when parents accept autism, the world will too

when parents accept autismApril is Autism Awareness Month and there are many autistic individuals and some autism advocate parents who would love to see that changed to Autism Acceptance Month. So as part of Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month, I want to ask what we’re doing to accept autism.

Accepting autism begins in the home of the autistic person, it begins with the parents and their view of autism. If you’re an autism parent, what is your view of autism, of your child?

*You can read about why I refer to those who have autism as “autistic” in the post It’s in a Word: Autistic vs. Has Autism.

Do you view your child through a positive lens? Or do you view them through a negative one, focusing on those “bad” behaviors (when your child is simply trying to communicate, or over or underwhelmed with sensory input), inability to make eye contact (some autistic people actually feel pain when forced to look someone in the eye), lack of social skills (or is it really different social skills)?

Something that can keep us from seeing the positives or potential in our child or from accepting who they are is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

If your child’s in ABA, please know that I’m not judging you. I’m speaking honestly about how I feel based on my sons experience and how autistic adults who have sometimes suffered at the hands of ABA therapists feel. We are all on a learning path and the voices that have overwhelmed your experience are the ones that will largely determine the path you’re on.

Most of the time that path for autism parents is ABA. They jump blindly into it because everyone who has a child with autism seems to be doing it, and almost every therapist, teacher, or doctor you talk to highly recommends it.

I believe when ABA is extremely modified it can be helpful to a child who has autism. Some ABA therapists work under the guise of ABA when there isn’t much similarity so insurance will cover their services, however some ABA therapists still hold to the fundamentals of how ABA began. If you don’t know how it began, I encourage you to read ABA by Sparrow Rose Jones, an autistic adult who suffered under ABA. It’s important to know where this therapy stems from and if the therapy your child’s in has morphed from how it originated. Don’t worry, I know it’s overwhelming, and this post will help you know what too look for and be aware of.

ABA’s focus isn’t on the positives in your child, or respecting who they are as a person, the goal is to conform them into what the world around them sees as “normal” and it’s based on a “fake it until you make it” mentality. And what if your child feels very normal and doesn’t want to change?

I understand there are behaviors we need to help our children work through, however ABA doesn’t do this in a positive, encouraging way, it does it in a very negative way, not recognizing who the person they’re working with is, nor respecting what that person wants. ABA’s focus is to work the “bad” behaviors out of the autistic person, having no idea or care as to why that person is acting the way they are. Dr. Ivar Lovaas, the man who developed ABA says, “You have to put out the fire first before you worry how it started.”

“Autistic children are not allowed to be themselves, being forced instead, to learn how to pretend, never learning self-determination, never allowed to have an independent thought.” – Amy Sequenzia in her post, My Thoughts on ABA

“If you want something from me, if you want me to do something, respect who I am, respect my way of doing things, listen to me and allow me to disagree and to find my own way.” – Amy Sequenzia in her post My Thoughts on ABA

Autistic children need to be reinforced with positives just the same as non-autistic children. We need to find out the why behind behaviors (because behavior is communication), not suppress them because they don’t fit into society, or those behaviors bother us. We consider the autistic individual and find solutions they agree with, not ones that are forced on them.

Autistic children should never be forced to sit at a table for hours so they can learn colors, numbers, or letters, they need to learn through their environment (there’s a great example of this in the post More Perspectives on ABA). If an autistic child learns their colors and the stuffed bear is blue, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to correlate this with the outside world. The skills learned in ABA are often non-transferrable to the outside world because they aren’t learning through the environment.
autistic adults thoughts on ABA

I could go on and on about the problems with ABA, but I think this will be more helpful. Ask yourself these questions about your chid’s therapy, both in and outside of school and therapy:

1) Does your child’s therapy focus on the negative behaviors and not reinforcing the positives? How many positives are there to each negative?

2) Does your child have time to BE a child? If they’re going to twenty, thirty, or forty hours of therapy, the answer is no.

3) Would you accept this behavior toward a non-autistic child? I first read about this in the article, Would You Accept this Behavior Towards a Non-Autistic Child? It’s not a new concept, it’s something we should all think about when it comes to our children.

“ABA is nothing more than child abuse. If these same techniques were used against a normal child, all HELL would be raised.” (Referring to ABA in it’s true, pure form.) – Jeff Sexton (autistic)

4) Is the goal of your child’s ABA compliance? A great article about this very issue is, No You Don’t by Sparrow Rose Jones. This article hit me hard. It’s extremely important to take a look at ABA from this angle. If everything is compliance and your child isn’t allowed to choose or say “No,” then there’s an enormous, life affecting issue going on. In No You Don’t, Sparrow spells out exactly what can happen to autistic individuals who are forced to comply with every request, and as a woman she speaks to the sexual abuse she’s endured because of this being ingrained in her psyche.

