Spirulina, otherwise known as blue-green algae or the less appetizing name pond scum, is a popular natural health remedy. It was a staple in the Aztec diet and is considered a sustainable food source. The United Nations identified it as a primary tool to fight global malnutrition and NASA is researching how it could be incorporated into astronaut diets on missions to Mars. It's been used to treat victims of arsenic poisoning and was used to treat children exposed to radiation after the Chernobyl disaster.
Spirulina a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and is especially effective in treating the brain and liver. It's also very rich in protein: 50 to 70 percent protein by weight, compared to about 27 percent for red meat. Spirulina is also a good source of B vitamins, vitamin K, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, potassium, iodine and zinc. These are all excellent benefits for people with autism.
One thing spirulina does not do is chelate heavy metals and toxins from the body. That's the work of chlorella, which is another form of algae. The two are often confused. I suppose you could also make chlorella popsicles if chelation is what you're after.
There are so many health benefits to spirulina, I was intrigued to see if I could put it into a popsicle. Tosh began eating popsicles earlier this year and they are his favorite treat. His ABA team uses them as a reward at the end of his sessions. I had been providing them with relatively healthy popsicles made from fruit and natural sugars, but I've never been crazy about giving him a sugary treat when ABA ends at 7 p.m. because it sometimes spoils his dinner and makes him hyper at bedtime.
So I decided to hit the kitchen and make him popsicles that are good enough to be considered a meal. These popsicles contain enough healthy ingredients on their own to qualify; spirulina was my attempt to swing for the fences. I'm proud to say we've scored a home run! Tosh absolutely loves them.
In fact, he loves them so much, he asked for one for breakfast this morning. I gladly indulged his request.
I'm sure it doesn't hurt that his favorite color is green.
Tip: if your child likes Shrek, The Incredible Hulk, TMNT or any other green cartoon or movie characters, name these popsicles after the character. That's how we got Tosh to drink green smoothies initially. It was a "Shrek smoothie."
Tropical spirulina popsicles
1 cup cubed mango
1 cup cubed pineapple
2 tsp powdered spirulina (start with 1 tsp and gradually work your way up)
8 oz orange juice
2 TBS Barlean's Omega Swirl oil
2 TBS coconut oil
Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight. Using frozen fruit will help the popsicles set faster.
Earlier this month, I attended the Talking About Curing Autism (TACA) National Conference in Costa Mesa, California. There were many highlights, but for me, meeting Temple Grandin and hearing her speak was a dream come true. She is just as amazing as you'd think.
I learned so much from her speech and have already put some of her suggestions into action. Here are five of my favorites.
1. Always assume competence.
It was interesting that I had just written about this right before attending the conference. Just because people with autism can't communicate that they know or understand something, doesn't mean that they don't. Instead of assuming they can't, always assume that they can. Assuming they don't know things or can't do things makes them aggressive, and rightly so. Who wouldn't be in a pissy mood if everyone treated you like an idiot all day long?
Tosh is always surprising me with what he can do. Just one month ago he showed me he knew how to drive. I had no idea he had the hand-eye coordination and the ability to handle all of the stimulation. Our kids will surprise us with what they know and what they can do if we let them.
2. Push them past their comfort zone.
It requires a strong will on the part of the parent to push an autistic kid beyond his or her comfort zone, but Dr. Grandin credited her mother's persistence as a big part of her success. She said her mother expected her to sit still and eat her meal at the family table and use good manners. She was also expected to play the part of hostess during family parties by greeting guests at the door, shaking their hands and providing them with drinks. She learned invaluable social skills doing these things, even though it was very difficult for her. Kids with autism are just like neurotypical kids - most must be pushed to achieve.
3. Try pastel paper.
I found this one very intriguing. Does your autistic child resist reading or writing? Tosh sure does. Dr. Grandin said many kids with autism have difficulty seeing black type on white paper. It hurts their eyes and gives them a headache. Tosh often looks out of the corner of his eye and stims with his fingers in front of his face - both signs that his vision is affected by sensory issues. I bought a ream of pastel copy paper this week and have started using it for the writing homework his teacher wants him to do. It's too soon to tell if it helps, but if he continues to do his writing homework with less resistance, I'm going to ask his teacher to start using pastel paper at school.
4. Leverage their interests.
It's often difficult for children with autism to learn using standard curriculum, but if they are allowed to pursue their interests, it can be used as a tool to help them develop academic skills. For example, one parent asked Dr. Grandin what she should do about her 9-year-old son, who does well in math and is a whiz at computers, but refuses to learn how to read or spell. Dr. Grandin's response was to get him a subscription to Wired Magazine or a scientific journal.
