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 work...no. 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.

Anyway..... 

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,
Amber 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Deciding not to move our Autistic Child.......

 SO, last year we had decided we were going to move. Going back to school was the goal. And as we started the process of moving we started to question more and more why we were leaving such a great community. Our goal had been to move to B.C. to study Traditional Chinese Medicine and become Dr.s of TCM. As we started to move towards the goal we started to see our children off in the distance and immediately the plans got changed. Our children are the most important things in our lives as well as one another, we wont let anything act as a wedge in between any of us. So, we got organized and asked ourselves. "What do we really want?" And here's what we came up with...


I couldn't have put it better myself. We want freedom. Freedom from debt, freedom to travel, freedom to just pick up and go when we want to. So, we got organized and changed the goal. I'm already an artist and make some during the year. Will works as an IT. Not to shabby at all. And instead of accumulating $70,000 of school debt alone. We we'll only accumulate around $4,500. Much more manageable. We intend on taking the Multimedia Communications Program here at the college to become Web Designers, something that will allow us more freedom to travel. After that certificate program I will continue on to the Computer Support Technician Program so that I can work as on-call computer support when needed. All of this from the comfort of the place we are in now. 

Although the above mentioned things are important to us there is something else that stands above the rest. Two somethings to be exact.  The number one reason, without a doubt, the most important advantage in staying is that our son has all the support he needs, right here and both our kids will have the advantage from being in such a great community. 

Our son is so connected with the staff at the Child Development Centre and I'd hate to see him have to adjust to new staff and be away from us the majority of the day due to our schooling. 

And our baby girl is still so young. I want her to experience everything the Great North has to offer. 

Up here both kids can learn to hunt, bead, do traditional dancing with the Dance group we have up here, and glean from their heritage everything that is healing and good. Down south they would be further away from all of that. 

Do we feel bad giving up on our dream?

He was our first dream, and his sister was our second, and I couldn't imagine being away from them for more than 3 hours a day. They are our number 1. Any dream that would take that away or push it off into the distance is more like a nightmare. 

So, we're staying and I'm happy. Now the goal will be, to be at least one month down south during the winter to recharge the batteries. -40 with little sunlight can get a bit old after awhile, but the midnight sun on June 21st makes up for it. 

As always thanks for reading!

Love and Gratitude,
Amber Jones


Friday, 13 June 2014

What do I do if my autistic kid gets lost?

This is something we haven't dealt with yet, and pray we never do. I am so paranoid about him wondering off that if I don't have someone with me when I have both kids out and about he goes into our stroller that has a little bench I can strap him too.

I'm pretty sure he would know he is lost but I never want to find out if he knows or not. Ugh. Makes my stomach turn just thinking about it. But as much as I take precaution it doesn't hurt to take precautions for finding him if he does wander off. People have medical tags and I like those but in my house if it's small enough to get lost....well...it does.  Plus getting him to wear it might not be such an easy task.

So, what can you do? While networking on the infamous twitter I found a family that has a great solution for if your child wanders off.  It's called the QR Code ID. This is so cool. They are from the "If i Need Help" Non-for-Profit Organization out of Santa Clara, California. Here's what it is....


So, how this works is you sign up for free on the page. Enter information that is pertinent if your child wonders off, post a picture of your kid and add additional content in the additional content area of things like, medical needs, other relatives that can be called in case of emergencies, etc. etc. etc. Once your finished you can view what the information will look like once your code has been scanned.

QR Codes can be read quickly by any smartphone. QR reader Apps can be downloaded for free from App stores. 

Anyway, if the child gets lost and they have one of these patches on their clothing, the patch is then scanned by the person that found them. The information will appear on their phone or whatever device they are using, and bam parents are contacted, kid is reunited with them, and everyone recovers from their heart attacks. 

So awesome! Mine is in the mail and I can't wait to get it! 

Anyway for more info on this cool product click the link:


Go check it out. 

As always thanks for reading. 

With Gratitude and Love,
Amber Jones




Thursday, 12 June 2014

Mother's 10 lessons for her autistic son......

video


There are some days when you sit back as a parent and sigh that heavy sigh. That heavy sigh is filled with the need to protect your little bundle of light from all the big grey clouds of this world. 

Many days I sit back and wonder how do I protect him from his first heartbreak, his first realization of what kind of world we're living in, the first "no" he hears from outside sources that tell him he "can't do it." How do I keep him safe and in my pocket so that nothing can taint of hurt my perfect little angel. I go through this lots. Especially with him. 

I remember first hearing a child tell him he was annoying. I remember feeling the heartbreak for him as I watched him smile and try to continue to play with the child. I teared up in the car away from his questioning eyes. I know kids will be kids but that doesn't make it any less difficult, especially when the reason the kid said he was annoying was because of the way he processes his environment. 

But what can you do, other than play as if no one else is in the room with you and your amazingly wonderful thinker. 

My husband is pro at that. Making their play seem like they found a candy hive at Disneyland. I know I can't protect him forever and that one day he might have to explain his reasoning to others who aren't in the know about such things. But for right now I'm his safety net 

I think that in this world, it really is an art to be different, and in the case of my son, he doesn't have to try. Which I admire about him. 

