Thursday, December 27, 2012

Autism is Not a Tragedy

So many people respond to an autism diagnosis in a negative way. When someone you love is diagnosed, it is not easy to take in. You worry about their future and what you can do to help. Many mothers wonder if they did something wrong (you didn't by the way) and many fathers start doing research to find out exactly what autism is. I am here to tell you that autism is not a tragedy and nothing to become depressed about. We all want what's best for our kids and loved ones. So, it's natural to be concerned that autism will make it impossible for them to have the life we've dreamed of them having. My advice to you is to look outside the box.

Here are some wonderful and unique qualities I can find about my autistic child that are definitely not tragedies. I'm sure you all could add a few to the list also :)

1. He is more laid back. He doesn't let life stress him out and enjoys the simple things.

2. He can draw better than his mom at the age of 6.

3. He has the best memory.

4. He loves to sing and is always cheerful and dancing.

5. He may get stressed about a light bulb that went out, but he is braver than I am when it comes to heights.

6. He finds fun in all he does.

7. He won't eat pizza, but he LOVES baked beans. Those are better for you right?!

There is so much more to my son than autism. He is healthy and loves life. How can he go wrong?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Myth # 5 Therapy is Covered

Myth:Most therapies for people with autism are covered by insurance.

Only half of the 50 states require coverage for treatments for autism. Most insurance companies exclude autism treatments.  On average the annual cost for medical and non medical expenses for someone on the spectrum can range from 67,000 to 72,000. Here is an interesting article on the financial aspect of autism.  I am fortunate enough to where I have coverage. I hope treatments will soon be covered for everyone.

Source: Autism Speaks

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Myth #4 Just a Brain Disorder?

Myth:  Autism is only a brain disorder.

Many studies have shown that, in many cases, autism can be more than a brain disorder. Autism is also linked with allergies, food sensitivities, and gastro-intestinal disorders. Changing food intake has led to many success stories with autism.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Myth # 3

Myth: People with autism are just like Rainman.

Autism varies greatly from person to person. If you know one person with autism, you only know one person with autism. That person will have completely different characteristics than the next autistic person you meet. For example, my son could not count toothpicks off the floor in a matter of seconds, but he can remember the smallest imperfection in a building from years ago.

Source: Autism Speaks

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Autism Myth #2

Myth: Autistic People will have autism forever.

Research shows that early intervention have helped people "test out" of autism. Some parents also think that certain diets have helped their child overcome autism. This is why an early diagnosis is so important.

Reference: Autism Speaks

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Autism Myth #1 (A week of myths)

Myth- Autistic people are intellectually disabled.

Most autistic people have normal or even above average IQ's. They simply learn in different ways, and sometimes at a different pace. Often they are brilliant with numbers or artistic abilities.

My son is great with artistic skills. He could draw better than me at age 3 :) He loves music and could build the best skyscraper you've ever seen out of blocks.

What is your child great at?

Reference: Autism Speaks

Monday, August 27, 2012

What Are the Signs Of Autism (our story)

Cases of autism are on the rise. Now, 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism. When little bear was diagnosed in 2009 the number was 1 in 110. Research has yet to figure out why the numbers are increasing so quickly. The good news is that many doctors and parents are more aware of the signs, and are taking advantage of the great services out there for children and adults on the autism spectrum.

What are the signs? This can be tricky because the red flags of autism vary from person to person. Many of them are developmental delays. According to Autism Speaks here are a few red flags to look out for.

- no smiles by age 6 months and thereafter
-no babbling by 12 months
-no pointing or waving by 12 months
-no words by 16 months
-no meaningful 2 word phrases by 24 months
-any loss of verbal and/or social skills at any age

If your child has any of these red flags, it does not necessarily mean they are autistic. It simply means you may want to bring it up to your doctor for evaluation. I can't stress enough (as a mother of an autistic child) that finding out early is very important! The earlier you can access services for your child, the brighter their future will be.

Our son was diagnosed when he was 2 years old. He had always been behind developmentally. He was able to sit up at 11 months and started walking at 21 months. When I would mention this to doctors, they would just say that he'll get there when he's ready. Honestly, that is what I wanted to hear, even though my gut was telling me something wasn't quite right.

When he went in for his 2 year check up he was, for the most part, non-verbal. This is when our doctor ( a new one due to a recent move) decided to send him to a psychologist for an evaluation. The evaluation confirmed our suspicion that our son was autistic.

