Thursday, 23 July 2015

Moving a Child on the Spectrum

Well, we finally moved from our tiny apartment into a significantly larger one. It was not easy, but we did it. Last year was filled with so much change my partner and I were more than a little ready to create some stability in a new home where we could finish school and get ready for the upcoming year of work and travel.

Monumental changes in our house means prepping. We did lots of it. Moving a kid on the spectrum takes some strategic planning. I find that with a change comes a different routine of prepping our kid for the change. He's adjusts pretty quickly and I think we make more of a big deal out of it than he does, but it's when he realizes that things aren't the same or going back to the way they were it can be pretty difficult and usually results in a week of regressive habits, which we encourage if it helps him through the process.

It's only rough for about two weeks and then things even out in a new routine that we make as fun or intriguing as humanly possible.

I'll lay it out for you....

1. When we found out we were getting the new place, we would take a drive everyday to the new house. So, everyday for a month we drove our son to the new house and told him it was the "new house." Of course he wanted to go in, which is something he does with any house we pull up to. This was the goal to create the want for him to see it repeatedly and want to go in.

2. Every night at bed time (in the old place) we would go over, stars, planets, numbers, and then I would let him know we would be moving and that we would talk about stars, planets, and numbers in the new house. Whether I knew or not if it was getting through did not matter, as long as he heard it, that was what was important.

3. In moments of pure excitement (again in the old place), while playing outside, jumping on the bed, building forts, or having a cookie, we would incorporate the new place by saying, we're gonna have a new house to build forts in, or eat cookies in, or etc. etc. etc.

4. Finally after moving in we would keep mindful to stay away from the old house for awhile so that he could adjust. About two months after moving our old landlord had called reminding us to pick up some tires we had forgotten. When we went back we had kids in tow. I thought since it had been awhile (in a kids mind anyway) that he would let it go. He did for the most part. When we left the old house he simply said, "I'm sad, I want old house." He then turned his gaze toward the window and that was that.

Back to right after the move:
It wasn't easy for him. We saw some regressive behavior but after a couple weeks he sprang right back.

I will say the whole experience has been great in that we know what to do when we are going to make changes in our lives. There could be a possible move in the future and the move would be our biggest one yet. Though I doubt we could do the same little cruise to the new neighborhood as it is a two day drive away. We will have to employ a bulletin board with pictures of not only the city but the zoo, aquarium, and museum; all things he loves. Sometimes incorporating their loves is key and sometimes it's the only way to move through a spontaneous day of routine breaking.

As with everything patience is key.

Hope you have a wonderful day.

With Gratitude,

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Teaching Self-Love

Oh man, there are some days when I look at the world and look at my son and think to myself, "Damn." I'm less then ready for the onslaught of bull this world has to offer my kid. So many people speak a language of sarcasm and assholelery that even I have a hard time keeping up. You can't always tell if someone is being genuine with you. I never ask. I figure if that's the face they're going to show me, that's how they want me to perceive them. No, it's not always shits and giggles. Most times it's down right unpleasant, but I find it fascinating that of all the ways they could behave they choose to act the way they are acting.

I myself am super sensitive and find it terrifying that my son is more sensitive than me. I don't want him to hurt exponentially; to take things and internalize them. It's difficult teaching this to someone who sometimes has difficulty processing the complexities of communication.

I always say what I mean with him. Sometimes I play around, but if it's about him I am always direct and never joke about him. I think that it may just be the worst form of bullying, to make fun of others. If there was ever away to shove someone in the corner and kick them repeatedly it's in the form of making fun of someone, and worse, when others are present.

How do you prepare a child for that kind of world? I don't know. I think self-love is involved. Something I tell my son every night is that I love everything about him and to repeat this... "I am amazing." My heartbreaks every time I hear him say it. I wish these were things that weren't torn away from us as children. The world works on this military style training of our self esteem; breaking us down and building us up, over and over again. I just can't do it. I tell him "no" and lay down the law, but I do not and will not put him on a lower level than me because he is a child. I don't do that with anybody, why would I start with my kid.

I wonder if I'm just to much of an advocate for kindness. I know I'm less than perfect in the sarcasm department. I've verbally shoved my elbows into people. Maybe that's why I'm taking this sudden stance; a change of consciousness. Making my existence brighten others. I want that for my children. To live brightly, freely, willfully. No blind following, just leading themselves in a direction that they choose completely. I hope to example an unconditional love so free that they use this with themselves when they fall or when someone trips them. This is the most powerful tool I can give them. This and the power of being direct.

