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Autism: How we homeschool

education May 28, 2019

When I first considered homeschooling Tosh, I was overwhelmed. I had visions in my head of Pinterest-worthy homeschool rooms, and there was no way I could live up to that.

Thankfully, I don't have to. Tosh is making great academic progress working mostly on our kitchen table, sometimes on the playroom floor and occasionally in bed. The book and supplies we're currently using are stacked (somewhat) neatly on a bookshelf and the rest is stored in a filing cabinet in my office.

This post is Part 2 of a series on how we homeschool with autism. You can reach Part 1 here.

These questions came from comments and messages on Instagram. If you have additional questions I didn't include, please post them below in the comments!

Q: Homeschool looks so overwhelming! I wouldn't even know where I would begin.

A: Neither did I! There is no way I could have come up with the curriculum and teaching methods myself. Some parents do, and my hat is tipped to them.

We homeschool through a charter school, which...

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Autism: Why we homeschool

education May 21, 2019

Recently on Instagram, I invited my followers to ask me anything about autism homeschooling. I received a hearty response with many questions from curious parents. One autism mom asked if I could archive the questions and responses for reference. I thought that was an excellent idea, so I'm putting them into my blog.

This first post will be about the whys, and next week I'll start sharing all of the hows.

Some autism parents are satisfied or even pleased with their local school district's special education programs. That's excellent! An appropriate education from your local public school is such a blessing.

But it's more than just a blessing for those lucky enough to get it.

It's a legal requirement.

In 1990, Congress passed The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. This law mandates that special needs students receive an appropriate free public education in the least restrictive environment necessary to meet their needs.

The law was written to provide...

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The perfect party

therapies Apr 15, 2019

Something really amazing happened last Friday.

We went to a birthday party. There were a lot of kids, as you can see. (Tosh is top row right)

The party lasted three hours, he ate way too much candy and cookies and there was a bounce house and balloon fights. It was extremely stimulating.

And yet, for the first time ever, NOT ONCE did I hear somebody complain about his behavior. No Tosh pushed me, or Tosh took my toy, or Tosh won’t stop kissing me, or Tosh won't stop screaming.

He even sat still on a stone wall and waited patiently for the other kids to line up for a photo.

Now, you can see him sitting off by himself in the photo. He stayed in the jumper with the little siblings while the other second graders went inside to watch Mary Poppins Returns. He didn't always participate like his neurotypical peers.

But who cares? He did plenty of things with them and most importantly, he had a freaken blast without having to be corrected all afternoon.

I credit at least part of this...

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Disneyland is autism friendly

Uncategorized Apr 08, 2019

Last year, on Tosh’s 7th birthday, I took him to Disney’s California Adventure. Although he does relatively well in highly stimulating environments like Chuck E. Cheese’s, and he’s been to smaller theme parks like Legoland, Disney takes things up a notch. I shouldn’t have worried. Disneyland parks are very accommodating to special needs children and it made all the difference.

Both Disneyland and California Adventure will flag your child’s ticket with a disability pass if you visit the information office located near the entrance of each park. Visit the park website for the exact location, or just ask any friendly, helpful employee at the entrance.

A disability pass gives you unlimited free Fast Passes, which minimizes wait times for rides. You can even get Fast Passes for rides after they’ve sold out, which was a blessing for us because the park was packed for Spring Break, and most rides were sold out within a couple of hours of our...

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Autism Moms Need These 3 Support Services

self care Apr 08, 2019

Kids with autism need a lot of support and we give it to them. Behavioral therapy, speech therapy, OT, IEPs, special diets, sensory rooms, consistent routines ... we do so much for our children.

This autism parenting gig isn't easy, which means we also need more support than other parents.

And yet.

We don't provide it for ourselves.

To be a happy, healthy and effective autism parent, you MUST put the right supports into place. A helpful spouse, helpful family and respite care are the most common support systems, but many parents don't have those things. Maybe you're a single mom like me with no family nearby. Or maybe you live in a state that doesn't offer respite care.

Here are three other things I do for myself that make my caregiving more efficient and effective so I can focus on my business, our health, Tosh's education and our happiness.

1. Molly Maid
I often say I'd give up my phone before I gave up my regularly house cleaning service, and I'm only half kidding about that. It took...

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3 ways your ABA provider should support academics

education therapies Mar 20, 2019

Tosh is making tremendous academic progress this year, and a lot of the credit goes to cooperation among his therapy and education providers.
 
Autism support services aren’t as effective when they’re served ala carte. Each service should dove tail the others and work together to achieve shared goals.
 
In particular, if your child receives outside ABA or other behavioral therapy, like RDI or sensory integration, these providers should work with your child’s teacher to address behavioral problems at school. At a minimum, someone from your ABA provider should attend IEP meetings to provide input regarding goals and how to address behavioral issues.

We are fortunate that the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), our ABA provider, is all in when it comes to supporting Tosh’s educational and speech goals. Since he spends 20 hours a week there, that’s a must. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be enough time in the day for ABA, school,...

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How to ignore rude comments

self care Mar 12, 2019

"It's too bad some parents are too lazy to discipline their kids!"

Oh, those rude, ignorant comments you get from strangers when you take your autistic child out in public. We've all been there. 

Whether your tendency is to react with anger, embarrassment or tears, who wouldn't like to get to a place where those comments don't bother you one bit?

I've got a two-step process that can help you achieve that. It requires a healthy dose of empathy and the willingness to do a little deep diving into some painful experiences in your past, but the results are totally worth it.

1. Realize that rude comments have nothing to do with you.
What comes out of peoples' mouths (yours included) is a reflection of how they feel about themselves on the inside. Judgmental people are telling the world they have a million faults. Intolerant people are telling the world how much they hate themselves. Sarcastic people or those who say something mean followed by, "just kidding," are telling the...

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Autism parents should brag, too!

I'm a member of a special needs parenting group on Facebook, and last week another parent posted something that was so relatable. 

She wrote that while she normally just scrolls past and ignores posts by parents of neurotypical kids, bragging about their achievements, there seem to be more of them lately. All the dance recitals, awards and other accomplishments and milestones made her want to scream for them to shut up already, and appreciate how lucky they are. 

The response from the group was overwhelmingly supportive because we've all been there, right? Especially in the beginning. I remember back when Tosh was a toddler, and I'd see all the cute little Facebook videos of first words, the happy birthday song, preschool holiday programs and the comedy of three-year-olds playing soccer.

Tosh couldn't do any of that then, and still can't do most of it now.

Back it what I call my dark days, when he was about four years old, just one video of a toddler saying something cute was...

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Rewire your mental immune system

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?

According to Harvard researchers Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, our mental immune system fights to maintain our status quo. Like everything else that holds us back, the push for consistent behavior is a key part of our evolution. Our daily routines keep us fed, sheltered and safe.

However, even when patients suffer a heart attack and are told that if they don’t quit smoking or lose weight, they’re going to die, they struggle to make those changes....

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I told him to F off. Then I realized he was right.

About three years ago I was in a pretty dark place.

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 hoped.

"You know what your real problem is? You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something about it," he said.

Wrong answer. His insensitive reply prompted me to unleash a tirade of f-bombs so brutal that we didn't speak for a couple of days.

But during that time, I thought long and hard about what happened, because he wasn't your average dude who didn't have a clue about what it's like to raise a special needs child.

He had his own special needs child with spectrum issues, an intellectual disability and health issues. His son is verbal, but overall, he probably has more challenges than Tosh does. Yet at the time, his son was attending college - COLLEGE! - at a school across...

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