There are varying degrees of autism. All are considered to be an autism spectrum disorder, but they vary from mild to severe. The autism spectrum disorders currently consists of autism disorder (classic autism), asperger syndrome, and Pervasive Development not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

Our son was diagnosed with autism disorder. He has come such a long way since that diagnosis. We immediately enrolled him in early intervention. They worked with him 2 to 3 times a week in our home (helping us reach goals) until he was 3 years old. When he was three he entered preschool. We also had him involved in ABA therapy when he was 3. He went from being non verbal to speaking more and more each day! It was so exciting. There are no words that can describe how exciting it is for parents of autistic children when they reach new milestones. Our little guy just started kindergarten and is learning at the same level as his peers! We are so thrilled!

Hopefully someday research will solve the mystery of autism. I hope we can find a way to prevent it. Until then, we need to just embrace it. I love the unique ways of our son. He is such an incredible person. Anyone who meets him loves him. I personally think he makes the world a brighter place :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I love this!

I am so tired of hearing people say that autistic people are not smart. It is quite the opposite actually!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fans, Lights, Action!

We let our son take a pictures with the camera and this is what we got...
He LOVES fans and lights. I think this is pretty common with children on the autism spectrum. Fans calm him. He goes to sleep with the fan on. I do too, but that's not the point.. :) A few days ago all three of our children were drawing pictures. Little bear ( what I will now call our autistic son) drew a bunch of fans and electrical outlets. He is fascinated by both.
What do you think your child would draw a picture of?

Older fathers = more autism risk?

I just read an article that stated a risk factor for autism was an older father. My husband was only 24 when our son was born, so this does not apply to us. What do you think?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Great info

I advise many of these techniques with my child.

Kindergarten has begun!

Our little man has started kindergarten. It's bitter sweet because he is our youngest, but I am really excited for him. We had his first IEP meeting this week and it went great. I was nervous because we recently moved and he was in a new school. His teachers all seem like they will enjoy their year with our son. I found out that he has only had to leave the classroom once over a meltdown due to lights. Lights are a big thing with him. Usually, he is upset if they are off. This time, he told his teacher they were too bright. So, they dim the lights when he says they are too bright. I love that the school cares enough to understand his demands. They know little things can make him feel very anxious, and they want him to be comfortable at school. That is every mom of a special needs child's dream. I was also super excited to hear that they will not be changing any curriculum for him. He is learning on the same level as his peers. This was such good news to me because I know he can do it! I'm just so happy the year is off to a good start!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ABA Therapy

Aba therapy (Applied Behavioral Analysis) is a term many have heard but do not understand. When our son was diagnosed with autism we had friends who said that aba was the best thing they did for their autistic children. I had my doubts, but decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately, many people do not have the luxury of utilizing this service for their children. Many insurance companies will  cover speech and occupational therapy, but not aba. Here is a great website that gives information on opportunities for scholarships and other ways to fund programs for people on the autism spectrum.

We went through a few therapists before we found the right one. Please do not give up on aba therapy if you do not think the therapist is a good fit for your child. Also, don't be afraid to speak up and find the therapist that works! We went through two before we found the right one. The first one seemed to play more than anything else and we didn't feel our son was getting anything from it. The second one seemed to enjoy pushing our son's buttons just to try to "solve" his tantrums. I did not like that at all. Finally, we found someone who was a mix of both of the previous therapists. She pushed Rhys just far enough so he would learn. He didn't always like it, but it was good for him.

He started when he was three years old (1 and a half years ago). The improvement was AMAZING. He was saying, at most, five words when we started. Within six months his vocabulary was flourishing! Our friends had mentioned the same type of improvement, but I thought it was too good to be true. To my amazement, that was just the beginning. He is now in preschool and knows more than some of his peers. He talks non stop and is just so smart. He was always smart... we just had to get it out of him.

ABA therapy may not be for everyone, but I am definitely glad we gave it a try. I encourage everyone to learn more about it and see if it may be right for your family.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What's your Problem?

I saw this picture and all I could think was "problem?"

I can't speak for anyone else, but I do not see autism as a problem. Sure, it creates obstacles and challenges that most others won't face in the same way, but it is not a problem. When I found out my son was diagnosed with autism I did not think to myself, " oh no, not another problem." In fact, it didn't change much in our home. My husband and I were determined to educate ourselves about autism, but that was about the only change that occurred. In a lot of ways I love that my baby is autistic. Please don't take that the wrong way. I would never wish the challenges he will go through in life on anyone. That being said, I love all of the unique qualities that autism brings out in him that make him the wonderful child he is. He listens better than our other children and stays out of trouble more often. He can entertain himself and says the cutest things. He is my youngest child and has "grown up" at a slower pace allowing me to enjoy every step a little longer. In so many ways autism has been a blessing. I hope that we as a whole can work together to prevent, or find a cure, for autism in the future for all children and adults. For now, when there's nothing we can do but embrace it, that's exactly what I am going to do as a mother.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Get out of my room!

