Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday Thankfulness - Come Follow Me

blogs, thankfulness, new domain, redirect
Today is Thursday, and thankfully, I actually remembered what day it is! Today I am thankful that I can now redirect you to the new My Autism Insights domain! Please, come follow along, subscribe and please continue to share your insights! New posts will begin appearing there after today. Thanks so much for your support!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Movie Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Asperger's, autism, jokes, movies, noise sensitivity, reviews, sensory friendly films, sensory integration disorder, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

It was only a few months ago that we started taking Gus to the AMC Sensory Friendly films geared toward kids with Sensory Integration Disorder. This past weekend, the rainy weather nudged us to try something new for the kids: a 3D movie without the sound modifications. I was a little nervous, especially at $42 for the 4 of us (Remember when a movie was a cheap family outing?) that we'd last 15 minutes and would have to leave because of the noise or the images or just because we were having an 'off' day. Each of the kids represented separate concerns. Aside from the sensory issues, we worried that Gus might not be able to sit still, and that both of them would be scared, and not just by giant food flying out of the screen. Fortunately, they both sat through the film like champs and loved it!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs tells the story of a genius, misfit inventor named Flint Lockwood. His only friend is his pet monkey, Steve (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris). The only person who understands Flint is his mother; to everyone else on the sardine-fishing-industry island where he lives, he's a huge nuisance with his weird inventions. Within the first 2 minutes of the movie, I was hooked. Could I possibly relate to the kid onscreen any more than I did? Not likely. Gus was completely still and focused as well. (I wonder if he felt the same connection to the main character.) After his mother (who is only in the film during the first few minutes) gives him his first real lab coat, Flint wants to help his town and gain acceptance with his inventions, the latest which transforms water into food so that the people can finally vary their sardine diets. Things start out well enough, but due to greed and overindulgence, go horribly wrong.

The film quickly went from sadly moving to side-splitting funny. It was very light on really crass humor, which I appreciated. The little inside jokes were great as well, like Flint using the old Simon electronic game as the control panel to his underground lab. The 2 leads, Bill Hader and Anna Faris, were perfect, and some of the supporting performances were excellent as well. My favorites were Mr. T. as the town cop, who was more versatile in the role than I ever would have given him credit for, and James Caan as Flint's unibrowed, laconic dad. One scene with Tim, Flint's father, the town tackle-shop owner, when he tries to send an email was especially hilarious.

There was a little bit of awkward romance between Flint and aspiring weather reporter, Sam, but not so much as to make it inappropriate for a six-year-old. There were some mildly scary images, but the one that got MM worried the most when one character experienced an anaphylactic peanut allergy and swelled up like Aunt Marge in the 3rd Harry Potter film. It upset her because both DH and his dad have peanut allergies, but she didn't wake up with any nightmares, so I think we explained the situation well enough. The noise from the action sequences was very tolerable, and the 3D effects didn't seem to bother the children at all. The only time Gus got distracted from the movie was when he got thirsty and I ran out for water and popcorn.

Overall, I'd rate Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 4 out of 4 stars. To quote Gus, "They hit a home run with that one!" Go see it!

*poster image borrowed according to fair use from Columbia Pictures

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thankfulness Thursday

annual review, Asperger's, autism, growing, school, statewide exams, thankfulness

Isn't it amazing how fast the time goes once the school year starts? It becomes a cyclone of alarm clocks, homework, meetings, extracurricular activities….Then Friday rolls around and it still doesn't stop. Everything moves so fast, the next week sort of sneaks up on you to start the whole process again. Fortunately, Gus is adjusting pretty well.

This week, I am thankful:

  1. That Gus, although he's been a little up and down at school, has had at least two solidly good days. For the second time, this week, he completed all of his independent work without any prompting. It might seem like a small thing, but being able to complete tasks is one of his biggest challenges in school. The fact that he's starting off the year showing that it can be done is amazing.
  2. That Gus is learning to type this year. As I mentioned when I blogged about his Annual Review, Gus will be allowed to use a word processor for at least part of his statewide exams this spring. That access is important because, while his handwriting has improved enormously, it is still often illegible and overcrowded. Plus, it takes him a very long time to write things out, and it's very tiring. During yesterday's visit to the class, I got to see the typing software he's using (which is kind of old so I don't think I'll be able to get a copy for home) is lots of fun. There are 'missions' that look like some of the old-school video games (like Space Invaders of Gallaga) that I can see have great appeal for him. When the missions are completed, random historical facts pop up. That has his name written all over it. If I can get the name of the software from his teacher, I'll update with it.
  3. That I finally swallowed all anxiety and went ahead to register My Autism Insights as its own domain. Once I have the site up and running, I have some exciting plans down the pike! I'll probably transfer the content of this blog over there and then will just pick up where I leave off. In other words, you should have access to all the old posts as well as new material. So keep an eye out, and I hope you'll stay with me as My Autism Insights continues growing!

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weekend Update: Swine Flu & Soccer

Asperger's, autism, doctors, H1N1, opinions, safety, soccer, swine flu, vaccines
Good morning! Hope you had a lovely weekend as we prepare to enter into autumn. This past weekend we made some decisions about the swine flu (H1N1) vaccine and had soccer practice.

Gus had a crisp morning for his 2nd soccer practice & game of the season. The team has grown quite a bit and I've seen several new faces. Their workout is more geared toward teaching the game and giving the kids some time to run around and interact with each other. Half the time is spent working on a skill and then there is a shortened game with usually half the kids on the field at a time, playing against the coach and a mentor or two.

Gus has been having a great time and I see a big difference from last year when he was often very sluggish. He's got a better handle on the ball and appears much more confident and engaged in the game overall. It should be a good season! Hopefully next week I'll remember to take some pics!

