Saturday, December 20, 2014

Make an End of Year Donation to Support Our #Autism Team @NathansVoice and the 2015 AutismOklahoma @PieceWalk & 5K

Most of you know, our #Autism Team "Nathan's Voice" hosts the annual AutismOKC Christmas Store for families with children on the autism spectrum. This fundraiser was started to give families of special needs children, particularly those whom have been diagnosed with Autism (ASD), the opportunity to shop for gifts in a non-retail environment. The children, their parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, caregivers and friends will be able to browse and purchase items from the Christmas Store without the crowded stores and in a family-friendly atmosphere. We also offer to wrap all gifts purchased during this event and ALL monies raised through the annual Christmas Store goes towards the annual AutismOklahoma PieceWalk that our family team, Nathan's Voice, is fundraising for to benefit the families affected by autism across Oklahoma.    

It's NOT too late to make an end of year donation to support our efforts and make a HUGE difference in the lives of those families affected by autism. Even though the annual AutismOKC Christmas Store was this last week, we still need YOUR HELP to reach those that would most benefit from being able to purchase items through our annual event. We would appreciate your assistance in getting the word out about what we are doing to provide families with the opportunity to avoid the crowded and over-stimulating malls, by giving them a family-friendly and non-retail environment for individuals with autism to shop for their loved ones. By providing them with an alternative, we hope that each individual, and their family, walks away with an enjoyable and memorable experience. 

Anyone whom would like to check out and support the efforts of our Elite Team may email me at to inform me of your intent to make a donation towards our team "Nathan's Voice". All donations made to our family team will benefit the annual AutismOklahoma PieceWalk scheduled for the first Saturday in May. The monies will then be awarded as grants and distributed to help fund research, education, technology, growing social groups within our grassroots nonprofit and help provide Family Fun Night events, through our various support groups, for the many families in the autism community across the state of Oklahoma.

Please consider how much your end of year donation will help to reach those families in the community, affected by autism and connect them to a growing grassroots and established nonprofit such as! Making an end of year donation is also a wonderful way for companies to show their support of individuals with special needs. If you are not familiar with what autism is, check out the FAQs on the AutismOklahoma website. You will also want to look at the many ways your donation will help our efforts. Thank YOU for taking the time to follow our family team "Nathan's Voice" and supporting us in raising awareness of the many social groups that the grassroots nonprofit makes possible for the families across the state!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Please Help Our Family Team, Nathan's Voice, by Making a Donation to Our 2nd Annual #AutismOKC Christmas Store and/or Volunteering at the Event!

Team Nathan's Voice will be hosting the annual AutismOKC Christmas Store for families with children on the autism spectrum. This fundraiser was started to give families of special needs children, particularly those whom have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, the opportunity to shop for gifts in a non-retail environment. The children, their parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, caregivers and friends will be able to browse and purchase items from the Christmas Store without the crowded stores and in a family-friendly atmosphere. We will also wrap all gifts purchased during this event and ALL monies raised through the upcoming 2014 Christmas Store will go towards the 2015 AutismOklahoma PieceWalk that our family team, Nathan's Voice, is fundraising for to benefit the families affected by autism across Oklahoma.    

The upcoming AutismOKC Christmas Store will be this Thursday, December 18th between 6:30pm - 8:30pm at St. Luke's United Methodist Church, located at 222 NW 15th Street, near downtown Oklahoma City. Anyone whom would like to check out and support may email me at to register for the event, volunteer to help us in assisting each of our shoppers (any age welcome) and/or make a donation towards the event. All proceeds from the items purchased through the AutismOKC Christmas Store will filter through our family team, Nathan's Voice, which is hosting the event and benefit the annual AutismOklahoma PieceWalk scheduled for the first Saturday in May. The monies will then be awarded as grants to help fund research, education, technology, social groups within our nonprofit
 and help provide Family Fun Night events, through our various support groups, for the many families in the autism community across the state of Oklahoma.

We appreciate everyone who has been following our posts. We look forward to hearing from anyone who has the time to contact us! Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Was Absolutely Thrilled to Have My Eleven Year Old Son Accompany Me to the Annual Oklahoma Statewide #Autism Conference for the 2nd Year!

Nothing makes me happier than having had Nathan, my eleven year old son, accompany me to the Oklahoma Statewide Autism Conference for the second year in a row. Last year, it was at the Reed Conference Center in Midwest City but, I was glad that it was going to be at the Embassy Suites in Norman this year. The first time I attended the Oklahoma Statewide Autism Conference, in 2011 at the Embassy Suites in Norman, was a major turning point in my life, and that in my family's journey alongside Nathan. It was an amazing experience to be able to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorders, with other parents and have access to all of the resources available at this event.