Recently my husband and I decided to take a few minutes a week and spend some extra time (one-on-one) with our children. We have three kids, so I thought this would be good for us. So, we picked a day for each child and they get to spend some time with us. They also get to pick what we do during that time.

Last night was Rhys' turn. I knew he wouldn't really understand what we were doing, but I thought he'd enjoy the time with us. I was wrong! You don't mess with an autistic child's schedule! When the other children were getting ready for bed, we tried to explain to him that he can stay up and spend some time with mom and dad. He looked terribly confused and said "No".

We saw this happening, in a way, but we always try to push Rhys outside of his box a bit. I think that's good for him. So, I go upstairs and start getting him ready for bed. The husband and I decide to try to read him a book while he's in bed or something. We sat on his bed with him and he doesn't like this. He keeps telling us to get out of his room and to move. He just didn't understand why we were there. We just kind of laughed and decided to let him be.

I'm sure there is some way that Rhys will enjoy time with us. We are just going to have to be creative. He loves to be outdoors, so maybe we could go outside. He can't say no to that! There is something that breaks a mom's heart when her baby tells her to leave him alone. This is something a lot of parents of an autistic child go through. I get sad for a minute, but I realize there are moments when he wants to sit and cuddle with me throughout the day. Those are our moments and I will never take them for granted.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Potty Training

It has been a struggle to potty train Rhys. He is now five and we are still struggling with this. It took maybe a week to potty train my other children so this is new for me. We have come a long way though.

In the beginning Rhys was afraid to go in the bathroom to use the potty. It probably took him from age 3 to 4 to get used to sitting on the toilet. At school they really started pushing him to use the potty this year. From what I've heard, he goes when they take him. He only does number 1, no number 2 yet. At home, he will reluctantly go when we take him.

I know he knows what he is supposed to do. He is very smart. He is also very stubborn and seems to be giving us a hard time because he just doesn't want to go to the potty. I have tried putting him in "big boy undies", giving him rewards like a skittle, and letting him sit and read his favorite books. Nothing seems to help for more than a few days.

I would like to get to the point where he can tell me he needs to go instead of me taking him every hour or so. There have been exciting moments where he will just get up and go by himself out of nowhere just to have it all go back to the beginning the next day. He starts kindergarten next year and I really hope to make some huge improvements over the summer. Please let me know your tips! Thanks.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Walk for Autism

My family went to the autism walk that was in our area yesterday! Each year the turn out gets better and better. It was really cold here yesterday, but we still had friends that woke up early and walked with us. They played upbeat music to help I mean pump us up! We probably walked around the track up to ten times when the kids were burnt out and wanted to see the jump houses they had set up for them. There were booths with all sorts of autism related information. My son's aba therapist was there sharing information on how therapy helps children on the spectrum. They had popcorn and snowcones (which should have been hot chocolate!) there for all to enjoy. In the words of one of my friends, it felt like the paparazzi was there. We had so many photos of us taken it was crazy! It was great to see our community come out and raise awareness for autism. This disorder is so puzzling and hopefully one day we'll figure it out!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sandy J Family Fun: Walk for a Cause

Sandy J Family Fun: Walk for a Cause:    This weekend my family and I will be participating in a Walk for Autism. This cause is close to our hearts because our youngest son ha...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shhh… We Can Get Your Kids to Eat Their Veggies : Baseguide

Great article for those picky eaters!

Shhh… We Can Get Your Kids to Eat Their Veggies : Baseguide

They are braver than I am!

     I don't know if it's my age, but I have become a big chicken. I have always been afraid of some things like roller coasters or wasps. Now that I am older, it seems I am afraid of way too much! I've realized that I need to lighten up a bit. We went to a lake this weekend and here's our story.

     We went down to a lake that they have here on post. I have always loved being outdoors and adventurous. I think I inherited that from my father. When we went to this lake I found myself frozen in fear. There was a small duck pond that was separated from the lake by a large cement wall. This wall (that my husband just had to climb up) seemed harmless at first. It was very steep but we all made it up. At the top it was very pretty. There were views of the lake, waterfalls, and all the families fishing down below. You would think I would enjoy it! NOPE! I was frozen by how high I was. It really wasn't that high at all, but enough for me. All I could think to myself was how I've climbed mountains in Arizona like it was a habit, and now I can't climb a silly wall! All the while my kids are running up and down the wall and getting way to close to the edge for my comfort. They most certainly thought I was no fun! My husband looked at me like I was an alien.

