Some Perspective

Autism AwarenessAs we begin a month dedicated to Autism Awareness, I came across this beautifully written piece by mom-of-four, Mary Hickey. Mary has three sons on the autism spectrum and she writes about how autism has not been a secret in her family – it’s something that has been embraced so that her sons not only get to understand themselves better, but that there’s a community of support surrounding them.

She also shares her perspective on how she discussed autism with her children, which is something many parents struggle with – how, and when, (and if) I discuss my child’s autism diagnosis with them. Mary’s sons came to some awareness on their own at different ages, asking questions – and it was at those moments that she discussed it with them. And for parents that may be facing a similar situation, she shares what those first conversations sounded like:

Many parents feel paralyzed by figuring out how to approach the initial discussion. I kept the first conversation simple, creating space and encouragement for questions and whatever feelings came up. It differed slightly for each boy, but the overall conversation went like this: “Every person has things that are easy for them and things that they are working on. Your brain works in a very special way that is called autism. It means that some things that are hard for other people, like remembering numbers and all the states and capitols, are easy for you. But it also means that some things, like understanding conversations or what people are trying to say, can be hard for you. It is why sometimes noises, smells and the feeling of things bother you too. But it also means that you are amazing for how hard you work to get through it all! There are a lot of strategies we can use to help make the things that are tough a bit easier. There are lots of people in the world with autism and so many of them have done amazing things. Would you like to learn about some of them?”

While this is a story of how one parent helped her children with their own self-awareness, we honor the broader idea of raising awareness for all, and ultimately, understanding and support. We hope the continued efforts of the autism community – and especially now during Autism Awareness month – will help do just that.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Games & Toys

Parade recently put out an article identifying top six toy picks for children with autism. They asked two experts to provide their thoughts on toys that can help autistic children learn and development much-needed skills, such as play and social interaction. Here’s what their list looked like:

Caves & Claws

  1. Board Games – The experts note that simple games can help teach skills like following directions, and they also involve social interaction. They recommend games where players work together as a team, such as Caves & Claws and Sleeping Grump.
  2. Sports Equipment – For younger kids, these experts suggested a simple ball could do the trick because it creates an opportunity for social play, communication and eye contact. For older kids, they suggest a skateboard, which can be a tool for social activity since kids get together at skate parks and skate in groups.
  3. Musical Instruments – For smaller children, a musical toy like a whistle could be used in an imitation game- you play a tune and have your child repeat it. For older children, playing an instrument could be a good for peer interaction, as the experts note.
  4. Construction Sets – The experts say toys like Legos are good to help children learn to follow directions in order to build objects.
  5. Tool Kits – They say that even a general toolbox with a hammer and nails can help build fine motor skills and a sense of accomplishment.
  6. Books – Books have many benefits, one of them, as noted by the experts, is a chance to teach socially appropriate behavior for younger children. Some of the books they call out are Me First and Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink.

Check out the full article here.

Would love your input as well – any toys or games you’ve found to be particularly helpful? Share them with us.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Wise Words by Pat Philpot

This was written by Pat Philpot on his Facebook page…nuff said!

Keyper had yet another stellar day at school. I love what his teacher did today. Combined Keyper’s love of the iPad, with a few pictures of the other kids in the class and something that each kid likes. For example one of the boys likes cars. So she wrote the boys name on the paper and that he likes cars. So each kid had their name and what they like on a separate sheet of paper. Then, she would scroll through the pictures and have Keyper select the correct identity. What a simple, yet brilliant way to help Keyper not only learn names, but something about each person…..

“Rockstar” ( teachers nick name) was surprised that he learned them all in one day. I was not surprised.

I also love listening to the teacher/instructors talk about how amazed they are at K as they are learning more about him. Laura & I just smile because we know how brilliant he is.

Also, and for me this was the best part of his day……when they returned from recess, Keyper announced as he came in the door, ” I made a friend”!

His name is Ahmen, ( not sure of spelling) and he likes to ski.

On the drive home, he asked if Ahmen could come over and play sometime?

BAM!!!

Seriously peeps, I need to take a short break and celebrate, dance, sing my song. I am sending out to the Universe my appreciation & Gratitude for these amazing triumphs & experiences. Be back in a few.

Wow, better. I was getting a little misty eyed there.

I used to think that I would give just about anything to wake up and find that miraculously, in the night, a miracle happened & my beautiful autistically inclined boy had recovered. Then one day I realized being “on the spectrum”, or having Autism is an important part of who Keyper is. I don’t want it to define him, but it is indeed part of his beautiful makeup & components.

Just like his infectious smile, his brown hair, his amazing vocabulary and ability to read faster than anyone i know, I would not want to change any part of who he is.

As I came into this awareness and let go of the resistance that at some level he needed to be different, or recovered, or normal, or better, or more flexible so we could do things as “other” families do etc, he began to let go too of his resistance.

The more at ease I become, the more I celebrate who he is, the more dancing I do, the more singing I do, the more I let go of old beliefs, the more I seek for the good & the happy, the bigger I make the itty bitty little things that are so easy to take for granted, the better and better life becomes. And the better and the better life becomes the more of what I want starts showing up. It is the Law of Attraction in action… ( I use the terms of dancing and singing metaphorically, I mean, I do dance and sing and boy do I celebrate, but it is about just different ways of showing joy, there are a million ways to show joy and appreciation ) The more I am in the moment, that is when life begins to flow. And it is flowing down stream right now like never before.