Swine Flu Vaccine
Before I go any further, let me make it very clear that I am no doctor and anything I post here is strictly my layperson's opinion. Don't make any decisions based on my thoughts. Please consult with your medical professional (or several) before choosing whether or not to get the H1N1 vaccine whenever it becomes available.

That being said, I also want to state for the record that I am not against vaccines as a matter of principle. On the contrary, I would prefer to prevent my children from illness if it can be done safely and if it is necessary. We've always chosen pediatricians who lean toward the conservative side as far as medicating children, so there's never been a concern in my mind that we were being advised to take a medication or get a vaccine that wasn't warranted. The two times I disagreed with our doctor was over the chicken pox booster and over the Hepatitis A vaccine. Instead of getting a chicken pox booster, I had both my children titered, and our doctor had no problem with that. Last year she started giving the Hep A vaccine because there had been some cases in the state. I declined because neither of my kids were at risk and would not be likely to be put into a risky position. This year, after Gus developed a taste for sushi, we got him the vaccine because the disease can be spread through contaminated raw fish (as well as other foods that he's been more apt to eat as he's gotten older). All this is just to make it clear that we do the shots when necessary, and if not, then we don't.

On Thursday, I made inquiries to 3 different doctors regarding the swine flu vaccine when it becomes available next month. One RN said that it was, "a good thing to get," but offered little in the way of explanation. Maybe she thought that it was the most obvious conclusion and required no further discussion. I was very interested to hear that the other two doctors - both pediatricians - were not comfortable with the vaccine that's coming out. Their collective reasons were that a) it was rushed to production and therefore hastily tested, so b) there is little knowledge of what the side effects or possible long-term effects may be. Neither intends to offer the vaccine to their patients, and at least one has decided not to give it to her own children. She has instead adopted a "wait and see" stance.

The New York State Health Department has posted tracking information on the swine flu within the state and there is also a vaccine information page. You can also obtain information from your own state's health department.

To my way of thinking, the pros for getting the vaccine are that it will be available in mist form (no shots) and will be available without preservatives (some of the injected versions and all of the mist formulas). It is being made by the same companies, in the same manner (as opposed to the way it was made in 1976) as the seasonal flu. That being said, on the con side, side effects are anticipated to be the same as for the seasonal flu, but no one really knows because it hasn't been widely studied or for any length of time. And while my kids fall into one of the target populations, I don't see enough cause (especially judging from the relatively small number of cases in NYS) for an extra vaccination. My daughter is very conscientious about hygiene, especially hand washing, and Gus does not interact with the general population of his school enough for the benefit to outweigh the risk. So with all that in mind, we have decided to pass on the vaccine when it becomes available, unless some compelling reason arises.

What are your thoughts on the swine flu vaccine that's coming out in October?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday Thankfulness

Asperger's, autism, kitten, family, school, thankfulness
Hello, world! School's just about to wrap up its second week and we're finally starting to get into some sort of routine. Here's what I'm appreciating today:

I am thankful:

1. That Gus has had a really good first full week. At least half of every day, his teacher reports that he's been 'on.' One day this week, he even finished his independent work independently! This has been virtually unheard of, so it is a big deal. Great way to start off the year, dude!

2. That our new kitten is assimilating into our family and our household routine. I think he may be helpful for Gus, who was totally focused on him the first day he was home. Gus gets a little jumpy when the kitten is feeling particularly pouncy, but he's been petting him, playing with him a little and even allowing the kitty in his room before bed or in the morning. I think they'll be great friends.

3. That with both kids in school full days, I am getting a lot accomplished during the day. I've been able to get better work hours, and when I'm not working, I've been developing a project I've been sitting on for weeks. These longer days are also allowing me to do something that feels a little foreign: relax. Every day for about an hour, I just chill out - no errands, no work, no's quite nice.

So that's my gratitude this week. What are you thankful for today? Have a great one!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Focus Building Year

ADHD, brain development, education, EEG, school, focus building, video games, standardized testing

Now that Gus is on the cusp of his 'tween years, it seems more important than ever that he learns to manage himself without the need of constant adult prompting. Middle school is right around the corner, and state exams are at the end of this school year. While he'll get every accommodation available, it will be a major hurdle for him. I'd like to see him do well.

I'm not a big fan of standardized tests as the only way to determine what a child has learned, but I'm more interested in how he will view the results. I want him to do well because if he doesn't he'll feel badly – plain and simple. So whatever we can do this year to help him succeed, we'll do. The two big areas in need of major development are: focus and self-regulating. Gus will need to learn not only to focus, but also to recognize when his focus has shifted off task. He will also need to start controlling his impulses. We've seen some progress over the summer, but if he's going to manage a three-hour test, he's got a long way to go.

This morning I read an article (not a very recent one) about certain video games that could help to build focus. The games mentioned in the article seem older, but the concept intrigues me. One of the things that can hold Gus's attention for hours is his video games. I'm wondering if we can find a focus building game that is reasonably priced. (The Brain Train games were particularly astronomical.) It doesn't seem like a 'fad' method because another article published just this month in the Redding Pilot online, also discusses neurofeedback that uses video games as a basis. Play Attention seems like a possibility, but at $100 a month, I'm not so sure. They offer a free demo CD.

I'll post again if we decide to try it out.

What will your child be working on this year?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Return of Thursday Thankfulness

Asperger's, autism, education, friends, school, siblings, thankfulness
I've been quite remiss lately with posting, but now that school is back in session, I can hear myself think again. It seems rather appropriate that Gus started school on a Thursday. Today I am thankful:

1. That Gus not only started school again, but that he was eager to start school again. Yesterday he said that he had "art-room-sickness," similar to homesickness but for the art room at school. He was a little nervous about starting 3rd grade, but that's normal. He'll have the same teacher and several friends in his class. He seems more concerned about the level of expectation and about getting his work done. This tells me that he values good grades, he wants to do well, and just maybe, he'll be a more motivated than ever to work on his focus and concentration. My fingers are crossed.

