Friday, July 29, 2011

“Dance First. Think Later.”

Growing up our home was always quiet.  Except for Friday and Saturday nights, when my father came home from work and drank and listened to salsa until he passed out fell asleep. 

Sometimes my father would play the guiro and dance. He loved to dance and spin and twirl his partners. He has that old school salsero charm, and if at a wedding - he makes sure he dances all night.  And he'll throw his head back and laugh, even though I know he's getting tired.

I never appreciated salsa as a child.  But as I grew up, I appreciated the simple complexity of the movements.  And while The Husband and I hardly have the opportunity to dance together, when we do, I like to tease him by reciting lines from Dirty Dancing:  Look, spaghetti arms. This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don't go into yours, you don't go into mine. You gotta hold the frame.

(I'm getting to my point, really.) 

It's rare that we play music (I can't remember the last time I put on the radio) but whenever we do I try to get The Boy to dance.  He has no interest in dancing, unless you bribe him with three pieces of gum.  And quite honestly, when he does, I realize he will not be a charming salsero like his grandfather.
Anyway...they must be going over body parts in school because lately The Boy keeps pointing and saying, "That's your body.  Those are your hips."  And it's cute because he'll put his hands on hips and move from side to side.

So the other night when he said it, it made me think of that Dora the Explorer episode where they're going to her cousin's QuinceaƱera. Dora and Boots dance the mambo while singing "wiggle your hips, wiggle your hips."  I asked The Boy to put his hands on hips and wiggle.  I clapped my hands and started dancing, asking him to dance with me.  The Boy tried, smiling and wiggling his hips, twisting from side to side. He has spaghetti arms and stiff hips.  He is awkward in his movements.  And still tries so hard.  I shouldn't laugh, but I do.  Because The Boy's smile is contagious and he's having fun.   

The Boy may not have the dance moves working in his favor, but the charm - he's getting there.

Our Weekend Homework: Dance first. Think later.           


Thursday, July 28, 2011

ARTS Rx: Summer Social Skills Group in NYC

Earlier this week I was contacted by Lina Claire Meza-Murillo (MPS, ATR-BC, LCAT,CCLS
Licensed Creative Arts Therapist/ Certified Child Life Specialist)
.  She asked that I help spread the word about her organization. I am actually happy she contacted me - I'd love to sign The Boy up for this. And I'm more than happy to share this kind of information with parents. 

Lina runs an organization called ARTS Rx which provides Art Therapy, Music Therapy, and Dance Movement Therapy services to special needs children with ASD in the NYC area.

ARTS Rx has open registration for our 4 week Summer Social Skills Group Series for special needs children between the ages of 3-8. 

The Sunday program includes Art Therapy and Dance/Movement Therapy Groups. Art and Dance/Movement Therapy provide a non- threatening medium where unique outcomes are possible. They offer an integrated approach that combines hands-on creative arts experiences through the modalities of art therapy and dance/movement therapy with best-practice interventions to address treatment goals such as: Social Skills, Coping Skills, Communication, Sensory Integration, Attention Span, Self Esteem and Developmental Growth.

Sessions: 7/31, 8/7, 8/14, & 8/21

Time: 10am-11:30am

Group Size: Small groups with 8 participants maximum, Ratio of children to staff is no more than 2:1

Price: $35 per session/Sliding Scale Fee Available/50% Discount on Sibling Registration

Location: 39 West 14th Street, Suite # 508, NY, NY 10011

Easy accessible to subways: N,Q,R,4,5,6, to Union Square, F to 14th St./6thAvenue, OR 1,2,3 to 14th St./7th Avenue, Free Street Parking Sundays

Individual Sessions also Available.

For Registration Please Contact :

Lina Meza-Murillo


*No compensation was received for this post.    

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Let Them Eat Cake (and Muffins)!

