Tis the Season to be Simple

Creating your OWN holiday traditions

My family, from back since when I was a kid, often didn’t have money for presents. Sometimes we would hand-make presents, bake goods or make coupons for favors like “I will make your bed for a week” or “Do your chores.” One Christmas we didn’t even know if we would have electricity…much less a tree.  A nearby tree lot donated a tree to us, they even dropped it off at our house, after my little brother went over and gave them a sad-faced orphan look. Many Christmases were just like this.

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One Christmas Eve, we sat in the dark and just told old stories about our family origins and more recent memories. Each of us also wrapped up that ‘something special’ that we wanted our loved one to have. To this day, it is still the best Christmas I can remember as a child. Today with my own children, I find it is better to just keep it simple.

Fidgeting: Using Games and Exercise for Children with Excess Energy

Fidgeting is a common result of excess energy in children and can interfere with positive behaviors. Excess energy and fidgeting can be distracting and disrupt learning. According to an article on Autism Speaks, by Geraldine Dawson and Michael Rosanoff, “Increased aerobic exercise can significantly decrease the frequency of negative, self-stimulating behaviors that are common among individuals with autism, while not decreasing other positive behaviors.” Exercise is a positive outlet for children exhibiting these behaviors.

Physical activity will release some of this energy and in turn, promote positive behavior. Lack of time is a common barrier to fitness with therapy sessions, school, and doctor visits. To help facilitate this we have come up with some ideas for fun exercising regardless of a busy schedule. We have provided different options based on various children’s interests, in order to keep them fully engaged, as well as different variations depending on the level of comprehension in each child.

Suspect Aspergers?

So did we, and this checklist helped

Our son has Aspergers Syndrome. However, getting the diagnosis didn’t come easy and the path to that diagnosis was rocky to say the least. That was over 10 years ago and still the following checklist we received from our school district is the best heads-up to having Aspergers Syndrome that I’ve seen to date. It cuts to the chase.

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The following is only meant as a ‘checklist’. Remember, this is not an official document, and is only meant to act as a flag for a strong suspicion of Aspergers Syndrome, a doctor or trained therapist would need to make the official diagnosis.

However if you are looking for a guideline of sorts, it doesn’t get much better or black and white than the form below. It was spot on for us describing our son Sam. We’ve also put it in a downloadable format at the bottom. May it lead you towards illumination!                  -Jennifer Allen/Aspergers101

Concerns About Solitary Sons with Aspergers

Reader Responses by Ken Kellam

My son, now 30yrs old has had difficulties since childhood, and we know he has Aspergers. During his teens he was extremely angry and sad but he came through this period. Today he lives independently, has his own home and car but for the past year he has not spoken at all to anyone. His life is restricted to his job, which is in jeopardy because of his refusal to speak to his co-workers. He was visiting me on Sunday but now that has ended. He literally speaks less than a “Yes” or “No” to anyone. We have been to social service, doctors, clinicians, speech therapists, psychologists, and he refuses to see any of them. Everything I read online is about children. Any advice?

-Doug

Perspective

My Son with Aspergers: Through the Eyes of a Father

I am the father of a son with Aspergers Syndrome and through the years of my wife and I raising him, it has had many challenges for me.  As a father I wanted him to take interest in outdoor activities, sports and other things that we could do together but while he was not interested in these things there were other items of interest that I had to adapt to in order to spend the most amount of quality time with him.

My Son: Through the eyes of a Father

While he may not have had interest in what I thought a young boy, now a man, “should” be interested in, he has opened my eyes to a different world that has brought us closer together over the years. I just had to be the one to approach his interests with an open mind and with the idea that these were things we could do as a father and son.

He is My Teacher

Yesterday was the kind of day that had brought so much emotion. Maybe it had more to do with the series of events leading up to it, but either way, that is where I had arrived. It was time for our night time routine and my son had earned a sleepover with me since he had enough stickers. Now, don’t judge: I am desperately trying out new things to encourage positive behaviors. This is our new method. Negative reinforcement just gets lost, there have been way too many treats given out, and this is what I have left. Anyway, after spending over an hour trying to convince him to clean up all the money from Monopoly that covered my kitchen floor, it was  most definitely time for bed.   

Silhouette of child on the beach, holding his hands up, towards the sun 
Every night I do our usual prayer and sayings, but last night was so different. I try to mix them up for a reason, but trust me, this does not ever go unnoticed when I do so. After we went through the whole routine I decided to just lay with him until he fell asleep. 

