Monday, December 19, 2016

Way Cold

We had an arctic chaser to our latest Pineapple Express. The watering can, wheel barrow, and assorted pots and jars turned from rainwater collectors to ice machines.

James jumps around excitedly as we bustle about on our morning chores: "Look at the little snow! It's like feathers, Mother!"

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Gift of Conversation

Last night I went out (!) for my company's holiday party. I was frustrated because I was running late. Luckily, James was staying at home with friends and had already had dinner. I ended up enjoying the evening and coming back home after James went to bed and had a blissful night's sleep.

James let me sleep in until around 7, a good hour and a half later than usual. He also did not wake up in a panic at 3am, calling for me (which he has done in the past when I return home after he has fallen asleep).

Instead, he  politely knocked before entering, calling "Are your here, Mother? Did you come home last night?" He then came in to sit by my bed and we talked together about my night out, Christmas, and trips to Disneyland. It was so pleasant and I was secretly elated with James' new conversational abilities.

He is such a neat kid, and for years I longed to hear what he was thinking. So while I was listening and smiling with him this morning, inside I was saying "YES!!!!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Gift Giving and Autism

Gift Ideas for Autistic Kids

One would think that after almost 9 years of making Autism's acquaintance, I would be better at this. Alas, the thrill is still there: What to get for Christmas and James' birthday (which lands about 2 weeks after Christmas)?

With autism in the mix, I need to blend several areas of information together and throw "normal" out the window. It's not such a bad thing.


There are the things that James likes: Caillou (still, heaven help me), Curious George, Thomas Train, Baby Einstein, Upside Down Show, spinny things, gears, music, Pixar.

James' abilities: He is young and playful for his age, has some fine motor skills strengths and challenges, processing delays, and a fickle attention span. His dream is to play games on a Playstation, iPad, iPhone of his own for hours at a time and play arcade games like speedboat racers. He hates flies and gets anxious with outdoor sports and staying with a group.

There are the typical gifts for almost 12 year-old: iPad, iPod touch, cell phone, computer/Xbox, clothes, science/art/magic kits, skate boards, bikes.

There are the fun classic kid presents: Lego, puzzles, solar-powered toys, build your own computer/robot, books, movies, sports gear, toy vehicles, yo-yos, kites.


Your kid + autism = unique for them gifts. Here are some Christmas presents ideas for 2016:
  • All 3 Toy Story movies in one DVD collection and Inside Out: letters to Santa and Social Communication therapy, thank you!
  • Maps from AAA: he has been carrying them all over lately, placing cities and travel routes; thank you, CSAA membership!
  • This nifty kids smart watch:
    VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX, Royal Blue (2nd Generation) (seriously, just read the features - I am jealous!). James will love the voice and picture filters!
  • This smart little DIY marble run: After a frustrating experience with the taller, bendy multi-piece ones, I am hoping for true multi-time use and enjoyment with the Kengadget Crazy Ball Marble Run Set

For a birthday:

  • music lessons (probably piano with a local family that teaches music out of their home)
  • another movie -- digital purchase because...
  • a Kindle Fire with a case
Your mileage may vary with a Kindle. I thought long and hard about it myself, as James has smashed some of his most favourite Apple electronics lately when in a temper and I will not replace them. The Apple IDs and iTunes are driving me nuts with their user unfriendliness.

The Kindle is not locked down very much, so I will let him use it on a limited time basis for good behaviour. It will be his. I am not getting the special kids' subscription or a warranty. I am making it very clear that he breaks it, no more Kindle. It was $33 on a Cyber Monday special with free shipping so the cost is not bad. He can use my Prime membership to watch movies and use his PBS Kids subscription, take videos and pictures, access digital books from our public library. I find it very easy to add apps and borrow/purchase/download media. Did I mention I got a really good deal on this?

There will always be clothes too, like nice big boy PJs, shirts, and pants. James is growing like a weed!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Holidays, Homework, Hornsby

Well, it's Tuesday night and another fun, action-packed 10-hour day is finally calming down.


Due to way the heck overload on the visits to doctors and medical places in general, sometimes have this amazing schedule: work by 6:00 am (5:30, upon occasion), lunch around 10:30 am. Big "lunch" break that is actually used for medical/appointment runs.

I must say, we live in a beautiful  region. The trees are still flaming gold and red, brilliantly lit under stormy skies by stray ray from a Fall sun and framed by dark wet branches and trunks. Gold leaves lie in piles on the ground. The vineyards retain some colours yet as well. I see ravens, egrets, and countless other birds. Rainbows happen.

