I don’t know about your family, but this has been a tough year for us so far when it comes to health. Both Tosh and I rarely get sick, but so far this year we’ve had a hard time shaking a flu bug that gave us bad coughs plus some stomach cramps and vomiting. As they say, it’s going around.
We know a lot about the immune system when it comes to fighting colds and flu, but did you know scientists believe our brains have an immune defense system that fights our attempts to make positive changes in our lives?
About two and a half years ago, when I was in a pretty dark place, I got into a fight with the guy I was dating.
I was feeling down and defeated. Autism was kicking my ass. Being a single mom was kicking my ass. My job was kicking my ass. Life was kicking my ass.
So naturally, I turned to my boyfriend for support and encouragement.
He did not respond as I had expected.
"You know what your real problem is? You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something about it," he said.
Last night, Kansas State beat the University of Kansas in basketball, and I'm still flying high over my alma mater's victory over our intrastate rival.
A sports reporter I follow on Twitter observed that although Kansas State fans are very insecure about the rivalry, Kansas fans lose their mind when we beat them.
Well of course they do, I thought. They expect to win, whereas we are the perennial underdogs and expect the loss.
If you attended a state college, you know exactly what I mean. Most states have a flagship university - in our case, the University of Kansas - and a more affordable and accessible state school system, which I attended. The flagship school, whether it's officially a flagship or just implied, is considered the more prestigious campus.
Parenting a child with autism comes with the longest to-do list in the history of forever. There are IEPs and educational issues, behavioral issues, health issues, diet, sleep and it goes on and on and on and on (and on).
I've spent almost my entire career in credit unions, most recently producing financial education content. One day, while reviewing an article about strategies to get out of debt, it hit me: autism is kind of like being buried in debt.
It's overwhelming, exhausting, depressing and you don't even know where to begin.
Which is why financial management guru Dave Ramsey can offer the perfect advice to autism parents. When it comes to tackling your child's laundry list of challenges, treat it like debt and use Dave's Snowball Method.
This week, the autism community celebrated Haley Moss, a young woman who overcame nonverbal autism and very low expectations from doctors to graduate from law school, take her oath of attorney and begin her career this week at a law firm.
I found Haley on Twitter and began following her. As you can imagine, many Twitter followers wanted to know how she has achieved so much success.
She stressed two things:
1. Her success has not been a straight line. Like every one kid with autism, she took steps back along her path to forward progress. And even now, she said there are tons of things she still struggles with and is working to improve.
2. Her parents embraced her diagnosis and walked a different path with her, never looking back or wishing things were different.
If you're like most parents of autistic children, you've spent a lot of sleepless nights worrying about your child's future. I know I have.
There's the obvious worry: what will happen to them when you're gone?
And then there are the myriad other worries. Will my nonverbal child ever communicate? Will they ever learn how to drive? Will they ever have a job? What happens when they age out of the educational system?
These are all legit concerns. However, you are probably worrying far more than you should. Here are three reasons why.
Like every other community in the world, autism is filled with buzzwords that nearly everyone uses.
And like every other human in the world, some of these buzzwords annoy the shit out of me.
At the top of the list is the word choice, as it is used by Tosh's teachers and therapists. As in, "today Tosh made some poor choices and acted aggressively toward staff."
Now, I'm all about life being a series of choices. In fact, I am absolutely not down with the victim attitude that has taken over America. Everyone is a victim these days. It doesn't take long watching the news or scanning your Facebook feed to wonder if life has become one big contest to see who is the most oppressed.
In the long game of life, happiness and success are indeed a choice.
But if you're a kid with autism, and have a medical disability that prevents you from stopping and deciding how to react when you become agitated or overstimulated, your response is beyond your control.
This month, Tosh will begin homeschooling. Like every parent who makes this decision, I'm both excited and nervous. However, the scales tip more toward exited because I think he will really blossom. We have good supports in place and an exciting opportunity to create our own curriculum that integrates his AAC device. And, we can improve the consistency between all of his therapy and educational providers.
It will require some work up front, but in the long run it will be worth it.
Why homeschool? I know many parents of children with autism who have made this decision for a variety of reasons that include elopement, aggression, bullying, family beliefs/lifestyle and a better learning environment.
The thought of homeschooling can be overwhelming, which prevents many parents from thinking it's a viable option. However, it might be easier than you think.
I receive a lot of comments about what a happy boy Tosh is. And it's true, most of the time he truly is a little ray of sunshine.
My little Aries comes by his good nature naturally, but we've also done a lot of work to build his self image.
Because of Tosh's autism, he spends a lot of time in corrective therapy sessions. Private and school behavioral therapy, private and school speech therapy and OT in school adds up to several hours a day in which he's being corrected.
Just imagine if you were told every day, almost all day long, that everything about you is wrong. And then you go home and hear it from your mom and dad.
I've been working on a course to help parents teach their autistic kids how to go out in public successfully, and researched one of the main reasons families stay home: eloping.
If you don't know what eloping is as it pertains to autism, consider yourself very lucky. Like the traditional definition of eloping, in which people run away to get married, eloping in autism means a child or adult runs away from school, home or elsewhere without a caregiver. It happens every damn day and it's rarely the fault of teachers, aides, parents or caregivers being careless or inattentive. Oftentimes, the child is very clever and sneaky about it, and disappear in a matter of seconds.
Heather Anderson is a blissfully happy autism mom and lover of life in Southern California who is on a mission to help autism parents rediscover their happy place.
Please join me on this beautiful autism journey. The Autism Oasis is a fun, supportive and educational community where your personal development is just as important as your children's. You are more than just a caregiver!