Tuesday’s With Autism: Origami Owl

I’ve recently gone back to work full time and am still learning time management between Work Me and Home Me as evidenced by the state of my house and that steamy dream I had where maids came in and deep cleaned my home. They were wearing baggy jeans and t-shirts because the tres-la-la part was the cleaning. I mean ceiling to baseboard. So choice.

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hot.

I haven’t worked full time since 2008, and I left my part time job in 2013. My whole work gig has been based around the kids: either they could come to work with me or I worked around their school hours. I moved to part time because I was juggling a whole new world Aladdin and Jasmine failed to mention on the flying carpet. My employer “got” autism as it was an early intervention program so I had some leeway many parents don’t when it comes to work. I have been very fortunate in that sense.

Now that I’m back to work full time, it’s still about the kids, just for different reasons. The “baby” goes to Pre-K this August and was begging to go to preschool this year –  “school like brothers”.  Why would I continue to be a stay at home mom if there is no one home to stay at home with?? This gives us the chance to send him to preschool with purpose, save money, pay off debt, and the place I am working may very well be a place Aiden and his buddies utilize in the not-too-distant future.

All of that rambling is to say the work conflict is HARD whether or not it is a choice. I just started a month ago, and have been guilted about a valentines day party, a jumprope for heart event AND a field trip by Mr. Six. He’s used to Mom being at the stuff so I can’t blame him, but cmon kid, put down the shiv of shame for just a minute!

I want to start highlighting individuals or families bopping around with autism who balance that trifecta of Life, Work, and Spectrum. Some of us are working outside of the home, some from home, and some have even started their own businesses. It is a tightrope extravaganza some days and my goal here is to high five and thumbs up and positively reinforce the hardworking folks I highlight. If they are running their own business, please take a minute and check out their links. It’s like Keep it Local but for the autism tribe (I can’t think of something catchy yet, but Im all ears!)

ANGELA OWENS – ORIGAMI OWL CUSTOM JEWELRY 

Angela and her husband have three amazing kiddos. Two of her kids have autism with some co-morbid diagnoses including adhd, ocd, and spd. She’s both a stay at home and work from home mom out of necessity. This #bossmom has started working with  Origami Owl, an online custom jewelry shop that has something for everyone. Angela’s site is filled with incredible options to choose from. She also has a facebook page if you have any questions about the pieces or want to speak with her directly for a more personal shopping experience.

 

Autism Awareness month is just around the corner….I’m just sayin’……

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Angela’s driving force: this adorable trio!

I don’t want to give too much away because the site is well worth the lookie-loo, but I will say it is not just autism charms. There are all sorts of goodies: watches, earrings, bracelets, and my favorite: a locket you can wear that you add essential oils to for a daily dose of relaxation and calm or alert and groovin’ – whatever your EO jam may be!

If you’d like to be highlighted, let me know with a quick email or comment. Happy Tuesday!

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Tuesday’s With Autism: Think BIG Picture

MONDAY 11:55pm I’m officially five minutes ahead of schedule, folks. I have a sleeping four-year-old on my elbow, a snoring teenager making my eye twitch, but I’m ahead of schedule and I’m gloating, here and now **confetti throw**

In fact, this is the first time I have been ahead of schedule for the last few months. I recently took a new job as a Program Manager at a non-profit activity center for adults with additional needs. Last week, I would just stare at my phone in disbelief and set it down, like I was a time traveler from 1985 – I just couldn’t deal with the loud rectangle. It’s a slow process, but I’m getting into a groove.

I don’t want to play my hand too fast, but I LOVE my job. I have not only gained friends, but I have gained perspective, dance moves, checker skills, and personal, long-term mama goals. I hang out with an amazing group of adults – and it’s such a cliche – but while yes, I teach them, they also teach me.

Speaking of adults, let’s talk big picture plans – do you have a plan or are you an ostrich with your head in the sand? If you are an ostrich, it’s okay to admit it here and now, but you should game plan to morph into, say, a rhino, pretty quickly.  Are you charging towards your kiddo’s future? If not, why? Are you planning work skills? Money management? Independent living skills?

Listen, even if you are at the beginning of your journey and this feels IMPOSSIBLE, you need to PLAN to make your “impossible”, possible. It is easy to get caught in the cutesy-putesy childhood section of a diagnosis, but I’m gonna shock you with a little known (see: ostrich) fact – Childhood is 18-21yrs long. Adulthood is much, MUCH longer. In an “ideal” scenario, it continues long after you are alive.

Breathe folks, I am telling you this as a parent of a 14 year old that has been diagnosed for 10 years. I could not comprehend what I am personally saying even five years ago, it’s okay if you are not here yet…..just know you need to get here.

If you have started thinking of the post 18-21yr continuum, what skills are you working on? What are you including on your child’s IEP? What social skills and goals are you working on? Please sound off below or share on the FACEBOOK page – we learn from one another – let’s collaborate!

 

 

 

Tuesdays’s With Autism: Following the Leader

I’m back!

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, and the winds are still whirling, but I wanted to be sure I caught this Tuesday to get back in the groove of things.

