Monday, November 28, 2011

max's first trip to the movies.

Max received his diagnosis of autism 3 years ago. He has had non-stop therapy ever since, and his progress has been incredible (but not a miracle – just a lot of hard work). Even so, we still underestimate him. Last week, my friend Tracy and I were discussing taking her kids and Cam to see the new Muppets movie and she asked "Can Max come?". My brain was quick to say "No, he isn't ready". Instead I said "Let me talk with his therapists and Sarah (Max's respite worker) and see what they think".

Sarah was all for it, and Max's therapists had practice movie sessions with Max – with popcorn and everything – to help prepare him for the dark room, high volume and sitting in a chair. On the day of the movie, I bought the tickets online and Cam and I left early to make sure we could get good seats and to buy popcorn. Sarah planned to arrive with Max after the previews. I was a nervous wreck. Sarah and I had decided before the movie that no matter what happened we would view it as a success and a stepping stone. If he didn't like it and wanted to leave right away, then that would be okay. Of course, I was really hoping he'd love it.

As the previews rolled, my stomach was in knots, until I saw Max and Sarah enter the theatre. I was so proud of him as he made his way up the stairs and sat down next to me. His eyes were as big as saucers and he immediately found his popcorn and turned to watch the movie. I didn't watch much of the movie myself, I was too busy watching Max watch the movie. At some point, Cam told me she wanted to sit next to her brother, so we switched seats. Max didn't even mind when she started reaching over to his seat and touching his arm.

Right before the credits rolled, Max turned to Sarah and said "I want to go to the car". I love that he requested to leave so nicely and that he knew that he could ask to go when he had had enough. He watched the movie for over 100 minutes! As we left the theatre I started to cry (tears of joy!). We have all worked so very hard with Max, it is wonderful to see that when we prepare him and set him up for success, he can enjoy the same things other kids enjoy, which is really all I've ever wanted.

Friday, November 25, 2011

social media 'a lifeline' for moms of kids with special needs.

Something every mother of a child with special needs tells me is that when they first found out about their child’s medical issues, they felt completely isolated. Friends and family couldn’t relate to what they were going through. Taking care of their child took so much time that it was all but impossible to advocate on behalf of him or her. It was overwhelming.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

christmas albums: the 10 you need to own.

I am a self-proclaimed Christmas music expert. How did I earn this title? Well, I own over 50 Christmas albums, hundreds of Christmas singles, and I start playing them in early November each year. My kids think it’s awesome, the rest of my family thinks it’s amusing (up to a point), and I take my job of critiquing the season’s new Christmas albums very seriously. You'll notice there’s no Mario Lanza, Vince Guaraldi or Mannheim Steamroller. They weren’t even in my Top 20! Let me know what your fave Holiday albums are.

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boys with autism have distinct facial features, study suggests.

Researchers have found yet another way to approach solving the puzzle of autism – this time by comparing facial characteristics of a group of boys with autism to a group of typically developing peers. The catalyst behind this study, published in Molecular Autism, was the fact that the face and brain develop in tandem and influence each other from the embryonic state right through adolescence.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

'america's next top model' - when in greece.

We’re down to six models now, and you know what that means – time to travel! AndrĂ© meets the girls at the mansion and informs them they are going to Greece. They break a bunch of plates, fulfilling a wonderful Greek stereotype and leaving one helluva mess for the maid.

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

telling people "my son max, he has autism".

At least once a week I find myself in a situation where I have to tell someone that "my son Max has autism". I used to dread it, the looks of pity, awkward break in conversation, and sudden inability to meet my gaze. I hated having people feeling sorry for me or telling me things like "God doesn't give you more than you can handle". Uh, yeah, sure...I don't think I "handled" it too well at 3am this morning when Max decided it was time to start the day, but whatever.

These days, when I tell someone about Max, I say it in a very matter of fact manner. I also make sure to say that he's attending senior kindergarten, is in therapy seven days a week, and is incredibly intelligent. I have no idea if someone is feeling sorry for me, but I don't really care. What I hope they take away from learning about Max is that autism is not hopeless. It's really hard, and a lot of the time it sucks big donkey bollocks, but the rewarding moments part the clouds and kiss you with a million rays of perfect sunlight. The steps forward are like winning an Olympic medal. We drink a lot of champagne.

Having a child with autism has changed me profoundly. What I value in people has changed. I have chosen my family over my career – I have changed professions, taken a pay cut, and now work from home. What stresses me out has changed. How I define a "good" day has changed. And I only cry when I'm happy, and even then I don't really cry, but tear up.

My son Max, he has autism. And he has the same potential your kid has, except he's a better reader than your kid, and better looking too. (Oops, did I say that out loud?) You don't need to feel sorry for him, or me. But some kindness and support would be wonderful.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

batgirl to the rescue.

One of the things I really looked forward to before I had kids was getting to celebrate the holidays with them. Because my first child has autism, "celebrating" has always been somewhat augmented to meet Max's needs. We still celebrated, but Max didn't get excited about Christmas or Halloween or the Easter Bunny. He still received gifts, was dressed up in costumes and had a chocolate bunny to munch on, but it really felt like we were going through the motions and doing it for the sake of doing it. I'm glad we celebrated and helped Max experience it in his own way, but I had no idea how excited kids could/should/would get over simple things like carving a pumpkin.

Now that Cameron is 3.5 years old, she gets really excited about holidays. In early September she informed me that she was going to be Batgirl and Max would be her "side kicker" Robin for Halloween. I waited a few weeks and asked her again to make sure she hadn't changed her mind, and she stuck to her guns. I went ahead and ordered the costumes. October rolled around, and suddenly every grocery store in our area was exploding with pumpkins. Cameron wanted to know when we would get our pumpkin and how would we carve it and do we put candy in the pumpkin? She could hardly contain herself. The day before Halloween I finally bought a pumpkin and Cam and I set to work on carving it.

I thought she would be willing to reach into the pumpkin and pull out the guts for me, but she wanted no part of it. She was more of a cheering section than anything else. And after months of feeling so depressed I could barely haul myself out of bed, I felt a glimmer of joy. When I finished carving the pumpkin, we tested it out with a candle and she was SO HAPPY. It was contagious. I found myself looking forward to taking her out trick or treating, to witnessing her pure joy in something as simple as an amazing Halloween display, and getting candy just for knocking on a door and saying "trick or treat" (actually, that is kind of cool). On the big day, Max was sick, so her side kicker Robin would have to live to see another day. Regardless, I think I had almost as much fun as Cam did. The day after, I tried to hold onto some of that joy, grasping at anything that could propel me forward. Depression is an uphill battle, with the weather and my body conspiring against me. But I find myself feeling like I can muster up enough energy to at least try, which is more than I can say for how I was functioning last month. So, thank you Batgirl, for saving the day. Let's do it again at Christmas.

the models make music with rapper 'the game' on antm.

The theme of this week’s episode is “Go Viral” – a take-off on virtual unknowns who post videos to YouTube only to find their videos shared by hundreds of thousands of people. I find this ironic because before Top Model, Allison actually started out as internet meme Creepy-Chan and is way more famous for that than for Top Model.

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