When Being Motherless Meets Autism

Autism Awareness Month Logo

 

My heart is in my throat. I realize I am not breathing. My body remains still. I feel like I am watching this on a television, and not in real life.

I didn’t expect her to know. I thought she didn’t care. She doesn’t respond to adults in general, so it never crossed my mind. She amazes me daily.

Yet, there she is with her. The breeze picks a bit. I zip up my jacket. Before I go to tell both my girls to zip up, our friend’s grandma tells my baby girl to do it. AND SHE DOES IT!! My girl even gives her an un-solicited hug.

I know not having a grandma in our daily lives for my oldest daughter and myself has been hard. No grannie spoiling the kids. No extra smiling face at birthday parties. My oldest has asked questions and seems to understand.  She learned about death early on.  With my youngest’s challenges, she doesn’t seek out people. She needs prompts to make eye contact. She does know this lady pretty well.

Grandmas are special kind of people that parents cant compete with.

That’s when I got it when watching this special interaction. She may not know what she’s lost, but she sure knows how to appreciate it when it is here.

Why I’m not Lighting Up Blue. #Autism

Autism Awareness Month Logo

I will not be lighting up blue or adorning a puzzle piece today, April 2nd. When you live and breathe autism 365 days a year, it is tough to swallow one day when the world tries to show its support by changing their avatar to be an Autism supporter. When Autism Speaks helps with increasing resources for families like mine in Canada instead of merchandising the ‘cause’ and giving themselves pay raises, I might reconsider.

I understand for those who don’t know what to do to help, it seem like a quick fix. Then from April 3rd, until the following year they go for the next charity flavour of the month.

“Going Blue” wants to find “cures.” My five-year-old daughter is not diseased. She doesn’t need to be repaired. She/we need resources to enrich her life, help her gain independence and help her to communicate. I have never heard her say to me in words, “I love you mommy. “ She just says it with her body when she brightens from head to toe as she runs to give me a butt-clinching hug, her arms wrap around me so tight.

She dislikes being told ‘no’. She loves The Wiggles and Doritos. At her tender young age, she doesn’t know exclusion. That’s my role as her advocate. You want to know how to help others and us:

Look Local

There are so many local organizations that are looking for help. Ask at your local child development centers or health units for directions.

Local Neighbors

Do you know if family who may have a loved one with autism or other challenges? Say Hi and introduce yourself. It’s okay to ask questions. Most parents are happy to answer them. If it’s a classmate of your child’s, invite them for a play date. If the parent hesitates, offer them to come over for coffee. It will do wonders for you and your child to find out for yourself just how beautiful all kids can be.

Start the conversation. Inclusion lessons begin at home. Autism does not define me for my daughter, nor for our family. We define ourselves.

Last year, I had the honour to offer my list of what to say or not to say to a parent like me.

Local Mamas in the #GVRD had this to say about April 2nd, Autism Awareness Day.

Dione Costanzo, mom of an awesome 11 year old boy, says, “ Forget the blue lights! How about a dose of reality for autism awareness day? I would like to share this series “Faces of Autism” which ran in the Vancouver Sun in 2007 – the year my son was diagnosed. This six part series was a wealth of information for me and for those around me who were trying to understand what we were going through. For Autism Awareness Day please take some time to read this series which is linked here and is a really good glimpse into the lives of people with autism, their families and some of the issues they face daily. Although this series was published 7 years ago it all still applies including the lack of medical coverage for autism treatment:

http://www2.canada.com/vancouv…/features/autism/index.html

Mom of 12 year-old and 18 year-olds on the spectrum, Vicki Parnell says, “Do the blue lights serve any useful purpose for families living with ASD? I think most people are aware of autism. Maybe it’s time to move on to promoting acceptance and inclusion of people with ASD.”

Want to know more about Autism? Ask away.

Travelling with a Kid with Special Needs

Travelling with a Kid with Special Needs

HHS5

Recently we made our first family trip ever.  We put it off for so long, because the thought of being far away from home with our youngest daughter gave me such anxiety. She has autism. With that, it brings many layers to play it safe and stay closer to home.

I took to Social Media and Google to get tips for the trip. To get help from the community. Armed with suggestions and knowing my little girls, I prepped for the weekend. Here are the 5 things that made our inaugural family adventure a success:

Bag of Tricks

Most parents of young children learn how important a bag of tricks is when you leave the house. I knew for this trip it would be very crucial for all of us to enjoy our weekend. I took away my daughter’s iPad a week before the trip. I didn’t let her eat her favourite junk foods a week before the trip. I loaded up a bag of new toys and art supplies along with the junk food and ipads for both of our girls.  Because I knew that there was not a main grocery store in Harrison, I also bought on her ultimate fruits and vegetables as well.