    When my family was done exploring the waterfalls it was time to walk down the wall. I listened to my husband who said "walk at an angle" and I made it down without falling! Wheww! We went down to the duck pond to let the kids put their feet in. All I could think was "what if they fall in... I heard on the news about these brain eating creatures in dirty water...". They didn't fall in, and they had fun. We found turtles, craw fish, and these really pretty dragonflies. All in all, it was a great day. I look back and think how much greater it could have been had I not been so worried and had just taken in all the beauty of this day with my family. So, I make a promise to myself remember to follow this great Bible verse for the rest of my life.
For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgement.
                                                                                                    2 Timothy 1:7

Friday, April 13, 2012

Eating fruity

          It is so hard to get my boy to eat! All he wants to eat is bread, cheese, and baked beans! We have him drinking Pediasure to help him get good nutrition. I wanted to share something I tried by accident and turned out well! I wanted to make some gluten free chocolate chip cookies for the kid's after school snack. I was mixing all of the ingredients and realized I had no eggs. I am not an expert in the kitchen at all so I tried to look up egg substitutes online. I found that you can use half a banana for one egg or a bit of applesauce. So, I chose the banana. The cookies turned out great! Rhys ate them and he hardly ever will eat a banana! I realized I could probably mix all kinds of things into a cookie recipe to get Rhys to eat fruit and veggies. I'm going to have to brainstorm! I know there is a book for ideas like this. I need to find it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bouncy House Meltdown

      Meltdowns are very common in this house. Our Rhys bear will have them usually everyday and usually with no warning at all! You never know what is going to set them off, and when you think you have it figured out, it changes. Stuffed animals with "weird eyes", reversing in a vehicle, a broken tile on a ceiling, drains on the street,  movie theatres, and shower nozzles are all things that have frightened him or sent him into meltdown status. Meanwhile, things that bother his brother and sister, like bees and scary movies, don't bother him at all!
      The most recent meltdown was a bouncy house. He has always LOVED bouncy houses. We did not see this coming. He went down the slide in the house of terrors and it didn't end there. I think he thought it should have ended right there. Unfortunately, there were a few more obstacles ahead. He had to climb up and go down one more slide while still inside. Nope, he wasn't having it. He froze and proceeded to scream "HELP ME, HELP ME". Yes, people were staring, as they normally do. Meltdowns seem to find a lot of attention from close minded people. Every now and then you get that sympathetic look of "I've been there". Somehow that can always be comforting and I try to do that for other frantic parents. Anyway, I'll get back to the house of terrors. Big brave daddy came to the rescue by climbing up the slide he refused to go down and pulling him up as if it were a rescue mission. He was saved! Poor guy.
     For most autistic kids it doesn't end there though. No, that would be too easy :) Now the bouncy house is a sign of anxiety and fear in Rhys' eyes. Anytime he sees one he will become a different person in a matter of seconds. He will cling to you like his life depends on it and he will watch it out of the corner of his eye as if it were going to attack him. I've noticed with Rhys that a new meltdown motive will only last a few months to a year and he will outgrow them. The new ones will then arise out of nowhere catching mom and dad off guard. Some people may be reading this and thinking, "wow, that seems like a lot of work." I think it makes life interesting. My husband and I have become very good at staying calm during these episodes and finding the humor in it all. You will often find us joking around and trying to make Rhys laugh when he is throwing a fit. This is our life, and we love it!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Finding the right toys for autistic children

Even as a parent, it can be tough to come up with what toys to buy your autistic child. There have been many purchases we have made over the years that are pretty much never touched by our Rhys. One thing that never fails with him are blocks. You can only have so many blocks! So, here's a great article I found on finding the right toys for the autistic child in your life!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Care package ideas

Here are some of my favorite care package ideas...

