Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kids Chewing on Clothes

I can't tell you how many times my son has chewed holes in his clothes. He went through a phase where the kid could not stop chewing! Chewing holes in clothes is definitely not good, but I really became concerned when I walked into our living room and found him chewing on an aluminum frame. What could I do?

First as usual, I started investigating. With any investigation I always start with the source, my son. (I am a firm believer that there is always a reason our children do something.... but that's another post.) I couldn't see much of a pattern as to when or where my son was chewing. It seemed he chewed more in the living room, but that was it.

Next phase is to investigate what the professionals say. I learned a couple of reasons why kids chew.
  1. It can assist with attention and focus. Lots of kids are chewing on their clothes at school, because they were chewing as a way to help them pay attention.
  2. They have a dental issue, either molars are coming in or they have a cavity.
  3. Chewing is calming.
  4. There may be connection between not moving and chewing. The theory is our bodies need to move, expend energy, kids who are inside a lot or have trouble with movement tend to need to chew. Thus chewing releases pent up energy.
  5. They have a need to stimulate their jaw muscles. This is especially true of kids who eat a more soft or pureed diet.

First thing I did was take G to the dentist. Molars were coming in and guess what he did have a cavity. We got his teeth fixed, but he kept on chewing. Next I talked to his teacher, she did noticed he was chewing a lot when sitting at his desk. That's when I got it, he's chewing in the living room, where the TV and his jet videos are. He may be chewing to help his attention.

Since I believed his body was using chewing as a means of helping him pay attention, I tried to find some appropriate ways for him to chew. His favorite thing ended up being a blue chewy tube. Now that I have been at this for awhile I've seen several items that have helped parents:

Chewelry: This is a chewable coil necklace or bracelet (pictured above). Lots of kids love these because they spring when you chew on them. There is also a Mega Chewelry Necklace for kids with a stronger bite.

ChewEase Pencil Toppers (Clear Chewable Pencil Toppers): These are clear tubes that slide over a pencil that a child can chew on in class. Because they are clear they are not noticeable.

Teething Bling: The nice thing about Teething Bling is that it looks appropriate for older children to wear. I know we chose the "Camo" versions to sell at National Autism Resources because you can chew on them and the camouflage design doesn't show teeth marks like some other chewable pendants. The one bummer is its not springy. These things are made of silicon so they give a little when you bite down, but not as much as the Chewelry or a Chewy Tube.

Grabbers or Chewy Tubes: These are safe FDA approved chewers that are durable and time tested.

Chew Toys: Did you know some people actually let their kids chew on animal chew toys? I worry about this because these toys don't have as rigorous testing standards. However, there are lots of chewy toys designed for babies that are good. One of our favorites is a Grab Ball. The only downside to this is they don't look appropriate for older children.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Best Ojai Contractor Ever

OK, hands down the best contractor in Ojai, CA is Larry Hooper. One of his recent construction projects is being featured in House Beautiful this month. I walked through this house at the beginning of the project the last time I was in Ojai. This Ojai house is a historical landmark, so I was excited to see it, but when I got there it just looked like a run down shack. I honestly didn't see how anyone could restore this house to the point that it would be livable! I wish I had some before pictures to post because your jaw would drop if you saw the way it use to look.

So at this point I bet you are wondering why I am gushing over some contractor from Ojai... Well this particular construction aficionado happens to be my brother! From the time Larry was a kid I have watched him fix anything he put his hands on. He even won a craftsmanship award from the Bank of America when he graduated from Nordhoff High School. If you know someone looking for a reliable contractor in Ojai, Larry is the man!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Saying Sorry

I don't know why its so hard to say "I'm sorry." It shouldn't be hard to say, after all none of us would be arrogant enough to say, I'm perfect. Therefore, if we know we aren't perfect it stands to reason that we know we will make mistakes. If we know we will make mistakes, then we should just know we are going to have to say sorry.

Sorry for the ramble!

The other night I was cranky with the Hubbo. So cranky he said "forget this" and went and hung out in our room, away from the TV, a big thing for him. Can I tell you I just sat in a chair fighting what I knew I should do, apologize.

I tried to rationalize it... He was bugging me, i.e. asking for my help when he should have just tried to figure it out on his own. Its not a big deal, i.e. it doesn't matter if I'm rude to him. He should know better, i.e. he should be able to read my mind. You get the picture.

Times like these its hard to be a follower of Jesus. If I wasn't a follower I would just shrug it off and think he'll get over it. But Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as you would yourself." Jesus wants me to treat the Hubbo the way I want someone to treat me, ie: care about him and his feelings. This means leaving my favorite TV show, humbling myself and admitting I'm wrong, asking for forgiveness, and THEN doing my best not to do it again.

So I went in the room and said I was sorry. Not because I felt like doing it. I said I was sorry because I knew it was the right thing to do. Sometimes I have to do the right thing even when I don't feel like it. Sometimes I feel better afterwards, sometimes I don't. I wish I could say askig for forgivness wasn't a problem for me, but the truth is I'm still struggling with it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Starting RDI

I received my first book on RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) in the mail yesterday. I can't wait to read it! As usual before starting something new I watch people for awhile. I’ve been watching my friend Marsha and following the Glasser’s posts. Both families have seen major growth in their relationships with their children, enough growth that I want to try it out.

