Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Capturing an Essence

On this final day of April, and Autism Awareness Month, I have found two perfect thoughts that capture the essence of what I've been feeling lately as I try to communicate what life is like for someone on the spectrum, as well as for those who love and care for them.

I found them, on all places, on a blog about art and photography from a French female artist. In a way, this is very appropriate, as I have found in France the inclination to look at and celebrate the individual, rather than submit to the herd mentality and do it up better than the Jonses.

1) "Everybody has a beauty to them and you have to try to capture it. As I said, put them in the right light at the right angle in the right moment."

 I feel this is what I have been fighting to get for James in school this year and which, thankfully, we've achieved. My ASD child does not test or present at all well on standardized scores. Rather, he needs the "right light" (or perception) and more patience for his abilities and personality to show through. And he is beautiful. Oh yes. And funny, capable, curious, smart, caring - so worthy of effort.

2) "For unphotogenic people, it just takes more love and more time :)"

 Swap in "special needs" for "unphotogenic" and BINGO! This is my life.

Thank you, Garance, for helping me find the words.

For all reading this post, this is part of why we try to raise awareness. We are trying to adjust the "light" (perceptions) so you can see that under a surface that looks different, weird, and maybe scary is a person. A real person with their own unique beauty. They take more to develop. More effort, time, money, and love. But inside is a person who can grow, thrive, and give back. And we love them.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

I've Got My Work Cut Out For Me

Well, I'll know what I'll be doing today:

Note: Allergies and stomach flu do not mix well.

I had to give James some of the anti-nausea pills that the ER doc gave me the last time he started yammying and could not stop, once started. The climax after that was pretty awful.

Then we both got 3 hours of sleep.

This morning he's taking on electrolyte water (I love you, Trader Joe's), blowing up the Death Star (go, you Angry Birds!) and has kept down 2 yogurt tubes.

Meanwhile, I love my washer and dryer.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

And So It Goes

James and his sister had been playing KJS (Keep James Smart school) so nicely; non-computer play time and math went smoothly. I was beaming with pride.

Then James spotted the "fly" (it was really more like a gnat). Game over. He started crying, insisting we get the fly. Then he started jumping and yelling. After trying in vain to redirect him, I gave him a time out in his room. Then he called his sister a name and talked about punching people, which means no more iPad today.

It's now almost an hour later. James has calmed down and apologised and his sister's enjoyed a bike ride near our house. They are back together and playing a version Follow the Leader that combines Tae-Kwon-Do exercises and my old aerobics step. Now they are practicing writing. I am staying out of it, hoping for no more flies.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: P is For ...

Plate, Piano, Playful ... James asked me to take this Picture:

Parley. James is getting too attached to plugging into electronics. With the warmer weather picking up, we are spending more time at the Pool. Sometimes he goes right into the water, other times he wants no part of it. Then we negotiate, and ease into unplugging with a little Phone app activity poolside before swimming.

Peaceful. Mornings on weekends, especially, are becoming more and more My Time again. I pad outside to our back yard and this is the view I enjoy:

Positive focus. It just makes life better.

For more images from the heart and to share some of yours,
visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

               and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tackle It Tuesday: Alongside, Awareness, Action

I read this interesting article in a feed from MyAutismTeam.com and it brought up an good topic. The article is titled "What Typically Developing Children Learn Alongside Their Differently Abled Peers" and reminds us that programs like full-inclusion in classrooms and elsewhere in society can result in more typically abled people learning from those with special needs.

To me, this can bring anything from awareness to a desire to become more involved and help others. Also importantly, it begins a change in perception for next generations to be more open to the idea that there is more than one way or pace to live a life. And yes, I've seen it around me. My family's become more aware of what it means to be autistic. People in our community see James on a regular basis and start to see past the stims to his personality. Two of our respite care givers have learned more about special needs and run with it, helping James practice his letter writing, reading, and math.

At the CATS Party; he won a tool set!
There are ordinary people whose lives were touched by special needs and turned what they learned into programs to help others. Lorna Catford's daughter was born with many special needs. What she learned by trusting her observations turned into parental advocacy and a wonderful institution called the CATS (Collaborative Autism training & Support) Program. This program not only helps and support families of kids on the autism spectrum, it also helps train students to work with our kids and prepare them for a variety of new opportunities related to special needs. We've participated in this program 3 times; the support, information, and warmth it provides is truly a gift.

George Lawson saw a baseball program for special needs kids and was so inspired by what he saw that he started a program of his own here in Sonoma County, the Wonder League of Healdsburg. We appreciate it, because I don't know that James would enjoy that Challenger games as much as the Wonder League, let alone a regular Little League team. This will be our 3rd year of hitting baseballs, practicing our throwing, and running bases. James' big sister is an enthusiastic participant. Our guy adores his baseball shirt and cap. George told me of one game where a wheelchair-bound player was celebrating a solid base hit with a thumbs-up, and our son ran to him and gave him a high five. That's a greatest game moment right there.

Just this year we changed class rooms for James. He went from one where he was included, yet not connected to one that had students who swooped him up in class activities and saw him as part of their whole the first week he was there. As a parent, the feedback I got went from "problems and issues" to "doing good and these things need work." Might sound slight, but it's a huge change for the better in our lives.  To me, it's the best about the possibilities of full inclusion in a class that's a mutual good fit.

 So how will our world change, with children being exposed to differently abled peers, and learning alongside us about autism? I hope it's for the better, with less us/them attitudes and more of a we concept. I hope it results in more open minds, sparks of curiosity, and ability to work, live, and love together.