Between holidays, a new semester, my advocacy class, and Aiden’s birthday creeping up, I have been thinking a lot about his journey and how we have shaped him for adulthood. I wrote this piece for another venue, but I’ve decided to share it here. Happy New year!

When children show a knack or interest in a particular activity, parents tend to go above and beyond to help them thrive. If a child takes a liking to a soccer ball they get on Christmas, they are enrolled and on a team by spring. Say they have a penchant for drawing. Art classes abound! So why do we, as parents, hesitate to embrace the other things our kids with autism love: vacuums, desk lamps, and tape, oh my!

Your child’s passion is their strength. Use this as a map to help create meaningful short and long term goals. When we threw my son a birthday party at his favorite laundromat, we were sure our typical friends would shut us down. On the contrary, I have never seen such an inclusive community snapshot than being in the midst of washing machines and friends of all abilities. Laundry-related words have helped us kick start speech, challenging behavior, and sets our sights on a long-term goal my son has had for years: Washing Machine Fixing Guy. Recently, I was at our Capitol talking with a Senator who met with my son’s class earlier in the year to celebrate Autism Awareness Day. She told him she had a friend with an appliance repair shop and that he may be able to shadow a few days for some on-the-job training. We took his “silly obsession” as a toddler and have embraced it to the point that at nearly 14, he has an opportunity I would have never thought possible 10 years ago at diagnosis.


If your child uses a reward board or a token system, try using pictures of vacuums as you make your way to the desired reward. If you have an anxious child who enjoys the soothing glow of a desk lamp, write in a desk lamp for their desk during your next IEP meeting. A tape loving teen would be a valuable aide to the teacher always hanging up new things in their class. Heck, a LOT of clubs hang things up and down their school’s hallways! Find a club leader and explain the passion. Sure, some people will say no because let’s face it, we don’t live in an inclusive utopia. But Parents…some of them WI
LL say YES. That’s how you create change.

Every child deserves to be a thriving member of their community. One of the greatest barriers to an inclusivity is awareness. As parents, we want the world to embrace our child, but we need to remember that includes all of our child’s gifts, even the “quirky” ones. Start small and think big: you never know where you and your child’s puzzle-pieced road will go next.

Tuesday’s With Autism – Winter Break

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It’s arrived, the time of year that I have a love-hate relationship with: Winter Break.

Me: No schedules! No routine! More free time!
Also me: No schedules….no routine…Oh god, more free time.

There are only so many Christmas crafts one can make and only so many sugar-filled treats one can consume. (That’s a lie, the boys could consume their weight in sugar, but I like for them to have teeth and properly working GI tracts). The weather has been unseasonably sunny right up until the schools locked their doors. Now, it’s like an angsty 90s video grey around the clock.

Still, I want to take advantage of our break and enjoy the extra time with the little monsters. Between breaking up fights, breaking down plans, and doing my best impression of a broken record, I’m also getting in some quality cuddles and adventures.

There will be a blog break through the end of the year to focus my time on the fam, and to roll out some new snazziness, but Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will still be active (mostly FB). Stay connected and I will be write back in 2018!

 

Tuesday’s With Autism: A Night to Shine Event

I have to post and run tonight, but I wanted to share this event with you guys as it is nationwide within the US.

Tim Tebow’s Night to Shine is a prom night event for people with special needs who are 14 and over. While the Tim Tebow Foundation has a Christian leaning and I am pretty much bunking in Camp Secular, I think this is a pretty cool event.

The event takes place for 2018 on February 9th at various locations across the country. If you check the link, you can find a location near you.

PS: volunteers are needed!

DISCLAIMER: I have no stake in this program. My son has never been and I do not know a single person that has. Because this is a nationwide event, I just want to spread the word in case you or yours are looking to get their dance on.

Tuesday’s with Autism – Glow Like Rudolph

“Why am I such a misfit?”
“I am not just a nit wit”
“Just because my nose glows”
“Why don’t I fit in”

– Ruldolph (the Metaphor) Reindeer

It’s almost December and you can bet that I am sitting here with the kids watching CBS’ annual stop-motion classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. You can also bet that I immediately thought of how the underlying message directly applies to those of us living with autism. (and oh, how I love me a good autism metaphor!)

Rudolph’s parents recognize that his red nose is different, but that he is still the bundle of reindeer they had always dreamed about. Rudolph’s mom gets to acceptance much fast than his father. Still, they want to protect him from a community that knows jack frost squat about red noses. Donner and….Mrs. Donner (that’s a whole other post *eye roll*) shy away from talking about his nose, and go as far as concealing his glow.

As plot lines go, Rudolph is found out, and a bunch of jerk reindeer peers tease him. This was made in 1964, so the adult reindeer  have absolutely no problem with calling him names and ostracizing Rudy. Finally, the ultimate, soul crushing moment for any young one – Santa tells Donner (Dad) that Rudolph isn’t good enough for his team.

Rudolph runs away with Hermie ( a misfit toy that also thinks differently than his fellow elves). As they are leaving their community, the narrator said something that struck me:

“The world looked a lot more complicated…than when they were snug and warm by the fire”

Isn’t that the damn truth?!

