Monday, August 31, 2009

Baby Steps

It is way too late, yet here I sit. On the computer. Slouching and wide awake. Guess that's what I get for eating three fun-size York Peppermint Patties less than an hour before bedtime. What can I say...we don't keep candy around here much anymore but when we do, I go cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

I will pay tomorrow morning for this late night rendezvous with my laptop but who cares - the patties were darn good and I'm getting in quality computer time in utter silence. Forget York, quiet is the real treat in this house. No dishwasher running. No dryer tumbling. No air conditioner humming. But most importantly, no children hanging on me nursing, whining, crying, pulling my toes apart (Reiss), or otherwise making it impossible for me to savor my surf time.

Today we did the Walgreens and CVS runs. Both were fairly uneventful except for the entertainment we provided for the elderly couple in the candy aisle at CVS. Reiss kept alternating between "I gotta poop!" and "I wanna go get french fries!"

The older gentlemen found this quite amusing and Reiss asked, "Why was that guy laughing?" Hmmm....I don't know, Reiss. Do you think it may have been the fact that you were announcing to the world that you have to poop at a volume of about twenty-seven when you should be at about a two?

But of course I didn't say that.

We did go get french fries afterwards despite the fact that it was a reward promised only on the condition of good behavior. Really, neither of the monkeys behaved especially badly, just not ideal. But then, I've gotten used to things not being ideal when we go out.

Unfortunately, I wonder if I will ever know if I'm being too picky and this is the way most (almost) two- and four-year-olds act or if this is just the way things are because of the autism. And no, I'm not referring to the poop announcements. I'm talking about how things never seem to be just fun and carefree for us, like they seem for so many of my friends with children. They talk about all their adventures out and about with their kids and when I try to visualize my family doing the same kinds of things, I practically have an anxiety attack just imagining the outcome because of so many past experiences we've had. That's not to say we don't take Reiss places and keep right on trying.

However, here's a "for instance"...........

A friend of mine recently took her own two sons to an amusement park. Now, both of her sons fall in different areas of the autism spectrum but they are very different from Reiss - as all children with ASD are. Anyhow, she told me all the rides the boys went on and how they just loved the excitement of it all and had a ball.

Now, my visualization.....And remember, I am trying to remain positive but I also know Reiss and I know our past experiences and I also know things he tends to like and dislike and what will usually cause a tantrum.....

Let's imagine an amusement park setting and the most non-scary ride possible. A ride made just the perfect size and with just the right amount of fun for a four-year-old.....I'm thinking something like bumper boats. With that in mind, the first thing that comes to mind is Reiss having a fit because a drop of water will get on him. Should we actually get past the water on him and make it into the boat, there will probably be some water lingering in the bottom of the boat that will get his shoes wet. And if we make it past that even and get moving in the boat without any water tantrums, it will probably then be a matter of there only being one steering wheel in the boat (I'm imagining a boat that holds two people).

Again, I really do try to stay positive and even my fears like the above do not keep us from taking Reiss places just in case that one time is the time when he is compliant and ready to have a good time. However, so far, that has not been the case at amusement parks.....To be honest, we haven't even gone to an amusement park with Reiss yet. We haven't gotten past going to the little church fairs and carnivals yet because I figure why waste a boatload (no pun intended here, given my above example) of money on admission at a large theme park when we can't even get Reiss in the silly rides and amusements of a dinky little church fair? Yes, believe me, we have tried.

And here's the positive....Baby steps.....that's all I can say. Not terribly long ago, Reiss wouldn't even let go of James or me out in public. Now he fights to have his hand held in a parking lot. He would cry hysterically when we would take him to the indoor bounce house place. You know, the kind of place typical three-year-olds beg to to be taken? Nope, not Reiss. We were just lucky that the employees were so willing on many of those visits to let us go in without paying admission to see if Reiss would "warm up" to the place....only to leave with him crying - and not because he was leaving, but because he didn't want to be there to begin with. Now he even sees the place when we are out driving and he wants to go there.

Baby steps......While others are out living it up with their children, I'm being thankful that Reiss is as fortunate as he is. As depressed as I sometimes get, I really do realize how fortunate he and we are. Reiss does talk, albeit too much, but thank goodness, he is not non-verbal like so many autistic children we know. Reiss doesn't have nearly the physical problems many autistic children have. Yes, we have our bouts of constipation and he's on more supplements than most professional athletes but Reiss is generally healthy. Reiss lacks back and forth conversational skills but at least he answers different types of questions (think "who," "what," - "why," "when," and "how" are still areas of confusion for him) many times now when asked. As short as a few months back, there were times when I wanted to rip my hair out because he wouldn't even answer "yes" or "no" questions. Baby steps........

Blah, blah, anyone still reading?

By the way, am I the only one who doesn't have a clue what to put in the "Title" box when I start writing a post, but then figure it out once I've started or just as I'm finishing? Yes? No? Anyhoo......guess you see where the title of this post came from. And I bet it has nothing to do with what you imagined it would be when you began reading.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blah, blah, blah, blah, and BLAH....

This morning when I picked up Reiss from preschool he asked me, "Why'd you have to pull a stick?" Again, if you're a newbie here this is Reiss' way of asking "Why did I have to pull a stick?" And the sticks he is talking about are the popsicle sticks on the disciplinary chart at school.

I'm not privy to all the fine details of the "stick" system at school (or work, as Reiss calls it) but I think it boils down to their form of 1-2-3 Magic. It looks like they start out with three sticks and the child pulls one when they do something wrong. I don't know.....I figured I would wait until things have calmed down from all the new-ness of the new school year and then bombard the teacher with all my questions. You know, just as she is feeling like she can relax.

Monday evening Reiss and James made brownies together. They used one of the Betty Crocker gluten-free mixes we received from BlogSpark. I've got a ton of pictures from the mess that evening but have not downloaded or uploaded (or whatever!) them onto the computer. After the brownies cooled a bit, we frosted them with some leftover frosting I made for a cake last week.

Yesterday, as I was trying to do some dinner prep in the morning, I scorched the brownies to a crisp. The pan of brownies was sitting with foil on it on one of the back burners on the stovetop. I needed to use that burner and moved the brownies to the front burner and then turned on - what I thought was - the back burner on "High." But no, it was the front burner where the brownies were sitting and I soon began to hear a sizzle accompanied by a nice aroma of charred brownies. It wasn't all. Actually, it was so bad that I threw the pan away - and that was after letting it soak for awhile. This is a big thing because I don't throw anything away unless it really cannot be used again. I even told my husband as I was carrying it to the trash can, "Watch this because you won't see it very often." Even knowing me as long as he has, I can still shock him.

We are getting ready to get a new bathroom in our master bedroom. This was something I really didn't want to do until next year or the year after. However, as is almost always the case, our house had other plans. Our shower took a turn for the worse and started leaking water through cracks in the tile walls and into the ceiling of the finished part of our basement. We could just repair the damage. Or we could spend a little more and get a new shower. Or we could even spend a lot more and get a new bathroom. Woohoo.....what can I say.....things never happen as we plan for them to and I'd rather get it all out of the way now than do one thing now and then have construction people back again in another year or two.