 EASY Gluten Free Blueberry Cake

Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cake

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Photos & Recipes Courtesy of Yvonne

Yvonne is a journalist by trade and a blogger by night. At YvonneInLA she writes about life in Los Angeles with her two adorable boys, food and restaurants, and a little bit about politics and Latino issues. She loves creating gluten-free recipes, running marathons, and traveling. When she’s not blogging at YvonneInLA, she’s editing over at, where she is a founder.

If you have a gluten free/casein free recipe that you'd like to share with AutismWonderland - email me at  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Am I Doing Here?

Post inspired by Jessica Rosenberg's Kick in the Blog, "What do you love to do?"

 Whenever asked, "what do you do?" With a heavy sigh, I say, "I'm a secretary."  Sometimes I jazz it up and say, "I'm  a legal secretary."  Sometimes I add, "I write a blog and I'm in grad school."  Though it's often added as a disclaimer.  But never do I dare, call myself a writer.  And on the rare occasion someone asks a follow up question as to what I'm going to grad school for, I say, "I want to be a writer."

Because clearly I believe that I am not one yet.

I'm a secretary because it's what I get paid to do.  And I write because it's what I love to do.  I just wished that I would or could be financially compensated for doing what I love. 

Oh I know there are a slew of blog writers who make money off their blogs.  I'm not one of them.

I'm not complaining and have no plans about quitting my day job.  In this economy, I know how lucky I am to have a job with benefits.  But that's what it is - just a job.  A place to go, to make my living, to collect a check.  And as much as I enjoy having someplace to go and the people I work with, at the end of the day, there's no reward.  No personal satisfaction or fulfillment.  No sense of pride in a job well done.  No one to tell me I've made a difference.  Not that I need that.  But isn't that a good feeling that everyone should experience?

I'm just a secretary.  I'm not saving a life one file folder at a time.  I don't work for the Board of Education or a Special Needs law firm or some other worthy institution.  I am just a body behind a desk.  Answering phones, scheduling meetings, making photo copies, avoiding office gossip.  

This morning I shared an article I wrote for the Tiki Tiki with a co-worker.  She came up to me later and asked, "What are you doing here?  You should be writing books." 

I actually do have a book that I started about ten years. One day, I'll finish. I have a few short stories that could use revising. I'll get back to them.  I have a few worthwhile blog posts that could be sent out to some special needs publications.  Someday. 

And I stay up late at night, writing this little blog and watching it slowly but surely gain momentum.  I love writing it.  I love the thought process and dedication I have to it.  I love having a place to share our story.  I love reading through the comments, even though I can't always respond quickly.  And I love reading other blogs and connecting with people that I never would have met otherwise.  

I am always so grateful whenever someone takes the time to sign in, write a comment and enter in that wacky 4-6 letter/number pass code to post.  I am always so moved when someone writes me to say that they understand or ask for advice or say that my experience has helped them.  I am always so moved when strangers care enough about me and The Boy to send me words of encouragement, advice and virtual {HUGS}.  And my day is always a little brighter when I notice I have new blog followers or "Likes" to my Facebook Fan Page. 

I put more work, more thought and more love into this blog than I've put into any job I've ever had.  (And for those that know, you all know how many jobs I've had.)

And I don't get paid for writing. But I don't care.  Here, money doesn't matter.  Because here, I feel like I am making a difference.  It's a labor of love.          

So what am I doing here?  Working 9 to 5 as a secretary? 

Passing the time, paying life's dues, making a living.  So I can do what I love.         

Monday, July 25, 2011

Three Words I Don't Often Hear

I don't hear the words "I love you" from The Boy very often.  I prompt him to say many things.  But those three words?  Never.  I don't want them to be forced, I don't want them to sound rote.  I want him to say it when he means it. 

Every night when putting him to bed, after kissing him goodnight, after reading him a story and kissing him goodnight again, I tell The Boy that I love him.  I usually repeat it.  Holding his face with both hands so that he can see my face and hopefully look me in the eye. Sometimes he repeats it.  Sometimes he doesn't.  Sometimes he gives me a kiss and asks me to "go away" because he wants "Daddy to read another story." Sometimes he skips the kiss. 

