(video coming soon)
There are a lot of things Tosh can’t do, but he put this 60-piece jigsaw puzzle together for the first time in under five minutes.
When your child is under intense pressure to modify their behavior to fit society’s neurotypical expectations, it’s important to remember they also need positive reinforcement to celebrate their talents just like any other kid.
I don’t think Tosh has savant-level abilities, but he sure is good at assembling puzzles, Lego projects, IKEA furniture and packing his lunch box like he’s playing Tetris. Maybe he’ll get a scholarship to Cal Tech. Maybe he’ll get a job repairing lawnmowers. Like any kid, only time will tell how far he will go.
But if I focus only on the areas where he falls short, he won’t go far.
Yes, of course I heard you when you told the clerk you couldn’t hear what she said because that awful kid over there was too loud. I was standing right behind you in line. But of course you knew that.
I was ready to give you the benefit of the doubt, until you sat down at the table right next to that loud kid, when every other table was empty. You could have sat anywhere else.
When that loud kid screeched again, you looked up from your phone, gave him a dirty look at said, “not cool, dude, not cool.”
And then he screeched again. And you said “C’mon, be quiet! It’s not my fault nobody has bothered to teach you to use your inside voice.”
No, Judgmental Jerk, none of this is your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault that sweet, excited boy can’t control the volume of his voice.
It would have been my fault had I given in to my urge to walk over there after paying for our smoothies and beat your ignorant, intolerant ass.
Autism is genetic. That means your child inherited their condition from your DNA and/or your spouse’s. Which means one of you, maybe both, are probably also on the spectrum.
I know I am. My symptoms aren’t nearly as severe as Tosh’s are; I suspect I have sensory processing disorder but not autism. I definitely suffer from significant noise sensitivity, and struggle with vestibular and propioceptive sensory issues. For those who aren’t familiar with nervous system physiology, vestibular sensory enables you to know where your head and body is in relation to the ground. Propioceptive sensory allows you to feel body parts and how/where they are moving. I struggle with both. Walking down stairs is always scary because I never know for sure how close my foot is to the ground. Some days I look down and it feels like I’m 12 feet tall. Other days, it looks like the ground is only a couple of feet away. Forget asking me to do a layup or anything that requires significant simultaneous sensory coordination.
Check out those coloring skills! The top sheets were colored today. Bottom ones were one month ago. He used to be completely oblivious to staying in the lines. Now he flips out a little if he goes outside of them.
I guess this means we’ve officially entered the perfectionist stage. And just after I conquered it. Tag, kid, you’re it.
It’s hard enough to feed children with autism a healthy diet because they’re picky eaters, but many of their favorite foods are among the most toxic and unhealthy for anyone to eat. This double whammy can make the effort to clean up your family’s diet very difficult, but the silver lining is that your child’s potential for improvement is very promising!
I swear, so many autistic kids love pepperoni, it should be included on the list of behaviors used to diagnose it. However, brands like Hormel are extremely harmful for children with autism. Here’s why.
Most international companies that sell food and beverages in the US and around the world produce two versions – toxic dyed food for Americans and safer food coloring for other countries.
When Tosh was two, he loved eating red food. Strawberry yogurt, red velvet cupcakes, goldfish crackers, strawberry flavored breakfast bars, you name it. If it was red or strawberry flavored, he was all about it. It was so cute.
When Tosh was two, he also had meltdowns and psychotic episodes that went way beyond normal toddler behavior. He’d wake up in the middle of the night screaming and wouldn’t stop for two or three hours. He beat his head against the floor. He slapped himself in the face and head repeatedly. It was so terrifying.
One day I wondered if he was hitting his head because it hurt. On a whim, I Googled toddler migraines and discovered many possible causes, but one caught my eye: Red 40 food dye.
When your child has special needs, it consumes your life. There are so many things special needs parents have to juggle and adapt to in addition to all the typical parent responsibilities. There are therapy appointments, physical care, meltdowns, IEP meetings, special diets, lack of sleep … it leaves little to no time for your own needs.
Of course, we all know self-care is important. You’ve heard all the cliches. You have to put on your own oxygen mask first. You can’t fill up others if you’re empty. Blah, blah, blah … when you’re exhausted and at your wit’s end, self-care advice sometimes makes you lash out at friends and family members who only want to help. Which only makes you feel worse.
One thing that makes self-care difficult is that most options seem so far out of reach. A weekend away with your spouse or friends, hour and a half yoga classes, clothes shopping, fancy dinners or cocktails, hobbies, meditation and pretty much all enjoyable child-free activities require so much time and/or money, self-care seems futile.
Subscription boxes can bridge that gap. There are literally hundreds of subscriptions at all price points, and they conveniently arrive at your door. It’s such a great way to give yourself a little treat and make you feel human again.
Here are three of my favorites.
I cringe when I hear parents of autistic children talk about how exhausted they are. I remember those sleepless nights and wouldn’t return to those days for anything. Tosh used to wake up most nights around 2 a.m. and once he was fully awake, he would be up for three or more hours. Usually, he’d nod off right before it was time to wake up for school or time for me to go to work. It was absolute torture, and when I look back at photos of myself from then, I look like a zombie. I felt like one, too!
Finally, after a few years of experimentation, we’ve cracked the sleep code at our house. Here is what works for Tosh:
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.