Maria Writes Stuff

Womanhood. Motherhood. Autism Awareness. Book Reviews

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Preparing for Preschool

 

I wanted to share some experience I had preparing my boys for preschool, in the hopes it might help you and your child get off to a good start this year!

1. Talk about school often. 
 
     When Jack was diagnosed with PDD-NOS it was written up in his IEP that he’d attend preschool (he was 3), have speech therapy, and ride the bus to and from school.  We talked to him about things he’d learn in school, the yellow school bus, the bus driver, meeting his teachers and making friends. We thought this would put his mind at ease about going to school.
 
2. Create a social story about school.
     Ben started school when he was three, just like Jack did. The difference was that Ben was nonverbal and because of this, it was a bit of a mystery as to what he understood and what he didn’t. His speech therapist sent us a social story about school. I had emailed her photos of our house, of Ben and my husband and I to put in the story. She sent us a laminated book on a ring. The story showed Ben his school day through coming home from school. There was a page of the house, the bus, Ben, the classroom, the playroom at school, and then house again…explaining that he’s go to school on the bus, have school time with friends and come home again to mommy. I’m happy to report that at 3, he has no problems getting on the bus and going to school (for the first week anyway).
3. Read about School
 
Reading books has always been a favorite thing to among my children. I remember reading Curious George books to Jack and Ben when they were little, along with Dr. Seuss. I remember that we had a book called Curious George’s First Day of School. I think it was helpful to the boys to see that even their favorite story book characters go to school!
 
4. Meet the Teachers/Therapists
 
Meeting the teachers/therapists is what really tied the whole “school” thing together for Jack. After his first meet/greet with his teachers/therapists he looked forward to school days, and asked about his teachers when he wasn’t in school. I think meeting with teachers/therapists before school helps children to understand that they’re not going to school to spend time with a random stranger. They begin to understand that there is a classroom, desks, books, calendars, a sort of sense of purpose in school, and that the teacher is their guide to education.
5. Start a Schedule 
 
Both of my boys have always thrived on a schedule. It seems to be more true during the school year.  They know their day to day routine and it seems to help them focus when they know what to expect.  I’ve also noticed that if things are routine at home, things so smoother when the ease into their school routine. 
 
 
Happy School Year 2016!
I hope everyone has a splendid year! 
 
 

Friends for a little while. Friends Forever.

     I read a post on The Mighty by Lauren Jordan, another mom blogger at Laughing Like It’s My Job…And Other Stuff. Her post on The Mighty was about her Autistic son TJ and his friend Colby. The two boys who are two pees in a pod. Her post got me thinking about own friendships, and weather or not my sons have friendships with peers at school.

     I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t have many friends. I don’t “hang out” with other moms often, I don’t have “girls weekends” or anything like that. I have a few (say a handful) of wonderful women in my life that I spend time with periodically.  My best friend is Randi. She lives in Oklahoma…while I’m here…in Michigan. Randi and I haven’t see each other since winter 2003. I remember the last time I saw her, what we talked about, I even remember that she was wearing a shirt I’d let her borrow…and I never got it back. I love Randi with all my heart. I’ve known her since I was in the 7th grade, but we didn’t become close friends until we had become wives and mothers. She’s been my best friend since 2008. We’ve kept in touch through text, Facebook, and usually, a daily phone call.

     I know first hand what it’s like to be the “disabled” kid in class. To be judged, ridiculed, and bullied…just because you’re different. I have Cerebral Palsy, I limp, and just don’t care.  I was lucky enough to find a friend who, in spite of my lack of normal-nesss (Because let’s be honest…I’m weird, a nerd, you might say.), loves me anyway, accepts me for the ball of weird that I am, limp and all. This is what I hope for, for my children’s friendship. I hope they find someone who will see past all the things that most people might find weird.

     I am also very fortunate to have a group of online friends whom I’ve chatted with for years.  While this isn’t like your “typical” friendships, where you might meet at a coffee shop, go on play dates, and attend each other’s Fourth of July BBQ’s, the friendships aren’t any less real. I have online friends that are always there when I need an ear (or a computer screen?). These group of women have aided me in my journey through my marriage, Autism diagnoses, pregnancies and births…They’ve been there through anything that Randi has been with me through, just at an instant tough of the keyboard. Online communities have really helped me to see that I’m not alone in this adventure in raising special needs children.

