Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Introducing Herbie the Frog

All C1 asked Santa for was a froggy in a tank. C1 believed Santa would bring him one and Santa, at the very last minute, made sure a frog was under the tree on Christmas morning. The first thing C1 did for Herbie was to make a sign with his new frog's name. (I named Herbie before C1 saw him.) You can see the tape and the white oval that makes up the sign in this picture.

Our cat Simba thought the frog, the little gray blob at the back of the tank on the left hand side, was hers. Fortunately the tank has a wire mesh cover! The tag on the tank said the froggy is a red spotted frog.

She though Herbie was very interesting while he was under the tree. However, she hasn't visited Herbie up in C1's room where the frog now lives. As for my son, he was more skittish at first than our usually skittish Simba. He looked at Herbie from across the room, but eventually was able to get closer as you can see from the first picture.
Late in the day, I asked C1 if he was scared of the froggy or if he liked him.
"No I love Herbie," he said. When asked by relatives on the phone what he received for Christmas he would say, "I got what I wanted--a froggy in a tank!" Although he did receive some other gifts, he only talked about Herbie.
Long live the frog!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Feeding the Reindeer

My youngest son brought home some reindeer "feed" from Kindergarten. He and his older brother, 10, decided to put feeding the reindeer on the agenda for Christmas Eve.
They were quite proud of their offering and to my surprise the older one did not complain or tantrum when the younger one poured all the food out himself.

The "feed" looks quite a bit like oatmeal. If Santa's reindeer do not eat it, I imagine the regular local does or bucks that live in our city will be happy to find the the meal.

I promised the the Kindergartner that we would not throw the Reindeer food holder away. Maybe we refill it next year for another offering.
Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Poem: Deserts or Meadows

Image: Calligraphic Lion, Persia Nineteenth Century Giclee Print

Deserts or Meadows by J. Lorenzen

Bold one, bold one,
Bold one of my heart,
He puts me all together
He tears me all apart.

He brings out all my weaknesses,
but the strengths afterward flow.
So, across deserts or meadows
With him would I go.

He carries in the fire light,
And lights my curtained room,
Bold in the doorway
Bold in the gloom;

And bold as a lion,
Crouchful and low.
Across deserts or meadows
With him would I go.

Author's note: This latest adaptation was based on W.B. Yeats' poem To an Isle in the Water, which appeared in a book of Yeats poem titled: A Poet to His Beloved: The Early Poems of W.B. Yeats. Some of the poems were bittersweet because they reflected his unrequited love for Maud Donne, a woman who rejected his three marriage proposals.

Like Yeats, many of us parents of children with special needs love our children unconditionally, no matter what happens. I'm willing to go wherever my child and my love for him takes me. Fortunately, that love gives me the all necessary, but powerful strength to do so. This post concludes my weeklong series about meltdowns. If you missed my first Yeats adaptation titled When you Have Meltdowns and would like to see it, please go here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sharing an Article about Holiday Stress

Photo (to illustrate the last tip provided in the article): Our Christmas Countdown Calendar provides a fairly low key way to track the holidays. It's up a few feet above our living room entrance way. Usually our five year old who is not on the spectrum is the one who reminds mom to move the little Santa from pocket to pocket. The ten year with ASD likes it when we remember, but doesn't seem to notice when we forget to change it.
Holiday Stress
Meltdown week here at this blog was inspired by the holidays. I think it's a time that can inspire anyone, on the spectrum or not, to have a meltdown. Throw in flu and cold season and bad weather (for those of us in harsher winter climates) with the factors mentioned in the article and things can get extremely stressful to say the least.
The following is an article appearing in the most recent issue of Kid's World News. It's a publication featuring news from local schools. The mini newspaper, written for kids, comes home in both my boys' back packs. The following article was one adapted from one on, Nov/Dec 2005 and Texas Children's Hospital.

Here is the article:

"The holiday season is upon us, and for many families that may mean decorating the house, baking cookies and endless shopping trips. Mixed in with the constant holiday music, you may hear the faint strains of children (and adults) suffering from the stress of the season.

We all want our holidays to be unforgettable, filled with happiness, traditions and memories. But the truth is that holidays are filled with hustle, bustle and new routines, which can be a never-ending whirlwind of stress for children.

You can help your child (and maybe you!) beat the holiday stress by following a few simple tips:
  • Limit TV and video game time and increase physical activity and exercise time.

  • Remember your child's normal routines, and try not to interrupt them. Stress is often the result of routine changes over which your child has no control.

  • Don't allow yourself to get too busy to pay attention to your family's nutrition. When you factor in all the extra goodies available during the holidays, be sure to plan at least one healthy family meal every day so you are sure your child is getting the energy he/she needs. (Note: I suppose this may be very difficult or very easy depending on the food preferences of specific children.)

  • Family traditions are very important to you and your children. They offer great comfort and security for children when other routines are disrupted. Maybe your family tradition is putting up the tree, decorating cookies, or reading a special book. Be sure to make this family tradition all that it can be for your child.

  • Do occasional attitude checks, before the holidays get into full swing. Take a deep breath, and have everyone in the family agree to do their best to make the holiday season a time of joy and family peace.

  • Laugh a lot. Laughter is still the best way to beat stress and change everyone's mood from bad to good. Read the comics together, tell a daily joke, and lighten the mood with a smile. (From the blogs I read, I think many parents with children on the spectrum already know all about humor!)

  • If you are doing a "countdown" activity with our child, be sure it is low key and doesn't add so much anticipation that our child is stress or anxious."

A Book Excerpt: What Do I Do When My Child Loses Control

Below are some tips from the book "What Do I Do When my Child Loses control by Polly Greenberg. The book seems to be written for parents with typically developing children who are between the ages of 3-7. She calls the ideas outlined below "Tantrum Tamers." They aren't meant to address sensory or anxiety overload, but I believe that some of these ideas may work or be adapted for the child with autism--even those who are older than seven since many children with ASD are running a few years behind developmentally.

Greenberg writes:

"Here are some ideas that work for many parents. If your child won't go to an out of the way time out place:

1. Use reverse time out.

Walk out yourself. Shut yourself in a room where you have a good magazine to read, and enjoy it. keep one there, just in case. If necessary, take the baby, but it's better to leave your other children out of this, if possible.) After the storm has subsided and blue skies appear again, say nothing about the wild behavior. Move on in a friendly way.

My input: I like the idea of the reverse time out, but if the child is older and able to understand, it might be a good idea to actually talk about the wild behavior after the child has calmed down. Try to make sure you and your child have an idea of what caused the meltdown. (Writing down the factors surrounding a meltdown afterward may give you some insight.) While offering some reassurance, try to help your child understand why that behavior was unacceptable. This may help cut down on the probability that a tantrum or meltdown will happen over the exact same or during similar circumstances in the future.