I know this is a rather abstract Tackle project, but I'm driven to advocate for acceptance and programs that will help my guy every day. Especially when I see his beautiful happy smile, and feel his joy at being in the world.

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Monday, April 22, 2013

Magic Marker Monday: Caterpillar Craft

Finally sharing the caterpillar craft that James made back in February at a friend's birthday party. It was a nifty little side activity for those who were tiring of running around and giving the backyard jungle gym a workout. It fit in neatly with the theme of butterfly thingies:
Spiderman, says you? Sparkly antennae, says I.

Butterfly jumpy house.

Normally, this is the effect most caterpillar crafters are shooting for:
Thanks, New York Cares Art Explorers, for the great demonstration!

Then, there's James. I really do wonder about his perceptions, sometimes. Times like these, I *really* wonder how the world looks to him.

James was delighted with his project, and played with it for weeks after. It flew, was naughty, and sometimes decided what book to read for bedtime. And really, what more could you want?

For more great masterpieces or to share some of your own, visit
5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

            Special Needs Blog                   Photobucket

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pool Party Afternoon

Saturday Sidekicks went out with a splash! They threw one nice pool party this afternoon at Sonoma State. About half the pool was sectioned off for water play. Lots of the Sidekick buddies were already in the pool when we arrived, splashing and encouraging the kids to have fun in the water.

Beach balls and water polo balls bobbed merrily about. Floatie tubes helped the less confident to stay afloat. I towed James all over the pool for about an hour as he kicked, splashed, and yelled "Wheeee, a pool party!" over and over. His sister took off and swam like a fish all over the pool, with a buddy tagging along to monitor her progress and talk with her. James knew some of the kids in the pool, and we had fun hanging out near each other, and enjoying brief moments of connection and interaction.

Then the gigantic horse raft was brought out. Oh my. Most of the kids clamoured for a ride, often overbalancing and tipping over shortly after managing to get on top. Eventually, most kids had their fun, and climbed out to devour the pizza that had been delivered, poolside. A small dedicated group continued their water play. I got a shot as James did not want to get back in the water after pizza.

We hit the mid 80s and had a light breeze. It was perfect weather!
One last thank you and aloha for this year, Saturday Sidekicks!

Earth Day

Our local Farmers' Market started up today for the year. What a nice way to celebrate Earth Day! Besides the usual vendors, there were live performances and booths for earth-friendly businesses, health centers, and community programs. The local gardening club put on a fine plant and flower show.

We made this event our family activity for the week, and arrived early so we could park and plug in. Yes, plug in. The town recently installed 3 electric vehicle charging stations and our Leaf was the perfect fit for this.

Although the Bread Lady was not there, we found lots to see and buy. We're trying a bag full of honey-wheat rolls (they actually look like small loaves), golden beets, and gala apples from our favourite apple guy, who told us all about the uses of cotton & its by-products. And in the spirit of supporting our girl's interest in baking with fruits, I bout a raspberry cane from the garden club table and several raffle tickets for luck.

The atmosphere was excited, yet relaxed. The crowd was appreciative of the stage acts (senior center's Zumba group and the Healdsburg Belly Dancing troupe). Parks and Rec had volleyball nets with beach balls set up for kids, and I saw a modified game of horseshoes with Hula Hoops. Families from all over were having a blast.

The stilt walkers gave me 70s flashbacks, which was appropriate, seeing as Earth Day got started back in 1970.

And that's just the morning. We had a pool part this afternoon too!

The Great Outdoors

It's the beautiful time again in our yards. The back is lush and overgrown. You can still smell new leaves and damp soil -- the promises of things to come. The air is soft and inviting. The kids love to wander and explore.


It took until they were both in school for me to be able to spend time outside again. My daughter could not stand the feel of grass and they both freaked out if flies or bees buzzed too close to them.

The yard awaits. Our daughter climbs trees now, making her own bows and arrows. James follows her about, swinging on the swing set or making pictures on the chalkboard or pads of paper. They have super soakers that are just waiting to be used.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Those Smiles

I can't get this picture out of my head, so I am sharing it again here today:

James with his friend Ronnie -- team leader of Hope for Buddies and Friends,
co-chair for the North Bay Walk Now for Autism Speaks.
She's been part of our lives for over 5 years. We were so excited to see her before the walk.

For more images from the heart and to share some of yours,
visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

               and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Magic Marker Monday: Artistic Boom

Some artwork came home in James' backpack on Friday. His teacher currently covers 3 bulletin boards with class projects -- which is a big ramp up from his other class. I thought I'd share. Some of it's going on our fridge.

First, they're fun to display. Second, to enjoy the results of James being in a classroom with an aide who are a much better fit for him:

Not sure what this is, but I love all the personality coming through.

I did a similar piece when I was in Kindergarten, many moons ago.

And something that touched my heart, a gift from a friend:
On the back it reads "From B____, to James"

For more great masterpieces or to share some of your own, visit
5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

            Special Needs Blog                    Photobucket

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Air Bud

Waiting for our turn to talk to a Mac Genius ... James has deep-sixed the security settings on his iPad.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Walking With Our Buddies And Friends

Some pictures need no words:

James and his buddy Ronnie

Some photos from today's walk. We picked up some more information from the Resources booths, saw friends, and enjoyed being out on a nice Spring morning.

Word is really getting out about Autism, but we still need your help!

Getting ready to walk ...

Rounding the corner on Lap 2.

Visiting the Cypress School booth, looking at PECS and drinking cool water from my special water bottle.

We are proud to be walking with our Buddies and Friends. We still need answers.