bedtime?  Calming white noise of a running fan?  check, check and check.

At this tender age, I really don't know a sensible way to handle this lack of sleep.  He's too young to be let to wander the house in the wee hours of the night while we try to catch some zzzzzzzs, so his lack of sleep transfers into our loss of sleep as well.  Hence my cry for help.

Is there some secret trick I haven't tried yet?

Monday, January 24, 2011

All is Quiet

the house is quiet, the hum of fans
sleeping lightly, dreaming brightly
eyes dance beneath their lowered lids

and these walls hold the sounds of the day
that passed
the rules that were followed, the steps we danced
resound throughout the rooms

but from the outside, in dim light stands
a house like all the others on the street

                    where inside lay children asleep.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Don't Pick Up

I recieved a phone call the other day that sort of shook me up a little.  It was late in the morning, we were not long finished our homeschool, generally, going about our day.  Usually I do the whole caller ID thing before answering, but I wasn`t quite expecting the usual telemarketers until I was just about to put supper on the table, or up to my elbows with the kids in the tub...but I digress.  On the phone, a chirpy woman asked for me by name, and then informed me that she was contacting women within my age group for special female cancers insurance. 


Not exactly the reminder of your ageing that you want to hear.  And it struck me... I can`t get sick.  I have way too much that I am responsible for right where I am, thank you very much.  And then it struck me even harder...what if I did get sick..... gulp again.

I cannot imagine anything scarier for a  mom then the thoughts of her children being without her.  Oh wait, yes I can, add special needs to the equation.  I am not just a mom, I am an interpreter of the world, a safe person, an advocate, and above all else, deeply committed, and madly in love!

Double gulp.

I quickly got off the phone, and I admit, while not overtly rude, I was curt and obviously annoyed.  There is something about being an autism parent that makes you grow increasingly disguisted with people who prey on the fears of others.

It`s a good thing I have my New Year Resolutions still posted up around the house.  I, for one, am practising living in the present.  Because honestly, these days, that is about all I can handle.

Next time, I think I will just let it ring.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Here Kitty Kitty

Aiden cam
Okay, explain this to me.  We have had our cat Finnegan for 3 1/2 years.  He is a lovely cat, the sort that kind of likes to be close, but doesn't hop up in your lap.  He's more of a be - in - the - same - room  -with - you cat, less of a having - his - big - furry - bum - stuck - up - in - your - face kind of cat.  Perfect.  (or rather, purrrrfect.)

Now, my little man was only 2 when we got Finnegan, so, now at six, it's possible that he can't really remember a time without puss.  So, back to my question.  Up until about 2 months ago, he offered dear little Finnegan absolutely no signs of friendship or kinship.  It was as if they lived in mutual indifference.  Other than the fact that he would list him as a family member, or count him amongst the people that he loved, I would have thought that the cat could have simply vanished, and he migh not even have noticed.  But not now.  Nope.  He has now decided that  not only will  he acknowledge the cat, and try to engage him in play, but he has  also decided that he adores the cat.  He gets up out of bed in the morning, and immediately searches out his feline companion.  He has taken to feeding the cat, giving him drinks of water.  Images of Finnegan are replacing some of his drawings of transport trucks....high praise indeed.

Why I don`t know.

As for the cat, he is accepting his new found attention with trepidation.  But surprisingly, with a huge threshold of patience.   From time to time he stares at me, his big oval eyes pleading for me to rescue him. But for the most part, he takes it all on the chin.

It`s nice that he has a new interest, and I really appreciate his gentle manner towards the little creature, taking on responibility for him is also wonderful.  I guess these are the reasons most people get pets in the first place. 

I just can`t help but wonder where the sudden interest came from. 

Another little mystery to add to the pile... but a nice one.  I really do hope that his little interest persists, pets can be such a comfort.  They demand so little, they have no notions of social expectations.  They just love you for whatever you`ve got to offer them.  Whether it be a pat on the head, or a bowl full of kibble.

Thanks Finnegan, you're a real pal.

Aiden cam again
Putting the "pet" in Pillow Pet

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, New Attitude

Dear 2011,
Welcome.  I hope that we get to be really, really good friends.  I hope that when we look back on our time together, that our yearbook brims with pictures of smiling faces and joyful memories.

Happy New Year one and all!  As we turn over a new leaf, and start a new year fresh and new, I've made different kinds of resolutions this year, not so much about lifestyle as about outlook and attitude.

So here is the list of goals I am setting for myself in 2011:
1. Recognize my child's strengths and build on those.  Just because our world works on a deficit model doesn't mean that I have to.
2. Accept my child's unique way in the world, help him to get the skills he needs and appreciate his many gifts. 
3. Forgive myself.  I will try really hard not to come down too hard on myself when I hit a brick wall, I will honestly try to appreciate my own hard work.
4. Stay in the present.  Stop looking (and worrying) so far ahead.  Deal with today, appreciate today. 

There you have it,  my goals for a happy, healthy year.  I'll keep you posted.