November 30, 2010

Day 1: Moe's Favorite Things

If Oprah can have two days of favorite things, Moe can have a whole week, right? Well, 4 days because I took the first day with my ode to Tassimo. Today, we're going to talk chewing.

When Moe was first diagnosed we didn't think he had a lot of sensory processing issues. He didn't seem to be affected by lights or noise very much, and loved cuddles. Hahahaha! We had no idea how wrong we were. We didn't realize that it could work the other way. Some kids are sensory averse, but Moe is a sensory seeker. He likes to touch and fidget and splash and especially to chew. As an infant he rarely mouthed his toys the way many babies do, but for the past year or so he's made up for lost time. There is not a book, toy, item of clothing, or piece of furniture that does not have bite marks on it.

I didn't think I'd have to tell anyone to stop chewing on the furniture since the dog did this:

For whatever reason, Moe needs to chew. It calms him and he likes the deep pressure. Lots of people like to chew and we find socially acceptable ways to do this, by chewing on things like pen caps or gum. For Moe, who wants to chew on everything, we say "not for mouth!" and redirect to appropriate things to chew on. That means basically three things: food, chewy tubes and his monkey puppet.

You know what food is, so I guess I don't need to really explain that. We do try to give Moe a lot of oral input at snacktime, with plenty of chewy and crunchy foods.

We also try to always have a chewy tube hanging around Moe's neck. This is tough because he tends to take it off and drop it wherever he happens to be when he's done chewing, but I have a lot of these around the house. For those of you who don't know, chewy tubes are hard rubber tubes that you can, well, chew on. I suppose I didn't really need to tell you that either. These are Moe's favorites:

Chewy Tube with Bumps
Pen Cap Chewy

We also allow Moe to chew on a gorilla puppet he's had since he was a baby. He's actually on his second one and I have another one waiting just in case. We removed the electronic squeaker so we can put it in the washing machine. Moe loves chewing on this puppet and bites down really hard. Here's a before and after:

Before: Happy squeaky monkey!
After: Sad Monkey
Not all kids with autism chew and plenty of kids without autism do. As far as Moe's sensory seeking behaviors, it is annoying, but not something we are too worried about. He'll either grow out of it or we'll help him find socially acceptable ways of getting this input.

For information on where to buy the chewy tubes mentioned here, click on the link above called "resources."

November 29, 2010

My Cup of Happy

I don't do product reviews here. I'm not opposed to them, but it's just not what this blog is about. Every so often, however, there are products that really make life easier, and all this week, I plan to write about some of those. Since this is primarily an autism blog, these products will for the most part be related to how we work and play with Moe. But this is also a parenting blog and today I want to write about my new favorite gadget: the Tassimo Single-Serve Coffee Brewer, otherwise known as the Brewbot.

You may have seen the commercials for this cute little machine and before you get too excited, it is not actually a little robot. My BFF has a different machine that she loves, the Nespresso C100T Essenza Single-Serve Automatic Espresso Machine, and I had planned to get that one but thought the versatility of the Tassimo might be interesting. So I looked for reviews. You would not believe the negative reviews I read - not about the machine, but about the fact that the commercials are "misleading" and that the coffee maker is not actually a transforming robot. Really.

Back when I worked at Danger, we had a cool machine that we called the coffee robot. It was a fancy espresso machine that made all kinds of drinks at the touch of a button. Push the latte button and the machine would grind the beans, steam the milk and pop out a latte. I really wanted one of those, but at the time I think it cost a few thousand dollars. It was purchased by one of the founders of Danger, Andy Rubin, who went on to start Android. Andy would occasionally send emails to the company like "I just got a new 100" TV and am giving away my old 99" one. First one to my office gets it." He's a robot enthusiast and I heard he built a full sized coffee robot, but that it had to be put in a cage because of its tendency to whack people in the head when handing them their coffee. Or something like that.

Anyway, the Brewbot comes with little pods, called T-discs, that have a bar code on them. Pop the pod in, press the button, and the right drink comes out. Milk drinks, like lattes, have two pods. First put in the milk pod and when that's done, put in the espresso pod. And, the best part is there is nothing to clean up besides your mug.

