Saturday, December 28, 2013

Are YOU Willing to Take a Few Minutes to Read, Sign and #Share Layla's Story With Everyone You Possibly Can?

It is my privilege to introduce Layla and ask for your help in fighting against a struggle that her family has unfortunately encountered!

Our Layla is a sweet, affectionate 2 year old. She is exceptionally bright for her age. She also happens to have Autism Spectrum Disorder, Global Developmental Delay, and Hypotonia. We wouldn't change a thing if we could, because then she wouldn't be our Layla.

Layla was diagnosed formally in October 2013, but has been receiving therapy since June.

On December 14-15, while on a trip to Hershey, PA with our two daughters, Layla was subjected to horrible discrimination-through-ignorance. Hypotonia is low tone, and causes her to be exceptionally clumsy. Autism provides our baby many daily struggles, with sensory processing issues being at the forefront of these issues.

When in public, we have to keep Layla in a stroller, or else she is completely unable to handle any new/crowded/loud/bright/overly stimulating situations. She also benefits from the stroller for safety reasons related to her Hypotonia. This is not uncommon, and special needs strollers are even made for children as old as 8-9-10-and up.

During our trip, even with a copy of Layla's diagnosis and an ADA slip for the stroller, Layla was repeatedly turned away from ADA Accessible areas in both Chocolate World and Hershey Park, both of which are places geared towards families and children. She was even turned away from a visit with Santa Claus. Our 4 year old, Mary, was convinced that Santa didn't like her little sister.

After speaking with upper-management at both locations on the phone, we realized that the primary issue was a total lack of education provided to employees in both areas, despite the fact that they were specifically working ADA Accessible areas. It was due to this lack of education that we were publically humiliated, and left heartbroken. One employee even accused us of lying. The Americans with Disabilities Act is geared towards protecting disabled people - but how can it possibly be enforced and protected if people are handed the keys to a company with absolutely no training?

We are currently petitioning Washington, with the Support of our local State representative, as well as the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Autism Society of America, to introduce, and pass, "Layla's Law", or whatever name they choose to give it, which will require specific training to employees who will regularly come into contact with people like my baby girl, who may look just like everyone else on the outside, but struggle with "invisible disabilities."

Please support Layla by signing and sharing our petition at Thank you!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Best Wishes to Everyone for a Very, Merry Christmas and a Most Happy New Year in 2014 from Our #Autism Family!

     It is the opinion of our 5th and 6th grade sons that it is shaping up to be the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!! I think it is only because they are maturing and understand the timeline of what happens when, making it easier for them to process more of what is actually going on around them. Now that breakfast is out of the way, my dear husband is assisting our 6th grade son in setting up one of those elctronic gadgets. While he was waiting on his father to finish his breakfast, our patient 6th grade son was helping his 5th grade brother, Nathan, set up a new electronic device.

     It is hard to believe that our two sons are growing up as fast as they are! It was also extremely awesome to see my sister, my brother, my nieces, my nephews, my daughter, my oldest son, my grandchildren and the newest additions, to my side of the family, this last weekend. Each of us would like to spend more time, catching up with family and friends but, we all have so much going on in our lives, between home and work. It was definitely a miracle that we were able to coordinate our crazy schedules in order to spend a little over an hour together!

     Enough about my family...may your family enjoy a most memorable Christmas and a prosperous New Year in 2014!! Please remember, especially this time of year when it is the coldest, that we need to keep a tab on our loved ones whom have #Autism and/or other #SpecialNeeds because of the threat of them wandering off to find peace and quiet. It is very important that we know where each of them are at all times. Read more here on how YOU can help prevent an unpleasant event from happening to your family, or a friend's family.

     I wish you the best in 2014 and look forward to hearing from you, if you feel like leaving me a comment below!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How In The World Am I Going To Get Ready For Christmas And Keep Up With My Child Over The Upcoming Winter Break?!?

     Has this thought ever crossed your mind? It has mine! There is always so much to accomplish before Christmas and then I remember I have two pre-teen assistants to entertain, as well. The older son has recently been diagnosed with ADHD and is the sixth grade at the same school in which I work. The youngest is in the fifth grade and was diagnosed with Autism just before he started Kindergarten, almost six years ago. They both contribute equal amounts of input to our family team structure, sometimes not exactly what is needed to keep things from grinding to a screeching halt. We try to avoid this at all costs!

     With the Winter Break right around the corner, I have written a guest post for Special Happens, titled 4 Simple Tips for Keeping Your Special Needs Child Engaged on Winter Break which I hope will give you some ideas. I hope you enjoy it and will share it with other special needs families. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and follow our blog!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Apologize For Being MIA The Last Several Months

     The last several months have been so busy that I have scarcely had time to breathe. Since I began working full-time in the self-contained autism classroom in August, I became involved in the Fall 2013 Easter Seals Oklahoma Sibshop monthly sessions and I have been planning for the upcoming Christmas Store that my Autism Family Team, Nathan's Voice, is hosting for our local AutismOKC families in just over a week, I have had very little time for anything else! We are hoping to provide a unique event for children with autism, and their siblings, to shop for gifts for their family members. If the event is a success, my Autism Family Team, Nathan's Voice, would like to continue to host the Christmas Store annually.