2. Start time out after the tantrum has wound down.

Say, "You'll start your time out when your enough in control of yourself to go into your room." Later, say, " I see you've gotten yourself calm. Good. Now spend some time alone (as many minutes as equal the child's age), and figure out what to do next time you feel frustrated instead of having a fit. I'll give you the timer. Come back in x minutes if you feel ready."

My input: This is a really good idea because it might be hard for a child with ASD to stay in anyone place while melting down.

3. If this causes junior to renew his tantrum, go through the same procedures again.

Don't discuss anything with your child. Don't reward this unacceptable behavior with your attention. (is there anything a child considers more rewarding?) state what is now going to happen and make it happen.

My input: During the meltdown or tantrum, sometimes it's impossible to get a word in edgewise. I suggest trying to remain calm and doing one's best to make sure the child is safe (a reverse time out may not work, if a child is a danger to himself.)

4. Give a choice: time out of the loss of something he likes.

(The video he usually gets to watch one afternoon a week? the pack of sugar-free gum he gets on Saturdays?) If your child weighs almost as much as you do, or you have a bad back or some such, say, "You can go to time out right now or you can skip the video, your choice."

My input: This might work after the child has calmed down and can understand choices, which are often difficult for children with ASD to make--especially younger children.

Note: The book is only 48 pages long and is easy to read. However, it was published in 1997 by Scholastic Books and seems to be out of print. It only seems to be available on Ebay with a January 15, 2009 deadline for purchasing ($1, plus $4 for U.S. shipping).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Essay: What Meltdowns Mean to Me

A friend, who is a non-native English speaker, once asked me to define what I meant by the word meltdown. I suppose I could have merely said the word tantrum and she would have understood. I suppose the words tantrum and meltdown can technically be exchangeable. On one hand, the word meltdown merely seems to a more politically correct word than tantrum. On the other hand, the word meltdown seems to infer something else entirely.

After witnessing and enduring the meltdowns of my child with autism for many years, I started to think that maybe there is a subtle difference between the tantrum and the meltdown. Tantrum means one is being naughty because the person either didn't get what they wanted or they felt that people (i.e. mom or dad) were being unfair. Trust, me, a child with autism can still be naughty and use tantrums to manipulate. I know that from experience too.

But, meltdowns, the way I'm thinking of them do not generally indicate manipulation. Meltdowns indicate a complete and total loss of control of one's emotions when the person becomes completely overwhelmed by a situation. They can occur as a result of a trigger such as a super loud sound, a change of routine, or a profound disappoint. Sometimes those triggers are easy to foresee and a parent can guide a child smoothly past them without difficulty. Sometimes they are hidden and kaboom a meltdown hits.

Sometimes the meltdown happens privately as in one's own home. That is the location I think most parents and likely individuals would prefer. Sometimes, though, they happen publicly with varying results. If one is fortunate, bystanders will either ignore the situation or offer to help. If one is less fortunate, someone will utter a nasty comment about the person's behavior or the adult's apparent lack of control. It's also possible that security may (at least try to) escort those involved in the chaos off of the public property.

It's not always possible, I have discovered, to be completely in control when one's child vents in public. Sometimes it is quite possible to end up in a crappy situation and an embarrassing meltdown moment occurs. Sometimes they turn out alright and the person out of control will be able to function after venting for a few minutes or more.

Ultimately, I believe the word meltdown definitely deserves a definition separate from tantrum. I liked this definition on urban dictionary for meltdown: "1. Describes what happens when a person freaks out, cracks, loses control of themselves. Life - reality at large- becomes overwhelming. They just can't deal with it all. The person may act out, withdraw, become emotional, run, etc... "

A word of caution though: While perusing the same site, I also ran into another definition of meltdown: "something that is crazy fun or really tight. Usually said when having a good time."

Oh right. If someone in the autism community used meltdown to invoke that meaning, I would probably be downright confused. Meltdowns in the freaking out sense of the word has been part of my world far too long. Now that my child is ten, they don't happen as much. We've become much better at techniques in regards to handling meltdowns. Don't get me wrong though. Meltdowns are still difficult around here when they occur. I dread them and somewhat fear them, but it's a part of my world I do my best to accept and endure with as much compassion as possible.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Poem: When You Have Meltdowns

When you have Meltdowns by J. Lorenzen

When you have meltdowns and fire and discord in your soul

And raging from the core, find my soft look

And slowly calm and get off the path took

You find your way and fury does go

How I love your moments of pure delight

And find the beauty with love true and true

My one one heart loves my child that is you

And spites the sorrows of your fearsome fight

And not seeing down the curving road

Sigh, a little, sadly, how love prevails

And face toward the mountains autism entails

And find your story amidst many told.

Note: This poem is one I wrote to kick off my week long series on meltdowns. I wish I could say the poem is an original, but must admit it is a derivative of W.B. Yeats' work When you are Old. I bought a book of his poetry while visiting his hometown in Sligo, Ireland and found his poem about unconditional love to be endearing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Chance to State Ideas about Health Care and Autism

They asked. We should take the time to answer.

"Tell us your ideas and be part of the change you are looking for," the box on, the website for President elect Barrack Obama and Vice President elect Joe Biden, states. I know that parents and advocates have a lot of ideas of how the health issue of autism should be handled in the United States. There is a button on the box that allows people to submit their ideas.

Here are some of the ideas that the incoming administration has outlined in terms of what the administration's approach to health care in general will be:

  • Require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions so all Americans regardless of their health status or history can get comprehensive benefits at fair and stable premiums.
  • Create a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees.
  • Lower costs for businesses by covering a portion of the catastrophic health costs they pay in return for lower premiums for employees.
  • Prevent insurers from overcharging doctors for their malpractice insurance and invest in proven strategies to reduce preventable medical errors.
  • Make employer contributions more fair by requiring large employers that do not offer coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of their employees' health care.
  • Establish a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage.
    Ensure everyone who needs it will receive a tax credit for their premiums.

There are many topics that can be addressed in regards to autism. Autism Society of America has outlined a few ideas of what to write. You can find them at this link.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Visiting Santa 2008

Photo: C2 visits with Santa Clause in the Town Square of Mt. Pleasant Michigan.

Photo: C1 (who still believes) tells Santa what he wants for Christmas. Both boys were given small Candy Canes by an elf that looked to be C1's age (ten). The elf seemed to know what school
C1 attends, but didn't seem to know that C2 is a Kindergartner at the same school.

Visiting Santa
The digital sign in front of a local bank said seventeen degrees (or minus eight degrees Celsius), but still we waited for about a half an hour before it was our turn to go into the little red house where Santa talked to the children. It was just after five Mt. Pleasant's annual downtown Dickens Festival just began. A manifestation of Mr. E. Scrooge with a light hearted
Bah Humbug!' manner visited with children and their parents as they waited. A local news crew interrupted the line for a few minutes to interview Santa. The camera man found a few moments to cue a group of children that included our two sons to wave at the camera. (It was a live newscastn we'll ever get to see.)
Anyway, the most important question the newsman asked Santa this year was:
Q. Are you giving out lumps of coal this year?

