Thursday, August 21, 2014

Would YOU Have Taken Advantage of an Opportunity Like This To Raise #Autism Awareness Around You?!?

I was approached almost a year ago about being featured in the online magazine, Leaders Across America*, as a spotlight on my Advocacy for Autism. This project was supposed to have been published in April 2014 so, it was a pleasant surprise when I was notified that it had finally launched this afternoon. I hope that whether you know me, or not, that you understand this was an effort to raise awareness, understanding and acceptance of individuals with Autism, in both our surrounding communities and in the social media outlets. Please share this article with anyone you want and know that together we can help everyone #ThinkDifferently about #Autism! 
*You will save some time looking for my article if you enter my first name "Lorrie" just below the magazine and click "go".

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nathan's Voice is hosting a Virtual Book Tour Stop for "My Peace Place"!

A Parent on My Peace Place - Guest Post by Mari L. Barnes

Today, FlyingTurtle Publishing’s destination is Nathan’s Voice, created and administered by Lorrie Servati. In addition to her roles as wife, mother and “Nana,” Lorrie is a dedicated Autism Advocate. In April 2012, Nathan’s Voice was nominated as one of the “Top 10 Autism Blogs of 2012”! 

How does My Peace Place relate to autism? Tammy Hastings left a comment on Flying Turtle’s Facebook page. She thought the book would be beneficial to her daughter, Katelyn, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Tammy’s post opened my eyes to new possibilities for helping children.



My co-author, Lori Bortnick was the catalyst for this book. For more than 15 years, Lori has been an early childhood educator in inner-city schools. She sees the effects of environmental stress on very young kids every day. Lori wanted to create a book that encouraged children to practice self-regulation — calming, comforting and centering themselves.

Tammy agreed to share some thoughts about My Peace Place.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I am 41 years old, I had Katelyn when I was 36; she is an only child. I love to read when I get the time, most of my time is spent playing or taking care of Katelyn's needs.

2. What would you like us to know about Katelyn?

Katelyn has autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder. She is verbal, can read and write and is very sociable.

3. What kinds of activities do you and Katelyn enjoy?

We paint, go swimming and play at the park. She loves pretend play with her Barbies and stuffed animals. We read stories and sing songs.

4. What causes stress reactions for Katelyn?

Katelyn gets easily stressed out about certain TV commercials and shows. She doesn't like yelling or fighting even if it's just pretend. Or loud noises such as sirens, fire drills at preschool, motorcycles and fireworks. She is very sociable, but will sometimes get stressed out at large gatherings of people.

5. What did Katelyn most enjoy about My Peace Place?

Katelyn really enjoyed the rhyming. She loves to rhyme and tries to make words rhyme all the time.

6. Do you and Katelyn have a favorite technique from?

I just think the whole book is wonderful in trying to teach children about coping skills. Katelyn has a very hard time understanding and processing coping skills. With this book being a rhyming book, it is something that Katelyn loves and very much takes an interest in. It therefore allows her to understand and process the meanings a little easier.

Thanks for your insights, Tammy and thanks for sharing My Peace Place with Katelyn’s class.

As they grow, children continue to benefit by the knowledge that they have the power to control the anxiety caused by stress. They learn that they don’t need to look outside of themselves for peace. Here’s to helping our children grow in confidence!

Mari L Barnes writes for children under the pen name of Mari Lumpkin and for adults as ML Barnes. Her books, Parting River Jordan and Crossing River Jordan are proof that church can be funny. Mari’s company, Flying Turtle Publishing, specializes in books that families can share. Be sure to check out Flying Turtle Publishing on Facebook and follow @flyingturtlepub on Twitter!