Traffic happens too, and drivers panicked by the recent election and rain on the roadways, but I digress.

Then back mid-afternoon for a couple hours of wrap up, to depart around 5:00 pm in the deepening gloom to pick up James from Boys and Girls Club (BAGC). Or is it the BAGC? Mr. Tumnus greets me at the door. A huge painting of a Lion proudly looks out over the room from a wall. Three snowy trees with beavers under them have displaced the Lost and Found table. On top of the backpack cubbies is a curious wardrobe. A castle gleams, far in the distance!

As we drive to the library or home, we take new streets, hoping to see new Christmas lights along the way. Christmas songs have been known to be sung.


Dang, what a difference a good teacher and IEP team makes! We are starting to receive Math sheets, Reading and content analysis, and more advanced spelling lists. James usually whips through this, sometimes at the BAGC's Power Hour (read "homework time"), sometimes at the desk in his room, but most often with me. He is much more independent when he works, and I am proud of him.

He has been asking about Egypt and Greece, so I know he is taking in some history. 

Every now and then it is hard to get James to focus. He falls apart as I watch. He is almost 12, so I make him some more dinner. That usually makes a big change for the better. He is getting much better at keeping track of his homework and putting it in his folder, then the folder in his backpack.


Sometimes, there is too much cacophony in the house. At times like this, I break out music. James likes Mozart and Bach. I like Christmas music and ... Bruce Hornsby. I play YouTube videos so James can watch him play. I also like Bruce Hornsby best during his live performances. After all the hectic craziness of the day, I find his music to be rich, full of life, and relaxing.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Ieine Kliene Nacht Music

Instead of reading together at night before bed, James has been asking for me to play videos of classical music. He picks the titles from his Baby Einstein DVD collection. Last night, we were fascinated by this recording:

Wow! I can literally "see" the music. It's fascinating that someone could think up these intricate interweaving of music and then note it down. I wonder if Mozart saw this in his head?

It reminds me of the Matrix:

... which is probably why James likes it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Test Drive at the Library

James has been fixating on plotting the driving route from Northern to Southern California. He constantly asks which city is next, how we get to So Cal, and what the weather is like at various points. Common fixations are the Altamont Pass. He is also fascinated with the steep So Cal access road, in particular why we call it The Grapevine but it's official title is the Tejon Pass.

James also loves going to the library: computer time!

Put these things together, and you get:

Oh my!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Yin-Yang Holidays

It's been a rather black week, in which I had a day that literally sent me home early to go lie down in bed. A week who's motto should be "getting old is not for sissies." Where the bleak things in life had a party at my house, neighbourhood and family alllllll week long. And then followed me to work and popped up at my church.

So it's been an extreme relief to have a few days off, gather with family for a Thanksgiving together, hug my kids, and go see friends.

It was great to watch the next gen of cousins play together. Except for James, they are all now in their teens. Every time they get together, James asks to play hide and go seek, just about the only social game he knows and loves to play. Every time, they say yes, and then for HOURS they have the best time playing. They are so accepting, it is awesome to watch.

This year was no exception. The new twist is that James' cousin is a hide and seek ninja. Over 15 minutes and they could not find him in the house, which is not that big. Three times in a row.

He is good!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Angry Birds Metaphor

So it's raining and James and I are talking as we make the one big round of errands so we can stay home later, enjoying a warm, dry afternoon. We wound up discussing Angry Birds, always a favourite theme with James.

He had an interesting insight into the Matilda Bird, whom he has been drawing obsessively. To the point of roping me into a hunt for black paper and a white crayon (yes, we had both squirreled away somewhere) so he could colour her.

James wanted to know if I'd noticed that she is rounder before she drops her egg, and thinner after. I conceded he had a point. Why, he wanted to know? I asked him what he thought. His answer startled me:

"I think she puts the angry into her egg and when she drops it on the piggies, she gets smaller."

What a great metaphor for how you the deflated, de-energized state after an angry outburst.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Freedom of a Friday Night

We felt like celebrating the release from school for a week. Projects got finished at work. James had finished his homework packets and his school had their Stampede event that morning. He raised enough money to proudly wear his t-shirt. We made sure his good tennis shoes were on for the race. I wrote a note to please excuse him from running the event, asking that he be able to jog/walk it. I probably did not need to write the note, but it made James feel better.