     In the meantime, my two youngest boys and I still have a few days until school lets out for our Winter Break. Recently, our school district cancelled classes for three days due to inclement weather and hazardous roads. We have a lot to catch up on before our break. Please pray for strength, patience and, of course, for everything to fall into place. Thank you for following our posts and we look forward to hearing from anyone whom lives in our area!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Abnormal Approach-When Your ASD Child “Appears” Social

I want to introduce you to someone whom I know that will capture your attention as she tells a story that many of us can identify with. I found my eyes moist with tears, a catch in my throat and wanting to read more! Without further ado, please welcome Jeannie Davide-Rivera as she shares...

The Child Who Gets “Missed”

By Jeannie Davide-Rivera, author of the book Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed; Growing Up With Undiagnosed Autism, autism expert category writer for, and autism and Asperger’s blogger at

Autism is so often characterized as a social communication disorder—something that drives me bonkers because it is so much more multi-faceted than that. 

New Guidelines: New Problems

According to the DSM-V’s diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders, a person MUST meet/show “deficits in social-emotional reciprocity; ranging from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back and forth conversation through reduced sharing of interests, emotions, and affect and response to total lack of initiation of social interaction.” This is non-negotiable as far as the DSM-V is concerned and I think it is causing some children who appear more social than most children with ASD to get “missed.”

I have one ASD child, a 14 year-old, that I cannot get out of the house. He is not social, does not have any desire to make friends, and is relatively content to keep his social interactions limited to online game playing. I have another child, a 9 year old, who I cannot keep IN the house. He is the social butterfly. He wants to be out all the time playing with his friends, wants to go to parties, and have guests over 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. It is this child that I want to discuss because if one more person tells me that he cannot/or they do not “believe” he has an autism spectrum disorder because he is social, I am going to scream! And the two words I am going to be screaming are ABNORMAL APPROACH!

DSM-V, “Abnormal Approach”—This Describes My 9 Year Old 

Yes, he wants friends, he wants to be social, but he fails to accomplish it— he fails to maintain age-appropriate peer friendships. This appearance of socialization has precluded him from having his ASD recognized properly, and from receiving help in school because he does not “appear” to have autism. The little man more accurately fit into the old, DSM-IV criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome, than these new criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorders. I believe part of the problem is that “abnormal approach” is not easily definable.

The Neighborhood Stalker

So let’s take a look at my extremely social kid! He is bossy, overbearing, has difficulty taking turns, has little notion of personal space and is rigid in his play and thinking. All of this causes his social interaction to become stressed, and when he gets stressed, he gets angry. If my son goes to a friend’s house to see if they can come outside to play, and their parents tell them they will be home at five o’clock, my son will be on their doorstep at ten minutes till five waiting. If you are not there at five, you are a liar. You are not simply late, or running behind—you lied to him! You told him five o’clock, you said it, he believed it, and you lied. Some of those parents do not allow my son to play with their children any longer.

But—he does have friends. He is friends with a few children here on our block. The little man makes friends easily, but then turns into the neighbor stalker. He sits at the window in my bedroom which looks in to the parking lot for our townhouse community waiting for the neighbor’s car to pull in so he can pounce. He will be out there before the poor family is even out of their car. Explaining that we cannot take these other kids with us everywhere we go—family vacations, trips out of town, weddings, funerals—does not seem to work. He simply doesn’t “get” it.

Giving Strange Men My Cell Phone Number 

Let’s talk about this “making of friends.” While sitting at the park watching the boys play, I hear the little man giving someone my cellphone number—a stranger! He is standing in front of some strange man who is at the park with his son, and insisting the man get a pen to write the number down.

“Call my Mom so your son can come to our house!” 

The dad is uncomfortable, I am mortified, and the little man oblivious. He cannot understand why he can’t give my number to strangers. Then he finds other children and he insists that he go to their houses to play—now, and gets upset when I don’t let him leave with strangers. This is not a small child we are talking about; this is a boy who is going to be 10 years old! Does this sound like a normal approach to socialization to you?

Social deficits in autism spectrum disorders can present themselves in so many different ways. Some are readily apparent like my teenager, but others children may desperately try to make friends and be unsuccessful—or make friends but then fail to keep them. Just because a child “seems” social to you, doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling. My little man is often frustrated and angry when he comes home from a day “at play.”

Struggling for a Proper Diagnosis

Depression, Anxiety, Adjustment Disorder, ADHD are all labels/explanations that are given to partially explain his difficulties, but none of them fit perfectly. I fear he will become one of those “missed” children, as I myself was one of those “missed” children. Being improperly diagnosed makes it difficult to get the help and accommodations needed for our children to succeed. Without proper recognition, he is just lazy, disorganized, inattentive, needs to try harder, and is not living up to his potential—all the things said about me when I was younger. None of them were true, not for me, and I believe not for him either.