I mean, there’s always the running gag about not having a manual to parenthood, but when you’re initially thrown into autism you don’t even have the words for the missing manual! It can feel like you,  much like Hermie and Rudolph, are disconnected from your community, facing a cold unknown – but you have to forge on. Why? Because, what else are you going to do??

Hermie and Rudolph aren’t alone for very long. They meet Yukon Cornelius, the Abominable Snowman, and the misfit toys – they find people who each have gone off the beaten path. This new community helps the duo: they don’t judge, they offer support, and they offer their own perspective. They teach Rudolph and Hermie to embrace their abilities and to be proud of their differences.

By the end of the show, Rudolph and Hermie bring both communities together (inclusion), and Christmas is saved thanks to extra helping hands, Christmas  cheer, an elf with a penchant for dentistry, and a glowing red nose.

As we head into the holiday season, remember that there will be people who may think it’s better to hide your “shiny nose”.  To this I say, GLOW.

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Tuesday’s with Autism – Community, Advocacy, and Advice, Oh My!!

It’s been a super duper busy month and posts have fallen a bit to the wayside, apologies. While there were not many blog posts, there was some good stuff over on the Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages (hint, hint). Now that we’ve gotten past that shameless self-promotion, let’s play ketchup!

Community

A few weeks back, I told you about Ty, the amazing community ally that we met at our local 7-Eleven. Word spread and Oklahoma’s 7-Eleven team reached out to thank us for the good news story (because let’s be honest, we NEED good news!) About a week later, Aiden received a package in the mail full of really neat 7-Eleven swag! There’s a general consensus that the Slurpee cup with the shark bite mold is the absolute coolest. So once again, thank you 7-Eleven! I cannot rave enough about your commitment to community!

 

Advocacy

A much longer post will be coming soon on this subject. For now, you have a chance to see some of the things we have been up to by searching #AidenattheCapitol on social media (again, links up there at the top, guys). Aiden is cutting his teeth at being his very own self-advocate, and we spent last week at the state Capitol talking to representatives and senators about the importance of fully funding and protecting programs that are essential for Aiden to thrive in this state. I have been accepted in a program called Partners in Policymaking, and I am learning so much about policy and advocating for people with disabilities. It is an international program available in many states across the US and a handful of other countries as well. I would HIGHLY suggest looking to see if your state offers a program and applying asap. It’s like taking the red pill and finding out about the Matrix. Minnesota offers a self-paced e-learning version that gives you *some* info, but not nearly what you would get by being fully immersed in the program. Still, check that out if nothing else. If you are a self-advocate or advocate for others, I’d love to hear what you are fighting for in your part of the world!

Advice

Oh my gosssssssssssssssssssh (<–key stuck, but I’m keeping it as I feel that exasperated about how long it’s taken me to circle back to this). A while back, a parent emailed and asked about eating challenges and whether they get better over time. I posted the question on Facebook and got some feedback from other parents. Lacey, a mama, a blogger, and my besty best friend is following along. Her little guy does not like runny textures. Instead, he gravitates to crispy or crunchy items. Rayne chimed in and said that her 10-year-old son has had the same aversions since he was two years old. She calls his diet, “the beige diet” (and I’m sure a lot of you are nodding in agreement, knowing exactly what that looks like). Tina also commented and said that her son “gets better, then reverts”. It’s like the old Paula Abdul song, “two steps forward, two steps back”.

As a parent, I watched Aiden gag and vomit at anything runny, mushy, or shaped in a circle for a few years (between 2 and 4 years old). This made things TOUGH when he had his tonsils and adenoids out. There was no rhyme or reason to it for us, but to him, these were absolutes in his life. It wasn’t just food either, I’m talking *anything*: play-doh, shampoo, glue….anything with that tactile sensation. One summer, he went to a speech camp (MDO with SLPs). I walked in to get him, and he was sitting there with some play-doh. I was gobsmacked, and no one acted like they had ever seen him be defensive of this texture. After that, it was just….better. Don’t get be wrong, he still doesn’t like yogurt and some other foods with a runny consistency, but he does eat some of them now. When he doesn’t want them, he can usually say, “no thank you”, but the occasional dry heave and/or vomit does happen. It’s hit or miss.

In short, the general consensus is “it varies by person”.

One thing you may try is picking one food to focus on. Start with just exposing it to your person. Maybe it’s on the table to the side of them, or right in front of them – do what you think they can tolerate. After a while (while = a week, a month….it varies) play a copy game and take turns touching it with your fingers. Reward this big time. After that is successful, try touching the food to your lips and have your child copy you. Next, have the food touch the tongue. After that, work on taking a bite and eventually swallowing the food. Again, it could take a week, it could take a year, but that’s one possible way to at least lessen the aversion. Sure, maybe they never eat mashed potatoes, but I know there was a time, I wished upon wishes, that we could sit at a Thanksgiving table without Aiden throwing up everywhere. So, you know, figure out your goal and go from there.

It’s Halloween and we are heading out to trick or treat here shortly. I have a ninja, Spiderman, and washing machine looking for candy this year. Can you guess which one is Aiden? Of course you can. What about you? What costumes are you and yours sporting this year? let me know!