I can count the times since he's started really talking in the last two years that he's said "I love you" spontaneously. 

Last winter, at around 6 am on a weekday morning.  I was calling out sick for work because I had been up with him all night nursing his fever.  He was in our bed, barely awake, his cheeks flushed red.  I pressed a cold washcloth on his forehead.  I smiled at him.  At how calm and still he was.  A small part of me likes when he's sick.  Every mother likes to be needed.  And I savor the moments when The Boy is calm and still and lets me stroke his hair or sits beside me while I read a story.  He pushed the washcloth away.  His eyes were starting to close and right before he fell asleep, he whispered "I love you."

Three weeks ago, Sunday I was sitting (w-sitting actually) on The Boy's bed reading a story. The Boy dropped a toy behind the bed and wanted me to get it.  Major klutz that I am, scooted back (still in w-sitting position) to get up.  Instead I fell backward on the floor, flat on my backside.  I screamed out in pain and The Husband hurried in to help me up.  The Boy, seeing me pain, started to cry.  With real tears and I had to get up to console him and reassure him I was okay.  He put his arms around me, buried his wet face in my neck and sobbed "I love you."

This morning, The Boy and I are standing waiting for the school bus.  And he's having a hard time standing still.  I'm trying to make conversation.  But The Boy is busy watching the pidgeons.  He suddenly throws his arms around me and asks for a hug.  I gave him a squeeze.  And then he said, "I love you Mama."  So sweetly and so appropriately as if he just made the connection between the action and verbal expression.  Maybe he did.  I picked up The Boy (no easy task since he's about 52 lbs) and squeezed him again.  Kissed him on his cheeks about twenty times before putting him back down. 
As the bus pulled up, I kissed him again, handed him his bookbag and said goodbye.  He got on the bus without looking back and without saying goodbye. 

So many parents take those three words for granted.  Some parents, wrapped up in their own chaotic day to day, ignore these declarations of love.  Me? I have to cherish each and every time because I'll never know when, where or why I'll hear them next.           

Saturday, July 23, 2011

He Believes, He Believes

Yesterday while trolling scrolling through my news feed on FB, I came across a post that immediately caught me attention: Who Believes in You written by Elena at CiaoMom.  Her post was inspired by a Kick in the Blog - a new site dedicated for blog inspiration. (Brilliant!) 

The prompt was: Who believes in you today? Who believed in you in the past? 
I didn't even have to think twice.

In the of May 2010, after a grueling CPSE meeting, the parent member told me that the best therapy we could provide for The Boy was a sibling.

Later that evening, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive.  I believed it was a sign, it was meant to be.  We were excited, apprehensive but looking forward to having a baby.  We were ready.  At my first prenatal visit, my obgyn said the due date was to be January 20th.  That was another sign!  The Boy's birthday is January 20th - they'd be exactly 5 years apart.

But during my 16 week visit, the baby's heart had stopped.  And for a few moments, mine had stopped too.  I had what was called a missed miscarriage.  Walking out of the doctor's office that day, across the street to the hospital, I felt heavy.  Like when your arm falls asleep and it's hard to move and it's tingly numb and you keep pinching the skin trying to bring it back to life.  That is how my entire body felt.  Numb.  I could have been stabbed twenty times and not felt a thing.

Was it a sign too?  A sign that another baby is not meant to be?

I've tried to convince myself it was "for the best," like some people said.  Considering all the running around I did over the course of the year - touring & interviewing at schools for The Boy.  Considering all the money that was spent on application fees, on books, on a special education consultant.  How would pregnancy and a newborn altered my decision making process? 

During this year, I've doubted myself at least once a day.  I've questioned every decision.  And at least once a week, I've crumpled into a ball on the sofa and cried.  For our loss, for our unsuccessful attempts at trying again, for fear of failure.  

