Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Holiday Happenings and A Winner!

A few days ago, there was a pre-Thanksgiving Christmas Parade! The weather was perfect.

And guess who was IN the parade?

See that handsome kid in the middle? That, my friends, is Broadway!

Broadway is in his school's Jr. ROTC. He's also on the JROTC Exhibition Team. You see - cool JROTC people can't wear sparkly outfits or twirl batons in parades, but I think somewhere along the way, some military dude thought that would be really cool to try something just as flashy and came up with the Drill Team concept. They get to maintain their hoo-ah military coolness and wear cool hats but instead of batons (which might possibly be perceived as just a tad girlie), they twirl rifles instead... this way, they get to be flashy and look dangerous at the same time!

Iraq held her ears for many of the passing fire trucks, but I think the siren on this particular model may have retired a few years ago. We didn't mind at all!

And look who's coming to town!

The weekend was beautiful so I took the opportunity to take Iraq and The Skink down to the park. They have recently opened a really cool-looking new bridge over the river. Tell me this isn't a totally cool bridge - especially when I post it in black and white!

Or in its original rust color.

And if I mess with it even more, I can take us all on a psychedelic space odyssey! Look! It's a wormhole to the planet Pandora!            Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Off to look for signs of indigenous lifeforms.

Watch out! It could be a giant vacuum that sucks up little girls...

Wow! The floating mountains of Pandora!

All life on Pandora is connected through a neural network... and I found a diagram!

And with that, she entered into her Avitar body [insert sound effects here] and scampered off through the forest of Pandora to find the rest of the Na'vi people.

Back to earth business - And the winner of the random drawing for the book "1,001 Tips for the Parents of Autistic Girls" is...

If you don't happen to have your magnifying glass handy, that's number 7 !

Comment #7:

Joyce said...
Hi! Our biggest challenge this month with our HFA seven-year old girl haas been the changes in her routine. Soccer season finished up, holiday activities have kicked into high gear, school schedules have been switched up, her OT disappeared without warning, more speech therapy started...the works! The season and time change certainly hasn't helped. Add that to constant sensory overload (Sensory Processing Disorder too!), and November has been interesting!! jmsmith[dot]518[at] gmail [dot] com Congratulations, Joyce! Enjoy your new book, and good luck with all those adjustments. Been there. *

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Review, and Another Giveaway!

Everything You Need to Know About Diagnosis, Doctors, Schools, Taxes, Vacations, Babysitters, Treatment, Food, and More
By Tony Lyons

Congratulations! If you don’t become over-stimulated by this book’s subtitle, you probably aren’t in the autism spectrum :o) But if your kid is...
This new book is crammed full of pertinent and useful information for parents of children in the autism spectrum. If you happen to have a boy and not a girl, you’ll be very happy to know Tony Lyons didn’t forget about you - there is also a “1,001 Tips for the Parents of Autistic Boys; Everything You Need to Know About...” [all that stuff mentioned above] Yay!

So – you have a kid in the autism spectrum. Just flippin’ great, huh? And now your plethora of doctors, teachers and therapist are telling you to read up on the condition so you will be better prepared to handle your child’s scheduling needs, sensitivities, angry outbursts, melt-downs in WalMart, freaking out on Christmas morning, anxiety over school, lack of social skills, propensity to forget to wipe, limited tastes in food, random medications, gluten-free diet, strange or destructive behavior, terror over the sound made by the vacuum…

Yeah – you don’t have enough on your plate, and now your well-meaning doctor makes a recommendation for a 1,062 page compilation of medical studies for you to memorize so that if you’re lucky you just might remember what to do when little Suzie hides in a very inaccessible part of the giant, plastic tube-maze at a McDonald’s playland while the employees are yelling at you to “get her out” because the over-stimulation and noise made her lose her recently-eaten lunch somewhere in the ball-pit. Not feeling it…

For those of us who live in the real world – “1,001 Tips” is for us!