2. I am thankful that Gus go his bus monitor from last year! This is a big win, because she is just amazing and adores him. I couldn't have bought a better start to his day.

3. I am thankful that MM enjoyed her first day of school yesterday as well, despite the new bus driver whom has made her his sworn enemy already. We've got full day school now, which means that I have time to myself! I've got some projects that have been on hold all summer that I plan to move on, so extra thankful for that.

If your child has started school, did the year start off well? Please share your gratitude in a comment and have an awesome day!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Things He Gets Into

Asperger's, autism, mistakes, parenting, safety



Oh jeez, what now?

DH goes downstairs to see what the heck this boy is up to now. I hear a shout and decide not to go down there. Daddy seems to have everything under control, and I have a leaky toilet to deal with. Gus slumps back to his room. DH pokes his head into the bathroom. "He put a light bulb in the microwave." Good thing I stayed put.

I pass Gus's room on my way to check out the damage & our eyes catch. "I don't even want to say anything to you right now," I tell him. That will probably have a much bigger impact than losing the GameCube, Xbox and computer for 4 days. I don't need to yell. DH calms down quickly – he doesn't need to yell either. Gus is now flagellating himself.

He is upset and scared that he could have hurt himself. "Tell Gus to stop pretending he's dead!" MM comes and begs. He's taking 2 minutes too long, by her count, to be upset, and he should have given into her cheering-up attempts already. I go sweep up blue-tinted glass. I'm glad he didn't go for something equally intriguing like a battery or one of the CFLs.

Later we ask what he was thinking – a dumb question. It often seems that Gus doesn't think before acting, but that's not right. The real problem is that his brand of logic is only logical within his own personal universe, the one where you can save energy by cooking a light bulb, because they don't explode in his microwaves.

The rest of the night doesn't get any better. He wakes up around midnight, disturbed by something he refuses to share. (I later learn that it was "maybe" a nightmare about being eaten by a hawk.) Around 4:30, due to our sleepless misfortune (MM is having a bad night too), the power goes out and wakes him again. This time, he thinks he's somehow caused the blackout. I briefly explain that it's raining and has nothing to do with him before stumbling back to bed for the third? fourth? time.

I hope that today is less…experimental than yesterday. And if it has to be experimental, I hope the experiments are less dangerous.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Those Dreaded Questions

Asperger's, autism, camping, difference, education, growing, nature, parenting, questions, sex ed
Hello readers! We've been out of contact for a little while for various reasons including a camping vacation. Life is starting to settle back into a routine as school approaches.

Speaking of school, we all know that the time will come when our children will have questions about topics that I, for one, don't particularly want to have to answer. Death, sex, why am I so different from everyone else...who actually looks forward to informing their kids about these things? Maybe lots of people look forward to these discussions, but I'm not one of them. Last night after Gus's bath this was the conversation that took place:

"What are these called?"

"Those are called testicles."

"What's in them?"

" know, that's really a good question for you to ask Daddy, since he has them too!...Daddy!"

Yeah, call me a wuss. I totally punked out of that one. So, DH came in and Gus started asking questions, that went fine until DH explained that testicles are involved with reproduction, "making babies," he clarified. "There are seeds in them."

"But I thought only women carried babies in their tummies."


At that point I had a compulsion to read MM her bedtime story and got out of there as soon as my legs would carry me. It's a good thing I remembered to open the door first or else I would have looked like a Loony Toon (but perhaps I looked that way anyway).

Later, I asked DH how he handled the questions. Apparently, Gus was pretty satisfied with testicles being some sort of seed machine and moved on to asking what was in his knee joints and where rashes come from. Maybe there isn't a need to panic just yet, but I've had a gentle reminder that the day is coming sooner than I thought. I'd better start getting some answers ready.

How have you handled, or how do you plan to handle, those uncomfortable topics with your child?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Happens when you Ban the Video Games

Asperger's, autism, days off, creative kids, play, summer, summer vacation

It's only the first day of Gus's true summer vacation. He could have slept in, but chose to get up at five instead – didn't want to waste the day! He and MM started playing on the GameCube first thing, but by eight it was clear that I needed to put a stop to that. He was getting extremely frustrated and agitated over the smallest things, near tears at one point. Then I could see him getting stuck in a loop, trying again and again to fix one little mistake and making it worse each time he went back because he was so stressed. So GameCube was banned.

They watched television for a few minutes. Then I noticed Gus going up and down the stairs.

"What are you doing?"

"Sweeping the bathroom."

Er…okay. Can't really argue with the initiative there. So he brought everything from the bathroom down to the living room and brought the broom and dust pan upstairs. Then he went to play in MM's room!

Since the intention was pure, I did the sweeping. It only took another hour to get him to move everything back upstairs – one…piece…at…a…time. I praised him for making the effort and left the two mischief makers upstairs. Who says kids aren't creative any more?

The next game was Fortune Teller. Gus took an old knit cap, a snow globe and a snack table and decided he was going to be a fortune teller. MM took a turn as well.

I've discovered that the curtains are down in my bedroom, and Gus is now dressed as Ash from Pokémon. It's not even lunch time yet! It should be interesting to see what they come up with for the afternoon.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Asperger's in the Theater

Asperger's, movies, Temple Grandin, Adam, Mary and Max
A friend forwarded me this New York Times article about 3 films dealing with the subject of Asperger's. Adam is a romance involving a man with Asperger's and a woman who moves upstairs from him. Mary and Max is an indie film about a 20 year pen-pal relationship. Temple Grandin's biopic will be released on HBO next year. Here's a link to the article & I encourage you to check out the films if you can.