5) Are you allowed to be part of the therapy? If not, this raises a big red flag. Parents have the right to know what’s happening during their child’s therapy. Also, I feel very strongly that most therapy (meaning simply learning and guidance for our child) should be done at home. If the therapy you’ve chosen has passed the test, then you should be implementing it at home, this is where a large percentage of learning takes place, not in the classroom or therapy office.

6) Does your child’s therapist force your child to do things that are extremely difficult or impossible for your child to do? This is wrong for anyone to do. I’ve met ABA therapists who don’t know what making eye contact is like for an autistic person.

“As a teacher, I have been horrified by things that were done to children in my classrooms in the name of ABA. It came across as incredibly disrespectful of the human being in question.” – Joanie Calem

7) Is your child given ample opportunity to learn through their environment? Does your child spend time with non-autistic children?

8) Is the therapist on the floor with the child, playing? Are they encouraging you to do the same? In my opinion some of the best therapy for children with autism is Floortime, a therapy created by Stanley Greenspan.

The world says we need to put our autistic children in ABA. Other autism parents. therapists, doctors, and teachers pressure us into doing ABA. They feel it’s the only answer, as if there’s a problem to be solved. Every autism parent seems to be doing it and if you’re not, you feel you’re probably the one who’s wrong. After all, they can’t all be wrong can they? But once you realize the source of ABA, and what it really does to your child, you may reconsider. Once you hear the voices of autistic adults you may realize ABA isn’t the answer.

“[Autistic adults] speak up because we know that our identity and our humanity cannot be taken away, something people who don’t share our neurology seem to believe can happen.” – Amy Sequenzia in her post, My Thoughts on ABA

“What looks like progress is happening at the expense of the child’s sense of self, comfort, feelings of safety, ability to love who they are, stress levels, and more. The outward appearance is of improvement, but with classic ABA therapy, that outward improvement is married to a dramatic increase in internal anxiety and suffering.” – Sparrow Rose Jones (autistic)

When I was in the planning stages for my post More Perspectives on Applied Behavior Analysis, I asked, “What are your thoughts on ABA?” in a social media group consisting of adults on the spectrum, professionals, and parents of people on the spectrum. The responses blew my mind. I came to the deep realization that parents of autistic kids really need to listen to those who’ve gone before our children (and I don’t just mean Temple Grandin). I’ve written some of their replies within the body of this post, and here are a few more:

“I wish ABAs got more training in sensory issues.” – A. Creigh Farinas (autistic)

“There is also a high price that autistic children can pay when ABA is practiced in such a way that compliance itself is a goal – abuse, physical/sexual/emotional.” – Patricia Gabe

“Applying therapies and asking someone to conform to a standard in a one size fits all attitude can strip a person of their natural strengths.” – Nancy Getty

If you’re looking for other autism parents who don’t agree with ABA practices, you can read Emma’s Hope Book .
In the post, Tackling that Troublesome Issue of ABA and Ethics, Ariane writes, “One of the best arguments against ABA is Michelle Dawson’s article, The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists: Ethical Challenges to the Autism-ABA industry.  If you google Applied Behavioral Analysis you will see glowing reports of its efficacy for more than 30 pages.  I actually stopped at the 30th page only because I didn’t have time to continue.  The first book I read on the subject of Autism was Catherine Maurice’s Let Me Hear Your Voice which details how ABA saved two of her children’s lives from Autism.  (I use this language as it is the language employed by the author.)  Catherine Maurice also likens Autism to cancer and ABA as the necessary chemotherapy.  The whole acceptance model obviously is not employed when thinking in these terms, how could it be?  And perhaps this is the single greatest problem when discussing ABA.”

In the above mentioned article, The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists, it mentions how Dr. Ivar Lovaas (developer of ABA) worked with Dr. Rekers to remove homosexuality from children. This is how ABA began. I’ve heard of this throughout the autistic community, but this gives much more detailed information about how it came about.

The autistic adults I’ve heard speak (may be non-speaking, but use communication devices) about their autism feel it’s a large part of who they are, and to try to remove or cure it is an assault on their personhood. As I said earlier, there is no better way to learn about autism than from those who have gone before our children.

There is much more I have to say about ABA, you can read more of my thoughts in the links I’ve mentioned, My Thoughts on Applied Behavior Analysis and More Perspectives on Applied Behavior Analysis. I’ve also written an article for an anthology that will be published by a professor at Michigan University later this year (I can’t give away everything I’ve written in that article ;)).

