Monday, September 30, 2013

an unlikely autism advocate: actress daryl hannah.

Like many people, I was shocked when I learned that Daryl Hannah had been diagnosed with autism as a child. It was hard for me to believe that this gorgeous, successful actress had kept this secret for 52 years. As a mother of a 7-year-old with autism, I was stunned -- but that surprise turned into embarrassment when I considered how hard I've fought to educate people that we shouldn't limit our expectations of what autistic people can achieve.

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Saturday, September 07, 2013

clever carter: a way to introduce your autistic child to his classmates.

Every year as September rolls around, parents of children with autism get anxious about how their child will handle the transition back into school. Will you have a teacher who is willing to work with you? Will the appropriate level of support be provided for your child? Will the kids be understanding and inclusive? It’s a lot to process and that’s without taking into consideration the stress that your child will be under dealing with the big change from a summer schedule to heading back to school.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

an open letter to "one pissed off mother".

Karla Begley is a woman with multiple sclerosis who has a 13-year-old son named Maxwell who has autism. She often brings Maxwell to her mother's house in Newcastle, Ontario for sleepovers because Karla needs help taking care of him and because he loves watching the movie "Grease" with his grandmother. Recently, Maxwell's grandmother received this hateful letter in the mail explaining in great detail why Maxwell isn't welcome in that neighbourhood.

The letter-writer -- who signed the missive as "One pissed off mother" -- was brazen enough to suggest that Maxwell should be euthanized, but lacked the courage to state her real name. I have never lacked the courage to put my name behind anything I write or say, and that will not change in this hypothetical response if I was mailed this letter about my seven-year-old son with autism -- who is coincidentally also named Maxwell.

Dear “One pissed off mother”,

Your letter has left me feeling terribly sad. Not for me, or for my son Maxwell -- that’s his name by the way, not “retard” or “wild animal kid” -- but for you. In reality, I will never share your thoughts with my son, because he is a happy child who brings an incredible amount of joy to those who know him. And while your words were very hurtful to read, the support I receive from my family, friends, and my more understanding neighbours lifts me up on a daily basis and outweighs anything you could ever say to me.

... Read my full response on

Monday, August 19, 2013

a night of music and magic at toronto's molson canadian amphitheatre.

As moms we’ve all encountered this — that feeling like we might explode if we don’t get away from our children. At least, I’m assuming that’s the case (please tell me I’m not alone in this). After a particularly stressful few weeks with my crew, I was ready for a night out, so getting invited by a friend to join him at a John Mayer concert was just what I needed to relax and recharge.

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what women need to know about lisa gibson and post-partum depression.

This past week, news of two young children dying in their Winnipeg home and the subsequent disappearance of their mother, Lisa Gibson, left many wondering what terrible thing had happened to lead to such a sad end to two innocent lives.

Even more of a mystery -- what happened to their mother?

the art of the 24-hour vacation.

Remember back in the day – before you had kids – when you could go away for a week or two, and all you had to worry about was finding someone to water your plants and feed your cat? Those days are a distant memory for parents. Going away without your children for any stretch of time is a challenge. For those of us with a child with special needs, it is nearly impossible. This is where the art of the 24-hour vacation comes in.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

the importance of making time for yourself.

Moms are good at a lot of things, but making time for themselves isn’t typically one of them. Think about it -- when is the last time you prioritized yourself over your family? Is carving out an afternoon for yourself something you do on a regular basis? It’s easy to get burnt out and not even know it. Add a special needs child to the mix and you are even more at risk for increased stress, depression and exhaustion. Perhaps it’s time to rethink making time for ourselves. After all, when mom isn’t happy, nobody is.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

iVillage Canada Special Needs Parenting Google Hangout.

As part of the Special Needs Parenting Panel on iVillage Canada, I was asked to join Ijeoma Ross and Lisa Thornbury to discuss the challenges and joys of raising a child with special needs. From the practical (juggling medication and therapy schedules) to the emotional (making time for everyone else), we discussed what it's like to live with our special kids (and had a few laughs).

Thursday, June 06, 2013

iVillage Canada Special Needs Parenting Panel.

This week I am participating on a Special Needs Parenting panel on iVillage Canada. Parenting and pregnancy author Ann Douglas is heading up the panel, along with blogger Lisa Thornbury, journalist Ijoema Ross, and myself as we share the joys, sorrows and essential advice on raising special kids. I hope you'll check it out.

...Read more on iVillage Canada

Friday, April 05, 2013

talent hounds segment of max and chester.

Max and Chester were featured in a wonderful short film about dogs helping people living with Autism featuring National Service Dogs and our family with NSD Chester our "healing balm". These dogs can make such a difference in lives. The film is from the documentary Talent Hounds that airs on the Pet Network. Check out and

what world autism awareness day means to me.

My son Max was officially diagnosed with Autism on December 2, 2008. He was 2.5 years old. Press fast forward to April 2, 2013 and he is turning seven in just a few weeks. The intense sadness of the initial diagnosis has faded, and I have started to come to terms with what it is to have a child with Autism. I could spin a happy tale of how much I've learned by having a son with special needs, and how I'm a better person for it. And sunshine! And roses! Or, I could dwell on how incredibly hard it is to parent a little boy who has faced challenges at every turn. I could sing a song of woe outlining the heartbreak, tears, exhaustion and anxiety that seem imbedded in my very being. In truth, it's a little of column A and a little of column B, and each day I do a balancing act between the two.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

in other news, i despise winter.

I hate winter. Really, I look forward to a time in my life when I can up and leave Canada from December to March. This particular winter has been a doozy, with me getting a nasty chest infection, followed by spending January in bed due to C. difficile. Yeah, gross. But, in between all that nastiness, some good stuff happened.

My friend Alana got married, and I was her maid-of-honour:
My mom came for Christmas, and she and my little brother made a kick-ass Christmas dinner.
We got a new couch. The kids like it.
Chester, Max's Autism Service Dog, settled right in.
We participated in a documentary about working dogs that will be airing next month.
Scott and I got away for a night without the kids for the first time in four years. We had fun.

Cammie and I went on a visit to visit Jennifer and baby Milo in Ottawa.
So long Winter. You won't be missed.