Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fun Christmas Stocking Ideas

Here are my top five Christmas stocking gifts for this year - woo!

Hairy Tangle
You've heard me rave about the Tangle Relax, we'll this tangle has small hairs that are soft and fantastic to play with. It's been a hit at our house with my teens and all of the kids in the neighborhood thus far. Thank God I get them wholesale or I'd be going broke by this point. So bottom line any kid, unless they are tactile defensive will love this in their stocking and they are only about $6,

Skittles Light Up Rainbow Wand
Candy is a must in our stockings, please people don't judge me, it's just the way it is. Since Skittles are G's favorite candy this was a must have for us. The wand lights up when you press a button and it can be refilled so I'll probably refill it from time to time when I need to help G stay motivated to do something. I try to limit candy in our stockings so this should satisfy with only a little candy because of the wow factor.

Mini Spectra Globe
Spinning flashing lights connected to a breakaway necklace - awesome. You can read my feelings about spinning toys and autism here. Hey if you have to travel or have visitors around it's an instant distraction or calmer and is an inexpensive stocking gift.

Moody Face
He's, cute, he's squeezable, he has Koosh type hair and he's cheap. I don't know how long he'll last (I think if they pull too hard his hair will come off) but he's going in the stocking.

Beaded Spaghetti Ball
This thing is awesome think of thin spaghetti noodles that don't break wiggling around in your hands, now add some texture and you've got an idea of what the Beaded Spaghetti Ball feels like. Super squishy, super stretchy and it's super fun.

These are my top five stocking gifts for this year. What about you? Do you have a good Christmas stocking idea? If so please share it there's still time to keep filling our stockings!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gift Ideas for Autistic Teenagers

I guess because G is 16 lots of people ask me for gift ideas for autistic teenagers. I do have experience buying gifts for him, but "If you've met one person with autism – you've met one person with autism" Stephen Shore. All teenagers are different and everyone has their unique special interests. So with that disclaimer I'll give you my gift ideas for autistic teenagers.

Special Interests
If the autistic teen you are going to buy a present for has a special interest start there. My son loves aviation and Star Wars, every year we buy him a gift related to these two areas. I always buy a Star Wars calendar and I usually buy it in October because I have my choice then. I've also learned that waiting until the last minute can get me in trouble. So if your autistic teen has a favorite subject be on the look out now for a gift in that area.

Calming Items
Life can be stressful for any teen. There are lots of transitions, complex social interactions and confusing situations teens on the autism spectrum face daily. A wonderful gift for an autistic teen is something that's calming.
  • Vibration toys, pillows or tubes are all very calming. This year I plan to give my son a Vibramat. We can put his bean bag on top of the vibrating mat for a vibrating chair or under his mattress to make it vibrate.
  • Weighted items - weighted vests, lap pads or blankets are more expensive, but can be very soothing. It's always great when a grandparent or family member will give this kind of gift.
Visual Items
Many autistic teenagers are highly visual. Visually interesting items make great gifts. One of my son's favorite items is an Ooze tube. Some more highly visual items that make great gifts include liquid timers, sand panels, disco balls, light up or spinning items.

These are just a few gift suggestions. Do you have a good gift idea for an autistic teen? If so please share it, I'm in the same boat as everyone else and I always appreciate good ideas!

Update National Autism Resources has put together a gift page for autistic teens.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

When Rumors Become Truths

The Internet is amazing to me because the amount of information we can get is incredibly vast. We can read the news, watch video interviews by experts, search professional databases all from the comfort of our home. There is lots, and lots, and lots of information out there. But is it true?

I have watched assumptions and rumors become truths. One glaring assumption that has become a "truth" - families of a child with autism are much more likely to divorce. I've heard this "truth" touted on TV shows, quoted in newspapers, blogs, you name it. However, the truth is - this is NOT true! As a matter of fact, parents of kids with autism are NOT more likely to divorce. You can read the research here.