Click here to find out how to get a Flying Turtle Publishing’s Blanket Fort Club certificate for your child. PLUS, subscribe to Turtle Talk and you’ll automatically be entered to WIN a $10 Amazon Gift Card in our monthly drawing.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I'm the Proud Aunt of the 2014-15 GNHA Queen in Support of #Autism

It is with immense pride that I write this article, in recognition of my niece, Rachel Nunley, who has matured into a beautiful young lady. She has always been extremely dedicated to her family, her friends and everything in which she becomes involved such as playing softball, being a cheerleader, taking care of and the showing of her animals. Rachel has shown that she is also committed when it comes to raising awareness for the causes which hold importance to her. She, along with her mother, who is my younger sister, and the rest of their family have been a great support to me since my youngest son was diagnosed with Autism six years ago. It has been a long journey like nothing our family would have ever imagined but, it has made me a better person and I am grateful for the chance to be my son's advocate!


Over the last year, Rachel has been spending her weekends at the arenas with her horses running poles and barrels in preparation for the competition in late July 2014. My niece has also been competing as one of two candidates for queen to be crowned at the completion of the July 2014 GNHA Finals at the Lawton Coliseum. When Rachel was recently asked how does one win the title of GNHA Queen, she answered "By having an outstanding appearance, personality, speaking skills, and horsemanship. The queen candidate gets judged in all those areas for a year and the one with the most points wins."


My sister, Rachel's mother, was her personal seamstress and creator of the numerous themed eye-catching western shirts w/ matching saddle pads & gear for her horses to match her during the competitions. My niece was dressing in Autism themed apparel & riding in honor of my youngest son, Nathan, with her horse's matching saddle pad stating "in honor of Nate the Great". These items were worn during the arena event in April supporting Autism Awareness Month but, the big showing of her support was during the week of the July 2014 GNHA Finals when all of the districts came together in competition against each other. 



Rachel and her family have done so mush to raise awareness for Autism. They handed out more than 100 handmade buttons that either displayed a picture of my son, Nathan and/or one with a multi-colored rose on a white background with the words Autism Awareness on them during the week of the July 2014 GNHA (Grand Nationals Horseman Association) Finals. It is an amazing feeling to have the support of my teenage niece in such a public and widespread manner!! Kudos to my sister, Heather, and her husband, Danny, for an excellent job of raising Rachel and instilling responsibility, compassion and integrity in her and each of her siblings, Kaitlin and Daniel. 


The same week that Rachel was participating in the GNHA Finals at the Lawton Coliseum, Nathan, his brother, Vincent and I were attending the 3rd annual Autism day Camp C.A.N.O.E. located at CampFire Heart of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. I drove the boys to Lawton to take pictures with Rachel and her horse, Skip. It was a great experience to actually get to see my niece in the western shirts that my sister had made, get pictures of the boys with her, her horse with his matching saddle pad, and spend some time with her and my sister's family at dinner before heading back to Oklahoma City. Nathan and Vincent excitedly told everyone about our trip at Autism camp the next day.


My niece, Rachel, has probably spent almost every weekend over the last year participating in GNHA Playday events hosted by participating districts around her area. She also had to do public speaking, socially interact with all the members of each GNHA district and dress up in the beautifully hand-made western shirts for each of these events. Just a few days after our visit, my niece was chosen to represent GNHA as the 2014-2015 Queen. She has really matured over the last year in becoming a candidate for the title of the 2014-2015 GNHA Queen. I am extremely proud of her accomplishment and dedication to such a time-consuming schedule. If anyone ever deserved the recognition of the time that she dedicated to this year-long endeavor, it is definitely my niece, Rachel. This is something to celebrate and, hopefully, it will inspire someone that needs the courage to do something in their life that they have put on hold or haven't started. 


Please share this article with someone you know. It would mean so much to our family to be able to reach as many people as possible through the story of what my niece accomplished and how she chose to raise awareness for Autism in her surrounding community. It takes a special person to commit to such a task and have the stamina to follow it through to the end. I'm not sure that I could have been able to do something as extraordinary as what Rachel has done. She has officially become my family's superhero.


To read the essay that Rachel wrote for Autism Awareness, please check out where I shared it on my Facebook page here. You never know who you may come in contact with that might know someone, or have someone in their life that has some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Sharing it with them may just be what they need to realize that they and their family are not alone! If you are not sure but, you think that your child may, or may not, have Autism, please take a few minutes to check out another article, Autism How-To Guide for Parents, which I wrote for an online parenting community a few years ago. Thank you again for taking the time to support a cause so close to my heart and one that is becoming an epidemic across our nation.



