LIFE IS A SPECTRUM

Life is a spectrum, and of course, so is autism. The main theme of this blog is the old adage, "if you've met one person with autism...you've met one person with autism." With that in mind, I wanted to reach out across the breadth of the spectrum, and invite some of my favorite bloggers to share their stories: of special needs parenting, of living on the spectrum, and of living WITH autism.

Today, I'm lucky enough to share a lovely and inspirational post from Ann, whose little "professor" is the shining star of her blog ...

Always a Champion!!

Myprofessor

Ann and her champion :-)

Too often I find myself envious of friends who have kids around the same age as Josh. How exciting it would be to watch him play ball, any kind of ball for that matter. The thrill of that first hit, striking the batter out or scoring the game winning run! Some days I would settle for getting him to simply ride a bike or just go for a little swim in the lake. I truly enjoy watching my friends cherish these moments their children will remember for a lifetime. However, that’s not my boy at all… Legos, video games and yes Minecraft is how he’d rather be spending his day. Too many sensory issues, lack of gross/fine motor skills and anxiety have kept him from enjoying many things most of us take for granted.

While going through some old photos I began thinking back on the earlier years. This is something I have avoided for several years now. Whenever a friend says “oh remember when they were little, don’t you miss those days?” I can honestly say yes I remember and NO I don’t miss a lot about those days. It makes me sad because Josh is an only child and I know I shouldn’t feel this way. Only another Mom of a child on the spectrum can truly understand what I’m trying to say here.

During those early play group days at around 2 years old it wasn’t easy watching all the other kids play together while Josh, if we were lucky, played alongside of them. They began to talk and develop friendships while Josh was just sort of ‘hanging’ in there. This was when the parade of birth to three therapists entered the picture. For the next year, 3x a week, it was a speech therapist, occupational therapist or physical therapist knocking on my door. Believe me when I tell you they worked him hard! Before I could blink my baby was entering Pre-K at The Sherman School.

As we begin to prepare for middle school I’ve decided to take some time to look back and really think about all he has actually overcome. Here are just a few examples.

Then

In Preschool Josh didn’t speak very much. The first year was spent more running laps around the room, lining up toys during play time and how could I forget the daily ritual of walking up and down the fence each day while he chanted “cross the white line” over and over. This was a child who until he was four couldn’t figure out how to climb onto a chair without assistance. He didn’t like to swing on the swings, catch a ball or engage in play with other children without constant prompting from a teacher or a para.

There really is so much that he has overcome during his elementary days, I couldn’t possibly list them all here but I’ll share a few of the monumental ones.

This was a child who walked the halls, head down most of the time. When a friend, a best friend, would say hello to him he wouldn’t answer back. Until about the 3rd grade he needed us to prompt him to answer back when spoken too (actually, we still do at times).

Josh also learns differently than his peers and figuring out his style wasn’t easy. It took a lot of hard work on his part and on the part of his teachers, paras and therapist to find ways to best help him. I guess you could consider his teachers his coaches as well. With their constant guidance, support and their cheering him on he has begun to accomplish more than I have ever expected. We have a long road ahead but Josh has some of the best coaches a child could ever ask for!

Now

Well, I’m happy to announce he no longer runs laps around the room or walks up and down the fence…not that I know of any way (LOL). He still struggles with gross/fine motor skills but you can always find him running, climbing and yes even swinging or spinning on the playground with his friends. He has even discovered a new like for running. It’s not love yet but at least he’s involved in an actual sport now! I’m afraid his first loves will ALWAYS be Legos, video games and any computer gaming obsession of the moment. He’s definitely my techno kid…

School will always be a little challenging for him but unlike the earlier days he engages much more with his teachers and peers. This was a child who in the beginning of 3rd grade was barely reading on a 1st grade level. Through hard work, practice and help from his coaches I'm happy to say by the end of 5th grade he was reading on a 5th grade level. This was the first year Josh didn't need summer school for reading...an out of the park Home Run as far as I'm concerned!!!