 Social Story

Recently, I have learned how to continue my daughter’s PECS success and create social stories for upcoming experiences. I included pictures with the story and her with her favourite toys in the car (because that is how we were traveling) and Disney characters. When we packed up the car to go, I made sure she had the same toy in the pic that was featured in the picture of the social story.

Travel Off-Season

One thing that made our adventure smoother was that Harrison is not busy in February, compared to the summer season. The crowds we came across were at popular restaurants and family festival.

 Warn Staff Ahead

I did let our hotel know ahead of time of our travels. After we checked in, I inquired to the front desk if her running around was causing a disturbance. The lovely clerk shook her head and said no. Because of our heads-up to them, they made sure to not put anyone below us until they had to fill the room.

 Exit Plan

Any parents of a child with special needs are always planning ahead with an exit plan. Look ahead for challenges and have alternate plans in place. Make sure you each know who will take your child out of the situation if needed.

My Spring Break Kids/YA Top Books

Girls doing schoolwork.

The books listed are for ages 10 and up. You know your kids best when it comes to what they are ready to read. My best suggestion is to read the books first to be sure. This list is really that good. I liked each one personally, and in random order.

#16ThingsIThoughtWereTrue by Janet Gurtler

Morgan’s mom gets sick and she finds out her dad lives closer than she thought. She sets out with her friends to see if he is different than she thought was true.

When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens

When First Kid Audrey settles into the White House, the feelings of loneliness sinks in. Then, she meets Alice who changes everything.

The Cellar by Natasha Preston

For months, Summer trapped in a cellar with three other kidnapped girls Rose, Poppy and Violet. How long will these flowers last?

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

Shedding light into teens dealing with OCD, this tough and engaging novel will be hard to put down.

Cinder, Scarlet and Cress: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Follow along with Cinder’s forbidden attraction to Prince Kai. Oh yeah, she is also a cyborg. Secure all three in this trilogy so you can follow along without interruption.

The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi

Lexi will try to learn how to love boys by the time she is done at New Horizons summer camp. She has to, since it is her mother’s wish after her dad died. This story is a must-read for everyone of all ages and orientations.

Summer Days, Starry Nights by Vikki Vansickle

13 year-old Reenie loves it when guests arrive at her family’s summer resort. She dreams about running it one day until the new dance teacher shows up. Reenie begins to learn how there is more out there than Sandy Shores.

Ava and Pip by Carol Weston

Some sisters can be the same; same tastes, same personalities. Not Ava and Pip. Pip is shy to Ava’s outgoing personality. Ava is determined to break her older sister out of her shell.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

The world’s beloved youngest spy, Harriet M. Welsch knows about everyone from classmates to her best friends. Then, she loses her precious notebook filled with all their secrets. A relatable classic for over 50 years, it is timeless.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is the story everyone wishes they had when growing up. I will not give the plot away because it is the must-read for any parent and tween. It all began on a school bus.

 

All these books can be found at your local bookstore or online bookstore.

 

An Open Letter to You, Awesome Mom

An Open Letter to You, Awesome Mom

A+ Rubber Stamp on Notebook Paper

Dear Awesome Mom,

It was an ordinary school day when I picked up my daughter to take her to her therapy sessions. We went home for a quick lunch before the therapist arrived. I am unpacking her backpack with her snack bag and her communication book.

Your son’s birthday invitation to my daughter is sitting in her back and forth folder from the school. A piece of paper that shone like it was a marquee on Broadway. I quickly took a picture of it and sent it to my husband. There was a note in her communication book that not everyone in her class was invited. In her young 5 years, this is the first non-family friend’s invite. It took me days to reply to the invitation. I ended up spilling my heart in an email to you. When I said the word “autism” in the email, I almost regretted it. The word divides and separates us from the rest of the world.  I had also put in the email about how my daughter doesn’t have a strong vocabulary, so I will have to stay. Then, you responded a nonchalant way, inviting me to stay.

I spied on the calendar with mixed anxiety as the date as it came closer. The party is being held at a local indoor play center. For sensory kids, I foresaw the problems that could arise.

When we got ready for the party, I only asked my girl if she wanted to say happy birthday to your son. She broke into a beaming smile and was ready to go. I slid the car into the parking lot filled with various emotions. I took a big breath and open the car door. We stepped onto the sidewalk, opened the door, and were met with the fun-loving sounds of kids having a good time.

We met you as my girl ran off to explore. The moment I shook your hand, I got it. I know knew why your son is so compassionate and kind. It’s because of you and your spouse being strong examples to your kids. Then, I met your parents. Generations of kindness.