"Isn't that a too advanced for a third grader?" the mother asked. "No," Dr. Grandin replied. "He's probably gifted and I guarantee if you give him Wired or a magazine about something he's interested in, he will figure out how to read very quickly."
5. Put them to work.
Dr. Grandin had her first job at 13 and said all kids - especially kids with autism - should learn how to work and handle money. Even chores for an allowance will help them develop the skills they need to achieve independence. Self-employment is a good option for people with autism who may struggle with the social skills required for employment, so it's in their best interest to learn how to work and the basics of business early. In fact, she said every special ed class should teach business.
Dr. Grandin stressed that the reason she's famous for revolutionizing the way cattle are handled is because she was taught how to compile a portfolio of her work. Her portfolio got her in the door, not education or a job interview.
She also said (several times) that trades are a great place for people with autism to use their talents to earn a living. Most jobs that require a college degree will soon be eliminated due to automation and artificial intelligence, she said, but trades like plumbing, HVAC and construction still require human problem solving and labor. Many people with autism have advanced spacial reasoning and other skills that make them naturals at trades.
Tosh always throws his trash away, takes his plate to the sink, picks up his toys, helps carry groceries into the house and helps match his socks, but I've never formalized his "chores" or given him an allowance. At seven years old, I agree with Dr. Grandin. It's time.
It was only 9 a.m. and I was already exhausted.
Our morning started out very well, until Tosh made a traumatic discovery.
His favorite toy, Buck from one of the Ice Age movies, was missing.
In retrospect, this morning's drama represented progress. Tosh didn't used to care about his toys. If one broke, he'd throw it in the trash without a care. Now that he's gained new cognitive functions and awareness, he's become attached to his toys.
That means when one is lost or broken, he gets upset like a neurotypical kid would. Except he has nonverbal autism, so it's more difficult.
And then you throw my sensory issues into the mix. Specifically, noise sensitivity. When Tosh gets so upset he can't communicate, he makes this high pitched whining noise that shuts down my ability to communicate. I mean, it literally scrambles my brain.
Oh, the irony of autism. Parents in the spectrum are in many ways the least equipped to deal with it. However, if we acknowledge and gain awareness of our own sensory issues, we can become the best parents our kids could possibly have because we understand them better than anyone else in the world.
When I become overstimulated by Tosh's meltdowns, I retreat to the next room alone to calm down. It only takes 15 to 30 seconds for me to refocus, and during that time, Tosh often calms down a little bit, too.
However, today it didn't work because ...
Today is trash day. Tosh was very worried that Buck was in the trash bin and as the garbage truck approached, Buck would soon be lost forever. I knew he wasn't - he got lost somewhere between the bathtub and the bedsheets - but that didn't help Tosh's anxiety. He became so upset he couldn't even communicate to me that the impending garbage pickup was what was prompting his meltdown. He kept pointing outside, and I asked him a few times if he was worried that Buck was in the garbage, but his response was no different than his response to my incorrect questions.
At one point Tosh ran outside in his pajamas screaming and crying. Thank god my neighbors all have personal experiences with severe autism and/or know Tosh well enough to understand. My odds of having CPS called are relatively low. (Make the attempt to know your neighbors, folks. It's very important, not only to keep the peace but give your child somewhere to go to ask for help if something happens to you.)
Eventually, I calmed him by discussing how toys get lost all the time, but it's nothing to worry about, because we can just buy a new one.
NOTE: That might have been a lie - I found Buck and his Ice Age friends on eBay and I don't know if there are more. Buck came from a Chinese collector and it took a month for him to be shipped here.
Tosh finally calmed down enough to get dressed for school, but he was still sad. He didn't want another Buck. He wanted HIS Buck.
I looked in the bathtub one last time, and that little rascal was there, hiding in a cup. Man I hate that toy. He gets lost all the time - the others in the set don't do that - and I swear he disappears into some interdimensional black hole when you look for him because he's not there, until the fifth time you look in the exact same place, and discover he was there all along.
So now that the case of the missing toy has been solved, I leave you with two parting thoughts.
Acknowledge your own sensory issues. Allow yourself to have them and apply the same coping techniques therapists teach your child. Allow yourself to fail the first few times. You'll figure it out, and life is all about progress, not perfection.
Nobody can find a missing toy or communicate when they're upset. Tosh and I had a discussion about that once he had calmed down. When we are upset, I explained, we can't communicate what's wrong and when we can't communicate, we can't solve the problem. But when we calm down, together we can fix anything.
