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Friday, July 29, 2011

A Great Craft for All Skill Levels

Over the last couple months I have been collecting various items that would be useful for craft and art projects during school breaks.  While this post has really nothing to do with autsim or sensory issues, I like to keep Buddy practicing fine motor skills and also give him something interesting to do besides the old coloring-book and I also like to share.  That being said, let the crafty-idea-sharing commence. 
One of the things that I really love to do is have him finger-paint butcher paper to make into gift wrap.  Recently as I was breaking down various boxes to pitch into the recycling bin, I had an idea.  Why not keep some of those containers and turn them into unique gift boxes?  Well, today turned out to be the perfect time to give it a try as we had no appointments to go to and no power due to a scheduled outage.  These are very easy, are super cute and can be made with things you likely have laying around the house.  We used cheap dollar store sponges, finger paints and Crayola Twistables (these keep their vibrant color on cardboard).
1.        Carefully break down the box you want to use.  We collected cereal boxes, granola bar boxes and other small ones that would be good for little gift items.
2.       Flatten the boxes out and secure them to your table or workspace with double sided tape.  You don’t have to do this part, but it makes it easier for the little ones to decorate the box without it slipping.

3.       Allow the paint to dry in a warm sunny spot. 

4.       Once the paint is dry, re-assemble the box.  This is done by re-folding on the lines (only now it’s inside out).  Use a strong glue and make sure you hold each area until it sticks really well.  If the cardboard is heavy, then it’s best to do one side at a time and weight it  down while the glue dries.
5.       Once your box is complete you are ready to fill it and add some pretty ribbon. 

Voila!  A pretty, inexpensive, hand-decorated gift box that is sure to be admired by any recipient. 
Happy Crafting!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Monkey on His Back

In light of comments and disapproving looks from people while we are in public places, I have decided to write a little note about the purpose of the Child Harness. Or, at least, it’s our purpose anyway.  I am guessing that if we are dealing with this issue odds are there are other folks out there as well. 
I am frequently blogging about the various irritations of other parents and/or those who don't even have kids giving their opinions on what we should or shouldn’t be doing with our kids.  Number one, it’s rude to give unsolicited advice. Period.  I don’t comment when I see Other Kid slurping up Trix Flavored Gogurt, loaded with red dye and sugar; it would be rude for me to just walk up to Other Parent and say “I can’t believe you are letting your kid eat that!  Don’t you know what’s in it?".  So I have no idea why I get stares, the shaking heads and my personal favorite the “that’s just cruel” comments when Buddy is proudly sporting his Monkey-Backpack-Complete-With-Tail harness. 
Ahhhh ignorance, the bane of my existence.  If they only knew that dangers of wandering in autistic children.  If they only knew that Buddy has extremely poor spacial awareness thanks to SPD and his off-kilter vestibular system and that “cruel leash” keeps him from running head first into the glass window of a zoo exhibit.  If they only knew that the monkey is weighted and provides the sensory input he needs to function better. If they only would research how important it is for children in their early years to have that need for autonomy met and the fact that the harness lets them walk freely without the struggle of holding hands. 
I will say what is cruel; it’s the nasty stares that Buddy gets when he is wearing his monkey harness. He loves it and frequently asks to wear it at home.  Some people smile and think it’s cute, so he proudly stomps his feet and grins.  It makes me wonder, if he notices the positive reaction is he noticing the negative? Is he wondering why that mean lady is scowling at him?  There are times that I just want to stay home to avoid all the negativity that is out there.  I just wish people would ask questions before they make assumptions.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Children's Museum, Seattle

The Children's Museum, Seattle

Check it out!  Early opening first Saturday of each month for ASD families!  Details on the website.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Woe is me?