Before this little machine, I barely had time to make a pot of coffee. Back in grad school my friend would ask me each morning if I wanted to go get a cup of "happy." It was as true then as it is now. A caffeinated mom is a happy mom.

I was not compensated in any way by Tassimo for this review. I received the machine as an early Hanukkah present from my mom. Thanks Mom!

November 28, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up

Sunday is finally here and that means school tomorrow. Hooray! I vaguely remember those days when long weekends were treasures and Sunday brought a little bit of dread for the week ahead. I experience the same thing now, only in reverse. I can't wait for Monday and for Moe to be in school.

Moe's vacation started Wednesday, so we decided to try a morning music therapy session at home. Our first two sessions had been after school at our therapist's home studio, about a half hour away. Both ended in meltdowns. This session went really well, with lots of engagement and some good imitation. We're not sure if it was the change in time or place that did the trick, but we're going to continue to do some experimenting with that.

Shortly after the session ended, my parents arrived from L.A. Jelly was so excited to see them. Moe wasn't quite sure what to make of the change and spent much of the day hiding in his room. With the excitement of the grandparents arriving and the beginning of the prep for Thanksgiving dinner, our schedule was a bit off. Moe had a huge meltdown that night in Chevy's and although he calmed down once his beans and tortillas showed up, and I calmed down once my margarita showed up, that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

That night, Moe was up for a while in the middle of the night, something he hasn't done for a few weeks now. Thursday was a rough day for him, and he spent the day alternating between meltdowns or hiding in his crib, into which he threw a bunch of books and toys and made a cozy - though isolating - nest for himself. We didn't push him too hard to come out and be with everyone, but his mood put a damper on the day. Fortunately, Jelly relished all the love and attention she got from Grandma and Grandpa and was quite entertaining. They gave her new shoes and a doll stroller, both huge hits. She won my dad's heart by shouting "Pa!" the whole weekend.

Our thanksgiving meal was delicious, though the kids basically ate dinner rolls. We narrowly avoided disaster when our probe thermometer told us our tukey was done way too soon. But we trusted our guts, repositioned the probe, and the turkey was cooked perfectly, though a bit salty. Since we had brined the turkey, I decided to use a gravy starter for the gravy, but wasn't impressed. The entire dinner (inluding my chocolate pumpkin tiramisu), however, was upstaged by Jeff's strawberry rhubarb pie, which my dad went absolutely crazy for. A new Thanksgiving tradition has been started.

Moe slept well Thursday night but Jelly was up at 3am because clearly the kids think I don't ever need a full night's sleep.

The rest of the weekend had a lot of ups and downs. Moe had a lot of sensory overload this weekend, and I think my parents were a little surprised at both the frequency and intensity of his meltdowns. He's changed a lot since they saw him just a couple of months ago, and is no longer the easy-going mellow kid we had all gotten to know. He had some fun playing outside in the yard, went for a quick shopping trip with my mom and I on Friday, and even managed a few words, but for the most part, he was not at his best.

After my parents left on Saturday, Jeff and I did some thinking and figured out that Moe's worst moments are when he's tired and when he's hungry. Over the past month or so, we've worked a lot on the sleep schedule, and I think the excitement of the weekend was just a lot for him to process. But the real insight was whe we realized that our meal schedule at home was a little different than the one at school. We made sure Moe had meals and snacks on time yesterday and today and things were much better. We also started putting a piece of foam on Moe's door that keeps him from being able to go in and close the door. If he wants to close the door, he has to come ask for help, which he did a few times. We figure if his reinforcer is alone time, at least he should do something social to earn it.

It was great having my parents here and I know they loved seeing Jelly and Moe, even if he wasn't at his best. I'm glad we decided to have a small Thanksgiving at home this year. Friday night we brought in burgers, fries and onion rings. It went great with the leftover pie.

November 27, 2010

Small Things Saturday: A Moment of Peace

It has been a rough few days, with some definite high points but some low points too. More on that later. For now, Grandma and Grandpa have left for their drive back home, Dad is at the gym and Jelly is asleep. Finally a moment of peace for Moe, thanks in part to Bob the Builder.