Every mother has things they wish to teach their kids. Here are 10 of mine that I hope I can instill into my little guy before he embraces an ever changing world of faces, structures, and textures. 

1. You weren't born to be like them. Don't think like them. Their ways don't always work or make sense. 

2. Autism is not a disorder or anything really other than a new way of processing a world that needs to slow down. 

3. Take the time to smell the flowers, feel the wind, taste the sweetness of life, observe nature, and listen to the birds. These things will always ground you. 

4. Don't let circumstances outside of yourself be the driving force behind your intention. You can do, and be anything you want to be. Nothing will ever stop you, as long as you believe in yourself. 

5. Don't let other's (including us) "should" on you. You know what is best for you.

6. When things get a bit dark remember these words. "I am in charge of how bright I shine."

7. Your sensory preferences are here for a reason. Not everyone has a built in self-regulating system. You are lucky to have it. Use it to your benefit when the world looks upside down and backwards.

8. It is always ok for you to come to us for anything, anytime of the night or day. You are our son and we love you more than we can possibly express. We are your parents and that is what being a parent means. We took this role with great pleasure and excitement and love and pledge to be that person for you. The person that teaches you, the person, that cares for you, the person, that no matter what you do will love you unconditionally until forever. We have your back and will always be a foundation for you to come back to. 

9. Always be grateful for who you are and what you have. If you can think of three things your grateful for each day you are golden. And yes we are more than grateful for you.

10. The answer to your happiness is not in any book, person, wallet, or possession. The answer to your happiness is yours alone, locked inside of you for you to know. No one can take that from you. And if there is one things I ever suggest to you it is this, If you decide to share your happiness with another always love unconditionally with an open heart and understanding mind and you will give a love that is more powerful than anything you can possibly imagine. And know that that is how we love you.

Well, everyone's asleep except me...again...lol. I gotta make sleep a habit.

As always thanks for reading.

With Love and Gratitude,
Amber Jones









Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Bringing home siblings to the autistic child......



When we first found out we were pregnant with a second child we were super excited. We knew we had some experience with our first and were ready to bring a second into the world. I think one of the things that excited us most was that Keltanys would have a permanent playmate. We knew he learnt language well after hanging out with his cousins and sharing skills with one another. We couldn't wait to see how he would interact with his sibling. Well, I often am surprised by my little man and when we were about to bring our little girl into the world he shocked me even more.

First, I will be honest and say that I was in latent labor for a week and a half and during that week he stayed with his Grandmother. My son does not like seeing other people in pain and when it becomes to much he gets a little scrappy. 

On November 7, 2013 we brought our daughter home. Two days after that Keltanys came home. I'll be honest, it was hell. I don't think he liked the idea of Mom and Dad spending time away from him. Which I'm not gonna lie felt good to know. 

Anyway, he was not happy with us, but absolutely loved and still loves his sister. We experienced his wrath for leaving him out of the loop on that one, for about two weeks. In those two weeks he mainly just cried and wore his heart on his sleeve and I can't blame him. I think what made it so hard was that I didn't know how to fix it at first but as time went on he adjusted. If I were to do it again it would probably be different as Keltanys is growing, is super smart, and can definitely put 2 and 2 together. 

Now, at first when we brought our girly home he didn't mind her. He loved her but didn't pay to to much attention to her. And as the days went by displayed all the typical signs of having a sibling. If it was good for his sister he had to have it too. Not everything obviously as he is a pretty big kid. But cuddle time left me absolutely no room to move. Which I thought was more than fantastic considering cuddling was a no-no before his sister came home. Cuddling now is better but only on his terms which I don't mind. I think what helped a lot is that we prepared him by getting him a baby doll and showing him how we love the baby and take care of baby. So he had some prep. 

Another thing we observe is his need to take care of her. Always making sure she has everything she can play with, is something he religiously does to this day. If she manages to cover her face with her blanket he's on it pulling it away from her face and reminding her, "Don't do that." It is beyond precious. And there's one thing I love that she does for him. Breaking the boundaries. 

After perfectly lining up some stuffed animals which he was tucking in with a blanket, she destroyed the line like a hurricane, crawling over the toys, picking them up, tossing them aside, it was pretty awesome to watch the interaction. And what shocked me was that  Keltanys joined her in her folly. He started his tumbling and she laughed so hard, it made me cry. He was joining in and loving making her laugh. Something some specialists will warn you  you may never see. 

And I saw it. Eltiyena is so great for him. He has leaned the art of sharing, of being gentle, of realization outside himself. It is a beautiful thing to see him unfold before our eyes. And I must say having two kids who learn very differently is awesome. I wouldn't have it any other way. Both of them are so unique and I love it. 

As always thanks for reading!

Amber Jones



Monday, 9 June 2014

Autism related to Postpartum Depression?



I had a huge problem with some of the old school papers I read on Autism relating to the "refrigerator mother" creating the Autistic child. Mainly because I went through postpartum depression and anxiety. Yes, I am very open about this topic because somewhere out there is a Mother who can relate and she needs to hear that it is NOT her fault. Here is my story....

