Halloween was a Treat this year!!!

Mattie did SO well this Halloween, thanks to his on going ABA training, and his PECS “Trick or Treat” card his teacher made him.  We went to about 15 houses with my twin Godsons (one of which is also Special Needs), and everyone was in a great mood and VERY well behaved!!  Remind me to bring that card again next year, because that was the key.  Not only did Mattie use it PECS appropriately,meaning he handed it to each person opening the door, and then pointed to each word as he has been taught, but now my neighbors are more aware of Autism and it’s impact on not just one child, but the entire community! Win, Win, for everyone this year!! (Oh, and I scored a few Reese Cups as well!!)

Autism and October 31st

So here we go again.  Halloween is this Saturday, and having a child with Autism, this holiday can be tricky and not always a treat.

First, there is the costume ordeal.   My Mattie has never been a Disney Fan, so that rules out 75% of all child costumes.  And I NEVER do gory.  GEE, wonder why??  Hmmm…..,I bet it wouldn’t be a good idea to teach a child that takes EVERYTHING literally, that it is OK to pretend to be hurt or play with a knife or that blood is funny.  So, what are we left with?  He loves Dora, but I am NOT dressing my ten year old son like a girl, or her monkey sidekick, for that matter.  And any show on PBS- and he likes them as well-is too young for him to dress up as.  That leaves us to be an Army guy-like his Dad-for the 5th year in a row.  No ammo, or weaponry of any sort, of course, just comfy fatigues and hat, and a bag for his goodies.

Our second Halloween obstacle to overcome is the actual Trick or Treating.  This in our case, requires some preparation, and help from our neighbors.  3 years ago, Trick or Treating was disastrous for us.  Mattie would not go to anyone’s door, and the  few houses he did go up to  he tried to go in their houses, and stay a while.  Thank God, my neighbors know and love him, or this could have been REALLY bad.  The following  year, I tried something new.  The day before Halloween, we first called then visited,the few neighbors I knew would be willing to help us.  A ding dong trial run, you might say.  It was a full dress rehearsal and all went well that night and on the actual holiday.  And then there was last year.  I felt no trial run was needed, as things had gone so smoothly the year before, so we got Mattie into his Army costume after an early dinner, and did a quick run to my mother in laws so she could see how cute he was.  On the way home, in the car, Mattie fell asleep-and slept right through trick or treating.

And here we are again.  Army costume , again.  Our favorite neighbors have already been asking me if we will be coming for candy at  their houses this year.  I hope so, is my reply.  Mattie’s teacher has provided us with some PECS (pictures with words) prompts to help us along.  And Dad is ready to walk the neighborhood with his favorite junior officer again this year.  We hope.  Stay tuned.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  Or doesn’t.

Things I know because of Autism

Autism in the family can be a harsh teacher.

You acquire skills,  that never, in your wildest dreams did you think, you would ever need to know. Like how to defuse a potential tantrum, with calming gestures and a gentleness in your voice.  How to get a ten year old to take foul tasting meds, day after day. And the ever un-popular, how to change the diaper of an older child.

You are asked questions, that no one would ever ask a parent of a typical child.  How are you going to “handle” him, when he gets bigger?  Are going to put him in Residential Housing soon?  Why is he not potty trained yet?

You are expected to be an expert on Autism from the day the child is diagnosed. What causes autism?, someone will ask. Have you tried the Gluten-free diet yet? What medications do you recommend for autism? What Sensory issues does your child have?

You face a society, that does not know what to do with your child, or even you.  An outburst in the local Target store, can bring a drove of Security personal.  Neighbors will-and one did, call DMR or, God forbid, DSS to report you, because your child runs into their yard,(even though you are running as fast as you can behind them).  People openly stare at your child’s apparent lack of public behavior skills, until you say, quite loudly, “He has Autism, thanks for the concern!”.

So, what HAVE I learned from Autism?  That other people can say and act more rudely than my son ever will in public.  That no matter what the Doctor ever writes in his Evaluation, my son is still the same little boy he was before I read the report.  It’s just a piece of paper.  People will always stare, ask dumb questions, and invade our privacy, as if they have a right to.
But, most importantly, I have learned that, a little boy named Mattie has changed me, and my family, for the better.  Autism, or not.

Twittering about Facebook, and, of course, Autism

Yes, I have joined the ranks of  millions who twitter.

As a Facebook addict, I rebelled at first.  What, no pictures?!  No Farm Town?!  People will start  to “follow” me,but won’t be my “friends” ?!  But, I’m worth $3.3 million dollars on Farm Town!

You will love it, give it a chance, said sister Maxine.  Follow people,  and they will follow you.  Look for people that twitter about Autism, or what ever else you’re interested in, AND  keep up with it!!  She bellowed.  Ok.   She didn’t bellow, but she typed: IN  ALL CAPITALS!!!

So I have been twittering for a few days now, and am just starting to get the hang of it.  Things are said short, but not always said so simply.   That is where the “lingo” I am just starting to learn, comes in.  DM, means: direct mail me.  Learned this from another Autism mom when she wanted the someone to DM her the scoop on the first 1/2 hour of “House”.  NO!, I typed to her, I have not seen it yet!!  That’s why I wanted it DM-ed to me, so no one else would see it,she typed in return. <Oops, sorry>   Then she graciously clued me in to the DM.

The more I learn about this new way of publicly declaring myself, the more I understand how it can become addicting.   On Facebook, you gather friends from your past and also make new ones via the games and groups that you play and join.  Twittering is more about the ‘right now”, and  not so  much about reminiscing with old High School pals.  It’s  more about chit chatting  current  topics, and social dilemmas,  sometimes with perfect strangers, and a few celebrities, now and then.