We continue to attempt to have him diagnosed correctly. We as parents know our children better than anyone; we are the experts. We interact with them on a daily basis and see a much broader picture than the practitioners who only catch a glimpse seen through the limited confines of the short period of their evaluation process. I urge you, if you have had similar results and frustrations, to continue on, to keep pursuing a correct diagnosis. No one is going to fight better for your child than you. The appearance of being “social” should not in and of itself rule-out an ASD diagnosis—nor does this social appearance indicate that the child has “grown-out” of his autism.

Jeannie grew up with autism, but no one around her knew it. Her book Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed: Growing Up With Undiagnosed Autism will take you on a journey into the mind of a child on the autism spectrum; a child who grows into an adolescent, an adult, and becomes a wife, mother, student, and writer with autism. Read the gripping memoir of a quirky, weird, but gifted child who grows up never quite finding her niche only to discover at the age of 38 that all the issues, problems, and weirdness she experienced were because she had Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), a form of high-functioning autism. Interested in reading more of Jeannie's work, visit her blog Aspie Writer and follow her @AspieWriter on Twitter!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Families and Educators of Children with #Autism Must Read "Six Ways To Make Learning More Meaningful For Visual Learners"!!

The connections that parents make with others, either online or in their local community, are extremely important. It is especially so when it is Special Needs Families making those connections. It is my pleasure to introduce Sylvia Phillips, the author of Living and Learning With Our New Normal. Please welcome her, read and share her guest post with others in your circles, online and local communities!

When I decided to homeschool my daughter, Bethany who has autism and other disabilities, I already knew that the majority of children with autism are predominantly visual learners. I also knew through personal trial and error that processing language did not come naturally or easily for Bethany. She simply did not seem to be able to comprehend wordy, complicated sentences of spoken directions, explanations, or even the stories that I read to her. She also did not read, and still doesn’t… yet!

I knew that Bethany would never learn by reading textbooks or listening to lectures. Somehow I would have to adapt and modify traditional lessons plans and learning materials in order to present educational concepts to her in a more basic and visual way so that she could actually learn.

Below are some strategies and products that have worked for us and may make learning more, visual, hands on, accessible, and meaningful for other children with autism as well.

 1) Translate what you want to teach into realistic pictures, photos, or better yet use real objects. For example, if you are teaching your child about the parts of a flower, you can take your child outside to pick flowers, then dissect the flower while naming all the parts and perhaps what each part does. You can reinforce the concepts taught by making flower part flash cards, labeling flower part diagrams, and even cutting and pasting paper made parts of a flower together.

2) Speaking of Cutting and pasting…Cut and Paste activities are perfect for hands on, visual learning assignments! My favorites are: Cut and Paste Mini-Books: Science by Scholastic, Cut and Paste: Science, Math, and Language Arts and My Body all by Teacher Created Resources.


3) When the verbal explanation of concepts cannot be combined with a visual aide, pairing what you say with sign language gives your child something visual, to associate with what you’re saying. If your child can hear, I recommend using SEE or the Signing Exact English method rather than ASL. We want our children to associate each sign with the word. It isn’t necessary to sign words like the, and, a, or other articles. Just sign the important words of the sentence. For example: if you are teaching the parts of the flower, you might say, “This flower has a stem, petals, and leaves.” I would sign only the signs for- flower, stem, petals, leaves. I have found that it’s nearly impossible (at least for me) to sign every single word of a sentence as fast as I can say it anyway!

4) File folder games and shoe box tasks are both fantastic visual, hands on aids for teaching any number of educational concepts to children with autism. There is a multitude of ideas and resources for constructing both file folder games and shoe box tasks online. Many are even available for free!

5) Two helpful books that offer instructions in creating many useful, visual teaching tools for children with autism are: Teaching By Design by Kimberly S. Voss and How Do I teach This Kid to Read?, by Kimberly A. Henry.


6) There are numerous companies online that offer educational products and games for children. One product that I love is Versatiles. Versatiles not only make learning more visual and hands on but they also make learning more fun! Versatiles engage students with the challenge of a puzzle. They reinforce important skills and concepts. The activities are organized by grade level and subject. The subjects available are math, reading/ language arts, and science. Versatiles are perfect for independent practice and give immediate feedback for self-checking which is great for kids who don’t like to wait to see how they did!

Whether you homeschool your child with autism or are looking for new ideas and activities to meaningfully connect with your child and keep him or her engaged and constructively occupied during non- school hours, I hope that this list of suggestions will serve you well.

Helpful Resources:

Lakeshore Learning

Educational insights


*National Autism Resources

Eta: Hand 2 Mind-Hands on Learning Resource for purchasing Versatiles

Shoe Box Tasks

Tasks Galore

File Folder Heaven

Living and Learning With Our New Normal

*Please note that I am a National Autism Resources affiliate. If you purchase an item from this link I will receive a small commission. Thank you very much!