So what is RDI? In a nutshell RDI is based on the belief that the development of dynamic intelligence is the key to improving the quality of life for individuals with autism. The program's core philosophy is that individuals with autism can participate in authentic emotional relationships if they are exposed to them in a gradual, systematic way. The goal of treatment is to systematically build up the motivation and tools for successfully interacting in social relationships. It has been my experience that there are no quick fixes that real change and growth for anyone, including those on the spectrum, happens over time.

It’s best to work with a therapist, but as usual the Arnwine bank account can’t support it. Anyone read Holly Peet’s article re this? Anyhow, back to RDI, I will learn as much as I can and maybe by this fall I will be educated and funded enough to hire a consultant. BTW anyone need a speaker contact me. Sorry for the shameless promotion!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Disney Video: The Time I Realized My Brother Was Different

Thank you Disney for letting a sister share what it's like living with her autistic brother. Different isn't bad, it's just different.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Look Me in the Eye

I read over the weekend “Look Me in The Eye” by John Elder Robison. It's about a man with Asperger’s Syndrome. At times it was hard to read his father was an abusive alcoholic and his mother was mentally unstable. He was sent to various therapists who often labeled him as anti-social, a psychopath, and even Schizophrenic.
He moves out of home at 16 and then goes on to design Ace Freehly’s fire-spouting guitars, creating some of the first electronic toys for Milton Bradley, falling in love, having a son, getting divorced, getting re-married, and starting his own career. He now owns his own automotive business, capitalizing on his interest in transportation machines.

This book was very painful to read because of the things that John Elder had to experience. He always felt like a fraud, he never could enjoy his accomplishments because he felt deep inside that someone would find out about the real him. He finally finds out he has AS when a therapist gave him a copy of “Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals”. When he read the book, he said the book perfectly described him.

Getting the diagnosis of Aspergers helped John to understand and accept himself. Also sharing with his community that he has AS allowed those around him, to understand him and embrace him.

Its nice to see someone with AS who is successful, both in business and relationships. However, sometimes the book is a hard to follow, it sort of rambles, I really didn’t like his chapter on mate selection, and at times its profane. It gives very good insight into the mind of a person trying to decipher social situations and deal with a world that just doesn’t seem to accept him. With that said I’d recommend the book with caution.

Monday, March 15, 2010

5 Transition Tips for Managing a Child with Autism's Day

It’s no secret that people on the autism spectrum don’t like change. So how can we help people with autism manage changes in their schedules and transitions? There are a few techniques that when used consistently can help reduce anxiety and give a sense of predictability to transitions.

Here are five transition tips to help your special child.

1. Create a Visual Picture Schedule
A schedule can be a written list of activities the child will participate in during the day, a sequence of pictures or both. Schedules help a child to prepare for the transition by allowing them to see the upcoming activity and understand the sequence of activities that will occur. Research has shown that consistently using schedules decreases transition time and melt downs.

2. Show Activities as Finished
Allowing the child with autism to assist in designating an activity as finished can help them prepare for the transition. If using a picture schedule have a finished pocket for the child to place the picture of the activity they completed in. Laminate schedules with a box next to each picture that the student can check off as complete. Write out the schedule and allow the child to cross each item off as it is completed.

3. Use a Visual Timer
Time is an abstract concept that can be difficult for people with autism to understand. Using a timer gives children a visual of how much time is left before a transition. It can also help to keep some kids on task for projects they don’t like, because they can see it has an end. Some timers, like the Time Timer give an additional visual of the countdown of time.

4. Allow adequate time for the transition.
No one likes to be rushed. Especially with new routines at school allow adequate time for the child with autism to process the transition and move on to the next activity.

5. Provide a transition object.
Sometimes carrying a familiar object through each transition can add a sense of predictability and comfort to the transition. The child either can keep the object with them throughout the day, or go get the object after they have finished a project to move with them to the next activity.

If you have some other transition tips please share!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dreams Come True for Cartoonist with Autism

This is an incredible story about a family working together to make their son with autism's dream come true.  You can check out Dustin's comic book here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Raising a kid with High functioning Autism or Aspergers, can be challenging. Watching Max with his cockroach at the table on Parenthood last night gave me a flashback.

Two years ago my son had a new hero, Wario. For those of you who aren't familiar with the character, let me just say his claim to fame is passing gas. Big huge toxic clouds of it... Once my son discovered him he used the word "fart" in any and every way imaginable. He brought it into every conversation and was thrilled when he could pass gas near his friends or family.

This all came to a head one day when we were driving in my friend's van and none of the kids wanted to sit by him... The whole van smelled horrible, and G was laughing uncontrollably. Because this behavior was isolating G, I had to come up with a strategy to encourage him to change.