Every year, that I attend the Oklahoma Statewide Autism Conference, the event is always better than the one from the year before. Even though I'm a leader of the AutismOKC parent support group, a paraprofessional in the public school system and a college student pursuing my teacher certificate in Special Education, I started out as the parent of a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). It is extremely important for me to remember how we started our journey, before and after our youngest son was diagnosed on the spectrum. One of the reasons I started blogging was to document the successes we celebrated, as well as the challenges we faced as a family, while literally following a road map written in invisible ink!

As we approach the holidays, please remember to reach out and share something positive with someone you know. It is critical for those around us know how important they are in our family support system. I'm thankful for each and every person in my family, everyone in my husband's family and our many wonderful friends. If it wasn't for them supporting us as they have from the beginning, our family would not be where we are today! So, take the time to either set that lunch date, make that call or send that message to that special person who has taken the time to show their support to your family. It will make all of the difference in the world for them to hear how important he or she has been to your family's journey! If YOU have a unique way of honoring those who support you, please take a moment to share with us in the comment section below. I always look forward to hearing from our readers and supporters!! Also, if you would like to share something that you have learned to make Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other family tradition a success, please email me at with the details. Your tips, tricks and/or wisdom could be our next featured guest post! My family hopes that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with your family!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Let's Make a Change in the Statistics by Becoming Supportive of Each Other and by Reaching Out to the #Autism Families in our Surrounding Community

I am always shocked when I hear about a story like the one that has been in the news the last few weeks. My first response is that if this mom had a family member and/or friend in the community, she might have been able to cope with whatever overwhelming feeling that she was experiencing at the time, and have been able to avoid this whole unfortunate situation. I am not making excuses for this mother, or any other individual who has made an unforgivable choice as she has made. I'm just reminding us that all parents of special needs children have felt overwhelmed and/or isolated at one time or another and need the support of those around us! It is important that we all have someone that is close enough to us to make sure that we get the "Me" time that we need, whether it is weekly, twice a week or maybe after the children are in bed each night.

Even though we are occasionally faced with some of the most challenging situations, we are all personally responsible for our actions and the decisions that we make. There is absolutely no excuse for any parent to let his, or her, feelings of despair build up to the point that they don't reach out for help, or assistance, before taking the life of the person they feel is causing their world to close in on them. Most of you know exactly what story I am referring to. It is devastating to read the details of such a story and it takes everything for me to not scream at the individual who took the life of the very child who loved and trusted her to protect him. It infuriates me, it saddens me but, it reminds me how very thankful that I am because I have such a loving husband that supports my physical health, as well as my mental health. I know that I can depend on him to tell me when I need a break. 

Everyone needs someone who they can talk to and with about what's going on in their life, whether it's good or bad. Who do you have? If you can't answer that question, please reach out to and make contact with the person you trust the most, or contact your local community parenting assistance center. Please don't let you and your family become a statistic like the family which I have mentioned. You are too important to those family members, and friends around you, to not take care of yourself and enjoy the life you have been given! Take a moment and read one of my previous posts, "Pockets of Patience", for some ideas on how to handle stress. Grab some tissues and be prepared for a walk down memory lane with me! If you have time, please leave me a comment below. I always look forward to hearing from my readers and featuring a special story of survival on my autism resource blog.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

If YOU are a Parent of a Child with #Autism or #SpecialNeeds, "QR Code iD" is now "If I Need Help" and a 501 (c)(3) charity YOU Really Need To Check Out!!

It is an honor to be invited back to Nathan’s Voice. So much has happened since being here last. To start with we have changed our name from QR Code iD to If I Need Help and have become a 501(c)(3) charity.  

As you may recall our son Jay has Autism and was lost a couple times in the past so we wanted to create a way to communicate for him.  Our solution was to make personal wearable QR codes.  When the code is scanned or manually entered into the site a profile appears.  It has a picture, name, contact, emergency and behavioral info along with a password protected secure section where more personal and medical records can be stored.  All of the info can be edited in real time.  For instance when my son went on field trips with his day camp I just added his aide’s number as a contact and deleted it afterwards.

Also, a new feature is that you can send the profile to others in an Emergency email when a search is needed. We have been offering the codes on patches, pins, clips and adhesives. Already people who were lost have been reunited with their families because someone saw their code and used it to contact the family. The most recent one was on Halloween. The Mom put the patch on the back of her son’s costume. While trick or treating, he was separated from his parents and ended up with another group of kids. The Mom of that group started asking him about himself. He could say his name, and half of his phone number, but he could not say his address at all. She saw the If I Need Help patch and used it. He was back with his Dad in under 10 minutes. The boy has Epilepsy requires medication often. His Mom was relieved to have him back so quickly.