About Sylvia Phillips 
I used to be home birthing, baby wearing Mom way back when in 1976. I’ve been home schooling my 9 awesome children since 1984 and will be until 2019! I am also grandma to the sweetest, most beautiful grandson in the world! 

In 2002 my family's lives changed forever when my then 2 year old daughter was rushed to the hospital for life saving, emergency surgery to remove a very large brain tumor from her very small cerebellum. She has since been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, autism, a severe and complicated seizure disorder, developmental delays, and behavior issues. 

Together we face the challenges of these disabilities one day at a time with faith, hope, and love. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Last Minute Preparation for Your #SpecialNeeds Halloween

     Halloween is almost here and if YOU haven't taken the time to prepare for your child's Trick-or-Treat experience, it's not too late to get started!! Please read and #share the guest post, Last Minute Halloween Preparation, that I wrote for Special Happens, with your friends, family and others in the #SpecialNeeds community.
     You might want to check out my previous piece, Is YOUR Special Needs Family Ready For Halloween? Thank you for following us and we always welcome any comments that anyone takes the time to leave us!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Autism and Epilepsy Awareness Month

I was delighted when Lorrie asked me to submit a guest post to Nathan's Voice. As a person with epilepsy, and a fellow blogger, I am always happy to build bridges between the autism and epilepsy communities. This topic is especially timely as November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. I hope you take a moment this month to spread the word and raise epilepsy awareness. 

Epilepsy Awareness Month 

You may be aware that epilepsy affects people with autism spectrum disorders, but you may be surprised to learn that epilepsy affects more than 65 million people worldwide and more than 2.2 Million Americans of all ages. Since November is Epilepsy Awareness Month this is a great chance to get involved and spread the word. Here are a few ways you can make a difference: 
  1. Add your event to the Epilepsy Event Calendar 
  2. Share your story of living with Autism and Epilepsy 
  3. Share a Fact Sheet 
  4. Get your own Epilepsy Awareness Gear 
  5. Support an Artist with Epilepsy 
  6. Spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Google+, and other Social Media outlets 
  7. Tell a friend 
  8. Wear purple 
If you need more ideas check out our facebook page. Readers are submitting comments on what they are doing to raise awareness during epilepsy awareness month. The suggestions range from paint your nails purple to go to Disney for Epilepsy Awareness Day. Check it out and add your own.

Link between Epilepsy and Autism 

I think I might be a bit of a data geek. My first instinct with this post was to share some hard facts on epilepsy and autism. Here's what I found: 
Data from 2002 
A study using data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, collected retrospectively from the year 2002, representing children with autism spectrum disorder showed approximately 15.5% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders are also diagnosed with Epilepsy. This study titled, "Autism Spectrum Disorder and Co-occurring Developmental, Psychiatric, and Medical Conditions Among Children in Multiple Populations of the United States." was published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics in 2010. 
Data from 2003-2005 
As mentioned above, the CDC recognizes epilepsy as a "co-occurring condition" with autism spectrum disorders. Epilepsy, of course, is not the only co-occurring condition recognized. Utilizing data from 2003-2005, the CDC published a web article in 2012 that stated, "Among children with an ASD, about half had at least one of the three commonly co-occurring conditions: ADHD, intellectual disability, or epilepsy." 
Undetermined Data 
The Autism Speaks website notes as many as 1/3 people with Autism Spectrum Disorders are also diagnosed with Epilepsy. However, there is no reference notation to back this data up. I hope you found this quick look at epilepsy and autism helpful. Sometimes it is good to know where to go for correct information. Visit this link for more information on the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network

Take this opportunity 

I hope you take the opportunity that Epilepsy Awareness Month provides, to connect with other families affected by autism spectrum disorders and epilepsy. Clearly there is a need to build bridges between the two communities. We can support one another and share ideas on how to get the word out. 

About Jessica K. Smith 
Living Well With Epilepsy is a leading epilepsy blog that covers the full spectrum of issues faced by people living with all types of seizure disorders. We aim to inspire people living with epilepsy through a unique mix of news, personal stories, commentary, interviews, guest posts, and forums. The site was created by Philadelphia area-based writer, Jessica Keenan Smith.
Jessica brings a unique perspective, as she has lived with epilepsy for more than 25 years. She was diagnosed as a teen after having several grand mal seizures. In 2009, after more than two decades of living with epilepsy, she was ready to speak out for a cure. Jessica speaks on a variety of topics including: Navigating Social Media, Maximizing Your Child’s Strengths, Epilepsy 101: Raising Epilepsy Awareness. 

Jessica K. Smith Founder | Living Well With Epilepsy

Monday, October 21, 2013

We Have Been Given The Distinct Privilege Of Being Featured On A Wonderful Site Authored By An Absolutely Amazing Woman!