As he has gotten older he has also become more confident in himself and who he is. Last year, with the help of a few of his coaches, he helped create The Sherman School’s first annual autism awareness day (“Light It Up Blue” day). As everyone wore their blue I was told that day he walked those halls head held high with pride! This was a turning point for him, he’s beginning to advocate for himself now. In an article that followed Sherman’s autism awareness day Josh was asked what did he hope his fellow classmates and teacher’s learned from “Light It Up Blue” day? His reply, “It’s nice for kids know it is okay to have friends with and without autism. I’m really not that different. There’s nothing wrong with how my brain works, it just work a little different.” Josh may never be involved in your ‘typical’ sporting events but he will always be my champion!!!

Now with middle school quickly approaching we find ourselves beginning a new chapter of our journey. A chapter that is sure to be filled with pimples, hormones and a whole new list of social skills that will need to be taught to him. Lucky for Josh that I have a lot of patience, lucky for me that he is a quick learner and lucky for us both that he has the best coaches helping him out along the way!

I feel like I have only scratched the surface when it comes to talking about all he has accomplished the list continues to grow daily. I could go on and on but it may begin to get a little 'wordy' here. Remember… I’m not a writer (net yet anyway), just a mom with BIG mouth who is more than proud of her child for being exactly who he is!

Thanks for taking the time read this…
J Ann

Please show Ann some love and visit http://joshsmomfirst.blogspot.com. Let her know you "met" her at LifeIsASpectrum.com!

Interested in guest-blogging? Drop me a line with a link to your blog at AmandaBroadfoot@gmail.com. I'll be happy to add a link to your blog on LifeIsASpectrum and return the favor by guest-blogging upon request.

Reader Comments

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Thanks for asking me to guest blog!

Thanks again for asking Amanda! It was an honor to share with you and all your followers... <3

Thank you so much for sharing!

Ann, I'm so happy to have your post up here and I look forward to following the adventures of you and your little professor :-)

Total 2 comments

Billy has developed his first celebrity crush. Well, it's his first if you don't count Lightning McQueen or Charlie Brown.

tina-fey-vanity-fair

I'll bet when Annie Leibovitz was photographing her, Tina Fey never imagined the place of honor she would hold in our bathroom.

It's Tina Fey. There's an old, warped back issue of Vanity Fair in our bathroom, in which Fey appears on the cover in a sort of patriotic outfit. Inside, there's a photo spread of her in a skimpy outfit, dancing to Beyonce's “Crazy in Love,” according to the caption.

He is absolutely fascinated with this photo spread, studying it closely – and I mean closely, with his eyeballs practically touching the page. He imitates her dance poses with his arms, holds his head at the same angle as hers in the photos. He traces the limbs of her body with his chubby finger.

Before you get the wrong idea, this is how the scene plays out:

INT. MY BEDROOM – NIGHT.

I'm mindlessly surfing the Internet in bed when Billy comes barreling in a full tilt, shouting at the top of his lungs and running towards my bathroom.

BILLY: I NEED TO POO-POO! WHERE IS TINA FEY?!

I practically fall out of my bed in my efforts to assist him. I will do anything to make poo-pooing a success.

CUT TO:

INT. JUST OUTSIDE THE MASTER BATHROOM – A MOMENT LATER

Various magazines and catalogs come flying out.

ME (OFF-SCREEN): Can't you read Highlights?! How about the Toys R Us catalog?!

BILLY (OFF-SCREEN): Mamaaaaaaaaaa!! Need to poopoooooooooooooo!

Obviously, we MUST find Tina Fey then.

CUT TO:

INT. INSIDE THE MASTER BATHROOM – A MINUTE AFTER THAT

Billy is perched happily atop the toilet with his face close to an inappropriate part of Tina Fey's body. I am slumped against the wall, exhausted.

BILLY: Tiny Fey is very talented.
(He has heard me say this.)

Then ...

Billy stands up and claps.

BILLY (CONT.): Yay! That was a good poo-poo!
(He has also heard me say that.)

Thank you, Tina Fey. Wherever you are. Thank you.

Reader Comments

Tina Fey

OMG! Hilarious! Such a boy to need a magazine to go poo-poo! I love Tina Fey too, Billy!

LMAO again!

This is hilarious. I especially like "Tina Fey is very talented." From what I've heard about her, she would probably really love this story.

Great Story!

I love that! You should send it to Tina Fey.

Tina

I love Tina Fey. Billy has excellent taste.

Have a great weekend, Amanda!

A New Job for Tina

I'm sure Tina will be beyond thrilled to know she helps Billy poo!