Let’s accept who our children are so the world can accept them.
#AutismAwarenessDay #AutismAwarenessMonth

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sensory processing disorder and the classroom

sensory processing issuesand the classroom
Does your child sit still in class? Does the teacher complain that your child isn’t focused? Does your child come home and act like a monkey that’s been let out of its cage?

Last week I was chatting with a friend whose daughter, Alexa, is having some issues in school. Not big issues, some of the exact situations I listed above. Alex’s teacher is saying things like, “She’s so smart, I don’t need to remind her,” “Alex won’t sit still, she won’t do criss-cross-apple-sauce.”

A little background. Something that doesn’t define who Alexa is, but is important in what I talk about here on Lovin’ Adoptin’, which is that adopted and foster kids often have sensory processing issues or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

Alexa is seven and her mom, Raena, had been noticing some interesting things about her in the past few years. When she put lotion on Alexa, she’d cry and scream, often lashing out at Raena. When Alexa put clothes on, she would say how they were uncomfortable, no matter what brand they were. Between Alexa’s parents and their daughter’s physician, they’d come to realize Alexa has sensory processing issues.

In school, one issue Alexa’s teacher has is Alexa sits on the edge of her chair during class. Once I heard a professional say that teachers really do kids an injustice when they make them sit still. Some kids learn while moving, and if it takes a child rocking quietly and gently in their chair to learn and focus, then let them.

You might wonder why Alexa doesn’t have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This is an education plan put in placed when a child has special needs, it  helps everyone meet certain goals for specific children. When a child has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), the school would have an Occupational therapist (OT) work with that child to help them stay focused in school and meet those sensory needs. The child might hold a fidget during class, sit on a balance cushion (a round disk with nodules that tilts), have sensory breaks where they can be in a dark inclosed space (hammock swing), or the OT or paraprofessional can do push/pulls to help alleviate stress on the joints.
sensory processing disorder

For some of you, it may take time to get an IEP complete, and depending on the knowledge of your schools staff, it can still take some effort to get your child’s needs taken care of. Sometimes teachers won’t recognize your child’s sensory issues and may think it’s behavior based and your child has the ability to fix it. This is how Alexa’s teacher has been viewing her, she thinks Alexa is smart, which she is, so she expects good behavior and for Alexa to remember everything she tells her and doesn’t want to remind her. She feels that reminding Alexa and helping her is enabling.

Alexa attends a private school, and the answer to Raena’s questions about an IEP is that Raena needs to go to a public school to get more information. Well, besides this being completely frustrating, Raena will need to do something in the mean time, and she’s already begun.

Raena has found articles and sections of books that pertain to what Alexa is dealing with, printed them out and shared them with Alexa’s teacher.

This is a great first step, beginning a conversation. Do your research and find out more about SPD and how to help your child, whatever helps you, share it with the teacher. Don’t bombard him or her with information, but sharing what works at home and what you feel will work at school will help your child in a big way. We’ve done this with our son’s teachers and aids, and I can’t tell you how much it’s helped Jeremiah at school.

Alexa’s teacher seems to be grasping what’s going on, but Raena doesn’t feel they’re where they want to be. During our conversation Raena mentioned going to the doctor to discuss Alexa’s sensory issues and a possible diagnosis, so I suggested she have the doctor make recommendations to the teacher.

I know it can be so frustrating to see your child struggling as the teacher makes comments and remains unaware of what’s truly happening. I’ve been unaware myself at times and forgotten the comment I mentioned above, sometimes it helps a child learn when they can move a little. My daughter doesn’t have SPD, but she often stands at the kitchen table when working on homework, coloring, or doing a project, and I can’t tell you how many times she’s fallen off the chair! I used to correct her and ask her to sit down, but finally my brain kicked in one day and I said, “Would you like to stand and do your work?” She said, “Yes,” and pushed the chair out of the way. This is how she works and thinks best. Standing or sitting, does it really matter?

I hope this helps you bridge that gap with your child’s teacher(s) and gives you information to begin working together to create a successful learning environment for your child.

Some posts by Lovin’ Adoptin’ that will help you and your child’s teacher:

Sensory Processing Disorder (part 1): What It Is
Sensory Processing Disorder (part 2): Does Your Child Have Sensory Processing Issues?
13 Funny Reasons You Know Your Child Has Sensory Processing Disorder 

Another great website that has information on SPD:
The Friendship Circle


You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you may need to do this on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

give your autistic child ways to “talk” about the past

give your autistic chlid a way to talk about the past
*Even if your child doesn’t have autism I encourage you to keep reading if you would like ways to reach your child in a deeper way.

Occasionally we are given gems of knowledge that I love to pass on to those who are raising children with autism. One such gem came from Michael Emmons*, who works with our kid’s school on including special needs children in the general classroom.