We also congratulated ourselves for doing a good job of calming down (eventually) and finding Buck. A couple of years ago, I would have lost my shit and started yelling, and he would have escalated into a full scale meltdown. No school for him and no work for me, which would mean even more stress and meltdowns and misery. Things could have been so much worse but there weren't. And they will continue to get better.
That's all we can expect from ourselves, isn't it?
If you are looking for your new pumpkin obsession, you've come to the right place.
These mini pumpkin pies are AH-mazing! I mean, I feel like I should apologize to you now for how many you're going to eat in one day. But hey, pumpkin pie is a perfectly acceptable breakfast food in my opinion, and these are officially healthy.
They're grain-free, dairy-free, legal for keto, Whole30 and Specific Carbohydrate Diets. And if you substitute maple syrup for honey, they're even vegan.
Keto AND vegan? What kind of sorcery is this?
The good kind, baby. It's all good!
Some of you may live in places where it's already cold, but here in SoCal, it's going to be 90 this weekend. And that makes these mini pumpkin pies even better - you don't even have to bake them! They're no bake. No kidding!
Okay, that's enough of a sales pitch. Let's get to the recipe, shall we? I'm sure somebody at your house is waiting to lick those coconut whipped cream beaters!
Mini pumpkin pies
Adapted from Detoxinsta.com
Makes 12 mini pies
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
3 TBS honey
1 1/2 TBS coconut oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of pureed pumpkin (roughly one can)
1/3 cup of almond milk
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup of pitted medjool dates
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS pumpkin spice
(Or 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger and 1/2 tsp ground cloves)
1. Line standard muffin tins with 12 nonstick cups.
2. To make the crust, put walnuts and coconut in a food processor and plus into a fine meal. Add honey, coconut oil and salt and pulse again until mixed. The dough should stick together like this:
Scoop one heaping tablespoon of dough into each muffin tin. Use your fingers - or if you have sensory issues, use a spoon - and press down and to the sides to form a crust. Chill the muffin tin in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
3. Rinse out your food processor and use it to combine the filling ingredients. Spoon the batter into the crusts. Smooth the tops and return to the fridge to set, at least 4 hours or overnight.
Extra credit: Coconut whipped cream
Adapted from ohsheglows.com
1 can of full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk. (chill in fridge for 24 hours ahead of time)
3 TBS of honey
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
Remove the chilled coconut milk from the fridge. DO NOT SHAKE IT. Carefully open. The cream will be on the top. Carefully scoop out the cream and place in a mixing bowl. Discard the remaining coconut water or use in another recipe.
Using an electric mixer on high, beat the cream until fluffy and smooth. Add the honey and vanilla and mix again.
Use immediately or chill until ready to use. It will firm up when chilled. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to one week. (Try it as creamer for your coffee OMGGGGGGG)
Tosh has never taken an IQ test because they are designed to measure the intelligence of neurotypicals. What's the point? He already fails all other standardized tests because no effort is made to accommodate his inability to communicate like an NT.
I read recently that apraxia is more than just an inability to speak. It also prevents someone from correctly answering questions using any form of communication.
Wow, what an eye opener. That means because of Tosh's apraxia, there is no accurate way to measure his intelligence.
I'm in the process of setting up classroom observations to determine if the severe class is the correct placement for him and if not, what behaviors he would need to improve to move to the mild-mod class. I'm bringing along his ABA supervisor to see how they could support this transition. We're lucky that our district allows this. Many don't.
In fact, Tosh's teacher asked yesterday if I’d like to observe him mainstreaming as well. "Yes, of course," I answered. What a great idea and generous offer!
She cautioned me that the mainstreaming program in which he participates is for the mild-mod students and teaches grade appropriate curriculum. And, the mild-mod class also teaches grade appropriate curriculum. So, when Tosh is outside the severe classroom, he might not understand the material, but it’s a good opportunity to be exposed to positive behavioral modeling.
Tosh’s teacher is one of his strongest advocates, so I know her heart is in the right place. And, I'm questioning his placement, so I've put her and the school in a defensive position.
However, her concern that he wouldn't understand grade-appropriate material gave me pause. I think it’s common in schools to assume kids don’t understand something if they can’t prove that they do. That’s not surprising, because tests have always been used to measure intelligence and understanding of a topic. Like I said before, as far as I know, there is no other way to measure intelligence for someone with apraxia. Plus, schools are under so much pressure to produce good test scores, they've evolved to teach for the test. But this isn't a post about the shortcomings of public education.