Knowing that you’re not going through life alone is a wonderful thing. Having someone to go through it with you is even better. I hope my kids find that person early in life, and come to know too that in friendship (and really in all relationships), it’s quality…not quantity that matters.

Product Review: Imperial Kitchen Collection – Cutting Mats

Imperial Kitchen Collection: Cutting Mats

The package arrived quickly (via Prime Shipping) and was intact and undamaged. The cutting mats came well packaged in clear plastic with an instruction/description sheet. You are supposed to wash the mats and coat them with a light coating of oil (but I forgot to do this after I read it).
The mats are made of sturdy bendable plastic, with a non-slip grid on the bottom to prevent slippage as you chop food. I like that each mat is a different color and coordinates with a different food/meat group to prevent contamination during meal prep. The mats are brightly color coded as follows: Red is for beef, yellow is for poultry, blue is for fish, and green is for veggies. I found the mats to be lightweight and easy to store in a fairly cramped kitchen.  I hand washed with warm water and soap and set to dry for over 10 minutes. They were still slightly wet and needed towel drying before reuse. All things considered, I think this is a great product for the kitchen. I recommend it if you’re in need of some quality plastic cutting board

Here are some photos:
The mats in the packaging – straight out of the box.
Cutting some veggies.

 

Detailing of the non-slip grid on the back of each mat.

 

All 4 mats with their labels.

 

Mat drying after being washed with warm water and soap.

Click image to purchase!

Disclaimer:
I have received this product at a discount in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. 

Back to School!

August always has me thinking two things: School and Fall. It’s my favorite time of year because of all the cozy clothes, colors and flavors. I’m not really a huge fan of the “school” part though, as I always feel like I’m in over my head trying to juggle things…even when it’s no big deal. 🙂 Overthinker here. 

When do your kids go back to school? Do you homeschool them or do they go to public/private school? Do you have their supply lists? Backpacks? Do they get new clothes before school, or do you buy through-out the year?

Our kids go back to school officially the day after Labor Day, so we’ve still got a month of summer…which for me is great, because it means a month of planning for that first day of school. 🙂 
Jack will go back to school, and start the 2nd grade. I know who his teacher his, and have his supply list. I almost threw it out, too! I was going through his backpack from last year, and stumbled upon a letter from his 2nd grade teacher. I read it, wrote down valuable info and was going to throw it away, when I turned it over…there on the back was his supply list! I was really thrilled that I didn’t have to wait to find out what he needed for school.
My husband’s employer is awesome. If you request it, he’ll provide new backpacks, school supplies, and some neat school related swag for your child for the school year. Jack and Ben got new backpacks in the mail stuffed with supplies. 🙂 I was able to cross off a few things off of Jack’s list!
Ben goes to a year around school, so he’s technically still in school even as Jack is still on summer break. During the summer months Ben will go to school except for Fridays during the week. He also has longer breaks…so he’ll get 1-2 (maybe 3) weeks of vacation time at a time during the year. I love it that way! I don’t have to buy supplies for Ben, just make sure he’s got a backpack with some extra clothes inside. Easy. Simple. He also eats lunch at school, because he gets picky about a cold lunch. It’s definitely worth the money to know that he’s eating something he enjoy and isn’t bringing home an uneaten lunch. 

Back to School!

August always has me thinking two things: School and Fall. It’s my favorite time of year because of all the cozy clothes, colors and flavors. I’m not really a huge fan of the “school” part though, as I always feel like I’m in over my head trying to juggle things…even when it’s no big deal. 🙂 Overthinker here. 

When do your kids go back to school? Do you homeschool them or do they go to public/private school? Do you have their supply lists? Backpacks? Do they get new clothes before school, or do you buy through-out the year?

