Let autism be the path to understanding your child

Tosh is with his dad this weekend, which gives me the liberty to do whatever I want. This morning, I was indulging in one of my favorite activities: brainstorming.

My brainstorming isn't just ideas; each idea includes a complete content strategy, and I'm able to write persuasive essays, feature articles, white papers, video scripts, social media posts and more in my head, down to the word. Sometimes it includes design, too. It's awesome. I am so thankful and in awe that what I do for a living comes easily. (Because the rest of life, not so much. lol)

This language ability comes with a catch: I have to keep my feet moving. I struggle to create language unless I'm pacing, walking, hiking or running. 

Early this morning I was pacing together this week's bundle of multimedia curriculum for my nonverbal autism homeschool group. I was writing an encouraging email in my head and realized unless I sat down and wrote out what I had so far, I would probably...

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Why I hate the C-word

As I was reviewing my son's IEP goals today, my heart stopped when I saw the C-word.

No, not THAT C-word.

The special needs C-word.


MAN OH MAN OH MAN do I hate it when parents, educators and therapists use choice to describe behavior. 

Yes, I hear the argument that by using the word choice, adults are putting control into the child's hand. 

I just don't believe it.

Instead, I think the C-word is used to shame children into compliance. It also takes adults off the hook for failing to effectively understand a child's attempts to communicate and teach them to use assistive methods.

It also completely dismisses the reality that these are kids with impaired nervous systems, and the health of the nervous system determines behavioral response. This isn't just an autism thing, anyone can be overstimulated to the point of losing control of their behavior. 

Think of the last time you lost it on your kids. Since...

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My favorite Teachers Pay Teachers autism downloads

education Aug 02, 2020

Parents who never thought they'd be homeschooling are discovering Teachers Pay Teachers, a spectacular website that features downloadable curriculum for nearly every subject, grade level and classroom placement.

We homeschool through a charter school and Tosh receives the same curriculum as his mainstream peers. Sometimes, the material and school work provided is appropriate for his needs. Sometimes it's not.

TPT has so much to offer the homeschooling or distance learning autism parent. The site has what seems like an unlimited selection of hands on activities and worksheets that are either already adapted to special needs students, or can be easily adapted by replacing handwriting with typed, printed, cut and pasted answers. Because it's developed by teachers for teachers, the curriculum usually meets state education standards and is noted accordingly.

Here are four of our favorites:

Fast Food Menu Math

Tosh learns best when he can relate what he's learning to something...

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Here's some hope for parents of nonverbal kids

I still can’t believe this is my baby’s worksheet. And I really can’t believe he did it independently.
The experts didn’t think he had it in him. And let’s be honest, there were days when I wondered that myself. There were even more days I didn’t think I had it in me to do my very best for him. Parenting nonverbal autism is one thing, but education, too?
I can't believe we're actually doing this!
There will be many more achievements and even more doubt, but it will be worth every second, every penny and every tear, because look at my baby! He's going to be alright.
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ASD toy ideas for big kids

autism parenting holidays May 19, 2020

Everywhere around the world, quarantine-weary children are sick and tired of their toys. And just in time for summer!

We're all screwed.

Actually, we lucked out because Tosh had his birthday early on in the lockdown, back when a party with friends was out of the question but Amazon was still delivering nonessentials on time.

Not only did Tosh get new toys right when he needed them most, he was spoiled rotten by relatives, who bought him a ridiculous amount of awesome stuff.

I don't see a lot of gift ideas for middle-sized kids with autism, so if your kid is ready for something new, here are the toys Tosh has enjoyed enough to keep his attention consistently over the past two months.

Marble Run

This is a nice plastic tube marble run, something easy for Tosh to build and dismantle. They had a similar one at ABA and he loved playing with it. It's pretty easy to figure out, especially if your ASD kid is a whiz at puzzles and how things work.