You didn’t even blink when my girl vocalized her complaints when I made her stay to eat with the kids. You didn’t blink, nor judged my daughter when she played in the toddler area and not with the rest the party. I’m so grateful to know you and your son are within my daughter’s world. The world needs more of him, and your family. You give me hope.

Thank you, Awesome Mom.

Love,

Me

Autism Gladiator

What to Read: ARCHETYPE by M.D. Waters

What to Read: ARCHETYPE by M.D. Waters

 

ARCHETYPE

Waking up in a hospital, Emma has no memory of her past, especially how she got there. Her husband, Declan, weaves the large gaps of her past for her by providing new memories.

As she fixates on the fall colours outside the hospital window by day, at night her dreams clash with what her husband has told her. She tries to explain to her doctor, Dr. Travista, about them. He only rebukes her and increases her drug dosages.

Emma’s inner voice reminds her about memories of war, girl’s prison where girls are farmed and her love of another man, Noah. With the fear that she was unfaithful to her husband, Emma takes Declan’s lead into their happily married life.  She is blurred with guilt of what transpired in her dreams.

Worlds collide when Noah stands in front of her, the man from her dreams. Multiple memories come flooding into Emma’s brain: being in a girls’ camp waiting to ‘be chosen’. Girls are a rare commodity.  They are housed until they are auctioned off at the WTC at the age of eighteen. In this world, birth control is illegal so pregnancy is not a choice, neither is who buys the girls.

The narrative of this sci-fi tale makes it a fast weekend read. The vivid imagery paired with what is not shown, or told, may have you guessing the outcome until the final page. There is more that meets the eye in Emma’s world.

This book is the first of a two-part series. I can’t wait to see how the author decides what comes next. This usually isn’t my genre to get captured by. It did.

I love being a part of blog tours. Thank you Penguin Canada for the invite to join this one and providing a sneak peek.

What is on my Nightstand for this Valentine’s Day

 Autumn Floral Heart

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

Anna has an accident at work, which left her in hospital for several weeks. In her grief of losing toes from the accident, she is surprised to find her roommate is her former French Teacher, Claire. With a lot of time on their hands while recovering, Claire reveals a regret of hers, a lost love in Paris.

Once recovered, Anna promises to travel to Paris to work for Claire’s former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier. Anna absorbs all the history and glory of Paris. She learns how to heal her own wounds and learns more about herself than she ever dreamed. Be sure to check out the mouth-watering recipes at the back of the book. What I loved about this book is the showing, and not telling, throughout this Paris tale.

Paris Letters By Janice Macleod

Janice Macleod had everything a woman could want. Yet, she couldn’t figure out why she was so unhappy. Being on the cusp of burning out, she saves enough money to allow herself to spend two years exploring Europe. Within days of arriving, she learns the lay of Paris, including spotting pickpockets. Then she meets Christophe. Wanting to remain in Paris, she explores ways to make an income. Janice begins a painted letter subscription service. It catches on quickly because people are hungry for unique items from Paris. She dared herself to find a life she loves.

The stories will make you want to grab a croissant and a Café Au Lait to people watch on the cobble streets of Paris.

What is your favourite love story?

Hot YA to Look Out For in 2014

Hot YA to Look Out For in 2014

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in Library

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dallier

When her sister, May, died suddenly, Laurel’s family began to tear apart. She tries to numb the pain by smoking, drinking and wearing May’s clothes.

She is assigned in English class to write a letter to someone. Laurel begins to write to dead celebrities in her notebook, like Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and River Phoenix. She never turns in the assignment. Her teacher gives her many extensions because of her loss. The reason why she chose many dead celebs is because her sister admired them. She then writes about high school and how life is now being part of a broken family. It is only when she writes about the truth of what happened, she begins to see her sister as the person she was: amazing, lovely and full of flaws. The story is very gripping from page to page.

Something Real By Heather Demetrios

Can you imagine your birth being broadcast on national television? That’s what happened to Bonnie Baker, a star with her 12 siblings of the hit reality television show, Baker’s Dozen.

There was a brief break from the show when 17-year-old Bonnie tries to live a normal life. Then her mother surprises them all with the announcement that Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air.

Bonnie tries to quit, but her mom and the show’s producers quickly rebuke it. Bonnie has worked hard to be a normal teenager. She realizes that she needs to do something drastic to be able to lead her own life, her way, even if it means that the spotlight is bigger on her.

Do you like to read and win? #YMCKidsRead

Do you like to read and win? #YMCKidsRead

 

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in Library

I have loved to read since I was two years old. When I got pregnant, we read to our babies in utero. Reading is so much fun. It is a great way to have special family time too.

We had the wonderful opportunity to review a hot book for this program. Check it out to add to your to-be-read pile.

Here is your chance to win a prize pack! Contest ends February 25th, 2014.

GOOD LUCK! Happy Reading!