New Beginings

The Holidays are now over and the New Year has begun.  Now what.  Time to get out all those goals you have been reciting to yourself once January came around.  Diets.  Organization.  Frugalness.  Great Hope, for you and your family, until normality re-sets in.  Back to old habits, with maybe a few new good ones thrown in.

For me, none of this take place until the snow is gone.  My true renewal.  When my garden starts to tell me it’s time to be reborn.  Only then can I start to think of the new year’s goals.  I need to see the birds return, the trees start to bud and the daffodils poke their heads up towards the sunshine.  Here in New England, that’s going to be a while, as we have just begun our deep freeze.

So it looks like I still have some time for comfort foods, warm blankets and old movies.  Still a few months before I need to re-design my life and body, with labeled bins and low carb meals.  Still a little time before I need to start what I truly do every spring-Procrastinate

Christmas Gifts and Autism

What do you get a child that does not play with toys  or just  breaks the toys he does have,  and everything else, for that matter.  This can be a tough problem not only for the parents of these children, but the friends and extended family that  rarely sees them but once a year.  Welcome to the holiday frustration of having an Autistic Child.

There are a few basics to keep in mind when attempting this exasperating task.  Function level of the child, and what the child enjoys doing-right now.  The function level of the child, can be the hardest to figure out,especially if you are part of the extended family,or a friend, and hardly see the child.  Age appropriateness won’t work here as most of these kids are either developmentaly or socially delayed or both.  So what a typical 10 year old boy would love, would be inappropriate and even harmful to the Autistic child.  It never hearts to ask, “What kinds of things is Mattie into these days?”.  This would be a much nicer question than, “is Mattie still using baby toys?”.  If you can’t ask the parent direct, ask someone who is close to the child-just make sure they  give you an accurate picture, and not well meaning misinformation.

Now the big question: What to give??  It’s ALWAYS good to go with the KISS method- Keep It Simple Stupid.  Keeping in mind  the child’s function and social level,  a higher functioning child that has social skills trouble, would benefit from things that his peers could relate to, and even interact with the child with.  A hand help game with a game at his level could inspire peers to interact with the child and promote socializing.  I once heard of a family that’s Autistic son only wanted a Nintendo for Christmas, that’s all he ever asked for.  So every year the family bought him the latest Nintendo and donated the old one to charity.  The child was thrilled every year, and another, less fortunate child, got a great gift as well.

If the child likes books but only a certain kind, and has them all, replace the worn out ones and again, donate the used ones. Same goes with DVDs, but before I wrap Mattie’s new DVDs I take the DVD out of the package and put it aside as Mattie will ALWAYS scratch the brand new one even before it gets played.

My favorite thing to tell people to get Autistic children, is an indoor swing.  A few great companies for these are:  http://www.southpawenterprises.com/Default.aspx,  http://www.abilitations.com/http://www.flaghouse.com/   Living in the North East, where we can have days,even weeks of bad weather, it’s great to have an activity for the kids to do that will keep them entertained.  And you really don’t need a lot of room.  Mattie’s swing is in our family room, with a 10 foot clearance all around.  It is hung from a perminate  weight bearing o ring that we had a licensed carpenter attach to the ceiling joist, with an adaptor kit from the swing company.  If you are thinking of doing this, a licensed carpenter is a must, and instillation should be done before the holidays.  There is nothing worse than a child unwrapping a swing and not being able to use it because the carpenter wasn’t available before Christmas.  These types of swings can usually be funded by allocated funds by the ARC or Family Services of DDS, formally DMR.  The ARC can be reached at http://www.thearc.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=183

Just remember, most Autistic children have no idea how much you paid for something, so this gift TRULY needs to come from the heart, and with a little research before hand, you should be able to make the child’s Chrismas a happy one.  But, as always with Autistic kids, you just never know how things will effect them-so just go with the flow, and enjoy what you can!!

Surviving Thanksgiving and Autism

The  Holiday Season officially begins with Thanksgiving.  The time of year, you can see the visible shudders of parents and grandparents of children with Autism.

While your child’s social awkwardness spotlighted, so is the ignorance of those not normally around an Autistic child.  Every cliche that has ever been said about Autism will be said over, and over again, during the Holidays.  Relatives seen only annually will have great expectations of the Autistic child from a year ago.  By now, the child should be speaking, toilet trained, reading, sitting quietly at the dinner table, etc.  And why aren’t they??  Don’t you have them in the right school or Program?  Well, you will be told, “Don’t Worry, My friend’s cousin’s daughter’s best friend’s son started talking magically at 13.”  There, You see!  Everything will be all right. Your child just needs  more time, that’s all.   It’s as if the more it is recited, the truer it becomes.  You will be given the names of books to read, websites to look at, and yes, the name Jenny McCarthy will come up, and how she “cured” her child.

What it comes down to is tolerance.  Not towards your child’s behavior, this time, but  towards those who truly do not understand, and perhaps only ever remotely try to, for a few days out of the  year.  It is brain numbing enough for them to endure Autism for Holiday season, or God forbid, year round.  The best way to deal with these people??  Nod, and say nothing.  Things are too hectic to truly teach them anything this time of year, and frankly, they really don’t want the specifics of all the ABA and Hippotherapy that your child is getting, nor do they want all the updated statistic regarding autism and it’s  diagnosis.

What they really want, deep down is to show, in their own awkward way, that they care.  Because, family is family.  So, just nod, pass the gravy and take a deep breath.  Soon enough, they will be gone, you will be doing the dishes, and life will be back to normal.  At Least, your kind of normal.