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

Monday, June 8, 2009

An Award and a Blog Talk Radio Show You Want to Listen To

affiliate links, Asperger's, aspie, autism, blogs, awards, book recommendations, education, blog talk radio

Hope you all had a great weekend! Ours was filled with soccer, running and family time. Then I came online and saw that I've been given an award from two different sources – my first one since leaving the Today network! John from Special Needs in Munchkinland and ATorturedSoul from All About Bipolar both honored me with the Educational Commitment Award! Thanks, guys!

About the award:

This award recognizes and gives value to:
1.- Commitment to Quality Education.
2.-Betting on the inclusion of Tics [children with tics] in the classroom.
3.-The effort of parents, professionals and educational centers in incorporating the Tics into the educational process.
4.-The struggle to defend, through the Teaching Values like: Solidarity, Love, Affection, Respect, Effort, Aid, Support, Sharing and Commitment, the future of our children and students.
5.-Recognize and value the effort of the families, professionals and educational centers for integrating effective conditions in the schools and in society for the children and special students, gaining them tons of love and allowing them all the resources at our disposal.

You can distribute this prize freely to those blogs that you consider to be working in these lines.

The Norms of distribution are:
1.-Publish the objectives of the prize and link to Recursos Educativos (Educational Resources).
2.-Publish a list of deserving blogs to pass on the prize.
3.-Communicate to each blog rewarded that they have won the prize.

I am passing on this award to:

Another Piece of the Puzzle

Autism Learning Felt

Autism Sucks

Autism is Not the Boss

On another note, I heard a great blog talk radio program today hosted by the Asperger Women Association and guest starring John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's. Being that I had read (or more accurately listened to) the book, I was very excited to hear Mr. Robison speaking about aspies and relationships and other topics. Although Gus isn't quite there yet, I still got some good information that will (I think) help when the time comes. Check it out!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday and Thankful to be Alive

Asperger's, autism, cycling, empathy, respite, sports, thankfulness,
I try not to blog about myself too much because this is an autism blog. But my thankfulness sometimes has to extend beyond the scope of autism, and why shouldn't it? Autism is a part of our lives, but it's not the end-all of our existence, right? Anyway, my thankfulness today:

1. I am thankful that we are finally getting to a point where I can take a sort of respite break once in a while and do something just for myself - not work related (like when I used to take yoga classes because I was teaching yoga) but just strictly for enjoyment. I had signed us all up for the local bicycle club recently, but I haven't been able to take part in any of the rides until tonight. So I am thankful that I had the opportunity to do that (despite the ensuing disaster).

2. That being said, I am really thankful that I am actually home, in one piece and I didn't die on my fist ride with the bike club. I had my doubts for a while. I am particularly thankful for the lovely gentleman who was acting as ride sweeper tonight - that's the person who hangs back with anyone having trouble on the ride. I was 'done like dinner, ' to quote Gus almost as soon as we started. I felt a little uneasy when I saw that almost everyone was riding road bikes, except one guy who had a hybrid. Genius that I am, I brought my mountain bike - it was easier to grab and I was in a rush. I never imagined how much heavier that thing is compared to my road bike! Holy cow - it nearly killed me! My other big mistake was having dinner before I left. By the time we were halfway back, I had the most hideous stomach cramps. I should have known better. The first big hill we hit, I got so overheated I really wondered if I might have a heart attack. I may have been having a hot flash at that moment as well - impossible to tell. At any rate, T. was very patient and found a spot where we could shorten the ride. It was tough - I did maybe 10 miles - but I made it back and got an awesome hug from Gus because he felt sad for me. How awesome is that?

3. I am thankful that Gus was sensitive and aware enough to not only ask how my ride went, but to genuinely feel badly for me. There's that empathy again!

And as a bonus: I am thankful that I bought snacks because I could eat a cow...after I take a quick nap, anyway.

