Behind starburst eyes

Favorite Children’s Books for Children with ASD

help me be good seriesI LOVE author Joy Berry’s series “Help me be good”. It’s a fairly large series, there are 29 books in all. It originally was published in 1988 and I read every single one of them as a child myself. Fast forward an undisclosed amount of years to when my eldest son was 3 years old and we were at our local library. Every time we’d go I’d check out the books they had for sale as each was only $0.25. One cold morning I spied the entire collection all in pristine condition on their sale shelf. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction. I scooped up every single one of them! Why do I love this series so much? Because each book deals with a common behavior, discusses how others feel when a child is choosing that behavior, what a child choosing those behaviors might be feeling, and other positive ways of dealing with those emotions, or situations, all in easy to read, direct language that doesn’t use metaphors or confusing sub-text that a child on the spectrum might not pick up on. From the day we brought them home I read one every day to my son for the better part of a 2 years. Each day he would pick a book for me to read and I would pick one of Joy Berry’s books to read to him. He loved them. They helped him to understand social concepts easily and without feeling bad at not getting them without the books as it was never “about him” it was always about “another child” one from her books.

Interupting Joy Berry BookThe book about Interrupting says “You are interrupting when you talk when other people are talking… Try not to interrupt people who are talking to you. Allow them to finish talking before you speak. Say “excuse me” if you must interrupt them. When someone interrupts you, you might feel angry or frustrated. You might think that person is not fun to be with.”

At the end of each book it always says “It is important to treat people the way you want to be treated”

See, easy, clear explanations of what the behavior is, how people feel, and how to avoid doing it with simple blunt instructions on what is socially acceptable and what is not. I’ve already started to read them to my younger son, and while he’s not super keen on them yet (he won’t be 3 until Oct) with him already being diagnosed with ASD I think it just makes sense to start early.

After all a large part (not all but a big part) of ASD is a deficiency in social development and understanding. If my child had massive issues with math I’d do my best to focus on helping them improve their math skills to the best of THEIR abilities. No I wouldn’t expect them to get a PhD in mathematics but I’d help them to learn as much as they could to help them thrive to the best of their abilities. Teaching social skills from an early age in a more intensive or focused manner just makes sense to me for my boys with ASD. Their brains are hardwired differently, but different doesn’t mean they can’t learn, it just means they might need different ways of being taught and more time to learn the same things as a child without ASD.

For those that are interested, if your local library doesn’t have this fantastic series it is available on places like Amazon.com or Chapters.ca
Chapters also has her other series: “Let’s talk about” and “A fun and easy way” both of which I’ll be getting for the eldest to read and eventually reading with the youngest. 😀

If you’ve read her books, let me know what you thought. Were they a helpful book series for children with ASD? Or even helpful for children in general? (I personally read many of them with the kids I looked after in my daycare years ago that weren’t on the spectrum because I thought they were great for all children in general but especially ones that have social skill deficiencies.)

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Back on track

From mid March until the beginning of May I had stopped working out and monitoring my eating habits as I was so wrapped up in appointments and paperwork stemming from N’s official diagnosis of ASD. While I did in fact lose some of my hard earned progress during those weeks I was determined to start again, which I did. I have now lost 5% of my total body fat since I got back on track! The reason this is so vital is because the hospital I want to have my surgery at has a requirement for how much adipose tissue one posesses before they’ll do the surgery. Now I could go elsewhere for my surgery, somewhere closer to my home that does not have any such requirements, however they also have a much higher re-occurance rate of the hernia coming back than my ideal choice of hospital. SO I am determined to continue with my weight loss goals in order to obtain the best chance of only having to have the surgery preformed once.

The place I want to go to is Sholdice Hospital, which specializes just in hernia repairs, and their reputation is amazing. I felt a bit discouraged about my goals recently as it’s hard to start again when you’ve stopped. It’s also honestly hard to find the time and energy when there is so much else going on in one’s life. But find the time and energy I will because having a hernia sucks, and with my recent success I’ve regained my motivation to keep on keeping on. Sometimes I need that extra motivation, for every single workout hurts in so many ways. It’s not because I’m pushing myself too hard, or because I don’t actually know what I’m doing, it hurts because I’m actually in pain every single day, all day and exercise only adds to that. I am lucky to have my massage therapy background as it has helped me to understand a great deal of how to best optimize my workouts for the results I want without adding any additonal injuries to myself. But motivations like seeing the inches come off, or seeing a decrease in my body fat percentage definitely help my mental state about said workouts. I’m off to the Y again today for more weight lifting and cardio, wish me luck dear readers!