Do you ever have one of those days where you wonder if the endless hours of therapy and practicing appropriate social behavior will ever actually pay off? 
I have listened to other parents confide that they just want to give up sometimes.  Today is my turn.  While standing in the middle of our living room floor after an hour of ABA, attempting to ward off a body dive-bomb attack from Buddy while listening to the therapist as best I can I began to think to myself ‘is this really helping?’.  I mean, our little guy gets ten times more worked up during therapy and then it takes three hours of deep pressure and sensory melt down to get over it.  This means four out of seven days per week is guaranteed to be sheer H E Double Hockey Sticks.  I thought we were making progress (sort of).  After all, we had a new strategy for flash attacks via flying objects and tiny fists.  But, victory is always far too short lived it seems. Well, it seems like it today.
 Today I was told that although our little darling appears to be making progress, it seems as though much of his emotions and actions are mimicked ----pause for kick in the gut----that maybe all those loves, tears and angry episodes are not a result of empathy or actual feelings but simply something he has learned, like the word awesome.  This would explain why he can hit me in the head with a toy and then jump up and down while screaming AWESOME.You see, there are other instances that lead to this theory”, the therapist explained, “for instance, his ability to turn off emotions like a switch or his ability to talk and eat, which comes and seemingly disappears at random”.  ‘Uh, so what’s your point?’ I am thinking hooray for the tiniest of victories, right?  No sooner had she popped my giant red balloon with a big sharp stick, time was up and we are going to discuss it in two days when we have our next session.  Now I am upset and feeling quite like I am the only parent in the world who has to deal with this (sniff). 
So as I sit here, woefully sipping my tea, I begin to feel guilty because it could be so much worse. I begin to realize something; that even though it seems like we go two steps forward and one step back, it’s still a bit of progress; and I will take it.  Sometimes life in acronym-land is disappointing and it can be easy not to see things on the bright side.  However, I have realized that it just makes the bright side that much brighter and it really isn’t all that bad.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Give it a rest

ASD, SPD, PDD and other acronyms may look the same in a word but there ends the similarity.  Every child is different; acronyms, as I fondly call them, are often dubbed the invisible disability. Every time I have the opportunity to talk with another parent who has a child that is on or hanging around the Spectrum or experiencing other issues we share the same dilemma: defending the diagnosis.  Whether it’s from a well meaning friend trying to be positive (“well she looks normal”), a skeptical family member (“it seems like everyone has (insert applicable disorder here) these days”)  or complete strangers, ever the parenting experts of children they know nothing about (“the kid just needs a good spanking”).
I have lost track of the hours I have spent educating people on autism and sensory processing disorder.  I leave various functions and play dates exhausted, not just from fun or running after my little guy but from expending large amounts of emotional energy trying to get people to understand.  And one day it dawned on me, it isn’t my responsibility to educate everyone.  Yes, I want to raise awareness but you cannot educate someone who doesn’t really want an answer.  Some people just want to challenge what you know.  My favorite is when someone asks me “are you sure he’s autistic”?  I often quell the urge to issue a snotty reply that is somewhere along the lines of “nope, we just like the attention”.  Then I have to resist the urge to go into detailed lists of doctors, developmental psychologists and various occupational therapists that Buddy sees on a weekly basis or the first, second and third opinions that we have sought out to be extra certain.  You see, if our children had a condition that were more visible no one would have the audacity or gall to make assumptions and ask such invasive questions.  Now, I am not saying that our close friends and family shouldn’t ask questions to try and understand but we all have that sense of whether or not a question is asked so that the person can be more informed because they truly care or if it’s simply to pose a veiled challenge. 
When I was pregnant I read a few articles about what to do when someone asks invasive and personal questions in regards to religious upbringing of the child, breastfeeding or other personal decisions.  There were also tactful and funny ways to avoid the good old unwanted belly pats from little old ladies in elevators.  It dawned on me that some of these witty answers and reactions could be used the same way in regards to questions about our little ones. 
Read on for a chuckle and feel free to comment with your own suggestions.