My son was born via c-section. Something we had been against from the beginning. We had been so against the idea of a c-section that I had built it up in my mind as the most violating evil thing that a doctor can do to a woman. Well, it is what you think of it. Anyway, the first thoughts that came to me upon seeing my bundle of cuteness, was that he was not my son and someone had made a mistake and brought me the wrong child. There was a bond but I couldn't feel it. It was hell, and the second day we were in the hospital I started having really, really, bad crippling anxiety. All of which arose out of something called "intrusive thinking." I'm gonna make people do some research here as to not trigger anyone with PPD or Postpartum Anxiety. SO google it people.

Now sometimes when Mothers go through PPD the want to hold their child is not there. I forced myself for fear of what it might do to my kid if he didn't see pics of him and I together, later in life. I wanted him to know that my PPD was not his fault and that it's something so common to a lot of Moms. SO I forced myself to get over my fear and dread, and hold him. It helped having him on me. At about six months in to our bond forming, I overworked myself on Christmas prep trying to make everything perfect. Wanting people to know I was a good Mom (who cares what others think. One of the first step to overcoming it.) Well, my PPD and anxiety hit me full force and we stayed with a family member so that I felt safe and secure.

I went through therapy and called phone crisis lines every week, (check links and help line numbers in P.S. of this blog) almost everyday in fact. To make sure I was getting help and on the road to recovery. I just wanted things to be "normal" and not have to experience the anxiety associated with having a child. At least not to the degree I was experiencing it. At about the year mark I noticed that everything was fine. I had experienced the healing but was still wary of it coming back. I was on a strict self-care diet my husband saw to (cause you forget to do things when your taking care of a little one).

Not long after that we noticed a difference in our son. and the way he was processing the world.. When I first set out reading old school theories on autism (which some doctors still believe) surprise, surprise, I found that hey were blaming us. The PPD experiencing Mother. I was pissed to say the least. It made no sense for me, being attached to him the first year of his life. I sat back and wondered how much damage something like this would cause to a Mother who hasn't recovered yet and was dealing with the autism assessment process. What cruelty to put on someone who spends every waking hour of there day dedicated to their little ones, regardless of the chaos their going through. And for the woman who new she needed help and time away to heal, the cruelty it sends to her is unfathomable.

I survived PPD and anxiety and I'm here to say it's no ones fault to experience it and it is not the cause of autism. Certain circumstances may put you at risk for PPD and anxiety, but if you learn how to deal with it early you recover sooner than if you let it sit and build.

The first thing any Mom with PPD and even with just the kid on the spectrum is SELF CARE. Find someway. get creative, because when you take care of yourself you are able to take care of others. This goes for fathers too. Find time for self-care! Superman and Superwoman had to eat, take a shower, have water, vitamins, and small comforts in life or else it wouldn't be just the kryptonite that got to them. So, for every parent out there SELF-CARE, it is a necessity.

And to the Mother's out there that experienced or are experiencing PPD or postpartum anxiety and have a kid on the spectrum...let me get the megaphone for this....IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

I hope this has helped you in someway and feel free to post questions in the comment box below or email me at ellewynnn@gmail.ca to vent, relate, or hear more of the story. The more we open up about PPD and Anxiety the less of a stigma it becomes.

As always thank you for reading!

Much love and Gratitude,
Amber Jones

P.S.  A great telephone line for PPD support is Postpartum Pacific Support: 1.604.255.7999 or 1.855.225.7999 Link to their website is below:
http://postpartum.org/


Sunday, 8 June 2014

I Spy Books for Autistic Kids




My son loves to read. He loves hearing the stories and seeing the pictures and telling us what's in the pictures. My husband and I get pretty animated when we read to him so that we peak his interest as much as possible. Reading to him is wonderful even if it is the same book, over and over again.

Something we noticed on this reading adventure was the fact that our little guy was only interested in certain books on his book shelf. And when the list dwindled to five books he loves hearing over and over again, we both made a note that, while reading is great, he was only getting so many words in the few chosen books he loves.

Now, Keltanys loves reading and has fun learning new words...now. lol. But only on certain days when he's trying hard to communicate. You can see it when he's trying to communicate with us. He desperately searches for the words and then forces them out of his mouth. It's heartbreakingly cute and difficult to observe when frustration ensues.

Anyway, we thought of different things to get him to learn new words. We used flash cards but again those get old fast once he's learnt everything on them. We bought all sorts of electronic devices that tell you what the word is when you press on them. We tried being outside and pointing, but when you're busy with two and on the go, well, no one has time to do much of anything except hold on for the ride.

Then while in Coles Bookstore, it screamed at me from the kids section saying, "Hey, I spy with my little eye the answer." Yes folks. The "I Spy" book is our saving grace for learning new words and associating them with the object. It's also great for his visual sensory need, everything in chaos and waiting to be found. Anytime it's just him and I we sit with that book and whenever he succeeds at finding something we high five. He loves it. And something amazing happened the other day, spontaneously, out of nowhere, my son started playing "I Spy" without the book in hand. It was and is awesome. What makes it even better without the book, is that he is forced to ask what something is if he doesn't know it by name. His vocabulary has grown so much due to the book. Thank goodness because now learning at home is fun, not to repetitive, and easy for him to pick things up. Definitely pick up the book to see if it's a hit. I cannot recommend it enough.

