Monday, June 24, 2013

Going Out To Eat When Your Kid Has Autism

Julia Child once said, “Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” Julia may be right but dining out with a special needs kid may not be so delightful.

The years before and after my son, Norrin, was diagnosed with autism, dining out was practically impossible. I couldn’t understand how some families could make it look so easy, when we were having such a difficult time.
Once I started to understand the diagnosis and after working with different therapists, I learned that things that come so easily for others, are challenging for children with autism. There were several socialization scenarios Norrin needed to be taught – including dining out in public. I realized that I didn’t want to keep Norrin from having that social experience.
To read how we got Norrin used to dining out, check out my post on Babble: Dining Out with Special Needs Kids
AND if you'd like to venture out to eat with your special needs kid but not sure where to go,  check out our 6 favorite KID-FRIENDLY Restaurants -

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fathers, Sons & Cars

This is a special Father's Day post written by The Husband aka Joseph Fontanez


Over the years since his diagnosis, The Boy and I have connected on many levels with like interests. His love of The Peanuts Gang, the '67 collection Spider-Man cartoons, and my pancakes are an example of things that before I became a parent I had always wanted to share with my child.  

However, it's his love of cars, especially the movie Cars, that we share a bond that seems inherently ingrained in both of us.  I grew up in the era of muscle cars, behemoth coupes, roll down windows, and no AC. My Pop was a "wrencher." Any problems with the family car, and in the '70s there always were, my Pop was out front fixing it. I seemed to have bucked this trend as I have absolutely no knowledge of car repair. That does not mean I do not love cars.  I obsess over their lines, shapes, sounds and smells. As does The Boy.

A few months after The Boy was born, we were getting prepared to take the bus to visit my sister. With The Boy in tow we boarded at the first stop of the BX14. (We did not have a car, and living where we did where parking is as scarce as a Bigfoot sighting, we did not feel the need for one.)  It was 11am on a weekday and we were the only ones on board. The Boy was in his carriage and we proceeded to the back of the bus so that we would not be in anyone's way. Once we sat down the driver followed us and proceeded to berate because The Boy was still in his carriage and would be in someone's way. Still being new parents and feeling overprotective we tried to express our feeling more comfortable with his safety having him in the carriage. The Bus Driver refused to drive the bus until we took The Boy out and sat him on one of our laps. At that point we complied. 

The driver proceeded to drive and between the first stop and the stop where we got off, about 4 1/2 miles later, 3 people boarded the bus. Infuriated and annoyed we left the bus and gave the obligatory Bronx sarcastic, "Have a nice day", and continued on our way. At that moment I said to The Old Lady, "We're getting a car!" It was stated a little more colorfully at the time.

There was really only one car for me and that car was the Subaru Impreza WRX. I had obsessed over this car for years. When I was in Asia 90% of the photos I took were of WRXs. When we were finally able to we bought one in WR Blue, the only color acceptable to me, in April of 2006. I was so happy to not have to depend on public transportation or friends to get our family around. That feeling of independence filled me with pride. Funny how things this trivial can make someone feel so happy, when two years later we would be hit with the news that would leave a pit in my stomach that in some respects still exists today.

It's odd to state that a car could be part of the family. How can an inanimate object be considered a family member? Well, that car has shared in all the ups and downs we have had with The Boy.  It was in The Car where we first openly sobbed after The Boy's diagnosis.  It was in The Car through rain, sleet, and snow that I would take The Boy to therapy and The Old Lady to school. The Car was there for all of The Boy's first days of class. It was there for both of The Old Lady's Graduations, and I am hoping will be there for The Boy's future graduations.

You can tell that I am quite fond of The Car. Just as I had expectations for The Boy, I also had expectations for The Car.  When we purchased it I had hopes that when The Boy graduated High School the car would be his. In my mind it would have been like my Pop buying a '69 Mustang maintaining it and giving it to me at my High School graduation.  (Now I had five other siblings that probably would not be too happy with that sort of arrangement, but I am speaking hypothetically of course.) 

The day The Boy was diagnosed I felt as if that reality was taken away from me.  Crying in the front seat, I felt so uncertain about the future. When I glanced at The Boy sitting in the back, with his curly locks and his cheese smile, I thought to myself, "Screw This!", I was not going to let this bury me. 

It's been five years since his diagnosis and I continue to do my best in maintaining The Car.  Its had its share of dents and dings, but for the most part it looks good for its age, like myself.
I still hold on to the hope of Norrin one day inheriting The Car from me, which adds to my obsessing over every little repair.  That's where The Mechanic (Vittorio Principe) comes in.  Or as Norrin calls him, "The Pit Stop."  Vittorio makes sure that The Car stays in great shape and more importantly, totally gets The Boy.  He has been more than accommodating to The Boy when he visits the shop.  Always willing to give him a tour as The Boy marvels at all the different tools hanging in the shop.  Meeting kind people is essential to The Boy's development, just as The Car is essential to our family. 

The Car at "The Pit Stop"

The Boy with Vittorio

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Met: Live in HD Summer 2013 [Enter to Win Tickets]

I will never forget my first opera. I was about nine years old and we went to The Met to see Hansel & Gretel. I don't think my parents or brother cared for it much but I knew that I would return to see another opera. And I have.