Situation 1)  You are at a family function where everyone is already aware of your son or daughters diagnosis.  Relative X corners you in the living room to grill you on why the child is in therapy when “he seems fine”.
Option 1)  Simply reply that although you appreciate the concern, your family is taking a break from (insert proper diagnosis here) today and walk away.
Option 2) A simple “he/she is doing well thanks” will suffice.
Option 3) Turn the tables.  “He is doing well, thanks so much.  I noticed you weren’t sitting much, do you think you may have hemorrhoids”?  Okay, I have to admit it’s extreme but sometimes you just gotta go there.
Situation 2)  You are in public and Other Parent decides to comment on your child’s seemingly out of control behavior.
Option 1) Make some contact cards that say something to the effect of the following:
You have just met a child with Autism
To educate yourself please visit:
(Insert therapist website, or other desired information)
This puts the focus back on other parent who now more than likely feels stupid for being so insensitive.
Option 2) Ignore it.  9 times out of 10 it just works better.  Some people just like to hear themselves criticize someone else.

Bottom line is this; it isn’t up to you to dedicate all of your precious energy trying to educate people who just don’t want to understand.  Maybe it’s a coping mechanism for a grandparent who just hasn’t come to terms with it.  Maybe it’s a slap in the face to another mom than can’t seem to get organized when you are able to juggle all the normal things that parenthood throws at you AND a special needs child all at once.  It isn’t always malicious but it also isn’t our job to tackle each question like a straight A student fresh out of Diagnosis Defense 101.  Feel free to take a break from the acronyms and close the floor to questions, you deserve it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring Craft Idea

Egg shells are great in your flower bed and garden!  According to Colleen Vanderlinden at, egg shells are an excellent way to nourish your soil as they break down.  They also make wonderful pots for starting seedlings and with a little effort you can turn these handy little pots into a sweet little spring gift!
Here is a list of things you will need to get started:
Natural “dyes”
 I like mustard mixed with a bit of water, you can also use grape juice, coffee or tea (I need to credit my nieces, Lexi and Lily for these creative dye ideas!) 
Potting Soil
Seeds of your choice (herbs are perfect for this type of starter)
Clean, dry egg shells with open tops and a drainage hole poked in the bottom
Clean, dry egg carton filled ½ way with sand
Now you are ready to dye your eggs.  The longer you leave them in whatever solution you choose, the darker color they will become. Let these dry when you are done.
Add a few spoonfuls of soil and two or three seeds. Gently set your egg on top of the sand in the carton
When you are finished with all of your eggs, water them and place them in a plastic bag or container in a sunny location.  I like clear containers so that little ones can watch their projects sprout.  Once you see a sprout, uncover your seedlings and move your shells out of the direct sunlight. 
Once your seedlings are ready to be planted, you can package them up in pretty baskets or containers lined with colored paper shreds or tissue paper.  Now your eggs are ready for gift giving or planting!
An extra special touch:
If you are feeling really creative, you can print up a tag that labels the type of herb or plant as well as instructions on planting.  When planting your egg, give it a squeeze so that it breaks up a bit and makes an easy path for roots. 


Colleen Vanderlinden. Reuse These 3 Items for Indoor Seed Starting No cost, no-waste solutions for seed starting. 10 FEB 2010. Web.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Don't judge a book...