After the afternoon pickup from Boys & Girls Club, which was suffused with a gleeful atmosphere, we enjoyed some time at the public library. James likes the library because he can play computer games and check out movies.

The nights are crisp and cold. We agreed that dinner out on the Town Green would be just the thing. So we walked over to KC's Diner and were seated by the fire pit on the patio. That and the waiter were as good as a floor show for James. He took it all in and sat the entire meal in his chair, which is something new for him.

We checked the Warriors game occasionally on the TV monitor, discussed the merits of ketchup and lettuce, and theorized the construction of the fire pit. Chicken strips, spinach salad and fried were consumed, and we were able to relax from weekday routine. The walk back to the car was cheerful and comfortable. James has been scripting the dining experience from the viewpoint of the waiter. It makes a nice change of pace from Spongebob, fractions, and spelling.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Movie Review: Finding Dory

Art Imitating Life

This is a movie that we have seen twice in the theatre. Originally we were invited to a private screening from the Swain Center. James liked it so much that we saw it again last month. I am glad I had a chance to see it again because the first time I missed a lot of the soundtrack.

Not that I would have missed that original showing for the world - oh no. I was in a theatre FULL of parents who got a jolt to the solar plexus along with me, watching Dory's parents worry about what was going to become of her. How could she live a normal life? Trying to stay cheerful when they feel caught in a nightmare; trying very hard not to cry. Because your child cannot do something basic that others can do. Because you see how they could be lost or hurt. That this sweet kid has no idea what is out there and you do. The possible consequences of your child wandering off … Yeah. There were a couple of us gripping the arm rests, vaguely comforted that we were in a room of people who would understand. Some parental tears were shed.

I think many of us saw ourselves also in Marlin's role: caring, exasperated, and in need of pausing now and then to remember what really matters. That the quirky person who can drive us nuts is also a unique, caring, special thing. Because this differently abled character has achievements and strengths. Because real friendships are there. While the accomplishments may seem boring and mundane to others, we, like Dory's parents, can stop and appreciate the victories. We all saw our trial and errors at teaching expected behaviors, coaching speech, communication through singing, and coming up with snippets to help stay on track mirrored in their efforts with her.

Review and Semi Spoilers Alert

As for the movie itself, my impression is that the journeys trumped the story. There were plenty of great new characters, as well as refreshers of familiar ones (stay  through the credits, y'all!).

Hank, the cranky octopus (or septopus) stole my heart. Becky was runner up. The colours are gorgeous and the water and ocean effects are amazing. The kids loved the lively sea creatures, such as the possessive sea lions, fallible whales, and traffic-stopping sea otters.

I greatly enjoyed Sigourney Weaver as the voice of the Oceanographic Institute. As a sometime member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I recognized some onscreen counterparts to the real thing.

There are many chase scenes! Yelling! Sneaky scenes. Rock stealing. Marine science. Disguises aplenty. Breakups and reunions. A continued message of finding the family of your blood and your heart. The favorite for many was the climactic car chase and dramatic conclusion. Even that had a manageable sound level. Every time a scene felt as though it might begin to drag, there was a quick change of pace or comic scene. In short, this is a really nice movie to see with your kids. While not as fantastic as Finding Nemo, it is still a very solid movie.

Four starfish and a recommended movie for kids, families, and the holiday break.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Homework Aikido

Every now and then the homework push overshadows the actual assignments. As a single parent, even the easy assignments James has can be difficult to make time for. James is also recovering from the flu and the persistent head cold that followed. The heat poured back on this afternoon, flirting with breaking 100°. The homework ch'i was wan and lacking. There was stimming and whining.

Time for a change.

I had James pack his backpack. I planned to go to the gym, with its nice lighting, air conditioning, and change of atmosphere, but completely forgot the after work crush that mobs the parking lot. No problem, just down the road was my ace in the hole: the airport:

We knocked off the spelling assignments and most of the read and answer sheets. Helicopters lifted off, passengers deplaned right onto the tarmac near us, and small planes took off into the softening blue sky. James really wanted to go back to the gym, so that is where we finished the last few assignments and then sat out near the pool, feeling the cooling breezes while the sun went down and lit the clouds a la Maxfield Parish.

We came home full of accomplishment and a much better attitude.


So summer went like *that* (finger snap) and it is Fall. Already.