Too funny

Thanks for visiting my blog this week. I love this post. That little boy of yours is just too funny. I almost fell out of my chair reading this. Whatever gets the poop out and into the toilet, right?! HAHAHAHA!

Stopping by from SITS! :)

I love Tina Fey, although I can honestly say I've never taken her into the bathroom with me (Jim and I recently watched Date Night, which would be fun for you and Dave, but highly inappropriate for Billy)!

Wendy

This Woman Has Saturated Every Market Now

It's official. Tina Fey has saturated every market known to mankind and then some. Movie star, comedian, TV star, toilet trainer. What's next? Pope?

Btw, Griffin's first crush was Katy Perry.

Total 10 comments

Mondays are hectic in the 'Feet household. The Life is a Spectrum vlog will be back next week in its new TUESDAY time slot. There are a variety of reasons for this move by the network:

A. My Mr. Coffee broke and I'm currently on a desperate run to find a new one. As a temporary fix, I had been using this French cafetiere:
cafetiere

stupid stupid stupid

But its two-cup limit makes me hate it.

 
B. I ran out of hair smoother, and I currently look a bit like this:
frizzy-hair-bad-hair-day

I really hope this chick got paid a LOT of money by DailyHairTips.com to pose like this and she's not just some poor hobo they took advantage of.

The combination of lack of caffeine and frizzy hair do NOT equal "game face" for vlog purposes.

 
C. The cupboard is bare. If I don't go grocery shopping, dinner is going to be Condiment Surprise. Or maybe Crayon Casserole:
Billy_BlueTeeth

Aww, look: The crayons match his eyes ...

Reader Comments

Gasp!

What? You mean you're not head over heels in love with your French Press?

Our French Press is "the other woman" in our house. I think if there were ever a fire up in this joint, GB would run out with the kids under one arm, and the French Press under the other.

Now that I have clear braces, I've had to give up drinks of the hot, caffeinated variety. So am I jealous of your errand today? A little bit.

Hmmm...what's in Condiment Surprise? Jim is the Condiment King, and that's about all that's in my fridge right now too!

Here's hoping that tomorrow your coffee is brewed, your hair is smooth, and your refrigerator is full of something other than ketchup and pickles!

Wendy

I agree with Lynn, too.

It's realism! ...and if you're really spunky, you could don that blue-teeth look, too, to complete the picture!
(Sad we're supporting self-deprecation - maybe we just know you're gorgeous, regardless of the physical conditions!)
Looking forward to tomorrow! :)

mangiabella

can't wait to read more of your blog! came to you via SITS, and a very belated happy SITS to you - i'm a bit behind catching up on posts (sick babies can take you outta the game for a while LOL)

Never Mind

If I waited for coffee to be made and my hair to be washed to make a vlog, I'd never make one. Oh wait, I never have. Never mind :) Looking forward to yours!

We Love You!

Amanda, don't you know we love you even when your hair is frizzy and you're crazy due to lack of caffeine?

Mug Shot

I'm with Lynn. Um, I mean, I'm not actually with Lynn. I mean I agree with her about this one. A V-Log with hair like that is guaranteed to go viral. Think of the traffic! Get the camera out and get going.

Pretty

This is exactly when you SHOULD be vlogging. Come on! Doitdoitdoitdoitdoit.

Total 8 comments

springchicken

By now, you know all about my Spring Chickens Tribe in the blogging network SITS, where our group of moms of special needs kids connects to talk about everything from how to create a button for a blog to how to survive their child's IEP meeting. If you're a mom with a child with any kind of special needs, and you blog, I'd love to invite you to join us. Just go sign up with The SITS Girls (free, of course) and join our tribe in the Spring Chickens Forum.

Today, I'm delighted to introduce you to Melody from My Twisted Stitches. In addition to raising three kids, two of whom struggle with behavioral/emotional disorders, Melody's job is made that much more challenging by her own ADD. Still managing to keep her sense of humor and share her journey with an open, honest heart, Melody is a true inspiration. So stop by My Twisted Stitches, follow Melody or subscribe to her fascinating blog by email. And tell her I said, "Hi!"