A. Well, given the recent energy crisis, I'm going to have to give stones instead of coal this year.
The most important question that Santa asked my boys was of course:
Q. What do you want for Christmas?
A. (From C2, who went first): I want a Ben 10 watch and a kitty.
A. (From C1): I want a froggy in a tank.
The bottom line: I'm not sure if Santa delivers live pets. If he doesn't, he didn't tell my boys that. We shall see what's under the tree on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Photo (of part of our backyard): A winter wonderland may mask a day of serious dismay!

Sameness seems to sooth my ten-year-old son's autistic soul. Changes challenge him. I suspect for many spirits on the spectrum, routines rule the day. Odd happenings like school delays and cancellations (as we encountered two days ago as a result of a snow storm) throw the person with Autism Spectrum Disorder off balance.
Predictability presents the opportunity to understand what is going on in one's world. Unpredictability upsets everything and brings anxiety to the surface. This applies to both the person on the spectrum and for everyone surrounding them.
How is one's child going to react to a two hour delay? Will a refusal to attend school threaten to ruin every one's morning? Or will showing a visual schedule, a visual clue (television announcement of the delay) or a social story help with understanding and acceptance of the new situation?

Social stories and schedules can help, but they do not necessarily (as I have found) guarantee a smooth day that has radically changed for the person on the spectrum. The techniques may help get the child through the morning, but the stress of trying to accept the situation may wear him or her down by the afternoon--especially if there are two substitute teachers filling in for the well known ones (as was the case for us).

So, perfect behavior in the morning can turn into shouting announcements into heating vents (for the echo effect) or hiding behind a display board. A trip to a time out room may ensue as well as a note to the parent (such as one I received) that the student had a so-so day. A (much appreciated in our case) social story that explains the the unacceptable behaviors and their consequences to the child (to be read as homework) also may be attached to the daily agenda. The goal of the social story is that the behaviors will not be repeated in the future--despite the predictability or unpredictability of any given day.

So a great morning despite the occurrence of unpredictability may change into a so-so day or a not so good day for the student, much to a parents dismay. The only thing to do is to hold on to the tools and techniques that may or may not work and to pray for a tomorrow of predictability.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Irish Website Spotted on Bumper Sticker!

Photo: My friend Jerry Y., an avid photographer, took this photo of the back of a bus in Dublin, Ireland. It is the only bit of autism awareness we spotted on our trip, although I don't suppose one encounters much autism awareness at castles, cathedrals and gift shops!

As much as I support the cause, I needed to get away from autism and all the work that goes with being an advocate for a little while. That is one of a few reasons why I went to Ireland a few weeks ago. However, actually getting away didn't stop me (a proud mother of one son on the spectrum and one son who is not) from thinking about autism, talking about it, or looking for signs of autism awareness.

I didn't spot the bumper sticker above, but one of my travelling companions whom I spoke to about autism (and my son) did. It was the only sign of autism awareness spotted on the trip, though the site provides proof in the form of links that there is more than just this one website in regards to autism awareness. Thankfully, my friend and travelling companion snapped a shot of it and shared the photo with me or I probably would not have thought to blog about this site.

The website,, featured in the photo is indeed of Irish origins. The owner lives in Dublin. The site has links to Irish sites as well as the following quote:

"In Ireland over 2,000 people have been diagnosed with Autism and each year this figure continues to grow. Until recently, very little help or support was available for families affected by Autism, and many were left to cope with it by themselves. Help is now at hand."

My thoughts: The home page is a little weak in regards to content, but the page explaining the basics of autism is excellent (informative, but easy to read), which is why I linked to that one instead. The other pages are great too. I especially appreciated the lack of inoffensive language and noncontroversial icons. (There are no ribbons or puzzle pieces to be seen.) I liked the pictures appearing on the site: an open window with the sun peaking in and a train chugging along at the top of the page. Further I found the slogan to be thoughtful. It reads as follows:

"Don't leave them behind."

Despite being rather impressed with the website, I found the homepage titled "who we are" to be a bit vague. I would have liked to have known if the owner was part of an association or if he is a parent. The only clue to be found on the home page is that the site represents a partnership with the H.O.P.E. Project in Cork, Ireland. Other than that one clue there are plenty of ads although there is a helpful directory to the other pages which are labelled "therapy available,""what about support," "useful links," "all things medical," and "contact us" (all that is on that page is an email address).

All in all it seems to be a good website with helpful content that I'd recommend to other parents, friends or family members of a person with autism. I'm glad that I was able to share it with readers.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Pictured: The Swing by Jean-Honore Fragonard, 1767.

Admittedly, I took longer to adjust being home from vacation than my boys (including the one with autism) took adjusting to my being home. My older one (should I call him C1?) had a meltdown on the way from the airport and another one the next day. We think it had to do with him trying to get control of the situation. My five year old (C2) proceeded to be my shadow for two days before going back to playing with his brother more. My husband was just glad to see me again.

As for me, I slept from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Friday night to Saturday morning and felt much better. It took me 35 hours to get home (a combination of layovers at airports and flights) and I only was able to sleep for about for of those hours. Further, there is a five hour time difference between Ireland and Mid-Michigan (Eastern Standard Time). Now that a week has gone by since my arrival I feel much more rested.

While I was catching up with my rest there were duties to be done besides cooking and cleaning. I had an appointment to pay for new blinds on Monday, a parent-teacher conference for little C2 on Tuesday, and a dentist appointment for C1 on Thursday. All of those activities went fairly well--even the dentist appointment.

Next Up? Now that I've caught up with the type of housecleaning that only the head house cleaner (me) does, I have to work at putting up photos from Ireland on my Facebook site and also work to catch up with some autism work before Thanksgiving festivities take over next week. In terms of autism duties I have to figure out what topics to address next on this blog, help schedule a Max's Place field trip for December (it looks like we'll be roller skating), and check in with the executive board for Central Michigan Autism Society of America to see what needs to be done next.

Am hoping to do some more autism-related rather than personal type of posts in the near future. Does anyone out there have a suggestion? If you have a autism-related question, I will do my best to answer it. Hope to hear from you soon.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back Home From Ireland

Below: The best of my bunch of photographs, a photo of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. Don't let the blue November sky fool you. It rained all but two or three days during my trip (November 4-14,2008). Fortunately, sunny days and good light for photography prevailed during our two days in Dublin.

Above: There I am. Almost every place we went to provided for an excellent photo opportunity.

Ireland was so beautiful despite the prevalence of overcast skies!

I've been in recovery mode for the last three days since returning from my 12 day trip. I spent ten days in Ireland and the other two travelling. Whew. I'll be happy to not see another airport again for awhile. Am also glad to be able to sleep in my own bed after trying rather unsuccessfully to sleep on planes and in an airport.