This post is about the tendency to make negative assumptions when it comes to kids with autism. How many times do we read about a young adult who can finally communicate and they reveal that they’ve understood everything in school all along? In fact, they had above average intelligence and rather than not understand the material, they were actually bored.
Can you imagine how frustrating it would be if people treated you like an idiot all day long, every day, and you couldn’t prove them otherwise? Who wouldn’t have behavioral issues in that situation? Heck, I've had meltdowns when men in a business setting mansplain something to me.
Ever since I began reading books written by severely autistic teenagers and young adults that revealed their intelligence, I’ve spoken to Tosh in an age appropriate way. I explain how things work, what “big” words mean, the history of places, geography and philosophy. Sure, I accommodate his receptive language issues, but the subject matter is age appropriate. Probably even a little advanced.
The point is this: don’t ever assume your child doesn’t understand just because they can’t prove it. Even if they have an intellectual disability (and maybe due to inadequate testing, their ID diagnosis is inaccurate), they are capable of more than their bodies allow them to express. There is so much more of them under the surface.
It's easy to feel sorry for yourself when you're exhausted, bruised and scared about your child's future. Besides, everybody else is doing it.
We are all painfully aware of the victimization of politics and our civic discourse as a whole. Dignity and courage used to be synonymous with American culture. Now, egged on by social media, we're all in a contest to see who is the most oppressed.
I read an interesting article about the social trend of American victimhood. It argued that attempts to claim status as the most victimized American fail because the unfortunate truth is that all Americans are victims. We are victims of a predatory way of life, malfunctioning institutions, corroded democracy, extreme capitalism and a broken social contract.
If you live by the law of attraction, this victimization echo chamber is making things worse. When you throw yourself a pity party, the universe says, "Ah! They like to be a victim. Better deliver more predators and tragedy."
Predatory institutions also benefit from a culture of victimhood, because it continually lowers the bar and allows what was once socially unacceptable behavior to become socially acceptable. We throw up our hands. "What can we do?"
I saw a Facebook post the other day in which the mother of a boy with autism posted a photo of scratches and bruises her son had given her during a meltdown.
These posts are heartbreaking because not only are people are making their situation worse by playing the victim, but they are putting their disabled child in the role of villain. Our kids understand more than we realize.
Some commenters gave her the pity she was looking for. Others posted photos of their own autism war wounds and similar stories of disabled child villains.
Some offered solutions and advice. Interestingly, most parents who recommended pharmaceuticals cautioned that they caused seizures, violent or suicidal behavior, and required additional drugs to control side effects. That option didn't sound very appealing.
Two commenters ask what the child had been eating. Those comments received no response. Also heartbreaking, because some minor diet changes like removing food dyes could make a big difference for this child and his mom.
However, that would mean giving up victimhood.
About three years ago, I was "venting" to a friend in the exact same way as this mom. I went on and on and on (until the break of dawn) about my miserable lot in life. Tosh was more than I could handle and I didn’t feel like either of us had a future.
My friend, who was also a special needs parent, called me on my bullshit.
"Enough," he said. "You're just feeling sorry for yourself and that won't solve anything."
Man, was I pissed. Furious! I unleashed a string of obscenities in response. How dare he? All I wanted was some support, was that too much to ask?
But eventually, after some introspection, I realized he was right. It marked the beginning of my self-discovery journey, in which I took control of my life and Tosh's autism.
It opened up a new world. Solutions and support magically appeared and effortlessly replaced impossible situations. Requests for resources were approved after months of waiting.
Things improved and they've been improving ever since. Success isn't a straight line, but our lives are vastly better than they were back then. I was thinking just the other day, if I rated my happiness from 1 to 10 on any given day, I'm usually an 8 or a 9.
Every. Single. Day.
And the only thing that has changed is me. I'm still a single mom. My son still has severe autism. I still have all the same reasons to consider myself a victim.
But I'm not. I claimed my power.
Pity feels good for awhile, but in the long run, it only makes things worse. Nobody likes it when somebody calls them on their bullshit, but sometimes that punch between the eyes is what it takes to make a change.
If you're ready for change, please join me Nov. 1 when I launch The Cabana, an Autism Oasis exclusive membership that includes a new mini-course each month, a private Facebook group, a book club, special guests, prizes and extras that will help your entire family feel good again. Together we will form a tribe of empowered parents who will support each other in a positive way. We will celebrate your child's successes. We will share advice. We will encourage each other to rediscover our own lives outside of our caregiver role.
We will step into our power!
Are you ready?
I've been making these for a few years, long before Tosh and I went grain-free. Back then, I was just looking for a gluten free recipe and was intrigued by the idea of making cookies with mostly almond butter and eggs. No way they would taste anything like cookies.