The tips are exactly that – short, precise thoughts about handling all sorts of situations. No long-winded, graduate-level psychology lectures. Just direct, to the point, points. For instance:

“5. A child with autism will often experience sensory overload; they will cover their ears to sounds which overwhelm them, cover their eyes or look away from painful visual impressions, and may self-limit their diet or attempt to taste non-food items to avoid or satiate acute tastes.”
(Page 5, 1,001 Tips for the Parents of Autistic Girls / Lyons)

 Christmas... make it stop! (Iraq at 18 months)

Lyons also uses poignant quotes from other autism authorities like:

“133. When I was a child, loud sounds like the school bell hurt my ears like a dentist drill hitting a nerve. Children with autism need to be protected from sounds that hurt their ears. The sounds that will cause the most problems are school bells, PA systems, buzzers
on the scoreboard in the gym, and the sound of chairs scraping on the floor.
—Temple Grandin, PhD, author of Thinking in Pictures and
(Page 56, 1,001 Tips for the Parents of Autistic Girls / Lyons)

The great thing about these tips is that I can reference relative subject matter right when I need it, keeping my other hand free to continue its death-grip on the wrist of my wailing, flailing child who has just been caught red-handed writing on the walls... again.
For Example:

Table of Contents:
Chapter 64: Responding to Undesirable Behavior 303
Fast forward to page 303… skim… skim… Ah!:

697.  Don’t threaten a punishment you’re not prepared to enforce. If you’re not really going to cancel the birthday party, don’t say you will. Don’t count to three, or ten—your child will learn that she always has that long, and you didn’t mean it the first time. If you teach a two-year-old, gently, but firmly, that you mean what you say, you don’t have to keep teaching it—at sixteen, she will still know that you meant it the first time. Too often parents allow their children to push them around because they want to be liked, but your child will neither like nor respect you. Children crave boundaries.
(Page 304, 1,001 Tips for the Parents of Autistic Girls / Lyons)

“Iraq, if you write on the walls again, I will never let you use another pencil or pen for as long as you live!”

No, not really. But I WILL put her markers in “time out” for the rest of the week. And NO… even though I have upheld a “no means no” rule from the beginning, Iraq STILL tests that theory every single day. Every kid is different.

1,001 Tips for the Parents of Autistic Girls covers everything from getting through daily home life to surviving the IEP process. It is so solidly based in reality, in fact, all I had to do was read, “Chapter 6: Individualized Education Program: Your Child’s Weapons 31” in the table of contents and my eyes glazed right over - just like in an actual IEP meeting!

That’s not to say that every nugget of wisdom is helpful to every person, for instance:

698. Use positive discipline methods that work. Many parents use time-outs, yell, or take away privileges as their top three discipline options. If those methods aren’t working for you, it can be frustrating, and can lead to more arguments if you’re not feeling successful.
—Toni Schutta, M.A., L.P., Parent Coach, Author, and
(Page 304, 1,001 Tips for the Parents of Autistic Girls / Lyons)

Ok – so perhaps this isn’t as obvious to everybody as it is to me, but with 3 very different kids, each with their own special diagnosis, to me this sounds just a little like, “If the engine falls out of your car, don’t get in it every morning and try to drive it to work. Instead, try having a new engine installed.” Really? So that’s why I’ve been late to work every day for the past 5 weeks! Wish I’d thought of that sooner. 

I also wouldn't have minded seeing a long, creative lists of discipline methods to try instead of simply a suggestion not to try the same thing over and over. I always try to stay one step ahead of Iraq, but I've exhausted dozens of options now and would love to have a few more to fall back on. Then again... that subject matter might make for a great sequel by itself.

Other information the book offers will sound VERY familiar to parents. For me, lots of the points rang true, like:

Does not understand typical social boundaries or behavior in social situations

Extreme tantrums—uncontrollable (sometimes since day one - and still happening 7 years later)

Inappropriate playing with toys or prefers objects that are not toys

Difficulty with transitions (could be location or activity transitions)

Oh yes, and the list goes on!