I have my autismom calendar of events that confirm the paper Gregorian version in the kitchen:

  • The back to school frustration of not enough communication from the school. 
  • Feeling like the I need Homeland Security Clearance to get his schedule. 
  • Beginning of school year IEP request and meeting, in which I try to understand where James will be physically at which time for each IEP service and what has been changed without telling me since the last IEP team meeting. 
  • School pictures, once again in a red polo shirt. There no other Picture Day shirts. 
  • Newsletters via a different delivery system. 
  • Requests for money from the school. 
  • First days of school missed due to cold AND flu that are "going around". 
  • First homework makeup packet request and turn in. 
  • First meltdown over reading assignment. 
  • First sneaking of Crocs instead of sneakers to school. 
  • Verbal stimming begins over a new teacher's name. 
  • I try to commit a new aide's name to memory. 
  • We set up new routines for homework and find The One Pencil that is tolerable for completing assignments. 
  • Been called by the new school because the out sick message got lost. 
  • Been called to leave work and pick him up because he was distraught. 
  • Three evil bouts with constipation (and calls from the school or aide). 
  • One email skirmish on why he was sent out for making noise / misunderstanding of what happened.
I have some more homework to do before meeting again with his team. After that, I intend to enjoy Fall with James and build up some fortitude before the return from Winter break sets off a new flurry of excitement.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Autism Audibles

Was just called "Uncle Mother" by James. Not quite sure where the fixation on uncles is coming from this morning, but he's exploring it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Reading Program 2016

Last week I signed James up for the Summer Reading Program at our wonderful library branch. This will be a good time to just sit together unplugged and read.

Our first two books:
The Big Honey Hunt (the Berenstain Bears - James' choice)

Horrible Harry Goes Cuckoo (my choice; I thought James would identify with the challenges of keeping still)

Oh boy!

Sibling DIfferences In Shoe Shopping

She: Visit several stores, punctuated by hangry episodes and at least a dozen variations of "I want them, but: there's a seam / tightness in the toes / no one wears shows like this / nah." Buy at least one pair of new socks to make show wearing bearable. Can't be any socks, there are usually at least 3 qualities that MUST be present for sock wearing. Deal with Accessories Temptation on both our parts.
Finally get lucky at REI / Big 5, far from home. Once (as in only once) I scored during Black Friday Deals weekend at Old Navy with Uggs. Current favourite shoes are glossy black rain boots. They look fantastic, but they are rain boots, bought on after searching in vain at Garretts, Old Navy, Costco, and Target.

He: Make plans to spend up to an hour at Payless Shoes, mostly looking for the right size and something on sale-ish. Run late and decide WalMart will have take care of frozen chicken nuggets, bigger underpants, and shoes for James.

Stroll down shoe aisle at the back of the store, after scoring last package of undies in the new size. Spot 2 pairs very blue tennis shoes. Whisk off his sandal and hold them up to the soles and decide he's probably now a size 6. Ask if he likes them. "Yes." Ask if he really will wear these shoes. Every day. "Yes." Purchase shoes after snagging chicken nuggets. We pretty much traveled in a rectangle inside the store and were out in 20 minutes, 5 minutes from home. With any luck, both pairs will last for more than 6 months.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Little Vacuum Miracle

Another "first."

The old vacuum (I cannot even remember how old it was) has finally died a slow, ugly, noisy, smelly death. I knew it was time to give it up and get a new machine when the old model started channeling the Exorcist by spewing out what it had just tried to consume creating hazy, odoriferous mayhem. I put off finding a replacement for as long as I could.

Over the past dozen years or so, vacuuming has become a traumatic event - for the kids because of the noise (it would literally send James running, screaming as he bolted in panic to escape the noise) and for me because it turned the chore into a horrible beat the clock kind of ordeal that had to be planned and frantically executed in a small amount of time when the kids were not around (which got even more challenging once I went back to work full time and the vacuum started breaking down and needing constant fixing).

Even opening the closet and seeing the red instrument of malevolent cacophony would set of anxiety attacks for James, who would then need constant reassurance that that hideous thing would soon be safely back behind closed doors. Unplugged. No really, I mean it.

So, new vacuum. I debated endlessly the merits of vacuums. We have cats. There is dirt galore. Crumbalanches have been known to happen in areas near the TV. I discover that lower decibel vacuums for pet owners in a modest price range are now a thing. Excitement! After hours of research and second-guessing myself, I schlepped off to Costco for a new Shark. I've never bought one before, but it got good reviews online and was on sale.