These cookies are so good, everyone in your family will love them. I find them so addicting, I have to keep them in the freezer so I don't hork down the entire batch in one day.
Super easy to make and delicious. Try them this weekend!
Grain-free Tollhouse pan cookies
Adapted from Food Babe's Almond Butter Brownies
2 cups almond butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 pan very well, especially the corners. You can also use parchment paper, but I prefer a greased pan.
Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips until smooth.
Fold in chocolate chips and pour batter into pan.
Bake until a deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Dark metal pans will bake faster.
Try your best to cool for 15 minutes before cutting.
NOTE: Using large chunk chocolate chips or mini chips change the texture of these cookies. Play around with them or use what your family prefers. You can also add 1/2 cup of cocoa powder and another 1/4 cup of honey to make these as brownies instead. If you also add chocolate chips to your brownies, you might want to skip adding more honey - unless you like your brownies extra sweet.
Most of my friends think I'm a pretty ballsy broad, but the truth is, I just have a wider comfort zone than most. I struggle with feelings of insecurity and self-doubt just like everybody else.
Today I did something bold I've never done before: colored my hair hot pink. In the age of mermaid hair, that probably doesn't seem like a big deal. However, as a GenXer rapidly approaching AARP eligibility, it was a huge step outside my comfort zone.
But it shouldn't have ever been that way.
When I was 13, I was obsessed with Michael Jackson. Thriller was, hands down, my favorite cassette tape of all time (still one of my favorites) and I spent long hours in my room memorizing every word and attempting all of MJ's famous dance moves.
Man, did I love his style. I loved it so much, I decided to copy it.
I convinced my mom to let me get the curliest perm available to a white kid living in rural Kansas, and confidently instructed my mom's stylist to cut it shorter on the sides like Michael's pompadour mullet. I was so excited to go to school and show off my new hairdo.
You all know how this story goes - it's a rite of passage most children experience at some point. Nobody thought I was cool. They made fun of me. Even the boy that I liked. Especially the boy that I liked.
That's when I learned a life lesson I've carried with me always. Everyone knows this one, too. We've all seen the meme:
'Shortly after the Great Hair Scandal of 83, a similar fashion incident occurred that involved bright, striped socks worn with matching culottes that I loved but nobody else did.
From that day forward, I vowed to temper my full personality. I had learned that once most people got to know me, they wouldn't like me.
Now, that doesn't mean I became a wallflower. Not at all. Instead, I found an 80s loophole that went something like this: Different is okay, as long as you're still sexy. It was the Madonna litmus test.
And to this day, that has been my personal style. Different, but not so different that boys didn't like me.
Regardless of your political opinion of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, if you attended high school in the 1980s, the stories that emerged from the hearing probably made you cringe. Boomers and millennials were stunned and offended, but we GenXers weren't. We went to those same parties every single weekend.
I've always been proud of the fact that as a GenX woman, I could choose any career I wanted, earn my own money, choose to marry and/or have children or not, and do a whole bunch of things my mother's generation couldn't do, but hoped their daughters would. And for the most part, we have.
But many of us were, and still are, caught somewhere in the middle between equality and compromising who we really are so the boys will like us. If we're not the sexy girl, we're the good wife.
It may seem like our millennial daughters and younger sisters have it better, but I'm not so sure. They heroically launched the #metoo movement, but they seem just as insecure and almost as willing to objectify themselves as we did.
I spend a lot of time doing everything I can to help Tosh become the best he can be, but for the past 18 months or so, I've spent more time focusing on myself than I ever have in my life. Not superficial self-improvement, but deep soul diving work. Ugly, Pandora's Box kind of stuff.
It's been the hardest but most rewarding work I've ever done. One lesson I've come to accept within the last couple of months is that I wish I hadn't felt embarrassed about my Michael Jackson hairdo. For almost two years I've wanted to color my hair something cool, like lavender or teal or magenta, but those memories of being laughed at in the lunch line always held me back.
That's why I took the plunge and colored my hair a color that boys my age don't generally like. (Although, a millennial woman I discussed this with today disagreed - "My mom does lots of things style-wise that I'm not brave enough to do, and she pulls plenty of dick," she said.)
I absolutely love my hair. And for the first time in 35 years, I don't give a fuck whether any boys do, too. Or any girls, for that matter. Some will. Some won't. The important thing here is that I no longer care.
As an autism parent, I'm 100% on board with accepting Tosh exactly the way he is. I want him to be able to pass freely through society and progress academically so he has options in life. But when it comes to hand flapping and playing with age inappropriate toys and everything that makes him different from neurotypicals, I couldn't care less.