November 26, 2010

Becoming a special needs mom

When Moe first got his autism diagnosis, I still didn't think of him as having "special needs." After all, he didn't require a lot of special accommodations. I thought that term was reserved for kids with other kinds of disablities, you know, the kind that might qualify you for the Special Olympics. Moe may have been a little slow to develop, and have trouble communicating, but he couldn't be a special needs kid. And I certainly couldn't be a special needs mom.

Though I was thrown into the role, I had to ease into the term. I starting reading autism blogs and realized that in many ways these kids sounded just like Moe. And more importantly, these parents sounded just like me. I found such hope and comfort with some of the first blogs I found, like Both Hands and a Flashlight, Everybody's Boy and Welcome to My Planet. I accpted that I was an "autism mom," but hesitated to go further.

Then one day our speech therapist was explaining some difficulty Moe was having "because of his disability." I carried on like I was right there with her, but inside I couldn't breathe. My son? Disabled?

I started reading more blogs. Some of these included stories of kids who had other challenges, like Love that Max, Rachel Coleman and Hopeful Parents. I realized we had a lot in common. In fact, I probably had more in common with the parents of special needs kids who were not on the spectrum than parents of typical kids. And as Moe started getting older, I couldn't help but hear that word a lot more often: special education, special day classes, special needs.

I was turning the corner. I found Stimey, and My Life as an Ungraceful, Unhinged, and Unwilling Draftee into the Autism Army . I found Little Bit Quirky and Squidalicious and Send Chocolate Now. I identified with my tribe and found Life is a Spectrum and I'm Just That Way and Adventures in Extreme Parenthood. Recently I found Big Daddy Autism. I've found these blogs and more - and the people behind them - and some of them have found me too.

These writers are smart people. The are honest about their lives. They are funny people who also understand how hard it can be. I am proud to be a part of their community. Just as my son is more than his autism, I am more than a special needs mom. But it is a title I wear proudly.

Do you have a favorite autism or other special needs blog that you love? This is by no means a comprehensive list of all of the great blogs I read (or at least try to). Feel free to leave a link in the comments to your favorite blog, including your own!

November 24, 2010

Still Learning (Zumba Edition)

I work out at my local YMCA. I like it better than the other gyms I’ve belonged to in the past: Gold’s Gym (too many gym rats), 24 Hour Fitness (too much of a meat market), Curves (too boring). Club One was too expensive to even try. The Apple gym was the right price while my husband worked there, though the treadmills were always full. I like the Y because they have inexpensive child care that my child refuses to stay at and a pool we never go to. It’s just nice to know they’re there.

For a while, I tried the C25K program to start running on the treadmill, and despite my best efforts learned that I really do not like running. If you are a runner, please don’t try to tell me that I’ll love it if I just stick to it. I’ve heard it all before. I’m not going to stick to it, so let’s move on.

But without that beeping iPhone app, I find I don’t push myself very hard. So I go to group classes, and for the last few months, that has meant Zumba. If you don’t know about Zumba, Beto will be happy to sell you his comprehensive DVD set. I’ll just say that it is an aerobics class that uses mostly Latin dance moves, with a dose of hip hop, Bollywood and belly dancing, to make it “fun” and “easy.” There is also a lot of shouting “Zumba!” and pretending to play the drums. I’m fairly new to Zumba, but have been to enough aerobics classes to be able to mostly follow along. But Zumba is fast, and involves a lot of hip shaking that my out of shape abs and decidedly un-Latino body is not well equipped for. My point is that I’m no Bristol Palin when it comes to dancing and, thankfully, neither are most of the other people in the class.

So earlier this week, I went to class, and saw someone I didn’t recognize. I like to check out who’s there so I can position myself near people who know enough that they won’t confuse me, but not so much that I look completely ridiculous in comparison. I got the impression this woman was new to the class. I also noticed that she had Down’s syndrome. I immediately got a feeling somewhere between protectiveness and concern. And then I wanted to slap myself.