Emmons was at our home observing Jeremiah so he could make recommendations to the school about communication goals. While here, he noticed Jeremiah’s family photo books sitting on the coffee table, and said, “It’s great to have pictures so Jeremiah has a way to ‘talk’ about the past.”

At the time, I saw this as a novel idea, but since then it has grown into something more than I expected. It shouldn’t have been such a cutting edge concept for me, I mean it seems so simple when you really think about it. Give children who can’t communicate a way to ‘talk’ about the past, but it was something I hadn’t thought of. I was simply thinking present and future tense and that’s where it ended. Very unfair to Jeremiah.

Typical kids (meaning kids who can communicate, whether verbally, through sign language, or an augmented communication system) get to talk about the past and relate it to the present and future all the time. I like to put it in perspective with examples so we can really grasp how it is for our children who can’t communicate, or who can’t communicate well.

A child may want to talk about:
Their grandparents last visit and what they want to do next time.
The weather.
The scar they got when they fell off their bike.
They want to visit their cousins again.
They want to go to Disney Land.
How the hill you drive over every day reminds them of the ride at Disney Land.
What they do during school.
Who their best friends are.

I could go on and on, as always, but you get the idea. There’s obviously so much to talk about, and our children can’t or have difficulty doing so.

After Emmons was here I noticed Jeremiah flipping between two photos in his picture book that his Grandma made for him. One was of him sledding and one was of him swimming. He would stare at these pictures intently, and I talked about them, but beyond what I would’ve normally. Before Emmons shared this with me, I would have said, “You went sledding, that was fun,” but this time I added, “Do you like sledding? Maybe it will snow enough this weekend and we can go sledding.”

Jeremiah’s smile stretched across his face when I said this, and I felt like Emmons had helped us delve even deeper into Jeremiah’s world.
photo books help the autistic child talk about past and future

We were able to go sledding a couple weeks ago. Afterwards, Jeremiah was looking through the photo book again and paused at the one of him sledding. I talked about how he had fun sledding, and he grinned from ear to ear, that “Yeah, I know what you mean,” look.

In the past weeks, Justin and I had also been working on getting swim lessons on the schedule. When Jeremiah looked at the photo of him swimming with his Grandpa, I was finally able to tell him we were going to go to swim lessons. He smiled when I told him the first time, but when I was able to say, “We’re going swimming tonight. We have swim lessons tonight,” oh my gosh! He was jumping. clapping, and thrilled! I love it!

It just wrecks me when people don’t think those with autism can understand, that they don’t have feelings.This false belief is so far from the truth. Our children deserve so much more, for us to realize they have desires like every other child.

As Emmons pointed out to us, photo books are a great way to engage in conversation with your autistic child. You can do something as simple as putting pictures in slip-pocket photo books, or you can make photo books at WalMart.com or picaboo.com. Adding words to describe what’s happening can help your child develop language, as it associates what’s happening in the photo with words.

I really hope this helps you in your adventures in autism, I can’t tell you what an exceptional jewel this is. It has the possibility of unlocking a treasure trove in your child, making those connections is priceless.
*Names changed to protect privacy.


Take a look at the CONTENTS page for more posts on autism, adoption, and foster care.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

navigating IEP meetings

navigating IEP meetings
Autism is an ever evolving world where I frequently feel left behind. I’m thankful our autism world is evolving because I know it could remain stagnant. This is all proof that I don’t always know what I’m doing in this autism world and I’m learning, just as you are.

IEPs is one of those places where I’m feeling less-than. Yeah, I thought they wouldn’t be too difficult. Wrong. I thought I could ignore those offers from outside agencies who can help navigate the IEPs and make sure the school is caring for my child in the proper way. For now, I can, but I’m realizing why they’re needed.

Last week we had an IEP planning meeting to update Jeremiah’s IEP. In the past I’ve made my requests known, and they were ignored. Professionals are really adept at arguing the points they’ve been ingrained with, even if those ideas are wrong and harmful to autistic people. There was only one goal on Jeremiah’s IEP in the past three years that I had a problem with, and that was with requesting snack several times during the alloted snack time.

This time around I had an aversion to something they placed in the IEP about requesting Jeremiah make eye contact for a certain amount of time. I had problems when it was first presented about a year ago, and I noticed it was in the IEP again. I raised my hand, summoning the argument from deep within.

See, I can argue my point exceptionally well at home. I can spout what I want to say and give the reasoning behind it, but I fail miserably when confronting the actual human. Gee, I wish it were a paper I was filling out instead of having to tell professionals I disagree with their approach and honestly find it harmful.