If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can find me at @NathansVoice and @MissMaryMackOKC. I frequent other sites such as LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+, as well. My email address is Lorrie@AutismOklahoma.org and I always look forward to hearing from anyone looking for available resources in their local community. 

~Lorrie Servati

Monday, July 21, 2014

Visit the Executive Broadcasting Channel for my #Autism Podcast!

It is only in the effort of raising the awareness, understanding and acceptance of all individuals with Autism that I share the following podcast which was recorded a few weeks ago.  If YOU would share it with everyone you know, I appreciate it. Support #Autism in your community!! Thank you! 

If you would like to contact me, please do so by emailing me directly at Lorrie@AutismOklahoma.org any time. I will respond to your email as soon as I possibly can. You may also check out the wonderful grassroots nonprofit that I'm affiliated with, as the local AutismOKC.org support group coordinator, at AutismOklahoma.org, as well. It's always nice to hear that the resources being provided are helpful to those in the community, online and local. It is my goal to continue raising #AutismAwareness in everything I do, everywhere I go and with everyone I speak with. Would YOU take a few minutes to help me? I look forward to hearing from you, if you have the time. Thank you for supporting the cause!

Friday, July 11, 2014

#Autism Awareness, Life Decisions and Tattoos, Oh My!

This is an amazing story which might surprise you. Tattoos have intrigued me as far back as my teenage years but, the promise of pain lingered at the surface of my dreams. I have never liked needles and I cringed every time I had to get a shot. I used to have to get allergy shots when I was in first grade. I wasn't the least bit disappointed when I didn't have to be a human pin cushion any longer. IF I ever decided to get a tattoo, I wanted to make sure it would symbolize something of great importance in my life because it would be on my body forever. 

I don't consider myself as the type of individual to flaunt. I will share about every acheivement that my family receives because I am intensely proud of them. I am a cheerleader for each of my children but, I try not to go overboard. With the exception of Nathan, all of my children had made the decision to accept Christ in their life. We are thrilled because he chose to make that important decision during this year's VBS event and he then followed through by being baptised this last Sunday morning. I accepted Christ while attending a youth camp when I was eleven years old, the same age as Nathan. 

Music has always been an important part of my life, especially growing up. Besides reading my Bible, it was the only other thing that I could count on to calm me during difficult times and wouldn't harm me. I grew up listening to artists like Elvis Presley, Barbara Mandrell, Kenny Rogers, the Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, Tony Orlando & Dawn and Captain & Tennille but, I eventually gravitated towards the desire to be surrounded by only positive stimulus. I tried to focus on those things which were uplifting to my spirit, in order for me to survive and succeed in life. It wasn't always easy to accomplish, with the unidentified challenges which riddled my childhood but, I managed to rise above it. That's a completely different story...possibly for a book.

Our family struggled for several years before our youngest son, Nathan, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders almost seven years ago. It has been quite an adventure, to say the least! It is not enough to say that the experience has made me a better person. I am more in tune to what is going on around me, I can identify with other parents when their child is being challenged in particular situations and I have learned more about myself than before my own son was diagnosed. Nathan, his brother, their father and I love to listen to KLOVE radio station 88.9 FM when we are in the car but, it was also what we played for both of our boys at bedtime when they were much younger. Nathan is like me, not only because the music calms him but, because he also shares the love of singing meaningful songs, whenever he gets the chance. Nathan and his older brother Vincent have matured so much in the last several years. Their father and I, as well as the rest of our family, are extremely proud of them and their many accomplishments.

Timing was a major factor in deciding when to get my tattoo. I wasn't "gung ho" or "raring at the bit" to get something permanent emblazoned on any part of my body. What actually motivated me to make an appointment with a tattoo parlor would probably surprise you. It was in April when I shared a Facebook post promoting an event which would benefit our grassroots nonprofit AutismOklahoma.org when someone got a tattoo in support of Autism Awareness Month. I didn't realize it but, that qualified me an entry into a drawing for a $100 gift certificate to be used for services at Voodoo Tattoo. It didn't take me very long to figure it out, especially when they tagged me in a Facebook post as the winner!