In other areas of our lives......I think I mentioned awhile back that Reiss is now getting B12 shots. We are to give them to him every three days. I am so proud of my husband or maybe I should clarify and say that I am so thankful for my husband in that he has taken on this duty with gusto. I have not had to give Reiss a single shot. And speaking of Reiss, he has taken it like a big boy. He loves "pokey time" as he calls it.....I just hope he doesn't ever say this very loudly out in public. Goodness only knows what people will assume he is referring to.


Since this is just a random post, I'll just add this in here. I don't watch "Jon & Kate Plus 8" anymore because it's just become so darn depressing but sometimes it comes on after another show is playing and I'll hear the beginning of it. Am I the only one who wants to vomit every time I here the part in the opening of it where Jon says, "We're a family and we're in this together." Yeah......before you decided to go dropping your pants all over the place. Seriously..........

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Little Colts

The Indianapolis Colts had their second pre-season game last Thursday evening against Philadelphia. Reiss wore his Colts jersey to school and Milla wanted to match, so it was...

This is what we call a Touchdown Throw in our house. Whenever the Colts score, the kids get to do "Touchdown Throws" with Daddy. We all yell "Touchdown!" as James tosses the monkeys in the air and catches them. They absolutely love this. The overly-protective parent in me used to practically go into hysterics but now I just let it happen.....we haven't had any injuries yet.

Milla getting her turn....James swears he doesn't need to exercise on Colts game days because of all the energy he exerts performing Touchdown Throws with our monkeys.

My little cheerleader....oh goodness, seriously, I hope not. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about cheerleaders. Anyhoooo....I love this photo. She looks so happy.

First Day of School -

For most children in Northern Ireland, the first day of school is an exciting time. The feel of new shoes, crisp school uniforms, together with seeing old friends and catching up with summer exploits remains a pleasant memory until adulthood.

For other children, however, (much less their parents), the beginning of school means nothing but stress. The new shoes are too tight, too loose, too different. The fresh school uniform isn't 'broken in' and feels stiff. The anxiety of having to sit in yet another class of spit ball throwing boys, and girls who shun you or quietly cackle behind your back can feel like too much.

From Primary One onwards, school can be a horrendous experience for many children, particularly at this time of year, after two months off of relative freedom from academic and social demands.

For other children there will be no 'first day of school' . The first week of September passes by as unrecognisable as any other week of the year because school happens at home. The parents of home educated children in Northern Ireland have my deepest respect for bucking a system that imposes incredible pressure on children to conform to a schoolroom education.

Parents don't home educate to be different, they do it because they believe it is the best, safest and most humane way to educate their children, particularly for parents whose children have been damaged by participating in the Northern Ireland school system.

For my child 'school' was never more than a building, just bricks and mortar. It was never magical, or infused with special 'school power' - simply a place. For home-educating parents, school is the dining room table, the back garden, the museum, the shopping mall, the library, the world. School for them is totally about 'who' as opposed to 'where'. I have seen parent friends of mine dragging their children who have an ASD to school. Some of these children were still wearing their pyjamas and refused to wear their uniform, considering it more like armour than clothes possibly. (God forbid your child does not wear his uniform - no telling what would happen to his education if that uniform wasn't worn). Northern Ireland loves it's 'uniforms' and uniformity. Bank tellers and office secretaries wear them, (bankers and office 'bosses' do not). It's a class thing, and I despise school uniforms as much as I despise the poor excuses meted out for having to wear them. Where would it lead to if our children wore their own clothes? Individuality? Creativity? Our kids wear the school's clothes, eat their food, and parents have very little say as to what educational approach is used to teach them (TEACCH, PECS, etc) It's about control much more than it's about education. I digress.

The parents who must go to work and whose children do protest at going to school have my sympathy. My compassion and empathy goes to their children as well. My children have always known what is good and what is not good for them and where school is concerned they always advised me, very clearly of how they felt. All children are good at this - the question is do we listen. If parents whose children have difficulties like my own, had choices as to where to send their child to school, how different it might be.

In England there are scores of schools that cater to our children, some are outstanding, some are not so good. Our 'special' children should have access to very very special schools, not be dumped into mainstream school and expected to cope without adequate teacher training, or equally 'dumped' into special schools, forced to have useless programs thrown at them (TEACCH) and molly coddled by teachers who have negative belief systems about our kids.

In the interim, it would be wonderful to have schools like this - Can you imagine a school like that here? The front page of their website reads: "A supported Learning Environment - Children with Communication, Socialisation and Imagination Difficulties. Ok, Lorna Wing had something to do with that description and for all intents and purposes it is a call to parents whose kids are on the spectrum, but it resonates much better than 'Severe and Complex Needs Learning Facility' which is how many of our special schools would be better describing themselves. If you look at this particular school in England, I think you will be amazed at what it offers. We could replicate that school and others like it, here in Northern Ireland.

(John Clements, Clinical Psychologist is a staff member at LVS Hassocks and is one of the featured speakers at AutismNI/Autism Ulster/ACT/PAPA, etc's 'Autism 2010' conference next year taking place in Belfast, so maybe someone can ask him how we could establish such a school here in the North.

This school has even adjoined itself to the aims of 'The Autism Trust' a charity offering bio-medical support and learning to parents whose children have an ASD. Can you imagine a school in Northern Ireland offering your child organically made meals? Can you imagine your child's school going to the trouble of reducing environmental toxins in the school and making sure your child is not exposed to these toxins? (I remember my own child having a reaction to 'Cillit Bang' after the teacher sprayed it on the table he had working at in school. Tea tree oil and lemon juice would have done just as well. Why do schools expose young children to these products, the kinds of things I would never use at home?- Despite the fact my son has severe reaction to some food substances, I came to pick him up one day from school to find him chomping on an ice cream cone - his teacher looked sheepishly guilty, knowing full well she had just contravened strict instructions outlined in my child's statement that were put there to protect his health.

Not only did my son's statement not guarantee him legal entitlement to services which he needed at the time, it didn't guarantee him his health at school either - my child had a very serious reaction to eggs in the past. She said, "but they were all eating ice cream and he felt left out". I can understand how she felt uncomfortable about not giving my son a treat, but why is it that feeding a child healthily, minus sugar and treats is considered to be depriving the child? My child didn't get what he needed in this school but when it came to feeding sugar, he and the rest of the children presented a level playing field? Ice cream or cyanide, same difference if they both kill equally. Will teachers in Catriona Ruane's brave new school system have to train as nutritionists as well?

I suspect that together with Catriona Ruane's desire to shake up the education system here in Northern Ireland, and empty the money pot dedicated to our children, that many parents are going to say 'enough is enough' and pull their children out of school altogether. We have not been advised how many home educated children there are in Northern Ireland, nor have we been advised of the number of children excluded from school.