Anyway the kids are asleep, so I will end this as sleep is a delicacy these days.

As always thanks for reading!

With Gratitude,
Amber Jones

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Is Autism Awareness a good thing?



As a mother with a child on the spectrum I tend to really dislike labels. Everything has been given a name due to the human's need to define everything. Why can't it just be part of who we are and how we act instead of it being some force outside of us, or something that is happening to us?

Anyway, we put a name to everything. And when kids started processing the world differently, after awhile of discussion, they lumped it under autism. Ok, I can accept that. The problem is when people take the title and assume what it means. That's when labels become an issue for me.

The real trouble begins when people assume that they are experts on autism and that they know, before even meeting the child, what the child will be like.

On the other hand if they know that they don't know everything, and are willing to learn, they open their mind to be educated, and can be great word of mouth mini advocates that, spread the word on autism, and infect the masses with the intelligence to be open minded about something they may not know to much about.

So, is Autism Awareness a good thing? Yes, in the sense that it will boost other peoples understanding of something that people are looking at as a stigma rather than a new way of processing. With this awareness my hope would be that people would improve education equality, understand that not all autistic children think the same, and that it's OK to think and be different. It may also put out the signals to other parents with kids on the spectrum that they are not alone. Awareness is almost, in a sense, a way of building a community.

When people come together to speak about breast cancer awareness, say at an event, a beautiful thing happens. A community forms, to love one another, support one another, to share stories, to connect on a real level, to almost subconsciously admit that we are all one and see the beauty in each and every person attending the event. People see that life is precious and rejoice in the beauty of women everywhere, and mourn the ones we have lost. Shouldn't we always do this regardless of what it is?

I can imagine that that bond is just as strong at an autism event, in a different way but still very strong. People gather, share stories, find comfort in one another, support one another, reach out to say "Yup we've been there and this is what we did...", and celebrate their children and their accomplishments. Something in the community is happening inside of the little bundle of miracles we have created, and it is helping bring everyone closer together. Why in the world is that a bad thing? Maybe this is the push to create a new paradigm of understanding, patience and, yes I'll say it, love. Maybe what we've been told is the problem is actually the answer to fixing every nations problem and maybe it all starts with awareness. Awareness of someone else. That is what we're lacking. And that is why awareness for anything is important. And to act with love is quite possibly the answer we have been looking for.

As always thanks for reading!

Much love and gratitude to you and yours,
Amber Jones

Friday, 6 June 2014

Taking autistic kids to the carnival...10 tips......


There came a point in the assessment process that made me feel , for lack of a better word, bummed. And that was the whole not knowing whether or not our son would enjoy some of the simple pleasures in life that we as kids enjoyed. I think that's one of the most difficult things as a parent is not knowing whether your kid is going to enjoy what kids typically enjoy. I remember last Christmas being at a loss as to what to get for him. Do we get him the transformer he has never seen before or something sensory that we know he'll play with repetitiously for hours on end? Obviously the latter was by far the better choice but in some weird sense it bummed me out a little. But, on Christmas day when he opened his sensory geared gifts it was as if he had discovered magic. And that little grey cloud left my vision. 

 When we saw the little carnival pull into town I was super excited. And I was hoping that our boy would be too. Sure enough, he saw the rides and immediately was asking to, "play" while pointing at the kid rides. I was beyond thrilled. Now, I know that the carnival was a hit last year but every year he's shown us something new in his preferences and you just never know what will be a hit tomorrow and an absolute no-no the day after. Well folks....




It was a hit! Of course he remembered things I was hoping he'd forget, like the cotton candy, but it was all something that I had always hoped for and that was and is that my kids will always have fun regardless of sensory preferences. And he did.


Of course I realized, sometimes, when doing the great carnival experience, things don't always go as planned. Here are ten tips (from professional carnival goers) for taking a kid with ASD to the carnival that will make the trip more pleasant.

1. Employ some sort of waggon or stroller to accompany you to the fair and already have them in it when you hit the gates. In between rides put them in it. When getting off rides put them in it. Worked wonders for us.

2. Eat before you go to avoid meltdowns and bring plenty of water with you and a small snack and maybe even a picnic depending on how long you're staying. 

3. Expect anything. If your kids wants to just watch the rides. Let them. It's no biggie if they don't take advantage of what we think is fun. Let them just watch happily if that's what they want to do. 

4. Take other family with you. It's always better to take the understanding people with you that way they can sit with the kidlets when you wanna ride the rides. Or agree to trade off on the riding of rides with your partner. It's OK to go on alone. Sometimes you need the thrill to put things into perspective. lol

5. Bring one of their vices. If they like a certain video on your phone let them hang out with that while they process everything around them. Let them stim, hand flap whatever they need to do to feel comfortable that's appropriate. Forget about the stares. Whatever people think about you or your little one is non of your business. Just as mush as it is non of their business, but always be flexible to answer the genuine questions about why it's happening, in the most it's "no biggie" voice you can muster.My son had a vast treasure of receipts he would flap to process the ever changing environment of society. We encouraged him so he would get used to it. Now he doesn't need them but back then it was a must or tantrums would ensue.