Our kids go back to school officially the day after Labor Day, so we’ve still got a month of summer…which for me is great, because it means a month of planning for that first day of school. 🙂 
Jack will go back to school, and start the 2nd grade. I know who his teacher his, and have his supply list. I almost threw it out, too! I was going through his backpack from last year, and stumbled upon a letter from his 2nd grade teacher. I read it, wrote down valuable info and was going to throw it away, when I turned it over…there on the back was his supply list! I was really thrilled that I didn’t have to wait to find out what he needed for school.
My husband’s employer is awesome. If you request it, he’ll provide new backpacks, school supplies, and some neat school related swag for your child for the school year. Jack and Ben got new backpacks in the mail stuffed with supplies. 🙂 I was able to cross off a few things off of Jack’s list!
Ben goes to a year around school, so he’s technically still in school even as Jack is still on summer break. During the summer months Ben will go to school except for Fridays during the week. He also has longer breaks…so he’ll get 1-2 (maybe 3) weeks of vacation time at a time during the year. I love it that way! I don’t have to buy supplies for Ben, just make sure he’s got a backpack with some extra clothes inside. Easy. Simple. He also eats lunch at school, because he gets picky about a cold lunch. It’s definitely worth the money to know that he’s eating something he enjoy and isn’t bringing home an uneaten lunch. 

Potty Training and Autism: Oil and Water?

Potty training and Autism. Is it like oil and water? Can the two really mix?
I’m the mom to four children…so you’d think that potty training would come easy for me, that I’d know what I’m doing. Here’s a secret: It doesn’t. I don’t. 
     Jack was a difficult child to potty train. I think the thing that worked really well for him (and yes he’s on the Autism Spectrum) is the Reward System. He’d use the potty and we’d give him a piece of candy. This is what worked and he finally got it down, eventually he was fully trained and no longer needed diapers. I think he was fully trained around the time he was 3.
     Marjorri was a completely different story. It was like night and day, the difference between training a boy vs. training a girl. She responded well to the Reward System, and enjoyed getting the candy or treat after going on the potty, this encouraged her to go. I found out I was pregnant with Adeline (our 4th child) around the same time that Marjorri turned 2. What drove the potty training home for her? I explained that mommy was going to have another baby, and we needed to pass down her diapers to the new baby. She took this information and rolled with it, nearly cutting my role out of the potty training process all together. She was completely trained by the time Adeline was born the following December. 
   Potty training Ben has been a journey that I never thought I’d experience. I had to have known somewhere down deep, thought, that this was not going to be easy. It’s been 3 years since we started potty training him, and he’s half way there. I am just not sure how how to get him to have a bowel movement on the toilet…every..single…time.  We’ve tried the Reward’s System, it only seemed to work when we were originally potty training. Using the PECS system doesn’t work either. He will only use the PECS at school, not at home. We are told this is a common thing among Autistic children…that they’ll turn their nose up at the PECS at home. I think part of the flaw in that program is that we’ve never been taught how to use it WITH Ben, only given instructions verbally. 
     Ben’s potty training progress is *finger’s crossed* slowly improving, I think. For the past 3 weeks he’s had minimal accidents…maybe 3 or 4 total. This is an incredibly improvement from a multiple times a day occurrence.  
     If you are trying to potty train your Autistic child, please know that you’re not alone. It’s a long, exhausting process, but we’ll get through it together.

5 Tips for Surviving an Autism Diagnosis

So, your child just received an Autism diagnosis? Are you overwhelmed? Stressed? Concerned? Wondering what to do next? I’ve been there…more than once! Here’s my tips for surviving the diagnosis, and getting to a new normal in your life while raising your special needs child:

1. Be prepared for advice you didn’t ask for. 
There are many well-meaning people in your life who will offer advice, even when you didn’t ask for it. Their advice may or may not be appropriate, or they just might not know what they’re talking about (unless they also have an Autistic child(ren). Take well-meaning advice with a grain of salt.

2. If you have someone in your life who has as Autistic child…talk to them about their experience. Sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone who “gets” what you’re going through, understands the diagnosis, and may be able offer some comfort, advice on what Drs to see, tests to have done, babysitters, ect. They may also be able to offer a shoulder to cry on when things get too overwhelming.

3. Use the internet to find parent support groups, reviews on services and/or physicians. 
The internet  is a wonderful thing! I’ve found many support groups for parents with Autism through Facebook, and  a wonderful pediatrician who understands our sons’ condition.

Here are some sites to check out!

4. Take time to relax.
Parenting a special needs child is stressful. I know…I have two sons on the Spectrum. Find time to relax, do something you enjoy, and be alone. Allow yourself time to concentrate on YOU, so that you can have plenty of energy to care for your child(ren) and other family members. Pour a glass of wine, go tot he gym, read a book, take a walk, go out with friends, order take out and watch Netflix.

5. Consider these options for your child:

If you’re reading this, I hope it helps. If you have any questions…please let me know and I’ll help if possible!
Hugs. 