The government has no desire to find out, much less any incentive to let you know. From tallying the number of excluded children in my own circles it appears that the numbers of those children would probably be shocking. If there are any parents out there with cash to spare, it's not impossible to start your own school. They do it in England, we can do it here. Our children desperately need alternatives to what is on offer.

The consultation on inclusive education released this month by Ruane's ministry (see link in my list of links) advises that the plan, if adopted will incur a three year phase-in period. If plans like this are going to become the norm in Northern Ireland, its the children caught up in those phasing in periods who will suffer the most should problems arise (and they will).

It may be that more and more parents will take up their right to home educate their children here in Northern Ireland as a means of protecting their children from being used as guinea pigs whilst the Education Department gets its act together. Or perhaps parents will just move to England for a few years. Ruane's Consultation document quotes Helen Keller in the forward. "To treat everyone the same, we must treat them differently." It's so easy to pull quotes off the internet, I do it myself. When it comes to Helen Keller, however, I have read almost all she ever wrote, as well as biographies and histories. My favourite quote from her is this one: "Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye." You don't have to have physical 'vision' to 'look'. The people who wrote the above noted document are the worst kind of 'blind' and as Helen would say, "It's a terrible thing to see, and have no vision."

How would Helen Keller be educated if she were a 'special' student in Northern Ireland's schools today? How many individuals like Helen have been overlooked in Northern Ireland because of the medical and educational predeterminism we are so fond of here? Of course, it was divine intervention that Helen found the people who loved her so much and learned with her, not many children like her would have been so lucky during the time she lived - this is obvious.

Clearly, the needs of Helen Keller were indeed different from the needs of her peers, but one 'need' that was and remains the same for all children is for educators and parents to believe in our children, to believe that all is possible and nothing is beyond reach. Carving up special needs budgets in the name of inclusivity isn't going to help my child one jot. The belief that my child and all children will achieve the title of 'educated', will prosper and will lead bountiftul lives is all they need. The rest will follow. Money and political correctness cannot buy this. Catriona needs to find another way to access all those euro-millions for inclusive societies because that is what her 'consultation' is all about.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I don't have much time to write today but wanted to share something written by another spectrum parent. Maryann's (the writer) feelings reflect almost the exact same way I've been feeling off and on for the last few weeks in regards to all these darn dietary restrictions, treatments, and supplements my husband and I have to deal with every single day.

Although Reiss does not and has not faced some of the more extreme obstacles Maryann's son has faced, I can so feel her pain. There are days when I don't even want to get out of bed. There are days when the pain of seeing other people and their typical children interacting with one another and other children is so emotionally painful I want to go up to the parent and ask, "Do you know how lucky you really are?"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Big Man On Campus

Today was the first day of preschool for Reiss. Well, the first day of this school year. Reiss tested and was placed in developmental preschool in the middle of the year last year and began attending in February.

This year Reiss is in a new classroom - and a much more fun environment - with a new teacher. We loved his teacher last year as well, but the classroom didn't have anywhere near the amount of "stuff" in it as this one. In this year's classroom, there are all sorts of stations for the children to go to for learning and play and it's just my own opinion, of course.

Reiss posing outside before we entered for his first day of school. The wall behind him is a circular wall and makes up the outer wall of his classroom. A semicircular cool is that?!?

And another photo of Reiss before his big day at "work" as he calls it. I was so proud of him for not fussing and for actually looking at the camera and smiling. Seriously, I think there must have been some sort of stellar alignment that was just right this morning.

Sunday afternoon's pool party. This photo is too small for most people to see extreme details but if you look closely, you may notice Milla has her tongue sticking out. Notice how she is only in a swim diaper in almost all the pool photos I've posted? Why again did I buy her a bathing suit?

Reiss and Milla in the pool. Daddy's leg in the foreground. Yes, it's like a family affair when we all get in that tiny pool. That sad little pool has seen its last summer, I think. James has patched so many holes in it with duct tape and modge podge, he probably has more invested in the patching materials than the pool's original pricetag.

Monday, August 17, 2009

And The Award Goes To......


Which award, you say? Why, only the most suburban housewife coveted award, of course! No, not the Soccer Mom-of-the-Year trophy. This award is much more well-deserved, yet achievements leading up to it are never thought out or planned for in advance. I'm talking about the Public Mommy Tantrum Medal of Honor.

Yes, my motherly patience was put to the test today while waiting on a cash register error to be corrected at Walgreens (only one of my most favorite stores in the world) today. This week's ad clearly states the new product by Soft Soap called Nutri Serums Body Wash is free after $3.99 in Register Rewards.

Before paying today, I specifically requested to pay in Cosmetics because there was a girl working over there and I had seven coupons and just about every time I go to Walgreens, I have a problem. And really, who wants to be that person at the main register at the front of the store holding up the line because the $.50 coupon for tampons (or whatever) didn't ring up correctly? Not me! I love my coupons and I can be maniacal about them (just ask my husband) but I'm also not going to stand there while twenty people are rolling their eyes at me for wanting to get my fifty cents deducted (hey, I worked hard for that!). Cut me some slack - I'm not a masochist.

Yes, Walgreens is one of my favorite stores in the whole world but it doesn't change the fact that there always seems to be a problem every single time I pay them a visit. Really....every time. My husband knows better when I say, "I will be right back" as he drops me at the door and waits in the car with the kids. I never come right back and unfortunately, it's almost never by any fault of my own.

Oh no - No, when I'm at Walgreens, if it's not an item ringing up incorrectly, it's something else. Sometimes they scan all my coupons (oh yes, I do watch them!) but then I get my receipt and something is missing from the coupon deductions. Today's issue was my Register Reward did not print for the body wash.

By the way, body wash is one of those things on my list of toiletries where my motto is as follows: "If you're paying for it, you're paying too much money." Between all the freebies I've gotten over the years from CVS Extra Care Bucks and Walgreens Register Rewards (formerly from their rebate catalog), I haven't paid out of pocket for razors, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, or body wash (and the list goes on and on) in years. And I have enough stocked to keep us in business, or clean at least, for a few years to come.

Anyhoo....getting off-track here as usual. And gee, I wonder why my kids can't sit still for five minutes just to watch some cartoons and give me a break.

So my Register Reward did not print and Lucy Loo Hoo, the cashier, had to call the 12-year-old manager over to get the problem fixed and of course, that meant waiting for what seemed like an eternity.

Somewhere in all this, my monkey children saw the opportunity for attack. Or more specifically, Reiss saw his window of opportunity to grab about twenty gossip rags from the rack fastened to the checkout counter and have his own little drugstore party. I've never seen so many photos of Jon Gosselin all in one place! He was on the floor, in the cart, on the counter. It was like a Jon-apalooza!

After cleaning up the Gosselin mess (I bet Kate wishes it were this easy for her too!), I had to enforce the one-hand-on-the-cart rule, which is almost always a sure sign of a coming tantrum. Luckily, this time it wasn't. Instead of a tantrum, Reiss started grabbing bottle after (breakable) bottle of brightly colored nail polish from a display and placing - or perhaps, dropping is a better word for what he was doing - them on the floor at his feet. Thank goodness, none of them broke.