The trip to Ireland was fantastic. I could write a book about it and did write quite a bit in my personal, old fashioned journal that I brought along with me. I brought back a lot of small gifts and did some Christmas shopping while in Ireland. My husband and I are not looking forward to the credit card bill! However, I'm quite happy with the stuff I bought.

Shopping wise, the best site was at Connemara Marble. We toured the small workshop and heard a lecture about marble from a charming, older gentleman called Ambrose Joyce. I bought many items from the shop including Celtic crosses, necklaces with Irish symbols, small shamrocks, worry stones and a Claddagh ring (view a picture and read about its history by clicking on the link). The sales staff were polite and helpful and Mr. Joyce himself gave us a charming send off by standing in the doorway and waving.

I saw some amazing sites while there. Loved the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry. Galway and the Connemara regions were pretty fantastic too. Other highlights were castles, cathedrals and monastic grounds. The cemeteries dotted with Celtic crosses were fascinating too. WE also visited the grave site of W.B. Yeats located in Sligo. There wasn't a cross at the poet's grave, but rather a statue.

It was so windy during that particular visit in Sligo that my umbrella turned inside out four times! All my photos of that site were poor and grainy, which is probably due to my habit of taking photos with disposable cameras. The weather in Ireland was rainy and windy much of the time though we had two sunny days in Dublin at the end of our trip. Thank goodness for that!!

Over the course of my trip I spotted more sheep than I could count. There are pastures with sheep all over that country. I'll always remember the sheep of Ireland!I brought a stuffed lamb with a black face back for my youngest son. I managed to find just one stuffed frog for my frog lover. Of course they received a few other things as well including an Irish whistle, a green hat with Ireland written across it, a t-shirt, and a signed book about leprechauns. I'll always remember the sheep in Ireland!

The food in Ireland was good and plentiful. There proportions almost outdid the ones we receive in the United States. I never had so many parsnips (a root vegetable) in my life. The parsnips usually were sliced up and cooked with sliced carrots. I also had plenty of potatoes, chicken and brown bread. We also had dessert every evening. A favorite of mine was cheesecake. The portions in Ireland were huge--just like here in the U.S.

I travelled on a tour with 24 other people plus a driver/tour guide. The driver was amazing--driving and talking for hours on end and making sure things ran smoothly in between driving and managing our luggage. I met many great people and two not so great ones. They insisted on sitting in the front seat every day despite an announcement at the beginning of the trip asking people to change seats every day so that everyone would have a chance to get a good view from the front. The excuse was that one of them had motion sickness, but I suspect there were others on the trip who could have obviously been more comfortable up front.

One of those two "ladies" pushed me three times trying to get ahead of me in line at a crowded restaurant. It was too crowded to make a scene, but I spoke to her on the bus afterward and let her know on uncertain terms that I did not like what she did. My anger dispersed immediately and I didn't have a problem with her after that, though I started to suspect she might have this condition. She claimed to other travellers that she didn't do anything wrong!

Fortunately, other than some rude behaviors, the twosome was mostly quiet and quite punctual. Everyone in the trip was on time every day which made for smoother touring. Everyone else was pleasant and made for excellent travel companions. At least half of my fellow travellers were from Iowa. Only six of the twenty five were men. Five of the six were married. I did make what I hope will be lasting friendships.

It was great having a vacation from cooking, cleaning and taking care of a family, but now I'm very glad to be home. We have all seemed to have made the adjustment to me being home again. My older son had a mild meltdown on the way back home from picking me up from the airport, and another meltdown the next day. Now, however, he has seemed to adjusted to my being back.

One side effect of the trip was that my son with autism developed a fixation on chandeliers. I told him during a phone call while I was still in Ireland that there were a lot of castles. Right away he asked me if I saw a chandelier in any of the castles. I said no and tried to explain about electricity and that some of the castles I saw didn't have any remaining roofs. There weren't any chandeliers in the Blarney castle, but I did see one of the old fashioned variety (designed for candles, not crystals) in the Donegal Castle. That provided an excellent opportunity to talk about modern conveniences.

In all I loved Ireland and would love to return someday. Other dream vacations include trips to England, Scotland, The United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, Paris, France, and Costa Rica. Unfortunately, I'll probably only be able to go on a big trip every two years or so if I'm so blessed.

The question for this post is where would you go if you could? : )

P.S. Yes, I kissed the Blarney Stone.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Goodbye Ireland

Dear Readers:

Today is the day my group returns. We should be excited and exhausted, but also a little sad that the much anticipated trip is coming to an end. My thanks goes to Nawas Travel for a marvelous trip.

It was a dream come true. This is the last of my scheduled posts. I probably won't blog for five or six days after tomorrow, November 14. I'll have jet lag and lots of work to catch up on. Thanks for reading this series. Hope you enjoyed learning the details of my trip.

To my boys:

I'm on a big plane flying over an ocean again! There's a little surprise for you in the bottom drawer of the old dresser (in front of the window) for each of you--dad included. It's orange Tic Tacs for you boys and sour candies for your dad. I'll see you tomorrow! I'll bring presents.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Image: The Book of Kells

Dear Readers,

Alas, my travels in Ireland are almost over. Last, but not least, is Dublin. This is the city I've heard the most about. My impression is that it has a lot history, culture and charm. Am hoping I won't be disappointed. We'll spend the morning at Trinity College and will view the famous Book of Kells. We'll also see St. Patrick's Cathedral, Phoenix Park and the Georgian Squares of Merrion and Fitzwilliam.

We'll have the afternoon free for independent exploration. My friend from Mt. Pleasant, who is my roomate and primary travelling companion would like to sgo to the famous old pub called Brazenhead. Neither one of us drinks much but we'll probably enjoy being there for the music and the right to say we had a pint in Ireland.

Dear Lorenzen Boys: I'll see you in two days. Hope you all are well. I'm excited about seeing you again. Have dad click on the link for Phoenix Park to see great pictures.
Note: I'm taking a vacation in Ireland, but have scheduled some posts to be published. My husband, Michael, will be home to take our two boys to school. Michael might write a post or two while I'm gone. Please feel free to comment while I'm gone. They'll be published. : )

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Dear readers,

I have only two days left in Ireland before returning home. Today my twenty four travelling companions and I will pass by a scenic waterway called Lough Erne, pass through Cavan and Kells and may spend some time in Navan, residence of the Irish High Kings. We'll arrive in Dublin, our final destination, at the end of the day.

As you might have realized, I have written all my post for Nov 2-14 ahead of time. It was a bloggy marathon as I wrote them all in one day! I thought my boys, in particular, might like to see some links to images of things I have seen.

To my boys:

Only three more days will go. I know your dad is taking great care of you, but I miss you all the same. I love you very, very, very much.