Several weeks ago I stopped at an automotive repair shop to get a quote on some work that needed to be done to my car.  I figured it wouldn’t take too long and that my son could handle a bit of a wait (boy, was I wrong).  That day, I learned how cruel total strangers can be when your child is different.
My son has high-functioning autism and sensory processing disorder (heavy on the SPD).  Odds are if you are reading my blog you are probably either dealing with something like this yourself or you know someone who is.  My hope is that this will also reach people who know nothing about the challenges of a child who is on the spectrum or has some other acronym. 
Sensory issues can best be described as a heightened awareness to sounds, smells, sights and any other sense.  Sensory Processing Disorder can make you feel like you are spilling out of control and most people who are affected, children especially, don’t know how to handle the barrage of sensory input that they receive.  Some kids seek heavy input, they like to push things, pull things, and jump off of things.  Others are avoidant, they won’t touch certain things, don’t like sounds, etc.  Imagine if you will that you drank too much, or you were on some sort of a bad acid trip or having some insane reaction to medication.  That out of control feeling can be what it is like to experience SPD.  
Now that you have some background, back to my story.  We were waiting for the car to get checked out and the lady behind the counter as awesome enough to put a children’s show on the TV; things were going pretty well.  I was actually going to accomplish something that I didn’t have to have my other half do after working all day.  In walks a lady with her daughter who I will from this point refer to as Other Kid and Other Mother.  My son wanted to check them out as he does with all new people.  He did and was sufficiently satisfied that these people were okay to be there.  The little girl went to the soda machine to get a Hawaiian Punch and that’s when things began to go awry.  My son immediately went after her (first nasty look from Other Mother).  I went to pick him up to remove him and he threw himself on the floor, screaming, banging his head, limbs flying around and grease in his blonde hair (second nasty look and big sigh from Other Mother).  I managed to scoop him up but not before he kicked me square in the eye.  It caught me off guard (usually does…) so I lost my grip. At this point he has one shoe on and is diving for the soda that the little girl has now left on the window sill.  In slow motion I watched as my son leaped 007 style through the air, swiped the soda spilling it EVERYWHERE including on Other Mother.  Now I have the desk attendant giving me dirty looks, Other Kid is screaming that he took her soda and Other Mom is positively livid that he spilled it on her.  As I collect paper towels to try to clean up while hanging on to my now hysterical son, profusely apologizing and offering to pay her dry cleaning bill and buy new sodas it hits me.  Other Mother let loose a deluge of derogatory remarks that will forever be seared into my memory and I am so glad my little man will probably never remember this incident.  Here is a brief list:  “you’re probably a welfare mom” (what?), “you’re kid needs a good ass kicking” (wow, I usually hear spanking, ass kicking is a bit harsh…), “worst mom ever”…”ghetto white trash…” I am pretty sure I heard “crack head” in there somewhere…all while I am still apologizing profusely, cleaning up and comforting my child.  In the mean time, 2 more customers walk in to witness the chaos.  I ran outside so that the lady behind the desk could hear her phone conversations and help her customers.  As I was cleaning off my greasy, dirty, tear stained two year old with baby wipes Other Mother sashays out of the shop to get into her car where, once buckled in, she yells out the window “you are the perfect example of someone who should never have kids” (Me? I’m that parent?). 
Heartbreak. Rage. Embarrassment. What emotion didn’t I feel?  This was the first time we had been under that kind of attack, I understood her anger, and I really did.  I have looked at other parents in disdain, thinking I knew what they and their child were all about. 
I am sharing this story because I am really hoping that if you ever see a parent and their child encountering a similar situation, a tantrum in the store, a fit in the parking lot that you won’t add to their grief by giving disapproving looks and harsh words because the bottom line is you don’t know what is going on, you only know what you see.  If you must do something, offer a smile or a look of encouragement.  If you must say something, offer a kind word, a simple “bless your heart” would do.  Yes, there are bad parents out there but there are so many good ones who are literally dedicating every waking hour of their day to advocate for and teach their child and for those parents a little kindness can be fuel to make it through one more long day.


Working with a therapist is a great way to help your child develop their gross and fine motor skills however; most children on a regular O/T schedule only receive the services of a therapist once per week.  As parents of special needs children, it is up to us to continue “therapy” after hours.
According to Berk, the development of fine motor skills can be supported by a daily routine of various activities (Berk, 317).  Common activities that facilitate this development include doing puzzles, drawing, painting (finger painting is great for sensory stim), sculpting and crafts that involve tearing paper and pasting. 
Helping out in the kitchen can be a great form of O/T and the internet has an endless array of kiddo friendly recipes.  The most recent creation that my son and I have cooked together is tomato-cheddar crescent rolls.  This is a great, simple and yummy activity for the development of fine motor skills and also lends a sensory experience. 
For this project we used:
Refrigerator crescent rolls
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped cherry tomatoes