 I hope my son is the kid who when he likes someone actually tells them instead of punishing his crush with unwelcomed teasing or hair pulling.
This is something I fumble with daily. Every time someone glares at me, makes fun of me, is questionable with their genuineness, I think of my son and different ways I can teach him self-love. I think it starts with self-love? It might just be only that. It may not completely take the pain away but it will lessen it substantially. 

As always Much love and Tons of Gratitude,

Monday, 15 December 2014

What is Acceptance?

I've come up with a huge reflection piece for this bare with me folks.

I accept my son for who he is. Who he is, is something I will learn over my lifetime. I don't profess to know anything other than my son doesn't tick the same way everyone else does. Isn't that the way it is anyway? We don't all tick the same.

I'm not going to defend myself ever about my son's diagnosis, or defend my belief in what his amazing professional support staff have concluded with me. I'm not interested in speaking about what Autism is or is not. Honestly I don't know. I'm not sure the professionals know because it differs from child to child. If people don't believe he is Autistic that's their business. This blog is not to prove that my life is difficult. I think (because I am responsible for my perspective) that my life is easy. I see my sons "differences" as a gift. Is it daring to think that what might be his difficulties are gifts? No. If I am to raise a child that accepts himself for all of who he is, I have to show him how acceptance works.  That's my responsibility as his Mother. To love him unconditionally and accept him unconditionally.

I use the term ASD throughout my posts because I do accept that my son is super, super, super, high functioning. I will not say I know anything about moderate to severe Autism. This is something I'm not even remotely experienced in. I would have no business to represent those who are taking care of someone with moderate to severe Autism. My goal here is not to represent. It is to reach out and connect with others.

I do not believe my son is his super high functioning ASD condition. I believe parts of the ASD adjust some things but other than that my son is an adventurer, number enthusiast, Halloween Advocate (believes it should happen everyday), nature loving, food critic.

To me the ASD label is just that. If you give it power, it has the ability to marginalize and separate. I think of it as something the professionals use to describe a certain set of factors that fall within a category. Then I forget about it. As Captain Barbossa would say "They're more like guidelines." I work with my son on a daily basis based on his strengths and the things we are strengthening, and our story continues.

I think the purpose of this blog is to share our  journey through diagnosis and my son's major achievements, to share with other Moms my journey as a Mom, to share with Dads my journey as a parent, to share with everyone my journey of acceptance.

Above all else, this blog is about acceptance. Accepting the variables in life. Accepting change, Accepting that while the systematic way of doing things is great for some it doesn't always work for others. Just accepting that life will always have ups and downs, but that it is up to us to choose the perspective. If I say I like it and you say you don't that's ok. If there is no harm there is certainly no foul.

Well, now that I've taken your time I want to thank you for reading. Have a good night or day depending on where you are. Happy Holidays!


Saturday, 13 December 2014

Busy Mom

Oh my goodness I took a break for awhile as some of you may know. It's been a little insane.

Below is a little list that will give you an idea of the last several months...

School. My son starting school (which will be on my next post). Memorial for 200 some odd people. The flu. Traveling with two kids and husband in car for five days (back and forth). Death of Aunt. Art deadlines. Moving family. Homework. Papers. Started a novel. Husband started school.

I'm sure this list could continue. I think the important part of this crazy busy schedule is that my son is thriving and surviving the chaos that is life. For that I am more than grateful. Anyway, this was meant to be a short update as the bigger more important post will be tomorrow.

Tomorrow's post in on acceptance.

With Love and Gratitude,

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Presenting food to the Autistic Kid.....PART 2

It has been a couple days since since my last blog. Things get crazy when you've got a million and one art projects going, plus family is in town, and you are planning for school, and a vacation before school starts. Such is life.

Anyway, the last time I blogged, I blogged about feeding the picky child. Today I'm going to be blogging about the way food looks to my son and what makes him eat it and what makes him say, "No, No want this."

Trying to coax our son to eat on most days is like trying to get the new cat the showed up in your backyard to come to you as you hold your hand full of food out toward them. Does it always And sometimes all you really do is get them to turn and run. It's isn't easy and there are days when I sit back and wonder how good a parent am I, when my already slim son doesn't want to eat? How can I make it more presentable to eat? What about the food it turning him off? 