Asperger’s Syndrome, on Screen and in Life

If you've seen Adam, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the movie!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Joining In

Asperger's, autism, crowds, school, social skills, summer, playThere was a slip-n-slide. Today was one of those hot, muggy days when the air feels like oatmeal in your lungs. The floors felt like they were coated with dew. Yuck! Gus came home from school completely exhausted, played on the computer for a while during the first rain storm of the day, and then watched his favorite show. In the interim, MM noticed that a couple of her friends were playing with the slip-n-slide across the street. I let her go over - Gus doesn't usually want to get involved.

I asked him after a little while if he was interested in coming out, but predictably, he said no. I told him that if he changed his mind, he could put on a swimsuit and come on out. I didn't really expect him to, but I wanted him to know he was welcome.

Imagine my surprise when I turned around and there he was!

That in itself wasn't the biggest deal, but as the crowd of kids grew to proportions that are typically unmanageable for him, I started to notice something quite interesting. The kids had started arguing about turns. Gus had been taking a turn behind one particular girl. No matter how many of the kids cut the line, no matter where he ran off to, no matter how many times his turn got skipped, he always got back in line behind the same girl and waited without complaint to go down the slide. The kid with Asperger's behaved better than almost all the others out there. There is just no end to life's ironies.

I'm quite proud of him today. He might not be able to stand in line per se, but he's gotten the concept of taking turns nicely. Well done, Gus!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Asperger's, autism, birthday, cycling, nice kids, outings, Pokemon, silliness, social events, summer, thankfulness

I never tend to count Sundays as the start of a week, but rather as the end. So before my week is done, here is what I am thankful for:

  • Gus had a good time at our friend's son's birthday party up in Albany. He didn't make any lifelong friends, but this was another pretty accepting environment. Gus played video games for much of the afternoon, but there were a couple of teenage relatives who tried to play with him. He also played with the younger kids on and off. There was a medium sized dog, which Gus says he petted (although I did not actually see it happen). It was a pretty pleasant afternoon all things considered.
  • I am thankful that we actually made it home from the previously mentioned party! Holy cow, what an odyssey! First we missed an exit and ended up driving into the next state. Then, once we were about 45 minutes from home, the kids were going bonkers so we thought we'd stop for dinner. Understand what I mean by bonkers – very loud Pokémon speak, kicking seats…someone was about to get dinged in the head with a Pokedex…It got so bad that DH and I were laughing. Not the 'HAHA they're so cute' laugh; the 'OMG I've just fallen off a cliff and am about to be a pancake' hysterical laugh. The exit had one of those blue signs that said we could find food and gas. We followed the arrow toward the food and gas. And followed. And followed. And followed…There was NOTHING! (I'm feeling another hysterical giggle coming on.) We drove for a good half hour to find…the next exit that would have been right where Gus's school is. So we finally found a Chinese take-out place figuring it would be fast. HA! Forty-five minutes before we got out food. With this whole ordeal, we could have drive home and back! Needless to say, I am very, very glad to be out of the car and back home.
  • I am thankful for finishing a 24 mile bike ride safely yesterday. I rode a trail that spans 3 counties and did my farthest distance yet. I think I might meet my goal of doing a 50 mile ride this year. I'll have to start a new blog…

Incidentally, I'm typing on my new net book (which I am also thankful for) – yay! As nice as it was, I'm glad this weekend is done – I'm beat! What are you thankful for this week?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Solo Outings

Asperger's, autism, beach, doctors, meltdowns, mistakes, outings, parenting, preparation, summer
I generally avoid taking both kids out by myself (or letting anyone else do so) because it can be difficult to keep them from jetting off in different directions. Sometimes though it can't really be avoided. My husband had to be away for the day, and the kids had doctor appointments. Then it turned out to be a glorious day - how could I keep them cooped up? So after the appointments were done, we went to the beach. Here's how we managed:

Despite Gus's Asperger's syndrome, I've found that many basic parenting tricks work just fine with him.

  • On the way to the doctor's office, I gave the kids a brief overview of what we were doing for the day. If they were good at the doctor's, we could go to the beach if the weather was nice. I was very specific about the possibility that we might not go to the beach under certain circumstances in order to preempt a tantrum if we couldn't go.
  • At the doctor's office, I gave them specific expectations for behavior - no climbing around the exam room like maniacs, basically. They did just fine.
  • When it came time for vaccinations, instead of having them both in the room for the shots, I took Gus out and let MM get hers first. They tend to amp each other up, but by separating them, MM had no one to perform for, and Gus didn't get extra freaked out by her antics. He was a little anxious, but after getting the shot said, "That didn't hurt." Surprise!
  • On the way home, we revisited the plan, then went home for lunch. After giving them the option not to go, we packed everything up, changed into swimsuits and headed to the beach. In the car, I went over the beach rules and let them know that if they broke the rules, we'd go home immediately. One reason my kids behave pretty well for me instead of taking advantage of the double-team is that they know there are swift consequences for breaking rules. I'm pretty consistent with this, and I think that's made it possible for us to hang out together now.
  • Since I only had limited hands to carry stuff, I left the beach toys home in order to make sure I could carry plenty of healthy snacks. I didn't go overboard, but sun and water make kids want to eat. And there are usually a million toys at the beach - no need to carry more in all honesty. In the past, I've left the door open for many a meltdown by not having ample snackage. Neither of them has ever had a fit over not having a shovel. I try not to make those mistakes at this stage of our lives.
  • We got to the beach, which is small and usually not very crowded, early in the day, around 12:30. For obvious reasons, we avoid the really busy times, although today, it never got as packed as I've seen in the past.

The results? We spent an extremely pleasant 4 hours at the beach; the kids played with some other children (yes, even Gus came across a little girl who was persistent and patient); I got to relax for an afternoon with my kids! For the win!!