All the while, I was doing my best Michelle Duggar-esque picture of saintly motherhood while waiting on the manager to get her butt over to Cosmetics. Seriously, I think they must have had to call over and get her from the neighboring Steak~N~Shake or something, as long as it took here to get there.

Eventually, the manager arrived.......E. Vent. Ually.

Frankly, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of being patient and staying calm while my little angels (I have to use the plural form so as not to sound as though Reiss was the only guilty party - but for the record, he was) attempted to bring Walgreens - or at the very least, the entire Cosmetics department - crashing to the ground.

However, maybe my version of the story is skewed and/or biased because I witnessed no less than three gawking individuals quickly turn their heads as I rose from picking up the fingernail polish bottles. They were all older folks too, so I'm sure they were doing the "Parents these days, good grief...." line in their heads. I have to say I'm pretty proud of myself for using restraint and not using the "He's autistic, you ___hole!" line I learned from one of Jenny McCarthy's books.

Several strewn magazines, unbroken fingernail polish bottles, and maybe all of ten minutes later we were on our way out the door with our $ cash, because 12-year-old manager girl didn't know how to make a Register Reward print after the fact.

Oh yeah...I forgot to mention the best part of our Walgreens trip. As I was picking out candy bars for Daddy for free ($.49 each plus a $1 off 2 coupon = FREE!), Reiss said "Why are we getting dog food?" Oh, I've taught him well! And this is why my kids never - really, NEVER - beg for candy in the checkout lines.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our Children to Pay for "Inclusive" Society in Northern Ireland

(If you are a parent of a child with special educational need (SEN) in Northern Ireland, and you haven't read the document linked above, then you are about to be truly shocked. In the meantime, please don't just take my word for it, before you read this, get your own hard copy of this document, including the response booklets by contacting the Department of Education (phone: 02891 279762) or email them for a copy ( and read how your child's educational future will continue to be deliberately compromised.

If you are a parent or someone who cares about someone who has autism, and that person has educational need over and above other children, this is the time to act. Even if you have never done anything before, please do it now. Catriona Ruane, (Katrina Rooney)Minister for Education and her co-conspirators very nicely decided to launch the consultation 'Every School A Good School: The Way Forward for Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Inclusion' in August when you you are on holiday. You have until the end of October this year to make your responses.

While you are at it you might like to look at this proposal: which is Labour's attempt to restrict DLA. Do you fancy asking your social worker for your child's DLA money? Read the link and sign the petition. Oops forgot, the petition is closed until Mr Brown returns from holiday in September!! How convenient. Here is the response to this paper by Carer's UK:

You might also be interested in this, the 'Report to the Secretary of State on the Review of Elective Home Education in England' by Graham Badman. Here is a link to the report: and here is another link to the report: If you are unhappy with the present education for your child, please be aware that in England home education is under immense pressure and threat. Your right to home educate your child may soon be thwarted if Northern Ireland picks up where Graham Badman (how appropos) leaves off. Not only are your children's rights to a good education being compromised, your rights as a parent are being rescinded as well.
The simplest summary I can make of this consultative document is that it is an attempt to once again change the goal posts regarding special education, in the hope that no one is looking. It's an attempt to dazzle us with hope of intentional positive change without addressing existing and past failures. I now possess over 20 consultative papers (not including this one) regarding special education and education revision in general since 2001. I am sure there are more.
The system offered to our children has been in ruins for some time. This consultation document attests to that. If we were in good shape, such changes would not be needed. The School Boards are drowning in a sea of unmet need. Along comes Catriona with the great (old) idea of changing everything to cover up past mistakes. 'Emperor's new clothes' comes to mind.

Changing everything will prevent the nasty habit of past failures being thrown in one's face. Make it all new and shiny, right Catriona? I remember in my student days, I bought a bed from a thrift shop. It looked brand new. I realised later, that the bed simply had a new cover put on it - I was sleeping on someone else's dirt for almost a year.

You are leaving soon anyway Catriona, so you can blame the new incumbent when this plan fails, particularly if that person is a member of a unionist party.

In the meantime, children like my own will lose teeth and have limbs broken during your political football game. Catriona wants to build 'inclusivity' in Northern Ireland. It started with the Irish language. In order to bolster that particular argument, Catriona has decided to build her inclusive society off the back of our children's difficulties. That's where the money is coming from anyway. 'Special need' will now include the temporary and presumed need of children whose first language is not English, Newcomers, Traveller Children, children in care, children facing domestic upheaval, looked after children and of course many of our own children, and more. Where a child who has lost a relative may suffer temporary psychological pain, Catriona wishes to place that child on an 'at risk' register and throw money around.

Funny, but when my own child was not able to grip a pencil due to his limbic system not being connected up properly, together with all the rest that was causing him to focus elsewhere than on a teacher's commands, both his teacher and his occupational therapist said 'he was not trying hard enough'. How scientific, an approach oozing with compassion and understanding! No money was available, not even enough to pay for a special pencil grip made of rubber that cost 49 pence.

Funny but when I attended endless annual reviews and IEP meetings the teachers and 'experts' all said they were doing the very best for my son and that the problem lay with him and his 'severe learning disability'. As is so common, my son and his autism were blamed, in fact overnight my son went from having a diagnosis of ASD to having 'severe learning difficulties'. It was interesting how speech therapists diagnosed this for him, the same speech therapists who had never worked with him. Doling out labels makes these people feel better though, it lets them off the hook for having to actually do anything. The premise is always that THEY are doing the very best - it's always the child who lets THEM down.

You can look at this video clip (if you dare) and the accompanying article about how teachers said 'things were going well' for this 14 year old boy with autism - truly shocking -

As per usual, he was blamed, it was never the lack of resources or training/experience on behalf of teachers and 'professionals'.

Now it seems, according to this consultation that re-naming my child's difficulties will make the boo boo all better. The band-aid in this case is the magical expertise that will appear once the new terminology in this report is applied.

This consultation intends to lump together my child's difficulties together with children who might be suffering temporary educational setbacks due to psychological trauma or cultural conformity differences. What is insidious about the matter is how parent may well be pitted against parent in future fights for services and support. Can you envision my child getting a classroom assistant in the same class that a child who needs a wheelchair ramp can't get one? Catriona is going to pit us against each other and God help the schools and our children who will be in the middle.

Just like the Middletown Centre for Autism fiasco (remember that one?) the Department of Education for some reason thinks Northern Ireland is ahead of its time that it can magically fast forward to enlightenment from a place of complete 'backwardness' regarding meeting my child's educational needs. Into the mix, they think (hope) that an illusion of liberalism can come out of it, 'look at us, we value all minorities and communities. OK, we still force immigrants, including children and babies, from their homes in the dead of night by howling mobs of rabid racists but nobody is perfect right? It's more important to 'look' like we are doing something, than actually do it. Right Catriona? Children with disabilities here are kind of like immigrants, (segregated, misunderstood, maligned) so we might as well lump em all together. Right? It's appalling in the extreme.