Monday, November 10, 2008

County Donegal

Dear readers,

Here is what my itinerary says for today:

"Enjoy a drive today through County Donegal where the variety of scenery is a never ending delight. You'll continue along Donegal Bay to the dramatically beautiful hills of Donegal and view the magnificent coastline, majestic mountains, deep glens and shimmering lakes which merge in a tumult of beauty. Your tour takes you through the fishing village of Killybegs, the picturesque town of Glenties and through the magnificent mountain scenery of Blue Stack range before returning to Sligo for the night."

To the Lorenzen boys:

I'll be home in four days and am looking very forward to seeing you. I'm taking plenty of pictures and I'm looking forward to showing them to you.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

W.B. Yeats and an Autism Book

Today I'm going to visit the home of W.B. Yeats which reminds me of one of the first autism books I've ever read. My beloved husband, a librarian for the library at Central Michigan University, checked this book out for me shortly after my son was diagnosed back in 2004. The book was brand new then. His goal was to give me hope. It took awhile but hope eventually sunk in, and I never did forget about this book.
The full title is Autism And Creativity: Is There a Link between Autism in Men and Exceptional Ability. It was written by Michael Fitzgerald who taught (and may still teach) at Trinity College in Dublin. While the author included chapters on the diagnosis of autism and psychology of autism, his most fascinating chapters focus on the following figures from history: Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sir Keith Joseph, Eamon de Valera, an Irish leader from the 20th century, Author Lewis Carroll, the Indian mathematician Ramanujan, the notorious Adolph Hitler, and the Irish Poet William Butler Yeats. Although at least one of the figures are controversial, it's fascinating to read Fitzerald's arguments as to why he believes these men in particular had Asperger's Syndrome or mild autism.
Here is a related link followed by a sample of Yeats's Poetry:
Love's Loneliness by William Butler Yeats
Old fathers, great-grandfathers,
Rise as kindred should.
If ever lover's loneliness
Came where you stood,
Pray that Heaven protect us
That protect your blood.
The mountain throws a shadow,
Thin is the moon's horn;
What did we remember
Under the ragged thorn?
Dread has followed longing,
And our hearts are torn.
To the Lorenzen Boys: I love you and I'll see you in five days.
Note: I'm taking a vacation in Ireland, but have scheduled some posts to be published during my trip from November 2-14, 2008. My husband, Michael, will be home to take our two boys to school. Michael might write a post or two while I'm gone. Please feel free to comment while I'm gone. They'll be published. : )

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Connemara and Aran knits

Dear Readers:

If I'm destined to buy any Aran knits (which are supposed to be famous, although I've never heard of them until signing up for this trip), I'll probaby do so today when we shop in Connemara. Connemara, as you may know, is the place where St. Patrick fasted for 40 days and nights.

Dear Lorenzen Boys,

I'll see you in six days! I miss you love you so very much. Do you remember when we read about St. Patrick in a book? I bet you do! Please remember to water the plants again.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cliffs of Moher

Note: I'm taking a vacation in Ireland, but have scheduled some posts to be published. My husband, Michael, will be home to take our two boys to school. Michael might write a post or two while I'm gone. Please feel free to comment while I'm gone. They'll be published. : )

Dear Readers:

Today I'll get to linger at hundreds of feet above the see at the Cliffs of Moher. My group and I will also get to see Galway, known as "the principal city of western Ireland located at the entrance to Connemara.

Dear Lorenzen Boys:

I love you very, very, very much. To see great pictures, tell dad to click on the link! I will see you in seven days. Is that still your favorite number Boo?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Getting by Without Julie

This is Michael. I am posting in Julie's absence as she visits Ireland. Things are going well here. The boys have adjusted well to Julie being gone and their daily routines are going on as they always have.

A few stories:

From my post Voting in the 2008 Presidential Election at the American Presidents Blog:

Despite predictions of long lines due to a high registration rate of college students in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, there was no line. We got right through and I was able to vote immediately. I will not reveal who I voted for but both of my boys gave me advice on the way in on who to vote for in the Presidential race. This did not surprise me as both boys have been following the election and have been making political comments for months. (At 5, I was not doing this! The world has changed!)

My youngest asked me after we left, "Who won?" I said I did not know yet. He was disappointed. He thought we would know right away. Hopefully, we will know tomorrow at this time. But who can tell? It might be another cliffhanger. Regardless, I voted. And my sons are proud.

I did not add the following to that post:

My oldest who is on the Autism spectrum was well behaved for the most part. While I was voting however he started yelling, "Your attention please! It is time to vote. Please vote for (name withheld!)" I silenced him immediately. Thankfully, he complied!

When I took the ballot to the tabulation machine, the same son got concerned. The machine looks like a shredder. He yelled, "Oh no, they are shredding your vote Dad!" Both the election official and myself assured him that this was not the case.

Julie called today. The boys enjoyed talking with her. They sent her e-mail last night with me typing for the younger boy. I think we can manage another week. :]

The Ring of Kerry

Note: I'm taking a vacation in Ireland, but have scheduled some posts to be published. My husband, Michael, will be home to take our two boys to school. Michael might write a post or two while I'm gone. Please feel free to comment while I'm gone. They'll be published. : )

This is written on my agenda for Thursday, November 6:

"Today you have an opportunity to enjoy what is perhaps Ireland's most breathtaking tour. Spend a full day exploring the 109-mile "Ring of Kerry," encircling the Iveragh Peninsula, a panorama of spectacular coastal and mountain scenery along golden beaches. You will pass beautiful lakes, quaint little villages and drive along the rugged Atlantic shore before returning to Killarney."

Dear Lorenzen boys:

I haven't seen any leprechauns yet, and probably will not be lucky enough to catch a glimpse. I hear they can be quite mean sometimes, so perhaps it's best if I don't come across one. I will see you in eight days. You can have dad click on the link to see what I really did get to see today. I love you very, very, very, much.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To Kiss or Not to Kiss

Dear readers:

My friend really wants me to do this, but I think I'll pass (even though I could use the gift of eloquent speech that one is supposed to be blessed with after kissing the stone) due to plethora of germs that are bound to be lurking there. Also, there is the coordination thing of leaning over quite a ways to reach the stone.

The stone is part of the Blarney castle (click link for pictures). We'll also see the Waterford Glass Factory, the "lovely old city of Cork before driving to Killarney.

Update from Michael: She kissed the stone. Dang! I do not need her more eloquent when she argues with me!

Dear Lorenzen Boys: I'm sure every time I see a boy that is one of your ages I'll miss you even more if that is possible. I love you very, very, very much. I'll see you in nine days. P.S. I used Google Images for all my links today, so you'll be able to see a lot of beautiful pictures.

Note: I'm taking a vacation in Ireland, but have scheduled some posts to be published. My husband, Michael, will be home to take our two boys to school. Michael might write a post or two while I'm gone. Please feel free to comment while I'm gone. They'll be published. : )

Posted by J at 12:51 PM

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Views from My Coach Window

Note: I'm taking a vacation in Ireland, but have scheduled some posts to be published. My husband, Michael, will be home to take our two boys to school. Michael might write a post or two while I'm gone. Please feel free to comment while I'm gone. They'll be published. : )

My itinerary says coach, but whenever I see the word I think of the old-fashioned kind pulled by horses. The word bus brings up a stronger image in my mind. I know a common practice to use coach instead of bus when travelling and I suspect that although English is the primary language in Ireland, I'll hear some words I'm not used to hearing.

