Dear autism,

NHL Sports Team MySpace Logos

Some people are visiting this note to find out how I could have misspelled Mickey and to find out how our trip to DisneyWorld was. Well I didn’t misspell and we haven’t done Disney yet…but I’d say our latest adventure was a small step for autism-kind. We scored free tickets to a Nashville Predators game from our friends over at ASMT (Autism Society of Middle Tennessee). I had never seen a hockey game and can’t say it was on my bucket list, but I really enjoy taking my brood out into the world to see what we can see and I totally count this as broadening their cultural horizons. So off we headed to downtownland and the Bridgestone Arena.

The first thing we learned about hockey is that it costs a small fortune to park anywhere near the arena. I considered hocking one of the children to pay the $20 parking fee but that would have been a waste of a ticket and Supermoms do NOT waste. So we drove around for 20 minutes and found a free meter a few blocks away. As we were piling out of the van I realized that it is winter in Nashville. I’m not sure when that happened, but I missed the memo and we had about 5 blocks to travel in 30 degree weather. The next lesson we learned about hockey is that two-year olds have lots of questions and opinions about it on the 5 block walk…and they call it “mockey”.

Mama, where are we going? What’s a mockey? I don’t want to go to the mockey! Can I have french fries in the mockey? Pick me up mama! And on and on and on, ad nauseam.

Once in the stadium and in our AWESOME row KK seats in the 117 section, mockey became VERY cool. We laughed and danced and ate popcorn and goldfish. We learned to yell, “YOU SUCK!” whenever a Phoenix coyote was mentioned by name. And we learned that nice ladies sitting in front of us do not care for autistic children pulling off their gym shoes, not wearing socks, and resting their feet on the back of her chair. Can’t say I blame her for that…unsocked toes in tennis shoes probably stink, but she eventually scooted over a few seats and turned back into a nice lady. Crisis averted.

So the predators won the game, and my oldest son got to take pictures of and get autographs from various…ahem…cheerleaders. My middle son was entranced with the jumbo-mega-tron thing, was very calmed by all the loud noises; and my baby girl danced, laughed, and ate herself silly.

I didn’t really mind that Savion randomly took his shoes off as we were waiting at a light on the walk back to the car though I didn’t notice until we were about a half block away. I did mention that it was approximately colder than a deep freezer right? It also wasn’t TOO perturbing that Sariyah screamed about half the way back to the car because I refused to carry her. We ate Taco Bell and everyone is now asleep 20 minutes after being put to bed. That mockey is all right with me…


Dear autism,

Sometimes it’s tempting to let you get me down. It’s easy to focus on the difficulties you present in our lives and sing whoa is me. I’ve definitely had my share of those days but lately I’ve run into it far too often in the Special Ed community. Pull yourselves togethers mamas, teachers, aides, bus drivers, etc! How can we set positive goals for our kiddos if we convey this chronic sense of doom and depression surrounding their lives’ prospects? I’m not talking about true chronic depression, you definitely should seek professional help if that’s you but the rest of us need to just find some darn joy! Take a few days off from therapy and take a nap! Ditch speech or ABA and go get some ice cream. Hire a snot nosed high schooler to babysit and promise them a tip if your kids are still alive when you get back. Teachers play hooky for a day! Do whatever you need to recharge your batteries and relax. The effect will trickle down in the form of kids who maybe only eat a handful of dirt instead of a gallon. Maybe they will only run halfway across the parking lot instead of 4 or 5 blocks before you can catch them. Focus on the small victories people.

*Btw…in the name of full disclosure the cup in the picture is only a 1 ounce sample cup but it’s really full though! Cheers and I’d love to hear your recharging stories!