I thought the idea of Middletown and the millions wasted on it, was to provide expertise to struggling teachers, a place where teachers could send their 'hard nuts' to get 're-programmed' and compliant enough to re-enter the school system. (if you can't teach em, brainwash em). The very fact that an idea like 'Middletown existed at all, implied that teachers were struggling. Talk to any teacher in any classroom and if they are honest they will tell you how much they struggle with special education.

Now it appears, that teachers don't need a 'Middletown', that they were quite capable of teaching our children all along, that they will be able to do it on their own. Where this magical experience and knowledge is going to come from in only three years is beyond me. Not one teacher I have met to date, had even an inkling of how to teach my son, nor any teacher I have met so far been able to step out of his/herself enough to truly 'click' with my child much less motivate him to shine. (he does and continues to do that all on his own)

Previously, I would have labelled Catriona Ruane witlessly ignorant and a mindless talking head/mouthpiece for Sinn Fein. Now, I think she and her party are just plain wicked, intent on messing up as many lives of children as she and they possibly can. Sinn Fein, who, for decades, have highlighted the abuse of power and the little guy's 'rights' in this statelet are backing this woman who wants to stomp on the rights of vulnerable and innocent children. It's time to bring the bin lids out again. I don't know if its a case of the abused carrying out learned behaviour or if a great experiment is being carried out on our children. Either way Catriona needs to examine the essence of her own humanity on this one. I seem to remember a story about her sending her own children across the border to be educated despite her living in the North. If the story is true, she obviously is aware of what parents must do to find decent schools for their children.

Apart from Sinn Fein, the other political parties here are no better and complicit in their silence and lack of action towards improving the educational system for children like my own. As for the the so-called Northern Ireland Autism Charity (Autism Ulster/AutismNI/PAPA/ACT et al) I simply don't have the time right now to tackle their deafening silence on this issue. The front page of their useless website still reads 'April is Autism Awareness month'. Yoo hoo, it's August now!.

Needless to say when your funding depends on cozying up to the statutory sector, what do you expect them to do? The 24 staff of Autism Ulster/AutismNI/PAPA/ACT et al could well be rubbing their hands in glee at the increased opportunity for 'training' should the document become policy. The potential for future funding of this charity will hopefully negate the need for this silliness: . At least the money raised from that venture seems to be going to the Mid Ulster AutismUlster/AutismNI/PAPA/ACT et al Branch and not to AutismUlster/AutismNI/PAPA/ACT et al Headquarters. Both AutismUlster/AutismNI et al and the National Autistic Society are so called 'stakeholders' to this consultation report. I await seeing their responses. The consultation document, if accepted, will be a veritable goldmine for some and I can see why some organisations want to 'stake' their claim on our children and the money their numerous labels will bring.

I have stalled long enough.... it's just very difficult to comprehend the immensity of this consultative document and the potential peril it will mean for so many children.

Ruane and the other individuals who cooked up this report want to take money specifically earmarked for children with SEN and play semantics with it. This consultation intends to water down and re-classify SEN giving it a new name (Additional Educational Need - AEN). This new classification doesn't sound so bad until you discover that 'additional' means children with medical diagnostic labels as well as the children I mentioned above.

There is a very worrying connection being made in this report between children who may have suffered emotional trauma, parental abuse and our children. I don't like the idea of having my child's educational needs combined with the needs of children who may have been removed from their parents or who are somehow at risk. I also wonder what the Travelling Community think about having their children labelled with 'additional need' children. Personally, I think the Travelling Community know very well how unsatisfactory the school system is for their children and how un-accommodating it has been for them. They and I have a lot in common. If the Travelling Community were indigenous just to Northern Ireland, I doubt very much that any attempt would be made to 'include' them, they are being used in this report as a political pawn, part of the 'inclusivity' ticket that Sinn Fein loves so much. I expect they are looking for votes from the newly 'included' communities seeing as their 'own' aren't voting for them anymore.

Anyway, that's just for starters. It gets worse...

The legal document currently known as a Statement of Special Educational Need will be beyond the reach of 99 percent of children. They won't be getting them - ever. Children will not receive educational psychologist reports (no bad thing there mind you, because they are already useless jargon loaded pieces of toilet paper) no speech therapy, (also hard to come by and generally useless - what exactly do speech therapists do anyway?) no occupational therapy (presently almost non - existent and very few are trained in sensory integration - you have to go to England to get this) no free transport, (you won't need this because your child will be going to your local mainstream school) and more.

If your child has needs that simply cannot be met by a school your child might (if you are prepared to fight) receive the new 'Co-ordinated Support Plan (CSP) This document will replace the Statement. Your child will have no immediate right to a CSP, however, and your child might receive one only after exhausting all your child's school has to offer (providing your child is not already one of the over 25 percent who have SEN and who are excluded from school.)

Whilst you wrangle with lawyers and tribunals to get your child the useless CSP, your child's needs will remain unmet (not so different from now really). Once you get the CSP, you will still fight for the Board to uphold the law and provide to your child (just like now). Plenty of children with current Statements are not in school. The Board has no idea how many and don't want to know.

So, really there is not much difference here, except for the fact that your child's legal rights will be virtually eliminated by the reduction of Statements. You will have to engage with schools who will involuntarily be forced to tout themselves as 'experts'(see : Every School a Good School . It will be you against the Headmaster or Headmistress. If you are the 'schmoozing' type, it might be an idea to start courting your child's school leaders and get on their right side.

Schools that previously may have absorbed your child's special need budget into their new carpet and office furniture budget can now turn around to you the parent and say 'sue me'. But wait, you can't because if this document becomes policy, you will have no legal right to do so. Special education budgets will be given directly to schools. Yes, the document outlines stringent tracking procedures for the money but you and I know what really goes on where money is concerned. For two years my son's school promised they would purchase a touch screen computer and computer programs to help him in his reading. It never materialised. What they did with that money I do not know. His classroom aide was split between 2 other children despite having a Statement that provided him the assistance of a full-time aide. You and I know as parents what the real deal is. See if you don't, you soon will.

The Ministry doesn't wish to change the law regarding Statements - that would be fraught with much difficulty. They just want to ensure that it will be very unlikely for your child to ever receive any legal recourse to services or support. The premise is that schools will be 'good' schools and that teachers will be 'good' teachers. If we wish it, it will come true?

Think I am kidding? Here is an excerpt from the document....."Only when a sub-group within each Multi-disciplinary Group (MG) satisfied that the school has exhausted its own resources and can demonstrate that planned support programmes have not been successful, would the statutory assessment process (which may or many not result in the provision of a CSP) for a small number of children with SEN then commence." (page 44)

"We propose to change the current focus and dependence on external support to strengthened and improved provision within schools. The schools will be responsible for the vast majority of their children's diverse needs within a funding allocation....Initial diagnostic testing, if needed will be carried out at school level. The school will be expected to draw up a PLP (Personal Learning Plan) [no more IEP's]...which will form a comprehensive record of any diagnostic testing, interventions commenced and the progress expected and achieved within a period of time.