For me, Autism is an opportunity set before me to be an expression of unconditional love at its best. It is a beautiful opportunity for personal growth and awareness. It is an opportunity to experience something I never would have willingly chosen, yet I can easily say, Autism has been the road less taken and it has made all the difference.

It is with the greatest gratitude, appreciation and love, that I Thank YOU Mr ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) for this amazing experience.

WOW,

BAM

Top Apps for Autistic Children

Your iPhone or iPad may just be the most coveted item in your household—according to your children, at least. Some of the apps out there can be both fun and educational—as well as shown to help those with autism. With so many apps out there, we’ve sifted through to find the ones that have been recognized:

The Huffington Post calls out six ‘awesome’ apps, a few of them include:

Go Go Games

  • Go Go Games is designed to help children with ASD learn to quickly notice multiple features of objects in the world around them.
  • Hidden Curriculum for Kids uses real-life situations to spur conversations about the “unwritten social rules” that we encounter every day that may cause confusion and anxiety.
  • Speech with Milo: Interactive Storybook was created as a speech therapy tool for children that features an interactive storybook and the ability to record your own story.

While The Stir identified five other apps in its ‘best apps for autistic children’ piece. One of them is Dr. Panda-Teach Me!, which helps children with skills like counting, memory, and colors. Another one is Talking Larry, which helps develop language skills and features a talking bird friend.

Also, while we’re on the subject of apps, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, Kindergarten.com has made all of their apps free—which includes a collection of apps focused on speech and language, self-care skills and receptive and expressive identification.

Which apps do you use and recommend?

Lynsey, Community Manager

Chili’s Act of Kindness Goes A Long Way

Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. Case in point – there’s a great story circulating on the web about a young girl’s experience at a Midvale, Utah Chili’s restaurant, shared by her sister, Anna MacLeane, on Facebook. Anna took her sister, Arianna, a 7-year-old with autism, to Chili’s to get her favorite – a cheeseburger. When her cheeseburger arrived, Arianna didn’t want to eat it. When Anna asked her why, Arianna replied “It’s broken. I need another one that’s fixed.” Then it occurred to Anna that it was “broken” because it was cut in half. Although it was the restaurant’s intention to make it easier to eat by cutting it in half, this threw things out of order for Arianna.

Arianna at Chili's

When their waitress came to check on them, Arianna explained the situation and asked for another cheeseburger. Their waitress, Lauren, was sweet and played along, saying to Arianna, “I brought you a broken cheeseburger?! You know what, I’ll have them cook you a new one!” Then the manager came over and did the same thing, which made things a lot easier. Arianna was very happy when her new “fixed” cheeseburger arrived – so much so, that she gave it a big kiss – which Anna was able to snap a picture of.

This simple act of compassion and kindness that Anna and Arianna received should be a great lesson. For Anna and Arianna, that broken cheeseburger could have impacted the rest of their day – but, instead, it turned into a really amazing experience. I hope to hear more stories like this one.

Click here to view Anna’s full Facebook story.

Lynsey, Community Manager

In case you haven’t heard, April is Autism Awareness Month!

It’s Autism Awareness Month – time to learn more statistics, read about the advances in treatment, Keep Calm and turn your Facebook page blue!

So if the world is listening just a little bit more than usual, it’s also an opportunity for parents to tell their stories – because for them, autism is a 24/7/365 experience.

Meet a dear friend of mine, Marci, pictured with her son Ethan.  Ethan’s story is similar to many – he’s “on the spectrum,” and his quirky behavior eventually made it impossible for him to stay in “normal” school.  So instead of believing her son was “broken,” Marci did what many parents are doing today, she found a place that was able to accept Ethan just the way she saw him – not broken.  Just different.

Marci and her sonThe name of this amazing school is CDC – Child Development Center – located at the University of California Irvine.  It’s part of the Division of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics in the UC Irvine School of Medicine.  Reading through their web site, it may seem like the CDC is still a laboratory of sorts…

After a tour, I realized CDC is so much more!  CDC provides a nurturing environment for 60 kids – ages 5 to 12, all but 5 are boys – who were all asked to leave “normal” school because of their behavioral problems.  Without any medications (the kids have to come off meds to attend), CDC provides these kids with a supportive and nurturing environment, allowing them the space to develop positive self-esteem – in effect, to believe they are NORMAL!  I watched as these “badly behaved kids” participated in class, laughed, and socialized!  Instead of shoving these square kids into a round hole, CDC just became a square.  Not a novel concept, but really the most effective way to work with our kids.

Because of their success, parents are clamoring to get their kids into the CDC.  So Marci is doing what moms do – she’s raising money to make that possible.  At the event I attended, she raised $40,000 towards purchasing new modular buildings that are being delivered and set up this month, allowing the school to expand to 6th grade.  Her vision is to find a way to build a larger school, eventually allowing CDC to work with kids K-12.  Marci believes that will happen – and so do I.  Ethan, and all of our normal kids, deserve that chance.

Hugs,

Jen