Anyway this is what we'll see today: the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough (which translates to 'glen of the two lakes'), the Calary bog, and the fishing port of Arklow. I'm sure I'll be enjoying some breathtaking views today. During my web searches I've noticed that County Wicklow is referred to as the Garden of Ireland.

To the Lorenzen Boys: Tell dad to click on the link for Wicklow Mountains to see lots of pictures. There is also at least one pretty picture on the other two links as well. Please remember to water our plants after reading this post. I love you very, very, very much and will be home in ten days.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Am Flying Today

Photo: Halloween 2008. Maybe there was a conscious reason why I chose this costume this year. Consciously, I picked it because it seemed to be one of the modest costumes in the stores.
Day 2
Dear readers:
Too bad my wings don't really work! Please keep me in your thoughts and/or prayers while I travel. I've been in jetliners, but have never flown over an ocean before.
Dear Lorenzen boys:
I'm going to fly during the night on a really big plane. I'll get to see a movie while I fly, but I don't know which one yet. I'll be in Ireland tomorrow and will return home in eleven more days. I love you very, very, very much. : )
Note: I'm taking a vacation in Ireland, but have scheduled some posts to be published. My husband, Michael, will be home to take our two boys to school. Michael might write a post or two while I'm gone. Please feel free to comment while I'm gone. They'll be published. : )

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Am on My Way to Ireland!

Note: I'm taking a vacation in Ireland, but have scheduled some posts to be published. My husband, Michael, will be home to take our two boys to school. Michael might write a post or two while I'm gone. Please feel free to comment while I'm gone. They'll be published. : )

Dear readers:

Today my friend and I will spend the day in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area with my friend's cousin and boyfriend. Hopefully, we'll probably see at least part of the Mall of America, a sculpture garden and a quirky little restaurant stocked with board games.

Dear Lorenzen Boys:

I love you very, very much! I'll be home in twelve days. Ask dad to show you what the Mall of America looks like. Here is a web page with a lot of pictures of the mall.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Diagnosis Story

This morning I shared my family's experience as a panelist with a classroom full of college students taking an early childhood class. Two other parents shared their stories as well. I told them my ten-year-old son with autism was a better speaker than I and meant every word. I missed my little shining star.

Mostly I shared the reasons behind our delayed diagnosis and pointed out my son may have been a stronger candidate for full inclusion in the schools if he had been able to get more early intervention. My major point, however, was that early childhood education teachers (both a special education and a regular education teachers) played a stronger role in both identifying the delays and the reasons and providing early intervention than the doctors did.

To make a long story short, our family doctor had no clue why my son had some delays. He wanted me to go to a psychologist who was going to charge $1000 to implement a diagnostic survey. My insurance would've only paid $400 of that amount. So, I thought that we could do without seeing the psychologist.

Instead I enrolled my child in a regular preschool program. She noticed that he was delayed and had a speech therapist watch him. That therapist agreed my son could use some intervention so the teacher helped us get an assessment done by our school system. An Individualized Educational Plan meeting was set up and my son was enrolled in an early childhood program.

Then we moved three months after he began the program. We brought the IEP with us. We decided that maybe my son should see a pediatrician instead of a family doctor. That doctor listened carefully to my concerns and suggested that my son might have autism. I thought 'no way' because I thought autism applied only to people with more challenging autistic traits.

After looking at the survey she gave me I changed my mind. After looking at my answers, she suggested we see a developmental doctor in Ann Arbor. It took eleven months to get in. The developmental doctor exasperated us when he said he liked to see children come in at a much younger. My son was six years old at the time. I would have liked to come in much sooner too, but that was not meant to be.

While we were waiting to see the developmental pediatrician I had a fall conference with my son's preschool teacher. All the therapists (occupational, speech, etc.) were there. I was going to tell them I thought my child had autism and they were going to tell me the same thing! So an assessment team of four professionals was assembled and each spent twenty hours observing my son in our home and the classroom as well as reviewing his case. He qualified as AI (Autistic Impaired). He was five and a half at the time.

Besides sharing the diagnosis story, I also told the class that my son spends half a day in regular education and half a day in special education and that he also gets speech, occupational and physical therapy. I added that I have been happy with my son's progress since the day he began the the special education program. I also talked a little bit on the subject of siblings and marriage. I think the students appreciated our stories, although I think I would have enjoyed having my son (who was in school at the time) talk more so than talking to the students by myself.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Bloggy birthday

A year ago today I started this blog with this post. My husband renewed my domain for ten more years, so I suppose I'll be around for many more years. Ten or eleven sounds like a long time, but I'll be married for thirteen years in December and that time has seemed to go really fast.

I've learned a lot about autism over this year just by blogging. I've also developed some special interest areas such as grief, stress, adults with autism, and girls with autism. Best of all I've met great bloggers, most of whom, I mentioned on this post.

I went to three funerals including one for my own father. One was on Christmas Eve for a young boy, age 8, with autism. We honored the little boy at an event I helped to organize. I blogged about that here. The other funeral was for my beloved aunt. Needless to say it's been a difficult year.

Moving on to a cheerier topic, the popularity of some pages have surprised me. These are the three that seems to be visited the most: Girl with Asperger's Syndrome Eliminated from America's Next Top Model; Just for Fun: Asperger's Syndrome Test; and; Aqua Dots: Moon Sand and Floam Saved us from Potential Danger .

Most importantly, though, I started this blog on Make a Difference Day with the hopes that I'd help to make a difference through this endeavor. I think I did (this may be apparent if you check out most of my posts for the month of April--Autism Awareness month), though it's impossible to know how much.

My ultimate goal now is to continue to blog from year to year. It's not easy to keep going. Blogging burnout is common throughout the blogosphere. But I'm hoping to be around for awhile and hopefully make a few more blogging friends along the way.

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Embarassing Meltdown Moment

My son has had three meltdowns in front of his school since April. I'm lucky that I've only gotten offers of help or sympathetic looks while this is happening. Mostly, I think all three of the meltdowns happened because he often has trouble transitioning from school to home and because on those particular three days he faced circumstances that were overwhelming.

Our last meltdown happened after school on Tuesday. I think he was upset because we forgot to tell him ahead of time that he would be in his MiCi room all day instead of spending the morning in his third grade classroom before going to his special education room in the afternoon. The third graders were taking the standardized MEAP test. My son takes a modified version, so he needed to be in the special education room which was the best place to take the specialized version.

He struggled with the first and second days of the MEAP testing although he didn't have a meltdown after school. That happened the third day when we forgot to warn him ahead of time about the change. He does better when he gets advance warning about changes.