----------------------------------------

MTSblogpicfree125

When you have a child with behavioral issues attached to a mood disorder, the entire family is impacted. Sometimes it’s like experiencing the aftershocks from an earth quake where you live with the trepidation that at any moment the slightest shaking could become cataclysmic. Other days you are aware that every moment is a bombardment of agitated aggression, irritation, and frustration let loose in the form of verbal assaults, whining, and general chaos created in your living space. It is an exhaustive time for all, where your adrenaline is constantly flowing and nerves are left twitching. The child initiating the mayhem can spend hours in and out of time-out, or wrestling with consequences, but in the end he/she has succeeded in monopolizing everyone’s time and attention. This is our life.

The behavioral issues reared their ugly head at a tender age, and there was a strong early independence and tenacity that I was actually VERY proud of. These are characteristics I prayed for in my children, but in a “baby” they can certainly be a challenge. I found my first born to be extremely determined, seemingly fearless, and intensely curious. Language acquisition was easy for her; consequently, when with her peers she would be busy “teaching” in her bossy way as she thrived on telling others what and how to do things. Unfortunately, her reactions to their apparent lack of responsiveness toward her were fiercely intense and redirecting her was nearly impossible. She would persist (and still does) in holding onto an idea in order to get her way.

Over time she became extremely manipulative and overbearing. Consequences didn’t seem to make an impact and she rarely showed sadness or remorse for her behavior, rather she would demonstrate intense anger at her consequences or at the person implementing them. In addition, she would often find a way to retaliate later either toward the person who disciplined her or the person she was originally angry with. To make matters worse, small conflicts or differences of opinion could turn into huge issues in which irrational rage would erupt. It was often difficult for her to control her actions. On numerous occasions she would have to be physically contained to prevent damage to others or property. We used to say that she was “freakishly strong.”

Our second child joined the family when our first was 18 months and she was (understandably) very jealous. I became the “mama bear” to protect my newborn from his older sibling and struggled to balance caring for them both. Maybe I established the pattern of victim and aggressor right then, but if so why can’t we break out of that? I do have to say that there are many days when my children have their moments of playing well together and cooperating; it always seems tense and tenuous though. I know they both want to love each other, but there is such intensity of whatever emotion at the moment that they let loose on each other. I know it has been said, that we hurt the ones we love the most, but wow!

Now, there is a third dynamic at play. Along with the birth of our third child came increased jealousy, decreased "Mommy" time, and an increased need for shared space and stuff (which seems to be inherently difficult anyway). Intense behaviors, along with extremely poor emotional regulation began to spiral downward from there. I have sought help every step of the way and I hope we are climbing back up the ladder to stability and emotional security. Each of us have required support to move forward. As a Mom with attention deficit disorder, anxiety, and depression - although being treated myself - I find the struggle to help my children is like running a marathon, DAILY!

I have come to believe that when there is an individual in the household who is as unpredictable and volatile as what we experience on a regular basis, there is NOT a normal family dynamic (albeit there may be no true “normal”). Moreover, when it is the eldest child, the siblings develop in a way that is also uncommon as they require heightened natural defenses just to “survive”, let-alone thrive. The family structure is strained and if the marriage isn’t already a rock, the pressure can crumble its fragile existence.

So what are parents to do? We have to parent the children we have. Can we prevent one child from affecting the entire family?

Melody is a certified teacher, now a stay-at-home mom of three beautifully challenging children; the two oldest (8yrs. and 10yrs. old) have been diagnosed with childhood bipolar disorder while the 3yr. old is learning and growing by leaps and bounds. She blogs at My Twisted Stitches and she is a Parent Blogger for Empowering Parents. Her days are filled with activity that require a tremendous measure of energy, stamina, and courage!

Reader Comments

Back from the Brink

I'm FINALLY totally over this flu ... I think (knocking heavily on wood) and I wanna thank everyone for the kind wishes I got through email, Facebook, Twitter. With any luck, I'll be back in the blogosphere by the end of the day.

I want to especially thank Melody for providing her wonderful guest post for Friday ... it couldn't have come at a better time, as I was feverishly rambling and incapable of forming a coherent thought, much less typing :-)

Thanks for sharing!

Mel:

Wow, what a story! Thanks for sharing it.