But rumors are nothing new. I was reading today about Mary Magdalene, the former prostitute, or so I thought. After all there are Magdalene houses all over the world that minister to women of the night. Well in my study I was surprised to learn no where in the Bible is she referred to as a prostitute. It turns out that rumors have turned into truths for this woman. You can read all about her in Matthew 27:56; Matthew 27:61; Matthew 28:1; Mark 15:40; Mark 15:47; Mark 16:1-19; Luke 8:2; Luke 24:10; John 19:25; John 20:1-18. If you take the time to read it you'll find no reference to prostitution.

So once again I'm reminded there is nothing new "under the sun" and just because the majority of people believe something is true, does not mean it is.

This reminds me of a therapy, the gluten- and casein-free diet. Some claim it "cures" autism and others claim it's all just "wishful thinking" on the part of the parents. At this point the research says we need more research. Nothing is definitive, the GFCF diet may significantly help a subset of the autistic population. It didn't help my son, but I've heard many first hand reports from very logical parents that it did work for their children. At this point I'm going to assume these parents aren't morons.

I think part of the reason we don't hear "the GFCF diet might work" in the media is because it's not exciting. It's not like saying she's a prostitute, or here's the cure, or those parents are just delusional.

Everyone is clamoring
to be heard on the Internet, so where does that leave us, the common person. It leaves us with the responsibility of digging a little deeper. Thankfully, with the Internet you can e-mail a newspaper, professional expert or blogger and ask where they found their information. Can you send me the links? By the way, for the most part I've included my references, but if you want more information on anything I've referred to feel free to ask me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Autistic Teen's Photograph Seen Across the Country

Geoffrey and his Dad were at the Reno Air Races. This is the picture G took of the plane before it crashed, it's been on CNN, NBC, ABC, MSNBC and CBS. The night of the crash they gave it to the NTSB and it has really helped to focus their investigation.

At first G was devastated, but now he is feeling much better and is glad his photo is helping the investigation. He's been drawing some amazing pictures, I'll post some more soon.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

G's Latest Paintings

G continues to paint! Of course his favorite subject continues to be jets! I have found a frame for the top picture, I'll be trolling the thrift shops for the Thunderbird painting.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Some Things Can't Be Fixed

On Father's day I was reading the Bible. I came across Genesis 29:32-35. It's a passage from the story of Leah a woman who's husband didn't love her. Her husband really loved her sister Rachel, but he was tricked into marrying her and after one week of marriage her husband married her sister too.

Genesis 29:32-35:
Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me no

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.

Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” So she named him Judah.

I was struck by this passage for a couple of reasons, first of all thank God I'm not Leah! I can't imagine the heart ache of sharing a husband AND not being the favorite. Had I been in her situation I would have begged for change too. I would have looked at every wonderful thing happening and been sure that God was fixing my situation and making it better...

but some things can't be fixed.

Some things can't be fixed. Does that statement bother you the way it bothers me? I know God is all powerful, I know He can do anything, I know with determination and God's help I can accomplish great things. But I have found that no matter how many band-aids, prayers or hours I put into some things - they just can't be fixed because we live in a broken world.

However, some things can change and what I noticed in this passage was that Leah's perspective changed. She moved from "now my husband will love me" to "I will praise the God who loves me." Subtle but huge. Did she still wish her husband loved her? I'm gonna take a guess and say yes. Was this wish her central focus? After the fourth son, no.

When we're caught up in what we want fixed we miss out on what we could already have. I can think of nothing better than enjoying a loving God who is close to us, interested in the daily stuff of our lives, who works things out for our good in the end, who gives us peace, guidance and the unconditional love all of us crave (including Leah)!

Some things can't be fixed, but God is waiting to walk with us if we'll change our perspective.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Language Builder ABA Cards

While I was at the New York Toy Fair I had a chance to meet Angela from Stages Learning. She is a mom of an autistic child who started making ABA materials. She teamed up with an ABA therapist to make a variety of products including the Language Builder Noun cards. Right away I was impressed with Angela and knew her product had a good reputation so we started selling them at NAR.