I was not expecting frustrations to come flying at me the minute I saw him. The minute I spoke to my guy I knew that a meltdown was almost inevitable. He told me to go away. So I walked away for about 100 feet or so before returning, but that wasn't enough in his opinion. He wanted me to walk all the way home and then come back. It would have taken me five minutes or so. Sometimes we walk to school. Sometimes we drive. That day I happened to walk, not knowing what the future held.

I might have accommodated my son, but I had to pick up my kindergartner. So I made an attempt with my son trailing me and screaming for me to go back home. My younger son's teacher said she could keep him awhile so that I could calm my older one down. So I left my little one for a bit while I tried to calm my other one, but nothing I said or did would do unless I granted his request. So, I gave up trying to calm down the older one and picked my little guy up while my furious one tried to prevent me from doing so.

None of that was embarrassing to me. I'm doing my best to get used to meltdowns in public. They are not fun, but most of the time we manage or "muddle through" as I sometimes like to say. I managed to get my son to walk with my little guy for a little ways. However, he plopped himself belly down on the grass and sobbed before we even left the school grounds. I knelt down to rub his back and talk in a soothing voice while making sure my little guy stayed safe and nearby.

After about a minute of this, I noticed an awful smell. It didn't take long for me to discover that I had about a six inch trail of dog poo (between my ankle and knee) on my jeans. Ugh. I was so busy trying to shepherd both boys through the chaos, that I hadn't paid attention to where I was kneeling! This is where the embarrassment comes in...

My son still refused to come with me, but I couldn't stand having poo on my leg, so I walked home as fast as I could with my little one in tow. Then, I jumped in my van and picked up the older one who finally was ready to go home. Yes, I left him for a few minutes, but I was pretty sure he wasn't going anywhere. Kidnappers are more likely target an easy to claim victim rather than a tantruming ten year old who wouldn't budge from his spot.

The secretary was with him when I returned. I felt sheepish that I hadn't told her what was going on. However, I really stunk of dog crap and I've always been uncomfortable around the secretary who is not exactly a warm, fuzzy person. I thanked her quickly and guided my charge to our mini van.

Most of the time my son's meltdowns have happened at home, so having one happen in public is sort of hard--especially when my vehicle isn't nearby. I suppose I could have handled matters a little better, but I muddled through it the best I could. The important thing is that my story has a happy ending.

I was able to get us all home safely. My son calmed down, and I was able to disinfect my icky jeans and put on a clean pair. If another public meltdown occurs, I know I'll handle things a little better while being more than aware of where I sit or stand. There's nothing quite like learning from one's mistakes!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Favorite Activity: Teaching College Students

This past Monday, my son with Autism Spectrum Disorder 'taught' a class again. Reaching out to future teachers is something he and I (and the rest of my family) really enjoy doing. This time instead of going to Central Michigan University, we drove 20 miles south to Alma College to teach an evening classroom of future general education teachers who are taking a course on special education. We were invited by the instructor, whose wife happens to teach my son's MiCI class. She attended our presentation and was able to provide a few insightful comments as we went.

In preparation we packed up his three favorite stuffed froggys: Tree Froggy, Big Dot Froggy, and King Squeaky. We also took a small American flag. My son led the class in the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem while holding the flag. The point of bring the flag and froggys was to illustrate that children with autism (and other special needs children as well) often have special interest areas. I wanted to stress that a great way to reach a special needs child is to find out what those areas are in order to connect with the student.

My major role in the presentation was that of a guide, filling in the blanks as my son presented and giving him suggestions about what to say to the class. He's a much better lecturer than I am and has no fear about getting up in front of a lot of people. It's a strength that gives us great hope for his future.

My little one wanted to teach too, so we brought a couple of his stuffed cats to show and he stood up front with us. As the guide, I made sure he was able to say a couple things to the class.

My husband also came to the presentation. He said a few positive words about our son's future and pointed out that parents of special needs children have different backgrounds and different levels of parent involvement in their child's education. He was right in his element as he works as a librarian at Central Michigan University. Talking to students is very much part of his job.

It was our first time presenting as a family. As a whole, we presented for about forty five minutes. It worked out having our youngest son there because I was able to make a point about the importance of balancing the needs of our older son (who has autism) with the needs of our younger one, who is neurotypical. I also was able to point out the difference between the educational journeys of the two. My youngest will likely stay in the same school (unless we move) from Kindergarten to fourth grade. My oldest will have been in four different schools since Kindergarten by the time he finishes the fourth grade.

According to a follow-up email from the instructor, our presentation was a success. He said that the students really liked our son and that they would have enjoyed having him in their classrooms. In turn, we appreciated the students. They were attentive and we had numerous smiles coming our way as we presented.

The instructor and my son's teacher was kind enough to present us with a gift card to Subway, my son's favorite restaurant. I showed it to my son that night. He showed great excitement over the gift.

"We're going tomorrow!" he said. So we went last night. It was a great bonus for doing something we all enjoyed.

Note: With the idea of inclusion and mainstreaming popular nowadays, it is a great idea for general education students to take at least one course in special education. If I had my way, they'd all take a class just on autism as this condition is becoming increasingly prevalent. Chances are, most of the future teachers will have special needs children (many with autism) included in their classroom.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Son: "Let's Go Pack!"

I've been thinking for awhile that I should let my sons pack their own clothes whenever we go on short weekend trips. Allowing them to fill their own suitcases would give them some independence while also freeing me up to do other things.

When we took our most recent trip to my son's beloved state of Ohio (our relatives live there) my son with ASD surprised me quite a bit. I told them about our trip on our way home from school the day before we were to leave.

"Come on, let's go pack" he told his brother when we arrived home that afternoon. I reminded them that they shared a suitcase. Neither one objected. They pulled one suitcase out of the closet. Instead of fighting over the limited space of the suitcase, they were partners. I didn't hear a word of argument while they were packing.

I had told the oldest that he needed to put two of everything (shirts, jeans, pajamas, etc.), but realized that he probably wouldn't quite get it right without a visual prompt such as a list. Again I was surprised, but not by the fact that he followed my instructions. He didn't and neither did his little brother. The surprise was in the extra stuff that was packed.

Amongst the jumble of jeans, t-shirts, and underwear was a Scooby Doo, a white stuffed cat, a tiny black and white stuffed cat, one small stuffed frog and two big stuffed ones. The suitcase wouldn't close. The stuffies had to go, although each boy was later allowed to toss their choice of toys into the van as stowaways.

As for clothes, they pretty much packed what they needed along with lots of extra underwear. Go figure. Still I had to revise by throwing in a pair of jeans here and a pajama top there. I also sorted out the jumbled suitcase by separating the ten year old's clothes from the five year old's stuff. The end result was being packed a day earlier than normal. Yay for the boys. Yay for being ahead of schedule!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Son: "No Harm Done!"