As I was eyeing the two Shark models on display, an older gentleman paused his cart alongside mine and regarded me with faint dismay. "Oh my, no. You are thinking of buying the Shark?" Out whisked a business card. "Forgive me, but I run a vacuum repair shop in town. You do not want a Shark. Those things come in for repairs? They are useless. Just a big metal paperweight. I am sorry for for interrupting but I just could not help myself. You can call the number on the card if you need anything." And off he sailed, as gracious as all get out.

Okay, Universe, I can take a hint. Hoover Wind Tunnel it was.

I got it home, assembled it, and turned it on. Oh my goodness - it really is a lot quieter!! And it does work well. I just have to continuously empty the canister. That's okay, though. It's easier to get to the canister and overall it is much lighter and easier to maneuver than the old one. It was more on sale than either of the two Sharks. My favourite feature? Auto-retractable cord. Yes!

The mini miracle? James isn't scared of it. He even came out to see how it worked. Both hands over his ears and bent over with anxiety, but I actually think he will get more used to this. He even tried pushing the vacuum himself. This is one of the times I am doing a victory whoop and dance inside my head. Yes!!!! We are just that much closer to mastering another life skill.

Which is good, because our mastery with the mop still needs a LOT of work. But that's another story ...

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

This Video Pretty Much Says It All ..

If you've been on social media, you may have seen this video making the rounds:

What you may not see is the extended post from The Mighty's website. And yes,

Because of my kids, I've learned the little things in life are often the sweetest. I would not have experienced that so exquisitely without them.

Monday, May 30, 2016

FFA Twighlight Parade: Let the Summer Start!

Many small towns have sweet traditions. Healdsburg has the Future Farmers' Association Twighlight Parade. James and I took it in. It signals the start to summer up in our area. As Healdsburg has become "discovered" it has become a big draw for the area.

Luckily, I know how to sneak in some side streets and find parking at a fairly close range, even once the parade gets underway. James' sister has been in this parade three times. This year, just James and I watched from the cur, sharing a bag of Doritos and a huge bottle of water.

There are trick riders:

HOBO Bicyclists (my favourites for this year):

Many dogs, a few goats, and an occassional cow on a float ... everyone from the preschools to the vineyards enjoyed this year's Barnyard Beach Party!

New entry for me this year (which might be James' favourite entry): our local airport. Nice waving, Control Tower! Can you bring the REACH helicopters next year?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fifth Grade Field Trip: Steelhead Release

I had to fight to get James included with this fifth grade peers this year. Despite a clear IEP, it took several sounds of meetings, many emails, and a lawyer or two to enforce it. When the dust settled and James was finally with his peers, it was January. It took more emails to get included on the class email list, and there were 3 field trips left in the year by then.

Release of the steelhead fry in a local creek was the first we could make, and it was a great trip. The day was sunny and cloudy, neither too hot or chilly for the fish or the kids. The class was literally all over the rocks and boulders, like bouncing ping pong balls. James started off by himself, watching, and eventually ended up under a grove of trees with some other boys.

Magnifying glasses came out and the kids lifted rocks to look for life forms underneath. They called out to each other to come see when they found something. They were excited as heck to be out of a classroom and exploring. The Mom Chaperones shouted out to those who strayed too far in their explorations ... there were some very enthusiastic discoverers in the group!

We had snacks and then headed down to the water's edge of Brush Creek, where the fry were somewhat acclimated to fresh water temps. The kids broke into groups to check the pH levels and water temperatures. They were going to turn in their data for scientific research. James stood apart watching, and was then called over by a group of kids, so he would not be left out. Right there, I felt all the struggles of this year were worth it. I was so happy to watch this inclusion just happen.

James' job was to report pH levels, which he did just fine. He then wandered up and down, observing other groups and having a great time climbing around the rocks. The fish were getting impatient, trying to swim out of their plastic cups.

The fish were released and cheered on as they swam away to freedom. After a bit of excited talking amongst themselves, the kids were rounded up for a class photo (my battery was out at this point, unfortunately) and then driven back to school. Did James have a good time?

Yes! Totally, totally worth it. At last!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Angry Birds Movie: Review

So this week I found out there really is an Angry Birds movie and heard some decent buzz around it. James missed the last day of school, due to a 24-hour flu bug. I thought seeing the movie would be a good way to cheer him up and for us to have some quality time.