Wow I was totally not prepared for the awesome feedback we've gotten from them so far! Yay! They work great in ABA programs and are very helpful with generalization. My only regret is that they are so expensive. The suggested retail price is $150! However, especially for therapists who work with several children the feedback thus far is that they are worth it. They are on sale now at National Autism Resources and I hope to keep them on sale until the wholesale price goes up, which I hope it doesn't.

The coolest thing is that this is another great example of a Mom creating an awesome product. Some the most helpful products I've seen have been created by Moms & therapists just trying to make the world easier. It sort of reminds me of the Handiwriter and Chewy Tubes. So yay for Angela!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Overwhelmed with Gratefulness

This morning I woke up and felt overwhelmed with gratefulness. I have so much to be thankful for – I’m one of the richest women in the world. As a matter fact, if you’re reading this you’re one of the richest people in the world too. If you have a computer, plenty of food to eat, a roof over your head and live in relative safety, compared to the rest of the world you are rich. Anyhow, that’s a subject for another post.

Today I just want to list a few of the things I’m grateful for in no particular order:

My family: They love me, they drive me crazy, and they bring me more joy than I could have ever imagined.

My friends: Those who know me well know I have entrenched hermit tendencies. I love nothing better than to sit in the corner and read a book or write a paper or research something. Yet these friends of mine keep calling, keep e-mailing, and keep visiting me even though at times I’m prone to depression.

My health: I have access to healthcare, a cabinet full of drugs and first aid supplies, and I’m a 10 min. drive from the hospital. Just for clarification those drugs I mentioned are all legal.

My mind: What more can I say about this? If you’re reading this and have clarity of thought you have a tremendous gift. I’ve met many people through age or injury that have lost this.

God loves me. I don’t believe God is far away he is up close and real. He helps me when I’m weak, shows me the way when I’m lost, comforts me when I’m sad and is my constant companion.

Today don’t get caught up in all those things you don’t have. I’ve met so many people who always seem to be looking ahead and never stop to just look around. The world is a beautiful place and life is a wonderful gift so enjoy it my friends.

“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 2 Timothy 6:7-8

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Everyone Wants Loving Relationships

This year I stepped out of my comfort zone and started working with Junior Highers at my church. I did this because Grace is in the 8th grade and I wanted to do something with her together. The truth is I was scared!

I've heard lots about how hard it is to work with teens and tweens. How they can be disrespectful, run you over... What I've found is that the teens and tweens I've been working with just want a relationship. They want to know someone is interested in them, praying for them, and enjoys their company. Even if that someone is a middle aged Mom or Dad who is cluless on the latest fashion, movies and music.

Last night the group came over to my house with their Wii remotes and a snack to share. I was a little nervouse about how the night would go but it ended up being so fun. They didn't mind us trying to dance or sing with them. They loved that we jumped right in. (Here is Gary the co-leader dad doing the Monster Mash w/ the kids. They picked something "old school" that he recognized.)

Back to relationships, isn't that what all of us want? We want loving relationships where we feel accepted, encouraged and a part of a community. Sometimes we try to complicate things, make big programs, read books, go to leader training to become the best spiritual leader we can. Don't get me wrong, these things can be good. But maybe, just maybe, we lose something getting wrapped up in all of that. Maybe we need to stick to the basics of loving God and loving people.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:37-40

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pottbelly's the Best Sandwich Ever!

If you've flown lately then you know most airlines don't feed you anymore. Chips, peanuts, or maybe a bag of cookies and that's it. Unless you decide to buy a box meal which is kind of scary when you get it.

So now we're in the era of airport take with you food. Some is surprisingly good and some is surprisingly bad. For example, Peet's sold me a week old muffin or so it tasted that way!