Generally when we work in the kitchen, I like my little guy to utilize a stool and the counter as a work space but since there are more steps and ingredients involved in this project I opted to do the prep at the table. 
Of course, the first thing we do is wash our hands.  We like to sing the Itsy-Bitsy Spider while scrubbing to ensure that little hands are squeaky clean.  Moving on to the table, I have set out the cheese and tomatoes in separate medium sized plastic containers.  I have already separated the crescent rolls and laid them out on a piece of waxed paper.  One by one we add cheddar and tomatoes, and then we roll the crescents and place them on the pan.  We use our fingers as much as possible with cooking projects; my son is highly avoidant of anything sticky or gooey so it is good practice for him to get his hands working with the ingredients.  After the rolls are done cooking and are cooled we pull them open and enjoy. 
Cooking with your kiddos is a great way to get them involved in activities of daily living, help them develop motor skills and address any sensory challenges that they may have. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sensory Friendly Easter Baskets

With Easter around the corner I have been starting to see baskets pop up everywhere.  Although colorful and fun looking, most of the pre-packaged baskets wouldn’t work for little ones with sensory issues.  I have put together a list of cool items, helpful suggestions and links to websites that will help you build a fantastic Easter basket while keeping in mind the different needs of our kiddos.
Candy! I stumbled across this site while looking for suckers for my little guy that don’t contain preservatives.  From a really cool pre-packaged Easter egg or a chocolate bunny to individual candies, this shop has it all.  You will find GFCF, Feingold, Allergen Free, Vegan and Organic all in one spot.
Fidgets are ALWAYS a great stuffer for any gift.  There are multiple resources on the internet for finding some really neat ones, I like the citrus scented from Abilitations but there are some pretty fancy ones out there these days including ones that look like jewelry for the older kids.
TOPS! Spinning tops are wonderful and colorful, the smaller ones also make great fidgets.  You can find these at just about any toy store or online. 
Koosh balls!  These sticky tactile balls come in all different colors, textures and sizes. They are affordable and the perfect item to put in an Easter baskets.
Stuffed animals! A stuffed animal was always the centerpiece of the fantastic baskets my mother put together for us on Easter.  I really like weighted stuffed animals in different textures.  There are all types on the market but my son’s favorite is a stuffed monkey filled with lavender that you can heat in the microwave.  Children’s Hospital gift shop keeps these in stock regularly and they are awesome for those little ones who seek heavy input.  They are made in England by a company called Intelext.  On the web at
Rubber duckies! My son ADORES rubber duckies and has quite a collection.  You can find a wide variety of holiday themed (including Easter) duckies at
Play Putty!  Silly Putty is GF/CF safe and also comes in an egg so it really works for the Easter theme.  You can also get GF/CF friendly dough by Colorations at Discount School Supply.  For those who don’t have gluten issues, good old fashioned PlayDoh is great and comes in so many pretty colors.  Add a few Easter cookie cutters and a mini rolling pin from the dollar store and you have a perfect little gift set. 
Stickers! Stickers work for some kids, some can’t stand them.  My little guy likes to collect them, but doesn’t like them actually sticking to anything.  We collect them in a tin and take them out to look at them from time to time.  Any stickers work, but if you have a GF/CF or LATEX allergy concern, Mrs Grossmans has a ton of awesome stickers that are gluten and latex free at .
Trading Cards:  You can usually find these at the dollar store.  These are very popular with most kids, Braylon’s fave is Thomas the Train.
And don’t forget the tissue!  If traditional Easter grass is too messy or your sweetie pie just doesn’t find the texture pleasing you can always substitute with tissue paper.  I like the wax varieties, and they make a fantastic crinkling noise that your child may enjoy.