6. I would suggest, for first timers trying this, to stay an hour tops. You know your kid best and what they will and won't handle so plan accordingly. We have a pretty small carnival that comes through so 35 minutes is how long we stayed and it was enough.

7. I know this might be crappy advertisement but don't play the games. My kid loves repetitive movement and games. If I were to let him play the games we would have been there for hours on end and 100's of dollars less. Don't do it unless you think your kid can part with the activity.

8. Rules on riding the rides. If you have a kid that can go to the bathroom by himself and not get hurt or into anything then I would say they can ride the rides alone as long as they are tall enough and know what's going on. If you have a kid that's a runner, will not sit still, doesn't like being harnessed, I would say use a lot of parental discretion in deciding whether it's a good idea or not. Again you know your kid.

9. Be prepared to spend money on tickets for rides. I let my son know how much money we had and that once the tickets were gone that was it. He understood for the most part and decided he wanted to ride the kid rides all night long. Well, that's what we did. Watched him on the rides the majority of the time. I enjoy that. Many people don't.  It's refreshing for me after having a long hard day of tantrums to see the wonder and hear the laughter of my son. 

10. Don't over do it. If you see the eyes droop and hear the slurred speech of a child that needs to rest the senses, leave. Call it a day. An overwhelmed kid with ASD can, sometimes, be easily overwhelmed so the second you see it call it a day. Again you know your kid and how much they can handle.

or yeah I guess there are 11 tips.

11. Take photos regardless of who enjoys it, you have every right to enjoy it. This is your family moment. It is what you make it. Don't let a tantrum and crabby people mess it up regardless if its the child or the partner or anybody. Enjoy it this is your family moment and make sure you record it as something great to look back on. 

Anyway, those are my tips for families who are willing to try it. I can't state this enough. You know your kid and what they do and do not process well. If you think it might not be a good idea but still want to go, find a sitter and take your partner or friend and hit the carnival like your 16 all over again. Do things that scare you, make you laugh till you cry. That is what life is worth living for...happiness. 

As always thanks for reading.

With Gratitude,
Amber Jones

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Is Autism evolution, spiritual enlightenment, or a disorder?

I read a lot of articles these day about what autism is and how we must "fix it." Or understand it. On what level does it operate, the mental or the spiritual? May advocates thinking it's a horrible disorder that requires a specialist with little parental interruption and then the other side of that coin is the requirement of a dedicated parent with little specialist interruptions. So, many different descriptions of what autism is and is not. It can make any parents head spin and undermine the creative way of looking at it.

Here is my personal definition of what autism is. A repetitious new way of experiencing and reacting to the senses. I find that that definition works for our family. My son feels and reacts accordingly. Does not make him less? No, just more interesting and with new perspective on a world we see one way. Does it mean evolution. Yes. There's something new. A growth of different neural processes that senses and reacts to the world differently. I wouldn't say it's a disorder because they are seeing something we're not. A new way of being. 

Is it spiritual. Well, we are spirit having a human experience so of course it's spiritual. 

The important question. Is it a disorder? Depends on who you talk to. I don't have a son or daughter that I have to worry about self-harm with. I imagine there are those parents experiencing extreme behavioral problems who view it as a disorder. What I know is my son. And while the communication is still something we're working on. And the tantrums are a bit crazy when something triggers him, we know he is processing the world around him differently and why not give him the time and space to do so. Do we still keep a routine for such a free thinker? Of course, but we don't force him into something unreasonably uncomfortable to him. 

So what is autism? Well it's something that people have made a title out of. I use it because it gives people a little heads up, that they need to be patient with my kid who doesn't think the way they do....I think. lol. I also use it to help guide people to my blogs, so that they know they are not a lone in the whole parenting a kid on the spectrum. 

In the most simplest of terms. It's a new way of processing. People may not think that, if they have a child on the low functioning side of the spectrum. I accept that. It's not my place to tell them what they should think it is. I only know wheat it means for me and my son.

It means drawing numbers endlessly on the menu at our favourite restaurant. It means blowing bubbles and playing play dough at all hours of the day. It means reading him his favourite book 10 times a day. It means learning more about our solar system that he is fascinated by. It means making sensory toys and helping others parents to make them. It means sharing stories and networking with other parents. It means sleep deprivation, not understanding all the time, making it through the obstacles, and supporting our wonderful community of autistic children. That's what it means for me.

As always thanks for reading.

With Gratitude,
Amber Jones

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Changing an autistic kid's room....lesson learned.

May look random but it was perfectly placed by a 3 year old and with reason. :-) Photographed by Keltanys.


Well, I learned something new about my Keltanys yesterday. He doesn't deal well with change. I guess that shouldn't surprise me really. Most kids on the spectrum don't deal with it so well. I also should have known, he is my kid and I don't deal with change well either.

I remember when we started to set up the bedroom for bringing Keltanys home from the hospital. I felt a bit of grief and just icky about the way things were changing so fast. It bummed me out. Kinda the same way I feel when someone springs a surprise visit on me or when plans change to quickly. It takes me a minute to adjust.

My son deals with it on a bigger emotional level. So, the story starts with stepping on a smurf. I was less than happy about the state of his room. He likes to make pockets of nests everywhere and often times if you move something in them while he's looking, he gets upset and puts it back. So, after stepping on jokey smurf I decided that it was time to clean his room and make it so that if he wanted his toys he needed to ask us for them. Mistake number one.