I've found a trick to finding the best airport food- ask the stewardess. In Chicago Ruth from Southwest sent me to Potbellys. I had a three hour layover and since I didn't have breakfast (thanks to Peet's) I tried the Turkey and Swiss.

It is rare, very rare that I get excited about food, but let me tell you that sandwich was packed with yummy goodness! Believe me the picture doesn't do it justice. As if the sandwich wasn't good enough this place features fresh baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that they continue baking throughout the day.

Knowing I was going on an almost five hour flight to California, I bought another sandwich for the trip. The sandwich was so good I told several other people who were waiting for our flight about Potbelly's and they went and bought sandwiches for the flight too. I was one of the first to board the plane and as they passed me they showed me their bags and thanked me for the tip. It felt good to help out fellow travelers.

The only bad thing about the new way of in flight eating is that you have to eat your yummy goodness next to other passengers who don't bring anything and only have crackers and peanuts. Unfortunately, this was the situation in my row. I really wish I had ran into these guys before we got on the plane! Anyhow, I felt compelled to share my sandwich but my fellow row mates said they weren't hungry. So I had Potbelly's round two while trying not to make eye contact.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Went to a Funeral

I went to a funeral for a three-year-old boy today. I didn’t know the child or his family. I went to help in the kitchen and also ended up watching some children during the service. The truth is I didn't want to attend the service. While driving to the funeral I felt sad. 10 years ago my husband's first child, my stepson, died.

That year was probably the hardest year of our lives. To be honest his funeral was a blur I really don't remember much of it neither does my husband. What I do remember is watching volunteers help at the funeral and realizing that I didn't know most of them. I've helped out at several funerals for children since then. I guess it's my way of giving back because I know how feels to be completely broken.

After we had finished cleaning up in the kitchen I was getting ready to leave when I was introduced to the mother. Her first child is gone, and she's eight months pregnant with her second child. I could see she wanted to talk so I shared my story with her. And then I shared the following verse: The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Some people say God is a crutch. Some people say a person is weak if they believe in God. While I can say is yes I am weak. Gods more than a crutch to me, He's more like a wheelchair. Sometimes I feel so crushed I can’t even move without him. I'd rather be weak with Jesus than to try and live this life on my own.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Preparing for G's Triennial IEP

Next week we will have G's triennial IEP. Every three years the schools do testing to see how G is performing academically and to look at how autism affects his learning. This is all done to get an accurate picture of how G’s doing, so we can develop appropriate ways to support him.

It sounds like a good thing doesn't it? The truth is every three years these tests break my heart. Am I sad that my son has autism? Honestly, not really. My son is different, and different isn’t bad it's just different. Autism gives him a unique perspective on life, unique interests, and he teaches us life lessons we could never learn if he was any other way.

So why does it break my heart? It breaks my heart because I'll see in black and white exactly why he is struggling. It's time like these any shred of denial flies out the window. It will spell out for me exactly why G is trying so hard just to keep up and learn in high school. Even though he has an extremely high IQ and a lot of motivation he currently has a C+ average. We are so proud of him for that because he's doing it on his own without an aid completely independent.

Now the school is suggesting an easy academic load for his junior year of high school. I've talked to G about it and he doesn't want to do this. He wants to continue taking the college prep classes knowing he'll probably go to a junior college. He isn't motivated to take the easy way out. So it breaks my heart when I see him so motivated and yet I know it's going to become even more challenging just to keep up. I wish I could take the challenges on for him but I can't. I wish I could fix everything so he didn't have to struggle but I can't. Instead all I can do is walk alongside him and continue to love him.

This is not the plan that I created in my mind for my son. But my son's life is not mine, and my son has decided to follow Jesus and wants his plan. As a matter of fact, he recently memorized Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When I think of the plans I had for G I want to cry. However, my plans aren't God's plans and thank God they're not. God's plans for G are full of hope and include a prosperous future. As I review the test results this week I'm going to do my best to remember Jeremiah 29:11.