What strategies do you use to maintain order when taking multiple kids out? Have a great weekend!

Image by Kratanuva on Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thankfulness Thursday...On Thursday Even!

ADHD, allergies, aspie, Asperger's, autism, camping, summer, thankfulness
Usually giving myself permission to not do something makes it a little easier to get it done. So it's Thursday and here we are. What am I thankful for this week?

  • I am thankful that Gus is not allergic to bee stings. We just learned this because he got stung by a bee yesterday at school. He seems perfectly calm about the whole thing - gotta love that aspie rationale ("it happens") and the ADHD lack of focus (really helps one to move on) sometimes!
  • I am thankful that our camping trip last weekend went well, despite some overnight rain drama (everyone stayed dry - that's the important thing). We were at a new site and Gus got to wander into the woods a little further than normal to climb on an old rock wall that provided a whole weekend worth of entertainment. He respected the boundaries for the most part and gained a little freedom - go Gus!
  • I am thankful that my neighbors didn't lodge complaints against my kids when they were complaining about other kids in the neighborhood, even though MM is sometimes out there playing with the rest of them. Some people seem to be of the opinion that children should not be allowed to play in their own back yards because, you know, noise. It's summertime, people! Lighten up! These kids are almost all (with the exception of 2 older siblings) aged 8 and under - they can't be kept indoors all summer, and why should they? They have as much right to utilize the space as grownups do. They aren't damaging property or causing any trouble - just playing ball with soft, rubber balls (the big ones you get in the supermarket for $2). Seriously? Many adults in this country need to get over themselves and need to learn a little tolerance. This was one time that Gus's challenges worked in his favor - he doesn't play ball or even play with the other kids and everyone knows this. So he can't be dragged into situations like this. MM plays outside, but rarely plays ball - she's usually on someone's deck or picking flowers or riding her bike. I'm still glad to have avoided the hassle, especially since one of the plaintiffs lives right next door to me. That would have been a drama I don't need!

What are you thankful for this week? There has to be something - it's summertime and the sun is shining (well, if it's not shining for you right this moment, it's shining somewhere). Leave a comment and spread the gratitude! Have a great day!

Friday, July 10, 2009


Asperger's, autism, birthday, camping, friends, family, insect repellent, lyme, mean kids, parenting, preparation, summer, thankfulness
Instead of making excuses every week for why I keep missing Thursdays, let's just agree that I'll post a thankfulness list at some point every week. Really, I don't want to keep boring you with my memory issues.

This week:

  • I am thankful that although my husband contracted Lyme disease, he caught it very early and was being treated even before his blood work was back. It's nice when medical professionals are on the ball. In a similar vein, I am thankful that my friend J's doctors are also on the ball right now and hope that she gets a speedy resolution to the problems she's currently suffering. Here's to hoping they both feel much better very soon.
  • I am thankful that my marriage will get to see its 10th anniversary tomorrow and that I'll get to see my *** birthday on Sunday! You didn't really think I'd be silly enough to post my age? Anyway, we're going camping (and packing LOTS of bug spray) this weekend to celebrate, so I'll be extra thankful if the sky decides not to spit on us.
  • I am thankful that I have learned to exercise restraint, especially when people are picking on Gus. Snotty neighborhood kid felt the need to go out of his way to antagonize Gus, who was minding his business and riding his bike in a friend's parking lot while MM and a few other kids were playing with sidewalk chalk. Snotty rode up with another little boy (who never says anything to start trouble) and called something to Gus that I didn't hear. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was trying to get Gus to ride with them. Of course, Gus didn't respond in any typical way, and rode between then saying in a mock scared voice, "Aaah! Don't crash into me!" He was trying to play with them. Getting no response, he rode away. Now, Snotty could have just left it at that and gone on with his business. He could have even shook his head (it's not the first time Gus has exhibited confusing behavior) and kept his mouth shut. But no, instead he turns to the other kid and says, loudly enough for me & Gus to both hear, "What's wrong with Gus??" You know the tone. This, by the way, is the same kid who once asked Gus why he was crazy. He has absolutely no interest in being Gus's friend, and I know this because most of the time he acts like Gus isn't even there, just like all the other boys his age in the area.

    So, I didn't hurl a bike at the kid like some incredible She-Hulk. I walked over to him calmly and said, "Snotty,* you know I like you, but I heard what you said and if I hear you say something like that again about Gus, I'm going to tell your dad, because it's not nice." Not the strongest statement in the world, but he's only 8 -- I couldn't be but so harsh. And we both knew his dad would not be pleased to hear about that behavior. He knew he was wrong and honestly wasn't being completely respectful to me when I was speaking, but I didn't get all crazy about it. Hopefully, he'll heed the warning and just stay clear of my son. The dad would attempt to discipline, but the mom would just counter whatever dad does and further reinforce Snotty's behavior. I'd rather not have to spend the summer feuding with neighbors. We'll see what happens.

So that's our story this week. What are you thankful for? Have a great weekend, be safe and be healthy!

*Snotty's name has been changed to protect his identity, but also because I think it's a more appropriate name than his real one.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Getting a Cavity Filled

Asperger's, autism, dentist, planning, preparation, summer, tips
If you recall about a month ago, I posted about Gus's trip to a new dentist. I was less than thrilled, but I decided to keep his appointment to get his 3 cavities taken care of. Instead of worrying about the dentist's behavior, I decided to focus on him and preparing him for today's visit. I'll also focus this post of that aspect to spare you a venomous tirade about the dental industry.

I knew a couple of things going in: that they'd probably use nitrous, and that he'd likely be very grabby with the instruments once she started working on him. I wasn't so sure the nitrous would even work - he had a difficult time having anything over his nose when he had his ear tubes put in years ago. At least I had a starting point.