Regular toys that he has made friends with.....you don't take away.

So, we cleaned his room and got rid of some stuff that we know he doesn't play with anymore and put everything away. Unfortunately, where we had originally placed his toy ottoman was in a blind spot so he couldn't even see the thing. All the while he was at his Aunties not able to be part of the transition. Mistake number two. For me if something's changing I like to be able to see it happen or be the cause of the change, or be the organizer of it. I don't know what I was thinking not making him apart of it.

Anyway, we brought him home and he seemed ok that night but when the next day came we saw a vast change in behavior. He was super sensitive. Would cry if you looked at him funny and all the while would be in his room making a nest of the few items available to him.

And today has been even worse. When a change happens my son feels like he's lost some control since he doesn't process change very well yet. And I think he knows that in some small way. He'll sit there and be super upset if things change to fast that he just wants the person with him to be still as possible unchanging, unmoving, quiet and without will. Well, he's been mad at me for everything today. And when we were at therapy appointments today for him he let them know how upset he was. I cried a little with him knowing how hard it must be to be so little and feel like the world is falling apart. My heart kept breaking every time he wanted to see people be still and quiet. And it dawned on my quickly that if we are to make changes to his world we have to do 2 things

1. Have him help.
2. Keep something as a constant. Something that will always remain in his foundation so that when something changes he still has something to hang onto in the roller coaster of change.

So, lesson learned. We've given the toy ottoman back with the stipulation that he picks everything up when he's done. So far so good.

My heart still breaks thinking about it but I know for next time right. This has made me question some things regarding my going back to school. I think it might be OK for two years, but, a whole seven years with the intensity of the last five will be over the limit of time I'm willing to spend sporadically away from him. So, much needs to be thought of when it comes to getting him ready for this world. I'd rather spend my days getting to know every aspect of my Keltanys than go further into debt, and the other stresses that we create for ourselves.

Anyway, plans are under review and I have learned that change isn't easy for my boy. Better now than never!

Thanks for reading.

Always with Gratitude,
Amber Jones


Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Milk and the Autistic Child...

Milk is an absolute no no in our house. My Husband is lactose intolerant, and my son is lactose intolerant...and as many papers have said, it sends our autistic child through the obstacle course of cognitive difficulties.

What we have found is something quiet interesting. If my son has any dairy at all, he experiences all that would be associated with lactose intolerance and then the added effect of tantrums, less verbal communication, chronic bowl issues, loss of appetite, and insomnia. It sucks to be quiet honest. Not because I have to give up milk, but because it's in e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  

We first realized this last year when he was having explosive accidents all the time. Call me a little blind but everyone I had talked to said it was normal until one Mom said, "No way! Something is wrong." I don't know that being lactose intolerant is all that bad considering the works of "The China Study." Awesome book! Go read it. It does make it difficult to buy anything processed since they use it as an ingredient all the time. It was fortunate for us that my husband is already lactose intolerant, so, we never had milk in the house to begin with.

Things, however, like butter and cheese got the ax quickly. And finding alternative solutions to those ingredients came, thankfully, to the lovely cook book "Forks Over Knives."

For dairy alternatives check the link below.
http://www.peta.org/living/food/dairy-replacements/
Also get the cook book "Forks Over Knives" mentioned above. Super awesome recipes!

I'm not sure what the connection is between having an upset stomach and cognitive function difficulties but I did discover something interesting about my boy and head injuries. Whenever my son has had, a not horrible, but decent, bump to the head his chronic bowl issue takes off as if he's eaten some ice cream. It is the most interesting thing. I know that some concussions may produce similar effect but his falls have been super minor and he reacts as if he's eaten a ton of yogurt. It definitely tells me that whatever the connection is, it is an intense and super sensitive one. So, it would make sense that when his stomach is upset from say eating ice cream or yogurt, he becomes more repetitive, more rebellious, agitated, prone to tantrums, less verbal, and an insomniac. He feels his tummy ache on a totally different level. And the link while sometimes unfortunate is pretty fascinating. Said the future Doc of Traditional Chinese Medicine. he he.

Anyway, this is what we've discovered with Keltanys. If anything it's worth a try. Just remember to read the labels. Things won't say they have milk but then list thing like casein which means milk. Here is a link with a list of things that mean "milk", "may mean milk" and "should be safe", to help you if you decide to try the Milk/Dairy Free theory....

http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/resourcespre.php?id=37

One more interesting thing to consider. In Traditional Chinese Medicine when it comes to diet the first thing the Doc will tell you to cease with autistic children is the consumption of Dairy and Gluten. I will tackle the Gluten argument another day.

As always, you are the expert on your kid, as well as the nurse, the doc, the teacher, and sometimes the scientist. And hey if something works why not adopt it into practice.

As always thanks for reading.

With Gratitude,
Amber Jones



Monday, 2 June 2014

Being a minimalist with an autistic child.....