And during this year, The Husband has comforted me.  Consoled me.  Held me.  And just let me be.  He tells me I am making the right decisions, when I think I have not.  He tells I am doing the best job ever, when I think I have failed.  He tells me I'm a good mother, when I say I'm not doing enough.  He tells me to keep writing, when I think what's the point.  He tells me 'we will keep trying.'  He reminds me that The Boy loves me and appreciates me even though he does not say it spontaneously or look me in the eye.  The Husband tells me over and over again, that he believes.  And every so often, I believe him.    
The Husband is a big Frank Sinatra fan and this is one of his favorite songs.

I believe, I believe,
I believe in wishing wells,
But I also believe in a lot of things,
Things the daisy tells,
I believe, I believe that a four-leaf clover brings,
Lots of luck, lots of joy, lots of happiness,
I believe those things.
And when it's christmas time I believe in santa claus,
Why do I believe, I guess that I believe because
I believe, I believe,
I believe that dreams come true,
If you wish for a dream by a wishing well,
Don't tell your wish or you'll break the spell,
It may sound naive, but that's what I believe

Lyrics by Ervin Drake

Friday, July 22, 2011

"It may be normal, darling; but I'd rather be natural."

Yesterday on facebook a question was posed: Is it important to teach your child with autism to "act normal"?

For parents with ASD kids, "normal" is often a goal.  I remember our ABA therapist said to us "The goal is to have him look as normal as possible.  For him to go out and have no one realize he has a diagnosis."  That was three years ago and at the time, it seemed like a great idea.

Needless to say, the question prompted a lot of different responses.  Here is mine:

I want The Boy to be himself as much as possible.  I want him to be confident and happy.  I want him to be included and form relationships - if that is what he wants.  I want him to be accepted for who is, rather than be accepted because he's worked so hard at being normal.

I want to teach him RespectMannersDignity.    

I want society to see beyond the diagnosis.   

I don't want him to be stared at or ridiculed or ostricized.

How can we talk about acceptance and then expect our kids to conform to what society deems to be normal?

Obviously, I wouldn't want The Boy to strip in public or bang his head against a wall or window in frustration.  But if he flapped forever - who is that hurting?  Is he to be shunned because he flaps or may repeat the same sentence over again?

So for now, we'll pass on being normal.  I'd much rather The Boy be Norrin.

Thought I'd share some quotes on normal:

"Normal is over rated, and so is spelling.You want perfection? Go out and buy a spell check, but know this: Spellcheck won't keep you warm at night or love you unconditionaly. I will stick to being abnormal and a bad speller. Makes life more interesting. After all, what fun is there in being normal or perfect?"
Cristina Marrero

"If you are different from the rest of the flock, they bite you"
Vincent O'Sullivan (The next room)

"It may be normal, darling; but I'd rather be natural."
Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany's)

Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent.
Sigmund Freud

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.
Albert Camus

The weirder you're going to behave, the more normal you should look. It works in reverse, too. When I see a kid with three or four rings in his nose, I know there is absolutely nothing extraordinary about that person.
P. J. O'Rourke

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I'm Not Ready

It's no secret that our kids have trouble transitioning.  And with 23 days left (but who's keeping track?) until the end of The Boy's final school year at his current placement, I'm trying to prepare him.  

When I know there will be a change in our routine, I explain it to him using the words "first"  and "then."  First we'll go to the supermarket and then the park. Or, First school, then Sensory and then Home. I do this because he always needs to know what's coming next.

For the last few weeks, I've been telling The Boy, that soon he'll go to "a different school."  

The times that I've said this to him, he's replied, "We're going to take the train to the school?"  Sometimes it comes out as a statement, other times like a question.  And I wonder what school he's thinking of, since he's taken the train with me to interview at four schools.  But I know it's too complicated a question to ask.  And I don't want to him to say "the school with the tree" because that was my absolute dream school and we were rejected.

This week, I've gotten two calls from The Horizon Program and while I'm looking forward to The Boy starting there.  I still have my doubts.  As I'm typing this, I feel my heart beating faster and I'm trying to breathe in and out slowly to calm my anxiety.  Still, my hands are shaking and my fingers tapping nervously on the keyboard. 