Join Nathan's Voice over at a wonderful site, that I have just become acquainted with, and that is featuring one of our posts. You will immediately fall in love with the Author, Martha Gabler, who has written a book titled Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to Everyday Problems of Living with Autism!! She is the mother of a nonverbal 17 year old son and I admire her deeply. Please take a few minutes to visit my Guest Post, Autism, Behavior and Our Children, and then check out the rest of her site. Please be sure to tell Martha that Lorrie from Nathan's Voice sent you!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Now you're talking my language!

by Martha Gabler, parent of nonverbal 17 year old boy with autism.

Bonjour!    Hola!     Ciao!

Hello! If you travel to another country, it’s helpful to know a few words in the native language. It makes getting around so much easier and builds relationships with local residents. But, having a few words takes you only so far. To really communicate, you need to make a study of the local language.

Now let’s look at kids with autism; they seem to live in a different world from ours. Their condition is often characterized by deficits and delays in language and communication. How do you communicate with a kid who can’t stand listening to human speech? How do you find out what is bothering a child who is hitting or biting, if he can’t explain? My son with autism is profoundly nonverbal. We could not communicate with him and had very hard times during the early years.

Over time I discovered that there is a language, or more specifically, a form of communication in which my son excelled: he is brilliant at comprehending positive reinforcement. Eureka! We achieved communication. With communication came learning, and with learning we were finally able to find a path out of the wilderness and move on to greener pastures.

The method I stumbled upon during the course of our journey is called TAGteach, or Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. TAGteach is a teaching and communication method based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and involves the use of positive reinforcement to achieve behavior goals. This part is familiar to many autism families.

The next part will probably be something new and different—after all, we are traveling in a different country. Here it is: the unique aspect of TAGteach is that it combines positive reinforcement with an audible event marker signal. The marker—the key communication tool used in the system—makes a distinctive “click” sound to mark a behavior at the time it occurs. The mark (or “click”) means YES, YOU DID SOMETHING GOOD, and the absence of the mark (or “click”) means TRY AGAIN.

With my event marker (sometimes referred to as a “tagger” or “clicker), I was able to “tag” my child every time he did something good. “Good” things were behaviors like Quiet Mouth, Both Feet On The Floor, Hands Still, or Eye Contact. The procedure is: Observe child, “tag” (press clicker) when child performs Quiet Mouth (or other desired behavior), then reinforce child (give a treat or token).

When I started doing this, I was amazed by all the good behaviors my son was able to deliver. Tantruming? With screaming and stomping? I tagged Quiet Mouth and Both Feet On The Floor; the tantrum was over in 12 minutes with my son sitting nicely on the sofa and no exertion on my part. Bolting? I tagged Walks Next To Parent. Toe walking? I tagged Heel On Ground. My son’s world changed. Previously, it had been incomprehensible to him. With the tag and positive reinforcement, he understood precisely what he was being rewarded for, and he responded by producing more of the desired behaviors.

The more I communicated with him via tags/clicks and positive reinforcement, the more skills he gained and the happier and better behaved he became. Despite the lack of speech, despite the sensory issues, the tag rang loud and clear and told him he had done something good. He loved that and responded brilliantly. My favorite moments were when I would tag him for something, and a look of total comprehension flooded across his face, “Oh! So that’s what I’m supposed to do!”

We found the right language and made a study of it. It is called positive reinforcement with an event marker signal. With it, we quickly and easily taught my son new behaviors. When he was able to walk nicely with us, sit quietly in the car, and follow instructions we were able to take him to many new places. He likes to travel, he likes to see the world and he likes to have fun. He was even able to go away to sleep over summer camp for a week and have a wonderful time without my presence. I got some very nice compliments from camp staff about Doug’s co-operative behavior and his happy attitude. We are in a much better place now and enjoy life with this charming teen.

I think TAGteach is an outstanding method for working with children with autism, and I recommend it to all autism families for their consideration. Consider this: TAGteach is scientific—based on the principles of ABA—and effective. It is easy to learn, easy to do, and almost no cost. Taggers/clickers cost anywhere from $.79 to $1.50, and the treats are things most families already have around the house. TAGteach is flexible and portable, and easy to do both at home and outside. It’s great for building skills in the community. For more information, please see my website at If you have questions, please contact me through the website at the Questions for Martha link.

I hope you enjoy learning about this new language! It’s easier than French or Spanish, and it’s a great way to communicate with our kids, who can be very challenging customers.

Au revoir!

About Martha

Martha Gabler is the author of the book, Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and two sons. The younger one, age 17, is profoundly nonverbal and was diagnosed at age three with severe autism. In the early years the family struggled with many extremely difficult behaviors including aggression and self-injury. Life was very hard. Now life is good and the Gablers are a happy family.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Win a #Success Box By Visiting The Our Mom Spot Community!

I have learned that I am an extremely visual person. I understand verbal instructions to an extent, I just comprehend them better if I can see a visual example. I have never been diagnosed by anyone but, I am probably a "high-functioning" autistic individual, like my own son. I'm glad that prevalence and awareness has increased so that children, like my own son, can be diagnosed at an early age. It is important that individuals with autism receive the services they need, to be able to accomplish their educational goals, in turn, helping them eventually to function as they need to in society. 