Anybody who is lucky enough to know him and love him will do so because of who he truly is, not who he thinks others want him to be.
From this day forward, I vow to apply those same standards of acceptance to myself, too.
Obtaining an assistive communication device for your nonverbal child is very exciting. You feel like finally, your baby can communicate with the world.
But it doesn't happen overnight. It takes time for you and your child to learn how to use the device software and integrate it into your life. Because Proloquo2Go (P2G) and other systems are still relatively new, your child's special ed teacher and possibly even your school district's speech therapy team might not be well educated on how to teach your child to use it.
We've been blessed with an excellent private speech therapy clinic, school district technology specialists, a supportive teacher and aides, and a supportive ABA team that have worked together to help Tosh and me learn how to use P2G both inside and outside the classroom.
I'm no speech therapist, but I'd like to share what has worked for us.
First, it's important to customize the software for your child to match their skill level and program words that are meaningful to them. There are professionals who specialize in testing children with special needs to determine which devices are best for them and can provide initial training. Oftentimes, this is covered by insurance but you may need a referral from your speech therapist and/or primary care physician.
If your speech therapist or other therapy or education providers don't provide training or recommendations to specialists, click here for instructions on how to use the app. You can also search "Proloquo2Go" on YouTube to find videos posted by AssistiveWare, maker of the app, as well as videos parents have made.
1. Begin with food
The first buttons most families start customizing P2G is food. They use the app as a menu, prompting the child to tell mom or dad what they want for dinner, and progress to ordering for themselves in a restaurant. You can begin by allowing your child to just select a food, and once that has been mastered, show them where the "I" and "want" buttons are located. Show them how to say "I want pizza" and help them form the sentence each time they request food until they get into the habit of doing it automatically.
2. Beyond a menu
Once they have mastered food, it's time to move on to toys, places, friends and relatives. Customize these categories by adding your child's favorite things. This will expand your child's use of "I want" and improve their ability to navigate through the app. You can also add use of a new action verb like "go" or "play."
Add pictures as you have time. We have photos of all of his friends and relatives in the "people" file, but for privacy's sake, I'm showing our least customized screen here.
I knew we were onto something when Tosh found the "Target" button on his own and declared one afternoon, "I want go Target." Oh yes, sweet boy. I will gladly take you to Target for some bonding time.
The introduction of feelings is an opportunity to add another verb to your child's vocabulary, but tread lightly here. The first order of business is to get your child comfortable expressing their feelings verbally.
When someone is upset, autism or not, they are usually not very receptive to a grammar lesson. However, if your child is expressing that they feel happy, that may be a good opportunity to help them say "I feel happy" instead of just "happy" or "I want happy."
Tosh is still working on using the verb feel, and most often uses this screen to say "I want sorry sad" after he's been aggressive. He's very sensitive to the feelings of others and gets anxious if he hurts me, an aide or a therapist. This helps him move past the incident and discuss a better behavior choice next time.
If your child is in a special ed classroom, they are probably used to using a schedule with PECS. Tosh has been doing this for so long, he is comforted by knowing what he will be doing in a day, and in what order. Each morning we use P2G to review his daily schedule. As shown above, today he goes to school, then I pick him up at lunch time and we eat take out in the park. Then, we go to his private speech therapy clinic and then to ABA.
If we are counting down to a special event like a vacation, holiday or eagerly anticipated play date, we make use of the days of the week buttons as well. This requires a very long sequence of his schedule that can include today, tomorrow, Thursday, Friday and then Saturday, when the big day occurs. However, if your child is like many autistic children, they are obsessed with calendars and special events, so automating this process might save you a ton of time. Here's how to do it.
Once you "say" a sequence of events by selecting each button and then tapping the top section to say the entire sentence or sequence, P2G stores it in the "Recents" section. Teaching your child to access this feature will allow them to hear the sequence over and over (and over and over) again at their convenience. If your child has ever driven you mad by asking to review their schedule or calendar 100 times in a day, this feature will be a lifesaver.
It also allows you to see how much P2G is being used in the classroom and various therapies. If necessary, you can use this feature to keep your educators and therapy providers honest regarding how well they are supporting your child's use of an assistive device.
To access "Recents", select the four panel button at bottom left. That will bring up the "Tools Popup" screen. Select "Recents," which is the button with the clock icon.
On this screen you will find a history of everything your child has "said" with the device. It's important to note that to record a history, after you or your child selects all the buttons to form a sentence or sequence, they/you must tape the top section to "say" the entire sentence. If you don't complete this final step, it won't be recorded in the history.