Anyway :*P

Amanda, I can't believe it has taken me this long to actually, successfully submit a commmmmmmment here :)! I have tried twice and the server crashed, so now it is 7 ish and the kids are set up with "Milo and Ottis" so I'll try again.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you so very much for hosting my post and supporting my efforts as both a Mom and a blogger. I think you are truly amazing and I'm constantly in awe. I love to read your work and admire your strength. It was an honor to be featured here on "Life Is A Spectrum". I find that my bipolar kiddos have a surprisingly large measure of common features with the Asperger Spectrum; in addition, I heard for the first time this week, the term "spectrum" used to describe the range of Bipolar Symptoms. If you are interested I happened to put a video clip up this week on my blog where this is mentioned. It is the "True Child Within" Youtube clip.

Thank you again for hosting me! I feel a kinship that I can't describe.

Mel~

Ummmm... That comment was suppose to be for your anniversary post!

I am so sorry about that irrelevant comment a moment ago. I thought it was going under yesterday's for your anniversary. It was my second attempt as the server crashed mid typing and popped back up "here", but I thought it just kicked off my comment....
Weird! Please Delete These!

*sobbing*

Tears, sobbing, shaking.....
I am truely shuddering like a child who has calmed after crying for an hour.
I am filled with joy for you and your family.
Congratulations and Blessings!!!!!

Total 5 comments

Today is supposedly Communication Shutdown Day. Thanks to The SITS Girls for letting me share my feelings on that autism awareness campaign -- and some cute pictures of my kids in Halloween costumes -- with my friends in the blogosphere. How do you feel about it?

Reader Comments

You are too much. Hilarious and such a good point. I love it when people think for themselves!
Can you tell I'm just now catching up with all your posts?!

Congrats on your SITS day! I look forward to reading some of your post because even though I have a neurotypical child, I am fairly sure I can relate to your mommy tantrums and your other mothering trials & tribulations. Again, congrats! :)

Twitter Follow

Oh my. I just realized that I'm not following you on Twitter already, so I'm off to follow you there too! :>

Great Autism Shout Out

Loved your vlog, Amanda! I didn't participate in the Communication Shutdown (aka Global Pout) either! I participated in the Autism Shout Out for ASDay on Twitter all day and connected with some fabulous people speaking for themselves with autism, as well as many rockin' Mamas who squeak loudly for their kidlets! Wasn't it just dripping with irony that it was the day before the election? I know it originated in Australia where the 2nd wouldn't be their election day, but the irony was just too much to bare. And I almost spit my java at the monitor when I saw your Angle autism air quotes! Great vlog and great to see you! :>

I Have Spent Over $5000....

out of pocket in the last 18 months on speech/language therapy and I am not about to ask E. to be quiet now. Can you imagine?? What silliness is this???

Where would we be right now as a civilization without Thomas Paine, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Jeanette Rankin, Bella Abzug, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Ghandi, Harvey Milk, Harvey Fierstein, people with big ideas, big dreams and GIANT voices?

I am happy to have an opportunity each and every day to say that "this" (our family) is the face of ASD. To do so otherwise is to allow others to define who we are and what we need from our communities and elected representatives. Now, go vote!!

Great mom

You are a great mom for your kids. I am sure your son is as lucky having you as a mom as you having him as your son.

I'm visiting from SITS. Congrats on your special day!

I teach an autistic teen (age 17) in his home 3 days a week. (I'm not a specialist, just a teacher.) He is talkative and peppers me with questions during each lesson. He has a great sense of humor and is a talented artist.

I usually work with him in the language area--writing, reading comprehension, literature, foreign language. Through our study of literature, he's gained an appreciation for relationships and how people interact. So even though he's focused on Thomas the Train, he now writes elaborate stories about Thomas and Rosie and their budding relationship! When he reads his stories to me, he changes his voice to play all the parts. (He blushes when Thomas tells Rosie, "I love you.")

And this from a boy who used to sit growling under a desk in kindergarten. He's a truly amazing individual! I'm blessed to know him!

Happy SITS day!

I completely missed communication shutdown day and all the hype, I'm sad to say... although despite everything, I made sure that I posted on my blog... but coming home from the hospital with the latest edition to the fam made me post less than I had planned... I have to say that I totally agree with you though - even when my son was almost completely non-verbal he found creative ways to communicate his needs and wants - and effectively too... when he wants to be clear, he still drags the gallon milk jug and a cup out of the kitchen and into whatever room I'm in if I haven't responded in enough time to his request for moo...

Glad SITS introduced me to your blog, looking forward to getting to know more about you and your family!

Total 18 comments

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