It will be important that schools should not assume that an increase in a child's level of need, or time within a school, necessarily calls for increased level of resource (for example classroom assistance or peripatetic teacher)...the employment of more appropriate teaching strategies is often as effective or even more effective in ensuring that a child achieves the agreed outcomes and level of progress." (pages 42-43)

The school boards are washing their hands of their responsibility for special education and laying it firmly at the feet of already overworked and ill-equipped mainstream school teachers. Considering there is still no certification required by teaching students regarding special education, I am at a loss to understand how teachers now or even in the next few years will achieve this super hero status of all things to all people. Further with administration and other paperwork duties, I do not know how teachers will ever get the time to teach our children. Extensive training plans will have to be undertaken by teachers, and much stronger relationships between schools will have to be formed. When will teachers ever get the time?

Nowhere in this document is there any mention of the fact that children like mine cannot cope in a class of 28-30 children and that no amount of teacher training will overcome my child's heightened sensitivities. No amount of teacher training will change the belief systems of teachers who think my child is just being 'naughty'. Will they really understand that he just cannot cope with 27 other screaming children, flourescent lights, smells, walls/floors and tables strewn with visuals? My child couldn't give a toss about league tables and P Scales. Teachers do though - how will my child fit into the current teaching construct?

This report suggests that label driven services will be a thing of the past. I totally welcome that! However, the report also suggests that our reliance on the medical model and labels will magically evaporate within a 3 year phasing in period. This is too quick, children will suffer. There is a presumption that Northern Ireland will somehow be ready to shuffle off label driven objectification of persons with 'disabilities'. The very fact 'disability' is still widely used says it all. My child has so many abilities but not once have they ever been 'professionally' referred to. It's never been about what he can do, but what he 'can't'.

For many children, holding it together all day at school means losing it at home where they feel safe to 'let go' of their stress and frustration. Parents then get blamed and have behavioural plans slapped on them by teachers who don't want to admit that their schools are not working for our children.

I personally would never want to be in a room all day with 30 other people. Further, the age at which children start school here is way too young. Some children are in day care virtually from birth, nursery from 2 years and 10 months and primary school from age 4. It has been proven that kids do better who start school later. No one is listening to that here in Northern Ireland. Children must go to school so their parents can ensure the economic system keeps on churning (case in point Income Support ending when children are aged 7). If I was to go to work, my child's babysitter would probably be making more than me. It's ok for her to babysit and take care of children, but it's not ok for me to take care of my own child? This is the mindset and much of what should change. I digress.

There can be no inclusion in Northern Ireland until special schools are a thing of the past. This document appears to be pushing for that. Currently, the belief system of teachers and many parents, however, is that children with special educational needs should be ostracised from their peers and placed in special schools where their own children can't be 'influenced' by children who are 'different'. I believe this is completely and utterly wrong, ultimately damaging and from a human rights perspective, wholly inequitable. I also know it's quite prevalent in this society.

God forbid that my child disrupts the cutting and pasting of Ronan whose mummy has her sights set on Cambridge. Who knows the untold damage that could be done if Ronan or Nigel's playtime is interrupted unnecessarily. Ronan and Nigel's mummys' concerns are currently written into the Code of Practice. Their children always come first. Don't believe me, then read your own copy and you will find that if a teacher deems your child is disruptive to the rest of the class, he can be removed. The disruptive behaviour I see in children my child's age is quite intense at times, they get up to stuff he would never dream of. Their cheekiness, loudness and lack of respect is something I have never witnessed in my own child. Still, if my child knocks over a chair or humms loudly or pours water over someone's crayon drawing, he may be excluded. It's not the behaviour that is being excluded though is it. It's the label.

This consultation document is basically suggesting that all children attend mainstream schools. I agree with that in principle. There are countries where this is the norm and though fraught with its own problems, is no worse than what we have here, minus the segregation, the 'hiding away'.

The entire responsibility to usher in inclusivity is being laid, however, at the feet of teachers, overstretched teachers who themselves are of the mindset and have been instrumental in sustaining the 'special school' dogma by labelling particular children in their class as 'behaviourally challenged', unruly to other children, etc. So now, these same teachers, with very little training (let's face it, autism training in Northern Ireland is a complete and utter joke!) unending paperwork and classes of 28 and more to teach, will now be expected to magically replace speech therapist, educational psychologist , occupational therapist, classroom assistant and more, and develop a whole new belief system overnight?

The consultation document suggests a 3 year phasing in period. The optimism of whoever made this suggestion is admirable, but completely out of touch with reality.

The document suggests your child will go to the local mainstream school. I couldn't be happier with that suggestion, I am a fervent supporter of full inclusion. What I won't be supporting, however, is the resentment that will ensue from teachers who were pushed too quickly, without satisfactory re-training, and who simply cannot cope, who will very likely blame our children and their parents for their heightened stress levels.

I also wonder what reception my child will receive from the other children in the class who may never have met a child with different abilities - how will they react? Will bullying increase? What are the belief systems of those children about children like my own? It's one thing to take the right to a mainstream placement, it's quite another having to deal with fear and ignorance of other children, and possibly even their parents.

It's very sad that there are more than a few parents who don't want their children in the company of 'window lickers' and 'spastics'. I apologise for the use of those words but they are still bandied about in Northern Ireland on a very regular basis by young and not so young children just like the "N" word that was used on the night that Romanian families had to flee their homes. It's one thing hoping that a parochial and ignorant subset of society will accept those with differences, it's another expecting that mentality won't be 'catchy'.

We cannot have inclusion in Northern Ireland whilst special schools remain full. At least 25 percent of parents already know from bitter experience, however, that their children cannot cope in oversized busy classrooms with 1/2 of a classroom assistant and very little general understanding of their child's need. For mainstream to work for children like my own, class size must be reduced. I don't see this happening and in fact the opposite has happened with many schools merging together or closing down altogether.

Teachers who are already overstretched, will have to re-train on and off-site in order to make your and my child's experience at their school worthwhile. Whilst they are updating their woefully inadequate skills, you and I will have very little legal recourse to 'encourage' these teachers to do so.

Unfortunately, all the training in the world will not make up for lack of intent, desire or will by teachers to include our children in their mainstream classrooms. I can imagine the teachers who are reading this document saying to themselves, 'how are we going to cope?' That is a very good question.

The bigger and more important question is how do I protect my child from suffering damage? (to be continued)

"In the first place, God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards."-- Mark Twain

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Feeling Disconnected

The last few days I have been feeling rather disconnected. I'm happy to report, however, that I mean this in the most literal sense of the word and not figuratively, as in, an emotional state of mind.

See, a few days ago, our neighbor who is quite elderly, yet pretty active, was walking in his yard after his lawn service had come for their weekly visit to mow his lawn. As he was walking, he noticed a cable running over one of the roots of his tree - a cable which was exposed down to the wire from repeated abuse by lawnmowers. Assuming this was his cable running to his home and providing him with cable television service, he called the cable company for a repair order. Forget the fact that his service was working just fine. And forget the fact that he must have had a memory lapse from last year when the cable company came out and buried his cable going in the opposite direction and around the back of OUR house and back up on one side to meet his cable connection on his house.