Organization is also an important factor when trying to accomplish anything. This is where I will share a giveaway that is being featured on an online parenting community called Our Mom Spot. If you are a special needs parent or an educator, you will want to check it out!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Is YOUR Special Needs Family Ready For Halloween?

It's hard to believe that it is already October! My most recent article, 5 Helpful Tips for a Prepared Halloween Costume, was written for Special Happens, a site in which I contribute towards several times a year, in an effort to help parents when shopping for a special needs child. Please visit the link above, read the article and share it with someone you know in the special needs community. You never know when another family, or friend, could use the information to improve a situation in their life. Thank you for your continued support and willingness to help others around you!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

They Are Absolutely Beautiful and We Ask That YOU Get One, Or More*, To Show Your Support Of Our #Autism Team!!

Look at this!

The logo will be slightly more opaque and will glow with the light on...this is awesome!

I have been given a wonderful opportunity to raise Autism Awareness in our very own online community! The beautiful Scentsy Warmers you see pictured above display our Autism Team & Blog "Nathan's Voice" logo. This is something YOU don't want to miss out on, so get yours while they last! Please support our "Nathan's Voice", and help raise Autism Awareness, by purchasing one of these one of a kind Scentsy Warmers. Each of these beautiful Scentsy Warmers sells for $50.00 and 25% goes to in support of Autism Team "Nathan's Voice"!!

We appreciate the support of our readers, followers, friends and family. Display your support of our "Nathan's Voice" for others to see. Remember that the blue Autism Team "Nathan's Voice" logo will be slightly more opaque and will glow with the light on. Order yours today, by sending me an email to so that we can place an order on your behalf for the number of these beautiful "Nathan's Voice" Scentsy Warmers that you are wanting to purchase in support of Autism Awareness!

Thank YOU for your continued support and we always look forward to hearing from you!!

Lorrie Servati
Nathan's Mom and Voice
Autism Team Captain

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Has Your Family Has Adjusted to the New School Year Schedule? My Family Is Still Acclimating to the Additionally Lengthy Day!

     With our school district converting to the continuous calendar school year just over a year ago, it has taken our special needs family some time to get used to having longer Fall, Christmas and Spring breaks during the school year and a shorter summer break. Our youngest son, who is in fifth grade, has autism. His slightly older brother, who is in sixth grade, was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Between the already short but, action-packed summer and me starting a new full-time job in the Special Education Department at the sixth grader's middle school, my family hasn't stopped spinning since school let out the end of May!

     I have been a substitute teacher for the last three years and I have really enjoyed the flexibility of being able to choose when and what job assignment I took. I started substitute teaching at the middle school where I had several long-term substitute teaching assignments in the Special Education Department. This is where I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of some amazing educators, office staff and administrators. Towards the end of the first year, I made myself more available to the teachers at my youngest son's elementary school in order to get to know those whom would be working with my son who has high-functioning autism. 

     This last May, I was encouraged by the elementary school Principal to apply for one of the five positions for Pre-K Assistant. Pre-K was being added to our elementary school and I was considering my options. I wasn't sure if I really wanted to step outside my comfort zone and pursue the chance to work as a full-time assistant at my son's elementary school. It was my neighbor who persuaded me to follow through and get my Para Professional Certification. She directed me to where I could take the practice test and gave me the number to call to schedule my appointment for the test. Ultimately, it is her to whom I am eternally grateful and thankful for her friendship and support.

     The elementary school, where our 5th grade son Nathan attends, starts at 8:20am. The middle school, where our sixth grade son Vincent attends and where I work, starts at 9:10am. There is also the after school Faculty, Special Education Department and Autism Team meetings that are held weekly. I still leave the house by 8:00am but, most of the time, I don't arrive home before 5:00pm. It makes for a very long day, especially after having an active day in the autism classroom. The boys sometimes have to stay with me at the school until I am ready to leave but, I try to have snacks and a small reward for their patience with my busy schedule. 

     My husband tries to pick our boys up, if he is available to, in the case of my having a scheduled meeting after school. It's not always possible for him to rearrange his schedule, or drop what he is doing, to keep our boys from sitting through an occasional meeting. The boys and I are each thankful when Daddy can save them from having to sit quietly, and in a designated spot, in a crowded room with a bunch of teachers for almost an hour. My husband will become more available as the winter approaches because I married a "pool man". About a third of his customers close their swimming pools during the winter months which allows him to finish his daily route earlier in the day. I think that he is more than happy to help, with our boys after school, since I am working full-time now.
     I am enjoying the new school year and looking forward to our family settling into a routine. It's almost time for students to have their school pictures taken. Their parents will be able to order picture packages, as well as yearbooks at the middle school. I ordered one when I started working as a substitute teacher three years ago. It's nice to be able to look back at those students and teachers whom you spent the year working with. If you are reading our autism blog for the first time, please check out Great Places We've Been Featured and Our Guest Bloggers. I hope your family has a wonderful school year and I hope to hear from you when you have a chance!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Parent is an Equal Partner of Their Child's IEP Team

As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I have found myself in a unique situation. I realize that I am an equal partner of my son's IEP Team, but I have the opportunity to contribute to my child's in a way that most parents do not get. My son's first Special Education case manager moved out of state because her husband received a military transfer. His replacement case manager has been carrying the caseload of two people and did not have the time to create a visual schedule for my 5th-grade son. At first, it was a little intimidating, but once I got started, it was not as difficult as I anticipated. 

