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Peanut Free, That’s How It Has To Be!

submitted by juliehornok

The newsletter from my oldest son's pre-school came home. Sure, the newsletter was a happy color of yellow with cute little pictures of smiling kids on it, but what was typed in dark black letters had the potential to ruin our lives forever! It read, “Due to the increasing number of allergies amongst children, for the safety of our pre-schoolers, we are going peanut free.”
What?????!!!!! How were we ever going to survive? Andrew was the pickiest of picky eaters, and the only sandwich he would eat was peanut butter and jelly. And those delicious mini-Ritz crackers with peanut butter in the middle, how could we possibly go a whole five hours without those? Then there are the mouth-watering Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and the endless delight that peanut M&M’s could bring. My son was going to starve, I was sure of it. I could already picture him running out to the car after pre-school, and I would need to immediately hook him up to a peanut butter IV.
I mean, are severe allergies even real? We never had allergies like this when I was growing up. Was this a case of crazy, over-bearing parents that had nothing better to worry about? How is it even possible for a little peanut to cause so much harm? It is just food.
I was sure my concerns were justified. And then it happened to me.

Do You Know Why I Love You So Much?

submitted by lawilcox

Last week Julie Hornok wrote a touching, heartfelt post HERE about children with autism speaking the words “I love you” to their mothers. I deeply appreciate her words as they very much mirror how I feel and reading them made certain sentiments Ethan proclaimed in the last week, ever so much sweeter in my eyes.
Over the long (President’s Day) weekend, twice Ethan said words that warmed my heart and gave me the motivation to keep on keepin’ on with all that we’re doing.
First, Ethan was avoiding doing what I had asked him to do, focusing instead on something more appealing…either LEGOs or a book, I can’t exactly recall. After redirecting and reminding him several times, when I was about to get more firm, Ethan did what I had been asking and then came over to give me a big hug. With the hug, came these words, “Mom, do you know why I love you so much? Because you’re so kind and calm.” Gulp.

The Thing Autism Moms Don’t Speak Of

submitted by juliehornok

There are many rights of passage as a parent. Holding your baby for the first time, seeing your baby’s first toothless open mouth smile, and watching your baby take her first steps. But nothing can compare to the first time you hear the four most beautiful words come out of your child’s mouth: “I love you, Mommy!” Somehow those four words validate every sleepless night, every dirty diaper changed, every missed social event, and every pound of baby weight that tightly grips your thighs, no matter how you try to lose it.
I don’t remember when my oldest, Andrew, said those meaningful four words to me. I would assume he said them when he was between two and three years old. When he did, I took it for granted. It is not that I didn’t enjoy it; I just never thought about it much because it happened without any effort on my part. It was an expectation that comes from the natural progression in a child’s life.
Autism moms don’t talk about this because the very mention of it brings too much pain to bear. All those years of waiting to be validated for physical and mental strain and emotional trauma that consumes the life of a mom with a child with autism. She could be given the Mother-of-the-Year Award and be praised by hundreds, but it doesn’t matter. The only person she wants to acknowledge her love is her own child. She wants to know for sure that her child really does love her.

My Life is Better Than Yours…Or Is It?

submitted by juliehornok

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
— Steven Furtick
While browsing on Facebook (in a diligent effort to avoid cleaning the house or hearing my arguing children), I read that people who spend a lot of time on Facebook are less happy than those who spend more time in person with friends. It makes sense. After all, the right picture or quote can make anyone’s life seem magical, while mine pales in comparison.

Case in point: in the above picture, you can see pure joy on our faces. It was Lizzie’s first ski trip, and it was perfect! We took her up to the top of the mountain, and she grinned ear-to-ear with excitement over this new adventure! It was as if the snow ski fairy had sprinkled Lizzie with fairy dust. As we hopped off the ski lift, she began to ski with ease. She was a natural! At the bottom of the slope, we all gave her a group family hug! We were all smiles! Perfect!
This is all true. At least, that is what the picture shows, right? Ha! I wish.

Guest Blog – Professional Acting with Asperger’s Syndrome: Part 4

submitted by lawilcox

Last fall, my friend Jennifer Dodson started a fantastic series for us about how acting and drama have positively influenced her son with Asperger’s Syndrome. This final entry is packed with great information about programs and even a book recommendation for utilizing drama and acting in the lives of children with autism. If you missed the first few posts in the series, I encourage you to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 as well. My sincere thanks, again, to Jennifer for taking the time and effort to pen this encouraging and informative series for us! Enjoy, ~Leigh
Professional Acting with Asperger’s Syndrome: Part 4
By Jennifer Dodson
The journey for our son who is a professional actor with Asperger Syndrome has been very rewarding. We have watched our son's social skills blossom and his self-confidence soar. For our son, acting has opened up his world in ways we didn't know were possible.