MM had been given one of the 'piggy noses' or nose masks that the nitrous is delivered through. So I made sure we practiced having the nose on and breathing with it. That way Gus wouldn't be too freaked out by it. He was only a little freaked out by it and eventually relaxed - there were other more pressing things to freak out about anyway.

Last night, we also had a talk about grabbing the dentists instruments and how it is dangerous to do that. So we discussed options if he needed her to stop for any reason. I gave him a hand signal, which he modified to his own taste, and we also discussed how he could use his words or sounds if he couldn't speak. This worked well for him despite the dentist telling him not to yell. It was either that or let him grab her hands, so I let him yell. There was a wedge in his mouth to keep it open, so it wasn't like he could move his jaw much.

He was in a rare belligerent mood and wasn't being all that polite to Dr. P. at a few points, but all things considered, he did rather well. I knew the vibration from the drill would be a problem for him and I explained that to her. She respected his wishes for breaks, to her credit, and once the drilling was finished he calmed down considerably. He didn't appreciate the taste of the amalgam, but once he learned that it was "Pokemon paint" he was mollified. Of course he had to demand that it was Sceptile Pokemon paint, but no one really felt the need to contradict him.

All in all, it could have been a million times worse than it was. I will probably still look for another dentist, but at least I know that Gus will be able to handle it.

*image of MM's practice bubble-gum-flavored "piggy nose."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Small Groups

Asperger's, autism, crowds, family, friends, nice kids, outings, social events, summer, holidays, July 4th, small groups
Eons ago, in another life when I taught high-school aged kids, I learned that children with certain learning styles (kinesthetic and tactile) tended to do much better in small group activities (groups of 2 or 3). I notice that this holds true for Gus. In large groups of peers, as when we are hanging out in the neighborhood, he gravitates away from the large number of kids, and it ends up being a situation where we are corralling him more than anything else. Not enjoyable for us or for him.

Yesterday, we skipped the neighborhood scene (at the last minute we were invited to a beach party with the neighbors - probably at least 8-11 kids) and went to my cousin's as planned. There were about 5 other children playing together and wow! what a difference in Gus. He still needed some redirection at times, but it was one of the most enjoyable Independence Days that I can remember with him. He played with his friends. He and MM were having such a good time we were able to stay until well past their bedtime; usually we leave right after dinner before they start getting overwhelmed. We got home around 9:30 - heck, that's almost past my bedtime!

The company clearly made a difference as well. There was a level of relaxation and acceptance that is almost non-existent when all the neighborhood kids are together. It's as if Gus doesn't exist. Who wants to do all the work of engaging this kid who always talks to himself when there are so many other, less strange, playmates around? I'm grateful that they aren't outwardly mean to him, at least most of them aren't most of the time - there are comments now and again. But unless there are small numbers, he is rarely, if ever, part of the crowd.

Gus separated himself from the kids yesterday at times, too, but it was more like he just needed breaks. When he rejoined them, he was accepted with no problem. It was just a lovely, laid back, enjoyable day.

How was your 4th?

*image by Katori Suigo via WikiTravel.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Thursday Thankfulness: Having Trouble Telling Time

Asperger's, autism, camping, days off, growing, nature, summer, thankfulness, tick removal, ticks
Our summer schedule, or rather lack of schedule, makes it very hard for me to keep track of days. Add in an early week camping trip instead of a weekend trip along with a holiday weekend - I'm all jumbled. I actually forgot that yesterday was Thursday!

My thanks:

  • I am thankful that I finally got the tick head from behind Gus's ear without having to drag him to the doctor. It's all healed up and he was even okay when I had to remove a few deer ticks from him during our camping trip. I swear the tick population is ridiculous right now! Which leads to my next point...
  • I am thankful I finally know the right way to remove ticks and that I learned it before our trip. Between all of us, we found eight of them - all deer ticks. But we found them before they could get too attached, so it was all good.
  • I am thankful that neither of the kids got lost or hurt during our trip although Gus kept wandering down into the woods without us and both kids started learning to chop small branches of wood with hatchets (under full adult supervision). They're really maturing, and I'm starting to see signs of an emerging 'tween in Gus. He's not there yet, but there's the tiniest hint of defiance and independence lurking below the surface. It's making me a little nervous!
  • I am thankful that we got two glorious days for our trip despite warnings of thunderstorms. We got a nasty downpour our last night, but it was after we had already cooked dinner, and it was relatively short-lived. My father-in-law made an amazing fire that totally withstood the deluge, and our tent held up in its first test against bad weather. The best part: around 8:00 the rain stopped (I wish the kids had been awake) and we saw a magnificent rainbow. Its colors were brilliant against the steely gray backdrop, and the full arc was clearly visible instead of just a portion of it. "Miraculous" would be an appropriate description. That band of color in the sky was the perfect ending to our day.

Hopefully, I will get my act together as we move into a better routine. In the meanwhile, what are you thankful for this week?

Monday, June 29, 2009

It's Duck Season...No, It's Wabbit Season...No, It's Tick Season

Asperger's, autism, ticks, tick removal, camping, insect repellent, lyme, mistakes, nature, parenting, safety, sensory integration disorder, sensory issues, summer, tips
What's more fun than a barrel of rage-infected monkeys? Trying to remove a very large, very gross, very embedded, and very engorged tick from your very panicky autistic child. And for extra laughs, try doing it in a supermarket parking lot.

Yesterday, my poor Gus found a huge tick behind his right ear. He seemed to feel it suddenly and started scratching at it as we were getting in the car to leave the supermarket. One look told me that it had been there at least since the day before, and that's really the only time he could have gotten it. Of course, I panicked because, well: supermarket parking lot, kid picking at nasty bug, twenty minute ride home...take your pick of bad situational elements.