I started with a binder and a set of plastic divider tabs. I took pictures of my son's classrooms and began organizing those images into a visual schedule to assist my pre-teen son in maneuvering his daily school schedule. I ordered a laminator, laminator sleeves, and a slide paper cutter before picking up some VELCRO® hook and loop strips. I used my color printer to print the images from my computer onto white cardstock. I trimmed each of the images to a standard size before laminating them. After trimming off the excess lamination from each image, I attached them to the plastic dividers with VELCRO strips. 

If I can do this, YOU can, too! It was a humbling experience that I would gladly repeat to help any of my children or any student that I was assigned to help!!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Applying for SSI Benefits for a Child with Autism

This Featured Guest Article was written by Ram Meyyappan, from Social Security Disability Help, an organization that works to promote disability awareness and help individuals navigate the Social Security Disability application process. Please welcome her and thank her in the comment section below!   ~Lorrie

If you have a child who suffers from autism, it can take a financial toll on your family. Chances are that either you or your spouse will need to leave the workforce in order to tend to the needs of your child. The resulting lack of income can wreak havoc on your finances. Fortunately, in many cases, Social Security Disability benefits can help.

A child who is suffering from autism may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits from birth until age 18. It is important to understand, however, that SSI is a needs-based program. In order to be approved for benefits, your family will need to meet the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s financial criteria in addition to proving that your child is medically qualified for disability benefits.

Meeting the Financial Requirements of SSI Benefits

In order to meet the financial requirements for SSI benefits, your income and assets may not exceed the threshold that has been set by the SSA. As of 2013, this means your monthly income cannot exceed $710 as an individual or $1,066 as a couple. Your assets must also not exceed $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple in order to qualify for SSI.
You can learn more about SSI here:

Meeting the Medical Requirements

When filling out the disability paperwork, you will want to demonstrate that your child has problems in specific areas including self-care and severe behavioral problems as well as documentation showing his or her diagnosis of autism. You will want to address problems with your child’s adaptive behaviors, learning, mobility skills, and capacity of independent living. Written statements from your child’s treating physicians can be very beneficial to your child’s Social Security Disability claim.

How to Apply for SSI

To apply for SSI you can go into your local Social Security office or you can file online at the Social Security website ( You will want to make sure to answer all questions as thoroughly as possible. Also make sure you include medical records documenting the above-mentioned facts when submitting your claim.

What to Do in the Case of a Denial

Almost 2/3 of disability applications are initially denied. If you receive a denial letter from the SSA, you have 60 days from the date of the letter to appeal the decision. The first stage of appeals will be the Request for Reconsideration. Do not be alarmed if this request is denied. Fewer than 20 percent of these requests are actually approved by the SSA. The next stage of appeals is when you will have the best chance of winning your case. This is the disability hearing. At this stage of appeal your case is heard before an administrative law judge.

It is in your best interest to have legal representation at this hearing, since a disability attorney will know the laws that pertain to your case and how to use those laws to your benefit. There is no upfront cost to hiring a disability attorney. These attorneys are only paid if you are successfully awarded benefits.

Guest Article by:

Ram Meyyappan
Social Security Disability Help
For more information on Autism and Social Security Disability benefits, please visit:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

It Has Seemed Like It Has Taken FOREVER But, the AWESOME #Autism "Camp C.A.N.O.E" Is Almost Here!!

You are probably wondering what I am getting all excited about? Let me tell YOU! Almost two years ago, my husband and I took our two energetic boys to check out Camp DaKaNi's Open House and learn more about Camp C.A.N.O.E., the NEW Autism Camp that was scheduled to start the Summer of 2012. What makes me proud as a parent, and to be involved as a camp counselor, is that Camp C.A.N.O.E. stands for "Children with Autism Need Outdoor Experiences"! What I love is that Camp C.A.N.O.E. offers each of these children the chance to improve fine and gross motor skills, to increase their confidence, self-reliance, to help them to work with others as a team, to solve problems, to strengthen independent thinking, communication and social skills as they make friends...every parent's dream, or at least mine!!

The staff at Camp DaKaNi for Camp Fire Heart of Oklahoma have been preparing all year for the 2013 Camp C.A.N.O.E. This will be my second year to work as a camp counselor during Camp C.A.N.O.E. and along side many other awesome volunteers. We will enjoy exploring the thirty-three acres of Camp DaKaNi while learning or perfecting skills such as the zip line, archery, rock climbing, canoeing and fishing. I can't wait until Camp C.A.N.O.E. 2013!! If YOU have a child that might enjoy getting out of the house each day for a FUN-filled week, you will want to check this out for next year!