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Bonding with your autistic child

When you receive your child's autism diagnosis, it's normal to mourn the loss of the parenting experience you thought you would have. You won't share things with your child that you always dreamed about.

But maybe you will.

Last week, Tosh and I spent the day at Sea World, celebrating his friend's birthday. We had fun looking at dolphins, penguins, sea lions and manta rays. Our friends even treated us to a Dine with the Orcas experience!

As much as Tosh loves animals, the thing he enjoyed most at Sea World was riding rollercoasters.

Isn't it funny how when it comes to autism, motivation is everything? Tosh struggles with positional words (over, next to, inside) but when he's at a theme park settling into a rollercoaster car, he can follow every direction perfectly.

He raises his arms to allow the over-the-shoulder restraints to lower into place. He always remains seated and keeps his arms in the car. He can even wait in line when he needs to.

Sea World wasn't very busy so the...

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Perseverating! Perseverating! Perseverating! Perseverating!

When Tosh gets upset, he gets caught in what I call “the loop.”

For example, when he gets hurt, he needs me to tell him “it’s okay” over and over and over and over again. Long after he feels any pain, he still needs to relive the experience and be reassured that everything is okay. 

I know when he’s in the loop when I have to repeat myself three times. Two times may not be the loop, it could be impaired receptive communication.

But three times? We’re screwed.

Now I know there’s a psychiatric term for that behavior: perseverating.

My description of preservation as “the loop” is actually pretty accurate. Tosh’s brain, and the brain of many people with autism, get stuck on a particularly phrase or activity long after the stimulus has passed.

Imagine driving and getting stuck in a roundabout. You're going around and around and around, unable to exit to the correct street or any street, for that...

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The right approach to learning

This summer, I've been listening to business podcasts while I take my morning walks. This morning, I heard a great business concept that can be applied to autism parenting.

The concept was "learn and do" versus "do and learn."

The first idea, learn and do, is the traditional way people approach success. It requires training from someone who shows you exactly what to do. Then, once you've learned the strategy or task, you do it. 

This business concept worked well back when the world moved at a slower pace. This was before our current era of relatively quick technology adoption, global economies, social media and market of one service. 

Today's world requires a more nimble approach. One size does not fit all and even if it does, it doesn't last for long.

That's why the concept of do and learn is more effective. Yes, you begin with some idea of what you're doing. You might even receive some training before you begin.

But that's not the end of your...

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4 ways to keep your head up when you're feeling down

Parenting a child with autism is hard.

I know we're not supposed to say that for a lot of reasons: we might attract angry social media trolls, we might manifest more difficulties, and nobody wants to hear somebody complaining about their troubles.

But it's true. This shit is hard.

I mean, parenting a neurotypical kid is hard. Parenting a special needs child is much harder. If you share some of your child's autism genetics, you may struggle with a combination of sensory issues, executive function skills, anxiety and auto immune disorders, which makes parenting much, much harder.

Figuring in the sky high divorce rate among special needs parents, there's a good chance you're doing this alone some or most or all of the time.

It can be overwhelming. Believe me, I know, because all of the above applies to me.

Thankfully, these days I'm in a much better place than I used to be. Life was much harder when Tosh was...

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Tosh got lost on vacation

public outings Jul 08, 2019

As the mom of a severely autistic, nonverbal kid, I worry about a lot of things.

Eloping isn’t one of them. Tosh isn’t a runner, and for that I am very thankful.

He's also very good at staying next to me and following directions. He always stops at the curb and looks to me before entering a street. He always puts one hand on the shopping cart without being reminded when we're in a busy supermarket parking lot. He never goes far without making sure I'm within his eyesight.

And because of that, we can do things other autism families can't, like go on vacation without constantly worrying about his safety.

Until last week.

We were on a mini-vacation by the beach and were checking out of our hotel. This year, he's become super helpful and is starting to carry his own weight. For example, he carries groceries into the house without being asked. He rinses off his plate and puts it into the sink after every meal without being asked. He picks up his own toys...

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