We live in a 17 ft by 23 ft apartment. I wouldn't say it's too small. I actually enjoy us all in close proximity cause it's easier to keep an eye on both children and brings the family together. What bothers me is the accumulation of stuff. I think I've always been that way though. When I moved out of my house and into my own place I never had so much that I needed a U haul. As I came into being an adult my accumulation got smaller and smaller. I hated the hassle of having to pack so much junk around. I got so used to getting rid of stuff that I realized what I needed to learn was how to not accumulate so I wouldn't have that problem. When Will and I became a couple I had a suitcase of stuff. That was it. As time passed and we realized our dreams together we moved out of his Aunties house (she's amazing by the way and we loved every minute with her. Such awesome company) into this apartment in May 2009. I love this place and it will be heartbreaking to leave in July.

Anyway. when we moved in it was the perfect size for us. We had just enough room for everything. And then in 2009 in October we found out we were pregnant with our son Keltanys. Many people had questioned if we would move and find a bigger space. I was never keen on moving since I have been a nomad most of my life, I wanted to stay in one spot for longer than just a year. So, whenever anyone would kindly offer us something bigger we declined. Time moved on and we still found that we enjoyed the space. All three of us fit comfortably. We have one room a small living room a kitchen and a bathroom. We were happy. We did start to notice that stuff was piling up so we scaled down appropriately now and then. We did many purgings and took a lot of stuff to Raven Recycling's free store. After two years of having our son we scaled down even more and realized that a lot of stuff we bought or received as a gift before our son was born we never used.  Then in the spring of 2013 we found out we were expecting a second. We were thrilled and more than excited to start planning out the kids room. Everyone was convinced that we would move into a bigger place before the baby was born. When we didn't people thought we were nuts. I didn't want to move and still have a hard time wanting to now as school in B.C. looms in the distance.

In order to prepare for our daughter Will and I did some serious soul searching about materialism and what really matters. We bought e-readers, signed up for library cards (we're bookaholics), and read Annie Leonard's "The story of Stuff." We were determined to not accumulate anymore. In late October we had a baby shower and we received so many clothes it was amazing. What I did to make sure that clothes got cycled through appropriately, was to sort them according to size and pack the bigger clothes away. In November my daughter was born. As we got used to being a family of four in our 17 ft by 23 ft apartment, I realized it was time to minimize even more. My daughter, Eltiyena had so many clothes she could start her own department store. A lot of it was clothes she grew out of. So I went through her clothes that did fit and kept 6 pant, 6 shirts, 3 onsies, 3 sleepers, 3 jackets, 2 dresses, and a packet of socks. 3 stockings, 1 pair of shoes. I also kept one box of clothes that didn't fit yet so I didn't have to buy any when she grows out of what she has. That being said if something doesn't fit in that box it goes. I was a little liberal with her amount of clothing cause she's creative in the way she messes a diaper. he he.

As for my son. How do you go about minimizing things from a kid with repetitive and sensory needs. It was easy for us because he loves interaction now. So, anything that I play with with him usually gets put away after we're done playing, and that amount of stuff we play with together is small. He values interaction, over singular purposed toys. So, we bought an ottoman with a lid 15 in by 15 in and 15 in tall. Stuck all the toys we've seen him play with, and enjoy, into that thing and what ever didn't fit we got rid of (He has a bin of stuffies to that he shares with his sister). As for clothes. 5 Pants, 6 shirts, 2 jackets, 2 sweaters, 6 pairs of socks, 6 pairs of underwear, and 1 pair of shoes.

For my husband 3 Shorts, 3 pants, 9 shirts, 2 hoodies, 1 sweater, 7 boxers, 7 pairs of socks and 1 pair of shoes.

For me. he he. 5 pants, 6 shirts, 2 hoodies, 6 unmentionables, 3 upper unmentionables, 1 skirt, 7 pairs of socks, and 1 pair of shoes.

The collective of our clothing can fit into dresser with 4 drawers.

When we move a lot of furniture will get sold. And when we arrive at our destination we won't even have half of what we had here. We have still got a ways to go in terms of our one closet and what it holds. It's not full to the brim but I would like to have it so that when I walk in to our place what I see is what we have. It takes time and practice to get used to being without so many things that take up space. I love open space. So does my Son. He loves to run. So, it's been easy for him and me. And since we have been on this journey we've learned to appreciate the things we have, and we also have come to know the things that really matter to us. They are the memories we make that are important to us. Anytime we laugh together, any time we make it through the hard times together, seeing each other light up at the fireworks on the 1st of the year and 4th of July. Watching Keltanys discover the world around him. Seeing him light up when his favorite songs are turned on for him. Seeing him run through the forest and laugh as he goes.  Watching Eltiyena take her first steps and listening to her first words. Those are the things that matter to us.

Our goal is to own a small parcel of land and order, from this great place in Maryland called Hobbitat Spaces, a home that is as big as the place we're in now, but with a loft. We will have our own garden and do a lot of homesteading.

Every step we take now is towards that future. And we while we can't wait, we revel in the journey because along the way we can look back and see that nothing is impossible. Will and I started with nothing and have come so far. But that is a story for a different day.

Can you minimize and live in a small space as a family of four? Yes. Can it be done with a kid on the autism spectrum. With determination anything is possible and we are living proof that it absolutely can be done.

Anyway, if you have any questions about minimizing or living in a small cozy space, just leave them in the comments section below. As always thank you for reading.