I Asked My Daughter: “What will you do when you meet someone different from you?”

Marjorri and I were discussing her favorite topic: School.
I ask her what she’ll do when she meets kids that are different from her.
She said, “Ask them to play blocks with me!”
 That’s my girl. I feel, for a moment, that I am winning at this mom thing.
*Disclaimer: I do not in any way actually believe that motherhood is a competition.
It’s times like these are it’s incredibly wonderful to be a mother, to see the effort you’ve put into raising your child to accept others, come out. I’m really proud, that my very particular (she’s very picky about clothes and food) daughter would include other children that are different from her in her games and activities. My hope is that she’ll never become a bully, and have the courage to stand up against the bullying of others. I also hope that her experience in having special needs siblings will mold her view on how she sees others, too. 

A Mother’s Perspective on Autism.

I have two children with Autism diagnosis’, ranging from Autism Spectrum Disorder with Sensory Processing Disorder to Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). I feel like the two diagnoses are like night and day, despite coming from the same “family” of disorders.

Jack was is our oldest son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS in 2009. I remember that he screamed a lot the first two years of his life. I remember thinking that he would never talk, and one day he came home from preschool and said, “Love you, mama!” That was one of the best days of my life, a moment when I felt connected to my special needs son, in a way that I never thought I’d get to experience. Jack is now 8, goes to a Gen. Ed Elementary school and has Special Ed support in his class. He articulates his needs, wants, desires, wishes, feelings. If someone asks me, “Does Jack have migraines?” I could honestly say, “No.”, because he’ll tell me if his head hurts.

When Ben was born I remember thinking about how cute he was, what a sweet little face he had. He was a laid back, “easy” baby. I can’t pinpoint a moment when I said, “Oh yes…he’s “different”, or “Autistic”. I just remember that after he turned 18 months old, that things changed. He stopped saying mama and dada…the words he knew were gone. Ben as diagnosed with Autism (educationally) when he was 3. He began going to preschool, where he had OT and PT, as well as speech therapy. He’s now 6 years old. Ben attends school year around, and has speech, OT and physical therapy there too. I can’t tell you if Ben has headaches, because I simply do not know. 🙁

I’ve been busy lately, filling our forms, making phone calls, making appointments…I am hoping to get Ben into more speech therapy, and hopefully ABA therapy too. Jack and I talk about his interests (if I hear one more dinosaur fact…I’ll know everything about dinosaurs..I think), I hear him sounding out words on the cereal box and reading it to his sister. 🙂

Long story short: From my perspective as a mother of two with Autism….I am trying so hard to be a super hero advocate for my boys!

Fourth of July and Sensory Issues.

Does your child have sensory issues associated with Autism? If they do (like mine) popular events during the Fourth of July weekend might be a bit tough. We have spent the past 4 years spending time at the air show for the 4th of July. They have hot air balloon races, a Blue Angels air show, and fireworks. The Blue Angels’ put in a wonderful show, but it is VERY loud. During the show last year Ben (age 6 – diagnosed with Autism) had a very tough time with the noise, and with the airplanes in general. We opted to not go to the show this  year, but I was thinking I’d share some ideas I’ve found for helping a child with Autism, or SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) cope with the events of the weekend.

Headphones/Earplugs:
Snug Headphones – Product Description:

  • “Ideal for blocking noise caused by large crowds, airports, sporting events, garden and household tools, or any other troublesome noise
  • Perfect for kids on the autism spectrum for blocking out crowds and other triggers
  • Low profile clam design keeps the muffs secure on little ears and offers a stylish look. Strong high quality parts make them sturdy and robust, so much so we give them a 5 YEAR GUARANTEE!
  • Lightweight and comfortable to suit little ones. Padded ear cushions offer superior comfort and a snug fit
  • Foldable for easy storage and portability. Adjustable, so they fit children as young as six months and as old as grandpa.”
They come in several colors and cost about $15. This was the option we would have chosen for Ben, if we’d decided to go to the Air Show this year. 

Yard Signs:
I know that they have yard signs for Veteran’s who are sensitive to the fireworks due to PTSD. I’m sure you could find somewhere to order a yard sign specific to Autism, or you could make one of your own, letting people know that there is a person living in your home that has sensitive hearing/sensory issues.

I hope this helps!

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!


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