Am I making the right decision?  I can't tell you how often I've asked myself this question.  How often I've been unable to sleep over it?  It's a foolish question, really.  Because I know I would question any new school - even the dream school.

Because I'm not ready for him to go to kindergarten.  I'm not ready for him to grow up.  I'm not ready to let him go.  He's already lost his first tooth.  And has a second one ready to come out.  He's starting to push my hands away when I try to help him with things.  His favorite phrase of the moment is "all by myself."  He wants to brush his teeth all by himself (even though he can't).  He says he wants to take the bus to grandma's house all by himself (even though he won't).  And says he wants to pour his juice all by himself - this he can do. Well, almost.

The Boy is starting to show independence in self-help skills.  I know, that's great!  Especially since some are part of his IEP goals.  And it makes me so proud to see how far he's come and every inch of progress makes me more hopeful for the future.  But can't he need me just a little bit longer? 

Come September, The Boy may not have any trouble transitioning.  The Boy may get on that school bus on the first day of kindergarten without looking back.  Maybe all this anxiety is for nothing.  But if he does have difficulty transition, he'll have the proper support, and he'll adjust quickly.    

But in the meantime, who is going to help me with these transitions?  Because I really wish there was someone to tell me what's coming next.  


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: "It's time for bed."

The Boy during Saturday's Sensory Gym session. 
He buried himself under the pillows and said,
"It's time for bed.  It's time to sleep." 
Sigh...if only it was that easy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blogs By Latinas - AutismWonderland Has Been Nominated!

When The Boy was first diagnosed, I searched every bookstore for books on autism.  I have a two bookshelves in my own home (tiny apartment) dedicated to autism.  Not a single one was written by a Latina.   

When it comes to autism in the mainstream media, Latinos are rarely featured. It's not to say we don't exist or that our numbers are minuscule in comparison to other ethnic groups.  It's just not something we talk about.  And if we don't talk about it openly, how can we expect to make an impact?  

It's the reason I started this blog.     
It's the reason why I'm so proud of my nomination.  

Autism doesn't discriminate.  And our stories need to be heard. 

Please vote for
AutismWonderland at Blogs By Latinas 
(Mommy/Parenting category)

**Voting ends 7/26/11 midnight PST 
Voting application does not work with Firefox web browser
Voters must select a blog from each category to complete voting process. 
Help me continue sharing our story.  
                  Thank you!                       

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sleep Issues, Bedtime Routines and Special Needs

"Over 20 bloggers have shared their personal experiences, provided sleep resources, and outlined tips for helping children, teens, and parents find sleep. This incredible group of bloggers have experience with many different invisible special needs, such as ADHD, anxiety, sensory processing disorder, and autism. There’s something for everyone!" 

I have to say this is my favorite edition so far.   I loved reading everyone's experiences, especially the older kids.  It gave me an idea of what's in store.  I also picked up some great tips and techniques.  Not sure if it will work but it's all about trial and error with our kids.  
Hope you all have a good night's sleep tonight!

Lisa Quinones-Fontanez presents This Bed Ain’t Big Enough for 3 posted at Autism Wonderland. Prior to becoming a parent, Lisa had many ideas, “One of my ideas was: I would not let my child sleep in our bed.” Discover why Lisa has changed her belief on this idea and what her evenings often look like.

The Potty Chronicles Continue...

This weekend we had a  MAJOR poop training breakthrough!

It happened on Saturday afternoon while I was doing my usual: laundry, cleaning and cooking.  The Boy was in his room watching television and playing.  The Husband tinkering with the computer.  I went to clean the bathroom and found The Boy's underpants on the floor.  

"That's strange."   

I lift up the toilet seat and discover a present had been left for me.  (Nice.)  I look back down at the underpants on the floor.  (Insert expletive here.) 