Let me start by saying when we first saw the picky eater in our son it was at 2 years old. He would eat anything you put in front of him up until that point. Then when his communication and preferences became apparent it was hit or miss on trying to get him to eat what we made. I'll be honest it is still hit or miss sometimes. And it can be the most frustrating part of the day, especially if they are purposely making a mess with their food to get the point across that they're not going to eat it. 

We've spent many a day recalling how much our boy has eaten just to make sure he has eaten enough. And through all the food boot camp our son has put us through we picked up a couple of DON'Ts along the way. Here is the guideline for food prep in our house that works more often than not. Though, we still are trying to perfect it. We realize that until our boy can specify these things our DON'T list is what we go by. 

The DON"TS....

1. Don't cook the vegetables.
Unless the vegetables need some cooking due to taste and texture, we don't cook them. All vegetable are made into sticks and set out on the table for him to eat. And yes we call them his sticks so that he will be interested in eating them. 

2. Don't mix the food together.
If your going to cook vegetables with rice, cut the vegetables into sticks sticks and present the rice separately. Another example would be spaghetti with vegetables. Again sticks and spaghetti are separate. Same goes for some sauces. Leave them off unless directed otherwise.

3.  Don't present it if you can't even make out what it is.
If it isn't recognizable he won't eat it. Even if he tries it 9 times out of 10 he'll humor us with a couple of bites and he's done.  New fad foods and the way they are made are a huge no-no in this house. 

4. Don't present the same thing for weeks on end.
This is something not every family with a kid on the spectrum, can do. In our house if we present the same thing over and over and over again, after a short while, he won't eat it. Peanut butter sandwiches were all the rage for two days,  the third day hit and it got denied. Tried a couple days latter and was still denied. Repetition in our family, with food, does not exist

5. Don't hit up the fast food chains or hugely processed foods as snacks or meals.
Fast food chains and processed snacks are addictive. They can easily hook a kid on the spectrum. The foods are usually packed with sugar, salt, smell good, and are recognizable. Everything are son loves. Especially when they pre-organize it in the box for him. UGH. Can be hell to break this habit but worth it for the sake of less tantrums, over all health, and getting your kid to eat what you make them later. 

Anyway, I hope this helps. It has helped us. Are these rules set in stone? No. That's why they're called guidelines. Sometimes our little guy surprises us by eating foods that we never think to give him, they then get added to the list of things he will eat. Those moments are great. Just remember to watch your kid's cues. You are the expert on your kid. 

As always thanks for reading.

With Love and tons of Gratitude,
Amber Jones

P.S. Stay tuned for tomorrows post that will complete this blog trilogy on food and autistic kids. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

4 Methods for feeding the Autistic Kid.....PART 1


UGH!!!!!!! This has to be a battle that every parent, regardless of a kids learning styles, goes through. Getting your kid to eat. With a kid on the spectrum we know first hand that autistic kids can be picky about the way food is cooked, presented and even eaten. A lot of parents try to give advice saying to just let them go hungry and that they'll eat when they're really hungry. Well, that's kinda true, but we have one of those kids that doesn't like being bothered to eat in the first place, so denying him food seems a bit ridiculous. Then there are the parents that tell  us to tell him that if he doesn't eat he loses privileges, well even if I agreed with that logic he'd still fight me. So, we figured out a way to look like were not feeding him while feeding him. It's been tough, but we persevered. And at times when people think we've lost the fight what they don't realize is that we've won in secret way.

We have 4 things we try when our kid decides that food is just not on his list of things that day.

1. The Bird Method

In the morning, I'm never sure if the boy is going to eat or not. It's frustrating. Someday's he likes milk in his cereal. Other days milk if forbidden. Someday's he'll eat oatmeal other days oatmeal is forbidden. It just depends on how he feels that day. Well, we get pretty tired of the cat and mouse game, and absolutely abhor wasting food. So we poor cereal without milk, leave the milk in a cup on the table, leave a bowl of grapes on the table, leave some bread with his meal...on the table, and let him know the food is there on the table. Throughout the morning like clock work our son will eat what's for him on the table. In order for the food to completely disappear I remind him that it is there and to have a bite. He's happy and eats, I'm not ripping my hair out trying to get him to sit for a while meal and eat, missions accomplished.