P.S for those that have been reading my blog for awhile, I still can’t do a full sit up, as written about in “Would the real slim Starburst please sit up” found here but I’m getting much closer 😉

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The mystery of crayons

Another box of crayons has been unwrapped. N still loves very much to unwrap each one. His slow methodical precision is fascinating to watch. No piece of paper is left, no matter how small. I wish he could type or sign or say what he appears to be looking for when he unwraps each crayon. It’s certainly not an absent-minded action on his part, for each movement of his little fingers is deliberate and sure. His eyes never look anywhere but at the crayon as he unveils it in its entirety. Is he making sure that each part of it is the exact same shade? Does he think something else might be hidden underneath the paper? Or does the feel of the paper it’s wrapped in scratch his hand when he tries to color with it? Is he removing an additional sensory stimulation he does not find appealing? One day when he can answer me, I’ll ask him and listen with bated breath as I’m given more than just a glimpse into the thoughts and inner workings of his precious mind. Until then I will marvel at his concentration, and at the deliberate movements of tiny fingers busy at work. I will marvel at how his eyelashes flutter as he stares so intently upon the unveiled crayon and carefully places it with the others, only to pick up another paper covered one and start again. He won’t be done the task he’s set himself upon until the box is finished, and I won’t ever be done watching him in awe as I get glimpses into his breath-taking mind.

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Organizing Foods

MH900430659 N gets very excited by how foods are presented in bakeries, delicatessens, and the like.   He’s happy to try many different foods from these places, but when presented with these same foods at home he is unwilling to eat them. I was speaking with a friend who asked me an absolutely brilliant question about it. She asked me if I thought it was because of how visual he is and how neat and organized the foods are in those types of places that he preferred them. She asked me if I’d put his food into lines on his plate before and if so what did he do. To be honest I hadn’t done it before. I’ve made pictures with his food (happy faces or cutting roasted potatoes in the shape of cars) but I hadn’t actually taken his foods and made lines on his plate with them. With how much he loves organization, and lines in general I am actually quite hopeful that this just might work to help him eat better/more. Considering he’s currently on supplementations of various vitamins as well as a meal replacement drink due to his lack of current food intake I’m totally excited at trying something that just might make a positive difference in the amount of healthy foods I am able to get him to eat and enjoy! Wish me luck dear readers, this momma’s about to get the mandolin out to make some super organized veggie and fruit lines 😀

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Happy As A Helicopter Parent

This is an article that I wrote for The Parents Space:

Helicopter Parent I have heard the term “helicopter parent” as most of you probably have as well. I will happily admit that I tend to be one with my children. I know that often our society suggests that helicopter parents are trying in some unhealthy by proxy way to achieve the goals and dreams they were not able to achieve in their own lives prior to having children.

To read the rest, please click on the picture of the helicopter or here 😀

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Workshop: Informing The Village

Informing the VillageMy workshop “Informing the Village: A How To Guide On Informing Others About Your Child’s Autism” is in 10 days! I can’t wait to help other parents learn various ways to talk about their child’s diagnosis, and what it means specifically for their child with the different people in their child’s life. I’m really excited about it. I’ve gotten all of the handouts and samples ready to go!

It’s being hosted by Lindsay Asperger Autism Support and is being held at the Loblaw’s Community Room (located upstairs) at 400 Kent Street Lindsay Ontario.

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Autism is NOT a death sentence

Just over a month ago C and I made cookies for his home school group at the YMCA to help promote Autism Acceptance. With how positive of a reaction we received from them I asked one of the people who helps to coordinate the Orientation for Parents of Children Recently Diagnosed with Autism at Grandview Children’s Center if they would be interested in having some at their next orientation. She spoke with the her colleagues and they said yes. So today I went and got more business cards for the packages I’ll be dropping off Saturday morning. I’m happy that they said yes to them as I feel they do have a positive message to them. So often I hear of parents being absolutely desolate about their child’s diagnosis, and I think our perception as a society needs to change about that.

Last year on C’s 8th birthday his father and I were not with him. The night before, I called everyone that was supposed to come and told them that we had to post-pone his birthday party. Why? He’d done NOTHING wrong. We had to cancel his party and leave him with his Nana because we had a funeral to attend. A close friend’s 23 month old daughter had passed away. Now that was something to be absolutely desolate about. Her’s is a place that will forever be empty at their table, the memories of that beautiful precious little girl are what her parents get to hold instead of her. That is a truly devastating loss. One that those two parents must bear.

But to perceive a diagnosis of Autism as the same level of tragedy as the loss those parents deal with every single day is in my mind an insult to both the little girl who will never have a second birthday, as well as to the child diagnosed! It is NOT a tragedy that one’s child has been diagnosed with Autism, it is not something they will die from. Will there be some areas of their lives that are more challenging because of how their neuro-pathways work? Yes. But that’s what parents are for, to help their children to thrive to the best of the child’s abilities. Now I understand that some people would argue that a child classified as “Classic Autism” or as “Low-Functioning” does not have the same level of abilities to function as a child that is classified as “High-Functioning” I’m not arguing levels of abilities, but I am arguing that Autism is not a death sentence and should not be approached as one.  Yes there will be times that are hard for both parent and child. There will be times when as a parent you might not be sure how best to help your child. There will be times when they are judged negatively by others, when your parenting choices will be called into question by others, but all of those statements are true for parenting of any child!!!