I have been trying to discourage my son from making his morning announcement in front of several lines of school children. So far I've had absolutely no success.

"It's not an announcement, it's Peak programming, " he'll tell me. (Peak is the name of the after school program at our school. I'm a stay at home mom, so there is no real need to sign the boys up.)

"Well, don't do the Peak programming thing then. You look kind of silly when you do that," I told him.

The ensuing silence meant my plea would be pretty much ignored. Sure enough. Once the whistle blew and everyone was in line, my guy went up in front of everyone. Bouncing around a bit with a big smile on his face he made his announcement. I witnessed it because I usually stand with my kindergartner (at his request) until the bell rings. All I can say about his announcement is that it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Anyway, the little one's line is right next to the one for the MiCI class. My son is the only one in his class who lines up there every morning. On the other side is a class of third or fourth graders.
This announcement thing has been going on since school began. Some of the kids have figured out I'm his mom. They look at me with puzzled expressions. I shrug my shoulders and smile as if to say "that's just the way it is." Trying to physically stop him would just cause a scene, so I let him do his thing.

He did it again this morning. But this time he added something just for me.

"See mom. No harm done!" he said, green eyes twinkling. And then he went into the school.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

National Popcorn Month

In terms of a National 'Something' Month, most people in the U.S. think pink when October rolls around. They are less likely to think of white and yellow, the colors of popcorn. Yes it is National Popcorn Month. I learned that a short while ago when my son brought home an easy-to-read copy of a News-2-You newspaper from his special education class. The featured story was popcorn and I learned all about popcorn month. (See this link for a sample of News-2-you, but be prepared to read about a pop culture phenomenon instead of popcorn).

If you want to celebrate popcorn month, please see this link for a couple of cute craft ideas. As for me, I've had my fill of popcorn for awhile. I can honestly say that I fully celebrated National Popcorn Month to its fullest.

Last Friday I was a popcorn mom. I spent two-and-a-half hours filling, closing and delivering bags of popcorn in the school cafeteria. I probably could have popped a couple of batches or so, but I left the popcorn machine to the rest of the crew since unfamiliar gadgets/machinery and I don't really mix. In all, the school custodian, two aides in the Mici room, the teacher and I filled 352 orders, plus at least 30 small extra bags for the office. My son and his classmates helped a little here and there.

Friday popcorn days are fundraising opportunities for individual classrooms. Most schools in my area have popcorn Fridays. Each classroom gets assigned one or two popcorn Fridays a year. The bags sell for 50 cents a piece and are sold to staff and students. Sales tend to go up if a prize is offered for each bag. That was the promise last Friday. A Pixie Stix or two was popped (oops, sorry about the pun-well maybe not!) into each bag. My son's classroom did quite well in terms of profits.

Though it was a lot of busy work, it was fun and easy way for me to volunteer for the school. I see many popcorn Fridays in my future. I'm also predicting a chance to chaperon a field trip for a certain lucky popcorn Friday classroom. My son's teacher is thinking about using the money for an outing.

A Special Note: My guy (who has autism) was given the opportunity to make the popcorn announcement over his school's p.a. system. He was right in his element as he has been known to make announcements from our street corner (to my dismay). So I was glad he had the chance to do an announcement in a proper setting. The teacher said he did a good job. : )

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Conversations: The thingamabob and the whatchamacalit

My ten year old likes to fancy himself as the family activity planner. He'll say we are going to do something and then he expects to do it that very day. His ideas vary from going swimming at the local university recreation center (we don't have a pass and it's expensive to go!) or to his favorite restaurant.

Most of the time my husband and I prefer to to do the activity planning. Often we'll discuss plans after both boys have gone to sleep. However, that is not always possible. It used to be that we were able to spell out our ideas to each other. But now, our third grader can read and spell pretty well. He proved it one day when he said he wanted to go to "S-u-b-w-a-y" for dinner. See? He can spell his favorite place to eat, so that is not an option anymore. So the next step was to try to talk in a way that we (or at least I) thought was beyond him.

We try to mix up our restaurants a bit when we go out. But every once in awhile we decide to go to Subway. The quick service of fast food restaurants make eating out easier with my son with ASD and fortunately his favorite place is one of the healthiest places to eat. One day when we were trying to figure out our plans with little ears around us, I suggested this very place without using the word.

"We should get a thingamabob at the whatchamacalit," I said.

Somehow my husband understood that I meant our son's favorite place and agreed that is where we would go. So we did.

A few weeks later my son asserted himself (well tried to anyway) as the family activity planner again. What did he say?

"We should get a thingamabob at the whatchamacalit! And I know what that is," he said.

"What is it?" I said, having a hunch what he would say.

"It's a sub at Subway! That's S-u-b-w-a-y."

That pretty much sums it up. My days of subterfuge are pretty much over!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Conversation: "Look a Gaggle of Geese!"

A Football* Story

It was an overcast sort of evening. My husband, five year old and I tossed first a Frisbee and then a football around in our front yard for awhile. My ten year old with autism took a mild interest in our activities. He would join us for a bit then go off and either watch us from a distance go off to do his own thing before joining us again. We were encouraging but not forceful in getting him to participate.

Our five year old caught both the Frisbee and the football quite a bit. Our ten year old (who has had physical therapy at school for at least three years now) tried, but missed most of the tosses coming his way. He would hold his arms out straight in sort of an awkward fashion, but wouldn't really watch the ball as it came to him.

When it was getting near our boys' 7 p.m. shower time we let everyone finish or at least try to finish on a good note by catching the ball. My husband and I both caught our tosses and the five year old also caught his on the first try. However, my little athlete protested when I picked up the ball to try again (unsuccessfully for the second time) after our ten year old missed the throw.
"Hey, why'd he get to do it again?"

"We want him to have a chance to catch the ball. I'll give him three tries. You caught yours on the first try." The protester didn't argue with me anymore.

"OK C, ready?"


"One, two, three!" I said as I tossed the ball.

Suddenly my son no longer appeared ready because my "three" competed with another sound. Honking geese completely and totally distracted my son. A group of them were flying over our home in the usual lopsided v-fashion in a sure sign of fall. Instead of looking at the ball flying towards him, my guy looked at the geese.

"Hey it's a gaggle of geese!" he shouted, his gaze toward the sky.

The football reached him then. He must of sensed it somehow or saw it from the corner of his eye. His arms snapped upward in a reflexive action. He caught the ball! He caught the ball? How'd he do that?

"Good job, buddy!" I exclaimed. My other two guys cheered the successful reception as well.

The ten year old smiled, but then repeated his observation of the geese. He'd keep repeating that until one of us affirmed what he said.

"Yes, that's a gaggle of geese. Gaggle--that's a good word," I said. My guy was satisfied with that and went into the house. I then looked at my husband.

"He was looking at the geese!" I said, referring to my son's unexpected catch.

"But it counts," he replied.

"Yes I guess it does," I said.

Yes it it does.

* American style football