-Pictures (you, kids, house, anything familiar)
-Snacks such as chips, tuna packets, granola bars, nuts, beef jerky
-favorite magazines
-cologne, deodorant, lotions that they love, hair gel
-drawings/ letters from you kids or kids you know
-baked cookies (seal up well in tupperware with clear plastic wrap)
-stress relief balls and other fun gadgets ( I loved to get them from
-Sea monkeys (this one makes them smile. They don't make it home though so don't send them if you'll feel bad for the little things!)
-small fleece blankets (team logo's are great for this)
- small rugs or other items to spruce up their room or tent
-movies or tv series they love
-slippers and shower shoes
-nerf footballs
-comic books
-grow your own grass kits
-females love flower growing kits
-inspirational books/cards
-socks (army regs)
-crossword puzzles
-coffee/tea/hot chocolate mix
-reusable cups or mugs
-let your kids pick something fun out at the store and let them send it
-drink mixes such as crystal light
-silly putty
-create your own personalized book at ( I did this and it was a HUGE hit)

I know there are so many more things. Tell me what you would add....


What menus can do for you

I live off of lists, lists, lists. I have to be organized or I get overwhelmed and end up getting nothing done! One list I always make is my family's weekly menu. When I started writing down a weekly menu our grocery bill was cut in half! Not only that, I know what I will be making each evening for dinner so I can prepare accordingly. I always love looking at other's menus to get ideas for mine. So, here's my menu for this week! Yes, I'm odd and grocery shop on Thursdays. It is a day that usually has far less people at the commissary. :)

Thurs: Breakfast- Peanut butter toast on whole grain bread/Bananas
            Lunch- cheese/chicken quesadilla/ Sun chips
            Dinner-  Tacos

Fri:      Breakfast- Cereal/grapefruit
            Lunch- Turkey Club sandwich/apple/more Sun chips (LOVE them!)
            Dinner- Pizza night

Sat:      Breakfast- Waffles/eggs
            Lunch- Chicken nuggets/green beans/Bananas
            Dinner- Cheeseburgers/Fries/Baked Beans/Watermelon (cook out)

Sun:     Breakfast- Cinn rolls/grapes
             Lunch- mac n cheese (find a great homemade recipe!)/Peas/Oranges
             Dinner- Spaghetti & meatballs/salad/garlic bread

Mon:    Breakfast- Oatmeal or cereal/blueberries
             Lunch- Classic PB&J/ Bananas/cooked carrots
             Dinner- Baked Chicken/Pasta/Green Beans

Tues:    Breakfast- Pancakes/Strawberries
             Lunch- Spaghetti O's/ Cheese slices/ salad
             Dinner- Grilled Cheese and Tomato/ Soup/Corn

Wed:     Breakfast: Cinn toast/ grapes
              Lunch: Egg salad sandwich
              Dinner: Talapia ( so many great recipes for talapia online)/Sweet potato fries/ broccoli and 


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chance for military families with an autistic child to recieve a free ipad!

Moving again?!

It's that time of year! That time when many military families uproot their lives to settle somewhere else for a few years. My family is PCS'ing the summer and I feel so unprepared! This is our fourth PCS so you'd think I'd be more calm, but no, I'm a wreck! In the past we have always stayed in temporary lodging until we've moved on post or rented a home. This time my husband would like to try to buy a home. We also have pets. Of course for some reason army lodging almost never accepts pets so you have to figure out what to do with them. We have a dog and 3 guinea pigs. I'm crazy, yes. They all must go with us though! They are family :) So, we have to find a place to move into right away. Not only that, we never have the army move us. We do a dity move which means we pack up and move everything ourselves. We make money each time we do this and that is worth it to us. We have a lot of work ahead of us! I am already planning. I make a list of everything that needs to be done and break it down into weeks. I feel better knowing there is a plan. I need plans! In the army there are no plans, everything is last minute. So, I make plans in my personal life as much as possible. Although this move is stressful, it is super exciting at the same time. I can't wait to explore a new area, meet new people, and decorate a new house. Mind numbing but invigorating... that's how I would describe a PCS! The link below is a great resource for those of us with an upcoming pcs move.
 Here I am starting a new blog. I am looking forward to this soooo much! Autism became a part of our lives 3 years ago when our little boy was diagnosed. We knew nothing about it and became quite frightened. We have come such a long way since then. Rhys has autism, yes. I wouldn't change it for the world! That's who he is. He is the calm one in the family believe it or not. Yes, he has his melt downs (as they all do), but he is so mellow and happy. Happy is the word that best describes my boy. That's what you want for you kids... pure happiness!
I also have 2 other children that light up my world. They are in 4th and 2nd grade. They are my precious military brats! All they have known is army life and they seem to love most of it. Which leads me to the other love of my life, my dear husband. We are high school sweethearts and will be married 10 years this September! We've been through a lot, including 2 year long deployments, which have only made our love grow stronger. I am looking forward to inspiring others each day!