I walk into The Boy's room, he's happily jumping around, wearing his shorts.  I inhale deeply and quickly scan the area.  I cringe for a minute at a lump on the rug - whew, no - it's just a rubber turtle.  I grab The Boy by the wrist - I'm not touching hands until I've washed them.

In the bathroom, I remove The Boy's shorts and find the "evidence."  As I clean him up, I praise him for doing such a great job and I remind him that he needs to ask for help. 

"I can go to the bathroom, All By Myself."  The Boy tells me.  He says the last three words in his sing-songy voice.  It's really not one of the lines in the book.  The Boy sometimes incorporates spontaneous speech in his scripting. 

"Not quite, but you're getting there."  And I tickle him and he laughs.   

Every day, The Boy is taking baby steps to independence.  Today, he went to the bathroom on his own.  Took off his underpants and shorts.  And then put on his shorts (correctly!) all by himself.  The Boy is making progress.
So, it seems as if I have a poop post for every season so far.
Spring (3/29/11) Oh Poop!  

Friday, July 15, 2011

Eating In. Dining Out.

I read two interesting pieces this week regarding children and restaurants.  The first is that Denny's (in Maryland) is hosting an Autism Awareness Night on July 27th between 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  For more information, click here. And the other article, non-autism/special needs related, was about one (upscale) restaurant was banning kids under 6. I like both ideas.  And it inspired me to write this. 

Over the 4th of July weekend, we took The Boy out for brunch with our good friends Matthew and John (aka Nino [The Boy's Godfather] & Uncle Johnny.)  We went to Peels; a trendy little place on Bowery.  Typically this isn't the kind of place we take The Boy.  But we were in the area, hungry and with two of our favorite people.  It wasn't part of our plan, we had no reinforcements.  No iPad, no Leapfrog, no books, no variety of toys to keep The Boy occupied.

Once again, The Boy surprised me.  We enjoyed our meal, had a few drinks (I had 3 - The Peels Punch, YUM!) and lingered in adult conversation for a few hours.  It was GREAT! The next day when I spoke to Matthew, he told me how impressed he was with The Boy.
Just because The Boy has autism, doesn't mean we live in a cave or that we shelter him from new experiences.  And we don't use autism as an excuse for "bad" behavior.    We want expect him to sit at a table and eat.  Clearly, we're not going to take him to Per Se anytime soon.  (okay, probably never considering it's about $150 per person.) And obviously we're not going out for dinner on a Friday or Saturday night at 8 p.m. But every once in a while, we like going out to eat and we haven't let autism get in the way. 

We are not the kind of family who eats dinner at the same time, seated around the table every night.  Between my work and school schedule, The Husband's work schedule and The Boy's therapy schedule - we just don't have that time.  (I wish we did.) During the week we all eat separately.  I often, stand at the kitchen counter, shoving food frantically in my mouth.  The Husband - usually the last to eat - eats while watching TV.  But The Boy, he always eats at the table.   

On the weekends, it's easier for us to eat as a family.  At times it's challenging since The Boy has a hard time sitting still (especially at home).  He likes to get up and run around at meal time.  But when he gets up, guess what?  I'm picking up the plate and taking it off the table.  After a few times, he gets the hint.  If he's really hungry, he'll sit and eat until he's finished.  If not, he'll let me know when he's ready. 

Going out to eat, we don't really have that option.  At first, I used to be scared of taking him out to restaurants.  OMG! What people will think?  (Could care less what people think now.) 

So we started at kid friendly places, like fast food joints or the neighborhood diner.  Places that were within walking distance, just in case.

We'd pack the necessary provisions: toys, books, the leapfrog (with a few games) etc.  We'd sit down and order.  Ordering would be done quickly. We'd let The Boy sit for a while, talking to him about where we were, asking him what he wanted to eat.   We'd wait before bringing out any toys.  Toys were always the last resort.   

When The Boy started to get antsy - usually right after we ordered - one of us would take him outside, walk him around the block and then bring him back.  By this time, the food was ready.  And if The Boy got antsy while eating, we'd start bring out toys.  Sometimes we had dessert, sometimes we didn't. 

