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!