To mourn the loss of the child you thought you had, the one that won’t _______ because they have Autism is unfair to your child. They are still the same child as they were prior to a diagnosis. They still have feelings, thoughts, dreams, wishes, fears, hopes just like any other child. Will they need different kinds of help or parenting than you originally thought you’d have to provide when you learnt you were going to become a parent, perhaps yes. But our job as parents is NOT to dictate what they need, but to observe them and their ways of communication to understand what each unique child needs us to provide them with and help them with.

These children can and do go on to lead lives that are happy and fulfilling for them, perhaps it’s not your definition of happiness and that’s okay because it’s not your life, it’s theirs. As long as your child is alive, and happy what on earth do you have to mourn???

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The Struggle Makes Our Wings

MH900444833I find it fascinating that while we’re more connected and more accessible to each other now than ever before we tend to develop weaker bonds with one another, and we tend to lose touch with people far more often now even though we have the internet, the phone, mail etc. verses when we could only ride a horse or walk to see each other.

It’s almost like it’s the ease with which we can form all sorts of new relationships that prohibits them from growing into lifelong committed relationships that can span anything.

It reminds me of the story of the butterfly’s struggle:

A little girl found a caterpillar one sunny afternoon in her backyard, and it tickled her when she picked it up. She brought it in her house and showed her mother. The mother allowed her to keep it, but the little girl had to take good care of it. So she brought it leaves every day, and made a little house out of cardboard for it.

One day the little girl woke up and she couldn’t find the caterpillar, all she could find was a long white thing that was hanging from the top of her little caterpillar’s house. Her mother explained it was a chrysalis and that the caterpillar had made it, and was now inside of it, just waiting for the right time to come out as a beautiful butterfly.

The little girl waited and waited, and when it had felt like she had been waiting forever she noticed that the butterfly was starting to come out. It looked painful and hard to her so she started to carefully open the chrysalis for the butterfly. She had just started when her mother found her and told her to stop. She did and asked why, that’s when her mother explained that it was the struggle that helped the butterfly to form such beautiful wings, as it emerged and that if she continued to help the butterfly’s wings wouldn’t form right and she’d never be able to fly.

The little girl thought that was very sad and stopped helping immediately and sat watching for hours as the butterfly slowly emerged from its chrysalis. The beautiful butterfly then flew around the room testing out its wings and the girl watched in wonder. The butterfly flew out the window after fluttering on her hand, tickling her with its wings just as it used to with its fuzzy coat. While the little girl was sad at first, she wasn’t for long, for every afternoon the butterfly would come back and flutter around the little girl while she played in the backyard.

Human nature makes me think of the girl and the butterfly, it appears as if we all want better, quicker, faster, new and improved, instead of substance, instead of real worth.

It makes me wonder, is easier really better? Or are our “shortcuts to happiness” really making us walk the wrong path towards  loneliness instead of the path we want of true committed relationships (with family, friend or lover).

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DSM V and Autism

It’s late, the kids are asleep and instead of getting some much-needed rest I’m up researching the new diagnostic criteria for ASD since C’s diagnosis of PDD-NOS will no longer be valid. I worry because I don’t understand why they chose to do this (I read their reasoning, it still doesn’t make sense to remove the label they’ve given so many people). Mostly though, I worry how this will affect C. What exactly will this mean for a boy of almost 9 years of age living in Ontario, Canada? I shall continue to research tonight and on monday I’ll be calling our family doctor to set up an appointment to discuss this with him. (Not that he’d be doing an assessment, he told me before C or N were diagnosed he wasn’t comfortable doing it and that he was happy to refer me to a developmental pediatrician instead. Which is fine, if it’s not your area of expertise and you want your patient to see someone more knowledgable on the subject I totally respect that.) But the specialists in our area have waiting lists of 1-2 years, so what will it mean for C in the mean time?

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Happy Cake

Yesterday N said one of his clear words while we were driving “cake” so I asked him if he wanted cake. He smiled and told me yes, so I told him I’d make cake at home for him. So once we got home he goes into the cutlery drawer, finds the package of candles I keep there for birthday cakes. He opens it up, and tries to hand me some while saying “Happy cake”

It was adorable to me in general that he was saying he wanted to have another birthday cake, but also it showed so clearly that not only does he notice what is going on around him, he understands and remembers. It’s moments like that not only thrill me, but they also humble me. They are a potent reminder to me that our children are watching what we’re doing, always. Our actions and words have meaning and importance because they are shaping our children’s experiences, memories and ultimately who they will become.

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