After dragging the kids through the parking lot trying to find someone with tweezers, I finally went back into the supermarket and a lovely clerk gave me a pair. I took Gus outside (with MM in tow, bless her little heart, she was so good about it) and with him screaming bloody murder, I managed to rip the thing apart and leave the head embedded. In other words, exactly what I was not supposed to do. It's kind of hard to remember all the rules in the midst of a panic, especially when you don't know the rules to begin with. I sort of half knew them, but with him twisting and writhing (and the nice people in the parking lot staring like I was ripping his head off instead of the bug's) just as I grabbed the head, Gus jerked and...pop, squish, off came the body without the head.

The good news is that the tiny deer ticks are usually the lyme carriers, but this isn't set in stone, so we will still watch for the signs of lyme: fever, fatigue, rash (can appear as long as 6-8 weeks from the time of the bite), etc.

From what I've learned, the most important thing is to not squeeze the tick because that makes it inject more (potentially infected) muck into the site. To remove a tick, if tweezers are the only thing available (preferably splinter tweezers), you've got to get the head and pull back gently to avoid breaking the tick and getting the head stuck in the skin, which can lead to infection. The head itself won't transmit lyme, but infection is still not really desirable. There are apparently devices, available in pet stores, for removing ticks that are supposed to be more effective than tweezers:

Commercially available tick-removal devices include the Sawyer Tick Pliers (B&A Products, Bunch, Okla.), Pro-Tick Remedy (SCS Limited, Stony Point, N.Y.) and Ticked Off (Ticked Off Inc., Dover, N.H.)*
From American Family Physician

Methods to avoid include hot matches, vaseline, clear nail polish or nail polish remover to get the tick to dislodge. Those tend to make the little bloodsuckers dig in deeper and, you guessed it, squirt more nasty fluids.

Two preventative measures to take against these critters are to use insect repellent regularly, which can be difficult with a child who has sensory defensiveness to smells, and to perform tick checks. I've tried several formulas for Gus that he has absolutely hated. Aside from the odors, he doesn't like being sprayed with things. I'm next going to try a natural lemon and eucalyptus repellent (doesn't have a very strong smell). Bed, Bath and Beyond used to sell insect repellent bracelets (they looked like small coils) but I found those to be ineffective, and the kids would just play with them and take them off anyway. There are wipes to use for kids who dislike sprays.

During this time of year, especially if you live in a grassy, woody area where ticks are prevalent,you should check for ticks carefully every day. Spending a lot of time outdoors isn't a requirement for getting a tick - MM has had them jump her when she was just passing by a bush as soon as we left our house. (I caught that little bugger before he could attach himself.) She hadn't even made it to the grass and was still on the concrete path. We usually check every night, but it's not hard to miss something that small - do your best and be sure to check between toes, hairline, behind the ears, armpits and groin area.

Gus is fine now and I'm fairly certain we were able to get the rest of the tick dislodged from his skin. Be careful out there - the bugs seems to be particularly numerous this year. For us, we're going to try one of those tick removing devices very soon. This happened just in time for us to go camping! Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thankfulness Thursday - Almost Forgot What Day it Is

Asperger's, autism, days off, cycling, friends, school, summer, summer school, thankfulness
This week has gone by so fast, I didn't even realize it was Thursday! It's late and I just got back from a bike ride, so I'll have to be brief. This week I am thankful for:

  • Finishing my first ride with the cycling club! I did the whole 17 miles and only had to walk halfway up one hill! I feel quite accomplished! And I made it home in time to say goodnight to the kidlings! Bonus!
  • Having a few days to hang out with my kids before Gus starts summer school. We've done some organizing and shopping for our upcoming camping trip, took a few trips to the playground and saw some of the neighborhood kids. It's been a pretty mellow, if busy, time.
  • Summer finally showing itself! It's been so cold and wet, I was starting to wonder if we'd somehow time/space warped to Seattle. It was actually hot enough for the sprinklers and kiddie pools! I hope it's here to stay!

What are you thankful for this week?

On a more somber note, RIP to three icons who passed this week: Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett & Michael Jackson.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

IEP Assessments

Asperger's, autism, Bright Hub, education, fine motor skills, IEP, related service providers, school, tips, assessments

I recently wrote an article on Understanding IEP Assessments for Bright Hub and thought I'd put some comments here as well. I've always found the assessment score portion of Gus's IEP to be more complicated than deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls, but I've come to gain a little better understanding of them. They're not quite as complicated as I thought (very close, but not quite). The odd thing is that the keys to understanding these things seem to be some nationally guarded secret – none of our service providers could ever give me a solid explanation for what it all meant. So here's my attempt at demystifying the matter.

The first things you need to understand are the terms and acronyms. Most of the assessment scores will be expressed as one or more of the following:

  • SS – standard or scaled score. This is the score of the assessment itself. For instance, the SAT has a different scale (200-800) than the AP exams which are score on a scale of 1-5.
  • Percentile – the percentile shows where your child falls within the range of other students being tested. A score in the 98th percentile means your child scored in the top 2 percent of students tested, or better than 98 percent.
  • AE/GE – age or grade equivalents tell where your child's skills are in comparison to kids of different age groups or in different academic grades.
  • Raw Score – I've never seen this on our IEP, but it's useful to know just in case it comes up. The raw score is the actually number of successes your child has on each of the different test components. For example, your child might get 8 correct responses on one test out of a possible 10.