I had been working on another design for several years which was supposed to be an interlocking chain of different colored puzzle pieces to look similar to an ankle bracelet. That particular design seemed to be quite popular and I was rethinking what I wanted in my one of a kind tattoo. I decided to scrap my original design and start fresh. In the last few days leading up to my appointment, I tossed around several ideas while trying make a decision on a particular design. I finally went with a stylish cross that had plenty of characteristic, a purple (my favorite color) puzzle piece placed tastefully on the lower half of the cross with musical notes circling the cross in an upward motion. I hope you enjoyed the story of how I came to a decision, on what I wanted in the design for my personal tattoo.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Nathan Made An Important Decision In His Life With #Autism


     Almost two weeks ago, Vincent and I worked together as volunteers at the Vacation Bible School which eleven year old Nate attended. This particular VBS is open to children from preschool up to those entering sixth grade. Because Vincent will be a seventh grader this fall, he had two choices: joining the youth group which he still considered himself an outsider, or volunteering alongside me as a transporter to help groups of children make it through the daily schedule of VBS. I would have liked it if he had chosen to join the youth group but, Vincent chose to be a role model for those children in which we maneuvered through the halls of the church for VBS as a team. I have to admit that I witnessed an older and mature Vincent than the one that attended VBS last year.

     As you can see, I love talking about my children. At VBS last year, Nate was close to making the decision to accept Jesus but, he was still trying to process what it all meant. I wasn't about to pressure him before he was ready. He needed to make that commitment on his own. Vincent had made the decision a few years earlier, has been a very patient, older brother to Nate and made countless compromises in order to help his younger brother. It was during the Bible Study portion of last Wednesday's VBS rotation that our eleven year old Nate chose to stand up and follow through on what he started last summer. 

     I immediately followed Nate to the hallway, where I asked him if he wanted me to accompany him, letting him know he was not alone if he was looking for someone to advocate for him. He told me that he wanted me to go with him to make sure he understood everything. I pushed back the tears which filled my eyes and gladly followed him and the man from the church to a room to confirm my son's decision. I found out later that he is the Minister of Missions for the church where Nate attended VBS. 

     His father, myself, the rest of our family and close friends are proud of the decision that Nathan has made to put Christ first in his life. Our family has been a member of one church for over ten years. The only reason that we are visiting this church is to give the boys an opportunity to fellowship with peers their age. It is regrettable that our home church does not have any children, especially boys, their age. Our primary goal is for them to find friendship among other young gentlemen in a church which we can call our home.  

     Nathan is scheduled to be baptised this coming Sunday during the morning church service. By the time most of you read this post, he will have recorded that in the front of his new Bible that I took him to pick out just after his decision almost two weeks ago. Both him and his older brother are old enough to know what to look for in a Bible and what is easiest for them to understand. I am so proud to know that even with their challenges, they have been able to comprehend everything that they have been taught over the last ten years. These two young men are continuously making significant and consistent progress in everything they have before them. Their father and I know that both Nathan and his brother will be able to accomplish anything they put their mind to!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Preventing Our Children with #Autism from Wandering At All Costs


If you have read any of the posts from when I started blogging three years ago, you may have noticed that this is not the first time that I have written about the topic of wandering among individuals with autism. I consider it important enough to re-post with our Independence Day just around the corner. Please take the time to read this post and share the information with your loved ones, friends and everyone in the autism community. I would like to see it everywhere in the social media to help protect and prevent our special needs children becoming a statistic over the summer and especially during the Independence Day weekend. Thank you for your support! 

                                                                                          Lorrie



     When we were younger everything used to function at a much slower pace. We didn't have all the obligations that we have multi-tasked into existence. Now our days are slammed-packed full of schedules for work, school and all sorts of doctor's appointments. That's not counting the scheduled & unscheduled trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or health food store for our families. And it's so very easy for us to get distracted with the new technology that we use around the clock to communicate with each other. When you add in a child or adult with special needs, the chances of that individual wandering off increase dangerously.