Tosh uses this function quite a bit to save time so he doesn't have to hunt for each button again when he wants to repeat himself.
Let's quickly return to the Tools Popup screen. Notice the "Search" button with the magnifying glass icon. If you tap that, it brings up a keyboard into which you can type any button you can't find on your own. The software then shows you where the button is located, and you can select and move it somewhere more convenient if you'd like.
5. Reading and spelling
By the time you've implemented all of the P2G uses above, your child has probably already navigated through the entire app and is more familiar with all of the words than you or any of his teachers, aides or therapists. That means it's time to start using it as an academic learning tool.
This week, I'm creating a school page for Tosh, where his aide can program buttons with weekly sight words and words he is learning in reading comprehension. She has also taught Tosh how to access the keyboard function so he can use it to spell words. Here's how to find that.
You can access the keyboard by tapping on the keyboard icon on the bottom bar from any screen. A basic keyboard will appear. Tosh's aide also uses this to help decipher what he is trying to say if he can't find the appropriate button. Despite being nonverbal, he's pretty good at sounding out words - something we didn't realize until his aide began using the keyboard function.
(Yes, his aide is amazing, isn't she?)
Tosh is also learning how to write on paper, but let's be realistic: when was the last time you used a pencil? I think it's very important kids learn using digital tools, and thankfully, his teacher and aide agree.
If your child uses P2G, please share some ways you have implemented use of the device in the comments below. Other parents new to assistive devices will be very appreciative!
Ew. Ew. Ew.
Unfortunately, humans are animals, which means we get worms and other parasitic infestations just like dogs, cats, birds and every other creature on the planet. Because parasites reproduce during the full moon, they are believed to be one of the reasons people are restless during that time. They also can cause people to wake up around 3 a.m. each morning.
That's ridiculous, you say. We live in an industrialized nation! We have clean (well, cleanish) drinking water and good sanitation! I wash my hands several times a day! I go through so many Clorox disinfectant wipes each day, I'm probably personally responsible for at least three different kinds of antibiotic-resistant superbugs!
All of those things are probably true. Except the last one might be an exaggeration. Or maybe not.
Regardless of your privilege or hygiene, according to the Center for Disease Control and more scientific journals than I can link here, at least one quarter, maybe even one third, of Americans have or have had a parasite infestation.
How can that be? Well, it turns out some of our luxuries actually put us at greater risk for worms and other parasites. They include:
There's another alarming reason why the CDC devoted an entire section of its website to the five most under diagnosed parasites in America, which includes our friend the tapeworm, pictured above.
Doctors are dangerously uneducated when it comes to parasites. They don't realize they are common in the U.S. and other industrialized nations, which means they don't recognize the symptoms, don't test for them, and even when they do, sometimes they don't properly treat them. That's why the CDC launched its awareness campaign.
Don't believe me, believe the CDC.
We started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to reduce yeast overgrowth and control other "bad bacteria" that can thrive in the gut and wreck havoc on digestion and the nervous system. So far, it's been very successful! Tosh's behavior improvements are off the charts and his language continues to develop. Yesterday, he even mainstreamed without an aide, which is remarkable for kid with nonverbal, severe autism.
Last week, I took our health regimen up a notch and started a parasitic cleanse. The diet starves them out, and the cleanse carpet bombs those mufukas and also kills any other parasitic infestations, like these three included in the CDC's list of five.
Are you ready? My apologies in advance for ruining your love of carnitas tacos.
Remember when you were pregnant and your doctor warned you that you shouldn't change the litter box? Toxoplasmosis, a condition caused by the single cell parasite Toxoplasma gondii, was the reason. You can also be exposed by undercooked meat, unpeeled vegetables and contaminated food prep surfaces.
The CDC estimates 60 million Americans are chronically infected with this nasty bug.
That's nearly 20% of us, and the CDC admits its numbers might be too conservative. Other scientific journals put the estimate at 25%. If you know four people, one probably has it.
Toxoplasma gondii lies dormant in your body until your immune system is compromised, and then causes flu-like symptoms. So that flu you think you have? Maybe it's this instead.
Scientific American estimates one-third of people worldwide are chronically affected, and Toxoplasmosis could be responsible for many cases of psychotic behavior, self-harming and suicide.
That crazy cat lady? She doesn't have all those cats because she's crazy. She's crazy because she has all those cats.
When pregnant women are infected, they pass the parasite to their baby. If contracted early in the pregnancy, it usually results in miscarriage or a still born infant. If contracted later in the pregnancy, the infant appears healthy when born, but as it grows, the child develops seizures and intellectual disabilities.