As the parent of a child with a disability, the last thing I want is for people to pre-judge my son’s capabilities, and here I was, guilty of the same thing. And besides, what, exactly, was I worried about? That she wouldn’t be able to keep up? That she might embarrass herself? At any given time in the class, at least 30% of us are turning the wrong way. It’s a miracle we don’t take each other out on a regular basis. And what would I know about someone else’s physical capabilities? No more than she knew about mine.

Of course it is natural to notice when someone is different, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up just for noticing. If anything, diversity is worth celebrating. But having a child with a disability has helped me become even more aware of my own biases and preconceived notions. Meanwhile, as I tried to remain unnoticed in the back row at Zumba, a woman with Down’s syndrome took a spot right at the front where she could actually see the instructor. That’s smart. I think next time I might join her up there. Just don’t try to follow my lead.
Originally posted at Silicon Valley Mamas.

November 23, 2010

Home for the holiday

For many people, Thanksgiving means autumn turning to winter, colored leaves finally falling to the ground. It means football on TV and maybe a fire in the fireplace. Not for me. For me, Thanksgiving means a clear, sunny southern California day, 70 degrees and beautiful. Every year for as long as I can remember, it has been beautiful on Thanksgiving day in L.A.

We usually have Thanksgiving at my parents' house, joined by some family and friends. My mom does all of the cooking, though most everyone brings something. There is always a last minute scramble as we attempt the gravy. My dad carves the turkey with his electric knife, and one dish will inevitably get left in the kitchen. My uncle brings the pies: apple, pumpkin and chocolate, and sometimes even more. (In my family, we have trouble deciding so we always just get them all.) We always laugh a lot. It is a holiday just about eating being together, without any obligations.

This year, I thought it would be too difficult to travel to LA. Driving with two kids in holiday traffic down I-5 can be a nightmare. Flying seemed like it would be too much of a hassle and expensive now that we have to buy 4 seats. Moe still sleeps in his crib with a crib tent, and since he no longer fits in a pack & play we didn't know how to make it work. So this year my parents are coming up here and I am making Thanksgiving dinner. I'm excited because I've always wanted to make Thanksgiving dinner, but I am a little bummed about the break in tradition.

The silly thing is I keep thinking "if only Moe didn't have autism, we'd be heading to LA right now." But the reasons we're not traveling don't have a lot to do with autism. Sure, we might have the bed situation worked out, but otherwise, it's really just that we have two small kids. I have to stop blaming autism for everything that is challenging. The fact is, traveling is hard for everyone with kids.

So, despite the rainy weather, I think it is going to be a good Thanksgiving day. This year, I get to cook things my way and I don't have to worry that my kids are getting into trouble at someone else's house. And although it does mean I will have to do the dishes, I will also get to sleep in my own bed.

Hope you all have happy, relaxing holidays. I'm off to make the cranberry sauce!

November 20, 2010

Moe's First Thanksgiving (Special Needs Blog Hop)

Moe was such a happy baby. He was 6 months old here, chubby as can be, and with the most amazing smile. He still has a smile and a giggle that can light up a room!

November 19, 2010

Some of his favorite things

Today would have been, should have been, my brother's 34th birthday. He is not here to celebrate, so we celebrate for him. So today, I'm sharing with you a list of some of his favorite things. Listen, eat, remember and celebrate him today.

First and foremost, Bill truly loved his friends and family. So please, think of him today and if you want to share, feel free to leave a comment here with some of your favorite Billy memories or something to add to the list.

Billy's Favorite Things



His dog, Lieutenant
His Mazda Miata (this isn't his, but one very similar)

Red Hot Chili Peppers

It isn't baseball season (and he would have been crushed that the Giant's won the world series this year), but go ahead and have a doughnut this year. You can work off the calories tomorrow.

November 16, 2010

No More Wishes

Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars? I could really use a wish right now. --B.O.B.