In the IEP it stated how many seconds they wanted Jeremiah to give eye contact; seven to twelve-seconds. Now, to perceive how long this is, please stare at something besides your computer/phone/iPad screen for seven-seconds, counting out loud. Was that very long considering the child is being expected to look in someone’s eyes? Now, do the same exercise for twelve-seconds.

I’m not autistic. Well, I don’t have a diagnosis, and whether I have autism or not could be argued. I DO NOT look at anyone in the eye for seven-seconds while I’m speaking to them. I said this in the meeting. My eyes dart everywhere. I look the person in the eyes and look away, make eye contact again, and repeat.

Asking an autistic person to make eye contact is torturous. The founder of Autism Speaks was recently called out by autistic adults when she said about autistic people, “…look them in the eye.” Why? Because autistic people have a great aversion to looking people in the eye. It’s a very common held understanding in the autism community.

Thankfully, and I really mean that with sincerity, Jeremiah will make eye contact with people without prompting. He’s an anomaly. I didn’t feel that asking him to look at them when requesting something was wrong for him, but it would be wrong for so many people with autism. But to ask him to make that eye contact for any amount of time is ridiculous. If he looks at you, he looks at you.

I gave this example, and I feel it’s true so often for our autistic kiddos. If a typical functioning child were to ask for something, all they would have to do is say, “Can I have some juice please,” and we might expect them to look at us for a moment – a moment. We would not expect them to stare at us for an alloted amount of time. Jeremiah’s communication is his PECS pictures, gazing, or pointing to something, this is all he has up his sleeve. So, when he hands them a picture and looks at them, he should get what he wants if it’s not out of reason. Period. No time limit. No eye gaze for seven seconds.

My point here is not only to vent, but to show you that you need to read over your child’s IEP carefully (they should provide you with a copy prior to the meeting), attend the meeting, and ask any questions you have.

Since I’m new to the IEP deal, I got some input from some friends who have children on the spectrum. This is what was advised: Request Jeremiah have a one-on-one aid (don’t let them write paraprofessional on the IEP service times) so he can access the general education curriculum in his least restrictive environment to ensure he gets his right to a Free Appropriate Public Education.

During the IEP meeting when I told the case manager I wanted a one-on-one aid, her and the Special Ed teacher who will work with Jeremiah when he moves into Kindergarten both said they would get in trouble for writing a request for a one-on-one aid. They did write in specifics; Jeremiah will need assistance with toiletng, minor and major transitions, both inside and outside the classroom, he needs someone available due to safety (eloping) concerns. Basically he needs a one-on-one aid, and they can’t write it. Whatever.

What I didn’t realize is my friend had recommended I have them place this request in the “Parents Comments” section, which I rectified the following day when the IEP was semi-finalized (yeah, we still have another meeting because a professor who is working with the school couldn’t make it).

*Since writing this, I came across an article, IEP 101, and The ABCs of IEPs and felt they would be helpful to you. Even if you’ve been on the IEP road for a while, these have some great insight.
Also a great article that’s helpful is at A Diary of a Mom, in What’s Gonna Work, she details how she approaches psych evals (you’ll need to scroll down a little to read specifics) and I think this can be applied easily to IEP meetings.

I have a feeling some of you have been through these IEPs. Some of you have advice to offer others, some of you have things you didn’t do, but wish you did. Things you wish you’d known, but didn’t. So, I, and others, would love to hear what you have to say in the comments. You can share your advice, or a link to a website that has helpful information on IEPs.


Check out the CONTENTS page for more posts on autism, adoption, and foster care.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

the best sensory toys (part 2)

the best sensory toys part 2
Two weeks ago, I started a two-part series on the best sensory toys. In that post I shared what sensory toys have been the most helpful to us, and in this post I will add more to that list and include some toys that have been recommended by others.

Based on one study, around 78 percent of children with autism have Sensory Processing Disorder. Often children who’ve been neglected and abused have sensory issues too. 

Like I said in the last post, it takes a lot of trial and error to find out what your child needs and when they need it. And, even when you figure it out, it will always need tweaking. So, here you go.

1) Water bottle half-filled with water. This has been an easy (and cheap) go-to when Jeremiah’s sensory needs are out of whack. Sometimes when Jeremiah’s hitting things, frustrated, jumping and chewing, this helps him calm. But it seems like I say this regarding most of the sensory items we use. 🙂 Occasionally, I can be confused with a zoo monkey, pulling out all sorts of things and trying to fix what’s bothering my little guy.
Jeremiah likes to shake the water bottle, I think what helps is both seeing and hearing the water being shook. If you’re able to seal the lid to your liking, you can add food coloring.