That last sentence makes me cry. Maybe it causes seizures and ID in autistic children. Maybe it doesn't. The problem is, we don't know because doctors don't routinely test pregnant women, or anybody for that matter. You may have had it, you might have it now, and your child might have it. As far as I'm concerned, that's enough reason for a parasitic cleanse.
Fifteen years ago, when I did my first parasite cleanse, I found one of these nasty suckers in the toilet. These are round worms, common in pet dogs and cats.
Even if you're diligent about treating your pet for worms, your kids can still pick them up in the sandbox at the playground, in the park or even in your own front lawn. It just takes one neighbor who lets their dog do his business on your lawn to deposit eggs your child could touch or track in on their shoes ... even if your neighbor picks up after his dog.
Toxocara, as well as other round worms, can also be contracted from undercooked meat.
According to the CDC, approximately 14% of the U.S. population has Toxocara antibodies, which means they either have roundworms, or they have in the past. I had two cats in the house and two dogs in the backyard when I found mine, so the odds were stacked against me.
Those infected with roundworms usually don't show any symptoms. However, they can cause organ damage, nervous system damage and vision problems.
We're back to our friend the tapeworm. It's possible to have an actual tapeworm in your intestines, and we certainly eat enough in the U.S. to sustain one. But an even bigger danger is cysticercosis, which occurs when tapeworm eggs hatch and the larvae burrow into your muscle, organ or brain tissue, where they form cysts. The photo above is of a very bad case of cysticercosis of the brain.
You can't usually feel them in your muscles, although sometimes they form cysts under the skin that you can feel. But if they burrow into your brain, they cause adult onset seizures and masses in the brain as illustrated above.
Tapeworms and tapeworm eggs spread through contaminated food (especially undercooked pork), water or surfaces.
It's highly infectious among families, so if someone in your household is infected, the rest of the family can easily be infected if they don't scrub their hands immediately after using the toilet, or if you don't wash your underwear in boiling water. (And who does that?)
Feeling sick yet?
These are just three of hundreds of parasites that can wreck havoc on your body and cause or make worse your child's physical symptoms and autism behaviors. If you have a progressive pediatrician, they might test for them. But too often, if you ask for testing, your doctor will roll their eyes and jot down "hysterical mother" in your child's medical charts.
Thankfully, it's pretty easy to wipe out many of them. I've always used a tincture of cloves, wormwood and black walnut, and it's worked well. Those three ingredients have been used around the world for centuries to control parasites in times and places with inferior sanitation systems. And it sure beats choking down castor oil, which is another effective remedy.
We use Intestinal Edge, which I like because unlike most tinctures, it doesn't have an alcohol base. That makes it safer for kids and easier to hide in their juice. You can get it at the link above through my Amazon Affiliate account, or from whatever source you'd like. You can try other brands, too. Just make sure they have the three important ingredients: wormwood, black walnut and cloves.
The directions say to take 1/2 teaspoon two to three times daily on an empty stomach for three weeks, then take a week off and repeat.
I do it a little differently. I take 10-12 drops in water, before or after meals, three times a day for two weeks. Then I take two weeks off. Then I repeat that twice.
Supposedly, this is safe for children of all ages, but being the kind of mama who takes all medicines very seriously, I waited until Tosh weighed 50 lbs before giving it to him. So, this is his first cleanse.
The dosage is based on a 150-lb person, so I reduce my dose by one-third for Tosh. He gets 3-4 drops in apple or orange juice three times a day. We started our second week of our first round today.
The first week, Tosh had super stinky farts, which is a sign it's working. He also had some minor shart accidents in his undies - that's also very common, as is full-blown diarrhea. He's also been scratching his butt, which like a dog scooting across the carpet, is a sign of parasites.
NOTE: Any poop that comes out during a cleanse is infected, which means you should throw out undies after an accident and clean your bathroom with bleach. Also make sure your kids wash their hands after using the bathroom and/or scratching their butts. And bleach the bathtub and their bath toys, too.
Flu like symptoms, headache and other symptoms are also possible. If you experience headaches or any other intolerable symptoms, cut the dose in half and gradually work your way up to a full dose.
If you have any other questions, please leave a comment below.
Heather Anderson is a natural health educator, writer, blissfully happy autism mom, fintech marketer and lover of life in Southern California.
Please join me on this autism journey. Let’s create a positive, supportive community in which we can learn, grow and prosper. Where the focus isn’t just on your autistic child, but on your own personal growth as well.