There is something about the song "Airplanes" that gets to me everytime I hear it on the radio. As a kid, I really believed in wishes, and would make a wish whenever I could: when blowing out birthday candles, breaking a wishbone, when I happened to see 11:11 on a digital clock, or if someone found an eyelash on my cheek. In high school, a friend told me that you should make a wish if the clasp on your necklace made its way all the way around and touched the charm, so I wished then too.

I would wish for all kinds of things, like "Please let me do well on my math test," or "Please let this boy like me." I'm not sure why, but always directed my wishes toward someone. It wasn't toward God, as I didn't think that God, if one existed, would take interest in such little things in my life. I guess I was addressing my wishes to some sort of cosmic wish-granter, part god, part genie-in-a-bottle. I also worded my wishes as precisely as I could, having seen enough television to know that if you aren't very careful, you could mess up your wish in a potentially disastrous way.

One time, I opened a fortune cookie and my fortune said "Your dearest wish will come true." I carefully taped this fortune to my clock radio, saving it for when I knew what my dearest wish would be. A couple of years later, my brother got sick. By then I was in college, but a little bit of my childhood superstition (as well as my alarm clock) traveled with me to Berkeley, and I knew I had my dearest wish. I wished every night "Please, please let my brother live a long, happy, healthy life." For a while, it seemed like that might come true. But in the end, science and reality and plain old bad luck got in the way of my wishes, leaving my family heartbroken, my parents without a son, and me without my only sibling.

And now, having cashed in my dearest wish to no avail, I've stopped wishing altogether. Maybe I somehow offended the cosmic wish-granter. Or maybe this is what the TV shows were telling me all along: wishes don't come true. But I really could use a wish right now. Like so many others, I'm facing life with an autistic child, unsure of what the future may hold. My son is only three. We have no way to know his eventual level of function, and I am still stubbornly unwilling to let go of all that I want for him.

So I've ditched the wish and have opted for hope. Hoping isn't like wishing. Hope isn't directed at anyone and is rooted firmly in reality. Hope requires hard work, long days and exhausting nights (something we have no shortage of around here). Hope admits that success isn't granted, it is earned. Hope knows that achievement comes with a few battle scars. It is optimistic without being flighty. Hope gets up even when it's been knocked down a few times. Hope knows that sometimes it will lose, but it tries anyway.

When I hear "Airplanes" on the radio I get a little nostalgic for the days when I really believed my wishes could come true. But I don't wish anymore. I don't need to; I have hope.

Originally published at Hopeful Parents, where I contribute a post on the 14th of every month.


November 15, 2010

Long weekends aren't what they used to be

I haven't been blogging as regularly as I'd like to. Truth be told, I also haven't been showering as much as I'd like to. The days have been challenging around here. Moe seems to have gone into sensory overload, and I'm not quite sure what to do about it. The time change, and the recent 4 day weekend, has made it worse. He has been averaging 1-2 major meltdowns a day and there were some rought ones this weekend. But instead of dwelling on that today, I thought I'd share a couple of interesting things that happened this weekend, even amid the other chaos.

First, Moe picked up a harmonica and started playing it. This in itself is a big deal because he didn't used to be able to blow in a directed way like that. He played a little bit, clearly excited that he could make the sounds. Then, he handed the harmonica to me for me to play. I played a little, then handed it back, and he played it some more. This happened twice: an actual back and forth exchange with eye contact. And let me tell you, when Moe looks you in the eye, everything else disappears.

Later in the weekend, Moe was playing in his room. He came to the living room, grabbed me by the hand and brought me to his room. He then held my hands up toward his light switch. It was very clear that he wanted me to turn off the light. (He has been wanting to be in his crib, door closed, lights off. Sensory overload, anyone?) He didn't get frustrated and scream. He came to me for help. I held him up and said "off." I waited until he said kind of an "o" sound and then I turned off the light. In the future, I'd like to have some more eye contact or better words, but it was a good interaction.

If you don't have a child with autism, these may seem like such normal, run of the mill interactions, hardly worthy of a mention to a friend let alone a blog post. In fact, I remember being told during an assessment that typical children will interact with their parents in this way hundreds of times a day. Until I had a typical child myself, I didn't believe it. But now that Jelly is bringing me things all day long, with shrieks of "open!" "help!" and "thank you!" I know clearly what they meant.