We are always looking for individuals, and companies that will allow their employees, to volunteer during Camp C.A.N.O.E. each year. If YOU are interested in volunteering, or know someone who might want to, please contact Kristin Harper either by phone (405)254-2071 or by email for more information. 

You can follow me @MissMaryMackOKC and Camp DaKaNi @CampFireHOK for updates. I look forward to hearing from anyone that wants to give me a shout!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sharing How Cleaning and Organization Can Be Rewarding for any Family but, Especially One on the #Autism Spectrum!

My most recent article Goodbye, Procrastination... Hello, Organization in a Special Needs Home is available for viewing of the wonderful Special Happens community! This one was especially difficult for me because it hit close to home but, it is something that I am currently working on. Please take just a few minutes of your time to laugh with me about how we can occasionally find ourselves in a situation, that we need to change in order to enjoy more time with our families!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

You're Invited To The Summer Vision Screenings Hosted By The Oklahoma Vision Development Center!

I'm posting this on the homepage because I hope that it could possibly help a family in Tulsa, OK find resources like this:

Oklahoma Vision Development Center is offering FREE Developmental Vision Screenings which will test the child's acuities, eye tracking, eye teaming, visual processing skills. 

  Screenings are Scheduled for: 
June 24-27, 2013  8:30am-2:00pm
June 28, 2013 8:30-11:30am
July 22-25, 2013  8:30am-2:00pm
July 26, 2013 8:30-11:30am

                   What you need to know: 
                   You must call 918-745-9662 to schedule an appointment
                                               Children must be between 6-18 years old
                   Children must have had an eye exam in the past 12 months                                                                                  (If they haven't had one, we can schedule an eye exam for you) 
                Located at 4520 S. Harvard Ave. Ste. 100  

Please share this information with any parent of any child you think may be struggling from a vision related problem.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Role of Oxidative Stress, Gastrointestinal Disturbances and Metabolic (mitochondrial) Problems with #Autism

I would like to introduce our Featured Guest, Becky Peabody Estepp, in an effort to provide a variety of information for our readers! Becky is the Director of Communications at the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy. I hope you will give her a warm welcome and enjoy the post that she has shared with us.                                                                      Lorrie                                                                      

There's something about the 4th of July holiday that mainstream PR people love. That's when they bury science that they don't want the general public to think about too much. 

Below you will find an article from the Wall Street Journal that goes over the role of oxidative stress, gastrointestinal disturbances and metabolic (mitochondrial) problems with autism. Again, hallelujah that these conditions are being legitimately linked to autism. Lets hope this will lead to widespread treatment for kids with ASD.

But, on the other hand, I might need to go run 20 miles to use up the energy (and anger) I had when reading this. When my boys were both scoped 10 years ago we were about to get on the plane to NYC to go to Lennox Hill Hospital. At the last minute, our doctor called to tell us to not drive to the airport. Lennox Hill revoked his rights to practice there when they found out he was scoping kids with autism. It was too controversial and they wanted to stay out of the fray.

What about Dr. Wakefield who has been vilified by the medical community and traipsed around the world as a fraud? You know what his original case study was about, a novel form of GI disease in kids with autism. Isn't that in a sense what the last two articles have been about this month?

So again, we are back to the "Wag the Dog" analogy. The science is being managed and spoon fed to the public. Most people would miss this story because they are on the road with their loved ones for the biggest summer holiday. Just like in 2011, when the Stanford twins study came out that said, "Oh yeah, you know how we always said autism is genetic in almost all cases? Well, guess what? It is almost always environmental. Pass me a hot dog because it is the 4th of July. And watch some fireworks tonight."

But if the topic of this new study comes up down the road in some professional setting that kids with autism suffer with oxidative stress, GI disorders and mitochondrial dysfunction; the scientists can all say, "Oh yes, A VERY important study came out in July showing the biomarkers of these problems.....blah, blah, blah." And they can take credit for this ground-breaking science and package it exactly how they want it and deliver it to the public. Never mind that there have been several brave and amazing doctors who discovered and treated kids for these disorders for over a decade. And who were and are still trying to stop what this sentence says in the article.

"With one in three families affected by neurodevelopmental or cognitive disorders, this finding could have a far-reaching impact. As a pediatric gastroenterologist, I am encouraged to see research that seeks to unravel these co-occurring medical conditions that can seriously impact a patient's quality of life."

One in three families......just think about that. *Becky Peabody Estepp

*And there's always one word in each of these press releases that will differentiate the mainstream from us. The word in this article is "co-occurring" as in "co-occurring medical conditions."This scientist just heavily implied that the oxidative stress, the GI problems, and mito issues are just a coincidence that many individuals with autism are having, it's not the cause or has anything really to do with the cause.