 Yes, it's a movie about a video game; an app. You don't need to be up on all the birds' names and characteristics, but it helps make the movie more enjoyable. You are introduced to the main Angry Birds characters and the whole community of Bird Island (who remind me of the Lotus Eaters, but never mind). Nicely done, Rovio.

There is a nice set up for both the movie and game premise. We will overlook the comedic but oddly  unnecessary heroic eagle character who has no counterpart in the game. The ending of the movie, however deals with him rather neatly.

The piggies arrive. They are gleeful. We the audience know they are wicked: cowboy hats, chaps, trampolines and all. I enjoyed the setup. It feels true to the games and doesn't try to be too clever. It does not take too long.

There are explosions! Egg nappings en masse! Weeping parents who ended up at a loss as to what to feel or do next. The angry characters and the whole Angry Birds backstory suddenly made a lot of sense. I felt like the gang at Rovio saw Inside Out and became inspired (although I know this is probably not what happened).

Spoilers (and come on, you probably already know this is going to happen)....

The Sacking of Piggie Island is glorious. I have rarely seen James so animated, so gleeful!! He spent about 20 minutes jumping around in his seat with elation, laughing and stimming with "Eeeeeeee!", punctuated with "Did you see that, Mother?! What is your favourite part?" I thought the destruction of the Piggie Town was well and lovingly executed. You can just tell the entire team took pride in demolishing the structures following the spirit of the games.

The ending, as previously stated, was well done. Not over-the-top sweet and very satisfying. We stayed all the way through the credits. James *wanted* to stay for the credits. They were fun too.

Parental Summary:
  • Not too loud soundtrack (which is amazing these days). 
  • No swearing (although there are plenty of innuendos for the grown ups). 
  • Characters got upset but they did not make James upset, which is a neat trick.
  • Main characters all got into trouble and had consequences. Very familiar for kids and well handled, I thought. This also can be a trigger for James and it was not for this movie.
  • Lots of visual gags and painted puns -- they expect their audience to be quick and on the lookout for fun stuff. 
I feel like James got a big kick out of seeing familiar characters onscreen doing their stuff and from making connections between the whole emotions angle and his Social Communications class at the Swain Center.

Full disclosure - you get an up close (from the back) view of the eagle peeing off a cliff for over a minute. James could not figure that one out and I finally had to tell him I'd have to explain later. Get you potty humour scripts ready, folks!

Five out of five gold eggs! Check it out and enjoy some family time together!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

YouTube: Power Tool for Autism Parents!

Another regular school year is coming to an end for James. It has been a stinker, complete with his school changing his program and retaining him in the 4th grade without asking or being honest with me. Totally not in compliance with his IEP. Took several meetings and a lawyer to get that undone.

Yes, there were some good things too this school year. And James is still his cheerful self. A lot of broken promises this year, that's all I'm saying.

Today is a field trip for James! The second real field trip of the school year and I am so happy he gets to be with the mainstream 5th grade class for it. It's rollerskating at a local rink.


James has trouble riding a bike, let alone roller skating. He's never attempted skating, in fact. However, breakthroughs with his social group at the Swain Center, the overall friendliness of the kids at his school, and the expanded horizons from the Boys and Girls Club after school program all contributed to him wanting to go and try.

He wanted to know how to roller skate. We have no skates. What we did have was YouTube:

Oh yeah! We watched a few of these and off he went!

Crossing my fingers - so far, no phone calls from the office!

Update: He did great! Two laps around the rink and ate 3 slices of pizza after. Yes, he did fall. No, it was not a big deal. He was so jazzed that he went. And very tired that night too!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

U is for Universe

On the upside of some extreme house cleaning: We have found the letter U!

I knew it was in there somewhere. Somewhere turned out to be in a rarely used bookshelf in the dining area, buried under cassette tapes and unused jewelry gift boxes that the kids loved to collect.

This has made James so happy. He truly is a Mr. Thing-in-their-place. Universal happiness, brought to him by the letter U.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Finding Your Own Words? Priceless.

James started saying words at age 3. Not everyone could understand them. The first time he told me he loved me, he was 4. Yes, I cried.

James has an interesting solution for communicating asking people questions he knows the answers to, scripting, and echolalia.

At 11, not everyone can understand everything James says. But he now can express himself (good and bad, this guy lets it all out). It's such a relief to feel like our communication window has opened wider.

Imagine being without words.