ID cards have just become available after months of development!! An If I Need Help member with high functioning Autism struggles with anxiety attacks. Even though she is usually conversational these attacks escalate rendering her unable to communicate. People around her do not know what is happening or how to help her so she has experienced some bad situations. She encouraged us to make the iD cards. They are custom made with name, number and bullet points that are printed along with the personal QR code. About a month ago she felt an attack coming on so she handed her card to a staff person who did exactly as the card instructed her and it worked more smoothly than she ever expected.

We are in the process of adding iD tags for shoes and necklaces (military style, etc.) and for key chains.  

For a limited time, we would like to offer a free patch to families, who follow Nathan's Voice autism resource blog, when they do the free sign up. On the 2nd line of the address section, write "Nathan's Voice" along with the color choice of one of the following colors: blue, green, red, grey, or white. This offer will expire the end of 2014 and we hope YOU will take advantage of the offer NOW!!! Also, PLEASE take the time to share this post with others in the social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, etc.) which you frequently visit! 

Please contact me if you have any questions or comments or if we can help out.

Erin Wilson
A 501 (c)(3) Non-Profit Organization
Twitter: @qrcodeid1

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bullying Prevention Should Be Year Round, Not Just in the Month of October

It is no secret that I have made some great friends through social media networking over the last several years. One of those special relationships is with the Founders and Owners of Sentio Life Solutions, Ltd and Special Needs Book Review, Lorna d'Entremont and her daughter, Pierrette d'Entremont. I had the privilege, and my first experience, of participating in a Tweetchat on The Coffee Klatch with Lorna, shortly after having made connections with her in the summer of 2011.

Lorna and Pierrette have definitely made me feel welcome by rolling out the red carpet in featuring my guest post, Neutralizing Negative Messaging about Children with Autismon their Special Needs Blog. Please take a moment to stop by to read it, and then take a look around their site before returning to check out mine. Have a fabulous week and be sure to #share this post with someone you know in the special needs community!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

If YOU are a Parent, Caregiver, Service Professional or an Educator of a Child on the #Autism Spectrum in #Oklahoma, Mark Your Calendar for this Event!

As a parent of a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), I have made it my goal to raise awareness, understanding and acceptance of individuals like my adolescent son. I have spent many hours volunteering in my son's classroom and the office at his school so that I was in close by if needed to assist his Teachers. I eventually became a supply teacher, or what is better known as a substitute teacher. Most of my assignments started out in Special Education at a local middle school but, I wanted to be more involved in my son's elementary school. The support of others prompted me to pursue my certification as a Paraprofessional, or what is better known as a special needs personal assistant. It was through the numerous changes in this journey that I decided to return to college to acquire my certification to become a Special Education Teacher. The crazy-paced and calendar-challenged schedule that I have taken on is not one I would have even considered ten years ago. I have to remind myself that once I have achieved my teaching certificate; my time will be redirected to maintaining my classroom, instead of the hours of college classes it took for me to get to there.

Our family has made use of the various resources that are available in the community, but, we know that it isn't always easy to locate everything that we need. It is important to know where to look for assistance or support. I am extremely fortunate to have a network of resources available to me as a parent and the Coordinator. As a parent, I know how difficult it can be to attend certain functions or events, like the upcoming Oklahoma Statewide Autism Conference, that offer the chance to collect the information about these resources. If you can afford to register and take off work for the event, I strongly encourage you to do so. The magnitude of the experience is epic, until its record in your memory is replaced by next year's experience! I will be writing more about this in the next few weeks, so be sure to check back or subscribe to follow my blog through emails. You never know, YOU may know someone who may benefit from the information being shared through our blog. 