Many assessments use similar scales, but some have their own (just to keep parents hopping and guessing, I'd imagine). If you find out what assessment tool was used for your child in each area, you can try to find out what the scale is and take it from there. Some common tests are:

  • General or Comprehensive
    • The Brigance Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills (CIBS)
  • Speech/Language
    • Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS – they're not just for wizards anymore)
    • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT)
    • Expressive Vocabulary Test (EVT)
    • Educational – Woodcock Johnson III
  • Motor/Physical Skills
    • Bruininsky-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency
    • Peabody Developmental Motor Scales
  • Behavior
    • Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales

The article goes into a little more detail about scoring and interpretation, so if this is a topic that tends to confuse you (like it did me) by all means, check it out! And if you know of any assessments that I can add to the list, by all means, please share! Have a great day!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday Thankfulness

Asperger's, Aspergian, autism, neurologist, seizures, tests, EEG, thankfulness,
I am completely exhausted, but I couldn't let another Thursday go by without posting! My thankfulness today will have to be a little short & sweet:

I am thankful that Gus's EEG results were all perfectly normal, meaning he is most likely not having seizures at this point. The neuro told me, which I was somehow unaware of, that about 10% of kids on the spectrum also have issues with seizures. Always something to learn! And something I will have to keep an eye on. The most common times for them to surface are between ages 4-6 and then around the teenage years. We are to watch out for sudden changes of behavior that come on suddenly, last for only a few minutes and then taper off; sudden extended pauses, and marked academic regression that might signify nighttime seizures affecting school work. The doctor also said that Gus's tics may come back, but I'm not overly worried about that. Otherwise, Gus is doing well and we don't need to see the man until next year, which he should be grateful for, because after the hour and a half wait, I was not the warmest parent he's ever talked to. If you're familiar with the term "ice grill" you can imagine the look that greeted him when he finally deigned to stop into the examining room for a whole 15 minutes. But I won't dwell...

I am thankful that we made it home in one piece. Perhaps it is the excessive amount of rain that's got me so exhausted, or maybe the 2 hours spent at the neurologist, or the fact that I was up at 4:45 for a 5 am tutoring shift, but my eyes actually shut on me twice on the ride home. There are a mailbox, a guard rail, and a bouncy 8-year-old Aspergian who are also thankful that I caught myself drifting.

I am thankful that we got a whole day and a half of sunshine mixed into all these past days of gloom. I wonder if there are Dementors breeding in upstate NY?

And since I missed last week, I am thankful that Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince will be out in just 28 days. I won't bore you with any fangurliness beyond that!

What are you thankful for today? Have a great weekend!

There are no affiliate links in this post.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Still Here

Due to lots of year end activities, I haven't been able to get much posted lately, but things should settle down by the end of the week. I haven't abandoned my blog! I'm working on trying to do a podcast, but since I'm at the very beginning of the learning curve, it's taking a while. Gus has been doing well lately. His teacher reports that he's actually been much more social with his classmates at recess. His soccer season is almost done, and he'll be getting a trophy at his last game. He had field day last week which was very wet, but lots of fun. Later this week, we see the neurologist again, and we'll get the results of his EEG. So that's all that's going on. I'm hoping to get my Thursday post in this week – apologies for my missed last week.

Hope all is well with you!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wendy Portillo, Again?

Asperger's, autism, blogs, disability rights, IDEA, opinions, school, special needs,
Apparently, in Port St. Lucie, having a class vote an autistic child out of his kindergarten class is not an offense that bears permanent removal from the school system. That's the message that will be sent if Wendy Portillo, the teacher who committed this grievous act, is not only rehired, but given back her tenured position. Are they kidding? If he were my son, I would have wanted the woman's head on a platter, forget her job.

Kristina Chew blogs about this at, and I'd urge you to sign the petition to keep this woman from poisoning any more young minds. People with disabilities deserve the same rights as anyone else, and we can't have teachers misguiding our youth to the contrary.

P.S. I didn't forget about Thursday Thankfulness - just a little delayed. Will try to get it posted over the weekend!

*Old newspaper image by Hugo Gernsback

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How to Get Your Asperger’s Child to Give up That Loose Tooth

Asperger's, dental hygiene, sensory issues, parenting, tips, strategies, loose teeth, humor

Gus has a few loose teeth, but there was one that was sticking out and was clearly ready to come out. When it finally got to the point of hanging by a threadlike piece of skin, even he wanted it out lest he accidentally swallow it. There was a sort of approach-avoidance thing happening. "Ok, pull it out…No! Leave it alone!" On and on it went, delaying the much longed for (by me, not him) bedtime. DH wanted me to just leave it be, but there was also the problem of Gus having field day the following day – wouldn't want it knocked out on the field, now would we? So we had to do something drastic. Here's the process that worked for me:

  1. Repeatedly assure your child that he can certainly leave the tooth in, especially when he insists he wants it out. Never underestimate the power of reverse psychology.
  2. Try an easy method of tooth removal first, like plucking out with your fingers. This can accomplish two things – first you can see just how ready the tooth is to come out an second, you can subtly loosen it a little more until your child screams again to leave the tooth in.
  3. Make lots of jokes and then pull out something really scary, like pliers. Tell your child to keep his eyes closed (he won't) and then grasp the tooth with the pliers. Do not pull! The tooth may come out, but not likely. Your child may think you're nuts and then (hopefully) will find it silly once you start laughing it off.
  4. Offer to use a string to pluck it out. For the child with sensory defensiveness, of course, this will not fly, but best to get all the options on the table, especially the ones you know are absolutely not going to work.
  5. Go brush teeth. The tooth will pop out like a hot kernel of corn. Your child won't even notice. He'll be too busy making sure you're not hiding pliers behind your back!
  6. Oh, and remember to take care of all tooth-fairy business as soon as possible! The worst is to forget and have your child confront you before dawn in the morning!

In all seriousness, I've now found that tooth brushing seems to be a fairly painless and easy way to get stubborn loose teeth out. How do you get your child's teeth out when they are ready? Or do you just leave them alone?

P.S. Just to be clear, I wasn't actually terrorizing my son - there was a great deal of laughing and silliness going on at the time.

Image from