Autism Speaks has come up with an app to help: Able AAC. For the month of April, Autism Awareness month, it's free. FREE! Spread the word!

Saturday, April 02, 2016

April 2, And I See Blue

World Autism Awareness Day is April 2, 2016

How has your Saturday been going? I have spent mine doing errands, taking care of groceries, errands, and clean up. James is enjoying Little Einstein videos, because they discuss music and musical instruments. We played Red Ball off and on.

Why this post? 

If you don't have anyone in your life who is autistic, you may not be aware that April 2 is a kind of world-wide call to action about a developmental issue that is may look invisible, but will be a significant part of our futures.

What do I mean by calling autism invisible?

Well, autism tends to not have physical deformities. Autism presents differently for each person. For some, there is not a whole lot to see. Examples:
  • James is now doing his homework with only verbal prompts! He is 11, and his homework is basic arithmetic (this year -- last year he was doing long division, but that is a big digression) and his reading choices are pretty much "Green Eggs and Ham," "Where the Wild Things Are," and "Captain Underpants." I will supplement with multiplication tables and Chrestomanci, but am thrilled that this is the year he tackles homework without my being there right beside him.
  • James is becoming more independent, doing his laundry, taking out garbage, and helping me do the grocery run and pick up around the house. These are life skills that take perseverance to make into habit, and we were  told a couple times he'd never be able to do this. We tried anyway, and will continue to do so. Money is a tough nut to crack.
  • Last week, James was able to tell a family friend about a tough day he had at school. Because of his language delays (We were told after 6 months of speech classes that he might be non-verbal), this is huge. James started speech therapy at the age of 2 and continues to receive it at school. With his participation in a social communications class at the Swain Center, he is finally beginning to be able to let people know how he is feeling.
  • This morning, I took James with me on a breakfast errand, as he wakes up happy and bouncy. His teen sister needs a peaceful wake-up. It is a fact that siblings of kids on the autism spectrum need to be remembered, and have their needs met too. It can be sadly too easy to lose sight of, amidst IEPs, appointments, and other worries. I plan special time with my daughter because we both enjoy it and we both need a break from autism idiosyncrasies. 
  • I have to make a to do item to call, text, or email my friends. Autism can be very isolating. I can't do a Girls' Night Out or cannot attend many social events due to sensitivities and other issues. Movies are either in-home or Sensory-Friendly theater showings. Eating out can be  nerve wracking.
All this to say ... please consider that autism is alive and growing. Legislation for Autism continues to be debated. Healthcare reforms for autistic patients come and are challenged. Every 11-20 minutes, a parent or family's life take a sharp detour with a diagnosis of autism. As many families tend to fall off the social radar of many friends and family, they become unseen.

Autism will affect you, either directly or indirectly. The current large swell of previously diagnosed children are fast growing up, along with James. The benefits of early intervention are many, but what will their futures be? It is my hope that autistic adults will find their places in their communities, making a life working with others in places like the supermarket, schools, and local businesses.

Thank you, President Barack Obama, for recognizing World Autism Awareness Day.

What can you do? Be supportive of those friends or families sealing with autism. Recognize that legislation relating to IDEA, Regional Centers, and healthcare affect not only you, but also those largely unseen, growing numbers of individuals with special needs ... and send an email or make a phone call when voices are needed to continue services and programs that are designed to help them be as independent as possible.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Real Hair Cut

Guess what we did last weekend?

A real hair cut, with no tears, sitting in the chair the whole time, minimal distress, and some 11 year old street cred. Photo coming soon.

Thank you, hometown Great Clips hair salon! James picked you out and you made his day. Still making his week, in fact.

I have to give a big shout out to Ricardo, who didn't miss a beat and made James feel like a typical 11 year-old guy. His trimming technique around the ears was pure magic to watch.

One more of those "OMG, we're finally here" moments. Victory!

Birthday Boy is Eleven!

James had a very quiet birthday this year. He was sick, the weather was cold, and we were all pretty wrung out. He had presents, we made his birthday cake together using his favourite Lazy Daisy recipe. We saw The Good Dinosaur, the odd Pixar product and enjoyed pizza from Round Table.

James liked his books, movies, and Edward, from the Thomas Train Engine series. He liked the Star Wars movie we took him to, once he was feeling better and crowds had died down a bit.

His real birthday party is in a couple of weeks, once the playoff tournaments have finished at our local bowling alley. Happy birthday, James!