All in all, I would say this is a must-have book for any parent wading through the quagmire of the autism or autism spectrum world! As I read through it I found myself thinking, "Oh thank goodness! I'm not the only one whose kid does that!"

And now for that giveaway! One randomly selected commenter on this blog post will receive their very own copy of 
Everything You Need to Know About Diagnosis, Doctors, Schools, Taxes, Vacations, Babysitters, Treatment, Food, and More
By Tony Lyons

Leave a comment - let me know what your biggest autism-related challenge has been this month. Be sure to leave an email address (you can format it like: "bulldogma[at]emailserver[dot]com" to avoid spammers).
I'll announce the winner on Wednesday, November 24th in the evening in a new blog entry, so be sure to check back then!

Of course, you'll have to add your own illustrations. Mine don't come with the original :o)


Monday, November 15, 2010

The Joy of Socks... and a Winner!

The Joy of Socks
By: The Skink

Who doesn't love socks?
Sunday was laundry day! There's nothing like having good socks on laundry day!

 Some people prefer socks in bed while others love to have socks all the time.

Trying socks in new positions is FUN!

Some people like really fast socks!

And some make really funny faces...

because they love socks SO much!


Congratulations to our drawing winner, commenter #28
SouthernSnow said...
wow those pictures are so clear and what a lovely family time memory! Those soaps look good enough to eat! LOL

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fall Fun and a Giveaway from Rebecca's Soap Delicatessen!

Since the hubby was working today, I loaded the kids up and took them to Mimi and Pop's house. I have found it's usually nice to have some "back-up" on the days I would otherwise have the kids to myself. The drive from our house to theirs is quite beautiful through the rolling hills and mountain passes. Unfortunately, as with many kids in the autism spectrum, Iraq's tummy isn't quite as thrilled with rolling hills. We made it most of the way before an emergency detour. The only place I could pull off quickly enough was in someone's driveway. I felt badly for my daughter, but even worse for the owner of the flowers that were getting a rather unusual sort of late-season fertilizer comprised of scrambled eggs and milk.

Broadway was the one who jumped out to hold his little sister's hair back while she... well... you know. What an awesome big brother he is! We were kind of out in the country so I wanted to stay behind the wheel just in case we started hearing banjos.

Just as we were about to leave, a lady came out of the house. I could feel the flush rising in my cheeks as she approached, and I fumbled for something to say. Just as I blurted out "I am SO sorry!" I saw the lady hold out a wet towel for Iraq to wipe off her face. You can't beat the people around here for kindness!

Iraq's tummy settled right down following our little detour, and the interior of the car and I were very thankful! Iraq was feeling so good, in fact, she jumped at the chance to go out on Mimi and Pop's electric boat. Driving around the area is a great way to see the fall colors, but boating about affords an even more spectacular experience to leaf and lake lovers alike.

And we even got to see some lovely geese as they rested along their migratory path.

And after the boat ride and a brief nap for The Skink, Mimi got the rake out and created the perfect pile of leaves to jump in!

And after the pile had been jumped flat, The Skink made sure it was piled back up for more jumping action.

Ready... JUMP!

You know what the neat thing about a pile of leaves is? In order to be a perfect pile of leaves, it doesn't matter what the leaves look like. Some are big and some are small, some fat and some thin, some are only parts of leaves and each one has it's very own color. Together, they are beautiful, and perfect to soften one's landing after a big leap. And that's the way it should be!

And after jumping in the leaves, The Skink took the opportunity to partially strip, because... well... why not?

And now for that giveaway! A lot of my readers are also parents to children with special needs. Kids or no, we all have plenty of every day stresses. My friend Rebecca makes hand-made natural soaps, and let me tell you... she has an amazing way with creating the most delicious combinations of fragrances!