Dear autism,
Do you remember how we started this journey?
Mournful eyes, furtive glances, and furious scribbling on notepads marked the beginning of my diagnosis meeting in August of 2008.  I had been to several screening appointments at offices in several locations, and I was starting to be very annoyed at the idea of another meeting.  But this was supposed to be “THE” meeting.   The one where they explained what happened to my happy bright boy.  Here’s the beginning of the conversation:
THEM:  “We’re sorry to report to you that your son’s diagnosis is autism.” 
ME: (just barely resisting the urge to roll my eyes)  “Duh! Now what are we going to do about it?”
Seriously.  That’s how the meeting started.  I had decided and began operating on the assumption that Savion had autism back in February of that year.  The loss of speech and eye contact seemed like obvious indicators to me.  I had already taken his diet GF, started melatonin at night, and gotten started with a speech therapist.  That’s as far as I could get without an official diagnosis.  Were they seriously going to waste my time stating the obvious?  I remember that day pretty clearly.  My husband and I had one of our last fights before the complete dissolution of our marriage that morning.  It included him explaining that we’d probably be getting evicted in 30 days or so.  I had an 8 year old son on summer vacation, a 6 month old daughter who was permanantly attached to my boob, and my formerly easygoing middle son, a few days shy of his 3rd birthday who was alternating between running laps around the room and banging toys on the floor.  In retrospect I’m proud of the way I responded.  I could have screamed the poor guy into oblivion since I was stressed way out, but I only gave him a short version of my trademark smart-alecky sarcasm.  I don’t recommend that route to new parents on the spectrum, save your smart-alecky remarks for your blogs or precious mom’s night out events that will soon be beacons of hope on your journey.  Here’s what I DO recommend to new parents on the spectrum:

1.  Fortify your stashes….of everything!  Money, babysitters, comfort food, friends, etc.  You’re going to be stressed way out for at least a little while, so make nice with everybody as much as possible for the next 48 hours.

2.  Hold a pity party…Invite friends, family, anybody you’ve been referred to, and everybody else you can think of.  This should take the form of an actual gathering, blog posts, emails, IMs, phone calls, etc.  You might be here for a while, so aren’t you glad you fortified your stashes first?!
Your best friend should be hostess and should collect everyone’s opinions, suggestions, and referrals for you and your help squad to research later.  You should be the only one in mourning at this party (ok maybe your spouse too)…everyone else is there to cheer you up, refocus your energy, and generally advocate for you and your spectrum kid
3.  Get it together…once you finish reeling, dig through all the paperwork you’ve amassed and find your 100 day kit.  http://www.autismspeaks.org/docs/family_services_docs/100_day_kit.pdf  Now start, and remember slow and steady wins the race.  Keep great records or find someone who will do that for you.  There are great sheets to show you how at the end of the 100 day kit.  
4.  Go for glory…trust your gut when deciding what to try and not try.  Your budget is going to be stretched to the max, your mind will wander often (especially if you’ve got typical kids too), and your disposition will range from super sunny on your hopeful days to uber ugly after sleepless nights and marathon meltdowns.  Read about it, talk about it, and then make a choice.  Don’t be afraid to be wrong because you will be….OFTEN!   Hey the suits and docs haven’t figured this thing out either, so you’re in good company. 
Think back to all the hopes and dreams you had for your child while you were pregnant, just after giving birth, and right before diagnosis.  They might change a little depending on your kids abilities, but guess what?  They always do…for all parents!  So shoot for the stars…I’ll spare you the cheesy quote to end this blog; go get busy being SuperMoms (and Dads)!
Savi's smile
Savi’s smile

Dear autism,

Rocking chairs rock!  (pun only partially intended)  There are so few things that I can actually tell give Savi joy.  He’s non verbal and notoriously hard to read.  But on this day, I knew without a doubt that he was happy.  I wasn’t even really mad when he removed the two bars shown in this picture about 20 minutes later.  Doesn’t everyone like to redecorate?  You should let us have more days like this together…don’t u have relatives in Antarctica to visit?  Stay as LONG as you’d like.  Really!
1st day home

1st day home

Dear autism,
I was thinking back over the last three years today.  This picture is of Savi’s 1st day home from the hospital.  Who would have thought we’d be where we are today?  Back then I didn’t even know what autism was.  I just knew that I had another perfect little baby and big bright dreams for his future.  Today those dreams have changed a little, and that’s ok; we are flexible.  But they aren’t any less big and bright.  I can’t wait for him to say his first words, drive a car, go off to college, get married, and give me grandchildren.  Now his life may not play itself out this way, but heck his typically developing sibs may not either!  Today I’m grateful for my boy JUST THE WAY HE IS…and you can never take that away from me.

Dear autism,

I’ve been thinking about starting this blog for a year now.  I let my fear of you paralyze this dream, but no longer!   It is my hope that many other families with members on the spectrum find great info, get great laughs, and develop great relationships on and off line.  I recognize that each family’s experience will be different, but I am also confident that by bonding together we can have a stronger voice toward our common goal: The best possible life for everyone on the spectrum.  Happy reading!