We've upgraded to nicer places but still family style restaurants - like PF Changs or F & J Pine (a popular Italian place in The Bronx).  The Boy LOVES Chinese, so he's at his best behavior.  

Each time we go out, we increase our table sitting/eating time.  We ask The Boy what he wants and when it's time to order, we ask The Boy to tell the waiter what he wants to eat.  Usually I repeat the order.  We prompt The Boy to say 'please' and 'thank you.'  We include The Boy in the process.   

He's getting it.  Slowly but surely, The Boy is getting it.  And I think he is starting to enjoy it. 

Our meal at Peels (tee hee, that rhymes) was probably the nicest place we've taken The Boy to eat.  He was the only 5 year old in the place.  And it made me so proud, that we were able to take him there and he was able to sit through it like a little man.

Here are a few more articles that have suggestions for dining out 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stranger Danger & Autism

"When is a child ready to go it alone, anyway?"  That's the question James Barron poses in his July 13, 2011 article "7 Blocks to Walk, Brooklyn Boy Never Got Home."  And according to another report, the 8 year old boy, Lieby  Kletzky who was brutally murdered, may have had autism. 

I don't have an answer for James Barron.  And I don't know whether or not Lieby Kletzky had autism. 

But I do know, Lieby's death is every parents nightmare.  I know it's made me sick to my stomach ever since I heard the story yesterday morning.  I know my heart aches for this poor little boy and his family.  I know the tragedy has only emphasized the vulnerability of my own child.  And it's made me aware of all the mixed messages we have sent. 

Since the days of Early Intervention, we've prompted The Boy to "say hello" to whomever he meets.  I can't tell you how many times I've allowed him to walk off with therapists (strangers - men and women), his hand so willingly wrapping around theirs.  The Boy goes so easily, without looking back, without fear or any kind of apprehension.

Whenever we go out to crowded places, I place a name tag (with our phone numbers) around his neck and try to explain to him to ask for help if he gets lost.  But does he understand that concept?  Lost.  And in light of Lieby Kletzky story - who can The Boy trust to ask for help?        

I ask The Boy to say hello and praise him for "good talking."  How can I expect him not to talk to strangers?  How do I explain "stranger" as a concept?  And will he understand.     

How do you teach a child on the spectrum to distinguish strangers from people who may help, if there isn't a police officer around?

How do you keep your child safe when your child has no "safety awareness?"

I just found this book Social Story: Dealing with Bullies and Strangers and I will be ordering.  If you know of  any books or have suggestions, tips or tricks - please share.         

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Literal Thinker

I know that individuals with autism are literal thinkers, I honestly haven't given it much thought when it comes to The Boy.  Over the weekend, I caught the first glimpse on how he interprets language. 

Since The Boy is doing so well with the iPad, we figured it's a good time to start introducing Wii games.  We asked our friends from across the hall to lend us Babysitting Mama.  Since we've been trying to have a baby, I figured this game would be helpful. 

We put the game on and the menu screen came on.  The Boy read 'Babysitting Mama.'  He started to smiled.  "Press play!  Press Play!" He was excited!  
 The Boy pushed me down on the sofa and placed the baby in my lap.  I was confused.  And then it hit me! 

Baby sitting [on] mama.  Duh...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

“If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” ~ RuPaul

A few weeks ago The Boy's SEIT gave us a list: 101 ways to say Good Job I don't know about you, but not a single day goes by without me telling The Boy "good job" or praising him for a job well done.  And even when he doesn't succeed, I praise him for trying.  

Isn't it interesting the way we build up our children's self esteem, the way we praise their attempts as well as their successes?   If I don't succeed at something, I don't applaud the effort. I silently berate myself for failing.  

I read a post yesterday written by Varda Steinhardt (aka The Squashed Mom) Two or Three Things I Like About Myself  - she was able to list a whopping TEN!  The Squashed Mom was inspired by a post written by Elena (aka C-Mom) called "Things I Like About Me." And Elena was inspired by Alexandra's (aka The Empress) post at Tiki Tiki Blog:  

Alexandra writes:
What is it that we want to be able to have, that we think we can buy? It’s happiness with who we are.