2) Pokey (soft and hard) animals. Some of these contain lights and some don’t. There are times when your child will want lights and other times they PokeyAnimalSensoryToyswon’t. My mom finds these for us all the time and Jeremiah likes them. You may want to look for ones that are BPA-free, or safe for chewing. I wasn’t able to find the toys we have online, so here’s a photo of ours so you can do your own search. Hope you have better luck than me!

3) Music. This can be calming or upbeat, depending on what mood your child’s in. Occasionally Jeremiah likes to push buttons on toys that play music. I hate to admit that I still play Baby Einstein music videos, although he doesn’t like them as much as he used to. I call them “Einstein” so he doesn’t feel like he’s watching a baby’s movie. These videos are often very calming to him. He’s also used music to calm himself at school. Jeremiah’s school has a little music player for kids and Jeremiah holds it up to his ear and listens to the music, which also happens to be Baby Einstein.
And, something really cool, a couple weeks ago when I picked Jeremiah up from school, he was in his red chair, the teacher was singing Bear Hunt. and his aid was helping him do the motions with his hands, and he was HAPPY and enjoying it! So, I’m searching out their CD so we can use it at home.

4) Chewies. My sister-in-law, Jolene, is a speech pathologist and she asked ChewyWristBandwhat we wanted her to get Jeremiah for his birthday one year. We asked her to get whatever sensory toys she felt the kiddos she worked with liked the most. She bought this wrist band and Chewy Skool Kid Chewable Necklace. I like the Chewable Necklace pictured because it has a breakaway hook so your child doesn’t strangle themselves. Jolene also introduced us to the awesome slinkies I mentioned in The Best Sensory Toys (Part 1). The ones pictured here haven’t been a hit with Jeremiah, but I think he’ll use them in theChewySkoolKidNecklace future, I mean it took him a while to get used the slinkies too.

 

 

5) Arks Z-Vibe. We bought this for Jeremiah’s oral needs because he was chewing on his shirts. The Developmental Interventionist who used to come to our home suggested using this Z-Vibe. It’s expensive, but we see it as an ark-z-vibe-personal-pack-royal_340x340investment for later even if Jeremiah doesn’t use it now. The one in the photo is the one we bought and the link I provided should take you there. Make sure you get a battery if it’s not included, as it’s specific to the Z-Vibe.
It’s suggested in the information that comes with the Z-Vibe that you work slowly into using the product in your child’s mouth. I started using it on his hand and moving up his arm, and eventually hope to use it on his mouth. If I was more consistent, we might already be there, but I haven’t been.
The Z-Vibe also had pencil tips you can add to it, which might be helpful for writing.

6) Hammock Swing. Okay, this is so cool. I WISH Jeremiah used this, but he doesn’t. There have been a few times that he’s stuck his upper body in and twisted a little, and of course I’ve worked with him on it numerous times. Again,contemporary-kids-chairs this might be something he uses later. I think so many kids would benefit from this, but getting them to try it for any length of time could be difficult. One of the reasons Jeremiah may not get inside it is it swings and twists easily, so you might consider if you can anchor it to the floor.

 

 

CozyCanoe7) Cozy Canoe. I haven’t heard any reviews about this, but I had to share it. I really wanted to get this for Jeremiah for Christmas, but they were sold out. Sold out! And, it looks like they’re still out of stock. I guess it’s a top seller if it’s sold out. It’s large and it’s expensive, but seems perfect for children with sensory needs.

8) String. Yes, simple string. I follow a couple Autism mom’s blogs and both their daughters love to pull string apart. One of them has her string in almost every photo taken of her. It’s something that helps calm her, similar to what Jeremiah’s doodle pad does for him, and before he used the doodle pad he carried around mini cars from the movie Cars.

I hope these ideas help give you some direction as to what to get your child for their sensory needs. If nothing, the links will take you to some great sites that sell other items geared toward our kiddos who need something extra.

Be sure to check out the CONTENTS page for more posts on autism.


You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

the best sensory toys (part 1)

the best senosry toys part 1
Does your child jump incessantly? Get irritated quickly? Chew on anything? Bite? Stim (flapping hands, waving hand in front of face) constantly? Hit themselves or others often? Spin? Bang his head? These behaviors could be indicative of sensory issues.

Based on one study, around 78 percent of children with autism have Sensory Processing Disorder, as well as many children who’ve been neglected and abused. Besides replicating what your Occupational Therapist (if you have one) does with your child, you can incorporate sensory toys that will help your child’s intense sensory needs.

We’ve found that meeting Jeremiah’s sensory needs solves most of the behaviors we struggle with. When his sensory needs are met, he’s usually calm and happy. We’ve been on quite an adventure trying to find the right sensory toys to help Jeremiah, so I thought a post (now it’s turned in to two) on what’s helped us would be something you might appreciate.