2. Meal in a Cup Method

I'll be honest we tricked our son for this one....kinda. My husband is vegetarian and loves himself some smoothie. So when Keltanys was younger and had had his first taste of the not so healthy apple juice we convinced our little guy that Smoothies were the same thing. It was a hit. He loves smoothies. Berry smoothies in particular. He'll even take them with carrots, kale, beets, spinach, bananas, apples...pretty much anything that will taste good together he'll take in a smoothie. He gets the nutrients he needs along with vitamin D enriched soy milk, and I don't have to worry about him not getting enough nutrients. He usually gets a cup of smoothie and whatever else he wants with that like a bun, or some homemade chicken nuggets, and homemade french fries.

3. Whatever is Yours is Mine Method (Yes folks encourage the toddler law on this one.)

I don't particularly enjoy this one just because when I'm hungry and have a kid in my face wanting what I've got I get a little primal and shoo them away. But when you have kids, especially ones that won't eat, well you do what you can and suck it up. With this method I fill up one big plate or bowl depending on what your having, and yes you guessed it, share. Sometimes Keltanys will not eat something unless it comes from my plate or his Dad's plate. So for those days when he wants what we have, we grab the big dishes and share. It's not often this happens, but, when it does we don't mind. As long as he eats.

4. The What Works Method

My son, like every child, has foods that are on his, "I can eat these all day everyday day" list. I'll say this right off the bat. We don't use this method often because it sets a bad routine, but for those days when we're on the go it's easy to have the "easy foods on hand. For Keltanys this would include hotdogs, fries, chips, lunchables, popcorn, applesauce, cup of noodles, pretty much processed food. Again we only do this on days where preparing something would take longer than we have, and there aren't that many days where we're that busy.

I hope some of these things work for you. Again every kid is different and you know yours the best so keep trying if my list doesn't work for ya. Tomorrow I will be posting tips on the visual presentation of food for kids with that preference. Mine likes it to look a certain way or it goes to waste.

As always thanks for reading.

Much love and Gratitude,

Amber Jones

Monday, 16 June 2014

Can autistic children exhibit empathy?

There used to be a time in our house when we thought our son had a hard time registering emotions. It wasn't easy. You could cry and he would scream and cry with you. You could be angry and he would be the first to show his anger. For awhile we thought these were signs that he couldn't figure out the emotion. That he didn't know how to react to the overwhelming aspect of facial cues, body language, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I don't think there has ever been a time we were more wrong. He gets the emotion and the facial cues, what we thought was confusion and aggression was actually his understanding and trying to deal with the overwhelming empathy he was feeling. 

For instance, now, if we are crying or mad he will come to us a little upset and tell us, "No crying, it's ok." Or if he hears me raising my voice, He'll ask,"You ok?" as a signal that he wants me to be ok and stop being angry. Usually that will take me down at least ten notches. He's super intuitive when it comes to other peoples emotions. The obstacle he sometimes faces is remaining calm a midst other people's chaos of emotions. He always wants to make sure they are ok, to help in some way. He has a genuine love for others. He loves meeting new people. And when he takes a liking to them, he's got their back and doesn't want to see them angry or cry. 

We've had to teach him that when we cry, hugging or saying "it's ok" is appropriate. That when we're angry, asking if we're ok is appropriate. We've taught him the etiquette of dealing with his emotions and helping others when their down. And what we found is that it's not lack of knowledge and proper reaction. It's just helping him figure out how to process what's going on inside of himself first, then helping the other person feel better, by smiling, by hugging, by singing a song. 

I think we expect a lot out of children. Especially if they have to deal with being super empathetic. We ask them to learn so fast, to grow up, be ready for this world, act normally. Why not let them slow down and really examine their worlds as they develop, so that they don't miss key ingredients of understanding that may help them change the world around them, and make it better than what we have handed them.

Maybe the reason we're in the mess we're in today is because we don't slow down to notice others.


Me and my husband asked ourselves, after we got the assessment back, what would happen if our boy ends up being solely dependent on us? (which, now, I don't think will happen) And without question I thought, it's no biggie. However, long he takes in learning the world around him is not going to bother me. He's my son. I'm here to love him, guide his growth, and be a foundation of strength for when he needs it. And I wouldn't want it any other way. 

As always thanks for reading.

Much Love and Gratitude,