I wish I could draw a picture but suffice it to say that the exposed cable was the old cable running to his house which no longer was connected to anything at all and the cable running behind our house was the cable that actually provided his service. Now, enter a contracted (don't get me started!) technician who was called in to complete the work order for running new cable to replace non-functioning cable and we have a recipe for extreme ignorance and landscapicide.

I'll spare the details of how I came to find out all of this but own up to the bragging rights of what my household got out of this deal: a torn up front yard with bare patches of grassless dirt where it was run over by a trenching digger, a severed cable connected to our house, no cable television service, and no internet. Add to it that it took several phone calls to the cable company and a few temper tantrums on my part for them to realize that I was not going to wait six days (their next available appointment) for them to get out here to fix something THEY messed up.

All because my neighbor had perfect cable service running to his house but noticed an exposed cable. An exposed cable! Oh no, better call 9-1-1! Let's not think this through and keep in mind that the cable service is working fine or even try to recall that a brand spanking new cable was run the year before in a totally different location. No, no, we better get the cable company out here to replace this cable ASAP! A cable that was no longer connected to anything and was as dead as the dirt it was buried in, let's not forget!

You can take my cable tv service from me any day with no problems. I rarely watch tv and the kids won't sit still long enough to watch it. But don't take my internet service unless you're ready to face a bit of wrath!

Alas, I am back! And I'm readin' my "stories." No, not some online version of the overly dramatic soap operas to which old ladies refer, but all my delicious blogs I follow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.....

Every single night the prayer is the same....

Dear Heavenly Father, please make me a better mother tomorrow. Please let me wake with a smile on my face and a fresh attitude. Please let tomorrow be a good day.......And then I pray for the safety of my children, my family, to have peace in my life, and anything else that comes to mind.

I am fortunate to have many friends with unyielding faith. These friends accept what God has given them - no matter what their circumstances. But the truth is, none of them (of the ones to whom I am closest) have a child with autism - or any special needs, for that matter. Through them and in many books I have read, it seems true faith only comes when we not only accept what God has given us, but desire it as well. Honestly, I'm having a hard enough time accepting it, let alone ever having a desire for it. It is beyond imaginable for me to even fathom the possession of a desire to deal with what I go through every single day. Why can't I get passed this?

This morning started the same as each morning. I got up, greeted the day, said "Hi, Buddy!" to Reiss and got the morning going. All was well until after Daddy left for work and Reiss decided to change from wearing his shorts to wearing a pair of pants that are too short for him. They were sitting in the laundry room waiting for their banishment to the basement storage bins where all the other outgrown clothes go to rest. Reiss got them out and there was no way I was letting him wear these so-short-they-are-above-the-ankles pants. We already draw enough attention out in public, so having people think I don't provide well-fitting clothes for my children is not something I want to add. So Reiss had these pants and I was putting up a fight and so was he and I was done with it all much sooner than he was. He continued to cry and scream and throw his fit and ask why he couldn't wear the pants for just a few seconds shy of forty-five minutes.

The pants episode passed and we had a few relative moments of peace around here only to have it broken by a ten-minute tantrum about the toddler potty being moved. This is the honest-to-God truth: I went to the bathroom to use it myself (yes, call me high-maintenance, but I actually go in there for myself occasionally) and as I was getting up, my foot touch the potty and scooted it across the floor all of maybe one-half of an inch. Since there is tile in the bathroom, of course Reiss could hear the potty scoot across the floor even while being two rooms away. He came running, scooted the potty back to its proper place - lined up on the grout line of the third row of tiles running in front of the sink - and proceeded to throw a tantrum and scream at me in an accusing manner for moving the potty.

Honestly, I believe global governments are missing out on a wonderful method of torture for prisoners. Just put them in the same room as a child with autism who has OCD tendencies. It's enough to make anyone talk - anything to make it stop. And hey, with the growing rate of autism, governments would never find themselves with a shortage of new torturers. If one child's antics aren't enough, just bring in another.....I'm sure, sooner or later, the perfect combination of autistic child's behaviors and prisoner's tolerance level to such behaviors will be enough to "break" the prisoner into doing whatever is asked.

Okay, really, I am being serious now. No government torture or anything.

I feel like every day of my life is like my own personal screening of the movie "Groundhog Day." Only instead of the main character, me, finding advantages to the same daily events and working them in my favor, I just grow wearier and wearier by the day. Every day I can 99% certain count on the following things happening:

* Reiss having a fit over the color of cup I have given him to use for the day. It doesn't matter that he was given a choice and he chose the color given to him. Every day I can count on him throwing a fit at some point during the day and asking me over and over and over, "Why'd you give me the (insert color here) cup today?"

* Reiss wanting to have the same exact clothes on that Daddy is wearing, only to change them into something else immediately after James leaves for work. This is where the tantrum over the pants came in today.

* Reiss getting bent out of shape when he hears the toddler potty scoot even a millimeter from that grout line where he has declared that it must reside.

* Reiss having a meltdown about something and then having an entirely separate meltdown because I took more time than what he felt necessary in order for me to get him a tissue to wipe his tears from the first meltdown.

* Reiss throwing a fit about not wanting to go sit on the potty to do #1 or #2 or both. And then often does one or the other or both in his pants.

* Reiss throwing a tantrum at dinner time and refusing to sit down. We can only use a booster chair for so long. After he outgrows that, I don't know how we'll keep him strapped and sitting. Maybe I should ask my Dad since he seems to think it's reasonable to expect a three-year-old (and not just any 3-year-old, an autistic 3-year-old) to sit through a two-hour birthday lunch....and that's after the one-hour drive to the restaurant where said lunch was held. You're probably saying, "I thought Reiss was four years old." And you're right. Reiss is indeed four years old but not so long ago he was three years old and we were invited to a niece's birthday lunch at a restaurant an hour from our home and we declined to accept the invitation because Milla was only five months old and Reiss will not sit for a one-hour drive and then through a two-hour lunch...but try to explain that to someone who has never raised an autistic child and someone who thinks I'm a bad parent to begin with and well, you get the idea. I'm not going to get started......

Could any sane person actually want these things? Many times I am reminded that we can only change ourselves, not others, but it seems no matter how positive I start each day, no matter how positively I try to handle each tantrum or situation for Reiss, it doesn't change his actions. Seriously....I have a deep desire to have a stronger faith but I just can't get past the requisite wanting to endure any of the above every day of my life. Somewhere I am missing something. Someone please help me figure it all out...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Somebody, Please Put "M.D." by My Name!

Last night, I opened my email inbox to find a wonderful and most unexpected message. After a spectacularly craptastic weekend endured waiting for Reiss to dislodge seven days worth of waste, I was on the verge of coming on here to let it all out and write a tale of my woes. But before doing so, I checked to see if I had any new email messages.

A little background.....