Trial and error is a large part of how you will help your child with their sensory issues, but this post is meant to help give you some direction on what to do and what to buy for your child.

Some of these items are expensive, some aren’t, you can be creative to find cheaper solutions, or ones you can make at home. I’ll begin with ones that have helped Jeremiah the most.

*For items that my child is going to put in his mouth (which I understand for most of your children, it’s EVERYTHING), I like to buy items that are nontoxic.

1) Swing. We can’t live without it. The swing is like our bread of life – okay, the swing and one other thing which I will mention next. Not only does Jeremiah have a swing in our yard, but we put one in his room. One summer he’d been swinging consistently in our backyard, and I was in fear of what life would be like come winter, literally fearful! I knew how much it helped him and the anxiety he felt when he couldn’t swing. Justin said, “Let’s put a swing in his room.” It was hard for me to accept the idea at first. It sounded like I was spoiling Jeremiah, plus he has a sister and that wouldn’t be fair.
But the truths are 1) Jeremiah needs the swing to function, and any way we can help him we should. 2) Our daughter, Payton, gets to do a lot of things Jeremiah can’t. I’ve had to accept that life isn’t fair (I’ve been complaining that it isn’t since I uttered my first words, just ask my parents). Yeah, life stinks sometimes.
Also, when we go on day trips, we always find a playset with swings, it makes Jeremiah happier, Payton has fun too, and we all benefit.

2) Doodle Pad. The second most important item in our bag-o-tricks. We spendX2539-doodle-pro-travel-d-1 WAY too much money on a Christmas tree doodle pad. It was one of his first, and the only kind he’ll use. He doesn’t go anywhere without it, and for years it was constantly in his hands, but in the past months he’s been found many times without it. His dependency on the doodle pad is diminishing significantly. It has helped calm him and gives his busy hands something to do. Plus, I love it because you can practice taking turns with it – you draw, then your child draws, it helps develop writing skills (as this can be hard to establish in autistic children), and you can work on letters, numbers, words, shapes, etc. with it. A great multipurpose tool.

3) Trampoline. Another tool we depend heavily on. This, along 0068706404688_Bwith swinging gives Jeremiah the intense sensory input he desperately needs. We have the one pictured on the left outside and one similar to the picture on the right (a small one with a handle) we can use inside. We bought the one in the photo on the left from SAMS and I highly recommend it, it’s the safest trampoline I’ve seen. When  I searched for this AAAAAmZciUkAAAAAAWcgzQphoto on the SAMS Club website I found this trampoline with a swing attached (two in one!). With the incorporation of the swing in Jeremiah’s room, and the ability to go outside for trampoline time this winter, we haven’t utilized the indoor trampoline this season.

4) Slinky Chewy. When Jeremiah is chewing on his clothes or other items, or nullis frustrated, we often use this. At first we had to give it to him and encourage him to chew on it, and he wouldn’t wear it around his neck. Now he will use it when he wants to (we still offer it to him when he doesn’t choose it first) and he will even put it on his neck. With the larger one he stretches it over his body.

5) Blankets for nesting. I didn’t come up with this term, I heard another autism parent use it and I liked it, so here it is. Jeremiah will gather his smaller soft blankets and lug them around the house. Normally he brings them out to the couch and snuggles under them (head and all). It’s something he likes doing and makes him comfortable.

6) Lights. We purchased the wand pictured on the left at Target in the bins at the 691-lu_2front of the store, but I can’t find them on Target’s website. I found them online as “Spike Wand”. You need to get to know your child to determine if this is something they like. Some kids will like this and some kids won’t, Jeremiah only likes them at certain times. When it comes to using lights, there are several options. You don’t have to purchase something from a specialty store to achieve the desired result here.

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spinning light
pillow-pets-dream-lites-snuggly-puppy-dog-night-lite-turns-room-into-a-starry-sky-as-seen-on-tv-by-as-seen-on-tv_27313_500
Purchase this Pillow Pet Dream Light

Jeremiah likes the balls with lights inside, especially the rubber wand with a ball at the end, when you hit it on something multi-colored lights flicker. He has a dinosaur that has a light in it’s mouth, when he pinches the tail, the mouth opens and the light turns on. He was a fan of the spinning light wand for a long time. He also really likes this dog that shines lights on the ceiling. He doesn’t look at the ceiling, but likes looking at the stars changing colors.
Jeremiah with pet night light

Also check out part two in the series: The Best Sensory Toys (part 2)

For more posts on autism, be sure to check out the CONTENTS page.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also “like” my page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

it’s in a word: autistic vs. has autism

its in a word autistic vs has autism
You may follow my blog and wonder why I say “(insert name) is autistic,” when you feel strongly it should be, “(insert name) has autism.” The second is described as being person-first language. I’ve had discussions with parents and grandparents who are strong proponents of the person-first language. I understand this. Not wanting your child or grandchild to be defined by one aspect of their personhood is admirable, but when we really consider what saying, “(insert name) is autistic” means, we can see that it’s only a part of who they are, not the whole.