See ya tomorrow.

With Gratitude,
Amber Jones

P.S. Link to Hobbitat Spaces of you're interested. ;-)
http://hobbitatspaces.com/

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Like a birthday at the carnival, with unlimited food and tickets! Minus the puking...

It was a super busy day. I don't even remember what day it was. I'm pretty sure it was last week. I was sitting on the floor and was just about to get up when the most magnificent thing happened.....ready....here we go.... I got a hug from my son, and a little cuddle. And it wasn't one of those hugs where I'm pulling him against his will to get a half hug. It was a need to reach out and embrace Mommy moment. I didn't cry cause shock had set in first. The kind of blank stare like, what's happening, then the realization, then the welling of tears and then fighting to hold them back so I didn't scare him off. This I must say is the very first hug I've ever received from him where he was the initiator. And to complete this heart stopping moment he laid down with his head in my lap and played with a toy. I was amazed. This is something I accepted might not happen right away or ever really and suddenly there it was. His little arms wrapped around me. He even hummed a little hum as if he'd been meaning to do this but just didn't know how. I will hang on that moment forever.

When we first noticed Keltanys not wanting to be touched it was strange to us. he was almost 16 months. He would get agitated if you comforted him, told him he was cute, or even tried to get near him to hug him. He would fight to be put down. We would constantly tell friends and family it's not you it's just his preference. It's so common these days to have adults that don't want to be touched so why not afford children that same right. I actually was a little glad that he had that preference cause he had no concept of stranger danger. I was still sad that he might not reach out and show love that way but as they say let it go and it will grow.

After months of going through his sensory boot camp, and speech impairment, we got used to the whole idea that it may always have to be a prompted thing every once in a great while. What we were most terrified of losing was more eye contact. That was something my Mom taught me at a very young age was that communication can still take place if through nothing else but eye contact. I was more afraid of losing that than anything else. And sure enough it started to fade.  I was desperate. We reached out to a speech pathologist who gave us some pointers on creating more eye contact and they did work, but then out of the blue he was taking a huge interest in numbers and while walking through the toy department, we found a playdough set with cut out numbers. Thank god for playdough!!!! Every morning we would play and his eyes would light up as we played. Suddenly I could coax him into saying, "Playdough back please," "Flatten please," "Squish it please," all the while maintaining that precious eye contact and showing him what each verb meant. Then while the whole playdough craze was happening we introduced bubbles, and even more opportunities to communicate unfolded and soon enough after months and months of no touching, we got him into rough housing where the opportunities to communicate were vast and the eye contract was more constant. Slowly, but surely it was OK to ask for hugs and kisses now and then. And he got used to it. He would run up and give everyone hugs and kisses when asked.

After a year of that, and many hours of play based therapy mixed with endless rough housing, he now is pretty used to our parental affection. Now were teaching him that not everybody needs to be kissed and while hugs are always good not everyone always wants  so we should always ask if it's ok first. He always gives me a look of, "but I just discovered that they're great. People must be crazy not to want one." Still I remind him, but nevertheless am more than grateful that he thinks they're great.

Thanks for reading again.

With Gratitude,
Amber Jones

Light Box!! And a sweet giveaway!

Well I thought I learned my lesson yesterday when I fell asleep blogging at this hour....apparently I didn't.

Anyway, I am pleased to announce that our light box tutorial is up and awaiting your views.  Here are some things you will need before you start this project.

Things you will need to make a light box...
1. A see through plastic bin
2. LED Battery operated lights
3. Parchment paper
4. Tin foil
5. Tape (scotch)
6. Scissors 
7. Coffee. lol

You can find the video link below in the P.S. section of this blog. 

You'll notice that because it is summer now (Yukon only really has two seasons..hehe) a lot of our videos will be shot outside. The reason?

Well, I guess i's time to say it. We are relocating for schooling purposes and want to capture as much of the Yukon as we can so why not make it a part of our vlogging. Our next stop is British Columbia for 7 years of crazy schooling, all to become a Dr. of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Yes it will be awesome! Yes we are insane. But if we weren't we wouldn't know what might be possible. It's a huge adjustment for our son but we plan on integrating him into the idea everyday to make the transition as smooth as possible. He like's his routine and will miss so many people he sees here, but if we don't repetitively teach them about change nothing can grow and, as result of that growth, change. 

A new feature to our blogging and vlogging will be talking about Keltanys' diet and what you can do about a fussy eater. Meal plans and great recipes will be included. I will also go over some holistic things that have helped our little guy. 

And last but not least....thhhhheeeeeee GIVEAWAY!!!

So, every month on the 19 we will have a giveaway. This month I will be giving away two aprons with some spiffy artwork on them. Both designed by me. All you have to do is Share this blog link on facebook, from our FindingK profile page, like it, and your name will be entered into the draw for a free Amber Walker designed apron. So, simple. Pictures of the aprons will be posted in a week when they're finished. 

Anyway, that's all I got for tonight. Today was a crazy busy day with my Son at the reigns. Have a good night all. 

With Mass Gratitude,
Amber Jones

P.S. The link for the light box tutorial. ENJOY!! 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNUebvwsxSs&feature=youtu.be