She's got something for just about everyone! Does your child with Down syndrome have dry, red cheeks in the winter? Rebecca's Soap Delicatessen has an entire line of natural Shea soaps just for dry skin. Do you or your child in the autism spectrum have highly sensitive skin? Try her all natural soaps or her goat's milk line of products. Just look how beautiful they are, too!

Rebecca has kindly offered up a $25 Git Certificate to one lucky commenter! Check out her entire selection at her Etsy Shop! You can also click on any of the above soap images and you will be directed to her online store. Rebecca is also running her own contest which you can read about here: Awesome Soap Deli Contest.

So - be sure to leave a comment on this blog. On Monday evening I will do a random drawing of all those who commented and I'll announce the winner of the $25 Gift Certificate at that time. If you don't have a Google account, you may leave a comment on my FaceBook page to be eligible for the drawing.


Friday, November 12, 2010

To Dora's House We Go

So... when Iraq got home from school today, I talked to her about letting the Dora house stay in The Skink's room for a bit. I told her she could play with it all she liked, but that it would be wonderful if The Skink could play with it too. I remeasured her that I didn't think The Skink could break the house because it is made for little children.

"OK, but only for 2 hours!" was Iraq's response. Since Iraq really doesn't grasp time yet, I wasn't too worried.

So, when The Skink got home, they played... together! The Skink made the music play and both girls danced. The Skink fed the family dinner and Iraq lined all the chairs up neatly at the table.

And Iraq got plenty of praise for sharing with her sister. And all was well...

...until the completely unrelated nuclear meltdown later in the evening.

When Broadway called to be picked up from his after-school activities, Iraq wanted to stay home. I said "no" and Iraq went from zero to full-blown-fit in about three-one-hundredths of one second. At that point I had little choice but to lock her into her room... which she tore apart...

The great news is that she calmed down in only 1 hour and 15 minutes. yay.

So, that's life in the trenches.


How Do You Stop A Child With Aspergers From Stealing?

Yes - this is an actual question to which I do not posses an answer. Ever since Iraq was old enough to "get into stuff," she has been doing just that. Getting in to other people's stuff, often reorganizing it or even relocating it to some hiding place in her room.

I do not use the term lightly when I say we have tried everything we know to get her to stop. You can see a very early story about Iraq getting into "stuff" here. (Please note, this story was written about 3.5 years ago and discusses just one of the incorrect diagnoses we received on our quest to understand our beautiful little Iraq).

Now that she is 7, Iraq has become capable of getting into a much wider variety of "stuff." My makeup now resides in a mini-safe that requires a well-hidden key to access, and my husband's firearms are in a locked steel gun safe (hey - we're Republicans and we used to live in Texas... of course we have guns. It's like some sort of unspoken law). Needless to say, I don't wear makeup often because its such a pain in its current incarcerated state.

Basically we do what we can to safeguard our "stuff" against our adorable little clepto - - but there is only so much we can do. We can't lock up everything we own.

And so it is all that stuff that is not under lock and key that tends to mysteriously vanish, only to reappear deep in the toe of a fuzzy, pink slipper or inside the pillow case of a pillow strategically placed under a bed. The Skink's stuffed animals are relocated, Broadway's highlighter markers go missing and my contact lens case grows legs and walks out of the bathroom.

In hopes of ending this behavior we have tried:
Explaining why stealing is wrong
Taking away one of Iraq's favorite toys
Taking away all of Iraq's favorite toys
Taking away television priveliges
Sending Iraq to bed early
Letting The Skink take one of Iraq's toys
Explaining that grown-ups that steal end up in jail
Time outs
Not allowing Iraq to go to the park/swimming/other favored activities
Other creative punishments...

All to no avail.

Just this week Iraq's teacher sent a note home expressing concern that many of Iraq's classmates have items go missing only for them to turn up in Iraq's desk. She said she had tried a variety of things, but the behavior continues (go figure!).We have been extraordinarily lucky to have the most wonderful teacher this year for Iraq. She has studied autism/Aspergers and is working with us to create the best possible learning environment for Iraq.  Needless to say, I had to write a long note to Iraq's teacher explaining that we did not have anything really helpful to offer.