     Wandering is not a subject to be taken lightly, by any means. It happens more often than just the particular instances we might hear about through the media, facebook or twitter. Every time I hear about a child wandering, it makes me check in on my own young children, sometimes more than once, during the night. I immediately start sharing as many details as I possibly can about the missing child on various networks while praying for the child's safe return to their family.

     Seriously, children and adults with the autism spectrum disorder are twice as likely to wander off, succumb to prolonged exposure and probable drowning. Individuals with ASD tend to wander because they are either looking to get closer to something of interest or away from something that is bothering them. A few examples of places they might be drawn to could be a neighbor's pool, signs they might possibly recognize that leads to a local amusement park or somewhere they have happy memories of spending time. Danger is constantly lurking around the corner, just waiting for victims.

     Everyone loves family picnics or gatherings at the lake but, many times a child on the spectrum may want to escape an overload of sensory input or something that is agitating them. It is automatically assumed, that with all the people around, that the child or adult with autism would be safe. Clearly, it is impossible to guarantee that an unforeseen distraction won't provide the opportunity to an over-stimulated child or adult on the autism spectrum to wander off without notice. Wandering in children & adults with autism tends to increase in new, unfamiliar or unsecured environments such as visiting a friend's or relative's home. These situations may trigger wandering, as well as episodes of distress, meltdowns or certain anxieties in a child, or adult, with autism. Especially in warmer months, when it's natural to be and play outside.

     In dealing with our son, we have found that having a particular person with him at all times works the best. It's like being on an assignment with the secret service, you're not allowed to leave your post until you have secured a replacement. That way there's never a question as to where he is. Most of the time, Nathan is right beside me, holding my hand, or at least within arms reach of one of us. If we are at home, he may be in his own room but, the front and backdoor deadbolts are always locked and I am constantly aware of what he is doing. His room is the one place where he can relax and have control of his surroundings.

     I can't say that Nathan hasn't ever given us a scare. Approximately seven years ago, my daughter and oldest son had just spent the afternoon swimming in our above ground pool but, had forgotten to remove the ladder when they were finished. We had just walked around the corner to the side garage door for a few seconds when we heard that unmistakable "splash"! Nathan had decided that he didn't want to wait until Daddy came home when we said he could swim. I have always had a rule where I would never take Vincent & Nathan swimming by myself, especially before they had learned to swim. Unfortunately, Nathan had already noticed the ladder and being way too young to understand how dangerous it was, had climbed up it, with his cardboard flip-book in his hand, and jumped in! I am so very thankful that we were nearby when Nathan decided to go swimming and that he had learned to tread water!! When his sister and I got to him, he had his head above water. He looked surprised at both what he had accomplished and that we were dragging him out of his impromptu dip in the pool. I hate to think what might have happened if we hadn't heard that "splash"and been able to pull him to safety when we did. That was an eye-opener for all of us that day. It didn't matter that the little cardboard book or the cell phone in my pocket had to be replaced, only that our precious 4 year old Nathan was alive!

     Another instance of Nathan wandering, that I was not a directly involved in, was while he was at his elementary school. Out of loyalty and respect of everyone at our school, I will not being sharing specifics. Nathan had been in one of the portables for his scheduled lab time and, when it was over, had wandered around to the front of the building. Nathan had been trusted to return to his class and had gotten distracted by the great outdoors. Thanks to one of the school secretaries, she found him standing on the grass, under a shade tree, twenty yards from the front door of the school. The experience was one that our school doesn't want to have happen ever again. It was very terrifying to even think of him trying to walk the mile and a half home or him being picked up by a stranger! I found an opportunity later that afternoon, without any unwanted distractions, and I explained to Nathan the danger of a child going off anywhere on their own without an adult.

     For more information about how we can protect our children, please feel free to visit AWAARE. There are many resources on that website, as well others not mentioned, that can be utilized to prepare, prevent and protect a child that might wander. Have a safe and wonderful Independence Day weekend with your family.