Many people have commented on this blog in the past that periods of poor sleep or sensory regulation have been precursors to some developmental leaps. I hope that is the case here. Perhaps Moe is becoming more aware of things around him, including his own wants. He needs to learn to process all this new information without becoming overwhelmed. I feel the same way. With every new challenge we face, I also need to learn to adapt and resist the temptation to turn off the lights and hide under the covers.

November 14, 2010

It's the 14th. Guess where I am?

If you guessed, Hopeful Parents, you're right! On the 14th of every month, I'm the writer at this great resource for parents of all special needs kids.

Click to read today's post, No More Wishes.

November 12, 2010

I'm a Silicon Valley Mama

I'm over at Silicon Valley Mamas today! We're still just getting started, so come on over and show us some love!

November 9, 2010

Losing control

I've lost control of my house. Toys are everywhere. Moe's favorite activity of late is to take every single book in his bookshelf and throw them on the floor. He looks at them, paging through his favorites, but most of them just end up on the floor in his room. Jelly has been enjoying dumping out the lego bin. She then puts the box on her head and walks around the house shouting "hat!" Every night (and often multiple times a day) I go room to room, picking up the same books and toys over and over.

Yesterday, Moe figured out how to take off his pants by himself. It is a great skill to have for dressing and potty-readiness. But since he is also is able to take off his diaper, I looked up to find Moe streaking down the hallway. I warned his teachers of his new "skill." I can only imagine Moe stripping down and running around the classroom. It's probably happened before.

The time change has been a rough transition, but that aside, we seem to have gotten a little bit more control over Moe's sleep routine. He's been sleeping through most nights, which has been great. Unfortunately, Moe has been getting very upset right before falling asleep and when waking up in the morning. He cries uncontrollably, and nothing we can do seems to help him. We're working on theories: overtired? wet diaper? hungry? But we haven't found the exact triggers, or any ways to calm him. The meltdowns usually last about an hour.

This is the worst part of having an autistic child. I cannot function when Moe is so upset, but I have no idea how to help him. We talk to behaviorists and OTs, doctors and teachers, but at the end of the day, no one really knows why he's so upset. Moe needs to learn to work it out or communicate what he needs to feel better. In those moments, I just want someone to be able to tell me what to do. But there is no one. So Jeff and I talk and think, tinker with schedules and soothing techniques, but mostly we just wait for it to pass.

November 3, 2010

The games we play

When Moe was a newborn, and I decided I would be a stay at home mom, I don't think I realized just how much I'd be actually staying at home. I pictured shopping, lunches out, and on the days I did stay home I would make elaborate dinners, keep a clean home and get so much done. Done laughing yet? Being at home with a baby really means your life is a paradox of long boring days but no time to do anything.

And although it is really amazing to watch your child discover what it means to stack blocks and knock them down over and over, it isn't exactly rocket science for you. So I would make up little games for myself. For example, Moe has a set of alphabet blocks. They are wood, and in addition to letters, they have animals and numbers on them. I would put all of the blocks out and then challenge myself to be able to use all of the blocks to make words. Sometimes I'd play Scrabble style or Boggle style.

Those newborn days are behind me, and with Moe at school,  it is relatively easy to get Jelly in the car and leave the house. I have plenty to do, including write this blog, during her nap time, so I haven't had to make up any little games for myself for a while. But yesterday, I found myself needing to find a way to pass the time.

One of the things we've done to help Moe be more regulated and sleep better is move his bath to earlier in the day. So between 3-4pm, Moe gets a bath. This isn't a scrub, rinse and go variety bath either. Moe gets to stay in almost as long as he wants, sometimes requiring a water warm-up, and always involving a lot of splashing. For safety, I have to sit right by him of course, but once his hair is washed I don't have many other responsibilities. I can't bring in my iPhone because of the high splash factor. So yesterday I invented a new game.

We have some foam letters and numbers for the bath. When wet, they stick to the walls and the side of the tub. Yesterday, I discovered that if you fling the letters at just the right angle, you can get them to stick from across the tub. I got pretty good, though it is fairly challenging. My record is still only 3 in a row. Anyone care to challenge me?