We imagine how happy we would be if all we ever wanted to look like, we had. Perfectly beautiful, perfectly happy, right?

Imagine how happy we could be if we appreciated and respected what we looked like now? If what we had now, we saw as perfectly beautiful.

I related to every word Alexandra wrote, I've dealt with body issues all of my life.  I've dealt with criticism from family and friends.  But I've always been my worst critic.  (Aren't we all?) I've never been truly satisfied.  Especially within this last year.  I am starting to feel The Weight of Autism.  And I'm not feeling so great about my body right now.  I am far from perfect.    

However, self acceptance goes beyond the physical.  Mothers tend to blame themselves, to feel guilty over things beyond our control.  Have you seen the recent studies on the causes of autism?  It's way too easy to feel guilty and I never feel like I'm doing enough. 

Between self-criticism, blame, guilt, dishes and laundry - who has time for accolades?  Certainly not I.  But I guess, self worth and acceptance is like everything else.  It's not about having the time, it's about making the time.  And just as we praise our children for their efforts, successes and amazing character traits, shouldn't we recognize and value the things that make us special?  

So here it list of things I like (maybe love) about myself.   

1. I like my sense of humor: quirky, quick-witted, snarky, self deprecating and at times laugh out loud funny.

2. I like my laugh.  The laugh that comes from deep within when something is really freaking funny.  The laugh that bursts out suddenly regardless of where I am.  I try to have at least one a day.

3. I like my hair.  (You know Latinas - we're all about 'good' hair.)  After years of hating my hair, after growing out more horrible haircuts than humanly possible (the 80s & early 90s were not kind).  After cutting it boy-short for so many years, it's finally grown out and I am happy with it.  However, today in this heat and humidity - not so much.  I'm talking overall.

4. I like my hands.  I used to think of them as 'man hands,' and hide them.  Now I see them as strong, necessary tools and I take care of them.  And dare I say it, show them off! 

5.  I like my strength, perseverance and commitment.  It took me 15 years to get my undergrad degree.  I went to school part-time, while working full-time.  During those years, I I moved, transferred to four schools, got married and had a baby.  There were semesters I quit but I always went back.  Even now, I'm pursuing an MFA, while working full-time and raising a child with autism.  When I want something, there's no stopping me.           

6.  I like my sense of style.  I've always loved clothes and fashion.  Although I rarely get really dressed up or strut around in stilettos (I do miss them); I love putting together a great outfit.  Because even on days when I'm not feeling my best, a great outfit always gives me a boost of confidence. 

7.  I like LOVE that I am a good mother.  I'm that person that can never ever accept a kind word graciously.  I scoff when people say I'm a good mother.  My line: I'm just doing what any mother would do.  We all know that's not true, not all mother's do what they're supposed to do.  After five years of motherhood, I'm owning it.  I'm a good mother.  And I know that autism is not my fault.            

8. I like my life.  I don't think I've ever said that before.  Yes, I'm stressed out, super busy and easily overwhelmed.  Yes, I struggle.  Yes I have my WTF moments.  But overall, it's a wonderful life.  I have a nice guy for a husband (who loves and supports me inspite of all my crazy), a cute kid (who's too young to notice all my crazy) and family and friends (who have long accepted all my crazy).  I'm a lucky gal.

So now that I've shown you my mine?  Show me yours!  What do YOU like about yourself?

As CiaoMom says:
Today is all about celebrating who we are and what we like about ourselves. It is about sending a message to ourselves, to society, and even to our children, that finding the positives in yourself is an important and essential endeavor.  Maybe just maybe, thinking about what we like instead of what we would want to change, will increase our self confidence. Maybe it will help us see things that we have not noticed before. And maybe it will send the message that we are ENOUGH just the way we are.

Let TODAY be your day.