Interview – Dr. Julie Buckley – Part 2

submitted by lawilcox

As I mentioned in Part 1 of my interview with Dr. Julie Buckley last week, I met Dr. Julie Buckley at the National Autism Association annual conference in the fall of 2010, but I was already familiar with her work. Her book, Healing Our Autistic Children, is one of my favorite books for parents raising children with ASD. In the book, Dr. Buckley shares very personal experiences (as a mother and Pediatrician) about how and why autism is a treatable medical disease. Also, the two times I’ve heard Dr. Buckley speak at NAA, I was greatly impacted. See my post about Caring for the Caregiver HERE inspired by Dr. Buckley’s presentations at NAA the past two years.
LAW: Please share a little about “The Big 3”: Inflammation, Oxidative Stress and Toxicity.
JB: When I teach families about the big three – toxicity, oxidative stress, and the chronic inflammatory response, I use the Venn Diagram approach that Sid Baker, MD and Liz Mumper, MD taught me. We know that autism, classically defined, is at the center of the intersecting circles, where behavior abnormalities, communication problems and social skills challenges intersect. But we also know that physically, autism lies at the intersection of three big problems – gut disease, immune dysregulation and methylation chemistry disturbances. It is these physical problems that give rise to the behavior/communication/social skills problems Leo Kanner observed. And even more fundamentally, it is the “Big 3” – toxicity, oxidative stress, and the chronic inflammatory response – that allow the physical things (the gut disease, the immune dysregulation, the methylation chemistry disruption) to get started, and then those physical things give rise to the behavior/social skills communication problems…it starts to feel a little bit like that old childhood song “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly…”

CBS - Apps for Autism: Communicating on the iPad

submitted by lawilcox

For over a week I've been meaning to share the link to the 60 Minutes segment that recently ran on CBS about communication utilizing iPads with children who live with Autism...but I've been distracted and sidetracked numerous times. However, since I'm a firm believer in late being better than never, here it is - I hope you enjoy it! You can watch the segment HERE or read the transcript HERE.
Additionally, I encourage you to check out this interview from February with Michelle Beck of Pumpkin Littles about the iPad Communication Therapy she and other therapists are using with children in their educational and therapy center in North Dallas. When I interviewed Michelle earlier this year and asked about including preverbal kids in social skills classes/groups, she had this to say, "While they may not speak or may have difficulty communicating, they have a lot to share and they want to be social. The Apple iPad, special software, pioneering therapists and this amazing class now gives those children a voice.

Making Friends and Taking Names

submitted by lawilcox

I don’t even know where the phrase: “Kicking butt and taking names” came from, but occasionally it pops into my mind…even though the word “butt” is not commonly used in our household. However, I’ve watched Ethan do some pretty great things [socially] lately, and I have decided to alter the saying above to fit Ethan’s progress…he’s “Making friends and taking names…”

The Summer Bridge

submitted by lawilcox

Katherine Galligan, co-founder of The Summer Bridge, and mother of two boys (Michael – 6, and Sean – 4), took some time to share some details with me about the exciting new program she and C’Airey Ashurst started this summer. When Katherine’s son, Michael, was diagnosed with autism and Katherine was thrust into seemingly endless hours of therapy, she met C’Airey, a Speech and Language Pathologist. Recently, they have worked together to create The Summer Bridge. Katherine says, C’Airey’s “role in planning and execution has been invaluable; undoubtedly attributable to her extensive experience and sincere dedication to helping children with learning differences.” Along with Katherine and C’Airey, there are two licensed teachers; one ABA therapist; a college student (pursuing a degree in psychology); and a woman who works as a SpEd aide in Michael’s school, working with the students at The Summer Bridge.

Judgmental Waitress

submitted by lawilcox

During a recent trip to visit family in another state, Ethan and I encountered a critical, impatient and rude waitress. Surprisingly, the restaurant is a sweet little family-owned joint that we frequent during our trips to this state. It is a family-oriented restaurant (on the nicer side – with cloth napkins) and has an amazing gluten-free menu. The wait staff in the past has been tremendous and highly accommodating (even when we’ve visited with four busy, talkative kids and twice as many adults); but this time was different. This time, Ethan was the only child in the group.
First, before diving into the dining experience, let me preface it by sharing that our flight out of Dallas had been delayed by an hour due to a fire in the control tower just before we were scheduled to pull away from the gate and depart. Without a control tower, like the rest of the planes leaving at that time, we were stuck. And not just stuck…but stuck on a full flight (every single seat filled), buckled into our seats on an airplane that was growing ever hotter (in the June Texas heat) with every passing minute. To minimize the heat, everyone was asked to pull the window shades and wait patiently…um, okay.

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