With Twittering, you can create your own forum, or jump into someone else’s.  I can vent about my day with Autism, also known as my son Mattie, or I can tweet a comment about one of my favorite TV shows, or what is going on in Afghanistan.  It is the short version of the world all wrapped up in 140 letters, numbers and spaces.  I can tell the world of my new blog post and still be able to find a new Dora episode on TV for Mattie to watch all under a minute.

For expressing myself to hearts desire, I’ll keep my blog.   For harvesting pineapples with my new “friend” Marlene from Sydney, Australia, and catching up with old chums Liz, Karen, and Janet, I’ll stick with Facebook.  But when I have just one minute, or a few, I’ll Twitter,which may win in the long run,  because with Autism, sometimes all you have, is one minute to yourself.

Being Positive and Autism

I’ll admit it.  I read the book “The Secret”.  Basically it deals with positive begets positive.  I have found with Autism, and with life in general, nothing is truer.

A great example of this is my friend Darla.  I just saw her this morning in the local Target.  She spotted me, smiled, and before I could say anything, she told me I looked fabulous.  Ms. Darla  just draws you in with her good nature and charm, and can instantly improve your mood.   This is a woman with an Autistic son, who requires a great deal of care,  and still never has a bad thing to say about anyone-unless it is constructive, and well thought.

Positivity works wonders with Autistic kids.  A “Great Job!”, with a smile can make a trying ABA session progress with no or less bad behavior from the student.  Being a constant cheerleader can be exhausting, but the rewards are enormous.  Positive reinforcement can be a miracle worker.  It can get a dog  to sit, motivate subordinates to be more productive in the workplace, and even help potty train a child.  And when YOU act in a positive manner, even if it is not genuine in the beginning, it seems to manifest itself,  and in the interim,  gets  you in a better mood.

So, next time you answer the phone, smile.  Even if you’re by yourself.  The person on the other end will hear your positivity, even though they can’t see you.

Oh, and one more thing.  You look Fabulous today!!

The Perfect Handbag

I am obsessed  with handbags.  This obsession is 8 years strong now.  Not coincidentally, the same amount of time that Mattie has been diagnosed with Autism.

Mattie’s Autism has changed not only changed my out look on the world, but they way I look in general.  As a former Esthetician and Make up artist for Elizabeth Grady Corporation, I had spent the early days of my career and marriage as a high maintenance, pampered diva who wore Channel lipstick and silk blouses.  My nails were always red, or hot pink and my pedicure was always a shade darker.  I had  a short, very chic haircut, that was as blonde as the bleach would allow, and my body was perfectly waxed from head to toe.  I didn’t leave the house with out earrings, my gold watch and a spritz of my latest costly perfume.

I still can recall the names of the lipsticks I wore then- Coco pink, and Coco Topaz.  The designers I wore-Adrienne Vittadini, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan.  But I can not remember a single handbag I owned then.  Not the style, color or brand.  They were not important.  No one ever saw them in the salon- so they didn’t matter.

When I went into labor with my first child, Katharine, I left for the hospital at 1 in the morning, perfectly coiffed and made up and looking like I was on my way to fancy restaurant.  It had been drilled into me at work, that you never knew when you wold run into one of your clients, and the Grady corporation expected us to look chic and perfect, at all times.

As Mattie’s Autism became more apparent in our lives, so did the change in my appearance.  Mattie’s Autism also caused Sensory issues with him, that overflowed into what I could, and could not, wear.  Earrings in my ears bothered him, so he pulled them out.  He spilled almost every liquid he could get his hands on, so my clothes would be stained and needed to be easy to wash and wear.  I carried,  and still carry him a lot, so I needed shoes that would not slip and were comfortable.  Having to constantly watch him meant not having a great deal of time for make up or styling my hair, if I even HAD the time to GET to the hairdresser.  Simplicity was a must, and  having a  easy morning routine, was,and is, crucial to his safety.

These days I run Mattie out to meet the bus with wet, combed hair and my uniform of  jeans, a tee shirt, and minimal make up.  All jewelry must wait to be put on till after he leaves, or it will be ripped off and lost.  Perfume is rarely remembered, as is any type of co-ordinating accessory.

The only piece of fashion I can rely on these days is a handbag.  And I have had more handbags in the last 8 years than most women have had in a life time.  It has become what my friends call “Sandy’s Thing”.  If I tell my friends Janice, or Gina to meet me in Marshall’s or Tj Maxx, they know I will be in the handbag  isle.

I am an expert in the world of handbags.   I can tell you the current designers that are on the rise, or  petering out.  I know that B. Makowsky is the brand name of Kathy Van Zeeland’s husband.  That all the “cheaper ” lines- Guess, Fossil, Strada, and Nine West, all look to the higher brands to copy- Coach, Lucky Brand, Dooney and Bourke,and Tingnanello.  That Messenger bags are hot right now, as are animal prints.

I have been hunting all week for the Perfect Fall bag, never willing to pay full price, always on the lookout  for an incredible bargain.  I know that I will find a perfect bag, and that it will ultimately be replaced by another, even more perfect bag, in a few months.   I even  know this has nothing to do with the bag, the season or the current  trends.  It is because this is the last sole expression of fashion that I have left.  The only one that can make me stand out, in this female way.  These days, for me,  it is about the safety and well being of a 10 year old boy.  A boy, I, as well as every member of my family, have given up much for, and would do so, over again.   These days it is all about Autism and the Perfect handbag.

In Zombieland from Autism

Last night Mattie was a sleep before I could carry him upstairs.  Tonight, when I had the chance to watch  my DVR-ed shows- he’s awake till -well, now it’s almost 1am.  Can’t win tonight.  But, I get to win most nights, so, can’t complain too much.  Going to watch Dora with Mattie and John, for the 90th time tonight,  Adios!