Ya know - here in the US there is a television show called SuperNanny where a highly-experienced nanny goes into a household with some out-of-control children and teaches their parents how to be better parents. I'd like to see SuperNanny last one day in our house!

In retrospect, to those of us dealing with an autism spectrum issue on a daily basis, that show seems awfully trite. I can attest to the fact that SuperNanny's techniques work well with neuro-typical children. They worked great with my ADHD Broadway when he was little. With autism? Not so much! "Time Out" can last an entire day if a parent patiently puts the child back in the time-out spot every time the child leaves before the time is up, or puts the child back in time out if the same naughty behavior is witnessed again (usually almost immediately following release from time-out). Simply put, the things that work for neuro-typical children to thwart undesirable behavior DON'T WORK for many kids with Asperger's. It has become my daily goal to find ever more creative ways to try to control Iraq's behavior, only to add to the list of "things that don't work." It almost seems nuts to keep trying... yet... I do.

So last night when we discovered that Iraq had (once again) pillaged mom and dad's bedroom, I "relocated" the large Dora house from Iraq's room into The Skink's room in an attempt to show Iraq how it feels to have one's belongings taken and played with by someone else. Iraq never plays with the Dora house, but she is obsessively possessive over "her stuff" for the most part. The Dora house has its own spot in Iraq's room, and taking things from their spot is a big no-no!

Yes - Iraq was very upset about the situation (which was my goal), but then the plan backfired on me completely. I have mentioned before that The Skink is very creative and loves imaginary play. Having me place the Dora house in her room was like Christmas! She walked in with eyes like saucers and could only say "WOWWWWW!" She sat and played with the house, finding all the buttons that make noise, sitting Dora and her family at the table, feeding each of the dolls and putting them all to bed.

And then I had to take it away.

I'm a BAD mommy!

I had unwittingly punished The Skink as I punished Iraq. My poor little Skink was beside herself with tears when I folded Dora's house back up to put it back in Iraq's room.

Note to Self:

Dear Self,
That didn't quite work the way you thought it would, huh?
The Mother of your Other 2 Children.

So here I am, still on my quest to stay one-step-ahead of Iraq and looking for answers. What do we do about the stealing? It's one of Iraq's compulsions and she says she just can't tell herself "No!" She has plenty of compulsions, but this one could really cause her some trouble if she doesn't get a handle on it soon.

Please tell me I'm not a bad mom. If you do happen to posses the magic answer to my question, I definitely need to hear it! Otherwise, just drop me a comment to let me know I'm not talking to myself :o)
On your mark... get set... Comment!

Update: Sorry to say I still don't have answers. Iraq's stealing has lessened just a bit. She knows stealing is wrong, ans says she "Tells herself not to steal," but sometimes she just can't fight the urge. People with Asperger's have issues with transitions - changes and new developments in life. We notice a significant upswing in stealing during transition times. Same with meltdowns, OCD behaviors and other negative behaviors associated with Asperger's. From what we can discern, for people with Asperger's, stealing falls under OCD behaviors. While many specialists will still maintain that stealing is not part of Asperger's, I think it is a provable point that when it falls under the subset of OCD, it most certainly can be. Judging by the number of responses I've had (both public and private) there are MANY of us who have children with Asperger's who steal. 

For a more recent post with Iraq's adventures in OCD stealing, see:

Please do leave your comment below! There are a lot of us out here who wonder if we are the only ones with kids who do this. By weighing in, I have something solid I can take to my daughter's psychologist and say, "Look! This IS a common behavior in children with Asperger's!" If doctors recognize the prevalence of kleptomania in people with Asperger's, the knowledge could help our children not only receive more help in this area, but possibly keep them out of jail when they are older.