A few weeks back, my husband was listening to a local radio station on his way to work when they were discussing the swine flu vaccination and taking caller comments. Several people on both sides of the argument - to get the vax or not to get the vax - were calling in, many of whom were doctors and professionals working in the medical industry.

A few doctors (as in, with M.D. beside their last names) actually called in to say that much of the general population was misinformed about the vaccine and that it does not contain thimerosal (that's big pharma speak for mercury, folks!). While there will be a thimerosal-free version, to say that is does not contain thimerosal is far from telling the entire truth and is most certainly a disservice to any listeners who most likely will not do their own research - a.k.a. the vast majority of people. The reality of the swine flu vaccine situation is that anyone in the general population receiving the vaccine will get a thimerosal-containing version unless he or she specifically asks to receive the thimerosal-free version. Such exclusion of details by these "professionals" just seems to be another example of the extreme ignorance being displayed in the medical field way too often these days. It serves only one purpose - in my opinion - to make me question what other more important things are doctors not entirely educated in? Things that more directly affect me other than just vaccines?

A few other professionals, were calling in to argue that we, as a population, are over-vaccinating. One particular individual, a naturopathic doctor, I contacted myself, and we had a lengthy conversation - one that left me feeling more informed when we hung up and about which I think she felt the same. Interestingly, she has been practicing natural recovery for children with ADHD and autism for several years but had never heard of DAN! until I made mention of it to her. I strongly encouraged her to become DAN! certified, as Indiana could definitely use more providers practicing this treatment protocol.

Aghast as I was when my husband informed me of the comments of the very misinformed doctors, I knew I had to write to the radio show hosts. I tried to sound as informed and diplomatic as possible, yet passionate and knowledgeable as I provided proof of my argument. A few weeks past and then last night I received an invitation to be an in-studio guest in the near future to discuss vaccines. As of now, I do not have a date but am eagerly, excitedly, and nervously looking forward to this opportunity.

As for the information I provided regarding the vaccines, it can be found on Age of Autism and on the ABC News websites.

Hmmmm....Our doctors are saying there is no mercury in this H1N1 swine flu vax. Surely they can't be wrong....can they? Really? Isn't it strange that thiomersal (known as "thimerosal" in the United States) is listed right there on the bottle???

Seriously, it gets old being more informed about vaccines than the doctors doling them out (and making way more money than my family to do so!).........

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dear Centers for Disease Control

Originally, I found this over on Matthew's Puzzle. It gave me such a laugh I couldn't help but post it to my own blog. I worked and worked to make it fit and still be a large enough print for the average person to read....Alas, I am not a techno geek. For a larger image, click on it and ENJOY!!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Review: Tide Stain Release In-Wash Booster

Although Gymboree provided this sample to me free with my Gymboree purchases, I am not being compensated in any other way for this review.

Pretty, isn't it?

When I saw the in-store display of Tide samples all stacked and ready to go home with their perspective recipients, I have to admit my heart did a little flutter. Call me crazy but I'll take just about anything when it's free - even when it's a product I know I will never purchase after the free sample is used. Sorry, Tide, but we go au naturale with our laundry in this house.

Aside from the sign stating "Free with any purchase" posted beside the neatly displayed stack of Tide samples, I suppose another reason for my excitement was the fact that, upon first glance, the sample I would be getting seemed like something so big. Who knew with all that packaging that all I would actually be taking home was a one-time dose of laundry booster the size of a single-use dishwasher detergent blister pack? But who am I to complain? Generally, I do not complain when someone gives me something free.....generally.

Unfortunately, I do indeed have a gripe with this sample. Actually, a few of them.

First, again, look at all that packaging! How much of one tree do you think died in order for me to receive that sample? Seriously. Couldn't they have put the coupon that came with the sample inside the plastic tear pouch the sample was packaged in and call it a day? No, that would be much too simple and so less attractive. They had to make a fancy schmancy box with an inlay just the right size for the pouch and a little flap with a photo of the Gymboree models in their Gymboree fashions.

Second, for the makers of Tide to tout this as a stain booster seems a bit ironic to me considering the stuff actually turned my son's formerly white underwear a yellowish orange color. And yes, I didn't think there was a way to misuse the product but I did make certain to read and follow the directions.

This product's one redeeming quality? It smelled nice and we are not used to our laundry coming out scented around here. When I make my homemade laundry detergent it consists of washing soda, borax, and natural soap. Because there is so little actual fragrance from the soap going into each load of laundry, basically our clothes come out smelling like......well, nothing.

I haven't decided yet what to do with the $1.50 off coupon. I could always place it in the recycle bin along with the rest of the packaging in an attempt to "give back" to nature in exchange for all that was taken by the manufacturing process in the making of the aforementioned package. Or I could also take it to the store and leave it next to the product for some "lucky" coupon scavenger. However, considering it stained our clothes, is that really doing someone else a favor? Or a disservice?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Family Who Vacationed in Italy???

This feels really strange posting this as an entry to my blog but I'm desperate and not sure where to turn other than here, my Yahoo! groups, Twitter, and Facebook. Somewhere around a week or so ago I was perusing the blogs I follow and straying off them occasionally to some of the blogs listed on their blog pages. In doing so, I came across the blog of a woman with a "tween"-age or teenage son with autism. She and her family recently vacationed in Italy. I am desperate to find this blog again.

The details I remember are that her husband had taken their son for a walk on the beach. The boy did a #2 and it was apparently quite messy. The main gist of her post was that the vacation was so stressful it could barely be called a vacation at all.

If you have any idea at all as to the blog or address of the blog I am trying to find, please leave me a comment or send me an email message to

Thank you!!!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Boots, Beds, and Black Forest Muffins

Reiss in his new rain boots

I went shopping at Gymboree this afternoon armed with my 20% off coupon, my Gymbo Visa that gives me 5% off all Gymboree purchases, the knowledge that they were having a semi-okay sale and, last but not least, were also a few days into Gymbucks earning period. Generally, I only shop the clearance racks there but these boots were too cool to pass up. They were more than I would typically pay but after all was said and done between the sales and discounts, I still got them for less than half-price. They are a camouflage print with a strip of rubber jagged edging meant to look like dinosaur teeth going up the back of them.

No significance to this picture really....I just liked the cute little smile on Milla's face. It's more subtle than most times when she smiles so big, her eyes squint almost closed.

Isn't that just sweet? No, Milla is not just bent over towards Reiss. Yes, they really are smooching! I will confess though....I told Milla to kiss Reiss.

Tomorrow morning's breakfast is going to be a breeze! I made muffins using THIS recipe. I substituted one cup of zucchini (which is something the original recipe owner suggests in a later post of hers) for the applesauce, added chocolate chips as she mentions and took things one step further by adding about a cup of pitted and quartered cherries. Of course I couldn't go to bed without trying one...gotta make certain they are edible for tomorrow, you know. With my addition of the cherries, I thought they tasted a lot like Black Forest Cake so I am calling this version of the recipe Black Forest Muffins. I love it when I am prepared ahead of time!!!