When I began this journey, I solely used the phrase “has autism,” I felt it was the respectful way to address someone on the spectrum, I felt my son shouldn’t be called autistic. I listened and was part of the discussions about person-first language. I believed saying, has autism was much more considerate than saying they were autistic.

Then something changed. I started listening to the voices of autistic adults. Those adults who have been there, done that, lived with autism, dealt with onlookers, naysayers, and abuse, say they want to be called autistic and call themselves autistic. I’m not saying this is true of every autistic adult, however, there are many who’ve voiced their opinion on the word. This is what they want.

I feel it’s important to look at others who’ve forged the road ahead of us. It’s especially true when we don’t have the disABILITY, but are trying to raise a child who does. So, I began to really consider what these autistic adults were saying. Why did they feel so strongly about “autistic” versus “have autism”? What was their reasoning? And, what should I do about it?

Autistic adults make the point that you can’t separate autism from the person, thus the person is autistic, they don’t simply have autism. Jess at A Diary of a Mom writes, “John Robison points out in his book Be Different, when we talk about people having something, it’s something bad. He has cancer. He has a cold. He has the flu. When was the last time you heard someone say, ‘He has intelligence?” or “Wow, she really has giftedness and talentedness?’”

About the word, autistic, that many feel grates at their ears and defines their children, Jess adds a great point. She says, “Calling a person Autistic doesn’t mean that’s all they are.” If you say someone is intelligent, don’t they also have the ability to be generous, thoughtful, or artistic?

I would never say that autistic is all my son, Jeremiah, is. Absolutely not. But I can’t deny that autism is a big part of who he is. I want to say, but don’t have the ability to, that he would be very different if it wasn’t for his autism. But, I can’t know can I? I can’t know because he’s autistic. That autism makes up so much of who he is, how he functions, how he responds to me, what he does, how he feels. It’s in every part of him. And it’s not bad. It’s really beautiful.

Side note: I found this awesome quote by Walk Down Autism Lane on Pinterest that speaks my heart,

“They said he was off in his own little world…But, he held my hand and took me with him. It was beautiful.”

I quote Jess because she’s had tremendous more opportunities than I to speak with autistic adults. She also says about the matter, “So just as one can be described as Jewish or Catholic without taking away from any of the other possible descriptors, they can also be described as autistic and still be thousands of other things too.” In, Why I Dislike Person-First Language, Jim Sinclair, an autistic adult, says something very profound, “It is only when someone has decided that the characteristic being referred to is negative that suddenly people want to separate it from the person.”
Jim Sinclair quote

Sinclair explains how autism is essential to who he is: “Yet autism goes deeper than culture and learned belief systems. It affects how we relate to others and how we find places in society.  It even affects how we relate to our own bodies. If I did not have an autistic brain, the person that I am would not exist. I am autistic because autism is an essential feature of me as a person.”

For me, I don’t stand on either autistic or has autism as being the end-all. I don’t like division in the autism community, just as I don’t like it in the adoption community. I use both references interchangeably, but find myself using autistic more often. I’m not offended when someone says my son has autism or when they refer to their child in the same way. We each have our reasoning for using certain terminology.

I often see that those who use the term “has autism” as those who want to take autism away from their child. There are autistic adults who balk at this, yet I know that when your child has severe needs you only want them to feel better, to not struggle in society, not be looked down upon, not battle sensory issues. We need to look at the wonderful attributes of our children no matter where they fall on the spectrum, they are humans with dignity.

We need to respect each other and where we each come from, what autism we’re each living with.

So what do you do? As I’ve said, each person will have their opinion of how they want to be referred to, but many adults prefer the term “autistic.” Many parents and grandparents prefer you say their child “has autism.” I would recommend going with what you’re comfortable with or what the person living with autism has requested.

This post is only meant to share with you why I use the terminology I do, so I can refer others here when I don’t have a short answer. It’s also meant to educate and share a wider view, one that comes from those who’ve walked our child’s path already.

The quotes from Jess were taken from her post Person First on A Diary of a Mom, which I recommend reading in it’s full context.

*Please see the CONTENTS page for links to more posts on autism, adoption, and foster care.


You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.