I'm about to pass out now, but please share your thankfulness with us! Have a great night!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Note to Dentists about Your Asperger's Patients

Asperger's, autism, dentist, parenting, sensory issues, noise sensitivity, anxiety, dental hygiene
I was hesitant to post today because few things put me in a worse mood than the dentist. I was hopeful about taking Gus to see this new dentist because she'd seen MM recently and all went well. Unfortunately, I think I need to head back to square one again. It wasn't an earth-shatteringly bad visit, I was just not feeling the warm fuzzies when Gus got out of the chair. Here's why:

Dear New Dentist:

First, just because you have had one or two patients on the autism spectrum, that does not make you an expert on autism. Every kid is different. My son does not need to be restrained because he is anxious - that will just make him fight you. Second, when a child is freaking out about a sharp, pointy object near his mouth, shouting at him isn't helpful. Perhaps putting down said sharp, pointy object would be a good idea, especially if you are just counting his teeth. How would you feel if I started absentmindedly jabbing a foreign pointy object near your face? Also, are you aware that the electric toothbrush can send a very irritating tickle straight through a person's skull, especially when that person has hypersensitivity in their mouth? Ease up and let the kid scratch his nose - what's the big deal? If you didn't insist on holding onto your security-sharp-pointy-object, maybe it wouldn't have been such a danger?

Nitrous gas is not the answer to every kid's anxiety. Some kids are made more uneasy by the sensation of losing control. You'd get a lot further with my son if you would just listen to what I'm telling you works; after all, I live with him and get in there to brush his teeth every day. He doesn't like it, but he tolerates it. Is it possible I know something you don't, even if I don't have the framed degree on the wall?

Another thing: I'm trying to teach my son basic dental hygiene - straight teeth are really not a concern at the moment! I am well aware that he has shark teeth. I'm not interested in discussing his need for braces. I heard you the first time you said it - no need to repeat yourself. Crooked teeth are not the end of the world. We've got more pressing issues - like finding a dentist who doesn't make me want to rip their teeth out.

Clearly, you are not really interested in working with my child the way he needs, so maybe just say so and don't waste my time? Is it so difficult to put on a DVD of something soothing instead of Disney channel? I'll even bring the DVD! My child responds to a slow, patient approach with minimal sensory stimulation. If that other mom is okay with you restraining her child or being 'stern' with him, that's her business. That doesn't fly with my guy.

Maybe I was spoiled by our last dentist who, by the way, managed to extract two of Gus's teeth without the slightest agitation and without using gas. He was awesome, although he's on my black list too for just walking out of the practice and abandoning his little patients. But he kept the lights in the room low, had very little noise (no raucous kid shows) and showed an underwater aquarium. He spoke softly and moved slowly, letting Gus know each step of the way what was coming. Nothing state-of-the-art or revolutionary. Imagine that. As a matter of fact, I have half a mind to track that guy down even if we do have to travel two hours to see him. I see disaster ahead if I let you take care of my son's cavity.

Not really trusting you with my son,

Do you have a dentist who can treat your autistic child without a lot of grief? What do they do that you appreciate? What do you wish they'd do differently?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Weekend Update

allergies, Asperger's, autism, birthday, e-book, friends, genetics, nice kids, party, soccer, social events, sports,
I've gone far beyond the weekend, but it was so busy, this is the first chance I've had to update, and I'll have to be quick or there will be two hungry children gnawing on my kneecaps pretty soon.

Saturday we had a beautiful morning for soccer. Gus was a little sluggish because it's allergy season and the higher the pollen count, the more of a drain on his poor body resources. But he seemed to be having a good time with the dribbling drills and a short game afterward. Then it was off to our first birthday party of the weekend at a local playground. We ran into a little trouble because the park was so crowded, and he was already tired, he got overwhelmed and tried to go in every direction at once. With a coordinated tag-team effort, and a brief talking-to, he kept himself under control enough to let us know where he wanted to go if he was leaving the immediate area. One fun thing I observed was after a water balloon game. A bunch of kids were chasing after the hostesses' little brother with a large bucket of water. Instead of running away from the crowd, Gus got right in there and even helped carry the pail! The best part - no one was treating him any differently than the rest of the group. That was a great sight to see!

Sunday there was another party this time at one of the arcade restaurants. I was home working on the attic with my father-in-law (We rocked and got everything installed without any ER visits!) so I didn't get to see Gus at this party. I heard, however, that he is now hanging out in the bigger kid section playing video games. Gaming runs in his genes, so I'm not really surprised and am a bit relieved. He may have something to connect him to his peers after all!

We got back into the school day routine yesterday without any problem. I finally got to start on my book (meaning I stopped procrastinating)! Thanks to those of you who voted in my poll! What did you all do this weekend?

Tomorrow look out for a post on our dentist visit - I'm sure it will prove interesting!

Have a great night!

*image from