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Autism and Our Greatest Inspiration From 2014

Cheers to 2014!

Participants from a Cooking Level III class at the Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center

While the rest of the world buzzes with excitement today, making plans for the evening, reflecting on the days behind us and raising a glass to what the bright New Year may bring, today I have a different vision of what it is we should be ‘cheers-ing’ to. Naturally, we are all compelled by the freshness a new year brings; new horizons for being better, having a clearer focus, ridding bad habits and welcoming new opportunities. 

Last night, as I sat down to reflect on my year, the celebrations, hardships, people and things, that made it so rich and beautiful, my staff sent me a Ted Talk called, ‘How autism freed me to be myself’, featuring Read full post »

Saturdays with Arthur

Arthur, my 15-year-old son, has autism and getting out the house for community outings can be a complex, demanding, stressful and unpredictable journey for both of us.  

Last year, on a gray December Saturday, Arthur and I were flopping around the house in our pajamas. The day wore on and we were feeling restless and confined. Arthur started to pace and gallop. 

A clumsy giraffe in my small kitchen. His way of saying, “not one more minute under this roof.”    

I remember this day because months before this, we had some very rough moments in public. The kind of day when we both return home traumatized. Tantrums in parking lots, meltdowns in bowling alley, aggression in Safeway, bolting in the museum, the sound of breaking glass in the gift shop, nibbling others’ French fries in the food court and sniffing strangers in the elevator. Keeping him safe, apologizing to others when necessary, and helping Arthur to understand the rules of social navigation was overwhelming. I started to wonder if we’d never leave the house—even if it meant terminal cabin fever.   Read full post »

Gratitude in the Midst of Hardship

wordsofthankfulnessOne exercise that I learned in mindfulness training is to jot down the things I’m grateful for.  The point is to be aware that while difficulties are present in our lives, there are people and things that make the load a little lighter. This is not always an easy thing to do when I’m not feeling particularly thankful for sleep deprivation or challenging behavior. I do find it helpful though to consciously do this from time to time. 

At this time of year, we at Seattle Children’s Autism Center would like to call to mind the reason we are here – YOU.  While we wish we knew each other under different circumstances, we are keenly aware of how much better we are because of you and all who live with autism. 

I asked our staff what they are thankful for when it comes to the families we serve and this is what they said . . .

I am thankful that I am allowed to witness all the incredible strength and perseverance I see in our families. It inspires me to do more.  Jennifer Mannheim, ARNP 

I am so, so thankful for the opportunity to share in moments of growth with families. It is a privilege and a constant source of inspiration!  Jo Ristow, SLP  Read full post »

Ten ‘Mistakes’ This Parent of a Kid with Autism Has Made Over the Years

Beginning with her diagnosis almost sixteen years ago, we’ve put forth a Herculean effort to help her to do and be her best. We’re human though and autism is hard so we’ve made mistakes. I also know we’re in good company because I see many parents doing what we did, all with the most noble of causes – to help our child.

We’re older and wiser (although not proportionally by any means!) now and can reflect on things we know now that we wished we’d known then. With that in mind, here are ten things we’d do differently that are offered not as criticism but as food for thought.

1. We choose a therapy or intervention with the goal that it will make autism go away.

While this is perfectly understandable and we probably all start off with this aim, having this global goal can make it difficult to accurately appraise the gradual progress that our kids tend to make. It can also lead to big disappointment when the optimal results aren’t achieved. Instead, focus goals on specific aspects of your child’s autism, the things that are most challenging. For example, more specific goals might be improving receptive vocabulary in speech therapy or reducing tantrums in behavioral therapy, improving social skills in social skills group. Here’s a tip for thinking about Read full post »

What This Parent of a Child with Autism Wants You To Know

Kat and ArthurParents of kids with autism love to talk about their kids. Just ask us! Each of us has our own story to tell and this is mine. Ask another parent and you’re sure to get a different perspective.

When I tell people my child has autism, I often wonder what they envision. Do they conjure up an image of a child “locked up in his own mind” looking blankly out at the world?

Or perhaps they imagine a “little professor” who has can list in a very business-like tone and in alphabetical order, the 400,000 species of beetles known to man. 

You should know that my child is not like Rain Man or Einstein.

Some children with autism may have savant abilities or have remarkable splinter skills but most do not have a special superpower. On the same note, not all children with autism have an intellectual disability. And having intellectual disability does not mean a child is not smart.  Read full post »