But as a mom with a special needs kid, an evening at The Met is a luxury I just can't afford right now. So I absolutely love that The Met is bringing 4 of their most popular operas to the big screen (and at movie ticket prices!) If you've always dreamed of going to the opera but haven't - here's your opportunity.

Enter to win a 4-pack to The Met: Live in HD Summer 2013 Encores, a series of encore performances from the groundbreaking Live in HD series.  This summer’s encore series offers four popular Live in HD events, including the most-attended event in the program’s history, Bizet’s “Carmen” followed by Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” Rossini’s “Armida,” and Verdi’s “La Traviata.”  Win a 4-pack of tickets for EACH of these shows playing at AMC Empire 25 for only one night!
6/19       Carmen
6/26       Il Trovatore
7/10       Armida
7/17       La Traviata

Visit!summer-encores/more-info/details for more information about the entire series, including a full schedule, cinema locations and ticket information.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below. Winner will be chosen using Giveaway ends on Mon 6/17 at 5pm est  

Disclaimer: I was offered complimentary tickets to attend the Live in HD series. I have not been compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Do You Send Your Special Needs Kids to Summer Camp?

As a kid I dreamed of going away to summer camp. I’d see the commercials with the kids running out to the school bus (a happy face was painted on it), waving goodbye to their parents. Then there’d be a montage of the kids swimming, horseback riding, making crafts, playing sports or kayaking – creating childhood memories I knew I would never have.
There was no way my mother would send me away for even a day. Aside from it being too expensive, my mother was extremely protective and she wasn’t going to hand me over to some stranger. It was rare when she let me go visit friends or play outside. If I didn’t go out with my mother, father or family member - I just didn’t go out.
My son, Norrin, is seven years old; my husband and I work outside the home. Summer camp is ideal for many kids of working parents. Unfortunately, it’s not even an option for us.
So what will Norrin do all summer?  Read the rest on Babble click HERE 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids with Autism
101 Inspirational Stories for Parents of Children with Autism and Asperger's
Edited by Dr. Rebecca Landa of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Mary Beth Marsden, Nancy Burrows and Amy Newark

I've been a fan of the Chicken Soup books for years and I was so excited to see one for autism parents. Five years ago, when my son was diagnosed with autism - this is the book I would have wanted to read. And I am so grateful that this is available now. 

What I love about this book is that the stories are divided in sections: Challenges, Finding the Funny, School and many more. The stories are short and easily digestible - you don't have to read this book in any kind of order. You can go to a section for a daily dose of inspiration.

I read this book during my commute to and from work - I found myself choking back tears, laughing out loud and filled with hope. 

Two of my favorite stories were "Don't Stop Believing" by Liane Kupferber Carter - where she talks about what it took for her son to be able to get a hair cut and "Friendships" by Dawn Hentrich - a brutally honest post about the months after a diagnosis. Some of my other favorite autism writers/bloggers are also featured: Jean Winegardner, Laura Shumaker, Jennifer Bush and Leigh Merryday.    

There is something in this book for everyone. Whether your kid was diagnosed yesterday or ten years ago - you will see yourself within the pages of this book.

To read an excerpt or place an order, please visit

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of Raising Kids on the Spectrum, 
all opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Monday, June 3, 2013


This post is sponsored by Disney Story. To find out more about this brand-new story-creation app – and how it puts the power of storytelling in your hands - click here
Last Thursday I graduated...finally!

As I sat and listened to the opening remarks of my college graduation, I had to fight back tears as the Dean talked about overcoming all the obstacles and hardships in order to get to this moment.

These last five years of graduate school have not been easy. I have been discouraged and encouraged to quit. And I have wanted to quit more times than I can count. I have wondered whether or not it's been worth it. I am now wondering what will be next. I have no idea.

Over the last five years, I've been amazed by my son's progress after he was diagnosed with autism. My husband retired after twenty years at FedEx and started a new job. I lost a baby. I have started this blog. I have sued the Department of Education. I became a writer. It has been a roller coaster ride of the lowest lows and the highest highs. 

As I sat front row at my graduation ceremony and saw the camaraderie of the other - much younger - students as they marched on stage and others cheered as their names were called, I felt envious. I was surrounded by mostly undergraduate students, students in their early twenties, students with no children, no real responsibilities other than just being a student. Young men and women who had their whole lives ahead of them. Young college graduates who were free to pursue their careers - to find themselves.

Twenty years ago I graduated from high school clueless about who I was or what I wanted. With every failure, obstacle and hardship I learned a little more about myself. I discovered what I wanted to do. 

There is no need to envy the younger graduates. They are moving on, in search of themselves, to discover their purpose - to find or forge their own path. 

I have spent the last twenty years forging my path - walkingrunning, kicking, crawling and clawing my way through. I am moving on, with my degree in hand and there is no need to search. I am already on the path I'm supposed to be on. I just need to keep moving forward. 

A new journey awaits.        

This post is sponsored by Disney Story. To find out more about this brand-new story-creation app – and how it puts the power of storytelling in your hands - click here