I have been working to create a Community Resource Fair for Parents, Caregivers, Service Professionals and Educators of Children who have Autism, or those children whom are in the stages of being diagnosed. This event is just around the corner and is being hosted by

at St. Luke's United Methodist Church, located at 222 NW 15th Street, near downtown Oklahoma City on Thursday, October 23, 2014 between 6:30pm - 8:30pm. This particular Community Resource Fair will offer information from a variety of resources in our surrounding community shown in the image below: 

For more information about the AutismOKC Community Resource Fair, to volunteer to help us during the event or to register your child for childcare so that you can check out the resources, please email by no later than Monday, October 20, 2014 so that we can confirm childcare coverage for your family. We appreciate your help sharing the information on this event with anyone you know who might be interested in attending it, and we look forward to seeing YOU at the upcoming AutismOKC Community Resource Fair!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Shining a Spotlight on A Great Camp for Children with #Autism to Attend"

If you live in Oklahoma, and have a child with Autism, you may already heard about or at least know about Camp C.A.N.O.E. which is located just southwest of Frontier City on I-35, on Hefner Road. Please read the article which I wrote about this awesome week-long, day-camp, that offers children with Autism Spectrum Disorders an opportunity to enjoy the same outdoor experience as the other children who attend the summer camps at Camp DaKaNi through CampFire Heart of Oklahoma. I encourage you to #share it with someone you know, whether it be a friend or family member, because there is a chance that they may know a family touched by Autism or Aspergers.

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 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 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 support group coordinator, at, 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 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! 


     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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Does Your Special Needs Family Practice Water Safety?

A day at the beach, lake or pool can be a great way to beat the summer heat. Before you make a splash this summer, make sure you know basic water safety tips to keep you and your loved ones safe. 
How much do you know, and practice, when it comes to water safety? Unfortunately, there are many dangerous misconceptions that adults unconsciously pass on to children and other family members. It is unsettling how many people reportedly answered the following questions inaccurately:

  1. One way to keep young children safe in the water when you can’t stay close by is to have them wear inflatable arm bands or “water wings.” FALSE Inflatables, such as water wings, swim rings or other floatation devices, are not substitutes for U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets. Weak and inexperienced swimmers should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets and remain under constant supervision. [1]
  2. It’s okay to swim without a lifeguard present if you are swimming with a buddy. FALSE Buddies alone are not enough to keep swimmers safe. Swimmers should swim only in designated swimming areas supervised by lifeguards. 
  3. It’s okay to read a magazine or talk on the phone while supervising children in the water. FALSE Parents and guardians should always actively supervise children whenever they are in or around water, staying within arm’s reach of young children and avoiding distractions, even when lifeguards are present. 
  4. This is the right order of actions to take if you see someone drowning: shout for help, reach or throw a rescue or flotation device, call 9-1-1 if needed. TRUE A whopping 93 percent of respondents were unable to identify the correct order of these actions if they were to see someone drowning. If you see a swimmer in distress, shout for help, reach or throw a rescue or flotation device, call 9-1-1 if needed.
  5. All of these signs can indicate a swimmer in trouble: Doggie paddling with no forward progress, hanging onto a safety line, floating on his/her back and waving arms. TRUE All of these signs can indicate a swimmer is in trouble. More than a third of Americans didn’t know these signs. A person may scream or splash, but quite often people who are in trouble in the water cannot or do not call out for help. They spend their energy trying to keep their head above water to get a breath.
All of my children (and grandchildren) love to play in the bathtub, swimming pool, lake and anywhere there is water. Before anyone in my special needs family is allowed to get into the water, or go anywhere near water, they have "water rules" they have to follow:
  • The only way for you, or anyone else, to go into the water is for me to supervise your play time in the water. 
  • Make sure that you use the bathroom, and grab your beach towel, before getting ready to play in the water.
  • Be safe and walk slow when you are near water of any kind such as a pool, bathroom or any slick surface.
  • Treat everyone as you want them to treat you. If you do not want to be splashed, do not splash anyone else. 
  • If you have, or someone else has, a problem while playing in the water, tell me immediately so that I can help.
  • When we tell you it is time to get out, there is no arguing allowed. If you decide to argue, no more water time.
Even if you have similar water safety rules for your family to follow, there is always the need to make sure you are prepared for the unexpected. It is important to have fences around swimming pools with gates that latch securely and that you can lock. Children, especially with Autism and other processing disorders, are drawn to bodies of water.
You should always be watching, and within arms length of, the children while they are playing in or near water. If you have to step away, have another responsible adult watch them until you can return. Being aware of your surroundings and responsible during water play reinforces and ensures the safety of everyone. 
I advise all parents, childcare workers and babysitters to take a CPR course. As a special needs parent and educator, I renew my CPR certification every two years. You can never be too careful when it comes to special needs children and their being drawn to water of any kind.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children and adults with autism. Keep your child safe by making sure he or she knows how to swim. You should look for swimming lessons for children with special needs. Your child should learn how to swim with his/her clothes on, too.
However you choose to cool off, make sure you and your loved ones are prepared for a fun and safe summer. So, grab your towels, water, sunblock and remember to put safety first when around water!