I always start with my favorite tool, positive reinforcement. But how does one positively reinforce attempts to change this behavior? I decided that if G can make it through the day without referring to passing gas or burping AND if he can manage to do these things *privately* he would earn a dollar.

People were appalled when I shared this, they said I was bribing my son. Well things get tricky as my son gets older. I can't use "TV" time because like Max in Parenthood, my son already gets TV time. There is one thing that truly motivates him since becoming a teenager and its money.

Eventually G stopped the whole farting thing, a huge relief to all involved to be sure. I think by the time it was over I had given him close to $20. The thing that still bothers me, well to be honest it makes me feel bad, is when I feel judged. I probably could have handled this differently, but I didn't. This was the only solution my sleep deprived brain could come up with and it worked. So please don't judge me, just come along side me and my family in this journey. I don't want any pity just a tiny bit of understanding.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but I'm a zebra. The women at my church meet and try to encourage each other in life and in our faith. Each month we work on something, this month we are remembering things God has taught us.

In one year my step son died, my parents divorced and my son was diagnosed with autism. I always thought I was a strong person, but that year brought me to my knees. A few verses became very special to me. They are:

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Hebrews 13:5,6 God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Things in life hit me hard, I often feel like I've been thrown under a bus... I've heard people say faith is a crutch, for me its more like a stretcher, I don't think I could get out of bed without my relationship with God.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How to Host a Play Date for Your Child With Autism

Social interaction is not something that comes naturally for children on the autism spectrum. Often times these kids are isolated, preferring to play by themselves, and they are rarely invited to play with others. Recently an adult autistic friend of mine shared that she was *never* invited to a birthday party or play date growing up. How can one learn to socially interact, without a chance to practice?

One way parents can help their child with autism is to host a play date. Hosting a play date can seem daunting but I have found many people are willing to bring their children over to play when asked. When G was younger I explained to neighbors and classmates that they could help G's life, by just playing with him. Their child's play could have a direct impact on his future quality of life and independence.

Here are a Few Helpful Tips for Hosting a Play Date for Your Child with Autism:
  • Before the play date come up with a schedule with your child. Decide which games will be played and in what order. We wrote our schedule out with pictures, when we finished something my son loved to cross it off the list. Schedule a snack break and decide which snack will be offered. Also include clean up time at the end of the play date this will help your child to transition at the end of the date.

  • If there are toys that are difficult for your child to share put them away before the play date begins. For us this meant putting away all of the die cast jet airplanes.

  • Don't make the play date too long. One hour is fine, its best to have success and leave both children wanting more time together.

  • Keep it small one friend is best. Remember if you invite more than one child the social interactions will become more complex. It will be harder for your child to engage socially.

  • Choose activities your child enjoys and is competent in. Now is not the time to learn a new game. If your child feels successful there will be less frustration and a better time.

  • Prepare for the end of the play date in advanced. No one likes to end a good time! Practice with your child ahead of time how the play date will end. Have a reward or incentive waiting for them after their friend leaves.

  • To help your child prepare for the end of the play date give a 10 to 20 minute warning that the play date will end.

  • Observe your child's behavior during the play date so you can determine what needs to be worked on. Provide assistance as necessary, but try to be a background observer. Remember no one likes to be embarrassed. As much as possible work on behaviors after your child’s friend has left.

  • Establish a relationship with the child’s parents. Learning social skills is a process. Your child may make several social mistakes. Thank the parent for allowing their child to tutor yours and assure them that you are working with your child to help them grow socially.

  • After the guests leave, send the parent a quick email thanking them for coming.

  • My last tip is this, kids love yummy snacks. I made homemade cookie dough and froze enough for a dozen cookies. An hour before a play date I would bake a dozen cookies the parent's and the kids enjoyed it.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. -Lao-tzu

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Smells: Need I Say More?

Its no secret that I have some sensory challenges. Shoes don't get me started on shoes... Anyhow, last Sunday a woman in church was wearing a ton of perfume. Along with giving me a headache, my eyes started to sting. It was so strong I could smell it all the way down the hall until I was out of the church.

Yesterday, I had a nice chat with one of my Face Book friends Brad. (I've never met Brad, but that's beside the point...) Brad mentioned that he wants to become a Garbage truck driver! (Of all things a Garbage Truck Driver?! Brad if your reading this don't do it!!!)
Our talk reminded me of the time the kids and I were driving behind a garbage truck. It was a warm summer day and the traffic started to slow, its California traffic which means it goes really slow. The smell started to build up in the car and we all started to get sick. After an eternity, possibly at least one minute, I had to pull over as fast as I could because I thought I was going to throw up.

We all jumped out of the car, left the doors open, and proceeded to run away from the smell. Thinking back this might not have been a good idea, with a son on the spectrum, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and there was no way he was gonna run near the street. At a safe distance, I grabbed the kids and turned to watch the other cars continue behind the truck with no adverse reaction. At that point I thought, "wow, we must be a tad more hypersensitive then the other drivers." (Duh!) Anyhow, after a couple of minutes I did a smell test and decided it was safe to enter the car and begin driving again. We used an alternate route of course!
LOL my husband is the only normal one of us all...