It’s not that I don’t or haven’t had concern that my son has been diagnosed with ASD, it’s that some days it just hits all over again.

Choosing Your Child Over the Judgement of Others

Like many times in life, you come upon a fork in the road. One choice leads you down a certain path and the other choice leads you down a very different road. Finding out your child has autism is complex enough, but eventually we all come to the same fork in the road. Do I choose my child or do I choose to please the surrounding neurotypicals, those judgmental people around me?

This sounds simplistic, but parents realize almost immediately after the diagnosis that you are judged, alienated, and sometimes even rejected by your peers and perhaps even family. It hurts because you know your child cannot help the ‘tantrums’ when the baby in the grocery store won’t stop screaming. Or that your child’s complete lack of athletic skills will never match the soccer mom’s expectation of a friendly neighborhood soccer game. So eventually you and your child are excluded.

When these and many, many other similar situations would arise I realized my son would elicit these judgmental looks from people as a certainty because the autism was not going to be going away. So, we chose our child over others’ perceptions of what we should be.

As soon as our family as a unit took that path everything became easier! I no longer worried about others’ lack of knowledge when it comes to sensory issues or brain function. We as a family would have our own fun. Quirky doesn’t bother me anymore, in fact it’s almost cool and definitely a relief.

Together our family is a strong unit accepting and excelling in my son’s unique interests. Our family weekends are no longer with people that make for awkward or unforgiving situations, but we welcome anyone who would like to be with us just as we are! Now, many years later, the same families who alienated us for the differences, have surprisingly praised our strong family unit, ’hiccups’ and all!

By Jennifer Allen

Special Education Law: What You Need to Know

Just recently I was given this scenario from the Doctorate program from which I am attempting to earn a specialization in Special Education. Let’s imagine, if you can, that You are the Director of Special Education and a family has just moved into the school district. In this scenario, the parent has asked for his child to be tested for possible special education services due to reading difficulties. The elementary school principal has told a parent that his child does not need to be referred for testing since the school is utilizing the Responsiveness to Intervention Model (RTI). The parent, as reported by the special education teacher, is very upset. The student has had difficulties with reading for a number of years. This is the third time a parent has requested services and both the principal and reading interventionist have refused to allow the special educator to start the referral process.

Child Education

As a parent of children on the autism spectrum and as a professional working with children and parents of children with special needs, it is an interesting and pertinent scenario to explore. Not only for the sake of understanding you and your child’s rights under the law, but to better understand the foundation of the education system and where it seems to fall short.

The following will be discussed: the legal issues that are involved when assessments are requested and denied; the support that should be provided to the special education teacher; and what training should be provided to the principal.

The Ups and Downs of Parenting ASD Children: Those Kind of Days

Some days I wake up and feel truly blessed. I mean it. When I look back on the early days, I remember being so very overwhelmed. These days, those kind of days, are few and far between. If I could tell my younger self a few golden words of wisdom, I would tell her: “You Got This!”

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At the time, it felt insurmountable. It felt like a bad joke that these littles were placed into my care. Like there were so many other factors that made my life difficult, why would God want to put them into our lives. Well, I guess it was so I could grow. A seed grows better with a little manure.

I remember times when my kids would have meltdowns in the middle of the market.

Sibling Friendship and Aspergers: When Childhood Friends Outgrow Each Other

I don’t know if telling this story will date me, but I guess it doesn’t matter that I grew up in the sixties. I remember as a child, that song and story about Puff the Magic Dragon. The special friendship he and Christopher Robbins had together, but then the boy grows up and Puff hangs his head and cries. (Or was that Tom Dooley and Winnie the Pooh? LOL) Anyway, my kids have been best of friends since the beginning of time and long before that. My daughter, Carmen, and son, Jesse, have a sort of love for each other that I pray every day never ends. They even have a secret language and I often hear them babbling away together and cracking each other up with their private jokes. My son looks at his sister and her funny little ways and I can see it in his eyes that she brightens his day, and he her’s.

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In just the last couple of years, this has been a growing concern for me. They are getting to an age where most siblings just can’t tolerate the sight of each other. Luckily this hasn’t been the case in my home, but I see something else occurring. My daughter has been developing in a more sophisticated way than my son. Her speech has greatly improved, her social skills are growing in leaps and bounds, and she is succeeding in general ed classes.

I am sad to say that in some ways, she is leaving her brother behind.