November 1, 2010

Use your words

Today is the "Communication Shutdown," a day in which many have agreed to stay off Twitter and Facebook to support people with autism. The idea is to limit our communication, to support the many people with autism who have trouble communicating every day. I learned about this on Facebook a couple weeks ago, and it sounded like a good idea.

Then I read a post called The Autism ShoutOut! by Sunday Stilwell at Adventures in Extreme Parenthood. Sunday is a wonderful blogger who is also in the autism parenting jungle. She explains why she is not participating in the shutdown, instead choosing to use the opportunity to promote autism awareness. I thought that sounded like a good idea, maybe even a better idea. But I hadn't really decided until I read John Elder Robison, Aspergian and autism advocate, on Facebook this morning:
There are two communities today: Autistics Speaking, and Silence for Autism. I don't understand why two groups propose opposite actions on the same day. Speaking favors spectrumites who CAN speak for themselves. I'm all for that. At the same time, I do everything I can to promote research that will help our autistic population who CAN'T speak, today, or any day. In doing that, I believe I support both groups.
I responded:
They are on the same day because one was in reaction to the other. Like you, I support all groups of people on the spectrum. But today, I am not quiet because my goal for my son is communication (spoken, signed, or otherwise). And, when he cannot speak for himself, I will do my best to speak for him.
So today, I am not quiet. I am thankful that I have the power of my voice to help my son find his. I hope that I can use my words to support others who are raising and teaching children with autism.

Last year, Eric Duquette graduated from high school as salutatorian. He has autism, and his speech has been an inspriation to many. Duquette said, "Daniel Webster wrote that 'if my possessions were taken from me with one exception, I would choose to keep the power of communication, for by it I would soon regain all the rest....For me, learning to communicate did mean regaining all the rest."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

The Neighbors Pull Through

Yesterday, I wrote about how I am not that mom, the one who makes homemade Halloween costumes or sews her kids' candy bags. Well, we are also not that family. We don't decorate our house much for any holiday, and even as I write this, I'm remembering that we have some Halloween decorations in the garage that I completely forgot to take out, let along hang up. Thankfully, the kids are too young to know any different. I hope that by the time they are old enough to want decorations, they will remind me to get them out.

Fortunately we have neighbors who do make the effort. There are two families in particular who really go all out. One house a few blocks away decorated their front yard with every inflatable, movable, Halloween character you can image: gargoyles, ghosts, spiders, and two grim reapers, including one driving a hearse with a coffin inside. The coffin opens up and a vampire peeks out. A ghost pops out of a pumpkin. And Jelly's favorite was the big black cat. My favorite are the ghosts circling the tree, though they were absent this year. I loved them in previous years because they get repurposed to be angels at Christmas time. (This is not a one holiday family).

But another family, just a couple houses away from us, really goes all out. For over 15 years as I understand it, they have put an enormous hand constructed dragon out front. The head moves up and down and the eyes light up. The house also gets a facade to make it look like a stone castle. And they open the house up to people as a haunted house. In previous years, we've walked by the house to look at the dragon. Everything about this medieval castle scene looks quite...homemade. There is nothing professional here and it shows. We used to joke about it a little. But this year, we went through the house and I have a new respect for this family. The haunted house goes on and on, winding through a fairy garden, past a graveyard and back into the house. You walk through all kinds of rooms, including the kids' favorite, an underwater treasure room. It is all run by the dad, his teenage son and his friends. They have rules (if you're carrying the blue staff, there's no "scaring and no swearing"), and they do a great job. We'll certainly go back next year.

After our two main stops, we came back home. Then we turned off the lights and hid inside. With a nervous barking dog and two sleeping kids, we didn't hand out candy this year. Winding down after the excitement was a challenge, but overall, it was a successful Halloween.

This was probably the last Halloween for me to choose both costumes, so this year, we decided to go with a brother/sister team, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. Hope your little ones had fun too, or that you were able to avoid the chaos if you needed to. May the force be with you.


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